Cultural commentator Srdja Trifkovic writes on Patriarch Akeksy in the latest issue of Chronicles Magazine:
Aleksy II, Patriarch of Moscow and head of the Russian Orthodox Church, died of heart failure on December 5, 2008, at the age of 79…
Aleksy II came to the throne just as the Soviet state was beginning to disintegrate. The early years of his tenure were dominated by the tremendous task of restoring the moral authority of the Church in a nation devastated by seven decades of lethal anti-Christian rule.
The scale of that devastation defies imagination. Persecution of the Russian Orthodox Church and other denominations under the communists is one of the greatest crimes in history. Its death toll was several times greater than that of the holocaust. It had killed more Christians than all other persecutions in all ages put together, with Islam a distant second. In 20 interwar years (1918-38), the number of churches that remained open in Russia was reduced from 54,000 to under 500—less than one percent of the pre-Bolshevik total. Some 600 Orthodox bishops, 40,000 priests, 120,000 monks and nuns, and millions of laymen were murdered.
Of particular interest is Trikovic’s take on Pat. Aleksy’s thinking on Church and state, with emphasis on where the Christian’s loyalty must ultimately rest. Triokovic writes:
While routinely accused in the West of excessively close links to the secular authorities, Patriarch Aleksy took pains to define what is permissible and what is not in the relationship between Church and state. He rejected any absolutization of governmental authority and insisted that the temporal powers of the state should be recognized as imperative only to the degree that they are used to support good and limit evil. Aleksy’s position was codified in 2000 by the Jubilee Council of Bishops. Its “Basic Social Concept”—drafted with his blessing—stated that, “in everything that concerns the exclusively earthly order of things, the Orthodox Christian is obliged to obey the law.” However, when compliance “threatens his eternal salvation and involves an apostasy or commitment of another doubtless sin before God and his neighbor, the Christian is called to perform the feat of confession. . . . If this lawful action is impossible or ineffective, he must take up the position of civil disobedience. The Church is loyal to the state, but God’s commandment to fulfill the task of salvation in any situation and under any circumstances is above this loyalty. . . . If the authority forces Orthodox believers to apostatize from Christ and His Church and to commit sinful and spiritually harmful actions, the Church should refuse to obey the state . . . [it] must resist evil, immorality and harmful social phenomena and always firmly confess the Truth, and when persecutions commence, to continue to openly witness the faith and be prepared to follow the path of confessors and martyrs for Christ.”
Read the entire article on the Chronicles Magazine website.