The Polish Orthodox Church, worried by the temptation of dividing the unity of Orthodoxy, addresses the following evangelical appeal to all Orthodox:
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).
These words of Holy Scripture bear witness that borders do not exist for Christ and His teaching. This is a fact and the norm for Orthodox spiritual mission, which means that borders, according to the human understanding, cannot play an essential role here. For people of the Orthodox faith, the most important thing is to spread the teaching of the Crucified and Resurrected Christ. Only in Him and through Him does the world receive salvation. People’s attitude toward and understanding of geographical borders has no significance here.
The mission of preaching the truth about salvation in Christ is a duty for all Orthodox, starting with patriarchs, metropolitans, bishops, priests, monks and ordinary believers. We all have the responsibility to preach this truth. Therefore, our own salvation and that of others depends on our diligence. After all, every believer desires most of all salvation and eternal life.
This path was followed by our ancestors: apostles, martyrs, confessors and ascetics. It is thanks to their mission that Orthodoxy now exists in the East and the West, the North and the South. The currently-existing borders of states cannot infringe upon the mission and unity of the Holy Church. Indeed, in the Church there is neither Greek, Jew, Slav, Romanian, German, Ethiopian, or any other peoples. We are all Christians. The Apostle Paul has exhorted us with the words: “I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment” (1 Corinthians 1:10). Do these words mean nothing to us today?
The division currently being experienced by Orthodoxy does not lead to the spread of Christ’s teaching, proclaimed by the Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, but to ever more temptation. We have something to think about, but this is only possible in a spirit of love and unity in Christ. If we do not deal with this temporary division, then future generations will. But what will they be able to learn from us and what will they write about us?
The Holy Apostles Cyril and Methodius brought the Christian teaching of the Holy Orthodox Church to the land of Great Moravia, then to the Czechs, Vistulans, Polians and other nations. From here it spread to the Lechs and Ruthenians. All this took place on the territory of the contemporary Polish state. The baptism of the Kievan Rus’ took place much later. Does this chronology have any significance when it comes to our salvation thanks to this mission?
In light of these historical facts, contemporary inter-church controversies and self-justifications are of no significance. Indeed, in contemporary society, which is being destroyed by divisions, the most important thing remains that we continue to be disciples and children of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, the mystical Body of Christ. Purely human weaknesses and our ambitions in this regard should have no place among us.
Primacy of honor and respect with regard to the first among us, as well as the place of the “Angel” of a given church, has been formed by history. This process, however, was formed according to the evangelical preaching of love of the greater for the lesser.
Indeed, primacy in the Church consists of serving the weak, according to Christ’s words: “If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all” (Mark 9:35). These words are addressed to every believer, clergy and lay. In a difficult situation such as this, the first will be the one extends a hand for reconciliation and by doing so helps to overcome division.
Of course, history has determined the administrative boundaries of individual nations. Let us not lose what we have! Let us not violate the will and ascertainment of our Ancestors! Let us unite around the Divine Liturgy and not waste our spiritual powers on things that are of secondary importance to our salvation!
Today, the enemy of the human race, the devil, is doing everything to bring about the corruption of Orthodox Christians and their Church. He is bothered most of all by the unity expressed in common liturgical prayer. Let us not help him with his unclean purposes, but rather let us resist the temptation of division. This is required of us by God, Holy Orthodoxy, history and the future of our Church.
This appeal is the voice crying out of the much-suffering Polish Orthodox Church; it is a call for all of us to come to our senses in the face of negative ecclesiastical phenomena in contemporary Orthodoxy.
Lord, bless Your Church and help us to overcome the temptations that are tormenting us.
“Lord, strengthen the holy Orthodox faith, the faith of the Orthodox Christians, unto ages of ages!”
On behalf of the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Polish Autocephalous Orthodox Church,
Metropolitan of Warsaw and All Poland
Translated from the Russian, available here.