ENGLISH VERSION: Reply to a defamatory article against the Russian Orthodox Autonomous Church (ROAC) and Holy Orthodox Church in North America
On December 11, 2017, "Vladimirskie Vedomosti," the official publication of the Administration and the Legislative Assembly of Vladimir Province in Russia, published a defamatory article entitled, rather confusedly, "A Lie about True Orthodoxy", against the Russian Orthodox Autonomous Church (ROAC) and our own Holy Orthodox Church in North America.
Namely, the author, certain Ivan Cherkassky, claims that the visit of October 2017 by the clergy of our Church in Georgia to Suzdal, Russia, at the invitation of the First Hierarch of ROAC, Metropolitan Theodore of Suzdal, as a gesture of friendship between our Synods, was a manifestation of the "American influence" (by which the author appears to mean the influence of the United States government) in ROAC. This accusation is so unbelievably ludicrous that it deserves only to be ignored with silence. Nevertheless, for the sake of the record, we shall state here the obvious: neither the Russian Orthodox Autonomous Church nor the Holy Orthodox Church in North America serve any government's interests; the only relationship that we have with any earthly government is for us to live in peace in our respective countries as law-abiding citizens; the only interests we serve are that of our Lord and Master Jesus Christ, by upholding the teachings of our Holy Orthodox Faith; and the only influence we try to extend is that of the Holy Orthodox Church by seeking unity between True Orthodox Christians. It would not have been necessary to state all this had the calumny not been so vicious and thus, more the dangerous for the welfare of our brethren in Russia. To illustrate the reality of such danger, I shall cite the example of Archbishop Andrew of Rockland (Maklakov), ROAC's hierarch in America, who, in 2014 was detained in the Moscow airport, put in an isolated prison cell for 24 hours, then expelled from Russia and permanently barred from entering that country. And all this because he tried to raise the awareness of religious persecution of ROAC with international human rights organizations!
Further, the article claims that the sermon given by Metropolitan Theodore of Suzdal, wherein he welcomed our clergy from Georgia, contained words intended to "debase the dignity and insult the believers of other churches, based on their religion." Here are the words of Metropolitan Theodore:
"They are Christians just as we are. Just as we departed from the Moscow Patriarchate, so did they depart from the Georgian Patriarchate. They witness to True Orthodoxy among their Iverian (old name for "Georgian." Tr.) people just as we are for our Orthodox people those witnesses that speak about the untruths and stumbling blocks that are present in our age so full of contradictions. We already have unity, we departed from the untruth, we rejected Ecumenism, we already have oneness of mind."
It should be evident to any unbiased reader that Metropolitan Theodore's sermon contains no personal threats, insults or debasement of any kind, but rather it states the truth, which both ROAC and HOCNA have always been saying and will continue to say. Namely, that the Moscow Patriarchate, the Georgian Patriarchate or any other local see that is involved in Ecumenism has fallen into heresy and thus has dragged countless innocent and unsuspecting believers away from the True Faith. No insults here, just plain truth about the "untruth" of the heresy of Ecumenism.
But it seems that the author's baseless claim that Metropolitan Theodore's words are "insulting" and "debasing" contains a hidden purpose. And that, apparently, is to instigate against the hierarch the suspicion of "extremism," an arbitrary accusation that has been repeatedly used by the authorities to silence dissent. Unfortunately, ROAC is all too familiar with this accusation. Alexander Soldatov, a faithful of ROAC, one of its most vocal public defenders and the chief editor of Portal-Credo.Ru, a religious internet publication, was already threatened with being formally charged with "extremism" for merely voicing his opinion that the Russian judicial system was "corrupt" and that this lack of fair courts rendered the Russian state a "pseudo-state." This statement was made in relation to the fact that the Russian courts arbitrarily confiscated 19 church buildings from ROAC, and even took away holy relics from them and handed them over to the Moscow Patriarchate! Last year, Metropolitan Theodore himself was taken by the Russian security services for questioning based on the same arbitrary accusation of the imaginary ties with the so-called "extremism." Alas, all this has nothing to do with the supposed "extremism" and everything to do with the relentless pressure to drive underground the Russian Orthodox Autonomous Church at the bidding of the Moscow Patriarchate, as well as to close down Portal-Credo.Ru, the last independent religious internet portal in Russia.
We pray and hope that this tasteless article is just that, a cheap tabloid piece, and not a harbinger of renewed persecutions against ROAC. Whatever the case may be, we want to state clearly that we stand by our brethren in Russia and that we will do everything in our power to bring the world's attention to the injustices that they suffer.
+ Gregory, Metropolitan of Boston
President of the Holy Synod
Holy Orthodox Church in North America
December 8/21, 2017
Righteous Father Patapius of Thebes