Sunday, April 12, 2009

Remembering Archbishop Antony (+1993)

Here is a remarkable and prophetic passage from Bernard Le Caro's short biography of Archbishop Antony (Bartoshevich) of Geneva and Western Europe (1910-1993), as translated by Fr Andrew Phillips (the French original is here):
Despite the fact that he was a strict Orthodox Christian, Vladyka never took an extreme position. At the All-Diaspora Council of 1974, Vladyka spoke forcefully in favour of Church unity and against the self-isolation of ROCOR and in his report outlined "the duty of ROCOR before the Church and the Homeland" in this way:

1) "To preserve the purity of Orthodoxy, rejecting any temptations of atheism and modernism. In other words, courageously follow the path inscribed on the tablets of the law of our Church.

2) "To be the bold and free voice of the Church of Christ, speak the truth without compromise, which our First Hierarchs have done so far.

3) "Using our freedom, to be understanding of those enslaved, taking care not to condemn anyone imprudently, but to understand, support and show brotherly love.

4) "To cherish and preserve Church unity, sensing that we are part of the living universal Church of Christ and worthy of bearing the standard of the Russian Church within Her.

5) "To avoid self-isolation, for the spirit of the Church is unifying, not divisive. Let us not seek heretics where they may not be any and let us fear exaggeration in this area.

6) "To call all Russian Orthodox Christians and their pastors who have left us to unity. Let us call them not through sanctions, but with brotherly love in the name of the suffering Russian Church and our much-suffering homeland.

7) "Let us turn to face resurgent Russia, extending a helping hand to the best of our abilities!"

He ended his talk with the following words: "What is more important for us, the Church Herself and the living forces within Her, or Her temporary, maybe unworthy representatives? Shall we on their account tear ourselves away from Universal Orthodoxy, in which most think like we do, in which, despite our unworthiness, the Holy Spirit breathes? Whom then would we be punishing? Only ourselves!" Learning of Vladyka Antony’s words, the great Athonite Elder Paisios (Eznepidis, + 1994), once told a pilgrim from Paris: "Your Antony is a hero! He is not with them (the ecumenists) and not with the others (the unreasonable zealots)!" In fact, Vladyka acted humbly, doing nothing without seeking advice and on Church matters often consulted Archbishop Nathaniel (Lvov, + 1985), Archpriest Igor Trojanov (+ 1987), Abbess Theodora (+1976) and Abbess Magdalena (+ 1987) of the Lesna Convent. He always asked one pilgrim who paid frequent visits to Mt Athos what the Fathers of the Holy Mountain thought about a particular Church matter.

Vladyka was a fervent proponent of Church reconciliation in the diaspora. In the 1960s there was hope that the Paris Exarchate would soon unite with ROCOR. Alien to any form of careerism, Vladyka dared not accept the rank of Archbishop offered by the Synod of Bishops, since the Paris Exarchate was already headed by an Archbishop. Only when any chance of unification had faded, did Vladyka accept the position, but he continued to show love for the clergymen and laity of the Exarchate. As far as the Moscow Patriarchate was concerned, Vladyka avoided extreme positions, witnessed by his letter to Fr Dimitri Dudko: "The late Archbishop John, whom we all respected and loved, would say ‘the official Church in Russia, of course, possesses grace, though one bishop or another might behave badly." In 1985, he visited Belgrade and prayed at the Liturgy in the Russian church of the Moscow Patriarchate.
Photograph: Archbishop Antony in Geneva on July 26, 1987. For a photograph of Vladyka as a young man with St John of Shanghai and San Francisco, see here. A selection of photos of Vladyka in his later years can be viewed here. See also Bernard le Caro's talk from the IV All-Diaspora Council: True Orthodoxy or Arrogation?

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