Voices from Russia

Monday, 30 June 2008

A Result of the Council: Diomid is under an Interdict

Metropolitan Hilarion Kapral of New York and Eastern America (1948- ) (left), First Hierarch of the ROCOR, champion of church unity at the Archpastoral Council

Over the past week, the main event in the country has been the Archpastoral Council of the MP and the circumstances surrounding it. Orthodox hierarchs assembled in Moscow and, amongst other things, condemned the activity of Bishop Diomid Dzyuban of Anadyr and Chukotka, formally opened the celebrations of the 1,020th anniversary of the Baptism of Russia, and approved a number of important internal church documents.

Since Tuesday, when Patriarch Aleksei of Moscow and all the Russias officially opened the session of the Council, supporters of the Chukotka bishop picketed the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. His fate immediately became a hot topic in the media. The week was marked by increased activity from the youth group Nashi (Ours), which marched in the streets with placards saying Osudit Diomid! (Condemn Diomid!) Tension grew until Friday, when the decision of the Council was announced. Bishop Diomid was to be deposed from the episcopal office if he did not repent of his disobedience to the Church hierarchy before the next session of the Holy Synod. A scandal ensued at the public press conference. A female Orthodox journalist, one of the supporters of Bishop Diomid, started a contentious row with Metropolitan Kirill Gundyaev of Smolensk and Kaliningrad concerning the validity of Bishop Diomid’s absence from the Council. It is obvious that the controversy surrounding Bishop Diomid has stretched everyone’s nerves to the limit. It is interesting to note that the decision concerning the deposition of the disgraced hierarch was only accepted on the next day, when there was an emergency meeting of the Holy Synod after the official closure of the Council. In the absence of a functioning bishop, the locum tenems of the Diocese of Anadyr and Chukotka is Bishop Mark Tuzhikov of Khabarovsk and Primaursky. It is highly improbable that Bishop Diomid, who called Patriarch Aleksei “an ecumenist heretic”, shall kneel in repentance before the Synod.

Metropolitan Hilarion Kapral, the First Hierarch of the ROCOR, spoke to the Archpastoral Council on the problems surrounding ecumenical activity. He reminded his brother-bishops of the negative attitude of most Russian Orthodox believers abroad towards the membership of the MP in the World Council of Churches. According to some sources, Metropolitan Hilarion abstained from voting when the measure regarding Bishop Diomid was brought forward. In spite of sharing the same sceptical attitude towards ecumenism as do the supporters of Diomid, the delegation of the ROCOR showed much pleasure with the results of the Archpastoral Council. In reply to the monarchist pronouncements of the Diomidites, Metropolitan Hilarion asserted that “it is not dishonourable” for the Church to use the fruits of democracy. Indeed, the hierarchs were greatly pleased with the pronouncement of Metropolitan Hilarion regarding the necessity of the unity of the Church, that Russians, Byelorussians, and Ukrainians should not form separate church jurisdictions.

The Council began its deliberations on the problems of church life in the Ukraine with a very knowledgeable and nuanced address by Metropolitan Vladimir Sabodan of Kiev and all the Ukraine. He took an objective view of the positions regarding both the positive and negative aspects of Ukrainian “autocephaly”. As a result, he concluded that “a change in the canonical status of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church would not be healthy in the context of contemporary church life in the Ukraine”. The question of autocephaly for the Ukrainian Orthodox Church was thereby shelved. The Archpastoral Council also called the Ecumenical Patriarchate to dialogue regarding the situation surrounding the church schism in Estonia, and called the Patriarchate of Romania to likewise dialogue on the similar problems in Moldova.

The Archpastoral Council also approved a document concerning the freedom and rights of man drafted by the Department of External Church Relations under the direction of Metropolitan Kirill. It states that the realisation of the rights of man must not oppose traditional morality or contradict the interests of the state and the family. A formal paper delineating the functions of the ecclesiastical tribunal was adopted, for this topic has been neglected for the last twenty years. This sets down formally what has been used in actual practise. However, as Metropolitan Kirill reported to journalists, the matter of the deposition of Bishop Diomid shall not be brought before the ecclesiastical tribunal. The Archpastoral Council is the highest body in the Church, and it possesses the right to judge bishops and order their deposition, if such is warranted.

30 June 2008

Pavel Krug

Nezavisimaya Gazeta (The Independent Newspaper)

Quoted in Interfax-Religion



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