Syosset, New York
October 18, 2001
The Most Reverend Archbishop LAURUS
Deputy of the First Hierarch
Secretary of the Synod of Bishops
75 East 93rd Street
New York, NY 10128
To His Eminence, the Most Reverend LAURUS, Deputy of the First Hierarch, and the Most Reverend Archpastors of the Bishops’ Council of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia:
The Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America, meeting at Oyster Bay Cove, New York, on October 18, 2001, prayerfully reflected on your approaching meeting, on the message which has been addressed to you by His Holiness Patriarch ALEKSEY II of Moscow and the Holy Synod of the Church of Russia, and on the life and mission of the Holy Orthodox Church in America, in Russia, and around the world.
We have left behind the twentieth century, with its rebellion against God, its wars and violence, its millions of refugees, its technological successes and moral failures. In the midst of the evil and sin and darkness of the last century, the light of Christ shines brightly for us in the countless martyrs and confessors of Russia and other lands. And the light of Christ overcame the darkness—this is the meaning of the collapse of communist totalitarian atheism.
We have entered the twenty-first century, and already see violence and war, drought and famine, the reality and threat of terrorism and terrorist use of biological and chemical warfare. Humanity is living with fear and anxiety. Many millions live in poverty and hunger. In Western civilization as a whole, materialism and the practical atheism which accompanies materialism influence all of popular culture. Sadly, in Russia and other formerly communist nations the Gospel of Christ is also powerfully challenged by materialism, immorality, corruption, and false spiritualities and religions.
One of the legacies of the last century in the Orthodox Church is the legacy of schism and division. As a result, Orthodox Christians are unable to partake together of the one Cup. We join His Holiness Patriarch ALEKSEY II of Moscow, and many of you as well as many of your flock, in grieving at the schisms which separate us. We join in the movement of mutual repentance. We believe that God calls us to unity in His truth and in His Church, and that this unity is required if the Orthodox voice calling all to repentance and reconciliation will be fully heard by a wounded, fearful, and suffering humanity.
We are moved by the fact that the letter to you of His Holiness Patriarch ALEKSEY II of Moscow is signed on the Day of the Glorification of St. Innocent, Metropolitan of Moscow. We see in this a sign for you and for us in America. St. Innocent, who at the end of his life was Metropolitan of Moscow, gave most of his life to the missionary vocation of the Russian Orthodox Church. As a true apostle he preached the Gospel of Christ to the Alaskan natives and to the indigenous peoples of Siberia. For him, the life in Christ was not limited to the boundaries of his nation and his people. Rather, for him, the life in Christ was most fully lived when it was shared humbly and joyfully with other nations and peoples.
Although the mission of the Orthodox Church in America is directed especially to the peoples of North America, our eucharistic communion with the Church of Russia and the other Orthodox Churches is a bond of peace and unity, giving testimony to the universality of the Orthodox faith. We value both our eucharistic communion with the Russian Orthodox Church and the gift of autocephaly from the Russian Orthodox Church. We see in this eucharistic communion and in our mission to America our faithfulness to the vision and apostolic labors of St. Innocent of Moscow.
Although the center of your spiritual attention as the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad is the witness of the Russian Orthodox Church, there are many in your midst in America who are not Russian but American, and who came to Holy Orthodoxy as converts. You, too, give expression to the inheritance of St. Innocent of Moscow.
Finally, both you and we, together with the Church of Russia, remember with love St. Tikhon, Patriarch and Confessor of Moscow. St. Tikhon, like St. Innocent, ended his life as the first hierarch of the Church of Russia, but began his apostolic and archpastoral ministry in North America. It was St. Tikhon who first proposed the need for an autocephalous Orthodox Church in America, composed of different ethnic groups and nationalities united in one Orthodox Church on this continent.
We are surely called to unity, both in the universal Orthodox Church, and in America—eucharistic unity, unity in the preaching of the Gospel, unity in mutual repentance and reconciliation. May our calling to unity put us all on the path which will lead us towards an end to schism and alienation.
With brotherly love in Christ,
Archbishop of Washington
Metropolitan of All America and Canada
Archbishop of Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania
Archbishop of New York and New Jersey
Archbishop of Dallas and the South
Archbishop of Philadelphia and Eastern Pennsylvania
Archbishop of Detroit and the Romanian Episcopate
Bishop of Chicago and the Midwest
Bishop of San Francisco and the West
Bishop of Ottawa and Canada
Bishop of Baltimore