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Perpetrators of Jurisdictional Terror: A Letter from Metropolitan Antony to Patriarch Constantine VI

A Sorrowful Epistle [1]

To His Holiness and Beatitude the Archbishop of Constantinople–New Rome

and Ecumenical Patriarch, Kyr Kyr Constantine VI

Humble Antony, Metropolitan of Kiev and Galich, President of the Synod of Bishops

of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, Wishes Joy:

Having received the epistle of Your Holiness in reply to the greeting of the aforenamed Russian Synod, in which you — although you yourself do not grant such an appellation to this institution — yet you do convey through me your greeting to my other fellow Russian bishops abroad, I consider it my duty, first of all, to once again remind you that this institution is not one contrary to the canons, but in accord with the Thirty-Ninth Canon of the Sixth Ecumenical Council, and with the official instruction of the Moscow Patriarchal Synod of November, 1, 1920, No. 362; and secondly — which serves as the chief incentive for the writing of this epistle — to report to Your Holiness in filial fashion concerning those wrongs which have been inflicted not so much upon us, or solely upon the bishops abroad, but likewise upon the entire great Russian Orthodox Church, or more precisely, upon the entire Church of Christ, by your predecessors: His Holiness Patriarch Gregory VII, and His Holiness Meletius, who had arbitrarily torn away from the Russian Church the dioceses [2] of Poland and Finland, and who had attempted to also tear away both America and the Russian Churches in Western Europe, having completely distorted the holy canons, in which it is not only impossible to find any justification whatsoever for such actions, but is even easy to point out the strict prohibitions against such things, beginning with the Second Canon of the Second Ecumenical Council.

Metropolitan Antony (Khrapovitsky) of Kiev and Galich

The reference to the Twenty-Eighth Canon of the Fourth Ecumenical Council in justification of similar lawless seizures by the Ecumenical Throne is patently false, for there it is a question only of the Metropolitan sees of Pontus, Asia, and Thrace, which even previously had belonged to the aforenamed Throne. But concerning this we have already written repeatedly to the very same Patriarchal Throne, and therefore we shall not repeat all those arguments here, but rather, let us explain why we are determined to intervene on behalf of those regions which have been torn away from the Russian Church. Behold, for two years now we have been receiving bitter complaints from numerous laymen and clergy in Poland and Finland over the fact that they have been torn away from their beloved Great Pastor — raised up for them by the great Council — the Patriarch of All Russia, [3] and that now they are deprived of even the possibility of praying to God or of performing the Mysteries according to the order established by Holy Tradition and the most strict canons of the First and Fourth Ecumenical Councils, and which is preserved throughout the entire Orthodox world.

But not only these complaints themselves, but also the direct injunction of the Church compels us to intercede on behalf of our brethren who have been deprived of the possibility of properly holding to the saving path of piety, that is, of ecclesiastical prayer and ecclesiastical governance; namely, we mean the decree of the Ecumenical Council that if there should somewhere be noted the disobedience of a bishop to the rules of the Church, then the neighboring bishops ought to address him with a brotherly word of admonition (the Fourth Ecumenical Council, and others); for in that case, i.e., if the rules of the Ecumenical Councils, as inspired by the Divine and Life-creating Spirit, are trampled underfoot by the supreme bearers of His grace, then the offended party already has no one to whom to complain, and thus the responsibility for the purity of ecclesiastical doctrine and piety is laid upon all the bishops of the world. Of course, the most natural thing of all would be for the Patriarch of All Russia to raise his own voice concerning these matters, but his mouth is stopped [4] by the chains of the godless usurpers of authority in what used to be Russia. All the same, no sooner do they allow him — albeit rarely — to open his lips, than he frankly and openly expresses his condemnation of the arbitrary orders of unauthorized Hierarchs, that is, the very same late Patriarch Gregory and his Synod. We are convinced of this by his [Patriarch Tikhon’s] letter to Metropolitan Dionysius of Warsaw (23 May 1924, No. 244), as well as by the fact that to those condemned by the latter and driven from their cathedras, Archbishops Eleutherius, Vladimir, and Panteleimon, he sent distinguished awards, elevating the last two to the aforesaid rank during their exile, while having awarded the first a diamond Cross on his klobuk “for loyal service to the Orthodox Church.” His letter to Metropolitan Dionysius is appended here [5].

However, everyone is aware that Patriarch Tikhon, interned in the Donskoy Monastery, is only rarely given permission — about once or twice a year — to write his archpastoral decisions and openly send them abroad, namely then when the latter chance to correspond with the international interests of his captors; but, of course, the latter case occurs almost never; the Patriarch cannot even leave his confinement in order to serve Liturgy without the permission of the Bolsheviks–Communists. Therefore, most justly your predecessors on the Ecumenical Throne, Their Holiness Meletius and Gregory, refer to him as a Confessor. And so, owing to the physical impossibility of our Russian Patriarch raising his voice, I, the humble Metropolitan of Kiev — being second after him, as recognized by the great All-Russian Council held in Moscow in 1917–18, and also recognized as such by all the thirty-two Russian hierarchs found abroad — have the difficult, but inevitable duty to remind Your Holiness, in a filial manner, of the lawless actions of your predecessors — Kyr Meletius and Kyr Gregory VII.

Hitherto, from the days of my youth, I have ever raised my voice solely to magnify the Eastern Patriarchs, and in particular the Ecumenical Patriarchs, both orally and in print, concerning which Your Holiness is well aware; just as you likewise know that I, in word and deed, and in print, have always declared myself to be a philhellenist and an admirer of the Megali Idea [6]. However, I am not a papist, and I well remember that besides the great bishops of the Church, such as Paul the Confessor, Gregory the Theologian, John Chrysostom, Proclus, Flavian, Germanus, Tarasius, and Photius, many others were also found there, both internal enemies of the Church, heretics, and even heresiarchs, such as Macedonius, Nestorius, Sergius, Phyrrus, Peter, Paul, as well as many Iconoclasts; concerning these were said those bitter, but truthful words contained in the First Canon of the Sixth Ecumenical Council, and pronounced throughout the whole world, that they are condemned and cut off together with Honorius, the Pope of Rome, and the other heretics. And behold, to this very path of disobedience to the Holy Church and her canons did the last two predecessors of Your Holiness incline.

Standing: Archbishop Anastassy (Gribanovsky), Patriarch Varnava of Serbia, Metropolitan Antony (Khrapovitsky). Behind Patriarch Varnava sits Y.P. Grabbe, and behind Metropolitan Antony, Archimandrite Theodosius Melnik

Thus we know that the establishment of a new metropolitan see, or the apportioning of eparchies into an autonomous metropolitanate, is permitted in no other way than with the consent of their former Metropolitan and his Synod, whereas Patriarchs Meletius and Gregory, without the consent of His Holiness, the Patriarch of All Russia to this, separated the Polish and Finnish eparchies into an autonomous diocese and then took them under the jurisdiction of the Patriarch of the Imperial City [Constantinople], citing in justification the fact of Patriarch Tikhon’s curtailed liberty in the former Russian state, while in reality, seeking to please the heterodox governments of Poland and Finland, of which, the first has been striving ever since the fourteenth century to wrench from the Russian ecclesiastical authority the Little Russian and White Russian territories, and would have done so long ago, had not the ancient Ecumenical Patriarchs, for the sake of the good of the Church, defended the unity of the Russian Church, which unity has constituted and does constitute the chief hindrance to the gradual Catholicizing of the Russian communities in Poland, and to the gradual Lutheranizing of the Russian communities in Finland, which attempts by both these governments have aroused the extreme indignation of the Orthodox population, which is totally helpless in the face of this republican despotism, a despotism more severe than any other. In the Twenty-fourth [Seventeenth] Canon of the Council of Carthage [7] it is clearly stated in what circumstances it is possible to establish new metropolitanates, separating them from their previous Kyriarch [ruling hierarch]. Here is how it reads: “It seemed good that Mauretania Sitiphensis, as it asked, should have a Primate of its own, with the consent of the Primate of Numidia from whom it had been separated by a council. And with the consent of all the primates of the African Provinces and of all the bishops, by reason of its great remoteness.”

Almost the exact same requirements are set forth in Canon 111 [98] of this same Council concerning the establishing of an eparchy. Contrary to these canons and to the very concept of the Church, the Roman Catholic government of Poland, not having asked the Patriarch [Tikhon], removed from his jurisdiction a flock of 7,000,000, and five eparchies, and subordinated them to the Ecumenical Throne, although, out of the six bishops, only two — to whom they arbitrarily joined a third, having hastily consecrated him from among the Archimandrites — consented to such a lawless undertaking; while the non-consenters were deprived of their eparchies, and three of them, after a temporary confinement in a monastery, were deported abroad: to the whims of fate.

But yet more lawless and cruel was the treatment shown by the late Patriarch Gregory VII and his Synod to the eparchy and to the person of the Archbishop of Finland. For it was precisely the Ecumenical Patriarch who consecrated as suffragan bishop for him the Priest Aav (without any sort of tonsure into monasticism, not even rassophore), and not only without his, the Archbishop’s, consent, but even despite his protest; thus the late Patriarch trampled underfoot a basic canon of the Church: the Sixth Canon of the First Ecumenical Council (and many others), which says: “if anyone be made bishop without the consent of the Metropolitan, the great Synod had declared that such a man ought not to be a bishop.” Even within his own diocese the Patriarch cannot create a bishop without the consent of the local Metropolitan, concerning which the Twenty-eighth Canon of the Fourth Council clearly speaks — precisely that very canon upon which, absolutely in vain, the predecessors of Your Holiness seek to base their lawless pretensions. And this lawless “bishop” Aav, having received the hierarchical rank, presumed to don the monastic klobuk, and, thus masquerading, appeared in the Finnish eparchy, one not his own, while her lawful Archpastor, Archbishop Seraphim, respected by all the people, was subjected to the persecutions of the Lutheran government, which besides this had already submitted to the late Patriarch Gregory for his approval a most lawless law by which the secular government of Finland would receive the right to forcibly retire the Archbishop; and thus did she act, under the false pretense that Archbishop Seraphim had not succeed in sufficiently mastering the Finnish language within the allotted time.

Earth and heaven were horror struck, as much at such lawlessness on the part of a despotic heterodox government, as (and even more so) at the lawlessness of an Orthodox Patriarch who granted his consent to the introduction of such an indecency. And thus, this dubious bishop Herman [Aav], in lay attire, clean shaven and close cropped, strolls around the streets of the town, to the scandal of the Orthodox, and to the malevolent joy of the heterodox, while the most-honorable Archbishop, rudely insulted by his very own false fellow-hierarch, drags out his wretched days in exile in the cramped quarters of a monastery on a desert island in stormy Lake Ladoga. The very same such practice did the late Patriarch permit in regards to the Estonian Church, having removed her from submission to the Patriarch of All Russia, and adulterously having subordinated her to his own authority, contrary to the holy canons, which we will not cite again here, and the violation of which was condemned in the letter of Patriarch Tikhon to Metropolitan Dionysius, wherein he declares the subordination of the Polish Orthodox Church to someone else’s throne and its separation from the Patriarchate of All Russia to be openly unlawful.

The history of the Church in general, and the history of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in particular, has scarcely known previously such gross violations by the Patriarchs of the Ecumenical canons and laws, and of common human justice, to the joy of the heretics, who even before had not hesitated to express in official documents the utmost haughty contempt for the Eastern Hierarchy, and who now find it possible to not even take it into consideration. We, of course, are far from suspecting anyone at all from among the four ancient Patriarchates of the East of that which the Roman Catholic hierarchs consider indisputable, as, for example, the notorious Uniate Metropolitan Andre Sheptitsky, who submitted a plan to the Austrian Emperor Franz-Joseph concerning the conversion to the heretical Unia of all of Little Russia, “with the consent”, as he wrote in his report of August 14, 1914 to the Emperor (see the newspaper Kievlyanin, of October 14, 1919), “of the Eastern Patriarchs, who can be bribed with money” — a thing concerning which the Polish politicians are now boasting. No! We are forever saying that the four Patriarchs of the East would rather die of starvation than permit “one jot or one tittle of the law” (Matt. 5:18) of the Orthodox Faith and Church to be altered.

And it is only since the time of the dismal Pan-Orthodox Congress during the reign of Patriarch Meletius (who gave such an arbitrary appellation to this gathering of four to six hierarchs, and several priests and laymen, without the participation of three of the Eastern Patriarchs) — only since the time of the aforementioned un-Orthodox congress has there begun that anti-Church vandalism, which included in its plans much that the Church has prohibited with frightful imprecations, as, for example, married hierarchs, the second marriage of clergy, and the abolition of the fasts. True, that un-Orthodox congress did not dare to officially promulgate all these impious violations of the ecclesiastical regulations, but confined itself to the proposal that the New Style be introduced, and that all the immovable feasts be advanced thirteen days, having left the Paschalion untouched. But even such a foolish and pointless concession to masonry and to papism — which for a long time has been striving to obtain just such a change of the calendar in order to accomplish the final assimilation of the Unia by Latinism (for the chief, everyday distinction between the Uniates and the Latins is the Old Style of the former) — of itself violates the very Apostolic institution of the Fast of SS. Peter and Paul, for with the introduction of the New Style, with them the Feast of SS. Peter and Paul will occur before the Sunday of All Saints, if Holy Pascha falls on April 21 Old Style or later, and then the fast will prove to be abolished altogether.

Patriarch Constantine VI of Constantinople 17 December 1924 – 22 May 1925

However, it is not concerning even this that we now wish to make mention, but rather concerning the fact that the late Patriarch Gregory VII, having yielded to the pressure of the Lutheran government of Finland, consented — despite the curses laid down by the Holy Councils (the First Council, the First Canon of the Council held at Antioch, and the Seventh Canon of the Holy Apostles) — “as an exception” that even the Holy Pascha be celebrated with the heretics, and even with the Jews, whereas all the care of the Holy Church in regulating this feast had been directed towards this very thing alone “that we should not celebrate together with the Jews”. While the Finnish government is now subjecting to moral and physical persecution those monks and laymen loyal to Orthodoxy, who desire to hearken unto God more than to men (Acts 5:19). The Hellenic Greeks [8] demonstrate the very same thing in their petition to the National Assembly, which was signed by hundreds of thousands of believers who implore their elected deputies to defend them from their very own Archpastors.

Who then were the chief perpetrators of this horror? The Ecumenical Patriarch Gregory VII, surrounded by impious advisors. He it is, and alas, certain other hierarchs, that are compelling even the flock of the other Local Churches to adopt the New Style calendar, threatening those insubmissive to this senselessness, but most submissive to Holy Tradition, with interdictions and epitimia. Yet, in doing so, they are not ashamed to assert, contrary to the truth — as do the Russian Living-Church pseudo-hierarchs, who in 1923 constituted a Robbers’ Council (which surrendered eighty hierarch–confessors to prison and exile, and thirty to the death sentence) — that supposedly the Eastern Patriarchs have likewise adopted the New Style. Thus, to lie without shame, thus, to deceive the flock, thus to calumniate one’s senior fellow-hierarchs is something which even the lawless enemies of Saint John Chrysostom or those of His Holiness, the Patriarch of Russia, Nikon (†1681) would scarcely have ventured upon.

The flock in Finland, in Poland, in Romania, in present-day Turkey, and in Hellas has lost its peace, being, as it were, divided into the fallen and the confessors. The latter shall receive an imperishable crown; as for the former, may they come to their senses before it’s too late, together with their foolish archpastors and pastors! Greatly has piety fallen! Only the grace of the Lord can set aright the state of the Church, concerning which we do not cease with tears to implore God, His Most-pure Mother, the Angels, and the Saints. I think that the facts and ideas which I have reported here are not new to Your Holiness, but then, the thoughts are not mine, but those of the Ecumenical Church of Christ. My duty to act thus I have demonstrated from the canons of the Councils, but even if such did not exist, my Christian conscience would have compelled me to do so.

In conclusion, then, I shall cite for Your Holiness the words of the Righteous Isidore of Pelusium to that great hierarch of God, Cyril of Alexandria, who at one time, at the instigation of the devil, had yielded to the temptation of envy towards Saint John Chrysostom, who had been banished and had died in distant exile as a holy confessor for the Faith: Saint Cyril did not even want to enter his name into the diptychs. “You call me father”, thus, approximately, did the Righteous Isidore write to him, “But I am more correct in calling you father, and myself your son.” However, even King Saul’s own son, Jonathan, admonished and denounced his father for the totally undeserved hatred he had for the righteous David. “So likewise, do I”, continues the righteous one, “implore you, Master, to repent of your sin before the Holy John.” True, Cyril still remained unyielding, but then the Most-holy Theotokos herself, whom he has magnified better than all the other ecclesiastical writers and chanters, appeared to him in admonition and inclined him to repentance and peace.

For the present Your Holiness need not repent of any of those things for which the former Patriarchs must — Meletius and the late Gregory, who troubled the Church; but I humbly implore you to use your influence to halt that frightful destruction which they began, namely: 1) to repeal the resolutions of the Pan-Orthodox Congress, 2) to renounce any claims to the territories wrenched away from the Russian Patriarch, 3) to revoke the New Style, 4) to return to Finland the canonical celebration of the day of Pascha, 5) to call upon all of your fellow hierarchs to maintain peace and to preserve the holy canons and traditions. Then the Lord will exalt both your throne and the Hellenic nation as the first-born of the Holy Church, and together with her the entire Orthodox Church unto the ages.

Concerning this I have sought, both in person and in writing, to persuade the proper party, according to the word of Christ; now then I am repeating this before two or three witnesses, for this epistle is being sent likewise to the other Orthodox Patriarchs. God grant that it should not prove necessary to bring this before the judgment seat of the Church, according to the Gospel saying (Matt. 18:15–18).

✠ Metropolitan Antony

No. 2546 4/17 February 1925

Serbia, Sremski Karlovci



[1]. This Sorrowful Epistle was printed in the official church publication of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, Tserkovnye Vedomosti, NN. 11–12, June 1925, pp. 1–4. This epistle was likewise sent to all the heads of the Autocephalous Orthodox Churches. Subsequently, Archbishop Nikon Rklitskii included excerpts from it in his Zhizneopisanie Blazhenneishego Antoniia, Mitropolita Kievskago i Galitskago [Life and Collected Works of Metropolitan Antony Khrapovitsky] (New York: North American and Canadian Diocesan Publishers, 1961), Vol. VI, p. 164.

[2]. Throughout this epistle Metropolitan Antony employs the term diocese to designate an ecclesiastical administrative territory which is larger than a single eparchy. We have retained his usage in the translation.

[3]. Although the translation of this title as “of All Russia” has become the accepted standard usage, a more faithful rendition would be “of All the Russias,” i.e., of Great Russia (Muscovy), Little Russia (Ukraine), and White Russia (Belarus). This title was first assumed by Tsar Alexis Mikhailovich on the Feast of Theophany in 1655, and thereupon bestowed by him on Patriarch Nikon and his successors.

[4]. A paraphrase of Heb. 11: 33.

[5]. The text of Metropolitan Dionysius’ letter, however, was not printed in this issue of Tserkovnye Vedomosti.

[6]. The “Great Idea” was for the Greek people what Manifest Destiny had been for the United States — the conviction of the historical inevitability of the expansion of the recently-established small Kingdom of Greece to embrace the unredeemed portion of the Greek nation: Constantinople, Ionia, Asia Minor, Crete, etc. Hence the official title given to King George and his successors was King of the Hellenes, and not simply King of Greece. See: Michael L. Smith, Ionian Vision: Greece in Asia Minor 1919–1922 (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1973), which devotes an entire chapter to this topic (pp. 1-20).

[7]. There is a discrepancy between the Greek and Latin numbering of the canons of this council

[8]. The Greeks of the country of Hellas (i. e., modern Greece), as opposed to those Greeks dwelling elsewhere within the territories of the former Byzantine Empire. See note 6, above.


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