Thursday, December 14, 2006

The Russians unite

Interfax has an article on the impending final unification between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian Church outside Russia that was formed during the Russian Civil War back in the early 20th century.

New York, December 11, Interfax – The Bishops’ Synod of the Russian Church Outside of Russia has approved the proposals for ‘the time, place and rite of the ceremony of signing the Act of Canonical Communion’ in May 2007.

These proposals have been worked out by the commissions of the ROCOR and Moscow Patriarchate at their recent, the 8th, joint meeting on October 24-26 in Cologne.

The exact date of signing the Act by the primates of the two parts of the Russian Church will be publicized ‘in the nearest future’, the ROCOR official website has reported. After the signing, the unity between the Church Abroad and the Church in Russia will be fully restored.

[Let us skip past internal matters that don't necessarily interest me.]

According to the Act, the Moscow Patriarchate, among other things, recognizes the Church Outside Russia as ‘an indissoluble part of the Local Russian Orthodox Church’, which is ‘independent in pastoral, educational, administrative, management, property, and civil matters’, existing at the same time ‘in canonical unity with the Fullness of the Russian Orthodox Church’.

The ROCOR will continue to be administered by its own Bishops’ Council as its ‘supreme ecclesiastical, legislative, administrative, judicial and controlling authority’ and the body electing its first hierarch on the basis of its own regulations. This election is then ‘confirmed, in accordance with the norms of Canon Law, by the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia and the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church’.

Agreement with the Moscow patriarch and synod will be sought in making major decision on such matters as education or liquidation of the ROCOR dioceses, while the election of new bishops by the ROCOR Council will be ‘confirmed in accordance with canonical norms’ by the Patriarch and the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church, since all the newly elected bishops become full-fledged members of the Local and Bishops’ Councils of the Russian Orthodox Church and have the right to participate in the work of the Moscow Synod in the prescribed order.

The supreme instances of ecclesiastical authority for the ROCOR are the Local Council and the Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church whose decisions, as well as those of the Holy Synod, extend to the ROCOR with consideration of the particularities described by the Act, by the ROCOR Regulations and by the legislation of the nations in which she performs her ministry.

The Church Outside Russia was formed during the Civil War by emigre Russian Orthodox clergy on the instruction of Patriarch Tikhon, the then primate of the Russian Church. At present the Church Outside Russia unites about half a million faithful living outside Russia in over 30 countries.

On the one hand, the Russians uniting with their diaspora brethren is nice to see. On the other hand, it's interesting to watch as the Russian Church works to protect and extend its influence beyond the borders of Russia with moves such as this and the continued struggles in Ukraine for dominance.

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