We – the Bishops, clergy and laity of the Russian Orthodox Autonomous Church, feel compelled to call as much attention as possible to the following statement.
At the present time, the enemies of Orthodoxy – the Moscow Patriarchate, together with its subservient bureaucrats in the Russian Government – are doing everything possible to completely destroy the Russian Orthodox Autonomous Church.
This persecution of the Russian Orthodox Church has been going on since the very beginning of our open existence.
During the 1990’s, across Russia, the authorities sought to physically repress any attempt of the faithful who had freed themselves from the pro-Communist and Sergianist Moscow Patriarchate to obtain for their religious needs even a small number of the buildings that had historically been Orthodox churches and had survived the Communist period, in the sole place in Russia where the Russian Orthodox Church was able to organize itself in freedom from lies, betrayals, and heresy – the small city of Suzdal. These authorities illegally took churches away from us, refused to allow us to incorporate our dioceses and parishes, beat our clergy and parishioners up, and slandered us in the press and over the airwaves.
Then, an attempt was made to destroy our Church morally, by slandering and trying our First Hierarch in court. Since there was nothing with which to accuse us, they began to broadcast lies and slander through the mass media to make people who would believe such accusations turn away from our Church. This attempt had some partial success, but our Church remained.
Now, the Vladimir Office of Rossimushchestvo (Russian Federal Property Office), and those who stand behind it, have decided to use the courts to take our churches in Suzdal away from us, in order to deprive us of the possibility of preaching and holding Divine Services in public.
At one time, in the beginning of the 1990’s, when the Communist Party and its stranglehold on power in our country came to an end, the churches began to be returned to people of faith – those who had survived the Soviet meat-grinder; the descendants of those who had built these churches, in the first place. We received all of these churches in accordance with the law, and most of them were in deplorable condition when we received them. And now, after our parishioners have invested so much of their time and money into bringing them into proper shape and embellishing them, the bureaucrats have decided to sue them away from us so that they can give them to the Moscow Patriarchate and use them for their own common purposes.
Our communities of faithful believers are the only lawful proprietors of these buildings, to whom the government had simply returned that which had previously been taken away from them by force – their own inheritance that had been stolen away from them by the Bolsheviks. The faithful were the ones who received them back, they are the ones who restored them, they are the ones who preserved them for the government, and they are the ones who use these churches and maintain them in proper manner. These facts should have been the deciding factor in the courts of the legality of our using these churches. But instead of handing down a fair decision and leaving these churches with the faithful, the courts trampled upon their civil rights, as well as their religious sensibilities, and the Constitution of their own government. Could this happen anywhere else in the world but in Russia?
What this means is that the time has not come to an end in Russia when the authorities, like thieves, acting in opposition to their own people, can appropriate for themselves all of the Orthodox churches they want, deciding the fate of our holy things in accordance with their own whims, can make a mockery out of the religious feelings of people of faith, and dispose of anyone that they don’t happen to like. Now, we are witnesses to a repetition of the past. The tyranny of the bureaucrats continues on who, in the name of government, lord it over the people, and decide the fate of the inheritance that the nation has received from its ancestors. Instead of preserving the nation, instead of preserving our Faith, instead of preserving the government, instead of safeguarding the people, the authorities, in order to please the modern-day Pharisees of the “official church,” exile Orthodox Christians who are guilty of doing nothing wrong, and annihilate the last shreds of religious liberty.
However, their war is not with us. Their war is with Almighty God, Who will quickly repay His enemies for their evil deeds.
Together with the Prophet and King David, our response is, “Our God is refuge and strength, a helper in afflictions which mightily befall us” (Psalm 45:1). Let our oppressors prosper in their luxuries and power. Let them rejoice in their high-sounding titles. Let them “devour widows’ houses” (Matt. 23:14), let them amass their comforts in the bosom of the bureaucracy. We, however, will follow the path of the New Martyrs of Russia – the straight and narrow path of Christ.
We know that very soon, in the churches that belong to us, we shall see the bailiffs of the courts and the militia (OMON), which will beat us up and chase our clergy and people out of their churches. In a word, we shall see the repetition of the same things that took place in our unfortunate country during the horrendous years of the 1920’s and the 1930’s.
In conclusion, we wish to say, not to the district attorneys and judges, but to those people who are standing in the wings behind them and directing this repression against us: We understand that you do not believe in God, but why do you have no fear of bringing yet more shame upon your country?
President of the Synod of Bishops Metropolitan Valentine of Suzdal and Vladimir.
Members of the Synod of Bishops: