APPEAL to His Beatitude Kyrill Athenagoras of Constantinople
New Rome and the Ecumenical Patriarch
From the Holy Fathers we inherited the testament that in the Church of God, all must follow a lawful order, in unity of mind and in concordance with ancient traditions. If any of the bishops or even the leaders of autocephalous Churches commits an act in discord with that which the Church teaches, then each of Her members may declare his objection. The 15th Rule of the Double Council of Constantinople of 861 recognizes as worthy “of honor suited to Orthodoxy” those bishops or clergymen who depart from communion from even their own Patriarch, if he publicly preach heresy or teach it openly in Church. In this way, we all are guardians of the Church’s truth, Which always protected Herself with care that nothing having general ecclesiastical significance occured without the agreement of all.
For this reason, our attitude towards various divisions beyond the divisions of the Local Churches was determined by nothing more than the consent of all the Churches involved. If our division with Rome was first given its direction by Constantinople, it was still subsequently accepted by all. The Orthodox Church became the business of the entire Orthodox world. Not one Local Church alone, nor even the Church of Constantinople, which we had esteemed from olden days, from which our Russian Orthodox Church received the treasure of Orthodoxy, cannot change anything in Orthodoxy without the consent of all. Moreover, we, the ruling bishops, cannot carry out decisions which would be in discord with the teachings of the Holy Fathers who lived before us, specifically, when it comes to the West—of SS Photios of Constantinople and Mark of Ephesus.
In light of these principles, although we are the youngest of the leaders of the Church, for we head the autonomous, free part of the Russian Church, we deem it our obligation to decisively object to the act of Your All-Holiness in connection with the ceremonial declaration together with the Pope of Rome on the removal of the excommunications decreed by Patriarch Michael Cerularius in 1054.
We heard many expressions of indignation when Your All-Holiness, before the entire world, did something new, something unheard-of by Your predecessors and against the 10th Apostolic rule in meeting with the Roman Pope Paul VI in Jerusalem. We will state outright and without mincing words: the temptation was great. We heard that as a result, many monasteries on the Holy Mountain of Athos have refused to commemorate the name of Your All-Holiness at services. Now You go further, when by the decision made by You and the bishops of Your Synod, You rescind the decision of Patriarch Mikhail Cerularius, which was confirmed and accepted by the entire Orthodox East. In doing so, Your All-Holiness acts in discord with the attitude assumed by our entire Church with regard to Roman Catholicism. This is not a matter of one evaluation or another of the behavior of Cardinal Humbert, it is not a matter of some personal conflict between the Pope and the Patriarch, which could easily be healed through mutual Christian forgiveness; no—the essence of the question is the departure from Orthodoxy, which has taken root in the Roman Church over the course of centuries, beginning with the teaching of the infallibility of the Pope, which was finally formulated during the First Vatican Council. Your All-Holiness’ and the Pope’s Declaration fairly recognizes that the act of “mutual forgiveness” is insufficient for the cessation of both former and more recent divergences. But this is not enough: this act erects a symbol of equality between heresy and Truth. Over the course of centuries, the entire Orthodox Church fairly believed that She in no way departed from the teachings of the Holy Ecumenical Councils, while the Roman Church accepted a series of novelties in its dogmatic teachings which contradict Orthodoxy. The more novelties introduced, the deeper the division between the East and West became. The dogmatic deviations of Rome in the end of the 11th century did not contain those errors that were introduced later. For this reason the dismissal of the mutual censures of 1054 would have meaning at that time, but now--it serves witness to the dismissal of the most important and essential, to wit, the new teachings declared, unfamiliar to the ancient Church, of which some, exposed by St. Mark of Ephesus, caused the Holy Church to reject the Florentine Union. We declare decisively and categorically:
No union with the Roman Church is possible for us, as long as it does not reject its new dogmas, and reestablishing prayerful communion with it is impossible without the agreement of the entire Church, which, at the same time, does not seem to us to be possible until the Church of Russia is emancipated, for it is now forced to live in the catacombs. The hierarchy now led by Patriarch Alexei cannot express the true voice of the Russian Church, for it is under complete subjugation to the atheist state, obeying its will. Shackled are also the heads of some other Churches which are found in communist countries.
Since the Vatican is not only a religious center, but also a center of government, and, as the recent visit of the Pope to the United Nations has clearly shown, relations with it also carry political significance, it is impossible to ignore the possibility that the captive Churches are swayed in one direction or another by the atheistic authorities in the matter of the Roman Church. History has shown us that negotiations with the heterodox under political duress never brought the Church any benefit, only troubles and divisions. For this reason we feel obligated to state that our Russian Church Abroad is, as is, undoubtedly, the Church in Russia, now in the "catacombs," cannot agree to any "dialogues" on dogma with other faiths, and in advance rejects any accords with them, for accepting the possibility of the reestablishment of unity is possible only if they fully accept Orthodox teaching in the form that it has been preserved to this day by the Holy, Conciliar and Apostolic Church. Until such a time--the excommunication of Patriarch Michael Cerularius retains its full force, and the removal of such by Your All-Holiness is an unlawful and invalid act. Of course, we are not against amicable relations with the representatives of other faiths, since this does not betray the truth of Orthodoxy. For this reason our Church at one time accepted the friendly invitation to send an observer to the Second Vatican Council, just as it had sent an observer to the Protestant conference of the World Council of Churches in order to have a first-hand account of the work of these meetings yet without any participation in their decisions. We value the kindly attitude towards our observers, and study their detailed reports with interest, which witness the advent of significant changes in the Roman church. We would thank God if these changes serve to draw them closer to Orthodoxy. Yet if Rome must change a great deal in order to return to "the expression of the faith of the apostles," then the Orthodox Church, preserving this faith whole until now, must change nothing.
Church tradition and the example of the Holy Fathers teach us that there must be no dialogue with those who have fallen away from the Orthodox Church. Rather, a monologue of preaching is addressed to them, in which the Church calls them to return to Her bosom through the rejection of any teaching inconsistent with Her. Genuine dialogue necessitates the exchange of opinions, allowing the possibility of winning over its participants in order to reach agreement. As the encyclical "Ecclesiam Suam" shows, Paul VI sees dialogue as a scheme for our union with Rome or the reestablishment of relations with them through some sort of formula, leaving untouched, however, its teaching of the faith, and, in part, its dogmatic teaching of the role of the Pope in the Church.
But all concord with heresy is alien to the entire history of the Orthodox Church and Her essence. It would lead not to the profession of faith in unity of mind, but to a phantom, external union, similar to the agreement of discordant Protestant unions in the Ecumenical Movement.
May such betrayal of Orthodoxy not invade our midst.
We earnestly ask Your All-Holiness to put an end to such temptation, for the path chosen by You, if it did lead You to union with the Roman Catholics, would cause division within the Orthodox world, for, without a doubt, many of Your spiritual children prefer loyalty to Orthodoxy to the ecumenical idea of a union of compromise with heterodox without their full concord in truth.
Asking for Your holy prayers, I remain Your All-Holiness' humble servant,
President of the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia
15 December 1965
The First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, Metropolitan Philaret (Voznesensky)