Group portrait of the participants of the Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, Buchendorf, June, 2017

ROCOR Synod on the Ecclesial Catastrophe in Ukraine

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.