This year the annual youth retreat of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR) took place on December 23-27, 2018 at the Nativity of the Mother of God Church in Albany NY. This event is hosted by the St. Herman Conference, under the chairmanship of Archbishop Gabriel of Montreal, to coincide every year with the Feast of St. Herman of Alaska on the old calendar.
A teenage attendee reports to Orthodoxy in Dialogue that, during a Q&A with Archbishop Gabriel, the young people raised questions about the Moscow Patriarchate’s decision to break communion with the Ecumenical Patriarchate—a decision explicitly ratified by ROCOR in its statement of October 18, 2018.
According to our young friend, Archbishop Gabriel made the following points in his response:
- A blessing to receive Holy Communion in an Ecumenical Patriarchate parish can always be requested by—and granted to—members of ROCOR.
- A blessing will most assuredly be granted to men in ROCOR who wish to visit and take Holy Communion on Mount Athos.
- A blessing will most assuredly be granted also to members of ROCOR who wish to visit and take Holy Communion at St. Anthony’s Monastery in Arizona as well as at any of the other Ephraimite monasteries in the US and Canada.
This is astonishing on a number of counts:
- Do we have a schism, or don’t we? What kind of schism is it if it can be circumvented at an individual bishop’s whim?
- While parishes of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America (GOA), the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada, the American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese, etc., are only “indirectly” under the omophorion of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, Mount Athos falls under his direct and immediate jurisdiction. If the Russian Orthodox Church (including ROCOR) has broken communion with the entire Ecumenical Patriarchate worldwide, on what basis does it justify the exemption of Mount Athos from its vaunted schism “worse than 1054?”
- The Ephraimite monasteries of North America fall under the jurisdiction of the local GOA bishop and follow the new calendar. (Mount Athos follows the old.) We have seen an email from Archbishop Gabriel, dated February 3, 2014, in which he states that it is “absurd” (his word) for a member of ROCOR to take Holy Communion in a new calendar church—notwithstanding that the two churches are in full communion with each other.
- On what basis does ROCOR pick and choose which Ecumenical Patriarchate monasteries are “acceptable” and which are not?
With all due respect to Archbishop Gabriel, his responses to the young people at the retreat offer no clarity at all, but only more confusion.
Moscow’s “selective schism” is sounding more and more like a publicity stunt.