Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia

Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia

The Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia ( _ru. Ру́сская Правосла́вная Це́рковь Заграни́цей, " _ru. Russkaya Pravoslavnaya Tserkov' Zagranitsey"), also called the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, ROCA, or ROCOR) is a semi-autonomous part of the Russian Orthodox Church.

It was formed as a jurisdiction of Eastern Orthodoxy as a response against the policy of Bolsheviks with respect to religion in the Soviet Union soon after the Russian Revolution of 1917, and separated from the Russian Church of the Moscow Patriarchate in 1927 after an imprisoned Patriarch Sergius I of Moscow pledged the church’s qualified loyalty to the Bolshevik state. The Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia officially signed the Act of Canonical Communion with the Moscow Patriarchate on May 17, 2007 restoring the canonical link between the churches. Critics of the reunification argue that the issue of KGB infiltration of the Moscow Patriarchate church hierarchy has not been addressed by the Russian Orthodox Church.

The Church has over 400 parishes worldwide, and an estimated membership of over 400,000 people.cite news|url=|date=May 17, 2007|title=Russian Orthodox Church ends 80-year split|author=David Holley|publisher=Los Angeles Times] Within the ROCOR there are 13 hierarchs, and also 20 monasteries and nunneries in the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, the United Kingdom and South America.cite news| title=Russian Orthodox Church reunited: Why only now? | date=17/ 05/ 2007|url=]

Formation and early years

In 1920 near the end of the Russian Civil War, after the White Russian Army under Admiral Aleksandr Kolchak was crushed and the Bolsheviks occupied Siberia, a mass exodus of Russian refugees moved into Manchuria. Over ninety thousand refugees settled in Harbin, Shanghai, Dairen, Hailar and the smaller towns along the Chinese branch of the Trans-Siberian Railway within three years. Lacking adequate lodgings or employment many migrated to America, Europe or Australia. [cite book|title=A Russian Presence: A History of the Russian Church in Australia|author=Michael A Protopopov|publisher=Gorgias Press|date=2006|location=New Jersey]

Also in 1920 the Soviet government revealed that it was hostile to the Russian Orthodox Church. Tikhon, Patriarch of Moscow, issued an ukase (decree) that all Orthodox Christians currently under the authority and protection of his Patriarchate seek protection and guidance elsewhere.

Among some Russian Bishops and other hierarchs, this was interpreted as an authorization to form an emergency synod of all Russian Orthodox hierarchs to permit the Church to continue to function outside Russia. To add urgency to the synod's motives, in May 1922, the Soviet government proclaimed its own "Living Church" as a "reform" of the Russian Orthodox Church.

On September 13, 1922, Russian Orthodox hierarchs in Serbia met in the town of Sremski Karlovci and established a Synod of Bishops of the Russian Church Abroad, the foundation of ROCOR. In November 1922, Russian Orthodox in North America held a synod and elected Metropolitan Platon as the primate of an autonomous Russian exarchate in the Americas. This led to a three-way conflict in the United States among the Exarchate, ROCOR (sometimes known as "the Synod" in this period), and the Living Church, which asserted that it was the legitimate (Soviet-government-recognized) owner of all Eastern Orthodox properties in the USA.

The church of the refugees (1922–1991)

At first the Russian Orthodox Church's hierarchy within Russia had resisted Bolshevik rule. After arrests and persecution of much of the Church’s leadership, Metropolitan Sergiy Stargorodsky (one of the Assistant Deputy Patriarchs) agreed in 1927 to negotiations with the State Political Directorate from his prison cell. Sergiy pledged the church’s qualified loyalty to the Bolshevik state (an act his defenders claim saved the Church from total liquidation). This pledge caused a deep schism that prompted many disillusioned believers to go underground where they formed what became called the Russian True Orthodox Church. Sergiy’s accommodation also alienated the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia. [cite book|title=Russia and the New States of Eurasia: The Politics of Upheaval|author=Karen Dawisha|publisher=Press Syndicate of the University of Cambridge|location=New York, NY|date=1994]

Despite distancing itself from both the Bolsheviks and Sergiy, in 1927 ROCOR declared "The part of the Russian Church that finds itself abroad considers itself an inseparable, spiritually united branch of the Great Russian Church. It doesn't separate itself from its Mother Church and doesn't consider itself autocephalous", indicating that ROCOR considered itself to speak for all of the Russian Orthodox outside Russia.

During World War II, when the Church of England requested the right to pay a high level visit to the Russian Orthodox Church, General Secretary Joseph Stalin met with its metropolitans. Though it's sometimes stated that Stalin needed the Church to win the war, this is inaccurate as by that point the victorious battles of Stalingrad and Kursk had already put the USSR and its allies in a superior position. Stalin’s move was on the eve of the Teheran Conference and he wanted the ROC to impress the Anglican delegation and convince them that there was no religious persecution. He hoped that this would sway British public opinion and cause them to pressure their government to support an early invasion of Normandy to divert Nazi efforts away from his front.

Stalin was told by Metropolitan Sergii that the most pressing needs of the Church was to convoke a "sobor", elect a patriarch, and restore the Synod (which had been dissolved in 1935). Stalin approved everything and used military air transport to bring the bishops to Moscow allowing the "sobor" to open four days from his meeting with the metropolitans. He appointed Georgii Karpov (a major general in the NKVD) as the Council for the Russian Orthodox Church Affairs and all matters concerning Church-State relations were to go through him. Sergii turned down Stalin’s offer to fully subsidize the sobor and his offer of financial aid. He succeeded in obtaining Stalin’s permission to reopen the seminaries and theological schools "in as many eparchies as the Church would see fit". He also allowed the reopening of churches and the return of the monthly "Journal of the Moscow Patriarchate" to publication.

Upon Metropolitan Alexii’s suggestion Stalin allowed a list of imprisoned priests and bishops to be handed over to Karpov for consideration of release (unfortunately many of those on the list had been executed in the persecution of 1937-38). The former German Embassy was requisitioned to serve as the official residence of the Patriarch and as his offices. Despite Stalin’s remarks at the meeting that Karpov would only be a liaison between the Church and the government his CROCA interfered into many internal Church affairs. Karpov was the decisive voice in the creation of the Church Statute of 1945, its main author being one of his assistants. He also ignored protests of the Patriarch when the USSR began liquidating monasteries again in 1946 and forced the hierarchy to submit.

While churches were opened relatively quickly in land conquered from the Nazis, a long bureaucratic process was needed to open a church on Russian soil (taking up to three years and instantly derailed by anyone in the bureaucratic chain). [cite book|title=The Orthodox Church in the History of Russia|author=Pospielovsky, Dimitry|date=1998|publisher=St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press|location=Crestwood, NY] The hierarchs of the ROCOR condemned this new arrangement with Stalin, saying that the Moscow patriarch had “made an alliance with Satan.”

After the end of World War II, the Patriarchate of Moscow broached the possibility of reunification between Moscow and ROCOR, presumably at the behest of the Soviet government, which had adopted a more conciliatory attitude towards religion during the war and was presumably trying to capitalize on its wartime alliances to win a more respectable position internationally. This wasn't deemed possible at that time by the ROCOR, given that the USSR was still a communist state.

Conflict with ROC after the Soviet fall

Since the end of the Soviet Union, ROCOR has maintained its administrative independence from the Russian Orthodox Church. One ground cited is that the Church inside Russia had permitted itself to be unacceptably compromised. Some accusations go so far as to claim that the entire hierarchy within Russia were active KGB agents. ROCOR attempted to set up missions in post-Soviet Russia, which didn't improve relations.

ROCOR & ROC conflict over Palestinian properties

Between 1997–2000 the ROCOR and the ROC came into direct conflict over ownership of churches and properties within Palestine.


While the first Russian Orthodox archimandrite arrived in Palestine in 1844,cite book|title=Catholic Encyclopedia - Jerusalem (After 1291)|url=|date=1910] Russia's focus on the area began when Napoleon III took over control of France in an 1851 coup d'état and moved to seize control of properties in the Holy Land held by members of the Greek Orthodox Church. The court of the Czar had long held itself to be the main patron and protector of Orthodoxy, especially after most of the membership of the Greek Orthodox Church from 1460 until 1821 fell under the control of the Islamic Ottoman Empire (with its oppressive Devshirmeh and "jizya" laws). Through diplomacy and a show of force Napoleon III forced the Ottoman

Empire to recognize France as the "sovereign authority" in the Holy Land. This moved control of many Christian holy sites and buildings out of Orthodox hands and under Catholicism. These events were one of the main triggers for the Crimean War of 1856. Despite defeat in the war by 1856, Russia remained concerned about the position and influence of the Ottoman Empire and its European allies.cite news|title=A Russian Mission in Palestine-Tischendorf and the Grand Duke Constantine|autor=Saint-Rene Taillandier|date=1866|location=New York, NY|publisher=John A. Gray & Green] Czar Alexander II continually worked to make sure Russia would have a presence in Palestine. Towards these ends a consulate was created in 1858.

The Czar also funded the work of Constantin von Tischendorf in finding the Codex Sinaiticus at the Monastery of Saint Catherine, at the foot of Mount Sinai. The Czar’s brother, the Grand Duke Constantine, and his wife the Princess Alexandra toured the area at this time. Significantly it was also around this period that Bishop Euspensy began missionary work in the area (his detractors claim he was “a czarist agent” with a “scheme of wresting the Jerusalem patriarchate away from the church’s liturgical twin, the Greek Orthodox Church.”cite news|title=Plot in Progress|publisher=Time Magazine|date=September 15, 1952|url=,9171,816982,00.html] ). Euspensy’s efforts did not produce much but a few Christian Arab converts switching from the GOC to the ROC.

The Russian government began using its diplomatic influence to persuade the Ottoman sultans to refuse the "berat" to candidates for patriarch to any GOC bishop that disagreed with them. By 1860 the "Russian Palestine Society" was founded. The society guided pilgrims to the Holy Land and bought property in Jerusalem and Nazareth. In addition it ran a theological seminary that also focused on teaching politics. The "Russian Palestine Society" built hospices for Russian pilgrims and churches (where the liturgy was in Slavonic) all over the country "to the great annoyance of the Greek patriarchal element." The ROC soon attracted more Arab Christians as it championed the idea that local Arab clergy should be promoted to bishops and hierarchs instead of having clergy from Greece imported and put in authority over them. Also in the 1860s the Russians began building an extensive group of buildings outside the city of Jerusalem on Jaffa road, known as the Russian Compound.

These consisted of a large and elaborate church where the Russian archimandrite officiated, massive hostels for the pilgrims, a hospital and several other buildings capable of housing 1000 pilgrims, all within walking distance of the Russian consulate headquarters at the time.cite book|title=Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine| page=38|volume =CXXv|date=January-June 1879|publisher=William Blackwood & Sons, Edinburgh|location=London] The ROC also built an ornate church at Gethsemane, and another at the site where their tradition holds that Jesus made his Ascension at the Mount of Olives. Another Russian hospice was built in the Muristan, along with an asylum for the insane, and schools. Russian pilgrimages were not only encouraged, but even subsidized by the Czar’s government. At the time both Russia’s political enemies and many within the GOC saw these projects as an intrigue of the Czar to make himself "a center of the Greek faith [i.e. Orthodoxy] which should rival Rome itself." This would all change with the fall of the Russian monarchy.

Russian holdings in Palestine after the Russian Revolution

With the rise of the communists most of the church properties in Palestine remained in the hands of those at odds with the Bolsheviks, and the majority of these joined with the ROCOR.cite news|title=American Nuns Involved in Jericho Monastery Dispute|author=Julie Stahl|publisher=CNS|date=28 January 2000|url=] Some properties of the ROC remained completely closed until 1941, when the Politburo ordered the churches reopened. An invitation was extended by the Soviets for all Orthodox prelates in the Middle East to come to Moscow to witness the installation of Patriarch Alexei I. In 1952 the Soviets reopened the "Russian Palestine Society" under the direction of Communist Party agents from Moscow, replaced Archimandrite Vladimir with communist trained Ignaty Polikarp, and won over many Christian Arabs with communist sympathies to the ROC. The members of other branches of Orthodoxy refused to associate with the Soviet led ROC in Palestine. When Israel became a state in 1948, all of the property under the control of the ROCOR within its borders was handed over to the Soviet dominated ROC in appreciation for Moscow's support of the Jewish state (this support was short-lived). The ROCOR maintained control over churches and properties in the Jordanian-ruled West Bank and eastern Jerusalem unmolested until the late 1980s.

ROC and PA eviction of ROCOR in 1997

In 1997 Patriarch of Moscow Alexei II attempted to visit a ROCOR held monastery in Hebron with Yasser Arafat. It has been noted that "The Moscow-based church has enjoyed a close relationship with Arafat since his guerilla fighter days."cite news|title=Hunger strike in Jericho|authors=Abigail Beshkin and Rob Mank|publisher=Salon|date=March 24, 2000|url=] Upon arrival Arafat and the patriarch were refused entry by the ROCOR clergy, who held that Alexy had no legitimate authority. Two weeks afterwards police officers of the Palestinian Authority arrived and by "assaulting and cursing priests and nuns" they managed to evict the ROCOR clergy and then turned over the property to the ROC.

ROC and PA eviction of ROCOR in 2000

Alexy made another visit in early January 2000 to meet with Arafat and asked "for help in recovering church properties"cite news|title=Russian Orthodox strife brings change in Hebron|date=July 9, 1997|author= Jerrold Kessel|publisher=CNN|url=] as part of a "worldwide campaign to recover properties lost to churches that split off during the Communist era".cite news|title=Palestinians Take Sides In Russian Orthodox Dispute|date=July 9, 1997|url=|publisher=Catholic World News] Later that month the Palestinian Authority again moved to evict ROCOR clergy, this time from the three-acre Monastery of Abraham's Oak in Hebron. Five ROCOR monks and two nuns were forcibly removed from the property and ROC clergy took their places. The monks and nuns who were evicted said that they had been "badly manhandled." ROCOR Mother Superior Juliana said "We were told you have to leave because this man has to come here. This man was from the red church [i.e. the ROC] ." Another nun stated "They put me on the floor and they dragged me like a sack of potatoes." A monk claimed he was "knocked to the ground, handcuffed and beaten." The ROCOR clergy stated that "the police refused to produce any documentation" and all seven of the ROCOR evictees required hospitalization. The claims that the PA police used force were disputed by Palestinian Security Chief Jibril Rajoub "This is not true. It did not happen. It will never happen in the future. ...As the responsible authority in Hebron and all parts of the West Bank, we have the right to do our best to help them [the ROC] ."

r. Maria Stephanopoulos

The eviction of the ROCOR clergy at the Monastery of Abraham's Oak gained international attention because two ROCOR nuns who were American citizens managed to sneak into the confiscated monastery and barricade themselves inside a portion of the complex. Further media attention became focused on the event when it was discovered that one of the nuns was Maria Stephanopoulos the sibling of George Stephanopoulos the former advisor to U.S. President Bill Clinton.

Maria and her fellow nun Xenia Cesena communicated with reporters their motivation "No matter what happens to the property, we made it clear to the world what the Moscow church is doing to us." The supervisor of the ROCOR mission Archbishop Mark declared that they had "been talking with the Palestinian administration but so far no solution has been found, unfortunately." He said that the International Red Cross had been denied access to the nuns and any request for ROCOR clergy to visit the women had been rebuffed. He declared "The PA interfered in church affairs without a legal right. It's a state interference into church affairs [and] a violation of human rights." The compound was "bustling with staff from the Russian Consulate" and it was reported that they were giving food to the nuns. During the incident the five evicted monks maintained a vigil outside of the monastery sleeping in their car.

As the nuns were American citizens the U.S. Consulate in East Jerusalem became involved to ensure their safety. When Arafat visited the US while the incident was ongoing the subject was raised by Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. Ibrahim Kandalaft, in charge of Christian Affairs in the PA Ministry of Religious Affairs, told reporters "There is nothing so important here. This monastery belonged to the church of Moscow before 1917. It is returned to them." The office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denounced the PA raid, saying it "violated the Israeli-Palestinian peace agreements under which both sides are to respect holy sites."

After confining herself to a section of the monastery without running water for over 60 days Sister Maria Stephanopoulos (who began limiting herself to a bread and water diet as a form of hunger strike) appealed to Pope John Paul II (who was making a historic visit in the area) to use his influence on Arafat to resolve the conflict, she said "I would hope this issue's going to resonate with him. He was in Poland and he really had a lot to do with the downfall of communism there, so he should certainly understand." Roman Catholic Bishop and the Vatican's ambassador to Jerusalem Kamal Bathish stated bluntly that the pope would not meet with Sister Maria or intervene on her behalf.

Sister Maria complained of "brusque treatment at the hands of the Palestinian Authority guards" and being "harassed by the Moscow Patriarchate monks who occupy the other half of the compound." In an address to reporters her sibling, George Stephanopoulos, stated that he planned to meet with her in Hebron, and said "My greatest concern, as her brother, is that Sr. Maria remains safe and healthy, and I admire her determination." An agreement brokered by U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney, Rep. Tom Lantos and Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan with the PA, the U.S. consulate and the Moscow Patriarchate was made to allow Sister Maria and Sister Xenia Cesena greater access to the entire property, especially the monastery's chapel. Despite this, Sister Maria stated that the ROC monks were still preventing her from worshiping in the chapel, "Anytime we get close they close the door in our face. There's no such thing as equal access." She told reporters she had no intention of relenting, saying "I believe in the new martyrs, what they stood for. The freedom of the church in the end is what it's about."

Movement towards reconciliation

In 2000 Metropolitan Laurus became the First Hierarch of the ROCOR and expressed interest in the idea of reunification. The sticking point at the time was the ROCOR's insistence that the Moscow Patriarchy address the slaying of Tsar Nicholas II and his family in 1918 by the Bolsheviks. The ROCOR held that "the Moscow Patriarchy must speak clearly and passionately about the murder of the tsar's family, the defeat of the anti-Bolshevik movement, and the execution and persecution of priests." The ROCOR also accused the leadership of the ROC as being submissive to the Russian government and were alarmed by their ties with other denominations of Christianity, especially Catholicism.

Some of these concerns were ended with the jubilee Council of Bishops in 2000, which canonized Tsar Nicholas and his family, along with more than 1,000 martyrs and confessors. This Council also enacted a document on relations between the church and the secular authorities, censoring servility and complaisance. They also rejected the idea of any connection between Orthodoxy and Catholicism.

In 2001, the Synod of the Patriarchate of Moscow and ROCOR exchanged formal correspondence. The Muscovite letter held the position that previous and current separation were purely political matters. ROCOR's response is that they were still worried about continued Muscovite involvement in ecumenism as compromising Moscow's Orthodoxy. Nevertheless, this was far more friendly a discourse than previous decades had seen.

In 2003 Vladimir Putin met with Metropolitan Laurus in New York. This event was later hailed as an important step by Patriarch Alexy II who said that it showed the ROCOR that "not a fighter against God, but an Orthodox Christian is at the country's helm." [cite news|title=Russian church leader opens Synod's reunification session|date=2007-05-16|url= Retrieved on May 20, 2007]

In May 2004, Metropolitan Laurus, the head of the ROCOR, visited Russia participating in several joint services.cite news|title=Russian Church abroad ruling body approves reunion with Moscow|date=2006-05-20|url=] InJune 2004, a contingent of ROCOR clergy meeting with Patriarch Alexey II. Committees were set up by both the Patriarchate and ROCOR to begin dialogue towards rapprochement. Both sides decided to set up joint commissions, and determined the range of issues to be discussed at the All-Diaspora Council, which met for the first time since 1974.

The possibility of rapprochement, however, led to schism from the ROCOR in 2001, [ [ Epistle of First-Hierarch, Metropolitan Vitaly, Of ROCOR to All The Faithful Clergy And Flock Of The Church Abroad ] ] [ [ Metropolitan Vitaly's Declaration ] ] taking with it ROCOR's self-retired former First Hierarch, Metropolitan Vitaly (Oustinoff), and the suspended Bishop Varnava (Prokofieff) of Cannes. The two formed a loosely associated jurisdiction under the name Russian Orthodox Church in Exile (ROCiE). Many ROCOR faithful assert that Metropolitan Vitaly, who at that time suffered from memory loss, was kidnapped and held against his will, and that his entourage forged his signature on epistles and documents [ [ The Independent, Obituary: Metropolitan Vitaly Ustinov] , 28 September 2006] . Bishop Varnava subsequently issued a letter of apology, and was received back into the ROCOR in 2006 as a retired bishop. Even before the repose of Metropolitan Vitaly in 2006, the ROCiE began to break up into eventually four rival factions, each claiming to be the true ROCOR.

Reconciliation talks

After a series of six reconcilitation meetings [ [ "The Sixth Meeting of the Commissions of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia and the Moscow Patriarchate is Held"] : ROCOR website, downloaded August 25, 2006] , the ROCOR and the Patriarchate of Moscow, on June 21, 2005, simultaneously announced that rapprochement talks were leading toward the resumption of full relations between the ROCOR and the Patriarchate of Moscow; and that the ROCOR would be given autonomy status. [ [ Patriarchate of Moscow website] ] [ [ ROCOR website: Joint declarations, April-May 2005] ] In this arrangement the ROCOR "will now join the Moscow Patriarchate as a self-governed branch, similar to the dn|Ukrainian Orthodox Church. It will retain its autonomy in terms of pastoral, educational, administrative, economic, property and secular issues." While Patriarchate Alexy said that the ROCOR would keep its property and fiscal independence and stated that its autonomy would not change "in the foreseeable future", he added that "Maybe this will change in decades and there will be some new wishes. But today we have enough concerns and will not make guesses.” [cite news|title=Russian Church To End Schism|date=May. 16, 2007|url=|publisher=Associated Press cite news|title=Russian Orthodox Church to keep ROCOR traditions – Alexy II|date=May. 14, 2007|url=|publisher=ITAR-TASS]

On May 12, 2006, the general congress of the ROCOR confirmed its willingness to reunite with the Russian Orthodox Church, which hailed this resolution as:

"an important step toward restoring full unity between the Moscow Patriarchate and the part of the Russian emigration that was isolated from it as a result of the revolution, the civil war in Russia, and the ensuing impious persecution against the Orthodox Church." [ [ "Russian Church abroad to unite with Moscow"] RFE/RL website, May 12, 2006]

In September 2006, the ROCOR Synod of Bishops approved the text of the document worked out by the commissions, an "Act of Canonical Communion", and in October 2006, the commissions met again to propose procedures and a time for signing the document. [ "The Eighth Meeting of the Church Commissions Concludes"] : ROCOR website, downloaded November 3, 2006] The Act of Canonical Communion [ [ Act of Canonical Communion] ] went into effect upon its confirmation by the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church, based the decision of the Holy Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church "on the Relationship with the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia", held in Moscow in October 3October 8, 2004; as well as by decision of the Synod of Bishops of the ROCOR, on the basis of the resolution "regarding the Act on Canonical Communion" of the Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, held in San Francisco in May 15May 19, 2006.

igning of the Act of Canonical Communion

On December 28, 2006, it was officially announced that the Act of Canonical Communion would finally be signed. The signing took place on the May 17, 2007, followed immediately by a full restoration of communion with the Moscow Patriarchate, celebrated by a Divine Liturgy at the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow, at which the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Alexius II and the First Hierarch of ROCOR concelebrated for the first time in history.

On May 17, 2007, at 9:15 a.m., Metropolitan Laurus was greeted at Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow by a special peal of the bells, and shortly thereafter, Patriarch Alexey II entered the Cathedral. After the Patriarch read the prayer for the unity of the Russian Church, the Act of Canonical Communion was read aloud, and two copies were each signed by both Metropolitan Laurus and Patriarch Alexey II. The two hierarchs then exchanged the "kiss of peace," and they and the entire Russian Church sang "God Grant You Many Years." Following this, the Divine Liturgy of the Feast of the Ascension of Our Lord began, culminating with the entirety of the bishops of both ROCOR and MP partaking of the same Eucharist.

Present at the signing of the Act and at the Divine Liturgy, was Russian President Vladimir Putin, who was thanked by Patriarch Alexey for helping to facilitate the reconciliation between the two parts of the Russian Church. Putin then gave his remarks to an audience of Orthodox Christians, visitors, clergy, and press, saying "The split in the church was caused by an extremely deep political split within Russian society itself. We have realized that national revival and development in Russia are impossible without reliance on the historical and spiritual experience of our people. We understand well, and value, the power of pastoral words which unite the people of Russia. That is why restoring the unity of the church serves our common goals."

The entire ceremony was broadcast live on Russian television, as well as live on the official website of Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow. The entire ceremony can be viewed on the Internet. [ [ Signing of the Act of Canonical Communion] ] The Royal Doors were open during the entire event, which usually occurs only during the Bright Week.

The Hierarchs of the Russian Church Abroad then served again with the Patriarch on May 19th, in the consecration of the Church of the New Martyrs in Butovo, where they had laid the cornerstone during their initial visit in 2004. [ [ "Union of Moscow Patriarchate and Russian Church Abroad 17 May 2007"] :Interfax website, downloaded December 28, 2006] [ [ The Associated Press] ] Butovo Field was the site of numerous massacres by the NKVD, who executed tens of thousands of people from the 1930s to the 1950s. During fifteen months in 1937 and 1938 alone, 20,765 people were shot there. [ [ Sermon on the Day of the Russian New-Martyrs] , by Priest Sergey Sveshnikov, at Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia Official website.] Finally, on Sunday, May 20th, they concelebrated in a Liturgy at the Cathedral of the Dormition in the Kremlin.

President Vladimir Putin gave a reception at the Kremlin to celebrate the reunification. In attendance were Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and All Russia and members of the Holy Synod for the Russian Orthodox Church; Metropolitan Laurus for the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia; Presidential chief of staff Sergei Sobyanin, First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, and Minister of Culture and Mass Communications Alexander Sokolov. Before the reception the participants posed for photographs by the Assumption Cathedral. [cite news|title=Putin gives reception for Russian Orthodox Church reunification|date=2007-05-19|url=]

Critics of Act of Canonical Communion among the ROCOR

Critics of the reunification argue that "the hierarchy in Moscow still has not properly addressed the issue of KGB infiltration of the church hierarchy during the Soviet period." [cite news
last = Santana
first = Rebecca
title = U.S. Worshipers Refuse to Join Moscow Church
work = The Associated Press
publisher = Associated Press
date = September 11, 2007
url =
accessdate = 2007-09-14
] Among those skeptical of the move was Kremlin critic Konstantin Preobrazhenskiy (a former officer of the KGB now living in the USA). He expressed his fears that the ROCOR "would lose its independence and that eventually priests with loyalties to the Russian government would be sent to work in the United States. ... [and that] by agreeing to reunification, [Metropolitan] Laurus was inviting a new split, this time among his own flock." It has also been noted that "some parishes and priests of the ROCOR have always rejected the idea of a reunification with the ROC and said they would leave the ROCOR if this happened. The communion in Moscow may accelerate their departure."

The signing of the Act led to yet another schism from the ROCOR, this time taking with it Bishop Agafangel (Pashkovsky) of Odessa and Tauria, and with him most of ROCOR's parishes in the Ukraine, which refused to enter the jurisdiction of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Agafangel was subsequently suspended by the ROCOR Synod for disobedience [ The Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia - Official Website ] ] Assisted by bishops from the Holy Synod in Resistance, a faction of Old-Calendarist Greeks, he ordained two other bishops and formed a rival group called the Provisional Supreme Ecclesiastic Authority (PSEA), which unites about 30 parishes in Ukraine and about five in North America.

ROCOR and Nazi collaborators

The relationship between members of the ROCOR and the Nazis during World War II (when Germany turned against the USSR) has long been an issue addressed by both the Church and its critics. A 1938 [Dimitry Pospielovsky, The Russian Church Under the Soviet Regime 1917–1982, Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir Seminary Press, 1984, p.223] letter written by Metropolitan Anastassy to Adolf Hitler, thanks him for his aid to the Russian Diaspora in allowing the building of a Russian Orthodox Cathedral in Berlin and praises his patriotism. This has, however, been defended as an act that occurred when "little was known…of the inner workings of the Third Reich." [cite web|url=|title=Book Review: The Price of Prophecy|author=Archbishop Chrysostomos]

The ROCOR itself has stressed how well its clergy handled themselves at this time. In a document made during their Second Ecclesio-Historical Conference in 2002, a statement was released noting “the attempt of the Nazi leadership to divide the Church into separate and even inimical church formations was met with internal church opposition.” [cite web|url=|title= The Second Ecclesio-Historical Conference "The History of the Russian Orthodox Church of the 20th c. (1930-1948)"]

The ROCOR also expanded on the topic in its May 9, 2006 document “The Path Towards Healing the Divisions in the Russian Church; the Pre-Conciliar Process”. There they again praised the clergy but admitted that some among the laity had erred. In the document they asked ROCOR members who where reflecting on the ROC Church under Stalin to remember that “a particular part of our Church had not come out of its short period of coexistence with another dictatorship—that of Hitler—in altogether pristine condition. Our hierarchy did not collaborate with it, but our parishioners were quite ready to support it and it is not important through what motives—the motives of people in Russia who demonstrated varying degrees of loyalty to the Soviet regime were also varied. But we do not know what would have happened to us if the Nazi regime had lasted for 70 years.” [cite web|title= The Path Towards Healing the Divisions in the Russian Church; the Pre-Conciliar Process|url=] Recently the writer Dmitry Shusharin has called on the ROCOR to "explicitly determine its stance on Nazi collaborators from among its clergy and laity."cite news|title=Russian Church at home and abroad: unity or political privatization? |date= 16/ 05/ 2007|url=|author= Dmitry Shusharin]

The matter was highlighted even before the reunification was complete when a Whiteguard memorial at The Church of All Saints near the Sokol metro station in northern Moscow was smashed by vandals on the eve of VE Day. Though the memorial had laid undisturbed for years it was destroyed soon after a public organization declared their intent to lay flowers upon it. The slab that was broken bore the names of many who were executed as war criminals in 1947 for fighting in pro-German regiments (e.g. Russian Liberation Army and the Kaminski Brigade) against the communist rule of the Soviet Union under Stalin.

These include "White [Army] generals Krasnov and Shkuro, and General von Pannwitz, who led a [pro-German] Cossack volunteer division against the Allies. The slab also bore the names of [pro-German] General Vlasov's soldiers, who fled to the West after the war, and Soviet officer defectors." Many have demanded that the slab be restored, and have appealed to the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia for support. [cite news|url=|date= May 10, 2007|Issue=3653| Page=3|title=Monument to Nazi General Is Vandalized Near Church]


ee also

*White Emigre

External links

* [ Official Site of ROCOR]
* [ OrthodoxWiki article]
* [ Russian Orthodox Churches in Germany. Foto album] (in German)

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