Statement of the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia
New York: October 18, 2018

The Syn­od of Bish­ops of the Russ­ian Ortho­dox Church Out­side of Rus­sia com­mu­ni­cates to the plen­i­tude of her cler­gy and faith­ful, and to her fel­low Ortho­dox Chris­tians through­out the world, her pro­found sor­row at the un-canon­i­cal under­tak­ings per­pe­trat­ed by the Church of Con­stan­tino­ple over the past days; in par­tic­u­lar with regard to its Mes­sage of 11th Octo­ber 2018. Simul­ta­ne­ous­ly we express our com­plete sup­port of the posi­tion tak­en by the Holy Syn­od of the Patri­ar­chate of Moscow, fol­low­ing its meet­ing of 15th Octo­ber 2018 and announced in its state­ment of the same date.

The illic­it actions of the Church of Con­stan­tino­ple are able to suf­fer no canon­i­cal defence and con­sti­tute a grave and dan­ger­ous injus­tice against the tra­di­tions of Ortho­doxy, as well as a shock­ing dis­re­gard for the spir­i­tu­al wel­fare of the sheep of Christ (cf. John 10.3, 11). Hav­ing expressed its inten­tion to estab­lish stravrope­gia of its Church in the Ukraine, Con­stan­tino­ple thus solid­i­fies its intru­sion into anoth­er Local Church’s canon­i­cal ter­ri­to­ry, an anti-canon­i­cal vio­la­tion of the high­est order which the Syn­od of Con­stan­tino­ple has no pow­er or right to under­take. We make explic­it that under no cir­cum­stances will we con­sid­er such insti­tu­tions to have any legal sub­stance, nor will we acknowl­edge any legit­i­ma­cy what­so­ev­er to those who, deem­ing them­selves shep­herds, sub­mit to these non-Church estab­lish­ments.

Yet more grave is the deci­sion of the Church of Con­stan­tino­ple to ‘restore’ to canon­i­cal sta­tus var­i­ous schis­mat­ic indi­vid­u­als that have, on account of severe canon­i­cal vio­la­tions, been deposed from their rank by the Bish­ops Coun­cil of the Russ­ian Ortho­dox Church, with the assent of the oth­er Local Ortho­dox Church­es. Pro­ceed­ing from a false asser­tion that the ancient pre­rog­a­tive of receiv­ing appeals for pan-Ortho­dox medi­a­tion equates to an autonomous and uni­lat­er­al pow­er held by the See of Con­stan­tino­ple, that See now arro­gates non-exis­tent pow­ers to itself in the attempt to jus­ti­fy its inter­fer­ence in the canon­i­cal con­texts of oth­er Local Church­es. The real­i­ty, how­ev­er, is that the Church of Con­stan­tino­ple pos­sess­es no such canon­i­cal author­i­ty and, in exer­cis­ing this law­less abro­ga­tion of authen­tic pri­ma­cy, dis­torts the true nature of the con­cept of being “First among equals,” direct­ly oppos­ing canon­i­cal Ortho­doxy.

For the sake of the clear under­stand­ing of the present sit­u­a­tion amongst the faith­ful, we here­by make explic­it that the just anath­e­ma­ti­sa­tion by the Bish­ops’ Coun­cil of the Russ­ian Ortho­dox Church of schis­mat­ics that per­sist in their errors, can­not be and has not been over­turned by the uni­lat­er­al action of the Church of Con­stan­tino­ple. In the eyes of God, and in accor­dance with the Holy Canons and the teach­ings of the Ortho­dox Church, these indi­vid­u­als remain under their just con­dem­na­tion, and are con­sid­ered in schism; that is, fall­en away from Holy Ortho­doxy. More­over, we remind the faith­ful of the Holy Canons which clear­ly express the prin­ci­ple that those who inter­com­mune with the just­ly deposed, them­selves enter into schism from the Ortho­dox Church (cf. Anti­och, 2). There­fore any who, fol­low­ing the law­less deci­sion of the Church of Con­stan­tino­ple, enter into com­mu­nion with these schis­mat­ic indi­vid­u­als, do there­by depart from Ortho­dox canon­i­cal uni­ty into schism, and the mor­tal per­il it rep­re­sents to the soul.

The Ortho­dox Church of the Ukraine, under the Arch­pas­toral care of His Beat­i­tude Met­ro­pol­i­tan Onuphry and his mar­tyric co-Arch­pas­tors, remains today, as it has since the Act of 1686, the sole canon­i­cal body with­in that blessed land. The present deci­sion of the Church of Con­stan­tino­ple to ‘revoke’ the Syn­odal Let­ter of that year is sim­ply mer­it­less, and accord­ing to the Ortho­dox canon­i­cal tra­di­tion is by nature an impos­si­bil­i­ty. Despite the state­ment made by the Holy Syn­od of the Church of Con­stan­tino­ple on 11th Octo­ber of this year, the faith­ful may rest ful­ly assured that the Act of 1686 remains valid and bind­ing, and that the canon­i­cal author­i­ty of the Church of Ukraine and of the Patri­ar­chate of Moscow remain unaf­fect­ed by this ground­less pre­sump­tion of pow­er by the Pha­nar.

In light of these most griev­ous affronts to the very nature of canon­i­cal Ortho­doxy, the Holy Syn­od of Bish­ops of the Russ­ian Ortho­dox Church Out­side of Rus­sia has no option except, with pro­found sor­row and yet with full con­vic­tion, pub­licly to reg­is­ter her assent with the deci­sion of the Holy Syn­od of the Patri­ar­chate of Moscow, which recog­nis­es that con­tin­u­ing Eucharis­tic com­mu­nion with the Church of Con­stan­tino­ple is impos­si­ble, at any lev­el, until this ancient and once-glo­ri­ous sis­ter Church repents from its intro­duc­tion of false and alien teach­ings about pri­ma­cy and uni­ver­sal author­i­ty, con­trary to the ancient Ortho­dox Faith, and ceas­es from its law­less actions.

We there­by inform our cler­gy and faith­ful that Eucharis­tic inter­com­mu­nion with the Church of Con­stan­tino­ple is present­ly impos­si­ble, for Hier­ar­chy, Cler­gy and Laity. So long as this sit­u­a­tion remains, it is not pos­si­ble for cler­gy of our Church to cel­e­brate in any parish of the Church of Con­stan­tino­ple, or for cler­ics of that Church to cel­e­brate in ours; nor is it pos­si­ble for layper­sons to par­take of the Holy Mys­ter­ies per­formed in the tem­ples of the Patri­ar­chate of Con­stan­tino­ple. We fur­ther reit­er­ate that the Russ­ian Ortho­dox Church Out­side of Rus­sia will not par­tic­i­pate in the­o­log­i­cal inter-church meet­ings, or oth­er dia­logues, includ­ing the region­al Assem­blies of Bish­ops, which are chaired or co-chaired by cler­ics or hier­ar­chy of the Church of Con­stan­tino­ple.

We call upon all the faith­ful to redou­ble their prayers for the peace of the Church, cur­rent­ly being so try­ing­ly put to the test by the law­less actions of a nov­el eccle­si­ol­o­gy and false teach­ing — and not to lose heart or grow faint, trust­ing that the Lord’s Wis­dom con­quers all false­hood, if only we hold fast to what is true and sacred. We implore the Pri­mates of the Local Ortho­dox Church­es to reflect upon the cur­rent cir­cum­stances, in due course com­ing togeth­er to reach an authen­tic, canon­i­cal res­o­lu­tion to these urgent mat­ters.

We firm­ly believe and hope that our Lord Jesus Christ, Who does not aban­don His chil­dren and Who over­comes all human pride with the lim­it­less love of Divine Truth, will strength­en His Beat­i­tude Met­ro­pol­i­tan Onuphry and the Hier­ar­chy, Cler­gy and Faith­ful of the Ukrain­ian Ortho­dox Church, and all Ortho­dox faith­ful of all tongues and lands.