ENGLISH VERSION: The Greeting Epistle of Bishop Gregory (Lourie) to the Congress of the Russian Byzantine Catholics in San Felice del Benaco
In the nineteenth century, when the Russian Catholicism became a significant religious phenomenon, the Orthodox were highly perplexed. However, the main reason of this perplexing was the fact that the Orthodox did not recognise well themselves. Not too much time passed, and already the early decades of the twentieth century put everything in its place. Then, our predecessors and forefathers, the organisers of the Catacomb Church, recalled insights of Vladimir Soloviev.
Toward the end of his life, this first and major Russian religious philosopher, who did never tolerate the sinful divisions between those who aspire to be Christians, rejected the ecumenical illusions of his book La Russie et l’Eglise universelle (1889) and formulated his eschatological insight in The Legend on the Antichrist (1899). He put off any hopes in the official structures of all our ecclesiastical organisations after having realised that, before the face of the Antichrist, any difference between them will disappear definitively—because all of them are already prepared to worship the Antichrist. In the same time, however, Vladimir Soloviev understood that, among all Christian confessions, there would be some small residues that will reject the Antichrist, and these remaining Christians will form from themselves a union in the Truth.
Starting from the epoch of persecution of Christianity in the twentieth century, the prophecy of Vladimir Soloviev becomes true. The Christians belonging to different traditions can rely less and less on faithfulness to Christ of their official hierarchies. Therefore, they try more and more to interact with each other not through the hierarchy but immediately. This is why we do not believe in the official ecumenism of the Church bosses, who are looking for compromises in the faith, but believe in the pursuit of their Good Shepherd by the faithful themselves.
Your Russian Catholic Church of Byzantine rite, as well as our True Orthodox Church are but microscopic groups on the vastness of Russia overflowed with ungodliness. Nevertheless, these small flocks by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers. And all of us, in the measure of our understanding, respond to the voice of the Good Shepherd, to the voice of the Truth, because his word is Truth.
It is unavoidable to us to meet each other at the feet of the Good Shepherd—even if it will not happen in a visible way during the lifetime of our generation.
Let the Lord give to your present gathering the Spirit Comforter, and let He guide you into all truth.
Bishop of Petrograd and Gdov
St.Petersburg, June 1, 2017