Epistle to the Faithful

Tikhon, Epistle to all the Faithful of the Russian Church. February 15, 1922


Original Source: L. M. Andreev, Kratkii obzor istorii russkoi tserkvi ot revoliutsii do nashikh dnei. Jordanville, N. Y., Holy Trinity Monastery, 1952, pp. 21-22.

By the Grace of God, Humble Tikhon, Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia, to all the faithful of the Russian Church.

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Among all the severe trials and calamities which have befallen our country for our impurities, the greatest and most awful one is famine, reigning over a vast space with many millions of inhabitants. In August 1921, when we first heard about the horrid calamity, we considered it our duty to come to the rescue of our spiritual children, and addressed to the heads of the independent Christian churches, Orthodox Patriarchs, the Pope, the Bishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of New York, an appeal to collect money and provision and send it to the starving people of Volga for the sake of Christian love.

At the same time, the Russian Church Committee for help to the starving was founded and money collected in all churches and among the faithful for that purpose. But this church organization was disapproved by the Soviet Government and all the collected money ordered to be handed to the Committee of the Government.

But in December it was ordered to begin collecting money and foodstuffs for the starving through the Ecclesiastical Administration, Holy Synod, High Church Council, the Council of the Diocese and of every parish.

In order to help the starving people more, we found it possible to allow the parish committees to give for that purpose ornamental jewels from the churches and such things as were not used for the holy rites – and this was proclaimed by a special epistle to the faithful, which was approved by the Government.

But soon after that, when the official press harshly spoke against those who were spiritually guiding the church, 13/26th February, the All Russian Central Executive Committee ordered for the benefit of the starving the seizure from the churches of all valuable things, the sacred objects needed for the holy rites included.

From the point of view of the Church, such an act is a sacrilege, and we considered it our duty to inform all the faithful about it.

Considering the painful circumstances, we allowed the possibility of giving up such things as are not sacred and not used for the holy service, and we compel the faithful even now to do it, heartily wishing that it might help our suffering brethren. But, we cannot approve even a voluntary sacrifice of the sacred things, the use of which for any other purpose but that of the holy rites is forbidden by the laws of the church and is punished by her as a sacrilege – common people by excommunication, clergy by taking their holy orders from them.

Given in Moscow. The Humble Tikhon, Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia

Source: Boleslaw B. Szczesniak, ed. and tr., Russian Revolution and Religion; a collection of documents concerning the suppression of religion by the Communists, 1917-1925 (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1959), pp. 67-68.

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