ENGLISH VERSION: Metropolitan Damascene on Healing the Schisms Within the True Orthodox Church
Translator’s introduction: When reading the following interview given by Metropolitan Damascene of Moscow and All Russia – who heads one branch of the “Russian Orthodox Church” (RusOC-D) – to Portal-Credo.Ru, it should be borne in mind that all such acronyms as ROCOR, ROCA, and ROCiE are in fact translations of the single acronym РПЦЗ. In the following translation, this Russian acronym is translated as “Russian Church Abroad” when used generically, and as “ROCiE-V” when referring specifically to the group headed by Archbishop Vladimir.
Portal-Credo.Ru: Vladyka, the Synod of the ROCiE-V has split into three parts. You know the majority of participants in the present schism personally. In your opinion, what brought about this new division?
Metropolitan Damascene: There is one indisputable truth in any schism within the Russian Church Abroad. It is not under wraps; it can be seen on church portals and websites. The problem is that few of the First Hierarchs care whether or not this is indeed the case. If you were to redirect your question to Vladyka Vladimir, to Vladyka Anastassy, or to Vladyka Philaret, none of them, when responding to it, would ask one another forgiveness or say: “I was wrong” or “we were wrong.” Each of them will insist upon his own truth, defend his own church, and call upon all the rest to follow him.
Which of these three truths is most akin to you?
To speak frankly, the truth of Vladyka Anastassy (Surzhik) is the most understandable and akin to me. There are traces of repentance and humility in it. On a human level, I feel sorry for both Vladyka Vladimir (Tselishchev) and Vladyka Philaret (Semovskih). I sympathize with them, and understand them very well, since I myself had to go through schisms. But all the same, I fell sorry for Vladyka Anastassy more than the others. There is still much that is childlike in him; more warmth and goodness are evident in him. Perhaps it is for this reason that the Lord has shown him a path that is more true and circumspect.
The remnants of the Russian Church Abroad continue to crumble. Is it possible to unite the splinters somehow? Or is it a done deal?
Many people are puzzled and say the same thing. I myself came to recognize our shared tragedy long ago. I tried somehow to correct the mistakes at the very beginning of the schisms. I asked forgiveness and tried to gather stones. No understanding was reached, however, and all my attempts and proposals have been rejected. Each time I ran into a wall of scorn and pride. Has anything changed today? Yes, there has been a change. Almost none of the First Hierarchs are averse to meeting and talking. They are not personally opposed. And this could be done in the very near future, but there does exist a whole series of “objective” reasons to delay this meeting to a later date or even to render it impossible.
What are these reasons? Even heads of state sometimes meet and talk. But we live in the same country, come from the same root, share a common faith, and oppose ecumenism and Sergianism. Why shouldn’t we talk?
The reasons are the First Hierarchs themselves. Some are afraid of being misunderstood by those around them, some cite the negative opinion of their own bishops, others are just waiting to hear it, and so forth.
We came from the Catacomb Church and the Russian Church Abroad, we know one another well, and we continue to look at many things going on in the world in the same way, or almost the same way. It goes without saying that there are also things that divide us. But is there any point in exacerbating disputes and talking about it? How many polemics can there be?! Isn’t it more correct to focus our efforts on positive spiritual causes? After all, fighting against worldwide apostasy is both simpler and easier if done together. Decisive spiritual battles lie ahead, and we are still scattered and fragmented; moreover, we continue quarreling – to the delight of the enemy.
If the hierarchs can indeed get together – then what? Can they unite into one big structure?
It’s by no means necessary to unite into one big structure. Several options are possible here. One of them is to recognize one another’s Mysteries. Such recognition was practiced across the board during Catacomb times. Our times are a little different. And whether it will get better, God alone knows.
There is one last thing I’d like to emphasize (forgive me, Lord, for my lack of restraint). I don’t know about you, but it seems to me that the refusal of Metropolitan Philaret’s jurisdiction to use the word “persecuted” in the Divine services represents the end of the same road that Metropolitan Laurus (Skurla) once set out upon.
 Translator’s note: This refers to the liturgical practice of commemorating “the Orthodox Episcopate of the persecuted Church of Russia.” While the adjective “persecuted” was once used by all parts of the Russian Church Abroad, it has been kept by some and dropped by others.