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Concerning the Canonical Status
of ROCE and Metropolitan Vitaly

Taken from Church News, Volume 13, Number 8-9, 2002, with additions.


From the declarations of various clergymen of the Western European Diocese and several representatives of the parishes in Russia, as well as declarations of the retired Metropolitan Vitaly, (who twice signed his resignation), it is obvious that these clergy and Metropolitan Vitaly himself, through the “position of his deputy” Bishop Barnabas, actually are creating a new hierarchy which has no canonical justification for its existence. The Western European clergy declare as one of the reasons for their departure (and not without some basis) that the leadership of ROCOR has violated a number of “church and moral canons”. But can one correct the violation of the canons by another outrageous violation of the canons?

The canonical Letter of the Third Ecumenical Council regarding the case of Metropolitan Eustathius of Pamphylia has a remarkable analogy to the retirement case of Metropolitan Vitaly, who in July was indeed forced to retire. However, his second declaration about his retirement to the Council of Bishops in October of the current year was completely voluntary. In the epistle regarding the case of Metropolitan Eustathius we read that “there were certain disturbances... and as a result of unexpected circumstances, then, due to excessive inaction, wearied by the fight with his surrounding concerns and unable to deny the reprimands of his opponents, the man himself submitted his written resignation”. Further the Council reveals that “...since he proved himself careless, though rather as a result of inaction rather than of laziness and indolence...” the Council declares that it thinks the old man could be pardoned, however, it recognizes the installation of a new bishop instead of the retired Eustathius in the person of a Theodore and the Council precisely and clearly elucidates the position of the retired bishop: “...we have decreed without any opposition, that he shall have both the name and the rank, and the communion of the episcopate. On this condition, however, only: that he shall NOT ordain, and that he shall NOT administer the Church of his own individual authority: but that (he shall do so only) if taken as an assistant, or when appointed if it would so chance by a brother and fellow bishop in accordance with the ordinance and love which is in Christ”. Alas! In violation of this letter of the Third Ecumenical Council dealing with a similar case, Metropolitan Vitaly, along with Bishop Barnabas, has performed three Episcopal consecrations: Archimandrite Sergei (Kindiakov), Priest-monk Vladimir (Tselishchev) and Archimandrite Bartholomew (Vorobiev).

At the same time, Metropolitan Vitaly “anathematized” Bishop Michael and has proposed that he “voluntarily agree to defrocking” and even the loss of monastic status, and has promoted Bishop Barnabas to archbishop! In his extraordinary declaration of October 14/27, 2001, Metropolitan Vitaly renounced his “signature to my voluntary retirement and the consent to transfer my authority to Archbishop Laurus”. How easy it has become nowadays to “renounce (one’s) signature” after some days and even a year. Until now, those who reneged on their words and even more so, a signature, would loose any respect of those around them. But at present it is possible (without repenting for a blunder or lack of civil courage) not only to painlessly revoke signatures, but even to become for some “heroes of the day”!

From a recent Epistle of Metropolitan Vitaly, we present the following excerpt:


November 24th/December 7th 2001 St. Great Martyr Catherine “...Upon seeing the discords within our Church I have restored to myself the rights of Head of the Church...”

+ Metropolitan Vitaly

Editor’s commentary:

According to numerous and unanimous evidence, on October 23rd, 2001, Metropolitan Vitaly attended the opening of the Council of Bishops and handed it his declaration of retirement and even a sealed envelope with the name of a candidate for election as the new First Hierarch of the ROCOR. After that, on October 24, he unexpectedly left the Synod building after he found out that his secretary had been hastily relieved of her duties.

Metropolitan Vitaly “restored to himself the rights of the Head of the Church” at the beginning of November and not after he saw “discords in our Church”. He created a new hierarchy in response to the extremely crude actions against him by Bishop Michael when he consecrated several illegal bishops.

This is something unique in Orthodoxy, if it is to be considered canonical, where a hierarch, after he has retired, has restored to himself the rights of being the head of the church. There are many other canonical infractions that the so-called Russian Church in Exile, ROCE, has carried over from its past, to which they are continuing to add, for which they have not repented. Considering all of the above, how can this Church be considered canonical? The astute observer can only say that the incompetence of Metropolitan Vitaly’s past seven years is continuing. May God grant that somehow this chaos be rectified.

Archbishop Gregory
Dormition Skete
P.O. Box 3177
Buena Vista, CO 81211-3177
Contact: Archbishop Gregory
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