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WSJ article: Russian Orthodox Unity--The Real Story


Jan 22, 2006
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Greek Orthodox
Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Denver
From the online edition of Saturday, June 2.  You may want to read the article that generated this response as well as the comments made by subscribers to OC.net at:



Under the guise of questioning Russian President Vladimir Putin's domestic and foreign policies, Nadia Kizenko ("Church Merger, Putin's Acquisition," Houses of Worship, Taste page, Weekend Journal, May 25) seeks to discredit the church by misrepresenting the restoration of unity between the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR) and the Russian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate.

Prof. Kizenko writes that "Aleksy II . . . gave short shrift to God, but thanked President Putin." Prof. Kizenko, who was not present at signing of the Act of Canonical Communion, nor at any of the subsequent ceremonies and services at which his holiness officiated, is unaware of the numerous times he publicly expressed his thanks to God. I can attest to this myself, having heard them in person. President Putin, in fact, was not mentioned nearly as often. Yet Prof. Kizenko herself credits the president: "It was Mr. Putin who first made overtures to the Church Abroad in September 2003."

No. It was in the early 1990s that the Moscow Patriarchate (including the patriarch himself) and the Council of Bishops of the Church Abroad first stated their desire to reconcile. This process gradually expanded and was only given extra impetus by President Putin some 10 years later.

Further, Prof. Kizenko writes: "Moscow regains . . . the right to open or close all parishes." This is false. The Act of Canonical Communion, which Ms. Kizenko would do well to read, clearly states that ROCOR is "independent in pastoral, educational, administrative, management, property, and civil matters."

Referring to its behavior while still enslaved by the Soviet state, she writes that "[t]oday's Moscow Patriarchate is the as-yet-unrepentant inheritor of this legacy." I would suggest Prof. Kizenko read the "Basic Social Concept," adopted by the MP's Council of Bishops of 2000, in which subservience by the church to a state hostile to Christianity is unequivocally rejected, and in great detail. As for repentance, that is a private Christian podvig, or spiritual deed, made before one's spiritual father (as the daughter of a venerable ROCOR priest, Prof. Kizenko is certainly aware of this). Still, 16 years ago, Patriarch Aleksy performed an open act of repentance in an interview published many times since then: "It is not only before God, but also before all of those people to whom the compromises, silence, forced passivity or expressions of loyalty that the church leadership allowed themselves to make in those years brought pain that I ask forgiveness, understanding and prayers."

Prof. Kizenko used the word "secretive" in describing the reconciliation talks between the Moscow Patriarchate and the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. Had she checked official church Web sites and publications, she would have discovered that the bilateral commissions actually published numerous documents on these talks.

Nicholas A. Ohotin
Communications Director
Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church
Outside of Russia
New York


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Mar 8, 2006
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Portland, Oregon
Orthodox Christian
Orthodox Church in America
Isn't it also true that one condition the ROCOR placed on the MP in negotiating a reunion was that the MP seriously curtail his activity in the WCC, something Moscow has done more than willingly?  This makes me wonder if Moscow is really as gung ho about ecumenism as some opponents of reunion make her out to be.


From the Canonical Assessment of the "Act of Canonical Communion" (Lecture at the IV All-Diaspora Council) by Archpriest Alexander Lebedeff

The Canonical Consequences of Adopting the Act of Canonical Communion

The acceptance of the Act of Canonical Communion by the Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia places the Russian Church Abroad on a solid canonical foundation, making clear that she is a living and active part of the pleroma , or the fullness of the entire Orthodox Church. This is related to the recognition of her as lawful and canonical by all the autocephalous Orthodox Churches, as provided by this regularization.

The signing of this Act will fulfill the self-definition of the Russian Church Abroad as an indissoluble part of the Local Russian Orthodox Church, "self-governing on conciliar principles until the extermination in Russia of the atheist government," and must now change her temporary status to a permanent one, with consideration of its historical path.

The execution of the Act will not lead to the abolishment of the Russian Church Abroad, but to her complete preservation, with her own First Hierarch, her own Council of Bishops, her Synod of Bishops, along with full self-government, while yet observing the given requirements of the canons of the Orthodox Church.

The signing of the Act opens the opportunity for bishops and clergymen of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia not only to serve in all churches, monasteries and holy places in our homeland, Russia, but also at the Sepulcher of the Lord and all the churches in the Holy Land, and on Holy Mount Athos.

The adoption of the Act allows us, specifically, to speak openly on the danger of participating in the World Council of Churches, and to be heard.

The adoption of the Act will serve to end the sorrowful division of the Russian Orthodox people. The participation of our clergymen and faithful in the work of the spiritual rebirth of the Russian people will rise to an entirely new level.
(emphasis mine)

Also from an interview with Fr. Lebedeff (http://www.pravmir.com/printer_226.html):

- What is your attitude to ecumenism as to the Moscow Patriarchate’s involvement with the World Council of Churches that has often been critisized by the ROCOR?

- We are satisfied with the Moscow Patriarchate signing a document in which it denounced all harmful sides of ecumenism, such as syncretism, common liturgical prayer with the non-Orthodox, and everything that may blur Orthodox ecclesiology. Of course most our fellow churchmen would welcome Moscow Patriarchate leaving the World Council of Churches because we regard its involvement with the WCC as confusing. Yet the reasons for this involvement have become much clearer to us. We realize that it is based not upon a desire to share in non-Orthodox prayers or a belief that there are other Churches besides the One Church. The Russian Orthodox Church as the world’s biggest Orthodox Church seeks leadership at international forums. If she leaves the WCC, the Orthodox representation will be assumed by the Patriarchate of Constantinople and the voice of the Russian Orthodox Church will remain unheard. We believe this is a serious reason for the Moscow Patriarchate to remain involved with the WCC at least for some time.

I’d like to note that the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia is never going to participate in the WCC even after it enters into canonical communion with the Church in Russia. We will stay aside of that and continue opposing ecumenism in the Orthodox world as we have always done. Our attitude to the ecumenical movement has remained generally unchanged.


Jul 4, 2006
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On ROCOR's position concerning the MP's participation in the WCC.

> I also think it would be helpful to have explained why we are no
> longer requiring the MP to withdraw from the WCC. It seems in the past
> this position was spelled out in the most strongest language, and for
> good reason. Why exactly has this position now changed?

Fr. Alexander Lebedef replies:

The Sobor of Bishops in 1992 made a Declaration that "the time had now come to
enter into frank discussions with all of the separated parts of the Russian
Church **without any preconditions**".

The official Mandate to the Joint Commissions given by our Sobor in 2003 also
did not include any precondition that the Moscow Patriarchate withdraw from the

It read:

"The Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, on
December 4/17, 2003, decreed: on the mandate for our Commission on discussions
with the Moscow Patriarchate, to issue the following Instructions, to examine:

1. The establishment of normal relations,
2. The attitude towards the ecumenical movement,
3. The attitude of the Church towards the state,
4. The summation of these matters must comprise a mutually-acceptable
confession of the faith,
5. The existence of parallel structures and property issues,
6. The question of expanding the mandate is to be decided jointly with the
Synod of Bishops and the members of the Commission,
7. Changes to the membership of the Commission is within the competency of
the Synod."

The Commissions did exactly that, and prepared mutually acceptable statements on
the ecumenical movement and of the relationship of the Church and State.


Sr. Member
Jul 12, 2005
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The problem of the absorbtion of ROCOR (should it now be called MP OR?) into the MP has been problematic for many who find it hard to reconcile the principled stance of ROCOR with its recent conversion to a seemingly contradictory stance. Two bishops have refused to accept it, Brookwood's monastery, the Brondesbury convent in England and now Lesna convent in France have left after years of loyal service because they feel strongly the so-called re-union is not as some might have us believe.

Indeed even an article in London's The Times called it a reconciliation under the eye of President Putin. And with all due respect to President Putin his ways all too often appear to be at variance with Orthodox teaching and much more to do with the glory of the Russian state, me thinks.