HOW THE MOSCOW PATRIARCHATE FELL UNDER THE 1983 ANATHEMA Vladimir Moss50 min read
HOW THE MOSCOW PATRIARCHATE FELL UNDER THE 1983 ANATHEMA
The founder of the Moscow Patriarchate, Metropolitan Sergius (Stragorodsky) is usually considered to be the founder of the first of the two major heresies of the MP, Sergianism, but not of the second, Ecumenism. This is broadly correct, because, although we find ecumenist statements among his works, Sergius did not receive any instructions from his communist masters to enter the ecumenical movement. It was only during the time of his successors, Alexis I (Simansky) and Pimev (Izvekov), when political conditions had changed and the communist party sought to infiltrate and use the ecumenical purpose for its own ends, that we find Sergianism compounded by the apostasy from the Orthodox Faith that constitutes the “pan-heresy” of ecumenism.
False Moscow Councils
After the Second World War, and even before its end, the Soviet Communist Party, and therefore the Sovietized MP, planned to draw the other Orthodox Churches into the MP’s orbit. And so in January, 1945, a council was convened in Moscow, consisting of four Russian metropolitans, 41 bishops and 141 representatives of the clergy and laity. Also present were the patriarchs of Alexandria, Antioch and Georgia, and representatives of the Constantinopolitan, Romanian, Bulgarian, Serbian and other Churches. In all there were 204 participants.
”A significant amount of money,” writes S. Shumilo, “was set apart by Stalin for its preparation. The best hotels of the capital, the “Metropole” and “National” were placed at the disposal of the participants of the council gratis, as well as Kremlin government food reserves, government “ZIS” automobiles, a large government house with all modern conveniences and much else. Stalin was also concerned about the arrival in the USSR of representatives of foreign churches, so as to give an international significance to the given action. As V. Alexeyev notes: ‘… … By having a local council Stalin forestalled possible new accusations of the council’s lack of competency and representativeness, etc. for the election of a patriarch from the foreign part of the Orthodoxy clergy… So that the very fact of the election of a new patriarch should not elicit doubts, the patriarchs of the Orthodox churches and their representatives from Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia and the Middle East were invited for the first time to Moscow.’ And although in the actual council only three patriarchs – those of Georgia, Alexandria and Antioch – took part, representatives from other local churches also arrived; they were specially brought to Moscow by Soviet military aeroplanes.
“The council opened on January 31, 1945 with a speech of welcome in the name of the Soviet Stalinist regime by the president of the Council for the Affairs of the Russian Orthodox Church, NKVD Major-General G. Karpov. He noted that the council ‘was an outstanding event in the life of the Church’, whose activity was directed ‘towards helping the Soviet people to secure the great historical aims set before it’, that is, the construction of ‘communist society’.
“In its turn the council did not miss the opportunity yet again to express its gratitude and assure the communist party, the government and Stalin personally of its sincere devotion. As the address put it: ‘The Council profoundly appreciates the trusting, and to the highest degree benevolent and attentive attitude towards all church undertakings on the part of the state authorities… and expresses to our Government our sincerely grateful feelings’.
“As was planned, the sole candidate as the new Soviet patriarch was unanimously confirmed at the council – Metropolitan Alexis (Simansky). Besides this, a new ‘Temporary Statute for the Administration of the Russian Orthodox Church’, composed by workers at the Council for the Affairs of the Russian Orthodox Church and the chancellor of the MP, Protopriest Nicholas Kolchitsky, was accepted at the council. This Statute radically contradicted the canonical principles of Orthodoxy. ‘This Statute turned the Moscow patriarchate into a certain likeness of a totalitarian structure, in which three people at the head with the so-called “patriarch of Moscow and all Rus’” received greater power than a local council, and the right to administer the Church in a still more dictatorial fashion than Peter’s synod. But if the emperors up to 1917 were nevertheless considered to be Orthodox Christians, now the official structures of the Church were absolutely subject to the will of the leaders of the God-fighting regime. Church history has not seen such a fall in 2000 years of Christianity!’ By accepting in 1945 the new Statute on the administration of the Russian Orthodox Church that contradicted from the first to the last letter the conciliar-canonical principles of the administration of the Church confirmed at the All-Russian Local Church Council of 1917-1918, the Moscow patriarchate once more confirmed its own Soviet path of origin and development, and also the absence of any kind of link or descent from the canonical ‘Tikhonite’ Church, which legally existed in the country until 1927.”
The MP, having meekly submitted to the rule of the totalitarian dictator Stalin, was now in effect a totalitarian organization itself. All decisions in the Church depended effectively on the single will of the patriarch, and through him, of Stalin. For, as Fr. Sergius Gordun has written: “For decades the position of the Church was such that the voice of the clergy and laity could not be heard. In accordance with the document accepted by the Local Council of 1945, in questions requiring the agreement of the government of the USSR, the patriarch would confer with the Council for the Affairs of the Orthodox Church attached to the Council of People’s Commissars of the USSR. The Statute did not even sketchily outline the range of questions in which the patriarch was bound to agree with the Council, which gave the latter the ability to exert unlimited control over church life.”
The power over the Church that the 1945 council gave to the atheists was revealed in the secret 1974 Furov report of the Council for Religious Affairs to the Central Committee: “The Synod is under the control of the Council for Religious Affairs. The question of the selection and placing of its permanent members was and remains completely in the hands of the Council, and the candidature of the non-permanent members is also agreed beforehand with responsible members of the Council. All issues which are to be discussed at the Synod are first discussed by Patriarch Pimen and the permanent members of the Synod with the leaders of the Council and in its departments, and the final ‘Decisions of the Holy Synod’ are also agreed.”
After the enthronement of Alexis (on February 4), writes V. Alexeyev, Stalin ordered the Council to congratulate Alexis on his election and to give him “a commemorative present. The value of the gift was determined at 25-30,000 rubles. Stalin loved to give valuable presents. It was also decided to ‘show gratitude’ to the foreign bishops for their participation in the Council. The commissariat was told to hand over 42 objects from the depositories of the Moscow museums and 28 from the Zagorsk state museum – mainly objects used in Orthodox worship – which were used as gifts for the Eastern Patriarchs. Thus, for example, Patriarch Christopher of Alexandria was given a golden panagia with valuable stones… Naturally, the patriarchs were expected to reciprocate, and they hastened to express the main thing – praise… Patriarch Christopher of Alexandria said: ‘Marshal Stalin,… under whose leadership the military operations have been conducted on an unprecedented scale, has for this purpose an abundance of divine grace and blessing.’”
As was to be expected, the Eastern Patriarchs recognised the canonicity of the election, “hastening,” as Shumilo says, “to assure themselves of the support of the head of the biggest and wealthiest patriarchate, which now, moreover, had acquired ‘the clemency [appropriate to] a great power’”.
The price the Eastern Patriarchs paid for the favour of this “great power” was an agreement to break communion with ROCOR. As Karpov reported: “The Council was a clear proof of the absence of religion in the USSR [!] and also had a certain political significance. The Moscow Patriarchate in particular agreed with Patriarch Christopher of Alexandria and with the representatives of the Constantinople and Jerusalem patriarchates to break links with Metropolitan Anastasy, and on the necessity of a joint struggle against the Vatican.”
In 1948 the World Council of Churches was founded. Seeing this as an important outpost of Anglo-American power, the Bolsheviks at first tried to mock it and remove all Orthodox participation in it. And so another “Pan-Orthodox” council was convened in Moscow in July, 1948, just before the First General Assembly of the WCC. This was preceded by a celebration of the 450th anniversary of the foundation of the Moscow Patriarchate that was attended by representatives of the Ecumenical, Antiochian, Alexandrian, Greek, Serbian, Romanian, Bulgarian, Czechoslovak, Polish and Georgian Churches. (The Georgian Church had been granted autocephaly by Moscow shortly after the Stalin-Sergius pact in 1943. This act was not recognised by Constantinople until the 1990s.) Only Jerusalem, ROCOR and the True Orthodox Churches of Russia, Greece and Romania were not represented.
When Karpov, the real leader of the Council, learned that Metropolitan Germanus of Thyateira and Great Britain was not arriving in Moscow until after the working days of the Council, he said that “he is well-known to be an English spy”. And about Patriarch Maximus, who had given Metropolitan Germanus this order, he said: “he has long been ill with schizophrenia and must in the near future go into retirement”.
At the council that took place after the celebrations, only the Churches within Moscow’s orbit and Antioch attended; the others boycotted it, ostensibly on the grounds that only Constantinople had the right to call such a conference, but more probably because they did not wish to involve themselves in the inevitable adulations of Stalin.
The council, in line with Stalin’s foreign policy, denounced the West and the Vatican and condemned the ecumenical movement, which had received a new lease of life at the First General Assembly of the World Council of Churches which was taking place in Amsterdam in the same month.
Moscow’s hostility to the Vatican was determined especially by its determination to eliminate uniatism in Eastern Europe – that is, churches serving according to the Eastern Orthodox rite but commemorating the Pope. A start had been made already towards the end of the war, when it was suggested to the uniate episcopate in Western Ukraine that it simply “liquidate itself”. When all five uniate bishops refused, in April, 1945, they were arrested.
Within a month a clearly Soviet-inspired “initiative movement” for unification with the MP headed by Protopresbyter G. Kostelnikov appeared. By the spring of 1946 997 out of 1270 uniate priests in Western Ukraine had joined this movement, on March 8-10 a uniate council of clergy and laity voted to join the Orthodox church and annul the Brest unia with the Roman Catholic Church of 1596. Central Committee documents show that the whole procedure was controlled by the first secretary of the Ukrainian party, Nikita Khruschev, who in all significant details sought the sanction of Stalin.
In October, 1948 the 1,250,000 uniates of Romania (The Romanian unia had taken place at Blaj in Transylvania in 1697) were united with the Romanian Patriarchate. And in April, 1950, a council took place at Prešov in Slovakia attended by 820 delegates, at which it was agreed to revoke the Uzhgorod unia of 1649 and return to Orthodoxy. The “converted” uniates formed a new, East Slovakian diocese of the Czech Orthodox Church.
However, as Bishop Tikhon of Omsk writes, the merger of the uniates infected the MP, which drew a large proportion of its clergy from the Western Ukraine, with the false asceticism and mysticism of the Catholics. And the uniates, “on being merged into the unorthodox patriarchate, did not come to know the grace-filled ‘taste of True Orthodoxy’. The fruits of this ‘union’ are well known to all today.”
It is now known that all the decisions of the Moscow council of 1948 were planned a year and a half before by the Central Committee of the Communist Party. Consequently it is not surprising to see from the hierarchs’ special epistle that their motives were purely political: “The world is going through a stormy time in which the irreconcilable differences between the Catholic and rationalist-Protestant West, on the one hand, and the Orthodox East, on the other, are clearly manifest… We servants of the Orthodox Church have been painfully impressed by the fact that those who are stirring up a new war are children of the Christian Catholic and Protestant world. We are deeply grieved that from the stronghold of Catholicism, the Vatican, and the nest of Protestantism, America, instead of the voice of peace and Christian love we hear blessing of a new war and hymns in praise of atomic bombs and such-like inventions, which are designed for the destruction of human life. All Christians, regardless of nation and creed, cannot help blaming the Vatican for this policy. We fervently beseech the Chief Pastor, our Lord Jesus Christ, that He enlighten the Catholic hierarchy with the light of His Divine teaching and help it to realize the abyss of its sinful fall.”
The most theological contribution to this council came from Archbishop Seraphim (Sobolev) of Boguchar (Bulgaria), formerly of ROCOR. He prepared three reports: against the ecumenical movement, on the old and new calendars, and on the Anglican hierarchy. Seraphim expressed a “particular opinion” on the calendar question, considering the council’s resolution on this question to have been inadequate. In his report against Ecumenism he stressed that the presence of Orthodox representatives at ecumenical conferences, even as observers, constituted apostasy from Holy Orthodoxy.
Protopriest G. Razumovsky also spoke well: “The Russian Orthodox Church,” he said, “had always taught and still teaches that Pentecost, or the descent of the Holy Spirit, has already taken place and that the Christians do not have to wait for a new appearance of the Holy Spirit, but the glorious Second Coming of Jesus Christ. The diminution of the significance of the single sacrifice of Jesus Christ and the prophecy of a future ‘third hour’, in which the expected Kingdom of the Holy Spirit will be revealed is characteristic of the teaching of the Masons and the heretics; while the newly revealed prophecy of the expected Ecumenical Pentecost can be nothing other than an old echo of the false teaching of these deceived heretics.”
On July 15, 1948 a feast in honour of the participants in the Council was laid on by the Council for the Affairs of the Russian Orthodox Church. About 200 people were present. The representative of the Bulgarian Church proposed a toast to Stalin for the communist Prime Minister of Bulgaria. Karpov declared that the guests had become personally convinced in Moscow that the Russian Orthodox Church was completely free and independent of the State. Metropolitan Germanos of Thyateira praised Stalin and called Karpov a minister who “aids the strengthening and flourishing of Orthodoxy in the Soviet Union”. Metropolitan Elias of the Lebanon said that it was only thanks to Stalin that the flourishing of the Russian Orthodox Church had been guaranteed throughout the world.
In July, 1951 the heads of the Churches of Antioch, Russia, Georgia, Romania and Bulgaria gathered in Zagorsk and issued a purely political statement in favour of “peace” and against the USA. The “theology of peace” – that is, the removal of all obstacles to the communist domination of the world – was becoming the major content of top-level ecclesiastical meetings in the eastern bloc. For the moment pro-communism was combined with anti-ecumenism (since the initiators of the ecumenical movement were the Anglo-Saxons); but the time would shortly come when the communist masters of the East European Churches would compel the patriarchs to change course and embrace ecumenism – for the sake of giving their pro-communist message a wider audience and deeper penetration…
The Communists Become Ecumenists
Since the founding of the World Council of Churches in 1948, it had been the Ecumenical Patriarchate that had made the running in ecumenism among the Orthodox. However, in 1959 the MP sent its representative, Metropolitan Nicholas of Krutitsa, to the Orthodox consultation proposed by the Faith and Order Committee near Athens. This indicated that the communists had changed their minds about ecumenism, and decided that the Bolsheviks’ cause would be best served, not by boycotting it, but by joining it.
This change of mind was partly the result of the fact that, as Fr. Georges Florovsky lamented, from the time of the Evanston conference a progressive takeover took place of the “Faith and Order” concerns by the “Life and Work” concerns. That is, of the two strands of ecumenical activity that had existed before the war – the resolving of dogmatic differences among Christians, and “concern for the world and its problems” – it was the latter that was becoming dominant. And this was of great interest to the communists.
We have seen that, as late as the Moscow council of 1948, the MP, in obedience to its communist masters, had adopted an anti-western and anti-ecumenical position. However, this position began to change in the late 1950s, when the MP began to be pushed into joining the WCC by the Council for Religious Affairs. Thus on January 16, 1958, Metropolitan Nicholas asked the Council how he was to reply to the suggestion of the WCC general secretary that he meet representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church. Comrade Karpov, head of the Council for Religious Affairs, said that he should reply that they in principle agreed to a meeting in June-July of that year.
On May 13 Metropolitan Nicholas asserted that “in the last ten years, thanks to the participation of some Orthodox Churches and the non-participation of others in the ecumenical movement, significant changes have taken place witnessing to its evolution towards churchness [tserkovnosti]. Very indicative in this respect have been huge movements in the sphere of German Protestant theology revealing the mystical depths of Orthodoxy and overcoming its traditional rationalism… On coming into contact with our ecclesiastical life, many actors in the ecumenical movement have completely changed their idea of Orthodoxy… Evidently approving of the declaration of the Orthodox participants in the Evanston assembly, we agree to a meeting with the leaders of the World Council of Churches exclusively in the name of our Pan-Orthodox duty – to serve the reunification of all Christians in the bosom of the Church of Christ.”
In 1959, as a sign of the changing times, the MP joined the European Conference of Churches as a founding member… Then, on June 15, 1960 the new head of the Council for Religious Affairs, Kuroyedov met Patriarch Alexis. As Fr. Sergius Gordun writes, “Kuroyedov declared that he had carefully studied the external activities of the Patriarchate and he had come to conclusion that the situation was quite unsatisfactory. ‘In recent years the Patriarchate has not undertaken a single major initiative for the unification of the Orthodox Churches around the Russian Orthodox Church headed by the Moscow Patriarchate – initiatives, that is, aimed at exposing the reactionary activities of the Pope of Rome and the intensification of the struggle for peace. The Patriarchate is not using those huge opportunities which she enjoys; she has not undertaken a single major action abroad… The Russian Orthodox Church is not emerging as a unifying centre for the Orthodox Churches of the world, usually she adopts a passive stance and only weakly exposes the slanderous propaganda concerning the position of religion and the Church in our country… The Council recommended to Metropolitan Nicholas that he work out suggestions for intensifying external work. However, Metropolitan Nicholas has not fulfilled this request of the Council and has put forward suggestions which in no way correspond to the requirements discussed with the metropolitan in this regard.’ Then Kuroyedov suggested that Metropolitan Nicholas be released from his duties as president of the Department of Foreign Relations and that they be imposed on another, more fitting person.”
The “suggestion” was accepted, and Metropolitan Nicholas was retired on June 21. In July, he asked Archbishop Basil (Krivoshein) of Brussels to tell the world that a new persecution was beginning, and in August repeated this message to other western church leaders. At the end of August, Kuroyedov suggested to the patriarch that he retire Metropolitan Nicholas from administering the Moscow diocese. The patriarch suggested to the metropolitan that he accept the Leningrad diocese, but the latter sharply rejected the offer. On September 9, Metropolitan Nicholas sent a letter to Khruschev (there was no reply). On September 19, the MP Synod retired him. On December 13 he died in suspicious circumstances; many believe he was murdered.
Some believe that Metropolitan Nicholas was removed because in 1959 KGB defector Major Peter Deriabin had exposed him before a U.S. Senate Subcommittee as a KGB agent, and so he had to be replaced. There is no doubt that he was an agent, as we have seen; but it also appears likely that he sincerely wanted to protect the Church. In any case, his career is yet another illustration of the Lord’s words that one cannot serve two masters, God and Mammon…
The new foreign relations supremo turned out to be Bishop Nicodemus (Rotov), who was born in 1929, made priest at the extraordinarily young age of 20, and Bishop of Podolsk on July 10, 1960, at the age of 31.
Fr. Sergius continues: “The personality of Archimandrite Nicodemus (Rotov), later Metropolitan of Leningrad and Novgorod, is linked with the change in the position of the Moscow Patriarchate in relation to the ecumenical movement. As is well known, the Conference of the heads and representatives of the autocephalous Orthodox Churches, which took place in Moscow in 1948, accepted a resolution declaring that ‘the aims of the ecumenical movement… do not correspond to the ideals of Christianity and the tasks of the Church of Christ as those are understood by the Orthodox Church’. In this connection particular mention was made of the ecumenical movement’s turn towards involvement in social and political life, which was not acceptable for Orthodoxy. This position was maintained by the Moscow Patriarchate until 1960. In a conversation which took place on April 2, 1959, his Holiness Patriarch Alexis informed the Council about the attitude of the Russian Church to the ecumenical movement, and declared that she intended gradually to increase her links with the World Council of Churches and to send her observers to its most important conferences, but would not become a member of this organization. However, a year and a half later this position changed. In the notes of a conversation which took place between Patriarch Alexis and V.A. Kuroyedov on September 15, 1960, there is the following phrase: ‘The Patriarch accepted the recommendation of the Council concerning the entry of the Russian Orthodox Church into the membership of the World Council of Churches and evaluated this as a major action of the Russian Orthodox Church in its activities abroad.’ What was the aim of the Council for the affairs of the Russian Orthodox Church in recommending that the Russian Church enter the World Council of Churches? To conceal, it would seem, the anti-ecclesiastical policy of the Soviet government. Having cornered the Church, the Council wanted to create the image of a free and active Russian Church abroad…”
Certainly, a new anti-ecclesiastical policy, the so-called “Khruschev persecution” was in the making, and therefore needed masking.
In November-December, 1960 Patriarchs Alexis and Athenagoras met in Constantinople, and discussed questions related to the Second Vatican Council After their meeting Bishop Nicodemus, now president of the MP’s Department of External Relations, gave a press conference at which he said: “The Russian Church has no intention to take part in the Council, since the union between Orthodoxy and Catholicism cannot take place unless the Vatican renounces from the beginning certain principles – for example, the infallibility of the Pope; and unless it accepts the dogmatic reforms accomplished in the Orthodox Church.”
Meanwhile, the pressure on the Church inside the Soviet Union was increasing. On March 16, 1961 the Council of Ministers passed a resolution “On the strengthening of control for the fulfilment of the legislation on churches”, which gave power to the local authorities to close churches and remove registrations.
On March 30 the MP Synod resolved “to consider the entry of the Russian Orthodox Church into the World Council of Churches to be timely, and to ask his Holiness the Patriarch to send a letter to the General Secretary of the World Council of Churches declaring the desire of the Russian Orthodox Church to become a member of the World Council of Churches.”
From September 24 to October 1 the Orthodox Churches in the WCC met on Rhodes under the presidency of Metropolitan Chrysostom of Athens. One of its participants, Archbishop Basil of Brussels, recalls that “the relations of the Orthodox Church with the rest of the Christian world were reviewed in detail. With regard to the Catholic Church, the majority of participants in the conference expressed themselves ‘for the development of relations in the spirit of the love of Christ, with particular reference to the points envisaged by the 1920 encyclical of the Constantinopolitan Patriarchate.”
Also discussed was a catalogue of topics for a future Pan-Orthodox Council. This was used by the MP as a way of ensuring that no topic that might prove embarrassing to the Soviet government would be discussed. For, as Gordienko and Novikov write, “in the course of the debate on the catalogue, the Moscow Patriarchate’s delegation [led by Archbishop Nicodemus] suggested the removal of some of the subjects (The Development of Internal and External Missionary Work, The Methods of Fighting Atheism and False Doctrines Like Theosophy, Spiritism, Freemasonry, etc.) and the addition of some others (Cooperation between the Local Orthodox Churches in the Realisation of the Christian Ideas of Peace, Fraternity and Love among Peoples, Orthodoxy and Racial Discrimination, Orthodoxy and the Tasks of Christians in Regions of Rapid Social Change)… Besides working out the topics for the future Pre-Council, the First Conference passed the decision ‘On the Study of Ways for Achieving Closer Contacts and Unity of Churches in a Pan-Orthodox Perspective’, envisaging the search for contacts with Ancient Eastern (non-Chalcedonian) Churches (Monophysites), the Old Catholic, Anglican, Catholic, and Protestant Churches, as well as the World Council of Churches.”
In other words, the Orthodox were to abandon the struggle against Atheism, Freemasonry and other false religions, and were to engage in dialogue towards union with all the Christian heretics – while at the same time persecuting the True Orthodox and using ecumenical forums to further the ends of Soviet foreign policy in its struggle with the Capitalist West!
The argument used by Nicodemus for removing atheism from the agenda was that discussion of this question might elicit persecution against the Church in Russia. As for Masonry, “it does not exist in contemporary Russia, we don’t know it, Masonry exists only in the West. Consequently, this question is not of general, but only of local Orthodox interest, and for that reason it should not be included in the programme of a general Orthodox Council…”
In November, 1961 Archbishop Nicodemus, accompanied by Bishop Anthony (Bloom) of Sourozh and “a Russian government courier who is responsible for their comfort and all their expenses”, went to New Delhi for the Third General Assembly of the WCC. On December 6-7, the MP was accepted as an official member of the WCC at its Third General Assembly in New Delhi. 142 churches voted for, 4 abstained and 3 voted against. The Vatican immediately issued a warning that the MP’s membership was aimed “at the fulfilling of plans hatched in the Kremlin, which are bound to assist the triumph of Soviet propaganda through ecumenical Christianity”. And sure enough, during the Assembly, when an attempt was made to condemn communism, Archbishop Nicodemus immediately proposed a resolution listing the vices of capitalism, as a result of which both resolutions were withdrawn.
The KGB-enforced entry of the MP into the WCC, which was followed by the entry of the Romanian Church (in 1961) and of the Georgian Church (in 1962), had a devastating effect on the Orthodox position. For the Soviets not only constituted numerically by far the largest single Church in the WCC; they also controlled, through the KGB, all the other delegates from behind the iron curtain. Communism and Ecumenism therefore met in an unholy union which has been called “Ecucommunism”. As Deacon Andrew Kuraiev writes: “Sergianism and Ecumenism intertwined. It was precisely on the instructions of the authorities that our hierarchy conducted its ecumenical activity, and it was precisely in the course of their work abroad that clergy who had been enrolled into the KGB were checked out for loyalty.”
The Orthodox delegates at New Delhi signed a summary statement which declared, among other things: “We consider that the work of creating the One, Universal Church must unfailingly be accompanied by the destruction and disappearance of certain outmoded, traditional forms of worship”. The idea of “creating” the One Church was blasphemous, and the idea of destroying certain “outmoded” forms of worship – an outright challenge to the Holy Tradition of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church!
In 1968 the Fourth General Assembly of the WCC took place in Uppsala. Patriarch German of Serbia was one of the six presidents, and remained in that post for the next ten years. Uppsala considerably furthered the ecumenical movement. The Orthodox, as the new general secretary Carson Blake joyfully pointed out, were now taking full part in all the sections and committees and not, as often in the past, issuing separate statements disagreeing with the majority Protestant view.
Now only ROCOR, the Russian Catacomb Church and the Greek and Romanian Old Calendarists stood in the way of the complete triumph of Ecumenism. It was time for this last remnant of the True Church of Christ to renounce all hesitations, all false hopes, all temptations to compromise in the face of the completely unambiguous apostasy of the official churches of “World Orthodoxy”. It was time to declare that Ecumenism was not simply uncanonical, but heresy, and not simply heresy, but “the heresy of heresies”.
This definition came in a report that Archbishop Vitaly (Ustinov) of Canada gave to the Synod of ROCOR on the Uppsala Assembly of the WCC: “At the opening of the Assembly an ecumenical prayer was read in the name of all those assembles: ‘O God our Father, You can create everything anew. We entrust ourselves to You, help us to live for others, for Your love extends over all people, and to search for the Truth, which we have not known…’ How could the Orthodox listen to these last words? It would have been interesting to look at that moment at the faces of the Orthodox hierarchs who had declared for all to hear that they, too, did not know the Truth. Every batyushka of ours in the remotest little village knows the Truth by experience, as he stands before the throne of God and prays to God in spirit and in truth. Even The Journal of the Moscow Patriarchate, which is completely subject to the censorship of the communist party, in citing the words of the prayer in its account of this conference, did not dare to translate the English ‘truth’ by the word ‘istina’, but translated it as ‘pravda’ [‘righteousness’]. Of course, everyone very well understood that in the given case the text of the prayer was speaking without the slightest ambiguity about the Truth. Perhaps the Orthodox hierarchs have resorted, in the conference, to the old Jesuit practice of reservatio mentalis, but in that case if all these delegates do not repent of the sin of communion in prayer with heretics, then we must consider them to be on the completely false path of apostasy from the Truth of Orthodoxy… Ecumenism is the heresy of heresies because until now each heresy in the history of the Church has striven to take the place of the true Church, but the ecumenical movement, in uniting all the heresies, invites all of them together to consider themselves the one true Church.”
Again, at the WCC’s General Assembly at Nairobi in 1975, the Orthodox delegates, having signed an agreement to recognize the sacraments of the non-Orthodox delegates, had declared that “the Orthodox do not expect the other Christians to be converted to Orthodoxy in its historic and cultural reality of the past and the present and to become members of the Orthodox Church” – which gave the lie to their excuse that they were participating in the ecumenical movement “to witness to the non-Orthodox”.
Rapprochement with the Catholics
During the New Delhi Congress, Nicodemus announced that the Vatican had invited the MP to send observers to the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965); but that the MP had laid it down as a condition that there should be “no declarations hostile to our beloved country”. So for most of the next year, the MP chose to emphasise, albeit in a gentle way, the dogmatic differences between the two Churches.
However, in September-October, at the Second Pan-Orthodox Conference on Rhodes, it was decided to begin a theological dialogue with the Catholic Church. Moreover, – still more importantly, – at the beginning of October the Council for Religious Affairs told the Central Committee that the participation of observers at the Second Vatican Council would assist the establishment of useful contacts with the Vatican and would bind the Vatican in its promotion of hostile activity against the USSR. This official address of the Council to the Central Committee completed a process of change in attitude towards the Catholic Church and the question of the presence of observers at the Vatican Council from originally negative to a positive recognition of benefit for the Soviet government and for the MP of an improvement in their relations to the Vatican. The decision to allow the sending of observers to the Second Vatican Council was taken at the highest level of Soviet power, the Politburo, on October 10, 1962 (N 58/30).
The arrival of Russian Orthodox observers at the Council in time for its opening produced consternation in French Catholic circles, which accused the Vatican of “selling out” to communism. But the French communist press was delighted: “Since the world socialist system shows its superiority indisputably and enjoys the approval of many hundreds of millions of men, the Church can no longer rest content with crude anti-communism. She has even given an undertaking, on the occasion of her dialogue with the Russian Orthodox Church, that there should be no direct attack on the communist regime at the Council.”
Why did the Vatican accept this condition, which so damaged her standing in the anti-communist West? Probably for the same reason that the MP-KGB agreed to send observers – to infiltrate the camp of the enemy. And the possibility exists that their main agent of infiltration was precisely the MP’s Metropolitan Nicodemus…
This at first sight unlikely hypothesis gains credibility from the career of Fr. Michael Havryliv, a Russian priest who was secretly received into the Catholic Church in 1973. Fr. Serge Keleher writes: “The Capuchin priest told Havryliv that Metropolitan Nicodemus [of Leningrad] was secretly a Catholic bishop, recognized by Rome with jurisdiction from Pope Paul VI throughout Russia. This assertion is not impossible – but neither is it entirely proved.
“On September 6 1975 Havryliv made a sacramental general Confession before Metropolitan Nicodemus, who then accepted Havryliv’s monastic vows and profession of Faith to the Apostolic See and the Pope of Rome. Kyr Nicodemus commanded Havryliv to order his monastic life according to the Jesuit Constitutions, and presented him with a copy of this document in Russian. This was all done privately; four days later the Metropolitan tonsured Havryliv a monk. On 9 October Kyr Nicodemus ordained Havryliv to the priesthood, without requiring the oaths customary for Russian Orthodox candidates to Holy Orders.
“In 1977 Havryliv was reassigned to the Moscow Patriarchate’s archdiocese of L’viv and Ternopil… In Havryliv’s final interview with Kyr Nicodemus, the Metropolitan of Leningrad ‘blessed me and gave me instructions to keep my Catholic convictions and do everything possible for the growth of the Catholic cause, not only in Ukraine, but in Russia. The Metropolitan spoke of the practice of his predecessors – and also asked me to be prudent.”
This proved that beneath the “eirenic” ecumenical activities of the Vatican, there was a steely determination to take over the MP without any respect for the latter as a church. Havryliv was re-ordained by Nicodemus – a clear indication that Rome accepted the sacraments of the Orthodox for only as long as it suited her. When she had gained control, however, such recognition would no longer be forthcoming…
On December 16, 1969, on the initiative of Metropolitan Nicodemus, the MP Synod resolved to allow Catholics and Old Ritualists to receive communion from Orthodox priests if they ask for it.
The MP’s Archbishop Basil of Brussels recalled: “It fell to me to defend the good name and Orthodoxy of the Russian Church at the Pan-Orthodox conferences (those like the Pan-Orthodox commission for dialogue with the Anglicans) with the following argumentation: ‘This resolution of the Synod was elicited by a completely special situation of believers, and in particular of Catholics in the Soviet Union. Where there is not one Catholic church with a priest for thousands of kilometers. Such a resolution was made by the Synod of Constantinople and Patriarch Joachim II in 1878 in relation to the Armenians. Theologically, it is difficult for me to justify such oekonomia, but I cannot judge the Russian hierarchs who live in contemporary Russia in difficult conditions. They know better than we what they are doing.’ This argumentation satisfied everyone, even on Athos, but everything was destroyed by Metropolitan Nicodemus giving communion [to Catholic students] in Rome. ‘What ‘pastoral oikonomia” forced him to commune Catholics where there are so many Catholic churches?’ they asked me. The only reply that I could give was: ‘Your hierarchs even worse when they give to communion to everyone indiscriminately.’ ‘Our hierarchs, like Archbishop James of America or Athenagoras of London, are traitors to Orthodoxy, we have known that for a long time (replied to me Abbot George of the monastery of Grigorious on Athos). But that the Moscow Patriarchate, the Russian Orthodox Church, which we respect for her firmness in Orthodoxy, should act in this way in the person of Metropolitan Nicodemus, shocks us and deeply saddens us.’ I recounted this reaction to Metropolitan Nicodemus. He even became angry: ‘It’s not important what they say on Athos. Athos is not an Autocephalous Church.’”
Neither side in this argument seemed to understand that the giving of communion to a heretic in any circumstances is harmful for that heretic so long as he remains in his heresy. More Orthodox, therefore, was the robust response of the ROCOR Synod, which on March 31, 1970 condemned the MP resolution as follows: “The decision of the Moscow Patriarchate to give access to Roman Catholics to all the sacraments of the Orthodox Church… both violates the sacred canons and is contrary to the dogmatic teaching of Orthodoxy. By entering into communion with the heterodox, the Moscow Patriarchate alienates itself from unity with the Holy Fathers and Teachers of the Church. By this action it does not sanctify the heretics to whom it give sacraments, but itself becomes a partaker of their heresy.”
Archbishop Averky of Jordanville commented: “Now, even if some entertained some sort of doubts about how we should regard the contemporary Moscow Patriarchate, and whether we can consider it Orthodox after its intimate union with the enemies of God, the persecutors of the Faith and Christ’s Church, these doubts must now be completely dismissed: by the very fact that it has entered into liturgical communion with the Papists, it has fallen away from Orthodoxy [emphasis in the original] and can no longer be considered Orthodox.”
In May-June, 1971 there was a council of the MP attended by 75 hierarchs, 85 clergy and 78 laymen, representatives of many other Orthodox Churches and the general secretary of the WCC. It confirmed all the decisions made by the MP since 1945. Only one candidate for the patriarchate (Patriarch Alexis had died in April) was put forward: the weak Metropolitan Pimen, who was elected unanimously in an open ballot (a secret ballot was not allowed by the all-powerful Metropolitan Nicodemus). The 1961 statute taking control of the parishes away from the bishops and clergy was confirmed, as was (unanimously) Nicodemus’ report on the decision to give communion to Catholics, in which he said that the measure was justified “insofar as we have a common of faith with them in relation to the sacraments”.
On September 28, 1971, ROCOR’s Hierarchical Council decreed: “The lack of accord of the decree of the Moscow Patriarchate, concerning the granting of communion to Roman Catholics, with Orthodox dogmatic teaching and the Church canons is completely clear to any person even slightly informed in theology. It was justly condemned by a decree of the Synod of the Church of Greece. The holy canons do permit the communication of a great sinner who is under penance (epitimia) when he is about to die (I Ecumenical 13, Carthage 6, Gregory of Nyssa 2 and 5), but there is not a single canon which would extend this to include persons foreign to the Orthodox Church, as long as they have not renounced their false doctrines. No matter what explanation Metropolitan Nicodemus and the other Moscow hierarchs might try to give of this act, it is completely clear that by this decision, even though with certain limitations, communion has been established between the Moscow Patriarchate and Roman Catholics. Furthermore, the latter have already made the decision to permit members of the Orthodox Church to receive communion from them. All this was particularly clearly demonstrated in the service held on December 14, 1970, in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, when Metropolitan Nicodemus gave communion to Catholic clerics. It is perfectly clear that this act could not be justified by any need. By this act the Moscow Patriarchate has betrayed Orthodoxy. If the 45th Canon of the Holy Apostles excommunicates from the Church an Orthodox bishop or cleric who has ‘only prayed together with heretics’, and the 10th Apostolic Canon forbids even prayer together with those who are excommunicated, what can we say about a bishop who dares to offer the Holy Mysteries to them? If catechumens must leave the church before the sanctification of the Gifts and are not permitted even at point of death to receive communion until they are united to the Church, how can one justify the communicating of persons who, being members of heretical communities, are much farther away from the Church than a catechumen, who is preparing to unite with her? The act of the Moscow Synod, which was confirmed by the recent Council of the Moscow Patriarchate in Moscow, extends the responsibility for this un-Orthodox decision to all participants of the Moscow Council and to their entire Church organization. The decision to admit Catholics to communion is an act that is not only anticanonical, but heretical as well, as inflicting harm on the Orthodox doctrine of the Church, since only true members of the Church are called to communicate of the Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist. The Moscow decree, logically considered, recognizes as her members those who, through their doctrinal errors, in both heart and mind are far from her.”
On the same day the Council issued an important statement on the reception of heretics, considerably “tightening up” its practice: “The Holy Church has from antiquity believed that there can be only one true baptism, namely that which is accomplished in her bosom: ‘One Lord, one Faith, one Baptism’ (Ephesians 4.5). In the Symbol of Faith “one baptism” is also confessed, while the 46th canon of the Holy Apostles indicates: ‘We order that a bishop or priest who has accepted (that is, recognized) the baptism or sacrifice of heretics should be deposed.’
“However, when the zeal of any heretics in their struggle against the Church weakened, and when there was a question of their mass conversion to Orthodoxy, the Church, to ease their union, accepted them into her bosom by another rite. [There follows a discussion of St. Basil the Great’s first canonical epistle.]
“And so St. Basil the Great, and through his words the Ecumenical Council, in establishing the principle that outside the Holy Orthodox Church there is no true baptism, allowed out of pastoral condescension, so-called oikonomia, the acceptance of certain heretics and schismatics without a new baptism. And in accordance with this principle, the Ecumenical Councils allowed the reception of heretics by various rites, taking account of the weakening of their fierceness against the Orthodox Church.
“[There follows a discussion of Timothy of Alexandria’s explanation of this in The Rudder.]
“In relation to the Roman Catholics and Protestants who claim to preserve baptism as a sacrament (for example, the Lutherans), the practice was introduced from the time of Peter the First of receiving them without baptism, through the renunciation of heresy and chrismation of Protestants and unconfirmed Catholics. Before Peter Catholics were baptised in Russia. In Greece the practice also changed, but for almost three hundred years, after a certain break, the practice of baptising those who came from Catholicism and Protestantism was again introduced. Those who are received by another rite are not recognized as Orthodox in Greece. In many cases also such children of our Russian Church were not even allowed to receive Holy Communion.
“Bearing in mind this circumstance, and the present growth of the ecumenical heresy, which tries completely to wipe out the difference between Orthodoxy and every heresy, so that the Moscow Patriarchate, in spite of the sacred canons, has issued a resolution allowing Roman Catholics to be communed in certain cases, the Hierarchical Council has recognized the introduction of a stricter practice to be necessary, that is, that all heretics coming to the Church should be baptized, and that only insofar as it is necessary and with the permission of the bishop, from considerations of oikonomia, should another practice be allowed in relation to certain people, that is, the reception into the Church of Roman Catholics and Protestants who have been baptised in the name of the Holy Trinity through renunciation of heresy and chrismation.”
From the 1970s we see the ascendancy in the MP of a school of thought devoted both to the interests of the Soviet State and of the ecumenical movement which has been called “Nikodimovschina” from its first leader and originator, Metropolitan Nicodemus, KGB Agent “Sviatoslav”.
The fruits of Nicodemus’ activity was soon evident. “The Great Soviet Encyclopaedia recorded that by 1972 the WCC had been converted from a ‘pro-Western’ to a ‘progressive’ orientation in its policies on peace, disarmament and related matters. Assiduous advocacy by the Christian Peace Conference and othrs of the view that Christianity and communism were natural allies in support of the national liberation movement induced the WCC to provide funds for African guerilla movements, including the Rhodesian Patriotic Front, believed to be responsible for a massacre of British missionaries in 1978.”
Ever since writing his master’s thesis on Pope John XXIII, the man who led the Catholic Church onto the ecumenical scene, Metropolitan Nicodemus had been trying to do the same for the Moscow Patriarchate. Hierodeacon (now Hieromonk) Theophanes (Areskin) writes: “Metropolitan Nicodemus begins his exposition of his ecumenist faith with an Orthodox thesis on the unity of the whole human race in Adam: ‘Mankind, the whole Adam (in the expression of St. Macarius the Great) is united by means of the Incarnation, Cross and Resurrection of the last Adam (I Corinthians 14.45), the second Man, the Lord Who “for us men” came down from the heavens (I Corinthians 15.47), and, having tasted “death for us all by the grace of God” (Hebrews 2.9), “is the Saviour of all men” (I Timothy 4.10)… We all, in accordance with the ineffable wisdom of God, have been bound from the beginning with the bonds of unity and brotherhood’. But further on Metropolitan Nicodemus reveals his understanding of this unity: ‘Christ died for all men, and, as the new Adam, he laid the beginning for a new humanity… The fullness of the grace-filled gifts is communicated to people by the Holy Spirit in the Church of Christ. However, it would be a dangerous error to consider that Christ, the Redeemer of the whole world, does not extend His saving influence on the whole of humanity.’ This saving influence consists, according to Metropolitan Nicodemus, ‘in faith in Christ Jesus, acting through love in each separate person, as in the whole of humanity, with which we are united by our common human nature. God redeemed us into an undivided, indivisible, unchanging and unconfused union with this nature through the incarnation of the Only-Begotten Son.’ ‘By taking on and deifying our nature in the Divine Incarnation the Chief and Accomplisher of our faith (Hebrews 12.2) and of eternal salvation (Hebrews 5.9), our Lord Jesus Christ reconciled, united and related the whole of humanity with God, and all people with each other’. ‘The Church as the Kingdom of God is likened to leaven which penetrates into all the parts of the whole that is humanity, into the whole world, and acts with that measure of power which corresponds to the moral level of the bearers of Christ’s truth. And although far from all people actively and consciously abide in the Church, the Church abides in all through the love of Christ, for this love is not limited by any part of humanity, but is distributed to all people.’ Hence ‘the activity of the Spirit of God is not limited by confessional limits. His manifestation is completely and, above all, unconditionally revealed in the Church, but the traces of His presence are evident everywhere where there are the fruits of spiritual life: love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness…’ Therefore all people, the whole Body of humanity (Adam), are invisibly united with God and is a certain ‘invisible Church’. The organization of the Church is understood by Nicodemus as ‘the visible Church’, in which ‘baptism defines the visible belonging to Christ’. Metropolitan Nicodemus consciously confesses the ‘baptism’ of Protestants to be true, turning to his ‘brothers in Christ’, the Protestants, the members of the WCC: ‘Through the mystery of holy Baptism we are engrafted onto the saving Divine Vine…’ But the visible Church ‘is called to realize the fruits of the Incarnation and Redemption in the life of her immediate members.’
“And so, according to Metropolitan Nicodemus, all people are ‘Christians’, it is true that the Church of Christ, the Body of Christ, the New Adam, is one, but it is not yet united into one ecclesiastical organization under one leader. The aim of the ecumenists is to create this mediation, that is, one single visible ecclesiastical organization for all. In this way the ecumenical Church and the world become indistinguishable from each other. It is not difficult to find the primary source of this faith. It is sergianism – a heretical teaching that the Church, the Body of Christ, is a simple ecclesiastical organization, just like ordinary secular organizations, political parties, communities, commercial structures, etc.”
The death of Nicodemus in 1978 in Rome at the feet of Pope John-Paul I was a graphic symbol of the true direction of inter-Christian ecumenism – aided and abetted, on the Orthodox side, by the KGB. His place both as chief ideologist of the MP, Metropolitan of Leningrad and leader of the “Nikodimovshina” school of theology, was taken by his pupil, the future “Patriarch” Alexis II (Ridiger). And when Pope John-Paul died a few days after Nicodemus, Alexis celebrated a festive service for the repose of his soul in the Moscow Cathedral of the Epiphany, while and another of Nicodemus’ disciples, the present Metropolian Cyril (Gundyaev), celebrated a similar service in the Alexander Nevsky Lavra in Leningrad.
Alexis, an Estonian by birth (he was bishop in Tallin before his transfer to Leningrad), had been a KGB agent with codename “Drozdov” since 1958 and an active ecumenist for almost as long as his mentor. He was a delegate to the Third General Assembly of the WCC in New Delhi in 1961, (with Metropolitans Nicodemus and Anthony (Bloom)), a member of the Central Committee of the WCC from 1961 to 1968, president of the World Conference, “The Church and Society” in Geneva in 1966, and a member of the Commission “Faith and Order” of the WCC from 1961 to 1968.
In the 1974 Furov report to the Central Committee of the USSR Alexis (together with his predecessor Patriarch Pimen) was placed in the category of those bishops who “affirm both in words and deeds not only loyalty but also patriotism towards the socialist society; strictly observe the laws on cults, and educate the parish clergy and believers in the same spirit; realistically understand that our state is not interested in proclaiming the role of religion and the church in society; and, realizing this, do not display any particular activeness in extending the influence of Orthodoxy among the population.”
According to a KGB document of 1988, “An order was drafted by the USSR KGB chairman to award an honorary citation to agent DROZDOV” [i.e. Alexis] for unspecified services to state security.
“Already in 1966,” writes Hierodeacon Theophanes, “in his speech before the delegation of the German Evangelical church at a conference in Moscow, the future head of the MP in the name of Christ Himself declared that ‘Jesus Christ considers His own, that is, as Christians, all those who believe in Him and obey Him, and this is more than the Orthodox Church.’ If we remember that, according to Orthodox teaching, Christ adopted people to Himself only in His Hypostasis, that is, in His Body which is the Orthodox Church, then it is obvious that the metropolitan is here confessing a christological heresy, considering as Christians those who are outside the Church – calling them ‘God’s’, that is, the Church’s.
“Alexis still more clearly confesses that all the non-Orthodox Christians are the Church of Christ in his report to the 8th General Assembly of the World Council of Churches, published in the Journal of the Moscow Patriarchate in 1980 (NN 1-3). Here, blasphemously mixing up and identifying the concepts of the presence of God in the world and His energies and presence in the Church, the metropolitan very distinctly reveals his heretical teaching on the “all-embracing and unconditional” Incarnation of Christ, which automatically turns the whole of humanity, all Christians, Muslims, pagans, and in general all ‘men of good will’ into members of the Body of Christ, that is, the Church! Metropolitan Alexis openly teaches that the same grace of the Holy Spirit acts in the non-Orthodox churches – the participants in the WCC – as in the Orthodox Church: ‘We (the CEC) have learned to pray together, to understand the spirit and depth of prayer for each other, to feel the breath of the grace of the Holy Spirit in joint prayer to the Lord … we must thank God for the joy of our communion in Christ, for the joy of the ever-increasing experience of brotherhood and sisterhood in Christ in our work.’ Thus it was precisely in joint prayers with heretics that the archpastor felt the breath of ‘the grace of the Holy Spirit’! We should note that ‘ecumenical prayer’ is a very important moment in the ecumenical dialogue, it not only witnesses to the presence among the ecumenists of some common ‘god’ to whom this prayer is raised, but it is also a practical recognition of the action of the Holy Spirit in heterodoxy, thereby aiding the aggiornamento of the churches. This is what the future head of the MP says on this subject: ‘The aggiornamento of the churches is attained in the first place by prayer and brotherly love; joint prayers create a special atmosphere, a spiritual mood; (he goes on to cite A.S. Khomiakov) prayer is the life of the Church and the voice of her love, the eternal breathing of the Spirit of God. We believe that through joint prayers the breathing of the Spirit of God jointly enriches us all.’
“According to Orthodox teaching, it is precisely the Holy Spirit that makes a man a member of the Church of Christ, a Christian. But Metropolitan Alexis recognises that the Holy Spirit works in heretics just as in the Orthodox Church, and therefore heretics, like Orthodox Christians, are the Church of Christ: ‘We believe that the Holy Spirit – visibly or invisibly – continues until now His saving activity in the world. You and I, dear brothers and sisters, representing various Churches and the human race, live by the same real and grace-filled power of Pentecost’. From this there follows an open admittance on the part of the metropolitan that the heretical communities are the Church and the Body of Christ: ‘We, the Orthodox, are lovingly disposed to our non-Orthodox brothers, for we have all been baptized in one Spirit, and we have all been made to drink into one Spirit (I Corinthians12.13).’ Here the Apostle Paul’s eucharistic (even liturgical) terminology has not been used in vain, so as once more to emphasise: Orthodox and heretics are not simply a divided Church, but the Body of Christ, organically one in the Holy Spirit.
“The source of this teaching of Metropolitan Alexis on the Holy Spirit is a heretical Christology, whose essence consists in the assertion that ‘we all have been received into the nature of Jesus Christ the God-man as an integral nature. And this truth forces us to believe that every person striving towards goodness and righteousness does the work of Christ on earth, even if he intellectually has not known Christ or has even rejected Him. From the Godmanhood of Christ it follows that the path into the Kingdom of God has been opened to all men. Consequently, with the Incarnation of the Son of God the whole of humanity becomes His potential Church, and in this sense the boundaries of the Christian Ecumene (or the pan-human family) are far wider than the boundaries of the Christian world.’ Hence Metropolitan Alexis’ teaching becomes understandable: insofar as Christ has received into His Hypostasis the common nature of man, all people, that is, all human hypostases of all generations are saved and remain in Christ, that is, in the Church. In other words, Christ has saved the whole nature of man, and consequently, according to the thought of Metropolitan Alexis, all people.
“However, according to the Orthodox teaching, ‘God the Word, on becoming incarnate, did not take on the nature viewed as an abstraction in pure thought,… nor the nature contemplated in species (that is, viewed in all the hypostases of the human race – H. Th.), for He did not take on all the hypostases, but He took on that which received its existence in His Hypostasis’. That is, it is impossible to say that since God the Word became Man, all people are saved by virtue of being men. But Metropolitan Alexis affirms that in the humanity of Christ is contained all men’s hypostases. Such a teaching was confessed in the 11th century by the Monk Nilus of Calabria, who taught that all human hypostases are present or are contained in the humanity taken on by the Lord and are ‘co-deified’ together with Him. The Orthodox Church anathematized Nilus and his heresy: ‘If anyone dogmatises that all human hypostases are in the flesh taken on by the Lord and are co-deified with it, let him be anathema, for this is empty chatter, or, rather, manifest impiety.’ And although the metropolitan makes the qualification that humanity for him is only ‘the potential church’, nevertheless he later on unambiguously speaks of the whole of humanity as of the Church – the Body of Christ, the Temple of the Holy Spirit: ‘Christ redeemed, cleansed and recreated a common human nature for all, while the Holy Spirit morally transfigures each human personality, gives the Christian the fullness of grace, makes him a temple of God and dwells in him, raises the growth of spirituality in the mind and the heart, leads him to every truth and gives him spiritual gifts to his benefit: to one – the word of wisdom, to another – the word of knowledge, by the same Spirit… and other gifts (I Corinthians 12.7-11), so that human talents should be revealed more fully.’ In this way, insofar as God the Word has been incarnate in a common human nature, His Body is the divided Christian Church in the combination of all its separate parts. However, the saving action of the Holy Spirit is poured out even beyond the bounds of the Body of Christ, penetrating into and deifying the body of the whole of humanity: ‘The all-embracing and most powerful force of the Holy Spirit is spread out onto the whole life of our world, transforming it in the course of the historical process of the struggle between good and evil.’
“And so, thanks to a clever substitution of concepts, the real difference between the grace of the Holy Spirit, by which God providentially preserves the world in existence and leads people to the Church, and the deifying mystical presence of the Holy Spirit in the Body of Christ, the Church, is destroyed, which completely abolishes the difference between the Church and the world: now ‘the cultural efflorescence of European and world Christianity’ is declared to be an action of the Holy Spirit, and even the Salt-2 treaty between Brezhnev and Carter concerning the limiting of strategic offensive weapons is also ‘a manifestation of the invisible power of the Holy Spirit acting in the world for the good of the whole of humanity.’
“The consequences of this ‘pan-human Pentecost’ are expressed by the metropolitan mainly in the terms of humanism and peace-making: ‘Christian concern for questions of social justice’, ‘the elements of the movement for peace’, Christians’ service to people and their ‘involvement in all the complexity of the real life of the world’. In this way the life of grace in the Body of Christ is substituted by a humanistic ‘serving the affairs of the world’.
“It is understandable that this ‘theology of peace’ should be very convenient for the dialogue not only with any heretical Christian communities, but also with any religions, even with utopian teachings like communism.
“But how is such a faith compatible with the Orthodox teaching on the uniqueness and singleness of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church? Yes, admits Metropolitan Alexis, ‘the oneness and unity of the Church is an ecclesiological axiom’, but in actual fact ‘an invisible unity as the unity of Christ and the Holy Spirit lives in the visible multitude of Churches, each of which has its particular face’, affirms the metropolitan, citing his brother in ecumenism, Professor Archbishop Vladimir (Sabodan). Before us here is the classical ecumenist ecclesiology – ‘the branch theory’, which was invented by Archbishop Stylianos of Australia (Constantinopolitan patriarchate), or, using the language of Soviet theological thought, the ecclesiology of ‘the traumatized Body of Christ’, a fruit of the refined minds of the ‘ecumenist theologians’ of the MP – the main teacher and implanter of the ecumenist heresy in the MP was Metropolitan Nicodemus (Rotov).”
The Anathema against Ecumenism
In 1982, an inter-denominational eucharistic service was composed at a conference in Lima, Peru, in which the Protestant and Orthodox representatives to the WCC agreed that the baptism, eucharist and ordinations of all denominations were valid and acceptable. The next year, the Vancouver General Assembly of the WCC began with a pagan rite performed by local Indians and contained prayer services in which Orthodox hierarchs as well as representatives of many non-Christian religions took part.
The Synod of ROCOR, also meeting in Canada, condemned this latest and most extreme manifestation of ecumenism as follows: “In its decision of 28 July / 10 August, our Council explained that the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia does not participate in the World Council of Churches insofar as the latter attempts to represent those assembled in it, representatives of religions differing in their opinions, as though they had some sort of unity in faith. In reality, though, this very position is a lie, inasmuch as they, members of various confessions and sects, have not given up their points of disagreement with each other, much less with the Orthodox Church, in dogmas and in fundamental attitudes. In the name of unifying formulas, these differences of opinion are not destroyed, but are just set aside. Instead of the unshakable truths of the faith, they try to see only opinions, not obligatory for anyone. In reply to the confession of the one Orthodox Faith, they say together with Pilate: ‘What is truth?’ And the nominally Orthodox members of the Ecumenical Movement more and more deserve the reproach of the Angel of the Church of Laodicea: ‘I know your works: you are neither hot nor cold: O if only you were hot or cold’ (Revelation 3.15). A clear manifestation of such false union was the serving of the so-called Lima Liturgy…”
Then the Synod anathematised ecumenism, declaring: “To those who attack the Church of Christ by teaching that Christ’s Church is divided into so-called ‘branches’ which differ in doctrine and way of life, or that the Church does not exist visibly, but will be formed in the future when all ‘branches’ or sects or denominations, and even religions will be united in one body; and who do not distinguish the priesthood and mysteries of the Church from those of the heretics, but say that the baptism and eucharist of heretics is effectual for salvation; therefore to those who knowingly have communion with these aforementioned heretics or advocate, disseminate , or defend their new heresy of Ecumenism under the pretext of brotherly love or the supposed unification of separated Christians, Anathema.”
The implication of this anathema was clear: all Orthodox Churches that were fully participating members of the WCC – and this, as we have seen, included the MP – fell under it.
However, this most authoritative condemnation of ecumenism yet had no discernible effect on the apostates: the 1980s and 1990s were the decades of “super-ecumenism”, that is, not only inter-Christian but also inter-religious ecumenism, when there seemed to be no limit to the blasphemy against the Orthodox Faith committed by “Orthodox” hierarchs. Thus Metropolitan Pitirim of Volokolamsk asserted that ecumenism should include “all men of good will”, including atheists; Patriarch Parthenius of Alexandria declared that Mohammed was an Apostle of God; and Patriarch Alexis II of Moscow asserted that Christians and Jews have essentially the same faith, and sent regular messages of congratulations and encouragement to Monophysites, Catholics, Protestants, Muslims and Buddhists. After a slight “cooling” in the late 1990s, the ecumenists’ zeal for blasphemy has resumed, with the MP sending a 27-member delegation to WCC’s General Assembly Brazil in 2006.
The only thing that has changed in these decades is that the Church that issued the anathema, ROCOR, has faltered in its understanding, not only of ecumenism and of the MP’s full and unrestrained participation in it, but of the very meaning of heresy and anathemas on heresy. Thus the ROCOR priest Alexander Lebedev called the idea that the anathema strikes down all ecumenists “the heresy of universal jurisdiction”. The present writer replied to Fr. Alexander: “Thinking about your “heresy of universal jurisdiction”, it seems to me that you confuse two things: the Church as an external organisation, and the Church as a mystical organism, to use the terminology of Hieromartyr Catacomb Bishop Mark (Novoselov) (+1938). It seems to me that you are right as regards the Church as an external organisation, but wrong as regards the Church as a mystical organism. Let me explain.
“An anathema excludes the person anathematised from the holy mysteries, from membership of the Holy Church. In the first place, of course, that applies to the local Church of which that person is a member. It applies to other Churches only to the extent that the leaders of those other Churches agree with the original anathema and ‘sign up to it’, as it were. Thus the heretic Arius was originally anathematized by the Bishop of Alexandria, which meant that he was excluded from receiving the sacraments throughout the Church of Alexandria. However, not all the bishops of neighbouring Churches agreed with this anathema, so Arius was able to receive communion in other Local Churches. To this extent the anathema was only of local significance. It required the convening of the First Ecumenical Council before Arius was anathematized ‘universally’ – and even then, the anathema was not universally received, as the history of the Church in the next fifty years demonstrates.
“It is a different matter when we consider an anathema sub specie aeternitatis, in its mystical, super-terrestrial significance. From that point of view, the anathematization of a heretic begins in the heavens. Thus even before Arius had been ‘locally’ anathematized by St. Alexander of Alexandria, the Lord appeared to his predecessor, St. Peter, with a torn cloak, and in answer to St. Peter’s question: ‘O Creator, who has torn Thy tunic?’, replied: ‘The mindless Arius; he has separated from Me people whom I had obtained with My Blood’ (St. Demetrius of Rostov, Lives of the Saints, November 25). So not only Arius, but all those who followed him, had been separated from the Church by the anathema of Her First Bishop, the Lord Jesus Christ, years (or rather, aeons) before even the first ‘local’ anathema had been uttered. All heresies and heretics are anathematized ‘from all eternity’ by the eternal Lord, for just as every truth is approved by the Truth Himself from all eternity, so is every lie condemned by Him from all eternity, being condemned with ‘the father of lies’ to the gehenna of fire (Revelation 22.15).
“The task of hierarchs on earth is to discern the decisions of the heavenly Church, and then apply these heavenly decisions on earth, in space and time. As St. Bede the Venerable (+735) writes: ‘The keys of the Kingdom designate the actual knowledge and power of discerning who are worthy to be received into the Kingdom, and who should be excluded from it as being unworthy’ (Sermon on the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul, P.L. 94, col. 219). From this point of view, it matters not a jot whether a heretic is anathematized locally or universally, since he has already been anathematized by the heavenly Church. Or rather, it matters in this sense: that if the heretic has been anathematized locally, but this anathema is not accepted by the rest of the Church, then the rest of the Church is under the grave danger of falling under this same anathema. For the local anathema, if it is just, is the reflection of a heavenly anathema; and the anathema of the heavenly Church is universal….
“This explains why, when local Churches anathematized a heresy, they never qualified the anathema (as you, Fr. Alexander, would like to qualify ROCOR’s anathema against ecumenism) by saying: ‘but of course, this applies only to the heretics in our local Church’. On the contrary: history shows that local Churches freely anathematized heretics, not only in their own Churches, but also in others. Thus Nestorius, a heretic of the Church of Constantinople, was first condemned by a local Synod of the Church of Rome under St. Celestine; the Monothelite heretics were first condemned by a local Synod, again, of the Church of Rome; and the Papist heretics were first condemned by a local Synod of the Church of Constantinople.
“Consider what St. Maximus said of the Monothelites: ‘In addition to having excommunicated themselves from the Church, they have been deposed and deprived of the priesthood at the local council which took place recently in Rome. What Mysteries, then, can they perform? Or what spirit will descend upon those who are ordained by them?’ Note that the saint says that the heretics have excommunicated themselves; for as the Apostle Paul writes, he that is such is subverted, and sins, being condemned of himself’ (Titus 3.11). But the heretics’ self-condemnation and self-exclusion from the Church as a mystical organism must be followed by their exclusion from the Church as an external organization, lest others be infected with their heresy. Hence the need for councils of bishops to anathematize them, following the rule: ‘A heretic after the first and second admonition reject’ (Titus 3.10), and: ‘If he refuses to listen to the Church, let him be unto you as a heathen and a publican’ (Matthew 18.17). And clearly St. Maximus considered that the anathema of the local Church of Rome had validity throughout the Ecumenical Church.
“Administrative matters and moral falls are the business of local Churches and councils. However, heresies of their very nature are of universal significance, having the potential to infect the whole Church. That is why the appearance of a heresy in one local Church is not the business only of that local Church, but of all the local Churches – and every local Church can and must anathematize it.
“Even the anathema of single bishopric has universal power and validity if it is uttered in the Holy Spirit, in accordance with the eternal Truth. Thus in 1069 the bishops of the metropolitanate of York, in the north of England, solemnly anathematized both the Pope of Rome and his stooge, William the conqueror, the first papist king of England. All the evidence is that they did not know that the Church of Constantinople had already anathematized Rome in 1054. So they were not simply confirming the word of a higher authority. They did not need a higher authority. They were successors of the apostles, with the power to bind and to loose. And they used that power, not for personal gain (on the contrary: they paid for their boldness with their lives), even against the most senior bishop in Christendom…
“In the same way, in 1983 the Sobor of Bishops of the Russian Church Abroad, using the power to bind and to loose given them by the Bishop of bishops, the Lord Jesus Christ, translated onto earth, into space and time, the completely binding and universally applicable decision already arrived at from all eternity by the Council of the Holy Trinity, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Ecumenism is, was and always will be a heresy, indeed ‘the heresy of heresies’, and the ecumenist heretics are, were and always will be outside the Church, the mystical Body of Christ. The decision of the ROCOR Sobor in 1983, confirmed with no change to its universal wording in 1998, expelled these already self-condemned and Divinely condemned heretics also from the external organization of the Church – and woe to any man, of whatever Church, who despises that decision, for he will then surely fall under the same anathema…”
March 31 / April 13, 2006.
St. Innocent, Metropolitan of Moscow and Enlightener of America.