1986 Epistle of Metropolitan Vitaly
from Orthodox Life Vol. 36, No. 4 July-August 1986
To the Beloved Pastors of Our Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia
and Our Pious Flock
The ark of our Church has entered the stormy sea of life. The blows of frenzied, cruel waves now cause its entire frame to quake. The sea itself is filled with perilous submerged reefs. We are hemmed in on every side. In the local press, abusive articles directed against the Synod of Bishops are constantly appearing. The Soviets are attempting to negotiate with the Israeli government, so that, in exchange for easing Jewish emigration, it would receive all the Russian property in the Holy Land without exception, including our possessions as well. The most absurd rumors are being circulated throughout the emigration: our entire episcopate is being accused of factionalism, while at the same time they accuse us of fanaticism, intolerance, and backwardness; others, on the other hand revile us for supposed liberalism, for infidelity to the sacred canons. They avidly watch our every step, our every move; they listen to our every word, thinking to find for themselves fresh evidence on which to base accusations against our Church and her archpastors and pastors. In the future, in all probability, we can expect organized slander against the entire hierarchy and against each bishop individually. I will answer all of this clamor with the words of the holy Apostle Paul, which I cited in my eulogy at the burial of Metropolitan Philaret: "By honor and dishonor, by evil report and good report; as deceivers, and yet true; as chastened, and not killed, as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things" (II Cor. 6:8-10). In these words the Apostle Paul described the characteristics of the eternal path of the true Church of Christ, and we are happy to walk this path. We give thanks to the Lord for all things – for slander and for praise, for threats and even for the coarsest abuse.
To console all the faithful children of our Church, I affirm that I am speaking the truth, as before the Lord our Chief Shepherd Himself, when I sat that our entire episcopate is faithful to Christ and His Holy Church; we are all as unanimous and united as ever; all of our faithful clergy, not stinting in their efforts to labor selflessly in the field of Christ, are honorable and in concord; and the grace of the Holy Spirit has not deserted us in His holy gifts of serene joy and repose of soul, despite the sea which rages around us. Our Church enjoys internal and external freedom, such freedom as it has possessed but rarely in nearly its entire history. Let us thank the Lord over and over again that by His almighty aid alone we are able to utilize this great gift of freedom, without bending our knee to the dubious values and powers of our age.
And you, our flock beloved in Christ, we ask, we beg you, to intensify your struggle of prayer, to keep unfailingly all the days of fasting prescribed by the Church, to pray for us, your archpastors and pastors, and to trust us.
Your well-wisher and unworthy intercessor,
President of the Synod of Bishops
of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia
An earlier epistle from the same year lists these bishops: