Russian Orthodox churches to reconcile

 — Dec. 17, 200617 déc. 2006

by Nicholas Jesson

The Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) has agreed to reconcile with the Moscow Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church. The schism developed following the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, and has led to the establishment of parallel jurisdictions of Russian Orthodoxy in the diaspora. The talks between ROCOR and the Moscow Patriarchate began in 2001. The reconciliation between the two church bodies is expected to occur in May 2007 when the Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate adopts the “Act of Canonical Communion” already approved by the ROCOR Synod of Bishops. The two church bodies express the hope that: “The reestablishment of canonical communion will serve, God willing, towards the strengthening of the unity of the Church of Christ, of her witness in the contemporary world, promoting the fulfillment of the will of the Lord to “gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad” (John 11:52).

The “Act of Canonical Communion” between the two bodies stipulates that ROCOR is an integral part of the Russian Church, and as such its bishops will participate in the Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate as full members in canonical order. The ROCOR parishes on Russian territory will have a five year transition period leading to full submission to the local bishops. The hierarchy and structures of ROCOR in the diaspora will continue to function independently of other Russian hierarchy in the diaspora, although some decisions of the ROCOR Synod of Bishops will be submitted to the Moscow Patriarch and the Holy Synod for confirmation.

Among the issues that ROCOR defended in its separation from the Moscow Patriarchate, the most significant continuing concern is the involvement of the Russian Church in the ecumenical movement. ROCOR has consistently rejected ecumenism as a form of syncretism. The reconciliation of the two Russian hierarchies has only been possible based on a statement of principles issued by the Moscow Synod in 2000 which carefully limited the areas of ecumenical work that the Russian Church would be involved in. The Russian Church continues to be a member of the World Council of Churches, however it has indicated that it does not consider the WCC to have any ecclesiological significance. In a joint statement, the two Russian church bodies declare:

“Orthodox Christians insist on their right to freely confess their faith in the Orthodox Church as the One Holy Universal and Apostolic Church without conceding the so-called ‘branch theory’ and definitively reject any attempts to dilute Orthodox ecclesiology.”

At the same time, the joint statement allows for the possibility of cooperation with non-Orthodox:

“in helping the unfortunate and by defending the innocent, in joint resistance to immorality, and in participating in charitable and educational projects. It may be appropriate to participate in socially meaningful ceremonies in which other confessions are represented. In addition, dialog with the non-Orthodox remains necessary to witness Orthodoxy to them, to overcome prejudices and to disprove false opinions. Yet it is not proper to smooth over or obscure the actual differences between Orthodoxy and other confessions.”

Another major issue that ROCOR has championed is the independence of the church from the state. ROCOR during a period in which the Soviet authorities dominated the Moscow Patriarchate and its Synod. The diaspora experience, particularly in North America, encouraged a more critical stance of the church towards the state. The two church bodies issued a joint statement in 2004 entitled “On the Relationship Between the Church and State,” indicating that:

“The Church is called upon to exert spiritual influence on the state and its citizens, to confess Christ, to defend the moral foundations of society. By interacting with the state for the good of the people, the Church, however, cannot assume civil functions for itself. The state must not interfere in the inner structure, administration or life of the Church. The Church must support all good initiatives of the state, but 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.”

A summary of the work of the joint commissions between the Moscow Patriarchate and ROCOR can be found on the website of the Moscow Patriarchate. The English text of the “Act of Canonical Communion” and an addendum can also be found on the same website. All of these materials, as well as the joint documents of the commissions between ROCOR and the Moscow Patriarchate can be found on the ROCOR website.

Posted: Dec. 17, 2006 • Permanent link:
Categories: DialogueIn this article: Christian unity, Moscow Patriarchate, Orthodox, ROCOR, Russian, statements
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Catégorie : DialogueDans cet article : Christian unity, Moscow Patriarchate, Orthodox, ROCOR, Russian, statements

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