History of EOC


Prot. No. 206

Your Beatitude, Most Holy Patriarch Alexy of Moscow and all Russia, our Modesty's most beloved and dear brother in Christ God and concelebrant : Embracing Your venerable Beatitude in the Lord, we greet you exuberantly.
Your most beloved and distinguished Beatitude's letter of February 6, 1996, indicates that so far You have not wanted to comprehend the truly peacemaking intentions of the Most Holy Mother Church of Constantinople regarding the matter of the Estonian Church. Instead, You accuse the Ecumenical Patriarchate anew of transgressing the Holy Canons and hurl uncharacteristic threats at it and us, personally, which ought not to happen.
Until this point, our Church of Constantinople has deliberately avoided accusing the Most Holy Church of Russia. On the contrary, from the beginning the Church of Constantinople has tried to build a bridge over the psychological gap between the Orthodox Estonians and the Orthodox of Russian descent created during the Soviet occupation. We are mindful that the Russian Church was also tormented by the Soviet regime, and indeed for a longer period of time than the Church in Estonia, and we justify Your personal opposition, Beatitude and brother, on this issue, as being due to Your emotional bond with Your own homeland of Estonia.
But You, Beatitude and brother, and Your Church, while not responding to these endeavors of ours, continue to accuse both the Orthodox Estonians as an illicit assembly and us as interfering uncanonically in the internal matters of the Church of Russia. And all this while negotiations are in process, sometimes by publishing articles against us, sometimes by imposing the penalty of suspension on those clergymen in Estonia who have refer themselves to the Ecumenical Patriarchate, You are acting in a manner which clearly indicate that You are using the negotiations as a pretext to secure an indefinite extension, thus greatly damaging the sacred cause of Orthodoxy in Estonia.
In addition, we need to further declare the following :
1. In no way are You justified in considering the Orthodox Estonians guilty of an uncanonical act of insubordination towards their supposed canonical bishop, namely Archbishop Komellos, since he constitutes the continuation of the violently accomplished overthrow in 1944 of the canonical order by the Stalinist army. Then, as it is known and corroborated, the then canonical Metropolitan Alexander of Tallinn and all Estonia was forced to flee abroad with 23 clergymen and 7000 lay people, while another 45 clerics were murdered or exiled. These things occurred when the persecutions against the Russian Church were already Past, and Your predecessors, Sergios and Alexy 1, accepted the just praise of Stalin for their heroic contribution in defending their fatherland against the German invaders. It is therefore obvious that this so honored Russian Church of that time was involved in the expulsion of the Orthodox Estonians and benefitted from it in order to take over the territory of the Orthodox Estonian Church. The foundations of the Archdiocese of Archbishop Kornelios are not canonical and it is not right to invoke the divine and sacred Canons in this case.
2. But nor can the flock of Archbishop Kornelios be regarded as a continuation of the flock of the Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church prior to 1940, since the greater majority of them are Russian immigrants who were coerced by Stalin to establish themselves en masse in Estonia in order to alter the ethnological composition of the population. How can a Church be called Estonian when it is made up of Russian immigrants?
3. In no way are You justified, Beatitude, in condemning the Orthodox Estonians of phyletism. They, as a race themselves, have the right, in accordance with the 34th canon of the Holy Apostles, to constitute their own Church, having the bishops in their Church and the first among them from among their own race, especially since they constitute a sovereign and independent nation.
4. The Most Holy Church of Russia is not at all justified in accusing the Ecumenical Patriarchate of encroaching in the internal affairs of the Church of Russia while transgressing the Holy Canons. On the contrary, the Patriarchate of Russia during those years trespassed in countries under the spiritual jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, namely, Estonia, Hungary and elsewhere, always by the power of the Soviet army. The Church of Russia did not at the time seek the opinion of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, nor was any respect shown it. The annexation of the Orthodox Church of Estonia into the Most Holy Church of Russia happened arbitrarily and uncanonically. And it is certain that events which are uncanonical at one particular time are never blessed, never seen as efficacious, and never would they set a precedence.
5. Even if the issue were not one of a territory belonging to the spiritual jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate according to the strict interpretation of the Canons, it was still dutybound to intervene; of course, not of its own volition, but if invited to do so by someone who has been wronged. The holy and Godbearing fathers in Canons 9 and 17 of the Holy Fourth Ecumenical Council in Chalcedon placed upon the Church of Constantinople the most onerous responsibility of adjudicating cases of other local Churches when called upon to do so. How great a weight this responsibility is is demonstrated by the issue at hand, when in defense of the small number of people who are Orthodox Estonians, the Ecumenical Patriarchate has to displease the Most Holy and cherished daughter Church of Russia. It does this precisely in defense of this small flock, not for personal gain, since the Ecumenical Patriarchate stands to gain nothing from this situation apart from the moral reward which comes from the gratitude of the Orthodox Estonians. The Ecumenical Patriarchate takes such action by exercising the obligation given to it by tradition and established custom and its responsibility to meet the needs of the Churches in particular circumstances and of Orthodox people everywhere.
6. Our Church was further surprised at the uneasiness of Your Beatitude regarding possible actions of the Ecumenical Patriarchate at the expense of the Orthodox faithful in Estonia of Russian descent. Do you believe, Most Honored Brother, that it is possible, while defending the downtrodden rights of the Orthodox Estonians that we as the Church of Constantinople would accept trampling the rights of the Russians in Estonia ? Rather, the Ecumenical Throne can never forget that from it the great race of the Russians received the light of Christ and saving baptism. For many long centuries your ancestors have been children of the Ecumenical Throne, and you, the Russians of today, constitute children of those children. The Mother never stops loving her children, even when the children deny the Mother. Even if you, Most Blessed Brother, systematically refuse to refer to the fundamental historical significance of the Church of Constantinople with regard to the birth and development of Your Church, and You address her simply as "Elder Sister," still You, personally, were born in Estonia under the omophorion of the Church of Constantinople and as her child You were baptized and spent your childhood there.
We declare, then, before God and man, that the Orthodox faithful of Russian descent constitutefor us beloved children of the Church, the same as are the Orthodox Estonians, and we are ready to protect them also, if necessary. So we desire the brotherly cooperation of all and reject every sort of unbrotherly action no matter what side it comes from.
Inevitably, the prolongation of uncertainty and the climate of mutual suspicion created by it brings about only harm and widens the chasm between the two groups of Orthodox brethren. In particular, the long-term abandonment of the Orthodox Estonians without the necessary ecclesiastical tutelage only propagates the danger that they will join other Christian Churches. For this reason we deemed it necessary and indeed imperative---sinceall our attempts for a peaceful resolution between the two Churches produced nothing for which You are at fault--- to proceed in reactivating the Patriarchal and Synodical Tome of 1923, which the Patriarchal and Synodical Praxis of 1978 had made inoperative, but not invalid. If the Praxis of 1978 was enacted for the sake of smooth relations with the Patriarchate of Moscow, at which time Estonia still constituted a section of the then Soviet Union, the new Praxis is enacted at the request of the Orthodox Estonians who are of immediate concern and of their State, following the radical political change which occurred with the declaration of Estonian independence in 1991. A similar prior example lies before us, namely, the Russian Orthodox Parishes in Western Europe under the venerable Ecumenical Throne. The Ecumenical Patriarchate, as a token and proof of its sincere disposition towards the Patriarchate of Moscow, by a Praxis in 1965 released these parishes from its jurisdiction, although it was forced later to receive them once again at the persistent request of their members.
We hope that you understand, Beatitude and Brother, You and the Most Holy Russian Church around You, that the canonical Praxis to which we have proceeded in no way turns against the Orthodox in Estonia of Russian descent, but rather contributes to the alleviation of their ordeals as well. Besides, in our Patriarchal and Synodical Praxis, a copy of which is attached for Your information, there is specific mention of the situation of the Orthodox of Russian descent as You can testify. In closing, embracing once again Your Beloved Beatitude as a brother in the Lord, we remain with unending love in Him and with special esteem.
February 24, 1996
Your most venerable Beatitude's beloved brother in Christ, + Bartolomew of Constantinople

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