Memorandum

on the acceptance into the body of the ROCA of the bishops

of the Russian Orthodox Catacomb Church (sekachevtsevs)

 

1.      The ROCA Synod of Bishops during the time of Metropolitan Philaret decided on November 26\December 7, 1977, to accept 14 priests of the Catacomb Church in their existing clergy rank.  For the next 14 years, this did not raise any questions for anyone.  In 1990, due to the views of ROCA Bishop Lazarus (Zhurbenko) on matters within the Catacomb Church in Russia, the ROCA Sobor of Bishops declared in its Determination on May 2\15, 1990, in Item #6, that: “The Sobor cannot recognize the canonical authenticity of the ordination of these catacomb clergy,” which rescinded the decision of the ROCA Synod of Bishops made on November 26\December 7, 1977.  Similarly, the ROCA Synod of Bishops in 1990 decided due to the absence of canonical succession of bishops in this group that “it is not possible, in light of the absence of necessary documentation (which may not have been submitted), to recognize the proof of apostolic succession and the canonical ordination of these underground bishops.”  Along with this, “the ROCA Synod of Bishops have decided that these ordained clergy (priests and deacons), who desire to establish relations with the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, must resolve their canonical status by ordination (if they have no canonical obstacles to this action) by a bishop recognized by the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad” (Chancery Memo of the ROCA Synod of Bishops numbers 4\77\133 from August 2\15, 1990).  It is important to note that while not recognizing the ordination of the catacomb clergy, the Synod of Bishops offered to perform a chirotesia of them.  They refused at that time due to the strained relations with B. Lazarus.  They have now agreed.  In this way, in accepting the “sekachevtsevs” through chirotesia in 2008, we are fulfilling the decision of the Synod of Bishops of 1990 to resolve their status in our Church.

The passing years have shown that when we do not appreciate the special circumstances of the shattered church during that awful time and the brave witness of the catacomb bishops and we employ a theoretical approach not based on the Gospel and stress the letter instead of the spirit of the church canons in this matter, the unity of the Russian Church does not benefit and only worsens the problems within it.  The “sekachevtsevs” lived in the USSR and sought a genuine catacomb bishop and did not “run” to the MP to be ordained.  They were compelled during the communist reign to do what they had to do and did not have any other choice.  Bishop Seraphim (Pozdeev) ordained Bishop Gennady alone, because there was simply not another second catacomb bishop.  In approximately 1974-1975 in Tbilisi, B. Gennady met in prison with the Georgian Metropolitan Malhas and other bishops, who were allowed to serve liturgy on Pascha in a separate room.  All the bishops decided to elevate B. Gennady to metropolitan.  After he was released from prison, even Met. Gennady’s close friends thought he agreed to this simply for earthly reasons.  One day, immediately after the Eucharist, the Bishop said, “I just took in the Body and Blood of Christ and stand before the altar table with a cross and you still don’t believe me?  How can I lie in such circumstances?” and he explained that there was no possibility to invite eyewitnesses and there was no way he could provide a certificate of his ordination.  Similarly, to prove by way of documents that during a time of horrible persecution and the collapse of the church whether Seraphim Pozdeev was a bishop or not was simply not possible.  But their efforts in the USSR deserve our respect and maximum economia.  This is in sharp contrast, by the way, to the “followers of Met. Vitaly.”  For example, Segey Kindyakov single-handedly ordained Bishop Varnava (who was later defrocked) with Met. Vitaly present and not participating in the ordination.  After Met. Vitaly left and against his will, the two of them then ordained Vladimir Tselishchev.  This is an outright violation of the canons.  Even so, for the sake of peace and a unified Church, we are prepared to heal this wound on the body of the Church.  “We do not seek to vanquish our brothers, but to join with them again, as our separation grieves us.” (St. Gregory the Theologian Word No. 41 “On Holy Pentecost”)  The sekachevtsevs” deserve so much more of our respect.  Our church has followed and should further follow the example and inspiration of Met. Philaret and Archbishop John (Maximovitch), who were always open to those who, desiring their salvation, ran to our Church, and not maintain a spirit of animosity and sectarianism, which is so prevalent now among the many “true jurisductions.”

 

2.      The disastrous schism in ROCA, which was building for many years, finally occurred on May 17, 2007, initiated by the former hierarch Metropolitan Lavr and other bishops that followed him.  The Provisional Supreme Ecclesiastical Authority under the chairmanship of the Most Reverend Agafangel, Bishop of Taurida and Odessa and ruling bishop for Buenos Aires and South America was formed on June28\July11, 2007, in New York, based on the resolution passed by a meeting of the ROCA parish representatives.  It was established as a temporary ROCA church authority in the period between sobors and is governed by the “Status of ROCA,” which was ratified by a decision of the ROCA Sobor of Bishops on June 5\18, 1964.  As the Provisional Supreme Ecclesiastical Authority of the ROCA, and consisting of 4 bishops, the ROCA PSEA has all the canonical authority of a Supreme Ecclesiastical Authority (ie. Synod) of ROCA.  It is consistent with rule 11 and rule 15 of the “Status of ROCA,” which state that, “In the inter-sobor period, all urgent and important matters that should be decided by a Sobor (ie, a sobor of bishops), are decided by the Synod of Bishops with the participation of all the ROCA bishops.”  In line with all of this, since the ROCA PSEA has all the canonical authority of a Supreme Ecclesiastical Authority (ie. Synod) of ROCA, it can, in accordance with rules 26 & 29 of the “Status of ROCA,” make decisions as to how and to what extent economia is used to accept clergy from other jurisdictions.  Therefore, having accepted the bishops of the Catacomb Church, the sekachevtsevs,” into the body of ROCA through economia and chirotesia, the ROCA PSEA did not exceed its authority and for the sake of the Church and desiring peace and unity in the Church, it did not violate the letter or spirit of the Holy Canons and previous ROCA decisions.

 

Bishop Georgiy