Bishop Hilarion of Vienna issues open letter concerning the question of his candidacy as OCA Metropolitan

In an open letter sent to the OCA Chancery on November 6, 2008, His Grace, Bishop Hilarion (Alfeyev) of Vienna and Austria addressed recent discussions about his possible candidacy as Metropolitan of All America and Canada.

Bishop Hilarion’s letter reads as follows.

“In recent weeks my name was mentioned many times in connection with the forthcoming elections of the OCA primate. I also received letters, e-mails and phone calls asking for permission to nominate me for this position at the All-American Council. I am grateful for this unexpected outpouring of love and appreciation, and I am humbled and touched by the trust that so many Orthodox Americans apparently have in me.

“At the same time, I believe, I must declare clearly that I will not accept to be nominated as a candidate for this position. I will try to list the reasons.

“First of all, I firmly believe that the OCA must be headed by an American. If a Russian bishop is elected to be its primate, it might be interpreted as an implicit denial of its autocephalous status, which has so far been most ardently defended precisely by the Moscow Patriarchate. There are people in the OCA who already say that by accepting my candidacy the OCA will accept ‘becoming a part of Moscow Patriarchate.’ They go as far as suggesting that the idea to release me to the OCA ‘comes from the Moscow Patriarchate itself, always looking to acquire new territories.’ I believe that the most effective way to stop these accusations is for the Moscow Patriarchate to manifest its complete disengagement from the current situation of the OCA and to let the OCA deal with its internal problems on its own.

“Secondly, it would be extremely difficult for a Russian bishop, if elected the OCA Metropolitan, to act freely. The opposition to him will be formed even before he arrives, simply on the basis of his being Russian and not American. He will be regarded as a ‘hand of Moscow’ and his actions will be constantly and deliberately misinterpreted. I already had such experience in the past and do not want to repeat it.

“I would like to add something personal. I received the Orthodox faith through the Russian Orthodox Church. She is my spiritual mother, whom I love deeply and wholeheartedly. At the age of twenty I received monastic tonsure and since then have been fully obedient to my Church, to its Patriarch and the Holy Synod. My life is in the hands of His Holiness and I will never accept any proposal concerning my service without his prior consent. I have been made aware by His Holiness that he is appreciative of my service and that he believes the Russian Church needs me in my capacity as one of its bishops. Therefore, even if elected the OCA Metropolitan, I will not be released by the Moscow Patriarchate.

“In view of the aforesaid I would like to ask the delegates of the forthcoming All-American Council not to include my name in the list of candidates.”

The election of the new Metropolitan of All America and Canada is scheduled during the OCA’s 15th All-American Council on the morning of Wednesday, November 12, 2008.