Beloved children of the Dioceses of of Great Britain, Ireland and Western Europe!
The recent Statement of the Holy Synod on the severance of communion with the Church of Constantinople expresses the voice of the Hierarchy of our Church in a time of spiritual temptation, when insurpportable actions on the part of one of the ancient Patriarchates is creating discord and spiritual peril in the heartland of ancient Holy Rus’. It is the gravest of sorrows that so much of that action is being motivated by transparently political agendas, creating terrible suffering and spiritual trial at the prompting of what are debased, utterly worldly aims. In the midst of this, however, we are witnessing violations of the Holy Canons and abrogations of Church Tradition and order that go fundamentally against the Gospel and the nature of the harmonious life of the Orthodox Church; and for this reason our Holy Synod, together with the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Moscow, has felt is impossible to continue in a state of intercommunion with the Church of Constantinople so long as that body persists in these grave and inappropriate actions. This is because the Church is profoundly aware that, while political and worldly motivations may be behind many of the actions recently undertaken, there are nevertheless spiritual dimensions to every act of rebellion against the teachings of the Church, and to remain in intercommunion with rebellion puts our own souls, and those of our faithful and our beloved, in spiritual peril. It is a time to stand steadfastly for the truth.
The most important ‘practical counsel’ I wish to give is the necessity to pray, with peace and without bitterness, that the Lord will restore peace to the hearts of those currently enflamed by the present situation; and not to fear or become disheartened in the face of present trials. Yes, this is a sad situation, and it will pose for a time painful hindrances to our mutual life with our brethren; but ours is a God Who brings joy out of sorrow, and Who uses our faithfulness in times of difficulty to temper and strengthen our faith and the love we are able to manifest to the world. So do not grow weary, or afraid, or bitter, or downcast! God is with us, as with all His children, and shall be our truly-present help.
The impossibility of intercommunion exists at all levels, clerical and lay, and includes our refraining from participation in pan-Orthodox commissions or activities that are chaired or co-chaired by the Hierarchy of the Church of Constantinople.
The Holy Synod realises that this situation is the most painful precisely for us who live in the Diaspora, where our lives are deeply interconnected with the lives of our beloved brothers and sisters of the other Patriarchates, and where the present impossibility of intercommunion makes such practical measures immediate and deeply sorrowful. I urge all to proceed with a spirit of patience and love; and if and when you have specific questions of a practical nature, relating to this situation, that you feel very welcome to contact me directly for counsel.
May the Lord Himself guide us all, and keep us close to Himself, and lead us through a sorrowful moment into the restoration of unity in peace.
+ BISHOP IRENEI OF RICHMOND AND WESTERN EUROPE