ENGLISH VERSION: Act of the Establishment of Full Ecclesial-Canonical Communion Between Previously Separated Parts of the Orthodox Church of Russia
For the first time in history, two True Orthodox Churches in Russia have officially declared recognition of each other’s Mysteries. The hierarchs of the Orthodox Church of Russia (under Metropolitan Damascene) and the Bishops’ Conference of the Russian Orthodox Autonomous Church have signed an Act of mutual communion, the text of which we publish below.
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Act of the Establishment of Full Ecclesial-Canonical Communion Between Previously Separated Parts of the Orthodox Church of Russia
Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment (1 Corinthians 1:10) – thus are we encouraged by the Holy Apostle Paul. Since those with oneness of mind in the Christian faith natural aspire to unity, which is the outward expression of the mystical unity of the Body of Christ, by the present act, we, the undersigned bishops of the Orthodox Church of Russia and the Bishops’ Conference of the Russian Orthodox Autonomous Church, bear witness to full canonical communion between us.
Numerous divisions in our local Orthodox Church of Russia arose in the era of persecution in the twentieth century, associated both with the machinations of persecutors guided by the ancient principle of “divide and conquer” and with differences in theological and canonical views. These differences, which in our Church had accumulated beneath the surface over the course of many centuries, burst forth following the godless revolution. But if the separation of the Renovationists and Sergianists, with their apostasy from the Church, was by nature fundamental and confessional, the divisions among the True Orthodox were, and remain, for the most part purely administrative, and not accompanied by differences in faith. Thus, the True Orthodox Catacomb Church in the Fatherland and the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad mutually recognized each another and, due to the impoverishment of the hierarchy in Russia, ROCOR assisted the Catacomb Church in its restoration.
Our Church encountered new temptations following the downfall of the godless regime. First, the persecution of True Orthodox in Russia did not come to an end, but rather took on new forms, sometimes more subtle and dangerous than was the case under overt godlessness. Second, the Church was filled with a massive number of new converts who were either former atheists or followers of the Sergianist Patriarchate, and within the Church the spirit of unhealthy “competitiveness” and sinful lust for power was strengthened. Many of us became responsible for new divisions due to fervency, lack of discernment and love, excessive suspicion of neighbors, and other sinful but forgivable (through repentance) human weaknesses. New divisions, while painful and sinful, were not however accompanied either by a falling away into heresy or by schism in the strict canonical sense. Such divisions are well known in church history, which offers us no few examples of how the Orthodox can find themselves on opposing sides of a conflict caused by misunderstanding. Such divisions principally lend themselves to healing, which we see as the duty of Orthodox bishops. Here we must forget old feuds without returning to them.
Consequently, while offering repentance for our division and asking forgiveness of each other and of all True Orthodox bishops of the Russian tradition, we, True Orthodox hierarchs of the Church of Russia, agree to the following:
1) The Orthodox Church of Russia unites at the present time all True Orthodox Christians who reject both the ancient heresies condemned by the Holy Fathers and the new heresies of Sergianism, ecumenism, and name-fighting, irrespective of the organizational and administrative status of these Christians.
2) Owing to historical circumstances, the Orthodox Church of Russia is currently deprived of unified bodies of higher ecclesial authority, formed by Local Councils, obedience to which would be mandatory for all its bishops, clergy, and laity.
3) Under these circumstances, the fact that True Orthodox hierarchs of the Church of Russia are united in temporary ecclesial organizations (sometimes called Lesser Synods) or exist independently does not excuse them from their obligation to be in full Eucharistic communion with one another, which implies both the communion of the faithful in any of their dioceses and the concelebration of clergy.
4) Neither any single one of the aforementioned temporary ecclesial organizations, nor any True Orthodox bishops of the Church of Russia, has plenary ecclesial authority over any other comparable organizations and bishops; each Lesser Synod or independent bishop is governed by its own internal traditions and customs, so long as they do not conflict with church-wide law. Only dogmatic and canonical questions, given that their importance extends beyond the scope of the life of individual ecclesial associations, are subject to joint discussion by all bishops who have entered into full ecclesial-canonical communion with one another.
5) Neither differences in assessment of historical facts nor disparate political views should serve as obstacles to the communion of True Orthodox Christians. The Apostle Paul allows a certain degree of divergence of opinions among Christians on questions of secondary importance, enjoining that these differences of opinion be covered with love.
5) None of the bishops has authority over one another, but all remain brothers in Christ.
The present Act is drawn up in seven copies (one copy for each of the signatories) by two groups of bishops: the Orthodox Church of Russia and the Bishops’ Conference of the Russian Orthodox Autonomous Church.
We call upon all bishops that are historically linked with the Orthodox Church of Russia, share the True Orthodox confession of faith, and denounce the heresies of Sergianism and ecumenism to leave behind old quarrels and restore Eucharistic communion within the bosom of a unified True Orthodox Church of Russia.
Metropolitan Damascene of Moscow and All Russia
Archbishop John of Zaporizhie and Little-Russia
Bishop Michael of Belgorod and South-Russia
Bishop Gregory of Petrograd and Gdov
Bishop Sebastian of Chelyabinsk
Bishop Ignatius of Kaluga and Obninsk
Approved in the village of Myatlevo, Kaluga Diocese, in the Church of the Joy of All Who Sorrow.
June 26/July 9, 2016
Icon of the Mother of God of Tikhvin