The Presiding Bishop has authorized the release of correspondence between himself and the patriarchate of the Orthodox Russian Church in Moscow, dealing with the plan for a visit of a delegation from the Episcopal Church to the Patriarchate in Moscow. Bishop Tucker's letter was sent in conformity with the resolutions of the General Convention at Cleveland, which are quoted in the letter. In order that the plan for this delegation might be worked out in closest contact with the Church of England, the Presiding Bishop's letter was first sent to the Archbishops of York and Canterbury, and the latter actually forwarded it to Moscow, having the courtesy of the courier of the Soviet Ambassador in London. Owing to unexpected delays, the letter did not arrive in Moscow until just after the untimely death of Patriarch Sergei, to whom it was addressed. Failing to have a reply, and uncertain as to the time when the letter arrived in Moscow, the Presiding Bishop telegraphed to the Metropolitan Alexei to clear up this question, and received a satisfactory reply.
The response of the Patriarchate reached the Presiding Bishop on November 13th, having come through London in the same manner as the original went to Moscow. The tone of the letter is considered by the Presiding Bishop to be very satisfactory and it is clear that the plan for a visit of the delegation may be carried forward soon after the new Patriarch has been elected to the Church in Russia. The date has been set for January 31st.
LETTER FROM THE PRESIDING BISHOP TO PATRIARCH OF MOSCOW
New York, February 23, 1944.
To My Beloved Brother in Christ, His Beatitude the Patriarch Sergei of Moscow and All Russia, I send greetings in Christ our Lord.
At the meeting of the General Convention of that autonomous part of the Anglican communion which has been planted in the United States of America, I presented your gracious reply to the telegram in which I conveyed to you the salutations of this Church in connection with your elevations to the office and title Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia. The Convention received your message with enthusiastic appreciation, and in response thereto adopted the following resolution:
Whereas, The Holy Orthodox Russian Church in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics is experiencing a resurgence of its life and work, and
Whereas, All friends of this ancient Catholic and Apostolic Church greatly rejoice over the new day which lies before it, and
Whereas, The Spirit of Christian love and true fellowship has long characterized the relationship between the Orthodox Russian Church and the Anglican communion, and in particular, that autonomous branch of the same which is the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America, and
Whereas, The working out of God's will for all peoples can be greatly advanced by the mutual strengthening and common efforts of the Anglican communion and the Holy Orthodox Church, therefore,
Be It Resolved, That the Protestant Episcopal Church, in General Convention assembled, hereby extend cordial greetings to the newly elected Patriarch Sergei, and through him to the Holy Orthodox Catholic Church in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, and
Be It Further Resolved, That the General Convention authorize the Presiding Bishop, when he deems it expedient, to designate one or more Bishops to confer in person with the Patriarch and other leaders of the Holy Orthodox Church of Russia.
These resolutions on the one hand give the General Convention's official confirmation of the felicitations conveyed to you by my telegram. They also express the Convention's earnest desire to preserve and promote the friendly relationship which has long existed between the two Churches by the sending of a deputation to confer personally with you and the other leaders of the Holy Orthodox Church of Russia.
I have delayed taking any action with regard to the sending of a delegation, partly because up to the present the war situation has made it exceedingly difficult to send anyone from this country to Russia, but more particularly because it seemed expedient to wait until the war situation had developed to a point at which it might be possible for the deputation to confer with you in regard to the problems and opportunities which will confront the Church when by the grace of God peace has been restored.
While we still have to look forward to continuance of war for a long period, yet, thanks largely to the efforts, sacrifices and brilliant accomplishments of Russia, we can feel assured that God will bless the cause of the United Nations with victory. We feel, therefore, that the time has come when the Christian church should in all of its branches give earnest consideration to the part that it should play in helping to make full use of the opportunities which victory will afford for the advancement of God's purpose. We feel that our part in the fulfillment of this responsibility would be greatly helped by a conference between you and the leaders of the Holy Orthodox Russian Church on the one hand and the deputation authorized by our General Convention on the other. We are particularly concerned to discover the manner in which our own [6/7] Church can be most helpful in the rehabilitation of the Orthodox Churches in those European countries that have suffered so severely from the ravages of war. We would, therefore, greatly welcome the opportunity of conferring with you in regard to this through the sending of a deputation as proposed by our General Convention.
We should also welcome the opportunity of conferring with you in regard to certain problems which have arisen in connection with our relationship to the Orthodox Churches in the United States. Since the first world war there has been great confusion in the Orthodox Church in America owing to the lack of recognized authority. This confusion has been a great embarrassment to our Church as well, both because we have sought to enter sympathetically into the situation in which the Orthodox found themselves, and because we have been obliged to make decisions with reference to one or another incident in which we may unwittingly have been mistaken. One particular matter that has given us great concern is the still unresolved problem of jurisdiction within the Russian Orthodox Archdiocese in America. While this is a problem of the Russian Orthodox Church itself, and while its solution must be effected by the leaders of that Church, yet it causes us embarrassment in our relationship with the Russian bishops in America. We are confident that under your wise leadership this problem will be resolved, but in the meanwhile we should greatly welcome the opportunity of conferring with you in regard to problems arising in our relationships with the representatives of the Russian Church in this country.
May I mention, before concluding this letter, the great privilege I had during many years of missionary work in Japan of knowing the saintly Archbishop Nicholai, and through him of having very friendly relations with the Orthodox Church in that country. Recently I had great pleasure in having a long conversation with Metropolitan Exarch Benjamin, who told me many interesting and valuable things about the progress of the Russian Orthodox life under your Beatitude's administration, of which the general facts are already well known in this country.
As I have explained above, I feel sure that from the point of view of our Church the time has now come when it is expedient to carry out the expressed desire of our General Convention to send a delegation to confer with you and other leaders of your Church. I would appreciate it greatly, therefore, if you let me know whether it would be convenient for you to receive this deputation. It will doubtless take some time to make the necessary arrangements for sending the deputation, but if you would welcome such a visit and will let me know if possible by telegram what would be the most suitable time, I shall endeavor to meet your convenience.
Praying that God's blessing may rest upon you and upon the faithful clergy and people of the Holy Russian Orthodox Church, and asking your prayers for myself and for the Church in which I am called to preside, I remain,
Your Beatitude's devoted Brother in Christ,
HENRY ST. GEORGE TUCKER,
CABLE FROM PRESIDING BISHOP TO METROPOLITAN ALEXEI
July 14, 1944.
Metropolitan Alexei, Moscow.
Referring my letter to late revered Patriarch Sergei dated February 23d which Soviet Ambassador London kindly accepted early May for transmission after full commendation of Archbishop of Canterbury, I should appreciate response whether agreeable to you to receive official delegation of American Episcopal Church to discuss manner our Church's help in rehabilitation of Orthodox Churches in liberated countries of Europe, also problems our relationship Orthodox Churches in America, and if agreeable please cable convenient date.
HENRY ST. GEORGE TUCKER,
CABLED REPLY FROM METROPOLITAN ALEXEI
After due consideration of your letter and wire have replied detailed letter giving oru views concerning your suggestions.
Metropolitan of Leningrad and Novgorod,
LETTER FROM METROPOLITAN ALEXEI, LOCUM TENENS OF THE PATRIARCHATE OF MOSCOW.
Moscow, August 25, 1944.
The Most Reverend Henry St. George Tucker, Presiding Bishop of the Anglican Church in the United States of America.
Beloved Brother in Christ:
Having acquainted myself with your communication of 23d February of this year, addressed to His Beatitude Patriarch Sergei, in which there are set forth the resolutions of Members of the General Convention of the Protestant Episcopal Church in America, and also with the letter of the Archbishop of Canterbury of 25 April of this year, in which His Grace expresses his concurrence with the resolutions of the General Convention, and in connection with your telegram, recently received, referring specifically to the question of reception by us of an official delegation from the American Episcopal Church--I am obliged to reply as follows:
Welcoming the intention of the esteemed Members (of General Convention) of the Episcopal Church to enter into closer contact with our Orthodox Russian Church by sending a delegation for discussion of various questions of ecclesiastical character, we however, at the present time do not have the possibility of devoting sufficient time and attention to this, since, in connection with the grievous loss of our Primate, His Beatitude the Patriarch Sergei, all our efforts are devoted to the assembling of a national Sobor (Grand Council) of our Church--for the election of a Patriarch as well as for the decisions on current Church matters. And only when this important event has taken place and a Patriarch is elected, and when Church affairs resume their usual course,
Wishing your Church prosperity to the glory of God, and you and your colleagues health and happiness, I remain,
Your devoted (fellow worker) in Christ,
Metropolitan of Leningrad and Novgorod,
Patriarch Locum Tenens.