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36. Lev Regelson
Russia's Catacomb Saints
In 1977 there appeared the first published attempt from within Russia of a history and evaluation of the Russian Church since the Revolution of 1917 from a strictly Orthodox point of view (not as a mere apology for the Moscow Patriarchate). Written by a young layman of the Moscow Patriarchate, Lev Regelson, by its very title it views this period as The Tragedy of the Russian Church, 1917-1945 (Paris, YMCA Press)— a period when the basic principles of the Church’s life were sacrificed to the political aims of the Soviet government, causing deep divisions within the Church.
While he attempts to be objective in his evaluation of the church events of this period, Regelson is against Sergianism and in basic agreement with the position of the first Catacomb hierarchs and their fight for the Church’s freedom, although his own position is rather an attempt at a compromise between them. He places great emphasis on the decree of Patriarch Tikhon of November 7/20, 1920, which allowed the temporary independent existence of individual dioceses or groups of dioceses if contact was broken with the central church government. This decree he sees as the foundation of Russian Church life in the revolutionary period, which in some respects has returned to the church life of the catacombs before Constantine the Great; and in fact this decree is the basis up to now of the government of the Catacomb Church in Russia and the free Russian Church Outside of Russia. Regelson sees Metropolitan Sergius’ attempt to preserve a church “center” at any cost (even if it is totally subservient to the atheist regime) as a fatal mistake which has largely produced the “tragedy of the Russian Church” today.
This book has more information about the hierarchs and documents of the Catacomb Church than any book published in the West, with the single exception of Protopresbyter Michael Polsky’s Russia’s New Martyrs; several of these documents have been used in the present volume. The book contains valuable biographical information on 38 of the “non-commemorating” bishops (those who separated from Metropolitan Sergius— (Appendix pp. 559-608), and a major part of it is devoted to a “Chronology” of the church events from 1917 to 1945 (Appendix I, pp. 501-521). Here we present excerpts from this “Chronology” as it refers to the beginnings of the Catacomb Church from 1927 onwards (Regelson’s sources for each item are indicated in the Russian original).
From June to the end of the year
Massive transfers of hierarchs, forced retirement of exiled bishops,... assignment and consecration of former Renovationists and persons ex pressing agreement with the position of Metropolitan Sergius.
Epistle (“Declaration”) of Metropolitan Sergius and the Temporary Patriarchal Synod under him concerning the relationship of the Russian Orthodox Church to the existing civil authority.
“Now our Orthodox Church in the (Soviet) Union has a central administration that is not only canonical, but also fully legal according to the civil laws; and we hope that the legislation will gradually spread also to our lower church administration: dioceses, etc....We wish to be Orthodox and at the same time acknowledge the Soviet Union as our civil homeland, whose joys and successes are our joys and successes, and whose failures are our failures. Every blow directed against the (Soviet) Union...is a blow directed against us.”
Massive return of the “Declaration” by Orthodox parishes to Metro politan Sergius as a sign of protest....In some dioceses (in the Urals) as many as 90% of the parishes sent the “Declaration” back.
Confirmation (legalization) of the church administration created by Metropolitan Sergius.
Exile of the severly ill Metropolitan Peter to a village in the Far North— 120 miles from Obdorsk on the shore of the Bay of Oba.
August 31/Sept. 13
Decree of the Sergian Synod transferring Metropolitan Joseph to the See of Odessa.
Response of the Solovki bishops to the “Declaration”:
a. “The idea of the submission of the Church to civil laws is expressed in such a categorical and unconditional form as can easily be understood in the sense of a complete joining together of Church and State.”
b. “The epistle offers the government ‘the gratitude of all the people for its attention to the spiritual needs of the Orthodox population.’ Such an expression of gratitude on the lips of the head of the Russian Orthodox Church cannot be sincere and therefore does not correspond to the dignity of the Church.”
c. “The epistle of the Patriarchate accepts without any reservations the official version and lays on the Church the whole blame for the grievous clashes between the Church and State.”
d. “The threat of interdiction of the emigrant clergy violates the decrees of the Sobor of 1917-1918 (Aug. 3/16, 1918), which explained the
whole canonical inadmissibility of such punishments and rehabilitated all persons deprived of their clergy rank for political crimes in the past.”
Letter of Metropolitan Joseph to Metropoltan Sergius acknowledging as uncanonical his transfer to the See of Odessa.
Sept. 20/Oct. 3
Report of Bishop Nicholas (Yarashevich) of Peterhof concerning the disturbances in the Leningrad diocese in connection with the transfer of Metropolitan Joseph.
Sept. 29/Oct. 12
Decree of Metropolitan Sergius and the Synod reaffirming the transfer of Metropolitan Joseph to Odessa. Metropolitan Sergius takes the temporary administration of the Leningrad diocese upon himself.
Ukase no. 549 of Metropolitan Sergius concerning the commemoration of the (civil) authorities and the removal of the commemoration of diocesan bishops who are in exile.
Letter of Metropolitan Joseph to Metropolitan Sergius with his refusal
to leave the Leningrad diocese.
Telegram of reply of Metropolitan Joseph to Metropolitan Michael (Ermakov) in connection with his transfer to the See of Odessa: “The transfer, which is anti-canonical, unconscionable, serving an evil intrigue, is rejected by me.”
Oct. 22/Nov. 4
Letter of an Orthodox person to his friend (names unknown) concerning
the latest events in church life:
“To anyone with eyes to see and ears to hear it is clear that, despite the decree of the separation of the Church from the State, the Orthodox Church has entered into an intimate, active union with the State. And with what a State?!—a State headed not by an Orthodox Tsar...but an authority which places as its fundamental aim the annihilation on earth of every religion, and first of all Orthodox Christianity...”
The author develops the idea that the events which are occurring are a prefiguration of the culminating apocalyptic events, on the basis of the prophecies of Bishop Theophan the Recluse concerning the future false Christs “who love the present world.” “Although the name of Christian will be heard everywhere, and everywhere will be seen churches and church rites, all this will be only an appearance, while inwardly there will be
true apostasy. On this soil Antichrist will be brought forth, and he will grow in the same spirit of appearances.”
The author writes of believers who “do not hasten with a final break with the church ‘adulterers’ in the hope that their conscience has not been entirely burned, and that therefore repentance and correction are possible.”
Separation from Metropolitan Sergius and going over to self- government of the Diocese of Votkinsk and, in part, of Vyatka, headed by Bishop Victor. (See his life above on p. 140.)
Appearance of parishes in Leningrad not commemorating the name of Metropolitan Sergius at Divine services.
Nov. 29/Dec. 22
Interview of the Leningrad “Josephites,” headed by Bishop Dimitry
(Lyubirriov) with Metropolitan Sergius. The “Josephjtes” made their
appearance in the name of and at the instruction of eight bishops of the
Leningrad diocese and of the clergy and academic circles of Leningrad.
(See text of the interview above, p. 96.)
Protests against the “Declaration,” the commemoration of the (civil) authorities at the Liturgy, the mentioning of the name of Metropolitan Sergius together with Metropolitan Peter, the prohibition of praying for exiles and prisoners, the creation of an uncanonjcal “Synod,” and the personal composition of the “Synod.”
Appeal to Metropolitan Sergius on behalf of the clergy and laymen of the Diocese of of the name of the Substitute (of the Locum Tenens, Metropolitan Sergius); to remove the prohibition of praying for exiled bishops and the prayer for civil authorities.
Reply of Metropolitan Sergius. to Archpriest-Professor Veryuzhsky:
Refusal to change the course of his “church policy.”
Act of separation from Metropolitan Sergius, signed by Bishop Dimitry of Gdov and Bishop Sergius of Narva “For the sake of peace of conscience we renounce the person and deeds of our former Chief Hierarch, who has uncanonically and without limit exceeded his rights." (See text above, p. 101.)
Letter of Bishop Dimitry of Gdov to the clergy setting forth the grounds for his separation from Metropolitan Sergius (“The epistle (‘Declaration’ of Metropolitan Sergius) is beginning to show a powerful influence on purely ecclesiastical matters.”)
Decree of the Synod concerning Bishop Victor (Ostrovidov): He is given over to judgment by bishops, forbidden to serve, removed from governing.
Second letter of Bishop Victor (Ostrovidov) to Metropolitan Sergius, protesting the new “Sergian policy.” (Text above, p. 141.)
Decree of Metropolitan Sergius and the Sergian Synod with an appeal for unity: “The canons of our Holy Church justify a break with one’s lawful bishop or Patriarch only in one case: when he has already been condemned by a Council or when he begins to preach a known heresy which has also been condemned by a Council.”
Epistle of “a certain bishop” concerning the reasons which allow a break with Metropolitan Sergius: “Departing from Metropolitan Sergius, the Orthodox Church can be governed by one of the elder hierarchs or, as occurred during the imprisonment of Patriarch Tikhon, each diocese can by governed independently by its own bishop.”
Non-participation in Sergian Divine services by the exiled Platon (Rudnev), Bishop of Bogorodsk, vicar of the Moscow diocese.
Dec. 25/Jan. 7
Letter of Metropolitan Joseph to the “non-commemorators” of Lenin grad, approving the actions of his vicars. “In order to condemn and make harmless the latest actions of Metropolitan Sergius, which are opposed to the spirit and good of the Holy Church of Christ, we have no other means, because of outward circumstances, than a decisive departure from him and an ignoring of his decrees.”
Dec. 30/Jan 12
Letter of the former priest of the Moscow church of “Nicholas the Big Cross” on St. Elias Street, Archpriest Valentine Sventitsky, to Metro politan Sergius, saying that he was breaking communion with Metropolitan Sergius, with the blessing of Bishop Dimitry of Gdov, preserving the com memoration of the name of Metropolitan Peter. (See text above, p. 208.)
Letter of Bishop Dimitry of Gdov, temporarily governing the diocese of Leningrad, to the priests (of the diocese). (See text above, p. 102.)
Epistle of Bishop Alexis (Bui) of Kozlov, (temporarily) governing the Diocese of Voronezh, to the Orthodox clergy and laymen of the Voronezh Diocese, concerning his separation from Metropolitan Sergius. (Text above on p. 171.)
Decree of Metropolitan Sergius and the Sergian Synod concerning the dissension-sowing activity and the creation of a schism and disturbances” by Bishop Dimitry (Lyubimov) and Bishop Sergius (Druzhinin). Bishop Sergius is suspended and removed, and the suspension of Bishop Dirnitry is affirmed.
Decree of Metropolitan Sergius and the Sergian Synod about the “schism,” with an appeal to diocesan bishops to offer their ideas in connection with a future Local Council.
Declaration by a group of clergy of the city of Serpukhov, headed by Bishop Alexis (Gotovtsev), of separation from Metropolitan Sergius.
Jan. 14/2 7
Decree of Metropolitan Sergius and the Sergian Synod with regard to the “dissension-sowing activity of Bishop Alexis (Bui)”. He is given over to the judgment of bishops, forbidden to serve, and forcibly retired.
Epistle of Metropolitan Sergius to the flock of Petrograd in connection with the “Josephite schism.”
Jan. 24/Feb. 6
Letter of Archbishop Seraphim of Uglich, former Substitute of the Patriarchal Locum Tenens, to Metropolitan Sergius, with an appeal for him to return to the path of truth. (Text above on p. 158.)
Jan. 24/Feb. 6
Appeal to Metropolitan Sergius from five bishops: Metropolitan Joseph, Archbishop Barlaam (Riashentsev) formerly of Perm, Bishop Eugene (Kobranov) of Rostov, informing of their separation from him and their refusal to acknowledge the right of him and his Synod to direct the Higher Church Administration.
Fundamental reason for their separation: “Considering it our sacred duty to guard the purity of the Holy Orthodox Faith and the freedom given us by Christ in the ordering of the inward religious life of the Church, in order to calm the disturbed conscience of the faithful, having no other way out of the fatal situation which has been created for the Church, we separate. ..“ (See text above in Life of Archbishop Barlaam, p. 273.)
Jan. 26/ Feb. 8
Epistle of Metropolitan Joseph to the Leningrad vicar-bishops and to the pastors and faithful of Leningrad, informing them that he takes upon himself the leadership of the Diocese of Leningrad.
Jan. 28/Feb. 10
Letter of Metropolitan Sergius to Metropolitan Agathangelus with entreaty to preserve unity.
Letter of Metropolitan Joseph to Bishop Dimitry (Lyubimov) stating that 26 bishops had separated from Metropolitan Sergius.
Meeting in the town of Poloi (Krasnoyarsk region) of Metropolitan Cyril, going into exile, with Bishop Damascene (Tsedrick). They discuss church events and express personal friendship. Even before this Bishop Damascene had written about 150 private letters in connection with the “Declaration” of Metropolitan Sergius, sending them with his cell-attendant.
Exile of Archbishop Seraphim and Metropolitan Joseph out of the Yaroslav region to Mogilev and Ustiug respectively.
Feb. 28/ March 12
Epistle to pastors of Bishop Victor (Ostrovidov) in connection with the scandalous activity of Metropolitan Sergius. (Text above on p. 149.)
Feb. 20/March 4
Separation from Metropolitan Sergius, in the Diocese of Vyatka, of Bishop Nektary (Trezvinsky) of Yaransk and Bishop Hilarion (Belsky).
Epistle of Metropolitan Joseph to the Leningrad flock, stating that the bishops of the Church of the Yaroslav region had separated from Metro politan Sergius and that he, taking part in this, recognized thereby that the decrees of Metropolitan Sergius were null and void. (Text above, p. 125.)
Decree of the Sergian Synod suspending eight bishops: Metropolitan Joseph, Metropolitan Seraphim, and others (except for Metropolitan Agathangelus).
March 25/April 7
Letter of Metropolitan Agathangelus to Metropolitan Sergius concerning the latter’s accusation of schism and request to re-examine his decision to separate. The accusations of schism are rejected, because “we do not separate from you out of a difference in faith, sacraments, and prayer, but only in the order of administrative government.” Disagreement expressed over the attempt of Metropolitan Joseph to unite around himself all the opposition.
March 29/April 11
Decree No. 76 of Metropolitan Sergius and the Sergian Synod concerning “the disorders in the Diocese of Leningrad, Yaroslav, Vyatka, and Voronezh.” The following bishops are given over to a judgment of bishops, are forbidden to serve, and forcibly retired: Metropolitan Joseph, Bishop Hierotheus (Afonik), Bishop Eugene (Kobranov), Archbishop Seraphim (Samoilovich), Archbishop Barlaam (Riashentsev). Last warning to Metropolitan Agathangelus, with threat of suspension.
Arrest and exile of Bishop Victor (Ostrovidov).
April 27/May 10?
Letter of Metropolitan Agathangelus, Bishop Eugene (Kobranov) of Rostov, and Archbishop Barlaam (Riashentsev), stating that they were not breaking off communion in prayer with Metropolitan Sergius, in prin ciple did not deny his authority as Substitute of the Locum Tenens, were not causing a schism, but could not and cannot fulfill decrees that would disturb the religious conscience and, according to the conviction of the writers, violate the canons; they were not receiving into communion bishops, clergy, and laymen of other dioceses and were sending them to Metropolitan Sergius.
The lack of fulfillment of decrees was expressed first of all in the fact that Archbishop Barlaam and Bishop Eugene continued to occupy their sees, despite their removal by Metropolitan Sergius.
Open letter of Bishop Paul (Kratirov) of Yalta: “Concerning the modernized church, or Sergianist Orthodoxy.”
Epistle of Archbishop Seraphim (Samoilovich) from the Buinich Holy Spirit Monastery in the diocese of Mogilev, accusing Metropolitan Sergius of the serious sin of “drawing our fainthearted and weak brethren into neo-renovationism.”
Letter of Archbishop Hilarion (Troitsky) from Solovki to private persons, condemning the actions of those who had separated from Metropolitan Sergius.
July 24/Aug. 6?
Letter of Metropolitan Joseph to Bishop Dimitry (Lyubimov) re garding the “reunion” of the Yaroslav group with Metropolitan Sergius. (The fundamental point in the position of the Yaroslav group—freedom to fulfill or not to fulfill the decrees of Metropolitan Sergius—remained unknown to Metropolitan Joseph and his partisans). Sharp expressions used against the Yaroslav bishops: “dissenters,” “betrayers.”
Death of Metropolitan Agathangelus.
Nor. 28/Dec. 11
Prolonged discussion of Bishop Damascene (Tsedrick), returned from exile, with Metropolitan Sergius. Bishop Damascene wrote of this meeting: “If from afar I still supposed the possibility of facts which might justify his conduct, now these suppositions have been destroyed.” “In numerable and infinitely burdensome are the inward consequences of the Declaration—this selling of the primogeniture of the Truth for the lentil soup of lying and unrealizable goods.”
Letter of the “spiritual elder,” Father Vsevolod, concerning the dis orders in the Church evoked by the Josephite opposition:
“Among us has occurred a division into two parts. One group stands for Metropolitan Sergius and his Synod, the other against. Both are wrong. Metropolitan Sergius and his Synod have issued an appeal in which they mix together church matters with politics and perform transfers of bishops against their will...
“Those who have come out with accusations against Metropolitan Sergius are correct; but their profound, totally unjustifiable mistake lies in the fact that they have broken off communion with him and even declare him a heretic and all those who are in communion with him to be without grace. . . .Therefore, the mutual interdictions of one and the other side have no power. . . .And you can freely go to churches of one or the other side, entreating the Lord to give canonical correctness in the relations be tween the Orthodox and to bring peace to His Church. One must not go only to evident schismatics: the renovationists, Gregorians, and Ukrainians. Fear these latter: they are without grace.”
Arrest of fifteen bishops who had separated from Metropolitan Sergius:
1. Metropolitan Joseph of Leningrad—exj to Ustiug in Novgorod
2. Archbishop Seraphim of Uglich—to Solovki.
3. Archbishop Barlaam (Riashentsev), formerly of Perm—to a Yaroslav prison.
4. Bishop Dimitry of Gdov—to a Leningrad prison.
5. Bishop Alexis (Bui) of Urazov—to Solovki.
6. Bishop Victor (Ostrovidov) of Vyatka—to Solovki.
7. Bishop Maxim (Zhizhilenko) of Serpukhov—to Solovki.
8. Bishop Athanasius (Molchanovsky) of Skvirsk-to Solovki.
9: Bishop Nektary (Trezvinsky) of Yaransk to Kazan.
10. Bishop Hilarion (Belsky)-to Solovkj.
11. Bishop Paul (Kratirov) of Yalta—exiled to Kharkoy.
12. Bishop Basil (Doktorov) of Kargopoj—exiled location unknown.
13. Bishop Sergius (Nikolsky)—exiled location unknown.
14. Bishop Joseph (?), formerly of Birsk-exiled location unknown.
15. Bishop Damascene (Tsedrick)-to a prison in Moscow.
The arrest of the bishops occurred in the following manner: The GPU agent came to the bishop and asked the following question: “What is your relation to the Declaration of Metropolitan Sergius?” If the bishop replied that he did not recognize it, the agent concluded: “That means you are a counter-revolutionary.” And the bishop was arrested.
First Epistle of Metropolitan Cyril of Kazan, addressed to the vicar of the Kazan diocese, Bishop Athanasius (Malinin), sent from Krasno yarsk for the purpose of informing Metropolitan Sergius. Some funda mental points in it: “No Substitute in his rights can equal the one he re places. . . . A basic change of the very system of church administration, which Metropolitan Sergius has ‘ventured on, exceeds the competence even of the Locum Tenens of the Patriarchal Throne. . . .Until Metropolitan Sergius abolishes the Synod he has established, I cannot acknowledge as obligatory for fulfillment a single one of his administrative-church decrees.”
Invitation of Metropolitan Seraphim (Chichagov) of Leningrad to Bishop Damascene (Tsedrick) to become his helper. Bishop Damascene refuses the offer.
Bishop Damascene organizes the sending of a courier to Metropolitan Peter in the village of Ho. The courier finds Metropolitan Peter com pletely sick and uninformed of church events. “Metropolitan Peter speaks of the situation and further conclusions from it in almost my own words,” wrote Bishop Damascene. However, Metropolitan Peter gave no written reply to the courier (see his letter below, Feb. 13/26, 1930).
July 24/Aug. 6
Decree of Metropolitan Sergius and the Sergian Synod concerning their attitude to the sacraments performed by “schismatic” clergy. The separated Bishps (Metropolitan Joseph, Bishop Dimitry Lyubimov, BIshop Alexis Bui) are compared, being forbidden to serve, with renovationists.
Sacraments performed by them, apart from Baptism, are acknowledged as without efficacy.
First letter of Metropolitan Sergius to Metropolitan Cyril (defending his own actions): “You have broken off eucharistic communion with us and at the same time do not consider either that you have caused a schism, or that we stand outside the Church. Such a theory is entirely unacceptable for church thinking—it is an attempt to keep ice on a hot grill.” Appeal (to Metropolitan Cyril) to re-examine his position; threat of canonical sanctions.
Oct. 28-30/Nov. 10-12
Second letter (“Response”) of Metropolitan Cyril to Metropolitan Sergius (see text above, p. 248, Epistle no. 3).
Arrest of Bishop Damascene (Tsedrick), who had been living in Starodub, at the accusation of the priest-overseer of Starodub, a zealous partisan of the “Declaration” of Metropolitan Sergius. Bishop Damascene is sent to Solovki. Before his arrest he wrote: “I am coming to the opinion that even a decisive word of Metropolitan Peter will not change the situation essentially.’ At this period of his life in Starodub he accustomed his friends and followers to the idea that Christianity in Russia would be forced to go underground. All possibility for influencing the broad strata of society had been lost.
Dec. 20/Jan. 2
Second letter of Metropolitan Sergius to Metropolitan Cyril, ending with a deadline (Feb. 2/15, 1930) for Metropolitan Cyril to express canonical obedience and refuse communion with the “schismatics”; from this date will take effect the giving over of Metropolitan Cyril to the judgment of a Council of Bishops and his removal from the governance of the Kazan diocese.
Interview of foreign correspondents with Metropolitan Sergius; facts given on the situation of the Patriarchal Church: About 30,000 parishes, many more priests (one to three for a parish), 163 bishops “in canonical submission to the Patriarchate”. . . (Such “facts,” of course, were totally imaginary, invented to mask the persecution of the Church, which by this time had closed thousands of churches and decimated the clergy.)
Arrest of Bishop Alexis (Bui) of Kozlov.
Beginning of 1930
Departure of Bishop Amphilochius (Skvorteov) of Enisei and Krasnoyarsk, under the influence of conversations with Metropolitan Cyril, into the Siberian forests, where he founded a skete.
Beginning of 1930
Separation from Metropolitan Sergius of Bishop Sinesius (Zarubin) of Izhevsk.
Arrest of Bishop Sergius (Druzhinin) of Narva, who had headed the Josephite opposition.
Letter of Metropolitan Peter from the village of Ho to Metropolitan Sergius; the letter states that it is in addition to a letter sent earlier (which evidently did not reach the addressee):
“I have constantly thought that you should be a refuge for all truly-believing people. I acknowledge that of all the distressing news that I have had to receive, the most distressing were the reports that many believers remain outside the walls of the churches in which your name is commemorated. I am filled with pain of soul over the disputes that are arising around your governance, as well as over other sad events. Perhaps these reports are prejudiced; perhaps I am not sufficiently acquainted with the character and the aspirations of those who write me. But reports of spiritual disturbances come from various places, and primarily from clergy and laymen who are putting strong pressure on me.
“In my opinion, in view of the extraordinary conditions of the Church’s life, when the normal rules of administration are subjected to every kind of fluctuation, it is essential to place church life on the path on which it stood during your first period as Substitute. And so, be so good as to return to that course of yours, which was respected by everyone. Of course, I am far from the idea that you will decide to renounce altogether the fulfillment of the obedience that has been laid upon you—this would not serve for the good of the Church. I repeat that I am greatly grieved that you did not write me and inform me of your intentions. If letters come to me from others, undoubtedly yours also would get through. I write you frankly, as to the Archpastor closest to me, to whom I am obliged for much in the past, and from whose hierarchal hands I received the tonsure and the grace of priesthood.”
May 24/June 4,
Prohibition to serve laid upon Bishop Senesius (Zarubin) of Izhevsk for cutting off canonical communion with Metropolitan Sergius.
Meetings in exile of Archpriest M. Poisky with the “non-commemorating” Archbishop Seraphim (Zvezdinsky) and other “non-commemorators.” “Archbishop Seraphim celebrated services at night in a remote village, and faithful people came to him even from far-away places.. . .I myself, after abandoning my exile, travelled about Russia illegally and had offers from friends to become a glass-maker or stove-maker and with such a profession to visit the houses of the faithful” (i.e., in order to serve secretly as a priest).
Closing of the church of the Holy Martyrs Cyrus arid John in Moscow; a parish of “non-commemorators,” its priest was Fr. Seraphim Bityugov.
Beginning of April
Closing, on the eve of the Annunciation, of the church of St. Nicholas on Maroseik St.: a parish of “non-commemorators;” its priest was Fr. Sergei Mechev.
Appearance of the first issue of the “Journal of the Moscow Patriarchate.” (It contained justifications for Metropolitan Sergius’ position.)
(The year 1932 saw decrees of Metropolitan Sergius’ Synod, announced in the “Journal of the Moscow Patriarchate,” exalting his dignity as first hierarch of the Russian Church, and raising other members• of the Synod to the rank of Metropolitan.)
Letter of Metropolitan Cyril of Kazan to Metropolitan Sergius, continuing his protest against the latter’s course of action (“Having reached the age.. .“ See text, p. 250).
Return to Vladimir from exile of Bishop Athanasius (Sakharov); he remains in freedom until April 18, 1936.
Letter of Bishop Athanasius to Bishop Innocent of Vladimir, accusing Metropolitan Sergius of assuming the rights of Chief Hierarch and announcing his own separation from Metropolitan Sergius in accordance with the Patriarchal Ukase of Nov. 7/20, 1920.
Closing of the last church in Moscow of “non-commemorators”: the church of the Serbian Metochion on Solyanka St.
Development of illegal activity by clergy. Testimony of an atheist brochure: “The movable priest has now become a quite ordinary figure in many districts. The enterprising priest puts in a little bundle all the essential cult property and—from village to village, from bazaar to bazaar— travelling on horseback, he performs religious services on demand, not allowing believers to forget about God. Believing laborers, if they believe in God and desire to perform Divine services, have officially registered churches for this purpose. But religious organizations are going under ground. ..in recent years in a whole series of locations, for example in Western Siberia, in the Central Black Sea area, in the Urals, the northern Caucasus, etc. A prayer house is organized somewhere in a private dwelling, underground, where entrance is accessible only to a limited number of persons and there is no control on the part of the authorities.”
Letter of Metropolitan Cyril in reply to the opinion of someone regarding the necessity of declaring himself Locum Tenens until the release of Metropolitan Peter (see p. 258, Epistle no. 4).
• March-July 16
Metropolitan Cyril remains free in the city of Gzhatsk, actively engaged in organizing “non those who do not recognize Metropolitan Sergius as chief Hierarch and govern themselves according to Patriarch Tikhon’s Ukase of November 7/20, 1920.
• Bishop Damascene (Tsedrick) is freed from Solovki and is active in organizing “non-commemorators."
• April 14/27
Metropoli Sergius is given, by the Sergian Synod and the bishops joined to it (21 bishops in all) the title: “Most Blessed Metropolitan of Moscow and Kolomensk,” with the right of wearing two panagias.
Clergy continue to celebrate secret Divine services. A letter from a priest of the Kazan diocese states: “I finished my exile and, returning to my native place, did not receive a parish. The only thing left for me was to wander from village to village where there were no churches, and for a piece of bread or a night’s lodging perform Divine services. Many priests like myself, with bundles on their shoulders, go from village to village, offering to perform the Divine services. Many people chase us away, mock us, but many receive us, feed us, give us shelter, ask us to serve. We serve everything, including Liturgy. For performing the services we carry in our bundles an antimension, a container with the Holy Gifts, incense, censer, church wine, and the simplest vestments. And so we carry a whole altar on our shoulders. Most frequently of all people ask us to serve panikhidas.
Closing of the last church in Leningrad of “non-commemorators”— the church of the Tikhvin Mother of God on Lesnoi St. Before this the church of the Resurrection on the Blood, the cathedral of St. Nicholas, the cathe dral of St. Vladimir, and others had been closed.
“Decree of the transfer of the rights and obligations of the Locum Tenens of the Patriarchal Throne of the Orthodox Russian Church to the Substitute of the Patriarchal Locum Tenens, the Most Blessed Metropolitan Sergius. . .in connection with the death in exile of Metropolitan Peter of Krutitsa, which occurred on Aug. 29/Sept. 11, 1936.”
(But note this quote from an article of Metropolitan Sergius in 1931: “Once the Locum Tenens leaves his post (from death, resignation, etc.), in that very moment the authority of his Substitute ceases.”)
1937 and later
• Secret activity of “non-commemorators” continues. Witnesses who later escaped abroad were able to find in 1938 in Moscow the Catacomb Church of the “Josephites.” At a certain N.N’s apartment, 30 or 40 people gathered. A priest served. To gain entrance, one had to knock at a water- pipe with a certain signal. The people of this secret church had contact with higher spiritual leaders, elders, whose dwelling place was carefully concealed. They lived somewhere in the country and constantly changed places. . . .In the remote regions of Soviet Russia lived pious people who had renounced the Sergianist churches. The Holy Gifts were sent to them from various centers in parcels, for example, in boxes of candy.”
• Continuation of the secret activity of the “non-commemorators.” Non- commemorating priests perform services for believers who had not separated from Metropolitan Sergius, but remained without churches and clergy.
• The magazine Atheist, on April 21, 1939, in an article called “A Church in a Suitcase,” said: Travelling priests who have been banished from parishes by the NKVD “have all necessary appurtenances for the performance of rites in a suitcase. If they have to help people in the kitchen, they do it; they buy groceries for the sick.”