Blessed are the Peacemakers

Epis­tle of the Coun­cil of Bish­ops of the Russ­ian Ortho­dox Church Out­side of Russia

New York
11/24 September, 2022

We, the Hier­ar­chs of the Russ­ian Ortho­dox Church Out­side of Rus­sia, hav­ing assem­bled togeth­er in Sacred Coun­cil on the eve of the Eccle­si­as­ti­cal New Year in the Syn­odal Res­i­dence in the God-pro­tect­ed city of New York, in the pres­ence of our Hodege­tria and guide, the won­der­work­ing Kursk-root icon of the Moth­er of God, greet you with the words of our Lord and Sav­iour Jesus Christ, which He spoke unto His dis­ci­ples after His Res­ur­rec­tion: “Be of good cheer: I have over­come the world!” (Jn 16.33).

We are of good cheer, because we are wit­ness­es to the Lord’s great mer­cy unto His chil­dren and the con­ti­nu­ity of His head­ship of the Church. Hav­ing seen fit to call unto Him­self our pious and hum­ble First Hier­ar­ch, the bless­ed­ly-reposed and much-beloved Met­ro­pol­i­tan Hilar­i­on, He has not left us bereft of order and care. We began our Coun­cil with the elec­tion of Met­ro­pol­i­tan Hilarion’s suc­ces­sor, the sev­enth Pri­mate of the Russ­ian Church Abroad, fol­low­ing the order of elec­tion approved and sanc­ti­fied by St. John of Shang­hai and San Fran­cis­co. By the Will of God, His Grace Nicholas, Bish­op of Man­hat­tan, was elect­ed to bear this yoke of ser­vice — he who for many years has borne the obe­di­ence lain upon him by our Syn­od of accom­pa­ny­ing the mirac­u­lous Kursk-root icon in its trav­els through­out the Russ­ian Ortho­dox Dias­po­ra, and over the last one and a half decades, all across Russia.

Beloved chil­dren: the man­ner in which the elec­tion took place, its very course as well as its results, are direct evi­dence of the unswerv­ing path that our Church Abroad ever fol­lows, being led by the Lord in unchang­ing faith from grace to grace. This we have felt all the more since, by the Will of God, revealed through His faith­ful ser­vants, His Holi­ness Patri­arch Alex­ei II of Moscow and the First Hier­ar­ch of the Russ­ian Church Abroad, His Emi­nence Met­ro­pol­i­tan Lau­rus, the uni­ty with­in the Russ­ian Ortho­dox Church was restored. It is our fer­vent prayer that the suc­ces­sors of each of these men, togeth­er with us all, will con­tin­ue that work of uni­ty in faith and prayer.

In the course of our gath­er­ing, the Coun­cil heard reports on the life of our Church through­out the world. Our Hier­ar­chs spoke of the state of affairs in the dio­ce­ses entrust­ed to them, and we rejoice at their con­fir­ma­tion that the num­ber of faith­ful is increas­ing every­where, that new com­mu­ni­ties are being estab­lished and church­es being built, and that the num­ber of those whom our Lord Jesus Christ leads to the Ortho­dox Faith from oth­er con­fes­sions is increas­ing, togeth­er with those whom He mer­ci­ful­ly guides back from paths of error. The return of sev­er­al parish­es to our Church, after years of divi­sion, is both a source of deep joy, and also a sign of hope in these days of wide­spread schism and apos­ta­sy, that the door of return is always open, and love may yet tri­umph over enmi­ty. Fur­ther, the report from Holy Trin­i­ty Monastery con­firmed that, by the grace of God, the flow of pil­grims to the Lavra of the Russ­ian Dias­po­ra, which had become scarce dur­ing the pan­dem­ic, is again increas­ing every day — and so, too, in many oth­er parts of the Church. The Coun­cil like­wise heard reports on the activ­i­ties of our Ortho­dox youth, both at the dioce­san and inter­na­tion­al lev­els; on the life of our ancient com­mu­ni­ties in the Holy Land; on the growth of our Sem­i­nary and pas­toral schools; on the labours to pre­serve and cher­ish our unique litur­gi­cal her­itage; on the work of our Fund for Assis­tance, which tire­less­ly sup­ports com­mu­ni­ties and mis­sions that would be dif­fi­cult to sus­tain with­out such aid; on our rela­tions with our fel­low Ortho­dox Chris­tians of oth­er juris­dic­tions; and many oth­er top­ics. Receiv­ing all these reports, we heard, as it were, the word of God speak­ing to the Church: ‘God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always hav­ing all suf­fi­cien­cy in all things, may abound to every good work’ (2 Corinthi­ans 9.8).

Our Coun­cil took spe­cial joy in wel­com­ing the recog­ni­tion of the Mace­don­ian Ortho­dox Church — Ohrid Arch­bish­opric by the Holy Syn­od of Bish­ops of the Moscow Patri­ar­chate, and greets our fel­low hier­ar­chs, cler­gy and faith­ful of the Mace­don­ian Church with a fra­ter­nal embrace. We can­not but rejoice at the news that here, too, we find uni­ty restored and the abil­i­ty to pray and serve with beloved brethren returned to us. May God ever be praised for His mercies!

And yet, in this earth­ly life, all is not sweet­ness and sim­plic­i­ty. The Apos­tle Paul, address­ing the ancient Chris­tians, once wrote: ‘Who shall sep­a­rate us from the love of Christ? shall tribu­la­tion, or dis­tress, or per­se­cu­tion, or famine, or naked­ness, or per­il, or sword?’ (Rom. 8.35).

Espe­cial­ly in these present days, such words seem pro­found­ly rel­e­vant. Dai­ly and even hourly the world itself reminds us of the words of the Lord, addressed to His Apos­tles: ‘Ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: but see that ye be not trou­bled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and king­dom against king­dom: and there shall be famines, and pesti­lences, and earth­quakes, in divers places. All these are the begin­ning of sor­rows’ (Matthew 24.6–8). Today, these for­mi­da­ble signs, fore­told by the Pil­lar of the Apos­tles and spo­ken about by the Lord, are observed by us per­son­al­ly, direct­ly, and we feel the affects of them both on our­selves and our neigh­bours. Spir­its of evil in high places, through the peo­ple they enslave, labour in every man­ner to thwart us with the poi­son of divi­sion and hatred. Hos­tile forces have worked hard, and do so still, to sow dis­cord between broth­ers in faith and spir­it, heirs of a com­mon his­to­ry and cul­ture, who emerged from the com­mon font of the Bap­tism of Rus’.

We have called upon the faith­ful before to remem­ber that par­tic­i­pa­tion in polit­i­cal dis­cus­sions is not the role of the Church of Christ, whose mis­sion is the Gospel and the guid­ance of man into repen­tance and life. The Ortho­dox Church, by her very essence, can­not call for war, but always, in spite of every­thing, prays for peace. With respect to the great tur­moil cur­rent­ly unfold­ing around us, we must live by this call­ing. It has been eight years since our Russ­ian Ortho­dox Church Abroad began lift­ing up a spe­cial prayer at the Divine Litur­gy ‘for the suf­fer­ing coun­try of Ukraine, torn apart by strife and dis­cord’ — and this prayer we unceas­ing­ly con­tin­ue to offer, and so will do until peace is man­i­fest. Addi­tion­al­ly, our dio­ce­ses, as well as our Church cen­tral­ly, and in par­tic­u­lar our faith­ful, have laboured in many prac­ti­cal ways to aid those suf­fer­ing in Ukraine, as well as its many refugees across the world; we express our grat­i­tude for their gen­eros­i­ty, and we shall con­tin­ue to act in like man­ner until the dark­ness of suf­fer­ing has been turned to the light of rec­on­cil­i­a­tion. As for State author­i­ties and the lead­ers of world pow­ers on all sides, we can only beseech them to take their places at the nego­ti­at­ing table with­out delay, so that an end can be put to hos­til­i­ties as soon as pos­si­ble; and this call, too, we shall not cease to make. It is dis­tress­ing for us to see friv­o­li­ties and enter­tain­ments — such as pop con­certs and the like — organ­ised, when the con­flict ought the more right­ly to bring us all to a sense of sobri­ety and grief. A frat­ri­ci­dal war, a war between those of a shared faith, is the great­est of sor­rows; it can­not but shake every Ortho­dox heart. May all those in pow­er remem­ber the com­mand­ment of Christ: ‘Blessed are the peace­mak­ers, for they will be called the sons of God’ (Matthew 5.9).

We there­fore exhort all the faith­ful chil­dren of the Church to be such peace­mak­ers, and to be, as His Beat­i­tude Met­ro­pol­i­tan Antho­ny (Khrapovit­sky) once called us, ‘sons of the Res­ur­rec­tion.’ Stand firm in the Faith, do not fal­ter in the hope that is in you, dwell on what is good and right­eous and flee from what is evil — and know that Almighty God will nev­er for­sake those who put their trust in Him.

We invoke God’s bless­ing on all of you and wish you all peace, health and joy in our Lord Jesus Christ.

Met­ro­pol­i­tan of East­ern Amer­i­ca and New York,
First Hier­ar­ch of the Church Abroad

Met­ro­pol­i­tan of Berlin and Germany

Arch­bish­op of San Fran­cis­co and West­ern America

Arch­bish­op of Mon­tréal and Canada

Arch­bish­op of Chica­go and Mid-America

Bish­op of Cara­cas and South America

Bish­op of Lon­don and West­ern Europe

Bish­op of Syd­ney, Aus­tralia & New Zealand

Bish­op of Seattle

Bish­op of Vevey

Bish­op of Syracuse

Bish­op of Sonora

Bish­op of Stuttgart