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The Russian Orthodox Church Calls for Honesty in Relations with Non-Orthodox

After the dark years of politically-inspired ecumenical compromise under the old Soviet regime, the Russian Orthodox Church inside Russia (MP), now free and strengthened by entering into communion with the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR), is calling for honest Orthodox contact with Roman Catholicism.

According to various news reports, on Monday 28 May, the Day of the Holy Spirit, Bishop Hilarion of Vienna and Austria called for a review of the way in which the Orthodox Churches are represented on the mixed Orthodox-Roman Catholic Commission. According to the multilingual, Oxford-educated Bishop Hilarion, who is the official Russian Orthodox representative at several European Organizations, current representation does not adequately reflect the real disposition of forces and views in the Orthodox world. Bishop Hilarion, briefly a Vicar-Bishop in Great Britain, before being rejected by a small group of modernists who later went into schism from Russian Orthodoxy, is thus reflecting the views that ROCOR has always held.

Bishop Hilarion pointed out that the multi-million flock of the Russian Church was represented on the Commission by two delegates, in the same way that any other Orthodox Church, however small numerically, was represented by two delegates. Given that the Russian Orthodox Church represents some 75% of the total Orthodox Church, this seemed strange, but then this is what ROCOR has always said. Bishop Hilarion added that since the two representatives of the Patriarchate of Constantinople are both Joint Chairman and Secretary of the Commission, a certain imbalance had been created, especially when the Orthodox Joint Chairman regularly insisted on his own opinion, which might not be that of the representative of the Moscow Patriarchate.

Bishop Hilarion also repeated that the concept of taking decisions on theological and ecclesiological questions at Commission meetings through a process of voting was inadmissible. He said that it was not a question of majority or minority opinion, but of ascertaining the truth and that even if only one Orthodox Church spoke out against one or another formulation, then that formulation would be unacceptable. There had to be a consensus and voting in such a case would be inappropriate.

He also called on Orthodox not to accept the forthcoming meeting of the Commission in Ravenna, if Pope Benedict XVI and the Patriarch of Constantinople visited it as if it were a meeting of the heads of two Churches, the Roman Catholic and the Orthodox. He stated that in Universal Orthodoxy no bishop has a role which parallels that of the Pope of Rome. He added that there was no point in creating the illusion that such a bishop existed. For Orthodox, the Patriarch of Constantinople is first in honour among those who preside over the Local Orthodox Churches, not a sort of Eastern Pope.

Only last week Bishop Hilarion called for the Austrian government to recognize the Russian Orthodox Church and grant it legal status in Austria. Unfortunately, during the decadent period of Communist captivity of the Russian Church, the Patriarchate of Constantinople in Austria, as in Belgium, alone received legal status, pushing aside and isolating all other Orthodox jurisdictions, including ROCOR. Taking advantage of the captivity and therefore absence of the Russian Church inside Russia in international relations at that time, the impression had been given to unwitting foreign governments that the Patriarchate of Constantinople had jurisdiction over all the Local Orthodox Churches.

Today, with the Russian Church at last free and renewed, it is the Patriarchate of Constantinople which is seen to be a captive plaything - not of Soviet Communism, but of both Turkish and Vatican politics.

Once more we are seeing the long-held views of ROCOR now reflected by the whole Russian Orthodox Church.


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