Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States, 1922, Volume II
The Russian Ambassador (Bakhmeteff) to the Secretary of State
The Russian Ambassador presents his compliments to the Honorable, the Secretary of State and has the honor to request to bring to the attention of the President the enclosed letter from Archbishop Alexander, together with an appeal of several high dignitaries of the Eastern Orthodox Church in the United States of America, headed by His Grace Metropolitan Platon, relative to the reported trial of His Holiness Tikhon, Patriarch of Moscow and All the Russias.
These documents have been received by the Russian Embassy with the request to submit them to the President.
Archbishop Alexander to President Harding
My Dear Mr. President: With the vivid recollection of your earnest Christian attitude toward the tremendous responsibility resting upon you that was so clearly manifested to me in audience you were so kind as to grant me, which attitude was further emphasized in your cordial reply to the memorial I then presented you, I have no hesitation in forwarding to you the enclosed appeal of my fellow Bishops, of the Metropolitan of Odessa and Gherson, now a refugee with us in America, and myself.
As your Excellency will see, we are appealing not so much for the life of one man, though that is dear to us, but for the life of the largest single group of Christians in the World; our appeal is that Christ may not be driven from Russia and our people there [Page 836] thrown back into the barbarism of Anti-Christ as well as steeped in the poison of anti-social doctrine.
May this letter find you in perfect health, and may God preserve you in the same, is the prayer of
Your fellow servant,
Archbishop of the Aleutian Isles and No. America
The Hierarchy of the Holy Eastern Orthodox Church in America to President Harding
We, the Hierarchy of the Holy Eastern Orthodox Church, consisting of the Archbishops and Bishops in charge of the American work [of] the Church amongst peoples of Greek, Syrian, Russian, Serbian, Carpatho-Russian, Roumanian, Albanian, Bulgarian, and kindred descent, many of them native born American citizens, many others legalized citizens, together with the recent immigrants, In Conference assembled, invoking the aid of Our Common Father in Heaven, the God of us all, do herewith set forth this, our humble and earnest appeal and petition to
His Excellency, the Most
Doctor Warren G. Harding,
President of the United States:
May It Please Your Excellency
that we remind you of the two millions of Orthodox Church people now resident in the United States, on whose behalf we, their chief Pastors, appeal to you to save the life of their and our venerable Patriarch, Head of the Russian Orthodox Church, and the last remaining barrier against the total submerging of that onetime great nation in the maelstrom of organized anarchy which now has the Russian people in its powerful grip.
By public press and from other sources we have learned that His Holiness, Tikhon, Patriarch of Moscow and All the Russias, is on trial for his life before the so-called Revolutionary Tribunal in Moscow on the specious charge of inciting the Faithful to riot in that he would not, and could not in duty to his sacred oath, license the total destruction of all means for the perpetuation of the Sacraments and other Rites of Holy Religion by sanctioning the sacrilegious seizure of the intrinsically valueless vessels used in the celebration [Page 837] of the Holy Communion, Baptism, and other sacred forms of Divine Worship.
The charge that vast treasures were being withheld by the Church from the use of the starving people of the land is false. Long since what few treasures had escaped the sack of all sacred places by mobs had been sacrifices to this very cause of succoring the needy and in maintaining the fabric of worship since all funds of the entire ecclesiastical structure of a Church of about one hundred and twenty five millions communicants had been “confiscated” by the present regime. On pretense of seizing “treasures” the anti-christian forces now in control have attempted to prevent the Church from performing her ritual functions and thus to abolish the external forms of worship.
The refusal of His Holiness, with death as the alternative, to act as accomplice in this crime against the conscience and soul of a people, as well as his refusal to play the part of Pilate and wash his hands of responsibility when his frantic people asked his advice and guidance, is heroic evidence of his loyalty to God and to Right. For this he is now on trial before a judge and jury of atheists; his real crime is that he represents Religion! Thus,—we beg Your Excellency to believe, it is Religion,—Christianity, that is on trial in the person of His Holiness, Tikhon, Patriarch of Moscow.
Need we point out to you, Sir, that while a Church must be destroyed, that a mass of plated vessels for altar use be gathered in behalf of the poor famine sufferers, these same destroyers are spending appalling sums in the maintenance of an army arrayed avowedly against civilization, and countless sums are expended in the propaganda of world revolt against the structure of society?
God forbid that one paltry jewel remain in the custody of the Church authorities of Russia as long as one of the least of all Russians is starving because of the need of that jewel! It is but more of the vicious propaganda aimed at all decency that fabricates the lie that the Church of Christ is hording valuable baubles while the Poor of the Master are starving.
We deny this miserable imputation against the honor of our confreres of the Russian clergy. Stripped clear of deceit, this last outrage against Religion and Christ in Russia, coupled as it is with the recent decree that no person under eighteen years of age may be taught anything whatever of religious principle, is seen to be the great and desperate attempt of the agents of Anti-Christ to destroy the Church completely before the hoped-for resumption of international relations shall bring these present rulers of Russia under the scrutiny and coercive judgement of civilized nations.[Page 838]
Whatever may be the destiny of the Slav, and great thinkers predict a great future for this people, will the world profit to have an anti-Christian as well as an anti-social power to deal with? The one organized body left in Russia is the Orthodox Christian Church; this body alone has withstood the assaults of the Terror-ruling regime, and it alone holds the traditional life of Russia in keeping ready for that morn when, as after a night of horrid nightmare, the Nation shall awake to better and greater days! Bolshevism is not safe in Russia as long as the Church remains! It was the Church that brought the Russian Nation into being; two of her Bishops created the very written language of the people. Once before after years of black misery and defeat, when all the country had been conquered, it was the Church which rallied the people and brought the Nation back to life again. In gratitude the people called the then Patriarch’s son to be their Tzar, and thus began the House of Romanoff. Bolshivism cannot last if the Church remains,—therefore this trial of the Patriarch,—“Smite the Shepherd and scatter the sheep!”
This calamity for Russia and for the world, You, Sir, may prevent! Behind you rallies the greatest Christian people in Christendom’s history. For the sake of our brethren, but more for the sake of Christ in the world, we send you this, our prayerful appeal, asking that you exercise your great privilege and see to it that Christ be not taken away from a suffering people despoiled of all else.
We ask you to believe that our love for America prompts this appeal equally as much as does our love for our fellow believers in our section of Christ’s Church. Those of us who are of Russian blood and those of us who love Russia, look forward to the Russia of tomorrow, an awakened and gentle Giant of the North, fit and culturally inclined to be the friend of America. We dread, not only for Russia’s sake but for America’s, a Slavic horde, powerful, but Godless, which, like Genghis Khan, or Attila, may sweep down upon civilization like the hordes led by those barbarians of old. And this we know: Take the white Christ of Russia away from the people, and back again into the darkness of barbarism will they be plunged. A godless Russia means a war-worn world for generations.
Your Excellency will, we trust, pardon this lengthy communication; we have the temerity to send you so prolonged a statement for we know you do not despise the anxieties of those over whom you have been chosen leader and ruler. That of which we write is to our minds, taught by our consciences, a matter of historic import. You are one of those whom God has permitted to fashion in some manner and form events of today that will be the history [Page 839] of tomorrow. Our appeal to you, therefore, we are assured you will find worthy of consideration. If the voice of Christian America will but sound, there will be saved a Christian world.
Praying Almighty God’s blessing upon you, upon those of your own household and upon your administration, with all respect, we are,
Metropolitan Archbishop of Odessa and Gershon
Archbishop of the Aleutian Isles and No. America
Bishop of Rodostolos and Acting Archbishop of the Hellenic Archdiocese of No. and So. America
Bishop of Brooklyn and Head of the Syrian Church in North America
Bishop of Pittsburgh and Head of the Carpatho-(Ughro) Russian Mission in North America