Pastoral Letter of Archbishop Job of Telmessos
of Archbishop Job of Telmessos,
Exarch of the Ecumenical Patriarch,
to the Clergy, Monks and Faithful
of the Archdiocese of Russian Orthodox Churches in Western Europe
“I/you/he/she/we are Orthodox Christians.”
Dear Fathers, beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
The year 2015 began with events that have raised great concern not only in France but in the whole world. In fact, the terrorist attacks that targeted a satirical magazine in Paris and a supermarket put on the spot issues of freedom of expression as well as anti-Semitism, integrism, fundamentalism, conservatism and sectarianism.
Obviously, we Christians cannot justify any act of violence. As our Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew has said on many occasions, in the words of the Berne Declaration of 1992 and Bosphorus Declaration of 1994, “a crime committed in the name of religion is a crime against religion” and that “war in the name of religion is war against religion”. We are Christians, and for this reason, we recognize in every person – regardless of race, gender, political opinions and religious beliefs – our brother and sister, created in the image and likeness of God (Gen 1:26).
For this reason, we Christians cannot, in any way, justify blasphemy, because we love God and our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22 : 7-39). Besides, everyone knows by their own experience that our own freedom stops where the freedom of others begins.
The problem of fundamentalism, whether religious or secular, is always linked to that of ignorance. Those who are not sufficiently familiar with their own faith, and, even more so, know little or nothing of that of others, most often perceive themselves as victims, seeing others as threats, and become vulnerable to group manipulations that lead to the fanaticism and bigotry. Therefore, in the fight against fundamentalism and fanaticism, religious education is of utmost importance.
We, as Christians, and moreover as followers of the Orthodox tradition, have the good fortune of being guided by Sacred Scripture, the Tradition of the Church and Pastors whose authority comes from God, who do not seek to promote their own personal interests or any ideology, but lead us by their teaching charism of the Orthodox faith toward our salvation in Jesus Christ. It is precisely in this spirit, a little over a year ago, that I began my ministry by addressing you by a pastoral letter on the day of my Episcopal ordination, expressing my desire to meet each of you personally, inviting you all to maintain the unity of the ecclesial body as “one flock” under “one shepherd” (John 10:16).
I have since traversed the wide range of our Patriarchal Exarchate, visiting at least once during the year, 31 Parishes and Monasteries, celebrating 145 Divine Liturgies, meeting the Clergy and the faithful during Parish visits and Deanery meetings and by personally receiving you in my office, as well as organizing pastoral meetings and meetings of the wives of our Clergy. At each of these meetings, I tried to be as accessible as possible to all of you, and to be sensitive to spiritual, pastoral, economic and administrative issues in your Parishes. I saw, heard and understood you.
Thus, I know well the spiritual flock entrusted to me. Every liturgical celebration, surrounded as I am by my Clergy and my faithful, brings me great comfort and great joy, because that is where the life of the Church is manifested. In them, I see the enthusiasm and potential evidenced by your faith, and the renewal and blossoming of life in our Parishes, in which the number of followers continues to grow, which cheers me and greatly encourages me to continue my pastoral work.
Therefore, I am familiar, better than anyone, with the outreach and the development of all our parishes, each with its own peculiarities, as well as the problems and needs of our Patriarchal Exarchate to which I seek to respond, with God’s help, as best I can with my pastoral and paternal solicitude. To this end, in response to the arrival of new followers, I have had the joy of ordaining 7 new deacons and 3 priests with theological formation, on the recommendation of responsible and competent Priests.
My duties also led me to begin to discover, little by little, dossiers which are, unfortunately, more obscure. It disturbs, upsets and worries a small group, with special interests, which should have no place in the Church, which seems – sadly – to have come together and, although it is very small, attempts to exercise a real, troublesome power. This small group with special interests is trying to introduce divisions among us, using sectarian methods. It is not afraid to make use of distortions of the truth, manipulation, slander, psychological pressure and even personal attacks. It goes without saying that your Archbishop is not afraid of threats, as he is ready to give his life for the life of our Church.
As a Christian and a man of peace, I naturally offer my love and forgiveness to sinners who have been led astray by selfishness, pride or ambition and, with a sincere heart, seek to change, to correct their mistakes and to offer their talents to the service of the common work of the Church. If I have inadvertently hurt some of you in my decisions, I beg your pardon, and assure you that there was nothing personal in these, for they were taken for the good of the Church.
As a Christian and defender of our Orthodox Church, whether or not these agitators of ill will like it or not, I will continue to make the decisions necessary for the good of all of you and of all the Church, of which I am in charge, in terms of doctrinal and moral teaching, administration and management, liturgical life and pastoral ministry according to the Holy Canons and statutes of our Archdiocese.
In the exercise of my ministry, I assure you of my prayers for all of you and for your salvation, and I invite you to pray for me in return, for I need your prayers, your support and your cooperation.
May the spirit of humility guide our hearts, which experience godly sorrow at this time of Lent, so that we may all bear witness, in unity and the peace of Christ, to the hope of the Gospel. God bless you all !
+ Job, Archbishop of Telmessos, Exarch of the Ecumenical Patriarch
Paris, the Cathedral of Saint Alexander of the Neva,
February 14, 2015.