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#1 Peter Farrington

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Posted 30 December 2006 - 04:50 PM

Dear all

In another place a priest has been describing how the Free Serbian Orthodox Church were viewed by the Serbian Orthodox Church, when they walled themselves off during the Communist period.

He described:

As clergymen of the Patriarchal Church we were absolutely forbidden to commune Free Serbs. We recognised neither their Baptisms nor their
marriages and there was one occasion when a body was unearthed in Australia so it could have a second "canonical" funeral.

We rebaptized all Free Serbs. We remarried them. If they wanted to come
back to marry one of ours they had to put their hand on the cross and Gospel
and swear they would never enter a Free Serbian church ever again, not even
for their mother's funeral. We utterly denied that they had any Priesthood
or any sacraments at all. The polemics would curl the hair on an axe
murderer's chest.


It was said that the Free Serbian Orthodox Church was reconciled with the Serbian Orthodox Church in 1992. So the Free Serbian Orthodox Church was considered not even apostolic in the loosest sense from 1963, since none of their sacraments were accepted.

Can anyone describe how the Free Serbian Orthodox and the Serbian Orthodox were reconciled? How were the 'graceless' bishops, clergy and people of the Free Serbian Orthodox Church received into communion by the Serbian Orthodox? Were they all baptised, and then reordained and chrismated? If they were received as Orthodox then how could they have been rebaptised, ordained, and buried previously as if they were not even apostolically Christian?

Thanks

Peter

#2 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 30 December 2006 - 05:46 PM

Dear all

In another place a priest has been describing how the Free Serbian Orthodox Church were viewed by the Serbian Orthodox Church, when they walled themselves off during the Communist period.

He described:



It was said that the Free Serbian Orthodox Church was reconciled with the Serbian Orthodox Church in 1992. So the Free Serbian Orthodox Church was considered not even apostolic in the loosest sense from 1963, since none of their sacraments were accepted.

Can anyone describe how the Free Serbian Orthodox and the Serbian Orthodox were reconciled? How were the 'graceless' bishops, clergy and people of the Free Serbian Orthodox Church received into communion by the Serbian Orthodox? Were they all baptised, and then reordained and chrismated? If they were received as Orthodox then how could they have been rebaptised, ordained, and buried previously as if they were not even apostolically Christian?

Thanks

Peter



I was present at a number of clergy conferences of our church (rocor) when Serbian bishops were present to describe for us exactly what Peter refers to.

As is usual for me I forget many details, but the general point was that when the time was opportune Serbian Patriarch Pavle initiated talks with the Free Serbs on the basis of economia. Rather than a settling of accounts Patriarch Pavle instructed that the principle to follow was that of reconciliation. Apparently to a great degree these principles were followed & so my impression at least (perhaps Fr David remembers this point more clearly) is that all clergy & faithful were received 'as is'.

Here in our city we also had a Free Serbian parish (in fact it was the only Serbian parish) which now is with the Serbian Patriachate. I am quite sure they made the transition with little fuss.

The point here is that when it comes to those not in communion with each other within the One Orthodox Church, the terms 'graceless' or 'without grace' are usually meant very loosely in practice.

Thus communion & concelebration may be disallowed. But clergy or the faithful pass back and forth usually without being re-ordained or sacramentally received again. Especially between rocor and the rest of Orthodoxy this was in fact the norm even in the years when relations were most tense.

Actually the best way to see how a particular church or jurisdiction recognizes the orthodoxy of a group whom it is not in communion with is to watch how it deals with it in actual practice. A lot comes down to whether groups are in a period of active antagonism in relation to each other or not.


In Christ- Fr Raphael

#3 Peter Farrington

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Posted 30 December 2006 - 05:56 PM

Thank you Father,

so to be clearer, the principle was followed that though the Free Serbs had been considered not-Orthodox at all, such that even their baptisms were rejected, nevertheless it was possible in economia for their to be a reconciliation and they were received as if all of their sacraments had always been valid and without blame being apportioned?

So the Free Serbs did not have to confess guilt in being in schism?

Nor did the Patriarchal Church confess culpability in their behaviour or attitude?

Was that so?

Have their been other instances like ROCOR and the Free Serbs in the Communist period? Especially Churches which have been reconciled though had been completely anathematised and rejected as graceless?

Peter

#4 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 30 December 2006 - 07:32 PM

Dear Peter,

After I made my previous post I went back & added a few words which may be of help about what 'without grace' and 'graceless' mean in these particular situations.

One thing to keep in mind is that we're definitely speaking, even in situations of extreme antagonism like that between Greek New & Old Calendrists of an inter-church dispute.

The other element is antagonism which I think also plays a role. Of course on the one hand antagonism can be a manifestation of nothing beyond passion. On the other hand though it can reflect a valid concern about canonical good order and a balanced church life. This becomes especially contentious when disputes over these aspects of church life are centered within one group, as was with the Serbs & Russian church. Because the dispute is so 'in-house' and touches each person within each church so directly, Orthodoxy and grace tend to be defined in terms of the specific problem one sees in the other group.

Of course we're fooling ourselves if we don't see that part of what drove this was indeed passion: zeal or lack thereof not according to righteousness, anger, fear, resentment. All of this I think led to a serious distortion of ecclesiological consciousness within the Church at large in the 20th century over where grace is and isn't. And it partly is in recognition of this that such economia can be to hand now.

On the other hand however the issues which drove much of this were in many cases real & not imaginary. In the trauma of the 20th century- war, revolution and unheard of mass genocide- personal choices had to be made which left one on either side of an unbridgeable abyss. And this deeply affected the Church at large.

Only recently when the social issues which produced this divide diminished could the Church reap the benefits of a unity it had not seen in almost a century. In my own opinion it is partly this which has allowed both sides in a once divided Church to move freely towards each other. The point is that they can move towards this without it involving the sort of fundamental compromise this would have involved in the past. To say it another way- it's not that the moral markers have been moved; it's that new social circumstances allow one to move in a wider space without this really compromising these markers.

So the Free Serbs did not have to confess guilt in being in schism?

Nor did the Patriarchal Church confess culpability in their behaviour or attitude?

Was that so?


I don't recall the details of the Serb situation but I do have the impression that no canonical penalties were imposed by the Patriarchate on the Free Serbs. In the new atmosphere reconciliation could occur in a way which stood above any canonical impediments. The Patriarch, knowing his deep spirituality, probably did personally express contrition for what had occurred and that the Serbian Patriarchate had made mistakes.

Have their been other instances like ROCOR and the Free Serbs in the Communist period? Especially Churches which have been reconciled though had been completely anathematised and rejected as graceless?



I don't think there's any real precedent for the Church's situation in the 20th century although the Church obviously in every century has suffered schism. One overall lesson is that schism produces canonical & verbal condemnations that are more severe than what is actually seen in practice.

This was certainly true in the modern situation. Almost every part of the Orthodox church at one time had its own local version of Serbs- Free Serbs & MP- Rocor with even a three or four way split. But for all that in many cases the firewall of separation was often a lot more easy to get through than official proclamations of anathema & being without grace would lead one to suspect.

In Christ- Fr Raphael

#5 Peter Farrington

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Posted 30 December 2006 - 09:32 PM

Dear Father

Thank you for the additional information.

I only raised this particular issue because it had been reported to me, from someone who had personal experience, that as I posted, the actual attitude to the Free Serbian Orthodox seemed extremely harsh and severe, and uncompromising, such that the description of their being graceless seemed entirely to be borne out by the practice of the Serbian Orthodox Church.

This page - here - purports to document the situation which prevailed at the beginning of the Free Serbian Orthodox Church.

Would you say that it was similar to that of the formation of the ROCOR?

I notice that there still seem to be some Free Serbian Orthodox Churches. Have these resisted reunion with what is seen as a still compromised Serbian Orthodox Church, in the same way that a small group of ROCOR are resisting reunion with the MP? Was the Serbian Orthodox Church compromised as this page suggests? I read that the Free Serbs tried to join ROCOR but were rejected? Do you know on what basis? Especially since St John Maximovitch is reported here as having supported their application?

I think I am interested, not so much in the church politics, but in the ecclesiology of division within the Church as it is experienced in modern times.

Thanks

Peter

#6 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 31 December 2006 - 02:42 AM

Dear Father

Thank you for the additional information.

I only raised this particular issue because it had been reported to me, from someone who had personal experience, that as I posted, the actual attitude to the Free Serbian Orthodox seemed extremely harsh and severe, and uncompromising, such that the description of their being graceless seemed entirely to be borne out by the practice of the Serbian Orthodox Church.

This page - here - purports to document the situation which prevailed at the beginning of the Free Serbian Orthodox Church
Would you say that it was similar to that of the formation of the ROCOR?

I notice that there still seem to be some Free Serbian Orthodox Churches. Have these resisted reunion with what is seen as a still compromised Serbian Orthodox Church, in the same way that a small group of ROCOR are resisting reunion with the MP? Was the Serbian Orthodox Church compromised as this page suggests? I read that the Free Serbs tried to join ROCOR but were rejected? Do you know on what basis? Especially since St John Maximovitch is reported here as having supported their application?

I think I am interested, not so much in the church politics, but in the ecclesiology of division within the Church as it is experienced in modern times.

Thanks

Peter


I don't know what the origin of the Free Serbian Church is. The Serbian parish here was with the Free Serbs from the time it was founded & had contacts with our parish but was already reconciled with the Patriarchate when I arrived here in 1995. So again I don't know what the canonical relationship was between the Free Serbs & Rocor.

I'm a bit surprised to hear of still existing Free Serb parishes. Every Orthodox church in the Balkans had a break away group which refused to accept the authority of their Patriarchate. Some of these groups went with Rocor (Bulgarians, & some Romanians in Europe at one point) others went with the OCA (some Bulgarians, Romanians & Albanians). Seen from this perspective you have to ask why this one group of Serbs decided to 'free-lance' things rather than officially connecting to some other already established church. This must have raised canonical questions at the time and I wonder if rocor's official relationship to them was not all that close, then perhaps it was due to this (as well as its long standing closeness to the Serbian Patriarchate).

In any case for many of these groups there was a different set of driving issues from those of Rocor. For many of these other groups the issue was much more simply that of not wanting to be under the authority of Patriarchates seen as being far too close to an objectionable political authority. I'm not sure it would be correct to see this as being the same as Rocor's objection to a compromised Patriarchate which is much closer to being an ecclesiological critique & which thus naturally issues forth in what is later called sergianism. And as far as other issues which were at the centre of thinking for rocor, such as ecumenism & renovationism, these other separate groups barely had this as part of their consciousness.

In Christ- Fr Raphael

#7 Peter Farrington

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Posted 31 December 2006 - 12:27 PM

Dear Father,

The page I referenced, which seems to be from a very anti-ecumenical and traditional background says,

The “conversion” of the Serbian Church to Ecumenism had been made possible by the “election” of a puppet patriarch, Germanus, on the death of the weak Patriarch Vincent in July, 1958.

“All of his opponents were eliminated beforehand. Bishop Basil, at that time Bishop of Banja Luka, was arrested in Belgrade and threatened by the UDBA (the Yugoslav Secret Police) to be returned to Banja Luka and be tried by the ‘People’s Court’ for his alleged ‘counter-revolutionary activities’, if he did not endorse Bishop Germanus’ candidacy for patriarch. Once he endorsed Germanus’ candidacy he was released, through Bishop Germanus’ ‘gracious’ intervention.

“Father Macarius, abbot of the famed Dechani Monastery, was given 200,000 dinars ($650) as payment for his coerced vote for Germanus. He came back to his monastery after the election and threw the money at his monks, telling them that he ‘felt like Judas’.

“Many delegates to the Electorate were given a special pen and paper on which they were to cast their ballots, in order to show whether they had kept their promise to the agents of the Secret Police. (Two sworn statements by witnesses).”

According to witnesses who were in the patriarch’s house, he had a party card. And when he was once accused of embezzling a very large sum of money and was threatened with a court trial, the Serbian equivalent of the KGB saved him and paid the money themselves. Thereafter he was, of course, completely “their man”.

In 1960 Archimandrite Justin Popovich, who has been called “the conscience of the Serbian Church”, wrote: “… The atheist dictatorship has so far elected two patriarchs… And in this way it has cynically trampled on the holy rights of the Church, and thereby also on the holy dogmas.”

Having secured their own man as patriarch, the ecucommunists proceeded to use him against their most dangerous opponent outside Serbia – Bishop Dionysius of the American-Canadian diocese. In 1963 Germanus and his Synod decided to divide Bishop Dionysius diocese into three. Seeing a communist plot, Dionysius refused to accept this decision, announced that he was making his diocese autonomous and broke communion with the patriarch and his synod. On March 27, 1964 the Serbian Synod defrocked Dionysius. Then three pro-Belgrade priests were consecrated bishops -in his place. Dionysius and his supporters refused to recognize these acts, for which the patriarchate condemned them as graceless schismatics.

Cast out in this way, three dioceses and about forty parishes of the Free Serbs, as they now called themselves, applied to join ROCOR. Two archbishops – Averky of Jordanville and John (Maximovich) of San Francisco - supported them. However, other bishops, including Archbishop Vitaly of Canada, were opposed, and the Free Serbs’ petition was rejected. The quarrel was so heated that two Russians were excommunicated.[21]

Archbishop Averky returned to the question of the Serbian Church later. On September 14/27, 1967, he wrote to Metropolitan Philaret: “With regard to the question of the Serbian Church, whose Patriarch German is a stooge of the communist Tito, as the Serbs themselves are convinced, calling him ‘the red patriarch’. We have heard this from many clergy and laity who have fled from Serbia. How can we recognize, and have communion in prayer with, ‘the red patriarch’, who maintains the closest friendly relations with red Moscow? Cannot our Hierarchical Council make erroneous decisions? Do we in the Orthodox Church have a doctrine about the infallibility of every Council of Bishops?”

However, Archbishop Averky’s attitude to the Serbs was not commonly accepted in ROCOR. Many hierarchs and priests of ROCOR had been brought up in Serbia, and out of gratitude felt that they should not be condemned or excommunicated. To what extent this attitude was truly motivated by gratitude, and to what extent simply by fear of ROCOR’s losing its last friends in “World Orthodoxy”, is a moot point. In any case, it was contrary to the canons of the Church, which require the breaking of communion with all those in communion with heresy, as well as to the spirit of true Christian love. For true love for the Serbs dictated that it should be pointed out into what an abyss their ecumenism was leading them, an exhortation which would have acquired greater weight by a full break in communion…

After being rejected by ROCOR, the Free Serbs then briefly came into communion first with two Ukrainian bishops of the Polish Orthodox Church and then with the Patriarchate of Alexandria. Fleeing the Ecumenism of the latter, they briefly found refuge with the “Florinite” Greek Old Calendarists led by Archbishop Auxentius, on September 11/24, 1981.

The communists were now in complete control of the Serbian Patriarchate. The result was predictable: “an alarming tendency on the part of the hierarchy of the ‘Mother Church’ to abandon true Orthodoxy and embrace heresy. For soon after the Belgrade bishops severed communion with Bishop Dionysius and us, the true Serbian Orthodox Christians in the Free World who remained loyal to him, they plunged with both feet into the murky waters of the worst heresy that has ever assaulted the Orthodox Church – the heresy of ‘ecumenism’.”


I am not sure if anyone here is able to dispute any of these facts, or the opinion of Father Justin Popovitch, whom I believe is regarded as a saint.

I guess my ecclesiological question centres on the way on which in both the case of ROCOR and the Free Serbs, there is a genuine resistance to a compromising national Church, indeed a firm rejection of those Churches, as documents from both ROCOR and the Free Serbs show. And in the case of the Free Serbs as I quoted at the beginning, the Patriarchal Serbs viewed them as utterly graceless, not just in a polemical sense but completely in reality.

My question is probably about how it is that in what seems to be just a generation the 'compromised' Churches appear to have all the legitimacy while those which stood firm against compromise seem to be presented as petitioning to be reunited with a Church which just a decade or so ago was considered an anti-Church.

I am not clear what it happening here ecclesiologically, especially since I would imagine that you and others would understand the unity of the Church in a formal and entirely visible manner. If the Church says that another part of the Church is graceless and rejects all of its sacraments how can it them be reunited with a non-Church?

And if a Church is understood as compromised by sergianism and ecumenism how can it then be considered just a few decades later as the Mother Church, when the catacomb Church remains in existence?

I would appreciate your thoughts and anyone else's on the ecclesiology here rather than the politics. My issue is to do with the fact that various groups have un-churched other groups, or considered them entirely compromised, but then are reconciled as if they had been the Church all along?

Thanks

Peter

#8 Christophoros

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Posted 25 May 2007 - 02:55 PM

There are internal divisions within the Church (despite the charismatic indivisibility of the Church) and secessions from the Church, which are true schisms in the strict sense of the word. As the dogmatic theologian Protopresbyter Michael Pomazansky has observed:

"The unity of the Church is not violated because of temporary divisions of a nondogmatic nature. Differences between Churches arise frequently out of insufficient or incorrect information. Also, sometimes a temporary breaking of communion is caused by the personal errors of individual hierarchs who stand at the head of one or another local Church, or it is caused by their violation of the canons of the Church, or by the violation of the submission of one territorial ecclesiastical group to another in accordance with anciently established tradition. Moreover, life shows us the possibility of disturbances within a local Church which hinder the normal communion of other Churches with the given local Church until the outward manifestation and triumph of the defenders of authentic Orthodox truth. Finally, the bond between Churches can sometimes be violated for a long time by political conditions, as has often happened in history. In such cases, the division touches only outward relations, but does not touch or violate inward spiritual unity."

Whether any given division is intrachurch or truly a schism seems to be definitely determined only later, when the passions of the times have subsided. The Patriarchal Serbs received the Free Serbs without issue; Constantinople declared the Bulgarian Church schismatic *and* heretical in 1872, yet all their Sacred Mysteries were accepted by the EP when communion was restored in 1945; the Moscow Patriarchate, at different times, considered the ROCOR and the American Metropolia as schismatic; but once communion was restored, the intrachurch nature of the division was apparent.

#9 Nick Katich

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Posted 13 December 2010 - 02:33 PM

Peter: I was with the Free Serbian Orthodox Church and was intimately involved in the reconciliation process. If you are still interested, I will take the time to do a detail post, since this is an old thread.

#10 Kosta

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Posted 13 December 2010 - 07:29 PM

When the EP took in the old calendarists, St Irene Chrysovolontou Monastery in Astoria they (re)ordained the bishops but none of the parishioners had to be rebaptised or chrismated or anything at all for that matter.

#11 Nick Katich

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Posted 15 December 2010 - 08:24 PM

When the EP took in the old calendarists, St Irene Chrysovolontou Monastery in Astoria they (re)ordained the bishops but none of the parishioners had to be rebaptised or chrismated or anything at all for that matter.



When the Free Serbian Orthodox Church and the Serbian Patriarchate reconciled, no bishops or clergy were re-ordained. The reason is that all bishops had apostolic succession. This was conclusively proved to the Patriarchate and it accepted the proof. The only thing that happened was that Hierarchal Divine Liturgy was concelebrated between the hierarchs of the two groups. Nothing more and nothing less.

#12 Kosta

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Posted 16 December 2010 - 05:03 AM

I wouldnt think they would, the EP always (re)ordains old calendarists clergy but more out of spite than anything, this is seen by the fact that the laity is recieved freely as if nothing has changed. Also the St Irene bishops were originally recieved for a short stint by the Jerusalem patriarchate without a need for ordination. Alot has to do with political climate and antagonism as Fr. Raphael points out. Just look at the OCA between 1947-1970.




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