22.07.2008 16:46

Old Calendar Orthodox Church of Bulgaria - Ecclesiastical Council:

Exposition on behalf of the Ecclesiastical Council of the Old Calendar Orthodox Church of Bulgaria


With the blessing of His Eminence Bishop Photii of Triaditza, President of the Ecclesiastical Council of the Old Calendar Orthodox Church of Bulgaria we hereby apprise you of the following:

In the communities of our Church an Open Letter is being circulated, addressed to Bishop Photii and his congregation and signed by Hieromonk Cassian (Angelov), who was expelled from the clergy of the Old Calendar Orthodox Church of Bulgaria by Decision of the Ecclesiastical Court dated November 4, 2005 (N. S.). Some of you are probably already acquainted with this letter. Its contents are yet another, and we should add, regrettable proof of the well-groundedness of the motives which guided the Ecclesiastical Court in taking their decision.

On the whole, the text of this letter exemplifies in a seemingly bizarre and paradoxical fashion the traits of the cult personality, to wit—a deep confidence in one’s own impregnable rightness and in the unconditional veracity of one’s personal opinions, assessments and attitudes. We say that these traits of the cult personality are paradoxically exhibited, because in the text of the letter, a tactic typical of such personalities (or, in other words, the alleged starets/elder) finds its vivid expression in Orthodox environment: underscoring one’s personal rightness by its ostensible denial; rejection of genuine repentance, cloaked by obtrusively repeated readiness to repent, which is in fact reduced to hollow declarations, to threadbare rhetoric regarding repentance. With such type of texts, their authors inevitably employ manipulation, distortion of truths, open lies and, so to say, “dropped down” arrogant, disparaging and ironical attitude toward their opponents.

Let us dwell on certain points in this letter in greater detail.

1. For information’s sake: the Open Letter of Fr. Cassian dated July 4 (N.S.) to this day has not been received either by mail, or by electronic mail by Bishop Photii.1

2. We read in the letter: “——I was invited to a meeting with ‘members of the ecclesiastical council,’ which meeting turned out to be—‘ecclesiastical lawsuit’… All this was unexpected for me.” The phrases in inverted commas ‘members of the ecclesiastical council,’ ‘ecclesiastical lawsuit’ and especially phrases in other parts of the letter, such as “the so-called ecclesiastical court” and “‘the meeting’-lawsuit” express an attitude of Fr. Cassian, which—from the viewpoint of the plainest ecclesiastical conscience—is inconceivable in its arrogance and even sarcasm toward the Hierarchical authority of the Church in the person of Her ruling Bishop and the Ecclesiastical Council assisting him. The meeting of members of the Ecclesiastical Council with Hieromonk Cassian, which he qualifies as “ecclesiastical court” took place on September 19, 2005, in compliance with the Resolution of the Ecclesiastical Council dated May 30, 2005 for exploration and detailed study the facts regarding a complaint presented by Mrs. Nina Khlebarova respecting a property controversy between her and Hieromonk Cassian, as well as on account of various alarming reports regarding the life in the Zhablyano monastery of St. John the Baptist. In his ambition to demonstrate moral superiority over the ecclesial authorities, Hieromonk Cassian not only caustically calls this meeting “ecclesiastical lawsuit,” but also emphasises that all of this, including the meeting which allegedly turned out to be an “ecclesiastical lawsuit”, as well as the personal accusations among which allegedly there was not a single one respecting matters of faith, were unexpected for him. Quite differently speaks the recorded evidence of the conversation between the members of the Ecclesiastical Council and Fr. Cassian. For example, Father Cassian deemed it necessary to apprise the Ecclesiastical Council that he had with difficulty managed to admonish the monastery brethren and the ephemeria of the Knyazhevo Convent not to accompany him [to the meeting referred to], after they declared he was on his way to be judged by Pilate.

Apart from this, Hieromonk Cassian, though in an evasive manner, confirmed the veracity of the rumour which came to the knowledge of the Council regarding the meeting of the former with the regional governor of [the town of] Kyustendil, at which the latter, having learned that the monks from Zhablyano were being interrogated by the Ecclesiastical Council, declared his readiness to send a group of his men for physical retribution against the members of the Council. Hieromonk Cassian facetiously interjected, that “such a thing [i. e. a thrashing] is not hard to arrange,” but still, he declared that the Ecclesiastical Council should not take that as a threat. Regardless of the way in which it was made, Hieromonk Cassian’s remark (as well as a series of other of his replies during this conversation) oversteps the bounds of even the commonest human decorum and is far from being typical of a victim subjected to an utterly unexpected lawsuit.

3. Further on in Hieromonk Cassian’s Open Letter one reads: “Immediately after ‘the meeting’-lawsuit I requested a rendezvous with the First Hierarch and President of the ecclesiastical court Bishop Photii: orally, by the telephone, via SMS and by way of the sisters from the Knyazhevo Convent, for a confession before him, but silence ensued from all directions and I was not admitted to confession.” Here we have to deal with an downright lie. On September 26, 2005 Bishop Photii sent to Hieromonk Cassian a letter with the following contents:

“Dear Father Cassian!

I received your message in which you ask me to admit you for confession.

Let me be allowed to share in sincerity that I am profoundly depressed by our meeting on 19 September because of all you said. If you have reconsidered this and if precisely such a reconsideration is the subject of your confession, then please, expose this change in your thoughts in writing so that it may be evidence not for me solely, but for the other persons who were present at that meeting. I believe this to be entirely natural and even understandable by itself.

If however, your confession touches upon subjects and concerns outside the contents of your answers and the meeting with members of the Ecclesiastical Council, then I cannot see the reason why you should confess before me: you might as well approach your personal confessor, Fr. Hieromonk Seraphim to whom, as far as I know, you have been confessing for years.

Finally, I should like to assure you that my best wishes for you are not a mere verbal cliché.

May the Lord and the Heavenly Queen protect and guide you.

With a feeling of regret, but also of love in Christ,

† Bishop Photii.”

This letter was dispatched by the Speedy postal company. No reply was received from Hieromonk Cassian.

Against the background of what was hitherto stated, the splenetic irony, the scornfully supercilious attitude, the demonstration of personal superiority and inapproachability expressed in the next lines from Hieromonk Cassian’s letter, become conspicuously obvious: “Forgive me, my dear well-wishers, but other forms of penitence [excepting the personal confession] do not exist in the Holy Church and, to your appeal to me ‘to repent’ [I declare] I do not know HOW?”

The conclusion of the Open Letter represents a classical illustration of a fundamental trait in the character of the cult personality in an Orthodox environment: extreme arrogance in the garb of extreme humility. All who dare to take critical attitude toward the “elder” are his ill-wishers, detractors or persecutors, while he is—as a rule—always innocent and in humility suffers for Christ’s sake; in this case the cult personality imitates an attitude of evangelic virtuousness, expressing in ostensibly humble words his gratitude to those whom he actually mocks and looks down upon from the loftiness of his unconditional authority. Here is the very conclusion [of the Open Letter]:

“By the present lines I express my sincere thankfulness to the members of the ecclesiastical court, as well as to the delinquent brethren who supported them, and to all who joined them, for all they did to me for the Lord’s sake.” Sad and depressing.

* * *

Hieromonk Cassian’s Open Letter which we hitherto analysed in its basic points, addressed “to Bishop Photii and his congregation,” is obviously a manifestation of a large-scale campaign, designed to attain Father Cassian’s vindication through exerting pressure from without upon Bishop Photii and the ruling organ of our Church. What precisely do we mean?

1. Hieromonk Cassian who is not in ecclesiastical communion with any Orthodox Bishop, together with Priest Stanoy Stanoev who is a clergyman of the official Bulgarian church, sent to the Holy Synod in Resistance headed by Bishop Cyprian of Oreia as Acting President, a request in the English language, dated June 8, 2008, with electronic copies to the President of the Old Calendar Orthodox Church of Romania Metropolitan Vlasie and to the Bishop of Tauris and Odessa Agafangel, President of the Provisional Supreme Church Authority of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad. In the text of the request the two suppliants explain that the reason for applying it allegedly was “the incessant strife, relating to the removal of hieromonk Cassian, abbot of the “St. John the Baptist” Monastery and priest Stanoy Cvetanov Stanoev removed from the clergy of the Bulgarian Old Calendar Orthodox Church during 2005.”2 After having pointed out that “these sanctions of Bishop Photius or the so-called Clerical Court create division and temptation for the entire people,”3 Hieromonk Cassian and Priest Stanoy Stanoev become more specific: “Our plea is that you initiate canonical court proceedings and reopen the cases of the two priests and the decisions taken for their removal.”

2. A group of laypersons from our Church sent to the Hierarchs mentioned in p. 1 of our exposition a letter in English with no fixed date, in which they request that the Hierarchs referred to dispatch “a number of bishops in our city of Sophia in order to revise the case of Hieromonk Cassian, hegumen of the Zhabliano Holy Monastery.”4 The suppliants are insistant that “the decision for banishment of Hegumen Cassian has not been pleasing to God.” Apart from this they point out that “the result of the mentioned case is an incurable inner split inside our church, having in mind that any form of ecclesiastical communion with the monastery is prohibited.” Under the text are 57 computer-set names with no personal signatures. It is indescribably unpleasant to say that among those names one finds two persons who are not members of our Church, one person was signed twice under different surnames and 22 persons who categorically denied having given their permission their names to be put under this letter, several of whom expressed their personal disgruntlement and indignation by phone calls to Bishop Photii’s chancellery. We are utterly astonished how Orthodox Christians could allow themselves to recourse to such forgery and such—to put it bluntly—lies.

3. A young man closely related to Hieromonk Cassian and a parishioner of our cathedral in Sofia sent, in the English language, an epistle—apology in defence of Fr. Cassian in three pages, to the Bishop of Oreia Cyprian in Greece, to Metropolitan Vlasie in Romania and to Bishop Agafangel in Ukraine, expecting to receive a reply as to what personal steps he himself and “all of us who feel confused from these events should do in these unusual circumstances.”

So, all this tempestuous epistolary offensive, initiated by a handful of persons, all this inadmissible meddling in the relations of the Old Calendar Orthodox Church of Bulgaria with her Sister Churches, has as its purpose the annulment of the Resolution of the Ecclesiastical Court of November 4, 2005 (New Style) by means of a drastic intervention from without, and as a result of this, the attainment of the complete and unconditioned vindication of Hieromonk Cassian as a clergyman of our Church. Why was this not undertaken earlier, but only now, three years after the mentioned Resolution was enacted?

To some extent, we could answer this question by taking in consideration a letter of Hieromonk Cassian to the [Bulgarian] Patriarch Maxim, dated May 24, 2007 (New Style). In this letter one incidentally reads, letter for letter, the following:

“After the appearance of democracy among the Orthodox Bulgarians one seems to discern two trends: one is pro-Catholic in its attitudes, tending toward apostasy from the Orthodox faith and traditions, aspiring toward the West; the other is zealously striving toward the Orthodox confession and such a way of life. A part of the second trend is evidently dissatisfied by the convictions and actions of the high ecclesiastical authorities, which was manifested by the appearance of clerics under the omophorion of foreign jurisdictions [emphasis added]. It is propitious that You gave Your blessing to some priests to serve according to the traditional church calendar. Such a need for spiritual care now rises for both our monasteries. Being Bulgarians, we fight for a united orthodox church in Bulgaria, and not for disunity (schism),—as the Holy Gospel teaches, to be “a single flock with a single pastor”.

To this end we entreat you filially to take care of our spiritual guidance under the omophorion of a Bishop who shares our views or, if such does not exist, to consecrate one of us for such a Bishop under Your jurisdiction. [emphasis added]”

So, what was the real affair? Having not obtained from Patriarch Maxim the object of his wishes, Hieromonk Cassian once more turned for help to the “foreign jurisdictions” in order to find his place in the life of the Old Calendar Orthodox Church of Bulgaria, which is regarded by the Patriarchate as a cluster of schismatics who are not in the Church. Where is the adherence to principles in the doctrinal convictions of Hieromonk Cassian who, in order to achieve his own aims, is ready to join—in the form of a sui generis Old Calendarist Unia—the official orthodoxy, and having been obstructed in his ways, he—again by means inadmissible from the viewpoint of elementary human respectability—seeks his own vindication in the Old Calendar Orthodox Church of Bulgaria? It turns out that during the past three years after the decision of the Ecclesiastical Court Hieromonk Cassian has followed the deplorable path of deviation from fundamental principles of the Faith, relating to the ecclesiological position of the Old Calendar Orthodox Church of Bulgaria, which rules out any form of “Old Calendarist Unia” with the Patriarchate of Bulgaria, since for our Church the criterion for Eucharistic communion is doctrinal and closely related to Orthodox spirituality, and not formally administrative or conciliative and allowing of compromise.

Nevertheless, we should not like to assume that—alas!—regardless of the existing obvious data for such a conclusion—the supervaluable ideas and the ambitions typical for the cult personality, combined with ecclesio-political interests, are the unconditional motives in the thinking and behaviour of Hieromonk Cassian. May the Lord enlighten Hieromonk Cassian so that he would come to his senses and offer genuine and full repentance for his activities harmful in both ecclesio-doctrinal and spiritual and moral aspects.

Sofia, July 13 (June 30, O. S.) 2008.

1 Thus, ostensibly addressed to Bishop Photii, it was being broadcast in the midst of our faithful by print and email in utter disregard to its alleged recipient.-Translator's note, passim.

2 This is the translation that was sent to the three abovementioned Bishops. The Bulgarian text in fact reads: “the unabating unrest resulting from the removal of Hieromonk Cassian,——“

3 Another imprecise translation from Bulgarian. “The sanctions of Bishop Photii and the so-called Ecclesiastical court are provoking a schism (razkol) and are an temptation (offence) for all the people.”

4 This is the translation sent to the abovementioned Bishops.



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