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Friday, May 18, 2007

Moscow and ROCOR reconciled

It is an occasion for great rejoicing that the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR), the (originally) old White-Russian emigre church has now enterred into canonical communion with the formerly Red-accommodating/resisting Moscow patriarchate. This sympathetic observer is mindful of the following spin-off questions.

(1) What of the other "Russian" jurisdictions ... the Exarchate based in Paris under Constantinople, the ROCOR refuseniks (who are now getting even more entrenched in isolationism) and the much troubled Orthodox Church in America (OCA - the old Russian Metropolia established BEFORE the Revolution)? Should they or could they consider loosening something of their jurisdictional autonomy?

(2) The question broached in (1) is not at all likely to be positively answered unless Moscow can show by its actions that its presence outside of Russia is not just for Russians but rather, in the best tradition of Russian missionary activity, for all those who wish to worship and serve God in their own native tongue and culture.

Time will tell.

1 comment:

Michael Astley said...

I especially like the second point. I've come across references to ROCOR being a jurisdiction to which one cannot belong without having a suitcase on whcih to sit, the idea being that the only people in ROCOR are people who are waiting to travel back to Russia.

I know that my experience is very limited but this is not the ROCOR that I have seen and have come to know and love. I see ablend of all sorts in ROCOR and it seems to me to be very much a church that seeks to make itself approachable to the people in the place in which it finds itself. I have shared elsewhere that Anglicans considering converting to Orthodoxy have said to me that they see Antioch and ROCOR as the two jurisdictions that seem most "convert-friendly". And in my experience, the Russians in ROCOR parishes are by and large people who have come to Britain and settled here, marrying into British families and starting families - very much integrated into our culture.

I know the story of one ROCOR parish where the priest introduced more Slavonic into the Liturgy for two of the Russians to comment that the parish had become "too Russian". I think they saw Orthodoxy as their treasure that they wanted to share, you see.

I was recently looking at a document of the Church in Russia for the purposes of another discussion but was pleased to see this:

1.4. The unity of the Church overcomes all barriers and frontiers, including racial, linguistic and social differences. The message of salvation is to be proclaimed to all nations in order to bring them into one fold, to unite them by the power of faith and the grace of the Holy Spirit (Mt. 28:19-20; Mk. 16:15; Acts 1:8).

1.5. In the Church, enmity and alienation are overcome, and humanity, divided by sin, is united in love in the image of the Consubstantial Trinity.

I do think, however, that we need to ask ourselves what is happening lately with the renewed Russian freedom and growth in the Russian church. Is it perhaps leading to a mindset of self-sufficiency? Before the revolution, the Russian church was at the forefront of the missionary efforts in America and especially of its work with the Western Rite. It was Russia who first re-authorised the Liturgy of St Gregory the Great, and which, even until the 1960s had a Benedictine monastery in France.

This legacy lives on to some degree in ROCOR, largely through the efforts of St John Maximovitch, and the communities of St petroc with its mission parishes, Our Lady of Mount Royal Benedictine monastery, and Christ the Saviour Benedictine monastery. Yet, looking at the Patriarchal church, there seems to be nothing left and no efforts to change that. One also has to wonder why the retired Bishop Basil of Sourozh felt the need to do what he did. I'm not justifying his actions but I doubt that he was unaware of the consequences of them, yet he decided that this was the course of action he must take. Why?

I don't know enough to comment more definitively. I only hope that we can indeed live up to what we are called to, which is to proclaim the Gospel to all nations.

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