Voices from Russia

Saturday, 26 December 2009

Archbishop Varsonofy Sudakov Confirmed as Chancellor of the Moscow Patriarchate

Archbishop Varsonofy Sudakov of Saransk and Mordovia (1955- ), the new Chancellor of the MP

At a meeting on Friday, the MP Holy Synod approved the appointment of Archbishop Varsonofy Sudakov of Saransk and Mordovia as Chancellor of the MP, Vladimir Legoida, the head of the Synodal Information Department, told Interfax-Religion. At the meeting of the Holy Synod of 31 March 2009, the first under the chairmanship of Patriarch Kirill, Bishop Varsonofy was appointed the acting chancellor of the MP. Earlier, Metropolitan Kliment Kapalin of Kaluga and Borovsk had held this position, from March 2009, Vladyki Kliment was the Head of the Publications Board of the Moscow Patriarchate. Archbishop Varsonofy (in the world, Anatoly Vladimirovich Sudakov) was born in 1955 in the village of Malinovka in Saratov oblast. After graduating from theological school in Moscow, he served parishes in the Diocese of Penza, and, in 1991, was ordained Bishop of Saransk and Mordovia.

“Our activities are comparable with the work of the Presidential Administration, a body that provides the material conditions for implementing the president’s constitutional powers. We act on behalf of the patriarch, control the execution of circulars, decrees, orders, and resolutions of His Holiness, and submit relevant reports. Our Administration analyses the events taking place in the dioceses, preparing detailed reports for the patriarch”, Vladyki Varsonofy said in a recent interview with Interfax-Religion describing the duties of the Chancellor and his department.

25 December 2009




Fr Vsevolod Chaplin Nixes Private Chapels for the Rich

Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin (1968- ), the head of the Synodal Division for Church-Society Relations

Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin, the head of the Synodal Division for Church-Society Relations thinks that the creation of private chapels for the rich is a problematic matter. “You can do it, I suppose, but, it’s wrong. The Church is an assembly that unites all people, regardless of nationality, social status, age, or sex”, he said in a radio simulcast on Voice of Russia and Radonezh. He reminded us that the Church is by nature an Assembly (соборна), “a space that is open to all people”. Meanwhile, according to Fr Vsevolod, “These chapels, where only one service a year is conducted on the orders of a private individual, could never foster the growth of a full-blooded ecclesial community”. Fr Vsevolod also mentioned the growing trend today of “club parishes”, such as churches for soldiers, or, churches for businessmen or students. In his opinion, this could threaten the Church by limiting the interaction between different kinds of people. “Finally, it leads to distinct parishes for the rich and for the poor. That is very bad. Today, the greatest need is that we should insist that the Church remain united, that it should continue to provide, perhaps, the only place in contemporary Russia where the rich businessman is not ashamed to enter and where you can also reach the person with a very low income,” he said.

25 December 2009



Fr Vsevolod Chaplin said that the Example of Fr Aleksandr Filippov should not Intimidate Society… It should be an Inspiration

Fr Vsevolod Chaplin (1968- ), the head of the Synodal Division of Church-Society Relations

Fr Vsevolod Chaplin, the head of the Synodal Division of Church-Society Relations, believed that the example of Podolsk priest Fr Aleksandr Filippov, murdered by thugs for standing against rude behaviour, should not intimidate people. He said on a simulcast on Voice of Russia and Radonezh, “I really don’t want to see our society come to the wrong conclusions due to these developments. We shouldn’t say that everything is always unpleasant, that bad people are the only ones who get ahead. We should speak of this priest as a hero… as well as defending the people in Georgia that deplore [Saakashvili’s] destruction of a war memorial and who promote its restoration”.

As reported earlier, on the evening of 22 December, Archpriest Aleksandr Filippov, the rector of Ascension church in the village of Satino-Russloye in Podolsk raion near Moscow, was shot in the heart after he upbraided a group of men who answered the call of nature in the hallway. Fr Vsevolod expressed the fear that, now, some commentators in the media would call Fr Aleksandr a fool for upbraiding the drunks, and say that all it did was to provoke their boorish behaviour. These journalists, in Fr Vsevolod’s opinion, might say, “It would be better to ignore it, and, indeed, the Church too often interferes in people’s lives… get away from us, it’s our free human choice if, excuse me, we choose to piss on the street”.

In his view, the media should cover such egregious crimes as the murder of a clergyman with scrupulous honesty. “We need to tell people the unvarnished truth, show them the full horror of all these murders, and what kind of vile people commit them, what burnt-out losers they are”, Fr Vsevolod said. He thought that there are many in contemporary society like the murderers of Fr Aleksandr. However, many people are “using glamorous baubles and the good things that money can buy” in an attempt to ignore the facts.

25 December 2009



A Letter by the Clergy to the Hierarchy of the Church of Greece on 8 October 2009 Concerning a Letter by the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew

Ieronymos Liapis (1938- ), Archbishop of Athens and all Greece, First Hierarch of the Local Church of Greece


8 October 2009

To the Venerable Hierarchy of the Church of Greece

Your Beatitude,

Most Reverend holy Hierarchs,

These last few days, in view of the upcoming Plenary Meeting in Cyprus of the Joint Commission for the Theological Dialogue between Orthodox and Roman Catholics, the Ecumenical Patriarchate is trying to smear, slander, intimidate, and silence all those who have lately expressed their opposition to recent ecumenistic trends and the course that the theological dialogue is taking.

Two letters officially expressed this attempt. One was by His Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew Archontonis to His Beatitude Archbishop Ieronymos Liapis of Athens and All Greece, and the other letter was by His Eminence Ioannis Zizioulas, Metropolitan of Pergamon, addressed to all the Reverend Metropolitans of the Church of Greece. In both these letters, one observes stratagems of intervention, insinuation into the affairs of the Church of Greece, disorientation, and selective reference to actions and decisions; also, one observes a thorough absence of argumentation and documented assertions.

From the tone and the content that one finds in those letters, one can perceive an underlying contempt towards the Church of Greece, Her Reverend Metropolitans, Her clergy and monks, Her Professors of Theology, and Her faithful people. They upbraid them for “zealot trends”, a schismatical disposition, a lack of knowledge, “negligence”, a “disregard of Conciliar decisions”, and “malice, fanaticism, or an obsession for self-promotion”… This is a well-known tactic, it is an excommunication and en masse condemnation that does not tolerate a contrary word, cannot even consider a second opinion, and crushes anyone who dares to utter one. This is a familiar tactic, one relying on coercion, on marshalling forces, on having the absolute upper hand, on ecclesiastic servility.

The disposition on the part of both of the high-ranking dignitaries to force an entry into the internal affairs of the Church of Greece is obvious. They attempt to herd and manage our Hierarchs and to induce them to make a decision by means of outlandish representations and suggestions, indirect extortions, and threats. The Church of Greece is called upon, in this way, to essentially condemn Her very own Bishops, Her clergy, Her Monks and Her faithful people, who have signed, and continue to sign, the “Confession of Faith” because, according to the Ecumenical Patriarch, “by not condemning, but, instead, silently condoning [the confession]…. raises concern not only to Her flock, but also to Her communion with the remaining Orthodox Churches”. If the Church of Constantinople had a flock that attended to the activities of the ecumenists, it would face the same disquiet and the same well-meaning concern. The traditional Church of Greece not only does not have any impediments in Her communion with the other Orthodox Churches, our co-believing brethren always rely upon Her and Her sound and robust theological forces, as is clear by the broad, inter-orthodox acceptance of the “Confession”. Moreover, we ask ourselves, with a grieving heart, whether the Ecumenical Patriarch has ever considered, not only the concern raised amongst believers, but, also, how he has aroused profound sorrow, disappointment, and intense scandal in the Orthodox flock by his interactions with heretics.

He charges that, allegedly, within the text of the “Confession of Faith” “the seed of schism is inherent”. However, we ask ourselves, how can he proclaim the self-evident truths of our Faith as schismatical with such ease? Are the Saints and the Fathers of our Church who instituted and dogmatised the truth and the precision of our spotless Orthodox Faith schismatics? Could this be a verification of an older, now unacceptable, patriarchal stance, according to which, “Our predecessors who had bequeathed division to us were the unfortunate victims of the ancient serpent, and are already in the hands of the just Judge, God?” (Episkepsis, 30 November 1998)

In both of the letters [mentioned above], there is a repeated invocation of Inter-Orthodox decisions that pertain to the continuation of the theological dialogue with the heterodox. Those expressing criticism of ecumenism never questioned those decisions, although they are by no means divine laws, nor do they override the decisions of Ecumenical Councils, the dogmatic teaching, and the conscience of the Church. The criticism that has arose chiefly pertains to overtures, actions, and documents that are not based on any Inter-Orthodox decision and were never approved of in council [synodika], but, on the contrary, were met with disfavour by Orthodox. What it amounts to is the implementation and the acceptance in practise of the pan-heresy of Ecumenism. In his letter to His Beatitude Archbishop Ieronymos, the Ecumenical Patriarch maintains, “all the Orthodox Churches have approved communications with the heterodox, through conciliar decisions”.


St Mark of Ephesus (1392-1444), fearless Confessor of Orthodoxy at the false anti-council of Ferrara-Firenze in 1439. He held Rome to be in schism and heresy for its acceptance of the Filioque clause and for its claims that the Pope of Rome was the Universal Pastor of the Church, and he was the only Orthodox bishop who didn’t sign the decrees of the council. His feastday is 19 January, the very day of the installation of Kirill Mikhailovich Gundyaev as Patriarch of Moscow and all the Russias, a fact noted by His Holiness at the service. I should note that nothing objective has changed in the stance of the papists since the time of St Mark… neither has our position either, ecumania and ecumaniacs notwithstanding.


Moreover, we note the following questions:

  • Which conciliar decision of all the Local Orthodox Churches sanctioned the participation of the Ecumenical Patriarch in Papist liturgies at the Vatican?
  • Which Conciliar decision of all the Local Orthodox Churches approved the participation of the Pope, the first among heretics, in the Orthodox Divine Liturgy and in a liturgical greeting exchanged with the Ecumenical Patriarch?
  • Which Conciliar decision of all the Local Orthodox Churches approved participation in the common prayers and worship services of the heterodox?
  • Which Conciliar decision of all the Local Orthodox Churches deemed acceptable to Orthodox the heretical idea of the “branch theory”, the “sister churches” assertion, the “two lungs” theory, and the acceptance [per se] of heterodox baptisms?
  • Which Conciliar decision of all the Local Orthodox Churches recognised the Vatican as a Church and the Pope as a canonical bishop, co-responsible for the shepherding of the flock of Christ?

The persistent invocation of conciliar decisions and their establishment in them renders the argumentation of both letters even more untrustworthy, since it is clear that the majority of their deeds were realised without reference to, or, in opposition to, or, over and above conciliar decisions.

Let us also point up a well-known tactic they use, namely, of sailing two courses at once. One is a purely orthodox course taken during Inter-Orthodox Conventions, and when they make the rounds in the dioceses of Greece and on the Holy Mountain, and they take another, more ecumenistic, course during contacts with the heterodox. This is not a case of “yes” meaning “yes” and “no” meaning “no”; rather, it is a case of “sometimes ‘yes’ and sometimes ‘no’”. For example, the Ecumenical Patriarch invoked the decisions of the Third Inter-Orthodox Pre-Conciliar Conference (1986), but, the repeated violations of them are so egregious that they make them empty words. As a characteristic example, we can quote the final text of the Ninth General Assembly of the World Council of Churches at Porto Alegre, which was co-signed by Orthodox representatives, and in which it is confessed, in common [with the heterodox], “We confess one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church as expressed in the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed (381). Each church (that participates in the WCC) is the Church catholic, but, not the whole of it. Each church fulfils its catholicity when it is in communion with the other churches”. (P­o­r­to A­l­e­g­re, February 2006).

As for the bipartisan theological dialogue with the Roman Catholics in the framework of the Joint International Commission for the Theological Dialogue, the deviation from pan-Orthodox decisions and commitments is obvious to all. It is worth noting that the Memoranda of the Orthodox First Hierarchs that the Most Reverend Metropolitan of Pergamon selectively invoked lay down as a prerequisite for the continuation of the dialogue a change in its emphasis and the condemnation of Uniatism. To be sure, the two previous Meetings of the Joint Commission for the Theological Dialogue did not discuss the matter of Uniatism, neither in Belgrade in 2004, or, in Ravenna in 2007. Indeed, the Ravenna document indirectly, yet, explicitly, dissociates the matter of Uniatism from the dialogue under discussion during this phase. The Ravenna Document clearly states, “From 1990 until 2000, the main subject discussed by the Commission was that of “Uniatism” (Balamand Document, 1993; Baltimore, 2000), a subject to which we shall give further consideration in the near future. Now, we take up the theme raised at the end of the Valamo Document, and reflect upon ecclesial communion, conciliarity, and authority”.

Noteworthy, also, is the unacceptable and provocative suppression and erasing in Ravenna of the condemnation of Uniatism by the decision of the Plenary Session in Freising of Munich in 1990. This shows just how irresponsible those in the Vatican vis-à-vis the Dialogue are, since they accept some decisions and reject others, thus, showing the utmost disrespect to us. It is also clear that it is simply a pretext and an evasion on the part of the Metropolitan of Pergamon that we will discuss the topic of Uniatism soon, in the framework of a discussion on the Papal primacy. The matter of Uniatism should have been resolved with the decision of Freising in Munich, where Orthodox and Roman Catholics both endorsed the condemnation of Uniatism.

Those who humiliated Orthodoxy at Balamand in Lebanon (1993) should be ashamed, and not further provoke matters, given that, in spite of the absence of six autocephalous Churches (Jerusalem, Serbia, Bulgaria, Georgia, Greece, and Czechoslovakia), we have been dragged into a new and redundant discussion about Uniatism. Giving into the demands of the Vatican, we annulled the decision of Munich (1990) and acquitted Uniatism of all charges. What is worse, [in Balamand] we embarked on serious concessions on matters of the faith, we ecclesiologically equated the Roman Catholic “church” to the Orthodox Church, thus, denying that the Orthodox Church is the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. This alone should have been reason enough to shut the mouths and control the pens of those who dare to speak of respect towards conciliar decisions, which they have utterly disparaged. In fact, we continue to accept Uniates as interlocutors in the dialogue [as members of the Roman Catholic delegation].

With regard to the Ravenna document overall, which received extremely caustic reviews from the Orthodox side because it relinquished Orthodox ecclesiology [and replaced it with] heretical notions, to date, there has been absolutely no briefing [of the bishops], no discussion, no decision or approval at a conciliar level by the Church of Greece. To which Inter-Orthodox decisions are these two dignitaries referring, when not even one of ten documents issued by the Joint Commission has received conciliar approval by the Church of Greece? How can the representative sent by the Holy Synod of the Church of Greece represent his church in the drafting of the new document of the Commission, when the previous text has yet to receive synodical approval, which, even so, comprises the very basis for the [next text in] impending dialogue? What kind of credibility can such a dialogue have (under the co-chairmanship of His Eminence Ioannis of Pergamon), when it is indifferent about [securing] a conciliar approval of its findings from the Local Orthodox Churches that take part in it?


Grand Prince St Aleksandr Nevsky of Novgorod and Vladimir (1220-63), victor over Swedish and Teutonic papist invaders in 1240 and 1242. He defended the Faith against external aggression; as a result, he is, perhaps, the most pivotal figure in Russian history. He ensured that we have an Orthodox faith to practise and that we were not forced into the papal confession at sword-point (as did occur in some areas of Little Russia later, under the Poles and Hapsburgs).


Why are they protesting against the “Confession of Faith”? It is an example of conciliar participation in the body of the Church. Isn’t that something that they should encourage? Why do they disparage it? This is not Orthodox Ecclesiology, but, a papal hierocracy. Is this the hierocratic “authority and prestige of Conciliar decisions” that the Metropolitan of Pergamon is defending? Is this the “ecclesiological peril” over which he is agonising? The question that troubles us is indeed inescapable. It is not phrased, however, as the Metropolitan of Pergamon twists it, when he closes his letter, asking himself, “Can there be Orthodoxy and dogmas of the faith without conciliar rulings?” but, as it stands in reality, “Can there be conciliar decisions without Orthodoxy and the dogmas of the faith?” This is what is they truly place at risk… the preservation of the truth and the exactitude (akriveia) of our irreproachable Faith, expressed synodically by our Most Holy Church, in the framework of Her unimpeded functioning as an Autocephalous Local Orthodox Church.

By the Grace of God, we shall not cease to defend that which is at risk and preserve it, uninfluenced and unbending in the face of intimidations, threats, and extortions. The concerns and speculations of the two high-ranking letter-writers are unfounded. Orthodox Ecclesiology is assailed by hierocratic tendencies that are oblivious to the body (pleroma) of the Church, by a disregard for the holy canonical and patristic tradition as demarcated in the Ecumenical and Local Synods vis-à-vis our stance towards heretics, but, also, by the recently intensified over-the-border involvement in matters of the autocephalous Church of Greece.

With trust in the Venerable Hierarchy of our Church, we filially beseech His Beatitude the Archbishop and our Most Reverend Hierarchs to pronounce and express themselves synodically, with the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit. We ask them to give reassurance to their flock-in-Christ, which is in agony due to its ignorance [of our Church’s position], as they wait for the voice of its Mother the Church.

With the deepest respect,

On behalf of the Synaxis of Clergymen, Monastics, and Laymen, signers of the Confession of Faith Against Ecumenism

  • Archimandrite Mark Manolis, Spiritual Superintendent of the Pan-Hellenic Orthodox Union
  • Archimandrite Chrysostom Pechos, Abbot of the Sacred Monastery of Loggovarda
  • Archimandrite Athanasios Anastasiou, Abbot of the Sacred Monastery of the Great Meteora
  • Archimandrite Maximos Karavas, Abbot of the Sacred Monastery of Saint Paraskeva, Melochorion of Ptolemais
  • Archimandrite Theocletos Bolkas, Abbot of the Sacred Retreat of Saint Arsenios the Cappadocian, Chalikidi
  • Archimandrite Gregory Hadjinikolaou, Abbot of the Sacred Monastery of the Holy Trinity, Ano Gatzea, Volos
  • Archimandrite Sarantis Sarantos, Parish Priest of the Holy Temple of the Dormition of the Theotokos, Amarousion, Attica
  • Protopresbyter George Metallinos, Professor Emeritus, Athens University School of Theology [OODE note: former Dean of the Athens University School of Theology]
  • Protopresbyter Theodore Zisis, Professor Emeritus, Thessaloniki University School of Theology
  • Elder Priest-Monk Efstratios Lavriotes
  • Presbyter Anastasios Gotsopoulos, Parish Priest, St. Nicholas’ Church, Patrae

OODE (Orthodox Outlet for Dogmatic Enquiries)


Ordinary Orthodox pilgrims at the shrine of St Nicholas of Myra in Bari in Italy. Simple believers like this, not overeducated and prideful “theologians”, safeguard the Deposit of Faith. You know what Our Lord said, If anyone offend any of these little ones, it would be better for him if a millstone were placed about his neck and he were thrown into the sea… I think that applies to people like Bartholomew, Zizioulas, Paffhausen, and Hatfield. They don’t care if their actions offend simple believers… may God have mercy on their souls!


Editor’s Note:

There is a great deal of “meat, indeed” in this piece. Note well that the signatories to this letter are not “GOC (Greek Old Calendarist) fringe elements”; they are people from within the Local Church of Greece. This forces us to face a fact. The ecumaniacs are continually telling us that us all “responsible parties” in the Church are for ecumenism and for a rapprochement with the papists. In fact, they continually tell us that all but the most otiose and reactionary elements are in favour of “reforming” the Church.

Nothing could be further from the truth. The authors ask us, “Can there be conciliar decisions without Orthodoxy and the dogmas of the faith?” We should look again at the questions raised by the authors:

  • Which conciliar decision of all the Local Orthodox Churches sanctioned the participation of the Ecumenical Patriarch in Papist liturgies at the Vatican?
  • Which Conciliar decision of all the Local Orthodox Churches approved the participation of the Pope, the first among heretics, in the Orthodox Divine Liturgy and in a liturgical greeting exchanged with the Ecumenical Patriarch?
  • Which Conciliar decision of all the Local Orthodox Churches approved participation in the common prayers and worship services of the heterodox?
  • Which Conciliar decision of all the Local Orthodox Churches deemed acceptable to Orthodox the heretical idea of the “branch theory”, the “sister churches” assertion, the “two lungs” theory, and the acceptance [per se] of heterodox baptisms?
  • Which Conciliar decision of all the Local Orthodox Churches recognised the Vatican as a Church and the Pope as a canonical bishop, co-responsible for the shepherding of the flock of Christ?

There is another thing that we must face in attending to the shell game played by the ecumenists. There is NO binding conciliar decision of the Church, either of the Universal Church, or, of any of the Local Churches, that approves of or mandates or embodies any of the “decisions” made by gaseous “theologians” at any of these ecumaniac love feasts. I can assure you that the bulk of the faithful are blissfully ignorant of them. The majority of priests are much too busy to attend to such irrelevant piffle. Most of our bishops don’t have enough time to take care of their normal day-to-day affairs… they’re going to waste time on such notional rubbish? I think not. In fact, when most ordinary faithful, priests, and bishops become aware of this pseudo-intellectual froufrou, they reject it as not being Orthodox… and they are correct!

There is a group to beware in the Church. Some seminary faculty and church “intellectuals” in general think very highly of themselves, especially those of the Renovationist variety. I would remind them that we have many monastics, hierarchs, pastors, martyrs, confessors, rulers, artists, soldiers, and ordinary folks as saints. We have NO “intellectuals” or “professors” as saints… that tells you something, no? It is why all responsible Orthodox have to stand against people such as the group gathered at SVS and the group gathered about Bartholomew (and his stooge Zizioulas). They attack Christ by denying the true nature of the Church… that should rouse us! If they wish to pen agreements with Episcopalians and papists, well… let them do it, but, let us throw them out the door for doing so.

There is no doubt in my mind that a majority of the faithful and clergy in the EP and the OCA oppose such nonsense. There is no doubt that they would deny it if they could. In all too many cases, both Bartholomew and JP invoke “obedience”, and most people crumple. I would say that there are many clergy who would gladly reject such openly, but, they do not do so for fear of losing their situations (not a cowardly act in most cases… what can an ordinary priest do about bishops such as Bartholomew and JP?). in short, just as Communist Party membership books littered the pavements of Russian cities after the fall of the USSR, let me assure you that you would find Schmemann’s books on the local rubbish tip after the fall of the ecumaniacs. However, they shall not die an easy or painless death. Shall we accept the pain, bother, and suffering that is involved in ending this scandalous mess? THAT is the question…


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