An Epistle of the Provisional Supreme Ecclesiastical Authority

of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad

to its faithful flock.

 

Honorable fathers, dear brothers and sisters!

 

            By the Grace of God, we are making steady progress on the road to restoring our inner life after the schism, which was so difficult for our Church Abroad.  The time that has passed has proven the correctness of our actions and has given us hope that the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad will continue to safeguard the traditions and spirit of Russian Orthodoxy.  Once again, the words of our Savior ring out, that the gates of Hell can never prevail against the Church created by Him!

            Our primary task is to establish a lasting structure based on sobornost, so that all the matters of the Church are not decided by a small group of people, but by the fullness of the Church, including clergy and laypeople, playing an active role in the deciding of important church questions, and in the spirit exemplified by the Local Sobor of the Russian Church in 1918.  Only with such a structure of our inner life, based on sobornost, can we resist the temptations and enticements that befall us.

            The strength and purpose of the Church is in its holiness, its spirit of sobornost, and its succession from our First Shepherd, our Lord Jesus Christ, who in the Garden of Gethsemane prayed for the inner oneness of the Church and oneness with God, purchased by Him for his faithful disciples and followers.

            In His words, let us all be one, by the example of the Oneness of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit!

 

ROCA PSEA Chairman

+Agafangel, Bishop of Taurida and Odessa

 

ROCA PSEA Members

+Andronik, Bishop of Ottawa and North America

+Sofroniy, Bishop of St. Petersburg and Northern Russia

Valeriy Kravets, Archpriest

 

ROCA PSEA Secretary

+Georgiy, Bishop of Bolgrad

 

Odessa, August 22\September 4, 2008.

New Martyrs Ephraim (Kuznetsov), bishop of Selenginsk and Priest John Vostorgov.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Minutes

of the Meeting of the Provisional Supreme Ecclesiastical Authority

of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad

 

Day One

August 20\September 2, 2008

Odessa, Rectory of the Church of Holy Archangel Michael

 

Attendees: PSEA Chairman – the Most Reverend Agafangel, Bishop of Taurida and Odessa, temporary ruling authority of Buenos Aires and the South American diocese of the ROCA.  ROCA PSEA Members: Andronik, Bishop of Ottawa and North America; Sofroniy, Bishop of St. Petersburg and Northern Russia.

ROCA PSEA Secretary - Georgiy, Bishop of Bolgrad, ROCA PSEA member.

 

The attendees asked for the blessing of the Holy Spirit with the singing of the prayer “O Heavenly King.”

The meeting started at 11:20 AM.

 

Discussed: The Chairman submitted the agenda for the PSEA meeting (included in a separate document).

Decided: To approve the agenda with some corrections.

 

Discussed: The Chairman’s report on the current state of affairs.

            The Chairman spoke of his pastoral visit to South America, and noted that as time goes by, we are more and more considered as the lawful, historical ROCA.  During a private meeting with the Exarch of South America for the Constantinople Patriarchate, the Exarch offered the opinion that all who joined with the MP have left ROCA, and in the person of the ROCA PSEA Chairman, he sees the historical ROCA.  The Exarch offered for us to join the Constantinople Patriarchate, which is not possible for us.  Nevertheless, it is important to note this sort of opinion.  The Chairman spoke of matters in the parishes in Argentina and Brazil, and the lack of priests, which is especially critical since there are a large number of Catholics who want to convert.  Bishop noted the potential for missionary work among the native populations in the Buenos Aires and South American diocese.  The Chairman also reported on matters in the Church of the Resurrection in Argentina.  Bishop met with representatives of the parish who said there was positive developments in the court case involving Fr. Vladimir Skalon (MP), who is trying to illegally take ownership of the church.  The Chairman noted there were areas in South America which are in need of pastorship.  Since Fr. Alexander passed away, there is a group of believers in Venezuela who would like to join us.  In Chile, Mother Juliana and Fr. Benjamin are by themselves.  There is potential for growth there.  In Brazil, they will be celebrating the 70th anniversary of the Church of St. Nicholas next year.  We need to support them.  There are groups in Uruguay, Paraguay, Chile, and elsewhere.  They need a bishop there.  They should have a meeting and propose a candidate.  We should not assign one from outside.  There should be sobornost.

Decided:  To enter B. Agafangel’s report into the minutes.

 

Discussed: B. Andronik told the PSEA members of his trip to Romania at the invitation of Met. Vlasie and how he served with him on the Transfiguration of Our Lord along with bishops of the Old Calendar Romanian Church, the Synod of Resistance of the Old Calendar Greek Church, and the Old Calendar Bulgarian Church.  I was received with great respect and ceremony.  There were many clergy (110 clerics).  The bishops filled up the altar, the clergy filled up the church, and the laypeople were in the square before the church.  They honored me by allowing me to give the sermon.  We venerated the relics of St. Glicherie and St. Paraskeva.  Bishop also reported on events in his diocese and of his trip to Australia and conditions in the parishes of Fr. John Shmelts, as well as the Belarussian parishes.  Most parishioners support Fr. John.

            B. Agafangel:  Fr. John called me and told me about the situation there.  He said the Russian parishioners had bought a different building and he now serves there, while the Belarussian congregation is now asking him to return.  He will probably serve in both locations.  We now have a parish and a church at the convent in Australia. 

B. Andronik:  He spoke with RTOC priest Fr. John Stukach and asked him why they do not want to meet with us.  Fr. John spoke of the uncanonicity of our ordinations.  Ten people from that jurisdiction invited me to a gathering to explain to me why they do not want to join us.  They also wanted to know my opinion about the MP.  They insist that B. Lazarus was a genuine catacomb bishop, but I told them he was ordained in the MP.  I also told them the PSEA’s attitude towards the MP is the same as during the IVth All-Diaspora Sobor; if the MP repents, condemns sergianism, and disengages from ecumenism, we will join with them.  All in all, the meeting went well.  He was also in Mansonville, which he found to be in a dismal state and run-down.

B. Agafangel:  We need to explain our position on the MP more fully.  We should issue an appeal on this matter.  Regarding the RTOC, ROAC, and other jurisdictions, we hold to the decisions set forth by the sobors and synods of the ROCA, while remaining open and friendly to those desiring dialogue with us.

Decided: To enter B. Andronik’s report into the minutes.

 

Discussed:  B. Sofroniy spoke of matters in his diocese, which by the Grace of God, have stabilized after the tragic event on May 17th.  His Eminence pointed out that it is easy to break things apart, but harder to rebuild them, especially when the trust of clergy and laypeople towards their bishops is undermined.  Bishop reported that things are going well at the Bogoyavlenskiy monastery.  With the blessing of the PSEA, a meeting took place between bishops of the Russian Catacomb Orthodox Church and B. Sofroniy.  Bishop told of the results of the meeting and the desire of the bishops to come to the PSEA meeting.  B. Sofroniy suggested wishing B. Georgiy of Alania well and that we are praying for him, as he deals with the difficult situation in South Ossetia.

Decided:  To enter B. Sofroniy’s report into the minutes, and to meet with the Catacomb Church bishops.  To wish B. Georgiy of Alania well and that we are praying for him, as he deals with the difficult situation in South Ossetia.

 

Discussed:  B. Georgiy’s report on the status of construction of a church in Bolgrad in the Odessa oblast, and the financial difficulties they are experiencing.  Bishop told of matters in the parishes in Chadyr-Lunga, Kongaz, Vulkaneshty, and Dneprodzerzhinsk.  Bishop said there are monks in that area who wish to come over from the MP and join our church.

            The Chairman pointed out that every instance needs to be carefully considered and that the maximum degree of ekonomia must be used for those coming to us from schism.  The Chairman underscored again the need for sobornost in our Church, especially in light of recent history.

Decided:  To enter B. Georgiy’s report into the minutes.  To announce at the end of the Vth All-Diaspora Sobor a collection of money for the construction of a church in Bolgrad.

 

Discussed:  Preparations for the Vth All-Diaspora Sobor.

            The Chairman spoke of delegates to the Vth All-Diaspora Sobor and listed 10 bishops (4 of ours, plus Met. Vlasie, Met. Photii, B. Ambrose, B. Cyprian, and others.)  B. Agafangel also read a list of 60 people.

            B. Sofroniy says we should confer with Vladimir Melekhov, who was a delegate of the last Sobor, and send him a letter of support.

            B. Agafangel said the Sobor will last 3 days, and some of the matters that will be discussed are: the Act of Eucharistic Communion, the dissolution of the PSEA, the establishment of a Synod of Bishops, a Council to the Synod that will include laypeople, whether to name a hierarch, and others.  It is important to decide whether the deanery of Siberia will be represented at the Sobor.  Fr. Nikon was not at the District meeting, but he explained his absence, and can be a delegate at the Sobor by virtue of his position.

            B. Georgiy reads a draft of a letter to hieromonk Fr. Nikon.

Decided: To approve the list of delegates after it is determined who will be able to attend.  To agree to the decision of the deanery of Siberia to send Archpriest Valeriy Kravts to the meeting.  Have B. Sofroniy find out if Vladimir Petrovich Melikhov, a delegate of the IVth All-Diaspora Sobor, is with us and tell him he has the right to attend the Vth All-Diaspora Sobor.

 

 

PSEA Secretary B. Georgiy provided a list of proposed documents for the Vth All-Diaspora Sobor:

1.      Agenda of the Vth All-Diaspora Sobor.

2.      Regulations of the Vth All-Diaspora Sobor.

3.      Orders of the Vth All-Diaspora Sobor.

4.      The opening ceremony of the Vth All-Diaspora Sobor.

5.      The order of service during the opening ceremony of the Vth All-Diaspora Sobor.

6.      The order of service for enthroning the newly-elected hierarch.

7.      The statement of the ROCA PSEA to declare the Vth All-Diaspora Sobor open.

8.      The order of service for the canonization of St. Philaret (Voznesensky).

9.      The church services dedicated to St. Philaret.

10.  An explanation of the basis of relations between the ROCA and other parts of the Russian Church.

 

The first day of the PSEA meeting concluded with the prayer “It is Mete.”

 

 

Day 2

August 21\September 3, 2008

 

The same bishops were in attendance.

The attendees asked for the intercession of the Holy Spirit by singing “Heavenly King.”

The meeting began at 10:30 AM.

 

Discussed:  B. Sofroniy discussed the services for Met. Philaret.  There are matters of the sticherons, canons, etc.

            Archpriest Valeriy Alekseev reads through the service for Met. Philaret and remarks are noted.  A discussion ensued and several corrections.

            B. Georgiy reads the sticherons written by hieromonk Aleksey (Kaloev).

            B. Agafangel says a committee should be established, which would include Mother Aleksandra, to create a final version of the service.  It would be nice for it to include references to Met. Philaret’s life. but the service developed by Fr. Valeriy is quite good.

Decided:  The current version of the service for Met. Philaret can serve as a starting point. Create a committee to edit the service for Met. Philaret to include, B. Sofroniy, Archpriest Valeriy Alekseev, hieromonk Aleksey (Kaloev), and Mother Aleksandra.

 

The upcoming Sobor was further discussed.

 

Discussed:  B. Georgiy reads the agenda for the Vth All-Diaspora Sobor.

Decided:  To enter the proposed agenda into the minutes.  The first topic of discussion in the agenda should be the church administration.

B. Georgiy reads the proposed regulations governing the Vth All-Diaspora Sobor.

Decided:  To accept the proposed regulations governing the Vth All-Diaspora Sobor.

B. Georgiy reads the orders of the Vth All-Diaspora Sobor.

Decided:  To accept the proposed orders of the Vth All-Diaspora Sobor.

B. Agafangel says there exist rules for voting in the election of the Hierarch: if more than 2/3 votes of the sobor delegates are for one candidate, he is considered elected.  If less, a second round of voting is conducted and the one who gets the most votes is elected.

B. Georgiy reads the opening ceremony of the Vth All-Diaspora Sobor.

Decided: To accept the proposed opening ceremony of the Vth All-Diaspora Sobor.

B. Georgiy reads the proposed statements to declare the Vth All-Diaspora Sobor open.

Decided: To accept the proposed statements to declare the Vth All-Diaspora Sobor open.

B. Sofroniy reads the proposed explanation of the basis of relations between the ROCA and other parts of the Russian Church.

Decided:  To accept the proposed explanation of the basis of relations between the ROCA and other parts of the Russian Church.

 

After more discussion, and the review and editing of the various documents, the Chairman spoke of the desire to create a Provisional Supreme Ecclesiastical Council (PSEC), which will be comprised of clergy and laypeople, attached to the Synod, and possessing a consultative say in matters.

 

 

Archpriest Valeriy Kravets, a PSEA member, arrived and joined the meeting.

 

 

Discussed:  The Chairman said they must decided the matter of the Siberian deanery being represented at the Sobor.

            Archpriest Valeriy Kravets said a new community of 10 people was formed and perhaps one of them could be their representative.

            B. Agafangel said representatives must be from districts, not communities.  Fr. Nikon was not at the District meeting, but he explained his absence, and can be a delegate at the Sobor by virtue of his position.

Decided: To consider hieromonk Fr. Nikon (Iost) a delegate to the Vth All-Diaspora Sobor.

 

            The Chairman noted there should be Sobor items; pins, icons of St. Philaret, various signage.  It can be ordered here.  Also, folders for the delegates.  The service for St. Philaret should be printed in a separate booklet.

Decided:  Sobor items, pins, icons of St. Philaret, etc. will be developed by the Odessa diocese.

 

Discussed: B. Sofroniy spoke of the arrival in Odessa of the catacomb bishops and their readiness to meet with the PSEA.

Discussed:  Bishops John and Afanasiy of the catacomb church spoke, along with Fr. Alexander, and Hegumen Seraphim.  They told the meeting of their ecclesiology, submitted documents, and expressed a desire to join ROCA while remaining autonomous.

            B. Agafangel said we must act in accordance of ROCA decisions at past sobors regarding the catacomb church and that relations can be established after a laying on of the hands.  An act must be drafted for the union, it needs to be discussed, and once everyone is in agreement, it can be approved.

 

            After the PSEA discussed the matter, the act for the union was created and given to Bishops John and Afanasiy for their consideration.

 

            The second day of the meeting was concluded with the prayer “It is Mete.”

 

 

Day 3

August 22\September 4, 2008

 

The same bishops were in attendance, along with Archpriest Valeriy Kravets.

The attendees asked for the intercession of the Holy Spirit by singing “Heavenly King.”

The meeting began at 10:00 AM.

 

Discussed: B. Sofroniy read a draft of an epistle of the ROCA PSEA to the flock.

Decided:  To approve the draft of the epistle of the ROCA PSEA to the flock.

 

Discussed:  B. Georgiy read the minutes for the meetings in the last two days.

Decided:  To approve the minutes.

 

Discussed: B. Sofroniy read the draft of the Act of the Union of the Catacomb Church bishops with the ROCA and the proposed changes.

Decided:  To approve the Act of the Union of the Catacomb Church bishops with the ROCA.

 

Discussed:  B. Sofroniy read biographies of the catacomb bishops.

Decided:  After reviewing the submitted documents and some discussion, it was decided to accept Archbishop John (Zaitsev) with the office of bishop and Bishop Afanasiy (Savitsky) remaining as bishop into the ROCA, along with their flocks.  After the laying on of hands, they are known as Bishop John of Buinsk and Volzhsk, whose diocese will include the republic of Tatarstan, and the Mariy El, Chuvashiye, and Ulyanovsk oblasts; and Bishop Afanasiy of Vologodsk and Velikoustyuzhsk, whose diocese will include the Vologodsk oblast.

 

Discussed:  The Chairman proposed to re-establish the Council of Russian Eminences, which should meet no less than once a year.

Decided:  To re-establish the Council of Russian Eminences.

 

Discussed:  The Chairman proposed to allow a representative of the Catacomb Church to be a delegate to the Vth All-Diaspora Sobor.

Decided:  To make Fr. Aleksandr Lipin of the Catacomb Church a delegate to the Vth All-Diaspora Sobor.

 

 

ROCA PSEA Chairman

+Agafangel, Bishop of Taurida and Odessa

 

 

ROCA PSEA Members

+Andronik, Bishop of Ottawa and North America

+Sofroniy, Bishop of St. Petersburg and Northern Russia

 Archpriest Valeriy Kravets

 

 

ROCA PSEA Secretary

+Georgiy, Bishop of Bolgrad

 

 

Odessa, August 22\September 4, 2008.

New Martyrs Ephraim (Kuznetsov), bishop of Selenginsk and Priest John Vostorgov.