Hieromonk John [Shahovskoy]

Don’t you think that your truth will diminish the authority of the Church’s bishops?

I think that authority cannot be based on untruth. I think that truth is the basis of the Church’s authority.

I left Metropolitan Anthony’s jurisdiction for many reasons that built up over the years of my being in it, first in my capacity as a catechist at the Crimean Cadet Corps in Belaya Tserkov and later as rector of the Belaya Tserkov Russian community’s parish.

I left when I became fully convinced that it is not God’s Spirit which dwells in the "Directorate of the Russian Orthodox Communities in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia" and in the other closely connected organization, the Bishops’ Synod in Sremsky Karlovtsy headed by him.

It was painful (especially in later moments) to be consciously subject to such an ecclesiastical organization that had but "the form of religion, but denying the power of it" (2Tim. 3:5). The spirit of "this world" was much too evident where it should not have been present at all.

I remained subject to Metropolitan Anthony for four years, but I did not have that support from him that I expected, that I needed to have from him as my Archpastor. I was not of one mind with the one who was to be my pastor and father. I am not speaking about myself personally. The Metropolitan always cordially received me personally in Karlovtsy or in Belgrade. He supported my religious publishing endeavors in writing, but I clearly became aware that he did nothing or nearly nothing, nor did he want to do anything to respond to the crying spiritual needs of his Russian flock in Yugoslavia, which was so near to me due to my perhaps, insignificant but nonetheless active missionary activity on its territory. Having seen this, could I have faith in his concern and care for all Russian people? He can be faithful in many things only if he is faithful in small things.

In my 20 March/2 April response to him [see appendix] I draw attention to only a small part of what exists in reality. This is even much more unfortunate and even extremely unfortunate. I had always hoped that such a lack of concern for the needs of the masses of faithful refugees is only temporary and that it can somehow change, but four years have passed and the situation has become worse.

I take full responsibility for stating that the situation is getting worse. Even during the times of their pastoral inertness, while the members of the Bishops’ Synod remained in the Orders, which the Church has given to them, they maintained a somewhat tenuous spiritual connection with the Mother Church. When they began to elevate themselves to higher offices [see St. Basil’s Canon 17 in the appendix] thus demonstrating something beyond a lack of modesty, they cut themselves off from the spirit of the suffering Russian Church. The highest criterion for distinguishing truth from falsehood is not the superficial letter of the Canons (which can easily be manipulated towards this or that side, which is clearly evident in the diaspora’s Canonical arguments), but the spirit of the Church’s side, as in the immutable words of the Apostle: "...Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to Him." (Rom 8:9).

The Bishops’ Synod made two irreversible errors, which were contrary to Scripture and pandered to needless worldly self-aggrandizement: 1) they each elevated themselves to the rank of Archbishop. 2) They granted their Head a title appropriate for the head of an autocephalous Church, a title for Ecumenical Patriarchs. At the present time, when Christ’s Church is suffering, such self-aggrandizement with clamorous titles and such an artificial elevation of their authority, is a fateful attempt to go not in the way of Christ but in the way of "this world." Believing in the possibility of elevating their authority by such means is truly a lack of faith in Christ’s Spirit, a lack of faith in genuine Orthodoxy.

This titular self-exaltation became the last drop, which tore my spirit from the possibility of being able even externally to follow the way of the Church with the Synod of Bishops.

Persons close to the Metropolitan who placed themselves into management positions, inappropriate for themselves, to govern the Church, acutely felt that my spiritual make-up was totally directed against their spirit, that I was "not one of them" and during these years in every way attempted to accuse me of "Evlogianism" and even of a special mission to destroy the "Synodal spirit" in Yugoslavia. My closest collaborator, Fr. Hieromonk Savva, a man truly devoted to the Lord, who is presently working in Karelia, fell under the same suspicion.

Actually, I wanted to and still want to serve the Church, to serve true Orthodoxy – not by word but with my life. False Orthodoxy is exposed by life and must come to an end. Holy Orthodoxy is radiant in suffering Russia and wherever there is the Spirit of Christ. Orthodoxy must be radiant before the whole world, but we, with our spirit of this world and lack of love – corrupt even our own brethren. Truly "...shutting the kingdom of heaven against men, for you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in." (Mt. 23:13)

Having lost the criterion of the Spirit we cannot discern what is in the Church’s Canons. There is no such person who is not guilty of violating one or another Canon, and if we were to consider the Canons alone, without their spiritual and moral foundation, then we can fall away from the Living God. These are difficult times, a time of temptation and testing of the Church. The Lord brings forth His "little flock" against the millions of militant atheists, a flock armed with obedience to the Spirit of Christ, rejecting the pagan spirit of this world which first of all, manifests itself in the lack of mercy towards man and in proud self-aggrandizement.

The fear and suspicion of the circle of persons around Metropolitan Anthony concerning myself had a significant element of truth. However, they were seriously mistaken in my motivations. They were looking for a secular organization at Belaya Tserkov "with secret aims" (fear does not comprehend reality), and I was attempting to set up an organization with absolutely open aims. I wanted to establish a facility for the distribution of religious literature which would attract people from different cities and countries – as a spiritually militant Orthodox organization which would be capable of carrying on a serious and broad-scale struggle against the League of Militant Godless in Moscow.

We, along with my co-workers, understood that one can not carry out a struggle against Communist militant Godlessness without carrying out a similarly intensive struggle for the revival of the Christian society itself bringing it to the Spirit of Christ. And along the way of this struggle for the Spirit of Christ against the spirit alien to us, not unto life but unto death – we encountered a solid wall of opposition from those who should have been the fathers and leaders in this struggle. It took four years to come to this.

This not only did not take place but I felt that I was some kind of a "thorn in the flesh"... The Russian communities are asking the Metropolitan for permission to have me visit them to conduct a retreat or a lecture and conference, and it is difficult for the Metropolitan to refuse them, but then the Metropolitan is told that I am going "to carry out propaganda against the Synod." Indeed, I am going to carry out propaganda, but not against the Synod but against unbelief, materialism, pagan concepts, infanticide, occultism and the spirit of hate. I am going to proclaim Christ, relying not upon myself the preacher, but upon Him, Who is proclaimed. I am going to preach about Him to the Russian exiles abandoned by their pastors, who are thirsting to hear the Word of God. The fact that they have all been abandoned in Yugoslavia was especially evident to me when I went to Sremsky Karlovtsy to report about my last missionary trip during the 5th and 6th weeks of Great Lent, 1931.

In response to an invitation from the large Russian communities in Oseka and Subotitsa, with the blessing and a letter from Patriarch Varnava, Bishop Irinei of Novy Sad and Metropolitan Anthony, my deacon and I conducted retreats [goveniye] in these communities. Finding three free days, we visited the Russian schools in Kikinda and Bechy, showing slides about the Lord’s parables and the Acts of the Apostles, with commentary. After visiting one more Russian community and before visiting the Panchev hospital where we were planning to show slides, we stopped at Karlovtsy to report to our Archpastor. We were cordially received and fed and the Metropolitan immediately began to speak about some millionaire who was planning to come for confession and Communion, with his American wife, to Belaya Tserkov. We stayed until train time, talking about various people. Not a single word about the flock, about those seeking souls, about the crying need for their spiritual nourishment. I thought: The Metropolitan is not interested in this (as I noticed previously during these four years).

With a heavy heart we left, asking each other: "What is this?" Just before we left the Metropolitan told me: "The Synod resolved to give you a reprimand with respect to these trips of yours... but don’t you worry." The Hierarchs, servants of the Word, silence the preacher who proclaims Christ! Without any reason, without any foundation. I am not at all interested in things material. I accept what is voluntarily offered to me for expenses. I would be anxious to let someone undertake these small trips, but no one wants to. But I have been forbidden to preach about Christ!

One must listen to God more than to people. Can I remain with the Synod under these circumstances and not go against God? This is a problem in the depths of my conscience. Right now, my conscience tells me that I cannot remain. This is why I am leaving Metropolitan Anthony’s jurisdiction, whom I have wanted to serve as my archpastor and father. I feel extreme difficulty in serving God and the Bishops’ Synod, which has made a number of serious errors during these years, for which they will answer before the judgement of the future All-Russian Council, while they continue to act in worldly ways under the guidance of the director of their chancery. The 23rd chapter of Matthew is frightening in the depths of its analogy, its verses 11-14 and 24-28 are full of contemporary bitterness and the frightening eternal truth. It is more important and more beneficial to speak about these things than to raise oneself up before men. I have not found that love for the souls of people redeemed by the Great Sacrifice neither in Metropolitan Anthony nor in the people who surround him. The schism in the diaspora is founded upon a great lack of love. This would not have happened if only there was even a small degree of it. The Canonical motivations and justifications are only a cover-up for the lack of love. This dangerous and self-exposing atmosphere of dark "spiritual" "zeal for the Church" as if an observation of the "Orthodox spirit" is in reality her frightening destruction. Where the zeal for love is lacking there can be no zeal for the Church. In order to imitate the Fathers in their canonical zeal one must have the Fathers’ moral foundation. Of what value is the canonical zeal for example, of a bishop who is guilty of Simony or one who is an alcoholic, or one who teaches not in accord with the dogmas of the Ecumenical Councils. To be "zealous" about the Canons is much easier than to bear upon oneself the image of Christ. Our time is a difficult one, one of a trial and a cleaning of the Church. The believers are beginning to experience a spiritual discernment and let their hearts take them not to the one who is decorated with sumptuous titles but to the one in whom they see an inward spiritual truth.

As an illustration I will show a part of Fr. Savva’s and my correspondence with a certain Hegumen, close to Metropolitan Anthony. The false and distracting "zeal" closes the eyes of even sincere and compassionate pastors to the truth. This Hegumen, familiar with the Belgrade student population and fully aware that nothing is being done to attract these neglected youths to the Church, nonetheless hurls a malicious phrase in the direction of the West European youth, of whose spiritual status he is aware only through second or third hand hearsay information. This characteristic banality with respect to a serious problem is somehow representative of the spirit which isolates the Karlovtsy Synod from the mind of the Church. This Hegumen writes to Fr. Savva at Belaya Tserkov: "...Fr. John accuses us of Old Ritualism. I rejoice in this. Yes, by the mercy of God, I and our brethren, in the best sense of that word, are truly Old Ritualists, for whom the teachings of the Fathers is everything... But such things as reforms, neo-Christianity, American Christianity which has no boundaries between itself and Baptists, Adventists, etc., etc., or the Christianity proclaimed at the YMCA meetings in Paris, we reject as a heresy and pronounce our anathema."

How will the Parisian young people, who gather to study the wisdom and love of our native Orthodox Church, respond? What will they say after reading these words full of ignorance and lacking in love? This is how we answered Fr. Hegumen: "...Not so, Reverend Father, we do not agree with the need to hurry and anathematize those people ‘who are not as Orthodox as we are’. The sectarian leaders for the most part are unshaken in their views. However, the people who were attracted to the sectarians through their weakness or because of their immature spirit or more frequently, because they encountered unsatiated avarice and the callous pride in one of our own brother priests – they should not be anathematized. They should be attracted – by whatever means you have. We would suggest, by pastoral love and compassion. While sectarianism may be a sin (greater than a moral one) this does not mean that the sinners should be drowned in their sin but everything must be done to call them back. We must love the sinner more, as pastors, than one who is righteous, otherwise what kind of shepherds are we if we hurl stones and expose to the wolves all the wounded and ailing sheep. The spirit of true Orthodoxy is not always present in severity and rigorism. I am aware that some of the bias held against me is based on the fact that I do not anathematize "the Christianity preached in the YMCA Parisian circles." Yes, I will say this openly, if it comes to a question about this, I will not say a word to anathematize our Russian youth who are seeking the Lord, without a doubt the finest and the purest segment of the Russian youth in the diaspora who are earnestly striving to reach our holy Orthodox Church in spite of the high barriers of our pastoral indifference. It may not be at times, by the same way you do this in Milkov, but then, it must be directed, it must be explained, it must have serious pastoral guidance, on the same level of your work with your brothers. Then, when all this is done and you find that they are completely foreign to the Church, then you can anathematize and throw those, not submitted to the Lord, out of the Church for the edification of others.

The Sacred Synod waited many years and did not anathematize the meanest enemy of the Church and the heretic Leo Tolstoy, being aware of what a serious thing this excommunication is and that everything must be done to prevent this. Even after the excommunication priests were sent to Tolstoy to seek a possible repentance... And you, who have never been in Paris, only on the basis of second and third hand hearsay, unfamiliar with the young people in the Movement, you with such fervor "denounce its Christianity as a heresy" and anathematize them. Here are young people, youths, young girls, adolescents, all seeking the Lord, even though some of their leaders sin because of their free thinking. If this matter is in any way linked with the canonical sanctions against Metropolitan Evlogy, then does this justify the cutting off of young people from the Church, who are anxious to hear us and be led by us. I cannot agree with this in principle. As one in obedience to Metropolitan Anthony I am obedient to his wishes that I not publish my articles in the Movement’s publications. Should the Metropolitan grant his blessing I would gladly start publishing things about the Church and about its teachings myself.

If we are firm and virtuous in Orthodoxy, what is there to fear, why must we start with anathemas. Yes, let’s be frank: let’s look at the Belgrade students, the miserable Belgrade students, defeated by atheism, semi-bolshevism, depravity and poverty. What are we, pastors, doing for this perishing and, without a doubt, antagonistic towards the Church, youth (if they do come to church it is only for romantic rendezvous). One thing can be said: we do well that we do not excommunicate them notwithstanding their awful spirit. But we do harm if we do not heal them, we are not concerned with them and we leave them to perish. I am not speaking about the two or three students who assist in the Belgrade church but about the whole mass of the Belgrade and the Zagreb students. Although we are indifferent towards the perishing youthful souls within our sight, we exhibit such severe zeal towards that youth whom we do not even know but who are moving towards God. But if we are not able to join them in the partaking of the Sacred Mysteries is it just to frighten them away from the Truth to which we want to bear witness?"

Soon after this Metropolitan Anthony visited the Hegumen’s monastery and I received the following letter from the Metropolitan on 14/27 November 1930.

"The V-a Diocese as yet does not have its own bishop, thus one must wait until one is appointed and then we must think about finding a new priest. To appoint a whole clerical staff in such a hurry without the means for their support especially those with families, is not feasible (this had to do with appointing its own priest to the Russian community in B. There was a candidate who was willing to serve the Russian flock even under meager conditions, believing in the Gospel that the Lord will provide for his family. This wonderful desire did not find any support, although the community was in need of their own priest). I visited M. and reviewed your correspondence with the brethren. I discovered unnecessary caution and needless suspicion, which I frankly discussed with the brethren. On the other hand this suspicion should induce you to be more cautious and restrain you from inviting all kinds of people into the clergy to places where no one has as yet requested them. Clerics and lay people, who do not hold you in great trust, assure me that a Evlogian contingent is being assembled in Belaya Tserkov especially for a struggle against Orthodoxy and using the YMCA version of faith as weapons."

Routine and ineffectiveness – this is the picture of the archpastoral direction of 30,000 refugees in Yugoslavia. There are no workers nor is there any desire to work among the grateful mass of Russian misfortune and the emerging faith deep in its heart. In its place there are solemn, magnificent, lengthy, properly prescribed services in the Russian church in Belgrade which does not even reach the masses of Belgrade refugees, while those in provincial communities are languoring in churchlessness while some may not even be conscious of this since they have not been awakened by Orthodox pastoral concern and love.

The beam in the eye of the Administration of the Russian Orthodox Church Communities in Yugoslavia is its almost total spiritual mismanagement of the masses of refugees in Yugoslavia.

Let there be a survey of all Russian communities in Yugoslavia and let it be accurately determined what was done for the Russian people by their Church authorities in the way of organizing Church life and attracting the souls of the people towards redemptive Orthodoxy. The Church can and must demand this.

My independent research of this problem showed me such a cheerless picture of spiritual neglect of the Russian refugees in Yugoslavia by their Church authorities that I can no longer be silent. One must cry out. I wanted to take another path: to be quiet and to proclaim the Word of God, gradually attracting good pastors who are not seeking their material well-being but are seeking the salvation of people’s souls. I wanted to organize Communities where they could be organized and to coordinate in periodic spiritual nourishment in places where the establishment of their own Church was not feasible. I never operated against my higher Church authority but worked for them, in both senses of that expression. One can find the truth of my words in any part of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, which I visited during these four years.

I know what I can expect from those to whom I am obliged to tell the bitter truth as a son. But my soul would rejoice if the sleepers would awake in their indignation and begin to serve the Lord Jesus Christ and His Holy Church, in their enfeebled brothers.

God’s judgement is near to the soul of each person. It happened in Russia for its own good. It happened to the Holy Russian Church, in its cruel persecution, burning its chaff and cleansing the gold of its spirit.

Some children of the Orthodox Church, prompted by examples of pastoral materialism encountered during their lives, under the influence of Church schisms and divisions and other such examples (which really, have occurred in all ages), could not bear this and moved on to heterodoxy or worse yet, towards indifferentism, towards no concern for churchliness and even towards atheism, justifying themselves by the sins of their pastors. This is the result of the weak faith and lack of judgement on people’s part. If the Mother is ill, does one run from her? Isn’t it better to come closer, much closer to her, to bend over her, to help her? One must express a special kind of love for one’s ailing Mother!

One does not blame the sun in that it nourishes poisonous plants and shuts the eyes of the blind. Nor is the Lord to be blamed for the evils of humanity’s free will. Likewise neither is our Heavenly Mother, the suffering Holy Orthodox Church responsible by a single iota for the false spirituality and hypocrisy of those who call themselves her servants. In the name of the Orthodox Church, all the faithful must struggle for the restoration of the true Spirit of God within the confines of the Church and for the expulsion from those confines of the spirit of "this world," its anger, pride and the curbs on the preaching of the Word.

We are living in difficult times before God. We must oppose the million-strong cadre of the Moscow Union of the Militant Godless, the thousands upon thousands of decadent and corrupted youth, not with the empty gold of miters, not with the illusory grandiosity of high-sounding titles but by confessing Christ’s Good News in our own lives, by a zeal towards the Holy Spirit and with a strong holy organization of Militant Orthodoxy.

This, my firm confession of my faith, drawing strength from the Sacred Scripture and the Holy Tradition of the Fathers, does not permit me to remain under the jurisdiction of that fragment of the Russian Church which – I am convinced – does not bear within itself the Spirit of our Chief Shepherd, our Lord Jesus Christ.




Following the publication of the paper "Struggle for the Church," after returning from the missionary trip prior to Holy Week, I found this letter at Belaya Tserkov:





To The Rector of the Russian Orthodox Community

in Belaya Tserkov

Fr. Hieromonk John

3/16 March 1931

Kingdom of Yugoslavia

Sremsky Karlovtsy

You are repeatedly advertising your book publishing organization in émigré papers and in your own publications as the "Orthodox Missionary Russian Diaspora Annex." In your publications you are promoting editions of the YMCA Press, which was condemned by the Sobor of Bishops and the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, headed by me.

The Orthodox Russian Diaspora Missionary Organization could receive its existence only with the blessing and sanction of the Sobor of Bishops and the Synod. At the same time your use of the term Annex, as you name your organization, presumes the existence of some kind of a center of which the Annex would be an extension and as such, the Annex could be established only by the direction of such a center with the confirmation by the Highest Authority of the Church Abroad.

Furthermore there have never been any acts on the part of the Sobor of Bishops and the Synod about the establishment of a missionary organ and its Annex. Likewise there has never been an act appointing yourself as a director of the above-named missionary organizations.

Upon receipt of this, you are requested to submit a written (not an oral) explanation without delay; with whose permission and on what basis are you calling your private book publishing organization the Orthodox Russian Diaspora Missionary Annex and who authorized you to be in charge of this branch of the Church’s mission.

Henceforth you are instructed to cease identifying your organization in any of your publications as the Orthodox Missionary Russian Diaspora Annex and to call it simply a Church publishing house of the Russian Orthodox Church Community at Belaya Tserkov and that, as its rector, your activities can only be within (and only within) its confines.

As for your trips for lectures beyond the confines of your parish, you must ask for my permission and blessing.

As for advertising of YMCA Press by the clergy within the jurisdiction of the Church Authority, which condemned it, I consider this to be intolerable.

This is made known to you for implementation.

Chairman of the Synod of Bishops

Metropolitan Anthony


I answered this immediately




2 Apr/20 March 1931


Russian Orthodox Church Abroad



Your Beatitude Most Blessed Master,

In response to the instructions received by me today, I am responding with all deliberate speed to your inquiry of 3/16 March, No 231: "With whose permission and on what basis are you calling your private book publishing organization the Orthodox Russian Diaspora Missionary Annex and who authorized you to be in charge of this branch of the Church's mission."

I refer to my place of service as the "Missionary Annex" with permission of Your Beatitude of 22 December 1929. I approached Your Beatitude at that time with this request and I received your permission in a letter of the above date. I can submit a certified copy of the above letter if Your Beatitude directs me to do so.

My missionary, publishing and preaching activities took place openly before all for a period of three and a half years and I have a number of letters from Your Beatitude, sometimes with fatherly testing with respect to ceaseless slanders from someone, but primarily encouraging and even comforting me in my missionary and publishing endeavors.

This service naturally began during the first year of my pastorship with my assignment to a parish. I saw an urgent need to feed my flock with the grace-filled words of the Holy Church. Having had some experience with literary and publishing activity in my previous secular work I, with great spiritual consolation began to apply my modest experience towards my real life in Christ. At first I began to write on moral questions in some of the diaspora publications (for the most part in "Novoye Vremya"). Later I bought a small duplicator and started publishing the "Belotserkov Bulletins" for my own flock, remembering the words of the Savior: "Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master when he comes will find so doing." (Mt. 24:45-46). Extra copies of the bulletins were enthusiastically received and even purchased, by other parishes and places in the diaspora.

At the beginning of 1928, the first pamphlet, extracts from the "Diary" of Fr. John of Kronstadt, was published. The pamphlet’s success allowed its publication to continue. The printer was accommodating by extending credit. Buyers as well as donors were found among the readers. The latter (pious Orthodox people who acutely felt the importance of the printed word’s struggle against evil) permitted a significant expansion of activities and to plan for such important projects as, for example, the expeditious publication of "My First Sacred History," which was soon exhausted after a run of 2000 copies. I viewed the expansion of my activity as if in spite of myself, and saw it as my service to the Word, granted to me by the Lord through you, my diocesan hierarch. Your not infrequent written support for my correct Orthodox line of sermons, your greetings to the "brothers" who worked in the office under monastic, humble conditions, strengthened me and did not allow me to think for a moment that what I was doing was harmful to the Church and displeasing to you.

At first the publications were known as "Publications from the Library of the Orthodox Russian Community in B. Ts." In accordance with the expected expansion of the work, without any attempt to encroach upon the Synodal or consistorial mission, and viewing my publishing work as a sacred service for the benefit of the whole Church, which had your blessing, and desiring to organize a specifically ecclesiastical, Orthodox publishing enterprise, which has such a great need today, I began to call the book publishing project as "Orthodox Missionary" stressing the activity of Orthodoxy in the diaspora at a time when atheistic activity is being promoted among the Russian people, and the Russian society in the diaspora is slipping along the path of irresponsibility, materialism and a bitter, internal animosity.

I did this for the benefit of the task at hand, not to create anything new nor to burden myself with any additional responsibilities. In due time you asked me about this designation and I expressed my thoughts on this point and at that time you did not express any objection. Furthermore, you expressed a positive response to the proposed missionary conference at Belaya Tserkov, which was planned in conjunction with the arrival of V. M. Skvortsov. You approved each one of our publications, which was first submitted to you and when Fr. Vasili Boshanovsky (during your visit to Belaya Tserkov) expressed his thinking about the possibility of combining our publishing enterprise with the functions of the Synod of Bishops, you did not agree with the proposal, expressing your desire that all things remain the same under my responsibility and direction.

Your good wishes towards the Belaya Tserkov’s initiative of the pastoral missionary project were evident when you defended me and my unmercenary co-workers against the unfavorable, suspicious and — alas! — slanderous expressions which surrounded us, with your love and your brotherly support of many the children of Orthodoxy in the diaspora.

My incredulity (which I expressed to you) with respect to the sanctions placed upon Metropolitan Evlogy led to your explanation that it was due to my lack of experience and ecclesiastical immaturity, in such a way that managed to express your archpastoral love. Finally you expressed your official position with respect to my pastoral and missionary service when you awarded me the Nabedrennik "for the valuable work in Church publication." (Document No 828, 6/19 June, 1928)

In all this I saw your fatherly concern in this or in another particular fact (for example your prohibition for me to write in "Put" [The Way], "Vestnik R.S.Kh.D. [The Messenger of the Russian Student Christian Movement], and "Sergievskiye Listki" [St.Sergius Bulletin] were expeditiously carried out) and that you openly recognized my factual missionary service and that you were observed me, as my archpastor, in my missionary activity in the whole diaspora, which was not performed as a private individual but as a pastor of the Holy Church.

You understood that I could not conceal my service with the cover of a private commercial enterprise, but that I openly moved against God’s enemies, struggling with them in the name of the Holy Orthodox Church.

I fully expected that my work would be attacked and attempts would be made to compromise me in the eyes of the faithful. It is easier for the world to believe what is evil rather than what is good and even now, some people very close to the Church are not convinced of the selfless aims in my service to the Holy Trinity. I do not judge them, who are unwittingly misled but, in my desire to remove the barriers for the spreading of the Word of God, I ask Your Beatitude, to allow these doubters to come into the open and openly express all their objections and accusations against my missionary service.

The soul is sorrowful at the sight of the spiritual condition of the refugee masses – if only in Yugoslavia. During these years, I visited and examined almost every main center of Russian life and I cannot but openly testify about their almost complete neglect by the Church. The Belgrade Society for the care of the Spiritual needs of Russians living in Yugoslavia is beneficial for purposes of juridical matters but — alas! — it does not have any effective concern for the spiritual needs of the Russian people living throughout Yugoslavia who are in desperate need of such concern. No less than six large Russian communities could have their own Russian priest and have not waited for more than a year but they don’t know how to initiate this and there is no support for their desires. The people who have undergone penitential exile out of their land have neither confessed nor received the Sacred Mysteries for several years. Seeing the woeful state of their souls and wanting to give them some relief I joyfully responded to invitations to visit various places. Even though I had your blessing for these trips, I nonetheless felt that my desire to serve the Lord Jesus Christ among my unfortunate spiritual neighbors served as a pretext for accusing me of conducting some kind of secular propaganda and anti-Orthodox activities reaching the levels of ridiculous accusations. (For example, a letter of General B. that you forwarded to me: "...what funds pay for his trips," etc.) My attempts to find unmercenary servants for the Church amongst the laity was construed as a desire to recruit some kind of an organization harmful to the Church. Your Beatitude, you wrote to me about this yourself.

I witness what I see: the younger generation is spiritually perishing and there are no serious efforts on our part to reach their souls, crushed and weighed down by materialism. Time is passing. The family is perishing, likewise saturated with the worldview of today’s atheistic society towards marriage, divorce and infanticide. There is no pastoral care or else it is voiceless. The spiritual bolshevism of materialism and the feeling of desolation grip the diaspora. People sense this and are reaching for the Church. In our situation, the only help available to them is in the form of missionary pastoral contacts, one that is unmercenary, seeking only spiritual profit.

On the basis of the above, I implore Your Beatitude not to extinguish my modest missionary pastoral organization, let it keep the same name by which it is known in all places of the Russian diaspora, the doing away of which will be equivalent to its death. I ask for your blessing that until the appointment of a traveling priest for Yugoslavia is made by the Administration, to permit me to carry out this duty and that you provide for the temporary care of the community in Veliky Bechkerk providing periodic pastoral visits. They have a Russian church and there are souls thirsting for the Word of God, but they have no pastor.

I will no longer publish the reviews of the YMCA Press publications in accordance with your wishes, but I did direct the reader’s attention, not on the publisher of "The Pilgrim" and N. Arseniev, but to the books themselves, which are profoundly Orthodox and are in great need today (one of the books is a reprint of the old monastery edition). I wrote the reviews without partiality towards the book and without any desire to be disobedient to the Synod of Bishops. If we are to reprove a non-Orthodox publisher for printing Orthodox books what are we to say to the Orthodox publishers and organizations for their criminal neglect for failure to publish the treasures of their own Church? I ask forgiveness if I in any way violated the prerogatives of my pastoral service.

A week later the following second, and last, letter was sent:


To the Director of the Russian Orthodox Communities in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, Metropolitan Anthony, Sremsky Karlovtsy.

Your Beatitude Most Blessed Master,

Your last address to the diaspora flock, of 2/15 March, printed in the "Tsarskii Vestnik" on 23 March/5 April will again be viewed with profound pain in the hearts of many as finally precluding any possibility for peaceful unity in the Eucharist within the Russian Orthodox diaspora. For me, this amounts to the final blow, forcing me to openly leave the jurisdiction subordinate to you.

Seeing that you, in your Archpastoral activity (serving the Russian people throughout Yugoslavia) are not subordinate to the Spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ and His Holy Church, I cannot, I dare not believe that the suffering of the Russian Church is close to you.

It is with great sorrow that I state that I cannot discern Christ’s Truth in your last address – neither truth nor love. Our lord and High Priest and the Council of the Russian Church will pass their judgement. I feel that it is near for you and I therefore depart from participation in your ecclesiastical activities.

Beneath the grandeur of the ecclesiastic surface of Orthodoxy there lies the death-dealing spirit of Sadducean inertness which is so frightening in our times. I experienced it, I suffered with it over these years, and I will tell the Church about it.

Former Rector of the Belaya Tserkov Russian Parish Community

Hieromonk John

9 April/27 March 1931

Orthodox Missionary Publishing House

Paris, Metochion of St. Sergius


Translated from the Russian

Translation © Copyright 1999 by Alvian N. Smirensky