The Origin of the Josephitism
By spring 1927 the Church found itself in a complicated position. The authorities’ policy of liquidating its unified center (the existence of which had not been recognized officially) almost succeeded. However, the influence of the pro-Soviet Synodal (Renovationist) Church* by that time started to fall down: in January 1927 the share of Renovationist parishes was 16.6%.
Centrifugal tendencies were increasing in the Patriarchal Church itself after the death of Patriarch Tikhon. Constant arrests of hierarchs able to head the Supreme Church Administration prevented creation of a stable church center. The number of Deputy Patriarchs and their Assistants reached 13, with 12 of them in exile or imprisoned. The last one, Archbishop Serafim (Samoylovich) of Uglich, appeared so little known that part of eparchies never heard about him. Metropolitan Sergiy (Stargorodsky), one of the Assistant Deputy Patriarchs, when in prison**, agreed to negotiations with OGPU. Threatened with liquidation of the whole hierarchy of the Patriarchal Church, he agreed to meet major requirements of the authorities.
*Renovationism – a reformist stream in the Russian Church. Organized in May 1922 by the initiative and with active participation of the authorities. It was heterogeneous in its staff and was led mostly by priests unsatisfied with their position and craving for power in the ROC, who understood that this is possible only with the authorities’ support by discrediting the church hierarchy. However, there were some Renovationists sincerely professing innovative ideas. Most ordinary members of the trend were involved in it by simple logic of the events. After arresting Patriarch Tikhon and his forced renunciation of the ROC leadership on May 12, 1922, Renovationists had been dominating in the church life for over a year, often blatantly cooperating with GPU. However, immediately after discharging Patriarch Tikhon their influence decreased drastically. At that time Renovationism in general appeared deeply erroneous in its attempts to commit a “church revolution.” It violated major ecclesiologic, liturgical, and dogmatic principles of the Orthodoxy. Most believers’ attitude towards Renovationists was hostile, and this proved to be an insurmountable obstacle for them. The trend ceased to exist in 1944-1945.
** From December 8, 1926, till April 12, 1927.
Metropolitan Sergiy chose cooperation with the authorities after long hesitations and attempts to find the way most favorable for the Church to preserve the continuity of the “legal” Orthodoxy.
The situation in the Leningrad eparchy was far from stable, as well as in the country in general. In the fall of 1926 a movement of Metropolitan Joseph’s supporters evolved in Leningrad, who demanded that the authorities returned Metropolitan to his eparchy. Patriarch Joseph (Ivan Semionovich Petrovykh) was appointed Metropolitan of Leningrad in August 1926. However, he spent less that three days in Leningrad*, left to Rostov on September 13 to say goodbye to his former parish, and, having stopped on his way in Moscow, was invited to OGPU. In his conversation with Ye. Tuchkov, head of the church department, Metr. Joseph expressed his negative attitude toward legalizing the Patriarchal Church. As a result, he was banned from leaving Rostov. In December 1926, after Metr. Sergiy was arrested, Metr. Joseph of Leningrad occupied the place of Assistant Deputy Patriarch, but soon was also arrested and exiled to the Moden St. Nicholas Monastery (Ustiug district), being banned from leaving it. Having a significant authority and decisive disposition, Metr. Joseph kept running the eparchy through his vicars, Bishops Dimitry (Liubimov) and Sergiy (Druzhinin).
Important events took place in spring and summer 1927. Metropolitan Sergiy was discharged on March 27, and April 7 Archbishop Serafim of Uglich passed his Deputy Patriarch duties to him.
On becoming Assistant Deputy Patriarch, Metr. Sergiy sent a petition May 10 to NKVD and, receiving an authorization for governing the Church, called a bishops meeting in Moscow May 18, stepping forward with a project for creating a Provisional Patriarchal Holy Synod of eight members, including Archbishop Aleksiy (Simansky) of Khutyn.
May 20 Metr. Sergiy received a message from NKVD reading, “There are no obstacles for this institution’s activity pending its ratification” (the Synod was approved in August). The Official PPHS session took place May 25, with a decision released among eparchies the same day offering ruling archbishops to organize provisional eparchy councils (until constant ones are created) and register them with local authorities. It also provided for creating archpriests councils under vicar bishops. Thus a foundation was laid for creating the entire structure of the Moscow Patriarchy on legal basement.
*September 11, Metr. Joseph arrived to Leningrad and September 12, on the day of St. Alexander of Neva, solemn celebration took place in Lavra, attracting thousands of the city residents.
July 29, Metr. Sergiy together with Synod members issued the Address to Pastors and Parish (the 1927 Declaration): “… We need to prove it by not words but deeds that not only those indifferent to the Orthodoxy, not only its betrayers can be loyal citizens of the Soviet Union but also its most fervent adherents for whom it is as dear as the truth and life with all its dogmas and traditions, all its canonical and service ways. We want to be Orthodox and simultaneously view the Soviet Union as our civil fatherland, whose joys and achievements are our joys and achievements and failures are our failures…”
Scholarly literature sometimes claims that precisely the Declaration was among the reasons for mass discontent of the clergy and believers. However, this text had no substantial differences with Patriarch Tikhon’s similar addresses of 1923-1925. Metr. Sergiy’s Declaration, composed on the highest level of church diplomacy, looked over-loyal but in fact had nothing fundamentally new in it.
If the recesses were limited by issuing the Declaration, the opposition against Metr. Sergiy would probably be not as significant, though discontent with its text aroused immediately after its publishing. Thus, the September message of the archbishops imprisoned in Solovki read, “…The idea of subordinating the Church to civil establishment is expressed in such categorical and unquestioning form that it can easily be understood as complete interlacing of the Church and state…”
Displeasure with Metr. Sergiy’s address was also displayed by one of the country’s most important eparchies, Leningrad. In mid-August Bish. Dimitry (Liubimov) of Gdov, Archpriest Aleksandr Sovietov, schema-nun Anastasiya (Kulikova), and other clergy members sent an address to Metr. Joseph of Leningrad exiled to the Moden Monastery (Novgorod guberniya), expressing their discontent with the policy of Assistant Deputy Patriarch.
Perhaps on the urgent request of OGPU, September 13, 1927, Metr. Sergiy and the Synod passed a decision on transferring Archbishop of Leningrad to Odessa. However, September 28 Metr. Joseph wrote on his denial to obey the order as non-canonical, adopted under the influence of exterior factors, and thus perniciously affecting the church organization. This decision was in many ways caused by influence of his Leningrad supporters taking an irreconcilable stand. October 3, acting eparchy administrator Bish. Nikolai (Yarushevsky) of Petergof reported the Synod on city residents’ dissatisfaction in connection with transferring Bish. Joseph.
A resolution was passed based on this report ratifying the previous order. Vicars were prescribed to stop offering prayers for Metr. Joseph and submit to Bishop Nikolai.
The situation aggravated with Sergiy’s October 21 order on praying for the authorities by the formula, “For our country saved by God, its authorities and army, and let us lead quite and peaceful life in piety and purity,” and on canceling praying for the exiled eparchial archpriests. Now not only Metr. Joseph’s supporters but also a number of other bishops started to express their doubts of the righteousness of Metr. Sergiy’s stand.
The main reason for this resentment was the fact that Assistant Deputy Patriarch tolerated civil authorities’ interference in cadre policy, bishops consecration by agreement with state institutions, removing archbishops by political motifs (over 40 archpriests were removed in a few months), appointing acting archbishops in place of convicted ones, etc.
The legalization of the Patriarchal Church in Leningrad started with organizing an eparchial council in the Superior’s Rooms of the Resurrection Novodevichy Monastery, registered by the oblast executive committee on November 14. Archpriest Leonid Bogoyavlensky, Dean of the Trinity Cathedral, was elected its chairman, with two unconditional supporters of Metr. Sergiy, Bishops Nikolai (Yarushecsky) of Petergof and Sergiy (Zenkevich) of Detskoye Selo imposed October 31, 1927 in Moscow, and a number of other priests as its members.
Soon, in view of the grave circumstances, Metr. Sergiy temporarily took over governing the eparchy, which could perhaps relax the conflict aggravating in the city.
In late October, after a liturgy performed at the Christ Resurrection Cathedral by Bishops Nikolai (Yarushevich) and Sergiy (Zenkevich), it was announced that Assistant Deputy Patriarch takes over guiding the eparchy and that he would arrive to Leningrad on December 6 (on death anniversary of St. Alexander of the Neva) and perform liturgy at the Lavra. Bishop Nikolai finished his speech with the words, “Today I will give an instruction that instead of me as acting administrator of the Leningrad eparchy prayers were offered for our Lord, His Eminence Metropolitan Sergiy.” However, OGPU obviously underestimated the scale of possible resistance to Metr. Sergiy’s pro-Soviet church policy, and he did not obtain a permission to come to Leningrad.
October 30, Metr. Joseph sent a new message in reply to October 12 Holy Synod decision, refusing to leave the Leningrad Chair and explaining “that the differences inside the eparchy were caused by the secretly announced… order on his removing, that his ties with the Leningrad congregation was far from artificial but based on the flock’s true love to him… and, finally, that he is not going to obey the ‘church authorities,’ since the latter themselves are ‘in servitude.’”
As early as November the same year, some parishes ceased offering prayers for Metr. Sergiy, inviting Bish. Nikolai as supporter of Sergiy’s policies, and channeling money for eparchy leadership’s maintenance. “Many of the pastors who in the years of the fight against Renovation proved themselves steadfast defenders of the purity of Orthodoxy now opposed Metr. Sergiy.” In his policies “hey saw direct distortion of the purity of Orthodoxy and enslaving the Church by the state.”
A part of the Leningrad clergy turned to Archbish. Feodor (Pozdeyevsky), who did not mention Metr. Sergiy in his prayers, on his arrival to Leningrad with a request to step forward with a protest on behalf of the entire clergy.
In the opinion of Metr. Ioann (Snychiov), the Patriarchal Synod made a serious tactical mistake by implementing the new church policy too hastily, without considering the level of the believers’ preparedness to it.
A group of Leningrad clergy and laity, in the hope to prevent the coming dissent and make Metr. Sergiy change his course, sent a special address in early December composed by Dean of the cathedral Father Vassily Veriuzhsky, “… 1. Turn down the outlining course on Church’s enslavement by the state. 2. Turn down removing and appointing bishops without consent from the congregation and bishops themselves. 3. To put the Provisional Patriarchal Synod on the place designated for it at its foundation as a deliberative body. 4. Remove the vexed [ïðåðåêàåìûõ ?] persons from the Synod. 5. While organizing Eparchy Administrations, the canons of the Orthodox Church, decisions of the 1917-1918 Placed Local Ecumenical Church Council, and the episcopate authority should be protected in every way possible. 6. Return the Leningrad Chair to Metr. Joseph (Petrovykh). 7. Cancel offering prayers for the Deputy Patriarch. 8. Cancel the decision on not mentioning the exiled bishops in prayers and on praying for the civil authorities.”
According to the transcript of f. Vassily Veriuzhsky interrogation (April 20 and May 8, 1931), an important milestone in organizing the Josephite movement was a November 24, 1927 meeting at Archpr. Feodor Andreyev’s. In addition to the latter, there were present Bish. Dimitry (Liubimov), Archb. Vassily Veriuzhsky, secret bishop Mark (M. A. Novosiolov) from Moscow, and Father Superior of the Kiev Pechersk Monastery of the Caves Archimandrite Yermogen (Golubev). It was decided to send a number of addresses to the Assistant Deputy Patriarch. In a few days one of them, composed by Archb. Feodor Andreyev and Bish. Mark (M. A. Novosiolov) and containing the idea of a possible formal rupture with Metr. Sergiy, was read out at Bish. Dimitry’s.
Even before the answer to Father Vassily Veriuzhsky’s address was received, on December 12 a delegation of representatives from Leningrad clergy and laity including Bish. Dimitry (Liubimov), Archbish. Viktorin (Dobronravov), and laymen I. M. Andreyevsky and S. A. Alekseyev (Askoldov) passed another three letters of protest to Metr. Sergiy. One of them was written by professor of the Military and Law Academy S. S. Abramovich-Baranovsky on behalf of the scholars of the Academy of Sciences and professors of Leningrad colleges, while another was signed by six members of higher orders of clergy: Archbishop Gavriil (Volodin) and Bishops Dimitry (Liubimov), Sergiy (Druzhinin), Grigory (Lebedev), Stefan (Bekh), and Serafim (Protopopov). There was also a letter from a group of clergy and laymen dated December 9-11, 1927, and composed by M.A. in theology Archbish. Feodor Andreyev. Metr. Sergiy received the delegation.
Dean of the Leningrad University I. M. Andreyevsky later described a very remarkable discussion they had in course of the negotiations on the possibility for identifying the Soviet power with antichrist.
“’What’s so strange in our praying for the authorities?’ Metropolitan Sergiy said. ‘Since we recognized it, it’s only natural that we pray for it. They used to pray for the tsar, for Nero, etc., didn’t they?’
‘Can we pray for antichrist?’ we asked him.
‘No, you can’t.’
‘Are you sure this is not antichrist’s power?’
‘Yes, I am. Antichrist is supposed to rule for three years and a half, and these ones last for already a decade.’
‘But still, isn’t this antichrist’s spirit denying Christ coming in flesh?’
‘Such moods existed since Christ’s times till our days. If this is antichrist why I don’t recognize him?’
‘Excuse us, Your Holiness, only an elder can say, I don’t recognize him. So, since there exists a chance this is antichrist, we don’t pray for it.’”
*21a, Litovsky Alley
By evidence of I. M. Andreyevsky, “Metr. Sergiy tried to persuade the representative to agree with him and, almost jumping across the room, said, ‘OK, they press us and we retreat! But in this way we will the preserve Church unity!’ The representative came to a conclusion that it was impossible to come to terms with him.”
The document passed by Metr. Sergiy read, “1. Renounce the church policy I believe right and compulsory for every Christian and answering the needs of the Church would be not only recklessness but a crime for my part. 2. Removing the bishops is a temporary phenomenon caused mostly by the fact that the attitude of our church organization towards civil authorities remained unclear until recently… 3. The Synod is in its place exactly as an administrative body. This is the way it was in the times of Patriarch, in spite of the fact that then it also consisted of invited persons…” December 14 Metr. Sergiy delivered his reply to Father Vassily Veriuzhsky’s address to one of the delegation members saying that “if one of the parts of the church organism goes to schism, this would be less painful for the Church than breaking up the whole body of the Russian Orthodox Church as a result of its illegal position in the Soviet state.”
After the delegation returned to Leningrad, Bishops Dimitry of Gdov and Sergiy of Narva took up the initiative of signing the Statement on breaking up with Metr. Sergiy (December 13/26). The statement was read out at the Resurrection Cathedral. “Not out of pride, let us be spared of it, but for peaceful conscience we renounce the person and deeds of our former advocate who illegally and immeasurably exceeded his authority, causing great dissension… Therefore, remaining, by God’s mercy, obedient children of the Holy Conciliar and Apostle Church, preserving the apostolic continuity through Deputy Patriarch P¸tr, Metropolitan of Krutitsy, and being blessed by our legal Eparchial Metropolitan we cease the canonic relations with Metropolitan Sergiy and everybody he heads henceforth to the court of the “local absolute council,” i.e. with the participance of all Orthodox bishops, or Metropolitan Sergiy’s open and complete penance before the Holy Church…” In January 1928, Bish. Dimitry announced Metr. Sergiy devoid of grace and demanded immediate severance of prayer communication with him.
In response, December 30 Assistant Deputy Patriarch and the Synod passed a decision on prohibiting in church service of the diverged Leningrad Bishops Dimitry (Liubimov) and Sergiy (Druzhinin), read out in Nikolskoye Epiphany Cathedral by Bish. Nikolai (Yarushevich). Since then the official Church considered the contumacious clergymen schismatic.
Though the Leningrad vicars’ decision to digress from Metr. Sergiy was taken by them independently, Metr. Joseph sanctified the rapture even before it was officially announced. In late December he wrote to Bish. Dimitry, “Dear Archbishop, Having learnt from M. A. about your decision, I consider, after familiarizing myself with all materials, that there is no option. I approve your step, endorse it, but, of course I am deprived of any possibility to offer you some more essential support.” Metr. Joseph himself remained in prayer and canonic communication with Assistant Deputy Patriarch until February 1928.
January 7 Metr. Joseph in his letter to Leningrad approved his vicars’ actions once again: “… To condemn and neutralize the recent actions of Metr. Sergiy (Stargorodsky), adverse to the spirit and welfare of the Saint Church of Christ, we, under the present conditions, possess no other means than a decisive rupture with him and ignoring his orders…”
Suffice it to recall that from the very beginning the Patriarch had not been a real head of the movement named after him. To quote from the transcripts of his interrogations (September 22 and 30 and October 9, 1930), “After my appointment to the Odesa Chair first I was going to retire, but a group of clergy headed by Bishop Dimitry Liubimov, Sergiy Druzhinin (I refuse to name other priests) and mostly numerous believers appeared in Leningrad at that time, who asked me to stay and demanded me to remain their head, Metropolitan of Leningrad, promising that they won’t disturb me, that I’ll stay in my exile at the Moden Monastery and only be their spiritual leader. Primarily it had been that way… Gradually I found myself involved into the church vortex, and I had to react to the events around the newly formed church group in one way or another. The case I’m instituted is, in my view, based on the idea of me as a leader of a special trend appearing in our church four years ago in connection with Metr. Sergiy’s declaration, which, in the believers view, brutally violated the deepest foundations of the church life and administration.”
Probably Metr. Agathangel (Preobrazhensky)
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