Fifth Anniversary of Reunification of the Russian Orthodox Church(Moscow Patriarchate) and Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCR)
Five years together
Today, the Russian Orthodox Church is marking one of the most significant days in its history. Five years ago, the Act of Canonical Communion between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia was signed in the main Russian cathedral, the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. The signing of this historic document put an end to the almost century-long rift between the Churches and united Russian people scattered by fate over different continents.
It was difficult to overcome that spiritual alienation but it was important for both Churches and all believers in the world, Deputy Chairman of the International Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate, priest Nikolay Balashov says.
“It was hard to imagine ten years ago that we would pray and take communion together and nothing would separate us. And now it is hard to believe that only five years ago we had no opportunity to perform the Divine Liturgy together and receive communion from one cup because so many things separated us. This is a great happy day in the history of the Russian Church and the history of Russia because the reunion of the Church became the end of the civil war.”
After the 1917 revolutionary coup, many priests had to emigrate because the Bolshevik government did not recognize the Church. Russian priests set up their own Church in the countries where they emigrated. In 1927, the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia broke all links with the Moscow Patriarchate because priests who had stayed in Russia were compelled to maintain relations with the atheist authorities.
Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and All Russia and Metropolitan Laurus of East America and New York became the initiators of the process of overcoming the rift and signing a document of unity between the Churches in 2007. Still, some more years passed before the rift was overcome not only on paper but in people’s souls, press-secretary of the head of the Russian Church Outside of Russia, priest Seraphim Gan believes.
“At first many people doubted the need for a communion but later their attitude changed. They began to travel to Russia, visit the holy places and talk to priests and parishioners of the Russian Orthodox Church. Now many of them are reviewing their attitude towards the Moscow Patriarchate.”
Today, the leaders of the united Russian Orthodox Church are facing a difficult and important task. The fortitude of the Russian Orthodox Church all over the world depends on fulfilling this task, Russian theologian Yuri Tabak says.
“The rift cannot be completely overcome before both Churches set down certain historical facts associated with the rift. This is hard to achieve, as it implies providing answers to several questions. What is the degree of the Church’s independence and how flexible should the Church be to survive under a regime which persecutes it? Did Bishop Sergiy who recognized the Soviet power have an alternative? Was that step justified by the need to save the Church or was it evidence of weakness? Full unity of the Churches cannot be achieved before answers to these questions are found.
A delegation of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia headed by its first Hierarch, Metropolitan Hilarion of East America and New York will take part in the celebrations on the occasion of the fifth anniversary of signing the Act of Canonical Communion in Moscow. The delegation will visit the notorious Butovo firing range in Moscow where tens of thousands of people were shot down in the first decades of the Soviet rule, and will perform a remembrance rite for Patriarch Alexy II. After visiting Moscow, the delegation is expected to proceed to the Diveevo Convent and St. Petersburg.