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On the Reunification of the Moscow Patriarchate and the Russian Church Abroad

It has been 15 years since the important event of the reunification of the Moscow Patriarchate and the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia.

This separation began in the 1920s, against the backdrop of persecution of the Church within Russia. The policy of compromise adopted by Metropolitan Sergii (Sergius) Stragorodskii in 1927 was rejected by the Russian Church Abroad, and following the infamous 1930 interview in which Metropolitan Sergii said there was no persecution of the Church in the USSR, the Russian Church Abroad announced that it would be breaking off prayer communion with him. For many years, the Russian Church Abroad ministered to most of the Russian emigration, conducted missionary, educational, and publishing work, and given the Orthodox Church a whole host of saintly persons.

Gradually, though, this separation outlived its purpose. In 2004, there began joint work by commissions of the Moscow Patriarchate and the Russian Church Abroad. In the course of these meetings, the two sides came to an agreement on the issues that had accumulated over the years of separation.

The 80 years of separation ended with the signing of the Act of Canonical Communion on Ascension Day (May 17), 2007.

The Russian Church Abroad is currently a self-administered part of the Moscow Patriarchate, with 15 bishops, 400 parishes, and 30 monastic communities.

Archpastors, clerics, and laity of the Russian Church Abroad immediately became involved in the life of the Moscow Patriarchate. In February 2008, Metropolitan Laurus (Škurla), Chair of the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Church Abroad, took part in the World Russian People’s Council.

Subsequently, the Russian Church Abroad and the Moscow Patriarchate strengthened their ties. In December 2008, a delegation headed by Metropolitan Hilarion of New York and Eastern America attended the funeral of His Holiness Patriarch Alexis II. Representatives of the Russian Church Abroad have taken part in the Local Council of the Russian Church in January 2009, in Councils of Bishops, and in the work of the Inter-Conciliar Assembly. In 2015, representatives of the Russian Church Abroad took part in the Fifth Pan-Orthodox Council in Chambésy.

The consecration of the Church of the Resurrection and New Martyrs in Sretensky Monastery in 2017 was a symbolic event. A delegation of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, headed by Metropolitan Hilarion, participated in the service, which was presided over by His Holiness Patriarch Kirill.

There also began a process of bringing the lists of saints of the Church Abroad and the Moscow Patriarchate into line with each other. During the years of persecution, when the Church in the Fatherland was unable to glorify the New Martyrs, it was up to the Russian Church Abroad to canonize them. After the unification, the question of inconsistencies in the Churches’ martyrologia came up. In December 2008, a commission was created to consider the issue of veneration of New Martyrs canonized in the Russian Church Abroad. There have also been deliberations about the saints who have been canonized in the Russian Diaspora.

Connections in the field of theology are especially important. Archbishop Michael (Donskov), a hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad, has is a long-time speaker at theological conferences of Saint Tikhon’s Orthodox University of the Humanities. The faculty and staff of our University have repeatedly participated in conferences organized by the Russian Church Abroad. In October 2015, a conference “St. Tikhon, Patriarch of Moscow: His Life and Times” was held in Jordanville to mark the 150th anniversary of the holy Patriarch’s birth and the 90th anniversary of his blessed death.

Another conference, “Links Betwwen Times: Conclusions and Perspectives. On the Centennial of the Russian Church Abroad”, which likewise brought together scholars from the Moscow Patriarchate and the Russian Church Abroad, was organized in Belgrade (by Dcn. Andrei Psarev of Holy Trinity Seminary, Jordanville, and Dr. Radovan Pilipović of the Serbian Orthodox Church Archive) in November 2021.

A good tradition has been established of delegations coming to Russia with relics kept by the Russian Church Abroad.

The history of the Russian Church Abroad continues, and its ties with the Moscow Patriarchate continue to grow stronger.

Dr. hist. habil. Andrei Aleksandrovich Kostriukov, Professor and Senior Researcher, Saint Tikhon’s Orthodox University of the Humanities