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From Archbishop Seraphim

For all the supporters!

Many faithful have been concerned, and asked questions about Vladyka Seraphim. He was released from the jail on July 7, 2015 without any conditions or limitations. Now he is at home at the monastery and is tired but well. He is accessible via phone/mobile/email/ and old fashioned snail mail and welcomes all communication. From the end of 2010 for all these long years he could not say publicly a word. Below is a letter from Vladyka Seraphim to his sister Dianne.

I have asked my sister to share the following words with those who may be concerned.

I have been made aware that some petitions have been circulated and sent to Archbishop Irénée (Rochon), petitions in which permission is asked that I be able to visit in parishes. I want to express my gratitude to God for the love that is demonstrated in such petitions, and I want to assure the parishioners and clergy of the Archdiocese of Canada (and many others besides) that I have not ceased my love in Christ for them, nor has this love in Christ in any way diminished. As I have been, I am still praying daily for the diocese, and for many others as well (I learnt a lesson or two in the past about intercession from Father Thomas Hopko, and from some other persons).

However, it seems for some reason to fall to me to try to explain more fully the situation of this bishop who is both retired and suspended (and who is under the threat of possible deposition).

I have been trying all along to do and to be what is the best for the peace and stability of Christ's Church, while trying to be true and truthful. (I did not make a “not guilty” plea and appeal the verdict without a good reason.) I don’t want to change that attitude of trying to be true and truthful. I do understand that the events of the last five or six years have probably had some negative effect on the Church, on those whom I love. Some events are beyond my doing anything about, beyond dealing with the after-effects. In this case, my case, we are not dealing only with personal opinions and/or preferences of bishops. There is a canonical element involved, and this canonical element is provided from a very long experience of human beings in the life of the Church. When any bishop retires, or is made to retire, the usual (and normal) result is that the retired bishop withdraws to a monastery, and he lives there as a monk under obedience. If he serves any services there, it is in accordance with the blessing of the abbot; and the manner in which he serves the services is regulated by the abbot's blessing.

Should the retired bishop be active in any way in a parish or parishes of the diocese, it must be in accordance with the blessing and direction of the diocesan bishop. The retired bishop withdraws in this way precisely because his active presence (especially liturgically) in the diocese could cause both confusion and even division in that diocese. This can happen because of the interrelationship of the bishop and the diocese, a relationship that is sometimes compared with marriage. There is a deep and mystical unity between the bishop and the diocese, one which is traditionally dissolved only by the death of the bishop (as happens in a sort of way in a marriage upon the death of a spouse). The death of a bishop is a clear and decisive event. A retirement can feel more like a divorce. These are some reasons why a retired bishop generally withdraws to some level of invisibility, so that his successor may nurture the diocese (which is now his spouse and family) to the best of his ability, and without having confusions of relationships introduced. In my particular case, the fact that the legal details were made to be an international and very high-profile focus on me personally makes the situation yet more delicate.

Here is what I understand about this situation. In addition to having been retired, I have also been suspended. With this suspension, I am not permitted to serve in any fashion as an active bishop. I may only receive the Holy Mysteries in accordance with the directives of the Holy Synod. At this time, I have the blessing to live at Saint Silouan's Monastery, and to receive the Holy Mysteries in that place. I am not the abbot of the monastery. I live there. I do not serve in any capacity, except to do work that is required. It is Archbishop Irénée who regulates the life of the monastery. People may visit me there as they wish, and as they are able (and they do). The blessing about receiving the Holy Mysteries (imposed by the Holy Synod of Bishops ever since I was suspended after I was retired) was extended to include doing so in a small parish in the city where my siblings live, at such times as I visit them. Whenever I was in church there, I stood either with the parishioners (I was dressed as a monk), or in the Altar, where I received the Holy Mysteries. I talked with people over food afterwards. This was how I was behaving when I was in one or another parish before I was limited to the monastery.

Adding to these details is the fact that I was confined to a jail this year for five months. Because of this, I not only missed all the liturgical services for that period, but I also was unable to receive the Holy Mysteries, except for five occasions when a priest could be brought in by the chaplain. In the unit where I lived, there was no chapel, and a general-purpose room had to be reserved. In my whole life, I was never for more than one Sunday absent from the Lord's house on the Lord's Day, nor did I receive the Holy Mysteries so infrequently as during these months. Thanks be to God, my early release from the jail was without any conditions or limitations at all.

Archbishop Irénée has kindly indicated that I may make private visits to parishioners (but not to the parishes themselves as such). I may do this from time to time as I am able and blessed to do. However, if I am to visit, then any visiting would be with the knowledge and blessing of Vladyka Irénée. Any visit would be on an informal and private basis, and there would be no preaching or teaching involved - only talking privately over coffee, in private places.

I am acutely concerned that I not put myself in a position either of missing the worship of the Lord in the places where it is permitted to me, or of causing difficulties for any parishes and/or parishioners of the archdiocese with its archbishop. Thus, if I visit, then the length and nature of the visit in any one place would be dependent on what I am given the blessing to do. It is for me to be obedient, and I wish to be obedient. I do not want to presume that I have the blessing to do something without first asking. As always, any adjustment or amelioration of this situation and arrangement would have to be with the blessing of the archbishop. I understand that because of the nature of strongly expressed negative opinions on the internet, it would be difficult to expect any softening of the discipline imposed on me. Nevertheless, taking into account the overall stress I have felt for the last five years (and more acutely during the last five months), and taking into account how I feel interiorly at this present time, I must say that I have to move slowly in whatever I do. I don’t believe that I can do very much visiting (beyond seeing my family and a few persons besides) for some months after the pending spiritual court.

Having written all these words, I also must write that I was very disappointed and even appalled when I was informed that certain persons regard the relationship of love between me and the parishioners of the archdiocese as having the character of a cult. This relationship is merely what developed between a shepherd and the rational sheep that he led for 25 years, and no more. The use of the word cult strongly implies the abuse of power and control. Such abuse is the opposite of the nature of the pastoral relationship within this archdiocese both formerly and presently. However, that such a thing might be said is an indication of why I must act with great prudence and caution when I agree to visit.

In everything, I wish to do only what will be beneficial and life-giving and uniting in the archdiocese. My concern continues to be that God be glorified, and (as has said the Holy Prophet and Forerunner John) that Jesus Christ increase, and I that decrease.

I hope that this explanation is of some help to the faithful people of the archdiocese, whom I love in Christ.

With love in Christ,