His Eminence Philaret’s letter attached below was inspired by the story of Dimitry Dudko, a priest of the Moscow Patriarchate, or, more precisely, by the sentiment within the Russian Church Abroad that gave an aura of idolatry to those rare clergymen of the Soviet Orthodox Church who were courageous enough to stand up against the anti-religious authorities. In the 1970, Reverend Dimitry was perhaps the best-known of such clergymen. Even Reverend Seraphim Ruz has left a few relatively enthusiastic comments on Reverend Dimitry behind him. Reverend Dimitry was always in the midst of young people (one of the gravest forms of misdemeanor for a priest in the Soviet Union), and he had books published in the West. All of a sudden, following his brief arrest in 1980, Reverend Dimitry came up with a TV repentance – a televised interview during which he confessed that he had been involved in anti-Soviet politics under the guise of religious activity, begged the Soviet authorities’ forgiveness, and promised to behave from then on. He was released shortly after his confession. This is the point in the life of Reverend Dudko to which Metropolitan Philaret’s letter refers. We will not reproduce His Eminence’s words here; it is our intent to dwell on certain later events which, to an extent, the letter anticipated.

When out of prison, Reverend Dimitry was once again assigned a parish near Moscow, and most of his former parishioners returned to him. Many of his parishioners pardoned Reverend Dimitry for his degradation. Many of them knew about KGB’s then-raging campaign against dissident religious leaders: they were arrested and subjected to hard pressure in order to coerce them into such a TV confession (the term itself was coined in the early 1980s). Needless to say, there was no audience for a formal public confession. However, Rev. Dudko did not leave the Patriarchate at that point, nor at any time thereafter. He is still a respectable priest trying hard to hold his parishioners back from all manner of extremes of immoderate dogmatism. Dogmatism – in fact, the word is purity of Orthodox teachings – was far from being the principal message of Rev. Dudko’s preaching even in the 1970s.

Did His Eminence Philaret’s warning to ROCA clergy work? It is hard to give a definitive answer. Paradoxical as it may seem, some very important and highly classified transactions between ROCA hierarchs and Russian Catacomb communities went through Rev. Dudko in 1982, two years after his TV repentance. His Eminence Philaret was still alive at that time.

June 26/July 9, 1980

Dear Father Victor [Patapov]

For a long time now I have been intending to write a few words to you, but somehow I haven’t managed to get around to it. But at last I have collected myself, and so I write.

When I, while still in Australia, began to receive information from America already post factum that here [in New York City] there had been protests, demonstrations, and even molebens in front of the Soviet consulate, I became quite alarmed and regretted that I was not here, since I would have decisively opposed much of what took place. In particular, holding a moleben in such a place. Did they not sing the Lord’s song in a strange land? What cause was there to display the holy things of the Church’s services before the gaze of the frenzied servants of Antichrist? Was it really not possible to pray in church?

I must say frankly that I am always seized by dismay when I hear of protests, demonstrations, and the like. In the USSR, life is governed by him (the one with horns) who fears only Christ and His Cross; and who fears nothing else in the world. And he merely chortles over protests and demonstrations. Public opinion? Why, the antichrist regime has nothing but the uttermost contempt for it! They wanted to seize Czechoslovakia and they seized it, paying no heed to the commotion that was raised. They wanted to invade Afghanistan and they invaded it, again paying no attention to the protests and threats of the various Carters @ Co. All attempts to shape public opinion in the so-called Free World in favor of those suffering from Communism are powerless and fruitless, since the Free World stubbornly closes its eyes and imitates the ostrich, which hides its head under its wing and imagines that it cannot be seen…

In bewilderment did I read in the newspaper how one journalist approvingly cites your words: Father __ is correct when he writes: Russia is arising from the dead! We must believe in this; for we believe in Christ the Saviour Who arose the dead.

I cannot understand what is the connection between the one and the other? Personally, I believe in the Resurrection of Christ for me this is the most precious thing in the world. But I absolutely cannot see why must I believe that Russia is resurrecting? I hope that she truly will rise, then all-powerful nod for it will be given by God. But at present, not only do I not share your enthusiasm, but I am greatly alarmed for the Russian people. The falsehood and emptiness of atheism is obvious to them. But alas, it is not true Orthodoxy that is being disseminated there. There, under the guise of Orthodoxy, the Russian people are being offered Bulgakovism, Berdyaevism, and similar rubbish of the Evlogian schism. The sects are flourishing there: the Baptists etc. The official Church preaches cooperation with the God-hating regime, lauding it in every possible way. The true Orthodox Church has gone to the catacombs, hidden from the common masses … Is that, then, the rebirth of Orthodoxy?.. And are you not perhaps taking a bit too much upon yourself, proclaiming to the whole world that Orthodoxy is being reborn in Russia? God grant that the Truth should overcome all errors and should triumph over them. But for the present it is too soon to speak of it, since the influence of the anti-Orthodox elements is still so very strong there; not to mention the fact that the antichrist Soviet regime, as long as it rules Russia, will never permit the triumph of Orthodoxy. It is not without cause that the true Orthodox Church concealed herself in the catacombs and is fiercely persecuted.

Now a few words on the tragedy of poor Father Dimitry Dudko.

From the very beginning of his activities, when his name was being mentioned more and more often as a pillar of Orthodoxy, and moreover, the members of the Synod, the hierarchs, were joining their voices to this; I, however, the author of these lines, immediately kept out of it and forewarned my fellow hierarchs that a disaster might happen here. How so? Because in the USSR, according to the premise of Archimandrite Constantine, there is now a satan-ocracy. There rules he whom the Saviour called a liar and the father of lies. This lie reigns there. Therefore one cannot trust anything that occurs there. Any seemingly spiritually encouraging fact may turn out to be a falsification, a forgery, a deception, or a provocation…

Why did this calamity befall Father Dimitry Dudko? Let’s assume the best, not suspecting him of conscious collaboration with the KGB and betrayal of his convictions, but simply noting the sad fact that he did not endure, but was broken; he capitulated before the enemies of the Church. Why? It would seem that he did display courage and daring; and then suddenly, such an inglorious end. Why?!

Because his activity took place outside of the true Church…

What then is the Soviet church? Archimandrite Constantine has often and insistently stated that the most horrible thing that the God-hating regime has done in Russia is the creation of the Soviet Church, which the Bolsheviks presented to the people as the true Church, having driven the genuine Orthodox Church into the catacombs or into the concentration camps.

This pseudo-church has been twice anathematized. His Holiness Patriarch Tikhon and the All-Russian Church Sobor anathematized the Communists and all their collaborators. This dread anathema has not been lifted till this day and remains in force, since it can be lifted only by a similar All-Russian Church Sobor, as the canonical supreme ecclesiastical authority. And a terrifying thing happened in 1927, when the head of the Church, Metropolitan Sergius, by his infamous and apostate Declaration, subjected the Russian Church to the Bolsheviks and proclaimed collaboration with them. And thus in a most exact sense was fulfilled the expression in the prayer at the beginning of Confession: having fallen under their own anathema! For in 1918 the Church anathematized all the confederates of Communism, while in 1927 she herself joined the camp of these collaborators and began to laud the red, God-having regime to laud the red beast spoken of in the Apocalypse.

As if that is not enough. When Metropolitan Sergius promulgated his criminal Declaration, then the faithful children of the Church immediately separated themselves from the Soviet church, and thus the Catacomb Church was formed. And she, in her turn, has anathematized the official church for its betrayal of Christ.

And it was within this very church of evil-doers that the activities of Father Dimitry Dudko occurred, who has frankly declared in the press that he is not going to break with the Soviet church but will remain in her. Has his spiritual eyes been open, and had he seen the true nature of the official church, he might have found within himself the courage to say: I have hated the congregation of evil-doers, and with the ungodly will I not sit I am breaking off with the company of the enemies of God, and I am withdrawing from the Soviet church. Why, then for us he would have become one of our own his courage would have destroyed the barrier which irrevocably stands between us by virtue of the fact that the Sobor adopted as its guiding principle the Testament of Metropolitan Anastasy. For in this Testament it is ordered that we must not have any communion whatsoever with the Soviets, not only no communion in prayer, but not even ordinary contact in daily life. But as long as Father Dimitry would have refused to remain in the Soviet pseudo-church, and would have withdrawn from membership in her the barrier would no longer have applied to him.

I recall a marvellous case of the direct and miraculous aid of God to those who remained faithful to the end. They banished a group of nuns belonging to the Catacomb Church to Solovki. The Chekists told them: Get settled now, and tomorrow you will go to some sort of work. But they received an unexpected answer: We will not go and work.

What, have you gone out of your minds? Do you know what we will do with you? screamed the Chekists. There followed the calm reply of people who in their faithfulness feared nothing: What shall be, shall be but what is pleasing unto God shall be, and not what suits you executioners and criminals. You may do with us what you please: starve us, torture us, hang, shoot, or burn us with fire. But we give you notice once and for all: we do not recognize you, you servants of Antichrist, as the lawful authority, and we will not fulfill your orders in any way!..

In the morning the infuriated Chekists drove the nuns up onto the hill of death. Thus was called a high hill where in winter an icy wind always blew. In that wind a man would freeze to death within a quarter of an hour. The nuns, clad in their shabby rassas, are led up the hill by Red Army men in their sheepskin coats. The nuns go happily, joyously along, chanting psalms and prayers. The soldiers left them at the top of the hill and then descended. They hear how they continue their chanting. Half hour, an hour, two, yet more all the while the sound of chanting carries from above. Night fell. The guards approach the nuns they are alive, unharmed, and continue chanting their prayers. The amazed soldiers led them home to the camp. News of this spread immediately throughout the entire camp. And when on the following day the guards were changed and yet the same thing happened, the camp authorities were bewildered and they left the nuns in peace…

Is this not a victory? Behold what it means to be faithful unto death as the marvellous words of Apocalypse say: Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life. In this instance it’s an obvious miracle, as it was with the three youths in the Babylonian furnace, only there the death-bearing element was fire, but here a death-dealing and killing cold. Behold how God rewards faithfulness!

And hear my heartfelt conviction: if the entire mass of the many millions of Russians would evidence a like faithfulness as did those nuns, and would refuse to obey the bandits who have been oppressing the Russian nation, then Communism would collapse in a second. For the succor of God, which had saved in a miraculous manner the nuns while on their way to certain death, would come likewise to the Russian people. But as long as the nation recognizes the regime and obeys it, even if all the while cursing it in their hearts, that regime will remain in place.

Of course, the nuns were strengthened by the power of God, just as the ancient martyrs; without this aid they would not have endured. But their podvig [martyric exploit] was accomplished within the true Church, filled with grace and Truth. For the true Church, according to the apostolic teaching, is the Body of Christ the Lord abides in her and leads her as her Divine Head.

Will anyone dare to assert that the Lord and His grace abide in the Church of the evil-doers, which lauds His demonized enemies and collaborates with them, which because of this is found under a twofold anathema, as indicated above? Can a church which has united with the God-haters possess grace?! The answer is obvious!

The hierarch Theophan the Recluse in his own day warned that a terrible time was approaching when people would behold before their eyes all the appearance of church grandeur solemn services, church order, and such while on the inside there would be total betrayal of the Spirit of Christ. Is this not what we see in the Soviet church? Patriarchs, Metropolitans, all the priestly and monastic orders and at the very same time, an alliance with the God-haters, that is, a manifest betrayal of Christ.

To this company belongs also Father Dimitry Dudko. Of course, his sincere religious feelings compelled him to preach concerning God and not to condone many of the disgraceful happenings in the lives of Russian people. But for him, Pimen was, and likely still is, his spiritual head, the head of the Soviet hierarchy; while for us, it is not at all so. For our Sobor in 1971 passed a resolution: on the basis of such and such canons to consider the election of Pimen as unlawful and invalid, and to consider all his acts and decrees as having no force or significance.

How difficult is Father Dimitry Dudko’s position now! What is he to do? Continue his pastoral work? And what can he say to the faithful? Say the same thing that he said before his repentance? But then, he has already renounced this! Say the opposite? Why, they believed him before when he preached that which won for him the trust and respect of the faithful and now, how will he look them in the face? One girl correctly said that there is one way out for him: make a genuine repentance in atonement for the one he just now made. But in order to do that he must depart from the church of the evil-doers for the true Church, and there make his repentance. However, in return, the red church will undoubtedly deal with him with particular malice and cruelty. Of course, by crossing over to the true Church, he will pass over into the realm of Divine grace and strength, which can fortify him just as it fortified those catacomb nuns. God grant that he find the true and saving path.

I should also like to note the following. The Catacomb Church in Russia relates to the Church Abroad with love and total confidence. However, one thing is incomprehensible to the Catacomb Christians: they can’t understand why our Church, which realizes beyond a doubt that the Soviet hierarchy has betrayed Christ and is no longer a bearer of grace, nevertheless receives clergy of the Soviet church in their existing orders, not re-ordaining them, as ones already having grace. For the clergy and flock receive grace from the hierarchy, and if it [the hierarchy] has betrayed the Truth and deprived itself of grace, from where then does the clergy have grace? It is along these lines that the Catacomb Christians pose the question.

The answer to this is simple. The Church has the authority in certain cases to employ the principle of economia condescension. The hierarch Saint Basil the Great said that, in order not to drive many away from the Church, it is necessary sometimes to permit condescension and not apply the church canons in all their severity. When our Church accepted Roman Catholic clergy in their orders, without ordaining them, she acted according to this principle. And Metropolitan Anthony [Khrapovitsky], elucidating this issue, pointed out that the outward form successive ordination from Apostolic times that the Roman Catholics do have; whereas the grace, which the Roman Catholic church has lost, is received by those uniting [themselves to the Church] from the plenitude of grace present in the Orthodox Church, at the very moment of their joining. The form is filled with content, said Vladyka Anthony.

In precisely the same manner, in receiving the Soviet clergy, we apply the principle of economia. And we receive the clergymen from Moscow not as ones possessing grace, but as ones receiving it by the very act of union. But to recognize the church of the evil-doers as the bearer and repository of grace, that we cannot do, of course. For outside of Orthodoxy there is no grace; and the Soviet church has deprived itself of grace.

In concluding my lengthy letter, I should like to point several things out to you, Father. The Bishops’ Sobor resolved to be guided by and to fulfill the Testament of Metropolitan Anastasy, in which the late First Hierarch bade us not to have any communion with the Soviet church whatsoever, not only no prayerful communion, but not even ordinary contact. On what basis then have you and other clergymen had direct relations with Father Dudko? And have written him letters, etc.? No matter how sincere a man you may have considered him to be, nevertheless, can your private opinion annul a ruling adopted by the Church? Now, had Father Dudko said: I am breaking with the official church and leaving her then you could have entered into lively contact with him. But in the absence of that, your actions constitute a violation of ecclesiastical discipline. Dudko wrote to me personally, but I did not answer him although I could have said much. By the way, on what basis did you, even before this, take into your head to commemorate an archbishop of the Soviet church during the Great Entrance? Who gave you the right to do that, which hierarch who, how, where, when?.. Be more careful, my dear, zealous, but, ah, too impetuous fellow minister!

Peace to you and the mercy of the Lord. To Matushka and the children too.

With love, Metropolitan Philaret