In the name of the clergy and the faithful sons and daughters of the Orthodox Church of Russia, I want to express my sincere sympathy in connection with the unjust, as I see it, treatment of the elderly Metropolitan Vitaly, who retired from the post of First-Hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad, by several members and collaborators of the Synod of Bishops of ROCOR.
Carrying out my pastoral visit to the United States and finding myself in New York, I became an unwilling witness to the cruel eviction of the Metropolitan-starets into the street, without a podriasnik, or a panagia, or a skufia, and almost with no money, to speak of. Regardless of the reasons that led to his retirement, such inhumane treatment of an elderly man, whose entire life has been devoted to serving the Holy Church of Christ, merits all sorts of censure and reproach.
What is particularly sad and disturbing is that this treacherous act initiates the period of the first-hierarchy of the fifth president of ROCOR, Metropolitan Lavr [Laurus]. The history of the Russian Church Abroad knows only a single precedent for the election of a new First-Hierarch during course of his predecessor's lifetime. Thus, in 1964, our Father amongst the Saints, Philaret, Metropolitan of Eastern-America and New York became the First-Hierarch of ROCOR. His candidacy was providentially proffered by the Metropolitan-starets, Anastassy, who decided to retire. The Lord revealed to this honourable First-Among-the-Bishops, the glorious future of Bp. Philaret then still the youngest of the bishops in ROCOR, -- who rightly divided the Word of Christ's Truth and guided the barque of the Church along the straight course of True Orthodoxy. Metropolitan Anastassy himself enthroned Metropolitan Philaret, thereby bearing witness to his pure and lawful succession to ecclesiastical authority.
It is an entirely different picture that we see today. It is not with solemnity that Metropolitan Lavr ascends to the throne of First-Hierarch, in accordance with the will of his predecessor, but with scandal, which took place before the eyes of the Orthodox world. The dignity and merit of the new First-Hierarch is established upon the debasement of his predecessor, so ignominiously evicted "outside the walls of the city" by his younger brothers. In what has happened, we see the sad pledge of the arrival of a far-from most-glorious (more likely than not, the final) period in the history of the Church Abroad.
It should also be noted that Metropolitan Lavr was elected by 12 ROCOR hierarchical votes. In accordance with the Statute governing the election of a First-Hierarch, he can be elected by a 2/3 majority-vote of ROCOR hierarchs, the number of whom presently (excluding those in retirement), would be 18. This means that Metropolitan Lavr was elected by "a critical majority" of votes, in which each and every vote was absolutely significant including the vote of Bishop Agafangel, who a month and a half ago, at the Voronezh Conference of ROCOR's clergy in Russia, had declared his unconditional support of Metropolitan Vitaly; and the vote of Bishop Michael, whom Vladyka Vitaly had considered his close and faithful associate; and the vote of Bishop Gabriel, who yet very recently had openly condemned the treacherous course whereby the MP would swallow-up the Church Abroad.
It appears that ROCOR, whose fate is far from being a matter of indifference to us, the True Orthodox Christians of Russia, is embarking upon a period of new, hitherto unseen, upheaval and perplexity. The course of submission to the MP, the personification of which the new First-Hierarch is becoming, has entirely gained the upper hand. The sacred testaments of St. Philaret and other blessedly-reposed First-Hierarchs are being trampled upon and forgotten in order to please the interests of this world, in order to please a falsely-understood unity of man. The only thing that remains now, seeing such a collapse of the great and glorious Church Abroad, is to give humble thanks unto the Lord, that it had pleased Him to return to Russia the pledge of untarnished Orthodoxy, which had been preserved by Russian Orthodox folk in exile, thus restoring a True Orthodox hierarchy in the Russian Land, which, as we pray, despite persecution and various devices and contrivances on the part of the enemies of God, will carry on its salvific service unto the end of the age.
+ Metropolitan Valentin
14/27 October 2001