Written by Vladimir Moss


     During the recent Council of ROCOR-A, the jurisdiction led by Metropolitan Agathangel of New York, there was a detailed discussion of an “Address” by clergy and laity of the North of Russia led by Archbishop Sophrony of St. Petersburg dated October 17/30, 2014, that called into question the authority of Metropolitan Agathangel and his relatively pro-Ukrainian and anti-Putinist course. From the published Protocols, it appears that Agathangel has largely succeeded in crushing this rebellion, although the destiny of Bishops Dionysius and Irenaeus (both formerly of RTOC, who did not appear at the Council) remains to be determined. Perhaps the most interesting and important part of the discussion relates to a remark by Agathangel that appears to say that the famous ukaz number 362 of Patriarch Tikhon and the Russian Holy Synod and Council dated November 7/20, 1920, which formed the basis of the independent existence of the Russian Church Abroad until its fall in 2007, is no longer applicable to the present Church situation. From the protocols, it does not appear that this remark was taken up or discussed by any of the hierarchs present. However, its implications are very great, and therefore need to be analyzed and evaluated…

     The context of the remark is as follows:-: “12. [Quoting from Archbishop Sophrony’s “Address”] ‘We see and are convinced that the activity of Metropolitan Agathangel in administering the Church is increasingly trampling on the traditions and conciliar decisions of ROCOR, which is eliciting justified disturbance among the clergy and a wide circle of laity. In view of this, we recognize that the moment may come when we shall be forced to apply Patriarch Tikhon’s ukaz no. 362 in our ecclesiastical activity (the objective conditions for the application of this ukaz have already appeared). We await the final word that must be given on this matter by the fullness of our Church.’

     “Bishop Athanasius. This is the culmination of the ‘Address’, an ultimatum delivered to the whole Church by a group of people.

     “President [Metropolitan Agathangel]: The reference to ukaz no. 362 is inappropriate, for the Higher Church Administration is active, and communications with it have not been broken.”[1]

     In order to evaluate this remark, we need to refresh ourselves as to the main import of ukaz no. 362. The Patriarch and his Higher Church Administration issued it towards the end of the Russian Civil War, when communications with groups of bishops in the East and South of the country – and in particular, with the Bishops of the South Russian region under the leadership of Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky), who later formed the core of the Russian Church Abroad – were unreliable or completely broken. The first three points of the ukaz read: “’1. With the blessing of his Holiness the Patriarch, the Holy Synod and the Higher Church Council, in a joint session, judged it necessary… to give the diocesan Hierarch… instructions in case of a disconnection with the higher church administration or the cessation of the activity of the latter…

     “’2. If dioceses, as a result of the movement of the front, changes of state boundaries, etc., find themselves unable to communicate with the higher church administration or the higher church administration itself together with his Holiness the Patriarch for some reason ceases its activity, the diocesan hierarch will immediately enter into relations with the hierarchs of neighbouring dioceses in order to organize a higher instance of church authority for several dioceses in the same conditions (in the form of a temporary higher church government or metropolitan region, or something similar).

     “’3. The care for the organization of the higher church authority for the whole group who are in the situation indicated in point 2 is the obligatory duty of the eldest ranked hierarch in the indicated group…’

     Now, as has already been pointed out, the Russian Church Abroad based its independent existence on ukaz no. 362 right until most of its members fell into the false union with the Moscow Patriarchate and World Orthodoxy in 2007. Different branches of the Catacomb Church inside Russia also appealed to this ukaz in order to justify their independent existence. The ukaz gave ROCOR and the branches of the Catacomb Church the right to govern themselves as autonomous Churches, with their own Councils, Synods and first-hierarchs, until such time as a lawful Patriarch of Moscow with a canonical patriarchal administration appeared in Russia, at which point, it was envisaged, all the separate branches or “splinters” of the True Russian Church, both inside and outside Russia, would return into obedience to the lawful patriarch – lawful, that is, as having renounced sergianism and ecumenism and as having been elected by a lawfully convened Council, containing representatives of both ROCOR and the Catacomb Church.

     Clearly, however, no such lawful patriarch has yet been elected in Russia, so ukaz no. 362 remains in force.

     Now let us return to the words of Archbishop Sophrony and Metropolitan Agathangel.

     Sophrony appears to see ukaz no. 362 as a means whereby he can separate from Agathangel, because “in administering the Church [he] is increasingly trampling on the traditions and conciliar decisions of ROCOR”. However, the grounds on which a hierarch can separate from his metropolitan or patriarch are set out in the canons of the Ecumenical and Local Councils. They have nothing to do with ukaz no. 362, whose purpose is to maintain the unity of the Church in conditions of war and disruption of communications.

     Agathangel makes an even more serious error; for he supposes that “reference to ukaz no. 362 is inappropriate, for the Higher Church Administration is active, and communications with it have not been broken”. So what is the Higher Administration of the Russian Church, in Agathangel’s view? He surely cannot be thinking of “Patriarch” Cyril of Moscow?! Who else? Could he be thinking of himself?!

     It seems to the present writer that Metropolitan Agathangel is indeed referring to himself and his Synod as the Higher Administration of the Russian Church, and that it is for this reason that he says that since communications have not been broken between himself and Archbishop Sophrony, the latter cannot invoke ukaz no. 362. But since no True Orthodox patriarch of the Russian Church has yet been elected, the ukaz is still in force, and no hierarch can presume to take upon himself patriarchal prerogatives. However, that, it seems, is precisely what Metropolitan Agathangel is doing…

     We already knew that he rejected the claims of all the other “splinters” (oskolki) of the True Orthodox Church of Russia – ROCOR (V), ROAC and RTOC. But it is news – alarming news – that Agathangel now appropriates himself privileges that no other True Orthodox Russian leader has ever claimed. Such pride can only precede a fall…


November 15/28, 2014.

St. Herman of Alaska.

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