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Message of Patriarch Filaret of Kyiv to Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and the hierarchs of the Moscow Patriarchate on the occasion of Sunday of the Triumph of Orthodoxy , , M ,


His Holiness Patriarch KIRILL ,

Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church ,
Hierarchs of the Moscow Patriarchate .

Your Holiness!
Fellow Archpastors!


On the occasion of the Great Lent and the Feast of the Triumph of Orthodoxy, fulfilling the duty of brotherly love and remembering that in spite of the present division we serve Christ the Savior, through this open letter I am addressing you again on the issues referring to the very bases of the Orthodox faith.

I . Almost a year ago, the previous Sunday of Orthodoxy, on the instructions of the Holy Synod of the UOC-Kyiv Patriarchate I addressed Your Holiness, as well as the head of the UOC (Moscow Patriarchate) Metropolitan Volodymyr and other hierarchs regarding the practice of the so-called re-baptism, which is applied by many representatives of the Moscow Patriarchate to those who were baptized by the Kyiv Patriarchate. In this letter, published openly and undoubtedly received by Your Holiness, the stance of the Kyiv Patriarchate was expanded and substantiated, the point being that the practice of re-baptism applied by the clergy of the Moscow Patriarchate has no canonical or pastoral grounds and explicitly contradicts the Creed and the dogmas of the Orthodox faith.

During the year that passed since, the message mentioned was obviously disregarded by You and we saw no response to it, except for the speeches of several hierarchs, whose stance found substantiation rather in their dislike of the Kyiv Patriarchate than in the teaching of the Church. The practice of re-baptism still continues - and it is in spite of the fact that no official document of the Moscow Patriarchate or of the UOC-MP that would prescribe such practice and provide canonical grounding for it ever exists.


It urges me to address Your Holiness and the fellow archpastors of the Moscow Patriarchate again, right on the Sunday of Orthodoxy, with an appeal to stop the practice of re-baptism, since such kind of practice is nothing else than breach of the dogmas and canons of the Church of Christ, distortion of the Creed, and moreover blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.
This is because the ones rebaptizing those who have already been once baptized reject thereby the action of the Holy Spirit in those who confess the Orthodox faith and have taken baptism in accordance with the provisions of the Orthodox Church.


Even the great Fathers of the Church and the Ecumenical Councils treated with great caution the issue of recognition of the validity of the Sacrament of Baptism, recognizing the baptism performed by the explicit heretics - the Arians (the First Ecumenical Council), the Macedonians (the Second Ecumenical Council), the Nestorians (the Third Ecumenical Council), the Monophysites (the Fourth Ecumenical Council). However, not having accused us of any heresies, not having presented sufficient canonical groundings, but acting exclusively out of your own volition, you state that the baptism performed in the Kyiv Patriarchate is not valid. The Ecumenical Councils and the Holy Fathers, feeling reverence for the mystery of action of the Holy Spirit and condescending to human weakness, did not dare to consider to be totally deprived of grace even the Sacrament of Baptism performed by the heretics and you dare to call grace-deprived and even devil-pleasing the baptism performed in the Orthodox Church, rejected by you from communion not for the heresy, but for the desire to be an equal Local Church-sister, not subjected to your authorities.


It is also discouraging
that during the past year you did not find an opportunity to answer to our message . In this connection a well-known gospel saying comes to our mind: When He entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to Him while He was teaching, and said, By what authority are You doing these things, and who gave You this authority? Jesus said to them, I will also ask you one thing, which if you tell Me, I will also tell you by what authority I do these things. The baptism of John was from what source, from heaven or from men? And they began reasoning among themselves, saying, If we say, From heaven, He will say to us, Then why did you not believe him? But if we say, From men, we fear the people; for they all regard John as a prophet. And answering Jesus, they said, We do not know ( Matthew 21:23-27) .


II. Testifying to the fact that on the matter of baptism you apply the practice of double standards and are governed by the political, not canonical considerations are the statements and the official documents of the Moscow Patriarchate. The document you adopted at the Bishops Council of the Russian Orthodox Church in 2000, named Basic Principles of the Attitude of the Russian Orthodox Church toward the other Christian Confessions reads as follows ( Im bringing to your notice the words I have underscored and the fact that the point in question are the non-orthodox communities while the Kyiv Patriarchate is orthodox ) :


1.15. The Orthodox Church, through the mouths of the holy fathers, affirms that salvation can be attained only in the Church of Christ. At the same time however, communities which have fallen away from Orthodoxy have never been viewed as fully deprived of the grace of God. Any break from communion with the Church inevitably leads to an erosion of her grace-filled life, but not always to its complete loss in these separated communities. This is why the Orthodox Church does not receive those coming to her from non-Orthodox communities only through the Sacrament of Baptism. In spite of the rupture of unity, there remains a certain incomplete fellowship which serves as the pledge of a return to unity in the Church, to catholic fullness and oneness.

1.16. The ecclesial status of those who have separated themselves from the Church does not lend itself to simple definition. In a divided Christendom, there are still certain characteristics which make it one: the Word of God, faith in Christ as God and Saviour come in the flesh (1 John 1:1-2; 4, 2, 9), and sincere devotion.


1.17. The existence of various rites of reception (through Baptism, through Chrismation, through Repentance) shows that the Orthodox Church relates to the different non-Orthodox confessions in different ways. The criterion is the degree to which the faith and order of the Church, as well as the norms of Christian spiritual life, are preserved in a particular confession. By establishing various rites of reception, however, the Orthodox Church does not assess the extent to which grace-filled life has either been preserved intact or distorted in a non-Orthodox confession, considering this to be a mystery of God's providence and judgement.


You state that the non - orthodox communities have never been viewed as fully deprived of the grace of God. However, when it comes to the orthodox Kyiv Patriarchate, you state without any doubt that this Church is deprived of grace. Your write that the ecclesial status of those who have separated themselves from the Church does not lend itself to simple definition but expressing no doubt you state both orally and in writing that all the Orthodox Christians belonging to the Kyiv Patriarchate are allegedly out of the Church of Christ, and therefore are destined for condemnation, perdition and eternal tortures.


So you treat the non - orthodox confessions differently - regarding the degree to which the faith and order of the Church, as well as the norms of Christian spiritual life, are preserved. At the same time you treat Catholics, Protestants, Muslims and Jews much better than the orthodox Kyiv Patriarchate. You meet, communicate and cooperate with them, and treat us the same way as the Old-Testament Jews treated Samaritans.

The degree of preservation or distortion of the grace-filled life in non-orthodox communities is a mystery of God's providence and judgement for you. However quite in an arbitrary way you make judgments on the presence of the Gods grace in the Kyiv Patriarchate, calling it grace-deprived and not only do it yourselves but teach the clergy and people to act the same way, intensifying hatred of the canonical orthodox towards the non-canonical ones.


All these are the bitter evidences that the relations with the other confessions in the Moscow Patriarchate are established rather on the grounds of contest and misinterpreted interests of the Russian Orthodox Church than on the grounds of the teaching and the canonical tradition of the Church of Christ. According to the logic of your actions, in order that our Sacraments were recognized and we were no longer called grace-deprived, the Kyiv Patriarchate ought to deny orthodoxy and to adopt heterodoxy. For if the Kyiv Patriarchate went into a Union with the Vatican, proclaimed catholic dogmas and even settled down to a course of Reformation, then, in compliance with the Basic Principles, the Moscow Patriarchate would not affirm that the UOC-KP is a grace-deprived community, as it is the case now.

Thus , according to your logic , while we are orthodox , the baptism we perform is not valid , and if we became , for example , the Catholics , you would recognize the baptism we perform! This equivocal approach is unworthy of the orthodox hierarchs especially of those who proudly bear the name of the canonical hierarchs.


It might be suggested that in their excuse our opponents from the Russian Orthodox Church would call in question the orthodox character of the Kyiv Patriarchate. However, these doubts are fully ungrounded , and Your Holiness does not share them , as it may be understood from the following. For when You were still in the office of Metropolitan of Smolensk in July 2006, You wrote in Your letter to the UGCC head, Cardinal Lubomyr Huzar, You noted: The majority of the population of the West of Ukraine have not returned into the Union, but continued to identify themselves with the Orthodoxy, even entering into the non-canonical groupings. The proportion between the Greek-Catholic and orthodox parishes in Galicia testifies to this fact. Even today in the region of Lviv more than 1500 Uniate parishes fall at 860 orthodox parishes by confession, though the most part of them belong to non-canonical jurisdictions for the reasons you well know. It is pleasant that even in such a way, criticizing the stance of the Greek-Catholics and wishing to intensify Your own stance, Your recognize the parishes of the Kyiv Patriarchate to be orthodox.


III. The equivocal approach in the actions of the Moscow Patriarchate representatives does not reduce itself to the issue of validity of the baptism performed in the Kyiv Patriarchate. More than once both Your Holiness as well as the other hierarchs of the Moscow Patriarchate declared that you have love towards the faithful of the Kyiv Patriarchate as towards the seceded brothers. But love is manifested through the deeds, not through the words. We cannot say that you do not have this love at all some of you do, but not many. The majority is either indifferent or have the feelings towards us which are far from brotherly and even from Christian.


As the deed of love we consider
the fact that last year the working groups set up by the Synods of the Kyiv Patriarchate and the UOC (MP) not just met, but managed to start successfully the process of preparation for the dialogue between our Churches . However, as it became obvious soon after the beginning of this process, such a good initiative met the fiercest opposition from the aggressively biased part of the Moscow Patriarchate . Its participants received abuse of the zealots and were accused of betrayal of Orthodoxy , and the external forces tried to introduce discord in the very work of the working groups by means of the staff reappointments .


The meeting of the working groups made though important but just a first step on the long way towards obtainment of the Church unity in Ukraine. It is desirable that this way was pursued. On our part we do not see any obstacles for that , and now it depends heavily on the stance of Your Holiness as well as on that of the hierarchs of the Moscow Patriarchate whether the constructive work will be continued, whether the real steps towards overcoming of the existing controversies will be taken , or the struggle for the power over the Church in Ukraine will go on under the guise of brotherly love.


IV. During the past years we sent a multitude of letters and messages to the address of the Moscow Patriarchate and the other Local Orthodox Churches. As it was testified in these documents, the Kyiv Patriarchate sincerely seeks to achieve mutual understanding with the Plenitude of the Orthodoxy , including the Russian Orthodox Church , and to enter into the full communion with it as a sister-Church, equal in rights. The most part of our messages to you were neglected but we are ready to testify with love and peace further on our desire to restore the ecclesiastical peace and unity.


So, our messages remained unanswered. However, the Holy Hierarch John Chrysostom inspires us to write and witness, in spite of anything: But you will ask me: how do you help by preaching? I help if anyone hears me. I do my duty; he who sows, sows. The sower went out to sow. Some seeds fell beside the road, some on the rock, some among thorn, but some on good soil ( Matthew 13, 3-8). Three parts perished and one was saved. He did not stop farming , but since one part survived , he did not cease from working the soil. Here also , when I have scattered such a quantity of seed , it is impossible that it should not bring forth some harvest for me. If not everyone listens , half will listen ; if not half , a third ; if not a third , a tenth ; if even one from the crowd listens, let him hear. ( On the earthquake )


As it may be supposed, this message will remain without response too. Without response, but I do not believe that without fruit . By our letters and messages we want to evidence the truth about the Ukrainian Church. Therefore it is not persuasiveness of our words or the power of our influence that we rely on, but the God of Truth, the Chief Shepherd and the Head of the Church Jesus Christ . For the Lord is a God of justice; How blessed are all those who long for Him. Even if He waits on high to have compassion on us (cf. Isaiah . 30:18).


So let the hearts of many of you remain closed for us , the ears remain deaf to our messages and the souls do not sympathize with our sorrow and rejoice over our restraint we are aggrieved over that and place our hope on the Gods mercy. We know that power is perfected in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9), we see how God help us in our sorrows and hardships and hope that He will lead the Ukrainian Orthodox Church along the way He knows to unity, and the Kyiv Patriarchate to recognition.

On the occasion of the Feast of the Triumph of Orthodoxy I heartily wish You, Your Holiness, and you, fellow archpastors, the graceful assistance of God in your labors for the benefit of the Church of Christ. May Our Lord Jesus Christ send all of us reconciliation and unanimous confession of the Orthodox faith, and the unity in Spirit and Truth to His Church!


With love in Christ


FILARET ,
Patriarch of Kyiv and All Rus-Ukraine


February 21, 2010
Sunday of Orthodoxy

 

 

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