Rapprochement between The Orthodox Church and Soviet Government.

Speech of M. G. Karpov at Council of the Orthodox Church, 1945.

Reverend bishops, priests and delegates of the faithful of the Russian Orthodox Church! The Government of the USSR has instructed me to greet in its name this exalted assembly and to convey its wishes for the success of your labours in organising the higher administration of the Church. The Soviet Government has also asked me to greet the guests of honour of the local Council, who have come from the Orthodox East - Patriarch Christophoros of Alexandria, Patriarch Alexander m of Antioch, Metropolitan Germanos representing the Ecumenical Patriarch, Archbishop Athenagoras representing the Patriarch of Jerusalem - as well as those who come from our Georgia - Catholicos Callistratos of all-Georgia - and from the Slav nations, our brothers - Metropolitan Joseph representing the Synod of the Serbian Church, and ail the bishops and priests who accompany them.

The present local Council, called to elect the Patriarch of Moscow and ail the Russias, and to adopt a rule for the administration of the Orthodox Church, will be a landmark in the history of the Russian Orthodox Church. I am deeply convinced that the decisions of this Council will be of value in strengthening the Church, and will form an important starting point for the further development of its activity in helping the Soviet people to fulfil the major historical tasks which confront them. The local Council of the Russian Orthodox Church has met at a time when ail the nations of our great country, together with ail the freedom-loving nations of the world, are fighting a holy war of liberation against the imperialist German bandits and are straining every nerve for victory at the cost of lives and possessions of millions of people sacrificed on the altar of patriotism. Throughout the sore trials to which our country has so often been subjected in the past, the Russian Orthodox Church has never broken its links with the people: it has shared their needs, wishes and hopes and contributed its full measure to the common task. It was in its churches and monasteries that learning arose and the earliest chronicles of the life of our country were completed; the walls of our churches and monasteries have more than once withstood the assault of foreign invaders, and many eminent churchmen have given their lives for their country.

And now, when the Hitlerite bandits have viciously attacked our sacred soil, when all the nations of the Soviet State have risen and surged forward to fight this great patriotic war in defence of their honour, their freedom and their independence, the Russian Orthodox Church has from the first taken the fullest part in defending the country with ail the means at its disposal. Having fully grasped the significance of the events, that eminent churchman, that wise and venerable man who was first Metropolitan, then Patriarch Sergius, bestowed his blessing upon the faithful in their task of participating in the defence of the frontiers of their country. In his many sermons and messages to the Church, he ceaselessly called upon her loyal sons to fight to the death against the barbarous enemy of the Soviet land - Hitlerite Germany. Last year, the Patriarch Sergius died to the great loss of the Russian Orthodox Church. In accordance with his testament, the government of the Church passed into the hands of the senior Bishop, Metropolitan of Leningrad and Novgorod, Alexis, an outstanding churchman and an ardent patriot who never once left his post during the 900 days of the siege of Leningrad and who, in total unanimity with the other members of the Holy Synod, has guided the Church from the death of the Patriarch to this day. The Church has not confined its patriotic action to letters and sermons but has collected funds for building tanks and aeroplanes and for helping the sick, the wounded and those crippled or orphaned by the war.

The Soviet Government has shown and continues to show deep interest in the Church's part in the struggle against the enemy. In our country, the triumph of the new regime, a Socialist regime unprecedented in history and the most righteous in the world, has also brought about a new relationship between Church and State. The great Socialist October Revolution which liberated our people from slavery and gave them freedom, has also freed the Church from the shackles which impeded its internal activity. Freedom of conscience, promulgated by the Decree of 23 January 1918, has been consolidated by the basic laws of our country as embodied in the Soviet Constitution. The Council of Church Affairs which, by Government decision, has been created and attached to the Council of People's Commissars of the USSR, forms a link between the Government and the Patriarch of Moscow and ail the Russias, and provides liaison in ail matters needing government approval. Without in any way interfering with the spiritual life of the Church, the Council promotes normal relations between Church and State by seeing to the proper and timely application of government laws and decrees concerning the Russian Orthodox Church. There is no doubt that the normal relations established between the Council and Patriarchate have helped to strengthen the Church administratively; the Council will continue in future to take all necessary steps to remove obstacles of whatever sort which may hinder the Soviet citizen in the exercise of the liberty of conscience granted by the Constitution. Once again, I sincerely wish the members of the Council success in the task which awaits them.