Skip to main content
Russia's Catacomb Saints Book Cover 1982

I. M. Andreyevsky: ‘Russia’s Catacomb Saints’ – Archbishop Dimitry of Gdov and his Priest Nicholas Prozorov, Part 6

Archbishop Dimitry of Gdov
AND HIS PRIEST NICHOLAS PROZOROV
Commemorated August 6 (†1938)

 

And ye shall know the truth,  
and the truth shall make you free.
St. John 8:32
 
 

 

Archbishop Dimitry of GdovSon of Gabriel Liubimov, the future hierarch-martyr Dimitry was a native of Petersburgh. He graduated from the St. Petersburgh Theological Academy in 1883 and was appointed Psalmist at the Russian church in Stuttgart. The next year he taught at the Theological School in Rostov. In 1886 he was ordained a priest and appointed to St. Michael’s Church in Oranienbaum, and two years later was transferred to St. Petersburgh to the big parish church of the Protection of the Mother of God, where he served for over 30 years. This church conducted a wide range of charitable works. It ran an orphanage, old age homes, schools, etc. It was located near Senniy marketplace in a neighborhood that was made famous by Dostoyevsky’s writings, where the poor and outcasts of society were to be found. Fr. Dimitry had great love for the poor and unfortunate people of this parish, and this love and his unselfish labors for them well justified his surname Liubimov, “beloved.”
 

 

Metropolitan Benjamin of PetersburgAfter the Revolution Fr. Dimitry became a widower, but the trying times of the Russian Golgotha did not cause his faith to waver. On the contrary, he became an ardent defender of the truth of Christ, now as a bishop. The shocking execution of the Metropolitan of Petersburgh, Benjamin, in August 1922, was followed by the arrest of all four of his vicar bishops, and the old capital remained for four years without a chief hierarch. In 1926 Metropolitan Peter of Krutitsk, himself already arrested, appointed as a successor to the martyred Metropolitan Benjamin, Archbishop Joseph (Petrovykh), raising him to the rank of Metropolitan. Two other bishops were released from prison, and several new episcopal consecrations followed immediately, one of them being that of Father Dimitry. He was tonsured a monk bearing the same name of Dimitry, but with a new patron saint, and was made vicar of the Petersburgh diocese.
 

 

Metropolitan Joseph (Petrovykh)To the joy of the faithful in August 1926, the new Metropolitan, Joseph, was to arrive at his See and sever with his vicars the vigil service for the feast of the capital’s patron, St. Alexander Nevsky. I shall never forget—writes Alexei Rostov, an eyewitness of the events of this period and a member of the Catacomb Church for many years, who has supplied all the information that follows—that vigil service on August 29 in the Cathedral Church of the St. Alexander Nevsky Lavra, when seven vicar bishops served with Metropolitan Joseph. The akathist was sung by all the bishops and the people with a single heart and soul before an icon of St. Alexander which contained a small part of his relics. We had not had such a solemn service in Petrograd since 1917. But soon great trials were to engulf us, caused by the Declaration of Metropolitan Sergius.
 

 

Metropolitan Joseph did not recognize the Declaration and was followed by Bishop Dimitry and a group of bishops, clergy, and laymen. One of the priests in this group, a future co-martyr with Bishop Dimitry, was the ardent young Fr. Nicholas Prozorov. After the historic Petrograd Delegation Metropolitan Joseph, then already banished, raised Bp. Dimitry to the rank of Archbishop and temporary head of the Petrograd Diocese. Metropolitan Sergius thereupon placed Archbishop Dimitry under interdict, and in his ukase concerning this on January 17, 1928, he showed his mercilessness to the confessors of genuine Orthodoxy, stating that for insubordination “our Church threatens direct excommunication and anathema, depriving those guilty of even the right to appeal to a conciliar judgment,” saying further that “no sacraments may be received from them nor any private services, for anyone who enters into ecclesiastical communion with the excommunicated and interdicted and prays with them, even at home, is likewise declared to be excommunicated.”
 

 

Professor Father Theodore AndreevArchbishop Dimitry, fearlessly following in the footsteps of Metropolitan Joseph refused to accept this or any other decrees coming from Metropolitan Sergius, recognizing that by his “adaptation to atheism” he had placed himself in schism from the Russian Church. The GPU (secret police), seeking to increase strife within the Church, at first took no action against the “Josephites;” but soon the first blow fell with the arrest in 1928 of the young and gifted theologian, Professor Father Theodore Andreev, who after suffering in prison died in April 1929. Archbp. Dimitry, who had called him an “adamant of Orthodoxy” for his righteous criticism of Bulgakov, Berdyaev, and other pseudo-Orthodox thinkers, celebrated his solemn funeral service. In November 1929, he was himself arrested together with Fr. Nicholas Prozorov and other clergy and laymen for refusing to recognize the “Declaration.” I was myself a member of this group and was held in cell no. 9 in the “House of Preliminary Confinement” at 25 Voinova (Shpalernaya) St. in Leningrad.
 

 

Father Nicholas ZagorovskyOn April 10, 1930, four of us were moved to another prison cell, no. 21, where there were 20 cots and 80 to 100 prisoners to share them, whereas in the previous cell there had been 14 cots to 35 or 45 men. Here I met the young priest, Fr. Nicholas Prozorov. There was also another priest, Fr. John, as well as Fr. Nicholas Zagorovsky, a holy man of 75 who had been brought from Kharkov also in connection with the Declaration of Metr. Sergius.
 

 

At this time Archbishop Dimitry was also in this prison, in solitary confinement, and once I chanced to see him while we were carrying out a very heavy box filled with garbage. A guard accompanied us. As we came out into the prison courtyard, Vladika Dimitry was returning from his ten-minute walk, also accompanied by a guard. It was a warm July evening, and I could see him clearly. He was a tall husky old man in a rasson with a thick white beard, slightly pink cheeks, and blue eyes. He did not wear a panagia in the prison. Here was a true confessor of our much-suffering Catacomb Church!
 

 

The priests who had spent the longest time in this cell occupied a corner near the grating, separated by a cardboard partition from the rest of the cell; this was called the “holy corner,” and here they slept side by side, and in the morning they would serve the Typica, and in the evening Vespers—or, before a feast, the All-night Vigil. They would sit in a row on stools, two or three laymen would join them, and then would listen to the whole service, which was read from memory in a low voice. The other prisoners pretended not to notice anything. Here I spent my first Pascha in prison. Although I was warned by a good friend of mine not to go to the ‘holy corner,’ for which I could easily get some years added to my sentence, I still could not resist, and I went there when Fr. Nicholas began to sing the opening Paschal hymn: Thy Resurrection, O Christ Saviour, angels hymn in heaven; vouchsafe to us on earth with pure heart to glorify Thee. Other priests seconded him, and thus we had the whole joyous service. As I returned to my mattress I saw how many of the prisoners were still crossing themselves, tears streaming down their unshaven cheeks. Everyone in the cell had carefully followed our service in silence.
 

 

Archbishop John (Pommer)Here in the cell, I learned the “life” of my fellow inmate, Fr. Nicholas. He was of medium height, dark skinned, with rather crude features, dark eyes, and hair, and s small beard. He was a simple man, not a learned intellectual, but with a deep faith and firm in his confession; and thus he believed that in joyfully accepting martyrdom, he thereby opened for himself entry into the kingdom of heaven. He was born in 1896 and went to a seminary, but in 1915 he quit and, just 18 years old, went as a volunteer to the front. The Revolution found him a sub-lieutenant. After returning from the front to his native Voronezh, he was arrested and accused together with others of a “conspiracy” during the frightful years of the civil war, and he was condemned to be shot. Finding himself in a common cell with a group of condemned officers, he proposed to the believers that they read aloud the akathist to St. Nicholas the Wonderworker, the defender of the unjustly condemned. By chance, he had a copy of the akathist with him. Some of the officers agreed and went aside and quietly sang the akathist. Another group, evidently those officers who were unbelievers or were not devout, took no part in this prayer. And an extraordinary miracle occurred that shook the soul of the young officer Prozorov to its foundations: in the morning, all who had read the akathist were saved from execution and given instead various terms of imprisonment, while the other officers were all shot. Prozorov gave a vow to become a priest as soon as he should get out of prison, and finding himself freed before too long, he fulfilled his vow. He was ordained by Archbishop John (Pommer), who was later bestially murdered by Bolshevik terrorists in Riga on October 12, 1934.
 

 

The GPU, however, forbade Fr. Nicholas to remain in Voronezh, and he went to Petrograd, where he served in the small church of St. Alexander Oshenevsky on the outskirts of the city near the Piskareva railway station.
 

 

Once one of the leading communists of Leningrad came to him and asked him to marry him and a girl who refused to live with him without a Church marriage. “Your church is in the forest, no one will find out,” he said since as a communist he would be excluded from the Party for having a Church marriage. Fr. Nicholas agreed and told him to prepare for Holy Communion in advance. The communist became angry and said: “I’ll indulge a girl’s whim, but I don’t recognize any confession. Marry us right away! I’ll pay whatever you want, more than you earn in a year. While I am alive, no one will arrest you. After all, I’m a member of the Central Committee of the Party!” Thus did the Party member, whose name was known throughout Russia, threaten Fr. Nicholas. But the latter refused and thus remained in need with his family, depriving himself of an opportunity to obtain a powerful defender with weight in the Kremlin.

 

House of Preliminary Confinement at 25 Voinova (Shpalernaya) St. in LeningradIn the morning of August 4, many in our cell were called out, as ever to the corridor, and we were told to sign that we had read our sentences: some received five years, some ten. Only Fr. Nicholas was not called out to hear his sentence. The next morning during the exercise period we found out by a complicated set of signs that Archbishop Dimitry, at the age of 75, had received ten years in the isolation prison. I never saw him again.
 

 

The next day all those who had been sentenced were summoned to the station and bade farewell to us. Fr. Nicholas did not know whether to rejoice or be sad. If he had been acquitted, most likely he would have been freed. But everything soon became clearer: there was another reason why he had been as it were forgotten until his friends had been sent off.
 

 

The whole day of August 5|18, the eve of the Transfiguration, I tried not to leave Fr. Nicholas, who immediately felt himself alone with the departure of his friends.
 

 

Out of the hundreds of prisoners, most of them did not know what it was all about, and others thought that it was an indication that he was to be freed. He alone read, from memory, the All-night Vigil for the Transfiguration, and I listened; other laymen who usually listened had already been sent off to concentration camps—the people in a cell are always being changed. He took out of the pocket of his cassock a photograph of his three daughters, aged 6, 4, and 2; and, fondly looking at them, he said to me: “I believe that the Lord will not forsake these orphans in the terrible Bolshevik world.”
 

 

Father Nicholaj ProzorovThe usual preparations for the night began about 9 p.m. The eldest in time spent in the cell lay down on cots, the rest on tables and on benches formed of stools, and newcomers under the tables and cots. My cot was by the window, and Fr. Nicholas’ was by the grating which separated us from the corridor. When all had lain down, the officer on duty appeared and stood in the corridor at the door of the grating: “Prozorov—here?”
    “Yes—that’s me;” Fr. Nicholas jumped up from his bed.
    “Name and patronymic?” the officer asked, checking his list.
    “Nicholas Kiriakovich,” Batiushka answered, getting dressed.
    “Get ready with your things.”
Fr. Nicholas understood everything. Many times we had observed together how the officer on duty would summon people for execution.
 

 

Fr. Nicholas began to get dressed quickly and to pack a straw box with his prison “property.” I lay at the other end of the cell and could not get to him through the room, which was blocked with tables, benches, cots, and with bodies lying everywhere. But from the lighted corner where he was packing, I could clearly see his courageous, black-bearded face, which was shining from some unearthly joy. He was 33 years old, like the Saviour when he mounted Golgotha. The whole room became quiet and everyone watched Fr. Nicholas. On the other side of the grating, the officer did not take his eyes off him. Fr. Nicholas with a joyful smile looked at all of us and quickly went to the grating, which the officer opened for him. On the threshold, he turned to us and said loudly: “The Lord is calling me to Him, and now I will be with Him.”
 

 

In silence, shaken by the greatness of soul of this modest pastor, we all looked and saw how the grating shut after him, and how with a quick gait he went in front of the officer, who followed him. We all began to speak of Fr. Nicholas in a whisper, with great feeling. Not only believers, but atheists as well—Trotskyites, Mensheviks, bandits, and just plain Soviet rogues—were inspired with reverence and deep feeling by his firm faith.
 

 

On the next visiting day, the prisoners who returned from meeting their relatives told us that the priests’ wives had been informed of the sentences against their husbands. And then we found out that Fr. Nicholas had been shot on that eve of the Transfiguration, August 6, 1930.
 

 

The fate of Bishop Dimitry was similar, although we do not know the date on which he received his martyr’s crown. After eight years of solitary confinement in the Yaroslavl isolation prison, he was shot in 1938.
 

 

The holy martyrs who died for Christ by the hundreds and thousands in ancient times were glorified by the Church without any special procedure of canonization. Likewise, today, when countless sufferers are being crowned with the glory of martyrs, no one need hesitate to recognize them as glorified saints, our intercessors before God. May they strengthen us now as the terrible hour of trial of our faithfulness to Christ draws near.
 

 

O Holy Martyrs Dimitry and Nicholas, together with all the countless heavenly host of the sufferers of the new catacombs, pray to God for us!
 
 

 

THE HISTORIC PETROGRAD DELEGATION OF 1927

>>AN INTERVIEW WITH METROPOLITAN SERGIUS<<

 

 
Archpriest Victorin DobronravovThe infamous declaration of Metropolitan Sergius, issued on July 16|29, 1927, gave a profound shock to the entire Russian Orthodox world. From every corner of the Russian land, there resounded the voices of protest of clergy and laymen. A mass of “Epistles” was sent to Metropolitan Sergius, and copies of them were sent throughout the land. The authors of these “Epistles” implored Metropolitan Sergius to renounce the ruinous path he had chosen.

 

After a whole torrent of such “Epistles” of protest, an unending file of delegations began to stream to Metropolitan Sergius in Moscow.

 

Professor S. S. Abramovich-BaranovskyOne of such countless delegations was the historic Delegation of the Petrograd Diocese, which came to Moscow on November 27, 1927, being composed of the following members: His Grace Dimitry Liubimov, Bishop of Gdov (Vicar of the Petrograd Diocese), Archpriest Victorin Dobronravov, Prof. I. M. Andreev (myself), and C. A. Alexeev. Bishop Dimitry represented Metropolitan Joseph of Petrograd and had with him a long letter that had been signed by seven bishops who were in Petrograd (among whom, besides Metropolitan Joseph and Bishop Dimitry, were Bp. Gabriel, Bp. Stephen, and Bp. Sergius of Narva). Archpriest Dobronravov represented a numerous group of Petrograd clergy and had with him a letter from them, which was signed by Archpriest Professor F. K. Andreev. I represented the academic circles and brought a letter from a group of academicians and professors of the Academy of Sciences, the University, and other higher institutions of learning; the letter had been composed by Professor S. S. Abramovich-Baranovsky (formerly of the Academy of Military Jurisprudence) and Professor M. A. Novoselovy (the well-known publisher and editor of the “Library of Religion and Monks,” who was then secretly living in Petrograd and Moscow). S. A. Alexeev represented the broad masses of the people.

 

Despite the fact that the Petrograd Delegation came to Moscow after many other delegations that had come with the same purpose, it was received without waiting its turn. The Delegation’s interview with Metropolitan Sergius lasted for two hours.

 

After going to Metropolitan Sergius, all members of the Delegation went up to him to receive his blessing, introduced themselves and testified that they had come as faithful children of the Orthodox Church.

 

When Metropolitan Sergius had finished reading the letters that had been brought to him (from the episcopate, from the clergy, and from the laity), Bishop Dimitry—who was 70 years old—fell to his knees before him and exclaimed in tears: “Vladika! Listen to us, in the name of Christ!”

 

Metropolitan Sergius immediately raised him up from his knees, seated him in an armchair, and said in a firm and somewhat irritated voice: “What is there to listen to? Everything you have written has been written by others earlier, and to all this, I have already replied many times clearly and definitely. What remains unclear to you?!”

 

Metropolitan Sergius Stragorodsky“Vladika!” began Bishop Dimitry in a trembling voice with copious tears — “At the time of my consecration you told me that I should be faithful to the Orthodox Church and, in the case of necessity, that I should be prepared to lay down my own life as well for Christ. And now such a time of confession has come and I wish to suffer for Christ; but you, by your Declaration, instead of a path to Golgotha propose that we stand on the path of collaboration with a God-fighting regime that persecutes and blasphemes Christ; you propose that we rejoice with its joys and sorrow with its sorrows… Our rulers strive to annihilate religion and the Church and rejoice at the destruction of churches, rejoice at the successes of their anti-religious propaganda. This joy of theirs is the source of our sorrow. You propose that we thank the Soviet government for its attention to the needs of the Orthodox population. But how is that attention expressed? In the murder of hundreds of bishops, thousands of priests, and millions of faithful. In the defilement of holy things, the mockery of relics, in the destruction of an immense number of churches and the annihilation of all monasteries. Surely it would be better if they did not give us such ‘attention!'”

 

“Our government”—Metropolitan Sergius suddenly interrupted Bp. Dimitry—”has persecuted the clergy only for political crimes.”

 

“That is a slander!” Bishop Dimitry cried out heatedly.

 

“We wish to obtain a reconciliation of the Orthodox Church with the governing regime,” Metropolitan Sergius continued with irritation, “While you are striving to underline the counter-revolutionary character of the Church… Consequently, you are counter-revolutionaries, whereas we are entirely loyal to the Soviet regime!”

 

“That is not true!” exclaimed Bishop Dimitry heatedly. “That is another slander against the confessors, martyrs, and those who have been shot and those who are languishing in concentration camps and in banishment… What counter-revolutionary act did the executed Metropolitan Benjamin perform? In what lies the ‘counter-revolution’ in the position of Metropolitan Peter of Krutitsk?!”

 

“And the Sobor of Karlovtsy, in your opinion, also did not have a political character?” Metropolitan Sergius interrupted him again.

 

“There was no Sobor of Karlovtsy in Russia,” Bishop Dimitry replied quietly, “and many martyrs in the concentration camps knew nothing of this Sobor.”

 

“I personally,” continued Bishop Dimitry, “am a completely apolitical man, and if I myself had to accuse myself to the GPU, I couldn’t imagine anything of which I am guilty before the Soviet regime. I only sorrow and grieve, seeing the persecution against religion and the Church. We pastors are forbidden to speak of this, and we are silent. But to the question, whether there is any persecution against religion and the Church in the USSR, I could not reply otherwise than affirmative! When they proposed to you, Vladika, to write your Declaration, why did you not reply like Metropolitan Peter, that you can keep silence, but cannot say what is untrue?”

 

“And where is the untruth?” exclaimed Metropolitan Sergius.

 

“In the fact,” replied Bishop Dimitry “that persecution against religion, the ‘opium of the people’ according to the Marxist dogma, not only exists among us, but in its cruelty, cynicism, and blasphemy has passed all limits!”

 

“Well, we are fighting with this,” remarked Metropolitan Sergius, “but we are fighting legally, and not like counter-revolutionaries… And when we shall have demonstrated our completely loyal position with regard to the Soviet regime, the results will be even more noticeable. Probably we will be able, as a counterbalance to the Atheist, to publish our own little religious journal…”

 

“You have forgotten, Vladika,” remarked Archpriest Dobronravov, “that the Church is the Body of Christ and not a consistory with a ‘little journal’ under the censorship of an atheist regime!”

 

“It is not our political, but our religious conscience that does not permit us to join ourselves to your Declaration,” I noted.

 

“I wish to suffer for Christ, and you propose that we renounce Him,” said C. A. Alexeev with bitterness.

 

“And so you want a schism?!” Metropolitan Sergius asked threateningly. “Do not forget that the sin of schism is not washed away even by the blood of martyrdom! The majority is in agreement with me,” he added authoritatively.

 

Metropolitan Peter of Krutitsk“Voices must be weighed, not counted, Vladika,” I objected. “After all, Metropolitan Peter, the lawful Locum Tenens of the Patriarchal Throne, is not in agreement with you; nor are Metropolitans Agathangel, Cyril, and Joseph; nor such lamps as Metropolitan Arsenius, Archbishop Seraphim of Uglich, Archbishop Pachomius, Bishops Victor, Damaskin, Avericus, and many others; nor the Elders of Optina, nor the prisoners of Solovki…”

 

“Truth is not always where the majority is,” remarked Archpriest Dobronravov; “otherwise the Saviour would not have spoken of the ‘little flock.’ And the head of a Church has not always turned out to be on the side of Truth. It is sufficient to recall the time of Maximus the Confessor.”

 

“By my new church policy I am saving the Church,” Metropolitan Sergius replied deliberately.

 

“What are you saying, Vladika!” all members of the Delegation exclaimed with one voice. “The Church does not have need of salvation,” added Archpriest Dobronravov; “the gates of hell shall no prevail against it. You yourself, Vladika, have need of salvation through the Church.”

 

“I meant that in a different sense,” replied Metropolitan Sergius, somewhat disconcerted.

 

“And why, Vladika, did you order that a prayer for the regime be introduced into the Liturgy, while a the same time you forbade prayer for ‘those in prisons and in banishment?'” I asked.

 

“Do I really have to remind you of the well-known text of the Apostle Paul concerning the authorities?” Metropolitan Sergius asked with irony. “And as for the prayer for ‘those in banishment,’ many deacons make a demonstration out of this.”

 

“And then, Vladika, will you change the Beatitudes in the Liturgy?” I again objected; “after all, one can make a demonstration out of them, too.”

 

“I am not altering the Liturgy,” Metropolitan Sergius said dryly.

 

“And who needs the prayer for the regime? Certainly, the atheist Soviet regime does not need it. And believers could pray only in the sense of the entreaty ‘for the softening of the hard hearts of our rulers,’ or ‘for the enlightenment of those in error.’ But to pray for an anti-Christian regime is impossible.”

 

“Really!—What kind of Antichrist do you find here?” replied Metropolitan Sergius with a disdainful gesture of the hand.

 

“But the spirit is precisely that of Antichrist,” I insisted. “And what called for this prayer? Did they force you to introduce this petition?”

 

“Well, I myself found it necessary.”

 

“No, Vladika, answer as before God, from the depths of your archpastoral conscience: did they force you to do this, as with much else in your ‘new church policy,’ or not?”

 

This question had to be repeated stubbornly and persistently many times, before Metropolitan Sergius finally replied: “Well, so they press one, and force one—but I myself think that way, too,” he concluded hastily and fearfully.

 

“And why, Vladika, did you order that right after the name of Metropolitan Peter your own name be commemorated? We have heard that this also was ordered from higher up, with the intention of soon omitting the name of Metropolitan Peter altogether.” Metropolitan Sergius did not reply to this (In 1936 the commemoration of Metropolitan Peter, who died in 1937 or 1938, was prohibited).

 

“And who appointed your ‘Temporary Patriarchal Synod?’ And who has occupied himself with the appointment and transference of bishops? Why was Metropolitan Joseph (of Petrograd) removed against the wishes of his flock? We know, Vladika, that all this is done by the unofficial ‘ober-procurator’ of your Synod, the Communist secret police agent Tuchkov, against your wishes.”

 

“Where did you take all that from?” Metropolitan Sergius asked, somewhat disconcerted.

 

“Everyone knows it, Vladika.”

 

Alexei I (Simansky) Patriarch of Moscow“And with whom have you surrounded yourself, Vladika?” added Archpriest Dobronravov. “The very name of Bishop (later ‘Patriarch’) Alexei Simansky is enough to discredit your whole Synod.”

 

Metropolitan Sergius stood up and said that he would think about everything we had said and give a short written reply in three days. The audience was finished. In three days Metropolitan Sergius gave a written reply, repeating in general and nebulous expressions the theses of his Declaration.

 

The delegation returned to Petrograd. And in a short time, a schism occurred. To those who broke off communion with Metr. Sergius, the latter replied by interdictions; the organs of the secret police cynically helped him.

 

The members of the Petrograd Delegation were soon arrested and suffered terribly. The aged Bishop Dimitry was put in the Yaroslavl political isolation ward for ten years and then was shot. Archpriest Dobronravov was sent to a Siberian concentration camp for ten years, and then was sentenced to ten more years, without right of correspondence. I was sent to the concentration camp at Solovki. S. A. Alexeev, after becoming a priest, was shot.

 

The true Russian Orthodox Church went into the catacombs, where it remains to the present day as an invisible city of Kitezh, preserving itself as the unspotted Bride of Christ.
 

 
 

THE SEPARATION OF BISHOP DIMITRY OF GDOV

AND THE FAITHFUL OF PETROGRAD

 

Document of December 14 (27), 1927

 

In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.
 

 

This is the testimony of our conscience [II Corinthians 1:12]: It is no longer permissible for us, without sinning against the canons of the Holy Orthodox Church, to remain in ecclesiastical communion with the Substitute of the Patriarchal Locum Tenens—Sergius, Metropolitan of Nizhegorod, and his Synod, and with all who think as they do. It is not out of pride—let this never be—but for the sake of peace of conscience that we disavow the person and the deeds of our former head, who has unlawfully and immoderately gone beyond his rights and has introduced great disturbance and the “smoky arrogance of the world” into the Church of Christ, whose duty is to bring to those who desire the see God the light of simplicity and the tribute of wisdom in humility (from the Epistle of the African Council to Pope Celestine).

 

And we decide upon this only after we have received testimony from the hands of Metropolitan Sergius himself that the new direction and orientation of Russian ecclesiastical life which he has undertaken is not subject to any change.

 

Therefore, remaining by God’s mercy in everything the obedient children of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, and preserving the Apostolic succession through the Patriarchal Locum Tenens Peter, Metropolitan of Krutitsk, we break off canonical communion with Metropolitan Sergius and with all who are under him; and until the judgment of a “complete Local Council,” i.e., with the participation of all Orthodox bishops, or until the open and complete repentance of the Metropolitan himself before the Holy Church, we preserve communion in prayer only with those who watch lest the canons of the Fathers be transgressed… and lest imperceptibly and little by little we lose the freedom which our Lord Jesus Christ, the Liberator of all men, has given us as a free gift by His Own Blood (8th Canon of the Third Ecumenical Council). Amen.

 

Dimitry, Bishop of Gdov
 

 
 

LETTER OF BISHOP DIMITRY OF GDOV, TEMPORARY HEAD OF

THE PETROGRAD DIOCESE, TO THE PRIESTS OF THE DIOCESE

 

Document of January 4 (17), 1928

 

 
Dear Fathers in the Lord,
 
In answer to your petition of December 30, os, which was addressed to my unworthiness, I reply that with love I accept you into communion in prayer with myself and under my archpastoral leadership, and I earnestly beg your holy prayers for me, a sinner, that the Lord God, in the wealth of His grace, may grant us to remain faithful to the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, accepting as our head in the order of the earthly ecclesiastical hierarchy the Patriarchal Locum Tenens, Peter, Metropolitan of Krutitsk, until such time as a complete Local Council of the Russian Church, at which there will be represented the entire active episcopate—i.e., the present exiles-confessors—shall justify by its conciliar authority our way of acting, or until such time as Metropolitan Sergius will come to himself and repent of his sins not only against the canonical order of the Church, but also dogmatically against her person (blaspheming the sanctity of the exploit of her confessors by casting doubt on the purity of their Christian convictions, as if they were mixed up with politics), against her conciliarity (by his and his Synod’s act of coercion), against her apostolicity (by subjecting the unity—with Metropolitan Peter, who did not give Metropolitan Sergius authorization for his latest acts, beginning with the epistle (Declaration) of July 16|29, 1927). Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions (II Thessalonians 2:15).

 

Dimitry, Bishop of Gdov
 

 

Photographs:
1. Archbishop Dimitry of Gdov
2. Metropolitan of Petersburgh, Benjamin
3. Metropolitan Joseph (Petrovykh)
4. Professor Father Theodore Andreev
5. Father Nicholas Zagorovsky
6. Archbishop John (Pommer)
7. House of Preliminary Confinement at 25 Voinova (Shpalernaya) St. in Leningrad
8. Father Nicholas Prozorov
9. Archpriest Victorin Dobronravov
10. Professor S. S. Abramovich-Baranovsky
11. Metropolitan Sergius Stragorodsky
12. Metropolitan Peter of Krutitsk
13. Alexei I (Simansky) Patriarch of Moscow
Header: ‘Russia’s Catacomb Saints’, book cover, published 1982