Epistle of Metropolitan Vitaly on the State of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad

An epistle of the first hierarch from March 1998, clearly stating his views on world Orthodoxy, the Moscow Patriarch, and the ROCA.  A must read in view of the current situation of our church.

from St. Vladimir`s Russian Orthodox Information Center

As archpastor of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, I consider it my sacred duty to address this letter to all the children of our Church. I find myself compelled to do this by a certain spiritual indifference to the truth which has arisen, and by what has become a profound lack of understanding of the exceptional, unique significance of our Church for the whole Orthodox world and for the world of heterodox western Christianity. So let it be said that, for however many years the Lord wills it to exist outside the borders of Russia, our Church never was, is not, and never will be a “jurisdiction,” but Christ’s true Church of Russia, with all that this great name implies. It has its canonical episcopate with the fullness of Apostolic succession. It is now led by its fourth Metropolitan in accordance with the blessing and intentional decree of the last lawful Patriarch, Tikhon, who was freely elected by the free episcopate of the whole of Russia at its last Council in Moscow in 1918. Our Church has already been adorned by the holiness of its own saints, which it has glorified here, outside Russia, and by the whole choir of martyrs, both those known to us and those unknown. Our Church, which is found in all countries of the world, carries out missionary work in each of its parishes bringing people of other nationalities into communion with our Holy Orthodox Faith. It holds regular meetings of its full Council of Bishops, as well as meetings of its Synod of Bishops, which direct the affairs of the Church in the periods between Councils. It also has its monasteries and convents where monks and nuns lead the monastic life, which is one of the most important facets of the nature of every true Church.Finally, we have our own press, regularly printing publications and newsletters containing spiritually edifying material. Now let us look at its spiritual essence. Our Church is the Virgin fleeing across the wilderness from the red dragon (Rev. 12: 3-6). The desert is the de-christianized west, in which freedom can still be found -freedom which our Church seeks, because in reality this is all that it needs. Through our Holy Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia sounds the voice of Holy Russia, the very essence and nature of which is the inner, secret, spiritual, ever-insatiable thirst of the Russian soul to live the life of the saints, to live according to the Holy Gospel, as far as strength permits, and always only with the help of God. Her voice has always sounded through all the thousands of years of the historical existence of the Russian Church. It has never been afraid of anybody, and never kept silent. Through the mouth of Basil the Blessed it reproached Ivan the Terrible, and it was not afraid of Peter I. If this voice is silenced, there will no longer be a Holy Russia, nor any Russia at all. When the Bolsheviks led by Lenin had come to dominate almost all of Russian soil, in the south, in the Crimea, General Wrangel’s White Army became the nucleus of armed resistance. From all over Russia all those who wanted to join its ranks made their way to the Crimea, all the faithful sons of Holy Russia. Hundreds of thousands of refugees were leaving their homeland across Russia’s immeasurably long frontiers. Those who joined the Crimean exodus were distinguished by their uncompromising stand, their unity and their idealism. Our Odigitria, the Mother of God Herself, in her Icon, the Kursk Root lcon, that most ancient of Russian holy objects, left together with this Crimean exodus, and it was accompanied by a vast assembly of hierarchs, led by the most senior of them, Metropolitan Anthony, together with hundreds of priests and clergymen, with the flower of the Russian people, right thinking Russian intellectuals and world-renowned scholars. Together with this great exodus the voice of Holy Russia left the Russian land. This voice was taken up by the Holy Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia. And now, when we hear reports on the world wide web, or the Internet, to the effect that the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia and the Moscow Patriarchate are two parts of one Church, and that it is none other than the Moscow Patriarchate that is the “Mother Church” of all Orthodox Russia – I consider it my duty to make a reply to this crude error, bordering on heresy.

If the Church is Christ Himself, then how is it possible to imagine Christ Our Lord with the traitor Metropolitan Sergius next to Him, or Christ next to Drozdov (Alexis II)? [1] If the Serbian holy man, Justin Popovitch, could say and write that the last two Serbian patriarchs were unlawfully elected to this highest level of the hierarchy by the communist party, then we can have no hesitation in saying that the last four patriarchs of the Moscow Patriarchate have been chosen by the communist state [2] , which has suddenly declared itself to be a democracy. This senior administration of the Moscow Patriarchate is simply a government institution, devoid of Divine grace, and those who comprise it are no more than government officials in cassocks. There are “clever” people who will tell you that this entire letter is just the Metropolitan’s own personal opinion. But here I will reply that I have been compelled to write this letter by endless protests from throughout our great Russian diaspora. So this letter of mine is the voice of our Holy Russia outside the borders of Russia, and I have simply expressed it for all to hear. God grant that those who do not agree with this letter will not let their differences of opinion become transformed into a more profound disunity of soul; this would be the real tragedy. Let us always thank the Lord that we are in the Holy Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, which throughout the 80 years of its existence has trodden the straight, royal path of God, without ever turning aside and losing its way.


+ Metropolitan Vitaly
March 16/29,1998 ——————————

1. Drozdov – the KGB code name for Alexis Riediger, formerly Metropolitan of Leningrad, who subsequently became the present patriarch.
2. Canon 3 of the 7th Ecumenical Council at Nicaea Every appointment of a bishop, or of a presbyter, or of a deacon made by civil rulers shall remain void in accordance with the Canon (ApostolicCanon 30) which says “If any bishop comes into possession of a church by employing secular rulers, let him be deposed from office, and let him be excommunicated, together with all those who communicate with him.”


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