Voices from Russia

Monday, 5 May 2008

Patriarch Aleksei said “The Unity of the Church shall be the Principal Topic at the Next Archpastoral Council”

On 23 April 2008, Patriarch Aleksei of Moscow and all the Russias gave his Easter news conference to Russian and foreign journalists in Moscow. This year, Orthodox Easter is celebrated on 27 April. The journalists focused their attention on various topical religious questions in Russia; in particular, they wished to know the agenda of the upcoming Archpastoral Council of the Moscow Patriarchate, which is to be held in Moscow from 24 to 29 June 2008. The patriarch told the journalists that, first of all, the council shall review the events in the Church since the last such council, which was held in 2004. However, its principal focus shall be the unity of the Church, he said. “The common duty of the bishops, clergy, and, indeed, all Orthodox Christians, is to preserve the unity of the Church. Our strength resides in our unity”, His Holiness said.

Patriarch Aleksei was asked what the most memorable Easter in his churchly ministry was. His Holiness replied that the Easter that left the strongest impression on him was the one celebrated in 1945, when he was just a boy-chorister at the Cathedral of St Aleksandr Nevsky in Tallinn. “It was the first Easter celebration in the cathedral after a four-year hiatus. It is a particularly strong memory for me because I had taken part in the work needed to reopen the church”, he said. The Nazis had closed the cathedral after they had occupied Estonia in 1941.

Europaica 147


Editor’s Note:

“The common duty of the bishops, clergy, and, indeed, all Orthodox Christians, is to preserve the unity of the Church. Our strength resides in our unity”. The maintenance of unity is not a matter for the clergy alone. It is the common work, the leitourgia, of all of us. In fact, we laity play a decisive role, arguably a role more crucial than that of the bishops and clergy, important and necessary as they are. Many Western converts still have a clericalist mentality that is baggage from their days in the heterodox confessions. I was told by one that I had to listen to everything the clergy said, for they had the final word in things! That may be perfectly good Romanism or Protestantism, but it “sure ain’t Orthodox!”

More than once, the laity, often allied with the monastics, saved the Church from wicked and compliant clergy. Think on the iconoclastic disputes, Arianism, and Uniatism. The laity led the way in the defence of the Church. If we had depended on the clergy, well, we would be Arians, Iconoclasts, or Uniates today. To give an example, in the Ukraine, powerful lay brotherhoods arose to fight Uniatism. They sent for priests from Russia, printed Orthodox books, opened Orthodox schools, and supported the Church with their money. If this had not happened, there would have been no Orthodox Church in the Ukraine today. This is still the case in the contemporary world. The faithful of the OCA have to take matters into their own hands to oppose modernism and autocephaly, just as the faithful Orthodox Christians of the Ukraine did to fight Uniatism.

It is time for unity. We are weakened without it. Do not listen to the voices urging “autocephaly”, for most of them are careerists defending their pay packets and the rest are honestly deluded fools. You shall gain nothing by a “dialogue” with such sorts. It is time to come home. Your place is waiting and we fervently desire your presence.

“How good and sweet it is when brothers dwell together in unity”. Amen.



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