To all of our brothers and sisters, spiritual companions in the work of Christ Jesus, greetings.
It is our prayer that each of you are doing well.
Since our last letter of September 2019, there have been several discussions held by the Council concerning the future of the Old Rite. As most of you already know there are now only five priests worldwide for those associated with our Rite, and less than 500 individuals.
With this, our latest letter of November, we wish to inform you of some of the topics discussed by the Council.
Our name, Russian Orthodox Church in Communion with Rome, implies first of all that we are “Russian,” even though only a third of the faithful are actually Russian. Second, that we are part of the ancient Apostolic Orthodox Church – something to which each of us can agree. The latter part of our name indicates that we are in “Communion with Rome,” specifically the Roman Catholic Church, or Vatican. There are other Old Believers also in communion with Rome, calling themselves Greeks or Ukrainians, and so forth, but we are neither of these. Neither are we Byzantine, as are some within the “Eastern Rite” Churches in communion with Rome. Our Church became affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church under Pope Pius Xth. He gave us a place of refuge during very desperate times due to persecution by the official Russian Church, and provided us a place to practice our own rites without Roman influence. He was adamant concerning the preservation of our own rites, including liturgy and culture. This has worked well for us since Pope Pius Xth’s generous act, and we will always remain grateful for his compassion upon his Eastern brethren.
As grateful as we are, those who are knowledgeable of the improprieties with Vatican must acknowledge that the Roman Church is not the same as it was during the time of Pius Xth. For the last year, the Council has been discussing numerous issues related to the Roman Church and especially under the administration of the current Pontiff. We, as well as many faithful Roman and Eastern Catholics, have witnessed a downward spiral within the walls of Rome. Many of the unorthodox and strange teachings of the Pontiff and some before him, can not be reconciled with the pillars of the Church, that is, scripture and venerable tradition.
Sadly, we can no longer see the blessing of Christ upon us should we remain in communion with Francis. Thus, the members of the Council have come to a unanimous decision to relinquish all ecclesiastical ties with Vatican. On this 18th day of November in the year of our Lord 2019, we have severed association with Vatican and no longer see ourselves as being in communion with Rome. While this is neither a time to celebrate or mourn, it is a time to move forward.
What does this mean for individual Old Rite brothers or sisters who have been attending Roman Catholic parishes for Sacraments due to not having their own Old Rite parish? Because there are so few Old Believers in the world (especially Old Rite Brethren), we do not presume to lord authority over our spiritual children in ordering them not to seek the Eucharist from the Roman Church. In fact, we still believe their Sacraments to be holy. Members of the Old Rite are still permitted, as Orthodox believers, to receive the Eucharist from the Roman Church if they are in a state of grace and if the local priest permits it. The Roman Catholic Church teaches that Orthodox are permitted this privilege if it of necessity. Due to the fact that there are only five Old Rite priests serving the brethren worldwide, it is impossible for us to reach everyone with the Eucharist, and thus other means must be sought out according to the conscience of the individual Old Believer, whether this is found in Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Anglican or other valid professions. At the same time, we do not encourage our brothers and sisters to become members of these jurisdictions. We are Old Rite and we will remain as such as long as God’s grace is upon us.
By now some of the brothers and sisters may be wondering about the future of the Old Rite Brethren. With less than 500 members, it is not logical to think that we can survive as a denomination on our own. The only feasible method for our survival is to become affiliated with another canonical institute within the Body of Christ. Some lay members have suggested returning to the Russian Church; however, due to political problems within many jurisdictions of the Russian Church (and many other Orthodox bodies) we do not find it possible for re-unification at this time.
We are currently in discussions with two Anglican institutes of Orthodox origin, and an institute in Africa. As events continue to develop in this regard, we will keep the Church updated. Whatever may happen, we pray for God’s guidance and blessing. We are not abandoning Orthodoxy. It is our desire to retain our rich traditions and rites along with respecting others that we have adopted over the centuries. Our tradition will be preserved, by the grace of God, under the name of the Old Rite Orthodox Church of America. The name was chosen by unanimous decision by the Priests Council and the elders in the various communities of Old Believers under the jurisdiction of the Council. We ask that congregations begin using the new name in place of the old immediately so as not to give any confusion to the faithful or to the world concerning our affiliation.
Please send all inquiries to the Council. All is in God’s hands.
Be assured of our prayers for each of you. We also ask for your own prayers for us.
May God bless you.
Your brothers in the King’s service,
Rev. Hieromonk Fr. Seraphim Charles Michael Allen (Council President)
Rev. Fr. Joseph Elijah Begun (Council Vice-President)
Rev. Fr. Michael Adam Karpoff (Council Secretary)
Rev. Fr. Isaac Paul Turgenev (Council Secretary and Treasurer)
Rev. Fr. Jacob Michael Solovyov (Council Treasurer)
Council of Old Rite Priests
November 18, 2019