NEW YORK: December 11, 2023
Epistle of the Synod of Bishops to the Clergy and Flock of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia

To the Clergy, Monastics and Pious Flock of the Russian Church Abroad

Rejoicing in the fraternal atmosphere and fruitful undertakings of the current session of the Synod of Bishops, held during the present days of the Nativity Fast, we render thanks unto God for His mercies and lovingly greet all of you with the words of the Church’s blessing: "Peace be unto all!" For mankind is hungry for the peace of Christ.

Having gathered around the Kursk Root Icon of the Mother of God "of the Sign," we fervently pray to the Most Blessed Virgin, the Protectress (Hodegetria) of the Orthodox Diaspora, for the fulness of the Russian Church Abroad, the unity of Holy Orthodoxy, and for the subject of our principal grief at this moment - the speedy cessation of fratricidal war.

This year we celebrate the 150th anniversary of the birth of great luminaries in the heavens of the Russian Diaspora, His Beatitude, Metropolitan Anastassy (Gribanovsky), and Archbishop Vitaly (Maximenko). Being ever concerned with the affairs in the Holy Land and in Kievan Rus’, we remember how Vladyka Anastassy, as the overseer of the Russian Spiritual Mission in Jerusalem, worked tirelessly to strengthen its position; and how Vladyka Vitaly was renowned in Volhynia for his active missionary and social labors. Honoring their sacred memory, we extend the hand of Christian love and sympathy to His Beatitude Theophilus III, Patriarch of the Holy City of Jerusalem & All Palestine, to His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev & All Ukraine, and to the host of archpastors, pastors, monastics, and faithful children of the Jerusalem Patriarchate and the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church. With archpastoral affection, we offer the embrace of our fervent prayers to Archimandrite Roman (Krassovsky) and the brethren, to the abbesses and sisters who reverently maintain the wick of that precious candle, once lit by Abbot Daniel at the Life-Giving Sepulcher of the Lord, and which since his time has flared up into the bright flame of those Russian lamps — the monasteries, convents, and metochia of our Russian Ecclesiastical Mission in Jerusalem.

Observing on all sides enmity and division, cruelty and injustice, despondency and anxiety, sorrow and the suffering of God’s people, we hasten, on the eve of the Nativity of Christ, to beseech Almighty God that the clergy and flock of the Church Abroad may obtain peace with Him, with one other, and each with his own conscience; and that Heavenly aid may accompany them along the path of faith and virtue, humanity and decency. "If it be possible, as much as lieth within you," we say in the words of the Apostle Paul, "be at peace with all men" (Romans 12:18). After all, the minimum expectation of a Christian is mutual patience and a respectful attitude toward one another. Such is the beginning of the love of Christ. As such, one must not pour out hatred or malice towards another, for by so doing we will but aggravate the evil that comes upon us. In such times as now face us, it is of greater importance that we overcome the passions and unite in prayer for an end to bloodshed; for the restoration of peace, harmony, and friendship; and for the strengthening of "those who weep, who suffer illness, and those who long for the consolation of Christ" (from the panihida service). We must devote all our strength to the manifestation of Christian brotherly love, and to providing real aid to our fellow man. The most important and valuable calling, in these current conditions, is to be and remain, above all, a Christian person.

Indeed, in the words of Nikolai Gogol, "the devil has already entered this world without a mask," seeking the quarrelsome division of all, not only on grounds of military events, but also through issues of politics and various kinds of radical "ideologies." The latter are alien to Christian moral teaching. However, they are these days introduced as a norm in "civil society" and in the school curricula of many lands in which our Holy Church exercises her mission. Here it is necessary, in maintaining one’s Christian character, to firmly - yet calmly and with dignity - defend Holy Orthodoxy, her doctrine of marriage, of our families, of traditional values and religious freedoms. And if our word is combined with the example of an upright Christian life, marked out by active care for our children and their upbringing in the Christian spirit, then our word will prove itself a living and convincing testimony, not only for children and youth, but also for the societies around us.

Let us seek to remember that, no matter how difficult the situation in which a Christian lives, no matter what dark clouds may gather over him, he will always emerge victorious over all evils if he is able, with God’s help, to maintain his faith.

In conclusion, we sincerely wish everyone a worthy passage through the remainder of the Nativity Fast, that in the peace of our thoughts and feelings we may worship the Son of God Who comes to earth! Amen.

Metropolitan of Eastern America and New York
First-Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad

Metropolitan of Berlin and Germany

Archbishop of Montreal and Canada

Bishop of London and Western Europe

Bishop of Seattle
Deputy Secretary of the Synod of Bishops

Bishop of Stuttgart

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