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Reply by His Holiness Patriarch Kirill to His Beatitude the Patriarch of Alexandria Theodore

Reply by His Holiness Patriarch Kirill to His Beatitude the Patriarch of Alexandria Theodore
Version for print
5 March 2022 year 19:15

His Holiness the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia has sent to His Beatitude the Patriarch of Alexandria Theodore II a reply with regard to the latter’s appeal to cancel the resolution of the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church on the formation of a Patriarchal exarchate in Africa and the appointment of an exarch. 

To: His Beatitude the Most Blessed Theodore II, Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa

Your Beatitude,

I received your letter in which you make an appeal to cancel the decision by the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church on the formation of the Patriarchal exarchate of Africa and the appointment of an exarch.

I have already written to you on the reasons and circumstances of the establishment of our exarchate in Africa. They are clarified also in the recent Statement of the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church of 28th January, a copy of which I have already sent to you.

At the same time, I have not heard from Your Beatitude what canonical reasons have obliged you to recognize the Ukrainian Orthodox Church as no longer existent and illegitimate, while recognizing schismatics of the “autocephalous church” as being in possession of divine grace and as the only canonical church in that country. In neither the letters I have received from you, nor in communiques issued by the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Alexandria are these canonical reasons explained, and they cannot be explained for they are do not exist, as you fine know well.

The Russian Church’s agreement that those persons who recognize the schismatic so-called Orthodox Church of Ukraine themselves enter into schism have canonical foundation which you ignore in vain. The 2nd canon of the Council of Antioch clearly states: “It is unlawful to receive in one Church those who do not assemble with another Church. If any one of the bishops, presbyters, or deacons, or any one in the Canon shall be found communicating with excommunicated persons, let him also be excommunicated, as one who brings confusion on the order of the Church.”

The 12th canon of the Apostolic Council also warns us: “If any one of the clergy or laity who is excommunicated, or not to be received, shall go away, and be received in another city without commendatory letters, let both the receiver and the received be excommunicated.”

The 4th canon of the Council of Antioch states: “They who communicate with him shall all be cast out of the Church, and particularly if they have presumed to communicate with the persons aforementioned, knowing the sentence pronounced against them.” Many other canonical rules also forbid receiving into communion those who have been excommunicated (First Ecumenical Council; Apostolic Council, 11th canon; Council of Carthage, 9th canon; and so on).

It is well known to Your Beatitude that the justly imposed interdictions on the founders of the Ukrainian schism and their followers were recognized by all of the Holy Orthodox Churches, including in written form by your predecessor of eternal memory the Patriarch of Alexandria Parthenius III, and which have subsequently never been subject to any doubt throughout the Orthodox world. According to the holy canons and the centuries-old ecclesiastical practice, the reception into the Church of the Ukrainian schismatics is possible only after their repentance and reunification with the Local Church from which they fell away, that is, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. As we know, the schismatics in Ukraine have never repented and have never reunited with their Church. In announcing that you recognize them, and then entering into eucharistic communion with them, you have joined them in entering schism according to the strictness of the aforementioned canons, and thus are deserving of excommunication with them. It is precisely for this reason that many clergymen of the Church of Alexandria fenced themselves off from you and sought the canonical protection of our Church.

Regarding your threat to defrock His Eminence the metropolitan of Klin Leonid, whom the Holy Synod of our Church has appointed exarch of Africa, then it lacks all basis in canon law. A bishop or priest of one autocephalous Church cannot be judged by another autocephalous Church. The canons to which you refer (first Ecumenical Council, 8th canon; Fourth Ecumenical Council, 12th canon) do not underpin your threat and are out of place as they concern completely different issues. The holy canons forbid a bishop from interfering in the affairs of another diocese. And if they forbid him from receiving an outside cleric who does not have a letter of introduction from his bishop (see: Apostolic Council, 33rd canon; First Ecumenical Council, 16th canon and so on), then how can they permit him to judge him, and all the more so to impose the supreme penalty of defrocking? It is with this in mind that I state to you that all ecclesiastical judgments by your Church with regard to the metropolitan of Klin Leonid or other bishops and priests of our Church will be seen to be canonically worthless and invalid.

Also a failure is the attempt of Your Beatitude to accord to the Patriarch of Constantinople special rights by referring to the Tomos of 1663 or the so-called “scroll of imperial and patriarchal authority”. In reality, this document was sent not to the Church of Russia, as you mistakenly assert, but to Tsar Alexis Mikhailovich, who sought support from the Eastern Patriarchs in the trial of the Patriarch of Moscow Nikon and sent his questions to them. The Russian Church never asked for these replies from the Holy Eastern Patriarchs and has never been guided by this particular document.

As is well known, the Tomos of 1663 is not a conciliar decision: the Primates of the Church of Alexandria and Antioch put their signatures to it significantly later. Moreover, the Patriarch of Jerusalem Nectarius appended to this document his own particular opinion, which in effect rejects the claims of the Tomos to the special rights of the Patriarch of Constantinople, while the Patriarch of Antioch Macarius III a year previous to the signing of this “scroll” secretly sent to the Pope a letter expressing his submission to him. With this in mind, we can hardly call this document an authoritative expression of inviolate Orthodox tradition.

We are even more surprised that in justification of the claims of the Patriarch of Constantinople to primacy in the Church of Christ you refer to the act of the Council of 1590 which established Patriarchal rule in Muscovy. Your Beatitude is undoubtedly aware that the great predecessor to the See of Alexandria Saint Meletius Pigas, canonized by Your Holy Church, did not recognize the decisions of this Council since they were made without taking into account the opinion of the Patriarchate of Alexandria. At his initiative a new Council of the Eastern Patriarchs was held in Constantinople in 1593, which revised the decision of the previous Council and determined that the Patriarch of Moscow “is and shall be called a brother of the Orthodox Patriarchs by virtue of his title, independent, yet equal in rank and dignity”. In the decisions of this Council, the inspiration for and main actor of which was Saint Meletius, there is no mention of the notion that the Patriarch of Constantinople enjoys any authority over the Patriarch of Moscow or any other Patriarch.

In his works Saint Meletius decisively spoke out against the idea of the primacy of any one bishop in the Universal Church. His successor and disciple the Patriarch of Alexandria Cyril Loukaris, also canonized by Your Holy Church, and recently by the Patriarchate of Constantinople, followed his teacher in actively opposing papal authority and rejected the teaching of the primacy of the bishop who is first in honour over the entire Church.

I believe it superfluous to remind Your Beatitude that the Council of the Orthodox Church of Alexandria, called by the Most Blessed Patriarch of Alexandria Nicanor in 1867, condemned the interference of the Church of Constantinople in the affairs of the Church of Alexandria, spoke out in favour of the equality of honour of all the Patriarchs and stated that the Primate of the Church of Constantinople did not enjoy the right to intercede in the affairs of the other Churches. This condemnation of Constantinople for interfering in the affairs of the Church of Alexandria was supported by the Churches of Antioch, Jerusalem, Russia, Cyprus and Greece.

In recent years the Patriarchs of Alexandria have repeatedly spoken out for the purity of the patristic teaching on the Church and Orthodox Tradition. When the Patriarchate of Constantinople unilaterally granted autocephaly to the Church of Albania, the Patriarch of Alexandria Nicholas V in 1937 wrote: “In recent years, on the one hand, in general church matters and on the other in matters of granting autocephaly and confirming the autocephalous status of the Churches, it has been somewhat oddly established that since the mid-nineteenth century, that is, from the time of granting autocephaly to the Church of Greece, the Holy Apostolic See of Constantinople, without regard to any of the appropriate canons of the Church, nor her prevalent traditions, has acted in a completely unilateral way by ignoring the Primates of all the Local Autocephalous Churches.”

It sad that you, dear brother, have so easily renounced the glorious heritage of the Church of Alexandria and the canonical Orthodox tradition, the true preservers of which for centuries have been your blessed predecessors, and have embarked upon the path of schism and cooperation with the illegitimate acts of the present-day Patriarch of Constantinople.

The actions of Patriarch Bartholomew in Ukraine are the fulfillment of the crafty designs of the enemies of Orthodoxy who wish to tear Russia and the Russian Orthodox Church away from the Greek Churches. We knew of this plan, but we did not lose hope that the Holy Patriarch of Constantinople would dare, with God’s help, to resist the pressure of powerful political interests. To our great regret this did not happen, and as a result the actions of Patriarch Bartholomew have destroyed the unity of worldwide Orthodoxy. I profoundly regret that you too have become a party to these actions.

Your Beatitude! As we enter upon the time of Great Lent, I call upon you to reexamine the decisions you have taken and cease to support the schism in Ukraine, lest the undivided robe of Christ which is the Church of God be torn asunder.

With love in the Lord, 

+Kirill, Patriarch of Moscow and All Rus'

Version: Russian, Greek