Yaroslavsky, Tuchkov and the OGPU had already succeeded in creating a schism between Metropolitan Sergius and the Gregorians. They now tried to fan the flames of schism still higher by releasing Metropolitan Agathangelus, the second candidate for the post of patriarchal locum tenens, from exile and persuading him to declare his assumption of the post of locum tenens, which he did officially from Perm on April 5/18. They also decided, at a meeting in the Kremlin on April 11/24, to "strengthen the third Tikhonite hierarchy - the Temporary Higher Ecclesiastical Council headed by Archbishop Gregory, as an independent unit."
On April 9/22, Metropolitan Sergius wrote to Metropolitan Peter at the Moscow GPU, as a result of which Peter withdrew his support from the Gregorians, signing his letter to Metropolitan Sergius: "the penitent Peter". It would be interesting to know whether Sergius knew of Metropolitan Agathangelus' declaration four days earlier when he wrote to Peter. Hieromonk Damascene (Orlovsky) claims that Agathangelus did not tell Sergius until several days later - but the evidence is ambiguous. If Sergius already knew of Agathangelus' assumption of the rights of locum tenens, then his keeping quiet about this very important fact in his letter to Metropolitan Peter was dishonest and misleading. For he must have realized that Metropolitan Agathangelus, having returned from exile (he arrived in his see of Yaroslavl on April 14/27), had every right to assume power as the eldest hierarch and the only patriarchal locum tenens named by Patriarch Tikhon who was in freedom at that time. In fact, with the appearance of Metropolitan Agathangelus the claims of both the Gregorians and Sergius to first-hierarchical power in the Church collapsed. But Sergius, having tasted of power, was not about to relinquish it so quickly. And just as Metropolitan Agathangelus' rights as locum tenens were swept aside by the renovationists in 1922, so now the same hierarch was swept aside again by the former renovationist Sergius.
The chronology of events reveals how the leadership of the Russian Church was usurped for the second time. On April 17/30, Sergius wrote to Agathangelus rejecting his claim to the rights of the patriarchal locum tenens on the grounds that Peter had not resigned his post. In this letter Sergius claims that he and Peter had exchanged opinions on Agathangelus' letter in Moscow on April 9/22 - but neither Sergius nor Peter mention Agathangelus in the letters they exchanged on that day and which are published by Gobunin. Therefore it seems probable that Peter's decision not to resign his post was based on ignorance of Agathangelus' appearance on the scene.
On April 30 / May 13, Agathangelus met Sergius in Moscow (Nizhni-Novgorod, according to another source), where, according to Sergius, they agreed that if Peter's trial [for unlawfully handing over his authority to the Gregorians] ended in his condemnation, Sergius would hand over his authority to Agathangelus. However, Sergius was simply playing for time, in order to win as many bishops as possible to his side. And on May 3/16, he again wrote to Agathangelus, in effect reneging on his agreement of three days before: "If the affair ends with Metropolitan Peter being acquitted or freed, I will hand over to him my authority, while your eminence will then have to conduct discussions with Metropolitan Peter himself. But if the affair ends with his condemnation, you will be given the opportunity to take upon yourself the initiative of raising the question of bringing Metropolitan Peter to a church trial. When Metropolitan Peter will be given over to a trial, you can present your rights, as the eldest [hierarch] to the post of Deputy of Metropolitan Peter, and when the court will declare the latter deprived of his post, you will be the second candidate to the locum tenancy of the patriarchal throne after Metropolitan Cyril." In other words, Sergius in a cunning and complicated way rejected Agathangelus' claim to be the lawful head of the Russian Church, although this claim was now stronger than Metropolitan Peter's (because he was in prison and unable to rule the Church) and much stronger than Sergius'.
On May 7/20, Agathangelus sent a telegram to Sergius: "You promised to send a project to the Bishops concerning the transfer to me of the authorizations of ecclesiastical power. Be so kind as to hurry up." On the same day Sergius replied: "Having checked your information, I am convinced that you have no rights; [I will send you] the details by letter. I ardently beseech you: do not take the decisive step." On May 8/21, Agathangelus sent another telegram threatening to publish the agreement he had made with Sergius and which he, Sergius, had broken. On May 9/22, Sergius wrote to Peter warning him not to recognize Agathangelus' claims (the letter, according to Hieromonk Damascene, was delivered personally by Tuchkov). However, Peter ignored Sergius' warning and wrote to Agathangelus, congratulating him on his assumption of the rights of patriarchal locum tenens and assuring him of his loyalty. At this point Sergius' last real canonical grounds for holding on to power - the support of Metropolitan Peter - collapsed.
But Agathangelus only received this letter on May 31. The (OGPU-engineered?) delay proved to be decisive. For on May 24, after Sergius had again written rejecting Agathangelus' claims, the latter, according to Regelson, wrote: "Continue to rule the Church. For the sake of the peace of the Church I propose to resign the office of locum tenens."
On the same day Sergius, savagely pressing home his advantage, wrote to the administration of the Moscow diocese concerning the handing over of Agathangelus to a trial by the hierarchs then resident in Moscow. On June 9 Metropolitan Peter wrote to Metropolitan Agathangelus that if Agathangelus refused to take up the position, or was unable to do so, the rights and duties of the locum tenancy would revert to him, Metropolitan Peter, and the deputyship to Sergius. However, on June 12 Metropolitan Agathangelus wrote to Peter renouncing his assumption of the post of locum tenens. The way was now open for Sergius to resume power. And in the same month Metropolitan Peter was transferred to the political isolation cell in the Spaso-Efimiev monastery in Suzdal, where he remained until the autumn.
In December, 1926, Metropolitan Peter was transferred from Suzdal to a GPU prison in Moscow, where Tuchkov proposed that that he renounce his locum tenancy. Peter refused, and then sent a message to everyone through a fellow prisoner that he would "never under any circumstances leave his post and would remain faithful to the Orthodox Church to death itself". But on December 19 / January 1, 1926/27, while in Perm prison on his way to exile in Tobolsk, Metropolitan Peter confirmed Sergius as his deputy. Apparently he was unaware of the recent changes in the leadership of the Church. In any case, he was to have no further direct effect on the administration of the Church, being subjected, in the words of Fr. Vladimir Rusak, to "12 years of unbelievable torments, imprisonment, tortures and exile beyond the Arctic Circle."
Fr. Vladimir tells the following story about Metropolitan Peter when he was on his way to exile in Siberia. One dark night "he was thrown out of the railway carriage while it was still moving (apparently more than one bishop perished in this way). It was winter, and the metropolitan fell into a snow-drift as if into a feather-bed, so that he did not hurt himself. With difficulty he got out of it and looked round. There was a wood, and snow, and no signs of life. For a long time he walked over the virgin snow, and at length, exhausted, he sat down on a stump. Through his torn rasson the frost chilled him to the bone. Sensing that he was beginning to freeze to death, the metropolitan started to read the prayers for the dying.
"Suddenly he saw a huge bear approaching him.
"The thought flashed through his mind: 'He'll tear me to pieces'. But he did not have the strength to run away. And where could he run?
"But the bear came up to him, sniffed him and peacefully lay down at his feet. Warmth wafted out of his huge bear's hide. Then he turned over with his belly towards the metropolitan, stretched out his whole length and began to snore sweetly. Vladyka wavered for a long time as he looked at the sleeping bear, then he could stand the cold no longer and lay down next to him, pressing himself to his warm belly. He lay down and turned first one and then the other side towards the beast in order to get warm. Meanwhile the bear breathed deeply in his sleep, enveloping him in his warm breath.
"When the dawn began to break, the metropolitan heard the distant crowing of cocks: a dwelling-place. He got to his feet, taking care not to wake up the bear. But the bear also got up, and after shaking himself down plodded off towards the wood.
"Rested now, Vladyka went towards the sound of the cocks and soon reached a small village. After knocking at the end house, he explained who he was and asked for shelter, promising that his sister would pay the owners for all trouble and expenses entailed. They let Vladyka in and for half a year he lived in this village. He wrote to his sister, and she arrived. But soon after her other 'people' in uniform also came..."
In March, 1927, Metropolitan Sergius was released from prison. He immediately formed a "Synod" of twelve of the most disreputable bishops in Russia. And then, in July, he issued his famous declaration in which he placed the Church in more or less complete submission to the atheists.
From February to April, 1927, Metropolitan Peter was in exile in the Abalakhsky monastery in Tobolsk. When his cell-attendant came to him, Metropolitan Peter asked him:
"Was it with the knowledge of the authorities that you came here?"
On receiving a negative reply, he told him to go and inform the authorities of his arrival. For this, both Metropolitan Peter and his cell-attendant were thrown into prison in Tobolsk, where they remained until June.
While there, he heard that they wanted to issue a decree stopping the commemoration of his name in the churches. "It is not wounded self-love," he said, "nor resentment which forces me to be anxious about this, but I fear that if my name ceases to be commemorated it will be difficult to distinguish between the Tikhonite and renovationist churches." He added that the investigator Tuchkov was in charge of church affairs, which was impermissible, and he said that he would remain alone like St. Athanasius of Alexandria.
On July 9, Metropolitan Peter was exiled along the river Ob to the Arctic settlement of Khe, which was in the tundra two hundred versts from Obdorsk. There, seriously ill and deprived of the possibility of communicating with the world, he was doomed to a slow death. On August 29 / September 11, he suffered his first attack of angina and from that time never left his bed. He was taken to Obdorsk, where he was advised to petition for a transfer to another place with a better climate. But his petition was refused, and he remained in Khe until September, 1928, when he was transferred to Tobolsk prison. There Tuchkov offered him his freedom if he would renounce his locum tenancy. Metropolitan Peter refused and on May 11, 1928 he was returned to Khe, with the period of his exile extended by three years.
According to the Sergianist Metropolitan Manuel (Lemeshevsky), during his exile Metropolitan Peter composed a moleben for the suffering world and a short blessing of the water with a special prayer.
According to Protopresbyter Michael Polsky, Metropolitan Peter wrote to Sergius, saying that if he did not have the strength to defend the Church he should hand over his duties to someone stronger. Similar information was provided by the Priests Elijah Pirozhenko and Peter Novosiltsev after they had visited Metropolitan Peter. In May, 1929, Bishop Damascene of Glukhov sent a messenger to Metropolitan Peter, and from his reply was able to write: "Granddad (i.e. Metropolitan Peter) spoke about the situation and the further consequences to be deduced from it almost in my own words".
On September 17, 1929, the priest Gregory Seletsky wrote to Metropolitan Joseph of Petrograd on behalf of Archbishop Demetrius (Lyubimov): "I am fulfilling the request of his Eminence Archbishop Demetrius and set out before you in written form that information which the exiled Bishop Damascene has communicated to me. He succeeded in making contact with Metropolitan Peter, and in sending him, via a trusted person, full information about everything that has been taking place in the Russian Church. Through this emissary Metropolitan Peter orally conveyed the following:
"'1. You Bishops must yourselves remove Metropolitan Sergius.
"'2. I do not bless you to commemorate Metropolitan Sergius during Divine services.
"'3. The Kievan act of the so-called "small council of Ukrainian bishops" concerning the retirement of 16 bishops from the sees they occupy is to be considered invalid.
"'4. The letter of Bishop Basil (the vicar of the Ryazan diocese) gives false information. [This refers to a forgery concocted by the sergianists which purported to show that Metropolitan Peter recognized Metropolitan Sergius.]
"'5. I will reply to questions in writing.'"
In December, 1929 Metropolitan Peter wrote to Sergius: "Your Eminence, forgive me magnanimously if by the present letter I disturb the peace of your Eminence's soul. People inform me about the difficult circumstances that have formed for the Church in connection with the exceeding of the limits of the ecclesiastical authority entrusted to you. I am very sorry that you have not taken the trouble to initiate me into your plans for the administration of the Church. You know that I have not renounced the locum tenancy, and consequently, I have retained for myself the Higher Church Administration and the general leadership of Church life. At the same time I make bold to declare that your remit as deputy was only for the management of everyday affairs; you are only to preserve the status quo. I am profoundly convinced that without prior contact with me you will not mke any responsible decision. I have not accorded you any constituent right as long as I retain the locum tenancy and as long as Metropolitan Cyril is alive and as long as Metropolitan Agathangelus was alive. Therefore I did not consider it necessary in my decree concerning the appointment of candidates for the deputyship to mention the limitation of their duties; I had no doubt that the deputy would not alter the established rights, but would only deputize, or represent, so to speak, the central organ through which the locum tenens could communicate with his flock. But the system of administration you have introduced not only excludes this: it also excludes the very need for the existence of the locum tenens. Such major steps cannot, of course, be approved by the consciousness of the Church. I did not admit any qualifications limiting the duties of the deputy, both from a feeling of deep reverence and trust for the appointed candidates, and first of all for you, having in mind at this point your wisdom. It is burdensome for me to number all the details of negative evaluations of your administration: the resounding protests and cries from believers, from hierarchs and laypeople. The picture of ecclesiastical division that has been painted is shocking. My duty and conscience do not allow me to remain indifferent to such a sorrowful phenomenon; they urge me to address your Eminence with a most insistent demand that you correct the mistake you have made, which has placed the Church in a humiliating position, and which has caused quarrels and divisions in her and a blackening of the reputation of her leaders. In the same way I ask you to suspend the other measures which have increased your prerogatives. Such a decision of yours will, I hope, create a good atmosphere in the Church and will calm the troubled souls of her children, while with regard to you it will preserve that disposition towards you which you deservedly enjoyed both as a Church figure and as a man. Place all your hope on the Lord, and His help will always be with you. On my part, I as the first-hierarch of the Church, call on all clergy and church activists to display, in everything that touches on the civil legislation and administration, complete loyalty. They are obliged to submit unfailingly to the governmental decrees as long as they do not violate the holy faith and in general are not contrary to Christian conscience; and they must not engage in any anti-governmental activity, and they are allowed to express neither approval nor disapproval of their actions in the churches or in private conversations, and in general they must not interfere in matters having nothing to do with the Church..."
On February 13/26, 1930, after receiving news from a certain Deacon K. about the true state of affairs in the Church, Metropolitan Peter wrote to Metropolitan Sergius, saying: "Of all the distressing news I have had to receive, the most distressing was the news that many believers remain outside the walls of the churches in which your name is commemorated. I am filled with spiritual pain both about the disputes that have arisen with regard to your administration and about other sad phenomena. Perhaps this information is biassed, perhaps I am not sufficiently acquainted with the character and aims of the people writing to me. But the news of disturbances in the Church come to me from various quarters and mainly from clerics and laymen who have made a great impression on me. In my opinion, in view of the exceptional circumstances of Church life, when normal rules of administration have been subject to all kinds of distortion, it is necessary to put Church life on that path on which it stood during your first period as deputy. So be so good as to return to that course of action whcih was respected by everybody. I repeat that I am very sad that you have not written to me and have confided your plans to me. Since letters come from other people, yours would undoubtedly have reached me..."
After this letter was published, the authorities again tried to force Metropolitan Peter to renounce the locum tenancy and to become an agent of the OGPU. But he refused. On August 17, 1930, he was arrested and imprisoned in the Tobolsk and Ekaterinburg prisons in solitary confinement with no right to receive parcels or visitors. On March 11, 1931, after describing the sufferings of his life in Khe (which included the enmity of three renovationist priests), he posed the following question in a letter to J.B. Polyansky: "Will not a change in locum tenens bring with it a change also in his deputy? Of course, it is possible that my successor, if he were to find himself incapable of carrying out his responsibilities directly, would leave the same person as his deputy - that is his right. But it is certain, in my opinion, that the carrying out of his duties by this deputy would have to come to an end at the same time as the departure of the person for whom he is deputizing, just as, according to the declaration of Metropolitan Sergius, with his departure the synod created by him would cease to exist. All this and other questions require thorough and authoritative discussion and canonical underpinning... Be so kind as to bow to Metropolitan Sergius on my behalf, since I am unable to do this myself, and send him my fervent plea that he, together with Metropolitan Seraphim and Archbishop Philip, to whom I also bow, work together for my liberation. I beseech them to defend, an old man who can hardly walk. I was always filled with a feeling of deep veneration and gratitude to Metropolitan Sergius, and the thought of some kind of worsening of our relations would give me indescribable sorrow."
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