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In the last few years in Russian Orthodox circles we have more and more often heard the question: 'When is the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) going to join the Moscow Patriarchate?' This question is in itself absurd, for the answer is 'Never', for it has never been a possibility or desired.

Rather it has always been the case that ROCOR has been biding its time over the last ten years since the fall of Communism and the Soviet Union, waiting for the Moscow Patriarchate to dissolve and become once more the Russian Orthodox Church. It has been a long wait and we are still waiting.

Although the Soviet Union collapsed, the Soviet mentality continued. Ageing senior clergy of the Moscow Patriarchate, especially the clique of senior bishops, the Nikodimovtsy, the disciples of the Cold War Uniat Metropolitan of Leningrad, Nikodim, have only recently begun to lose their influence. Nevertheless, a whole generation is now growing up in Russia who do not know what it was to be Soviet, a new generation of priests and even young bishops are starting to replace the KGB hacks of the past. The stagnation (zastoi) of the past is creeping away.

In the last ten years, we have seen a Communist party in cassocks dissolve. Voices have been raised inside the Patriarchate in Russia against modernist practices, against the World Council of Churches, even against the Sergianist compromises of the past. Most notably, many of the New Martyrs, including the Royal Martyrs, have been canonised, though this was publicly denounced by one of the bishops of the Sourozh diocese.

As the Moscow Patriarchate begins to become once more the Russian Orthodox Church, inside Russia, so it has also begun to look to its situation outside Russia. Some of the scandals have been resolved. Their defrocked bigamous Bishop in Vienna has gone, the scandalous homosexual Bishop Gury in Paris has been replaced by a young monk. Representatives of the Moscow Cold War creation, the Orthodox Church in America (OCA), have been summoned to Moscow to account for themselves. Some of the healthier elements in the Russian Paris jurisdiction (at present under the Patriarchate of Constantinople) have passed over to the Moscow jurisdiction together with the Rome parish. It is surely only a matter of time before the Russian Cathedral on Rue Daru in Paris (the property of the City of Paris) is handed back to Moscow. It may be that the few parishes under Moscow in Holland will be told to return to the Orthodox calendar and Paschalia.

Of course there is still much to do for the Moscow Patriarchate to revert to being the Russian Orthodox Church inside Russia, a Church identical in spirit to the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, but it is clear that it is on its way. One of the tasks it still has to carry out to renew itself is to sort out the catastrophic situation in the Sourozh Diocese in the British Isles, based at a former Anglican church in Ennismore Gardens in London.

In the 1970's this Diocese was very active in receiving English people into the Orthodox Church. At that time it was indeed more or less the only Orthodox jurisdiction in the British Isles which received Non-Orthodox into Orthodoxy, for the other jurisdictions were all locked up in their own nationalism. Cut off from Soviet Russia, the only way in which it could expand was to receive Non-Orthodox.

Unfortunately, by the 1980's it had become clear that this jurisdiction was based around a personality cult of its Metropolitan. Increasingly, large numbers of English Orthodox left it for other jurisdictions, as they opened up to English Orthodox. Indeed large numbers of sincere Orthodox people were actually rejected by Sourozh and told to go away for their refusal to toe the personality cult line.

Those who remained often came from a public school, upper middle-class background, much interested in Hinduism, Buddhism, hypnotism and various New Age peculiarities, often with curious moral practices and fantasies. Those who were ordained clergy in its jurisdiction were often canonically unordainable elsewhere, being divorced, married to divorcees or else with other canonical impediments to ordination. New doctrines made their appearance, unheard of elsewhere in the Orthodox Church and Tradition. Cremations were carried out, weddings on Saturdays, general confession, so condemned by spiritual fathers in the Patriarchate in Russia, took place, liturgical traditions were rejected, communion was administered without regular confession; a different spirit came to reign in many of its churches.

Pastorally, for those who lived around London the situation was grave indeed. The Sourozh diocese categorically refused to establish parishes in provincial towns or suburbs within one hundred miles of London. Indeed it even deliberately undermined the self-sacrifice of laypeople who strived to establish such parishes. Zeal, apparently, was punishable, By the 1990's the Sourozh diocese had lost its grip, modernism was triumphing within it, and the majority of English Orthodox found themselves in other jurisdictions. Moscow, paralysed by the KGB, had done nothing. Although in the 1990's Moscow sent an Orthodox Bishop from Russia, Anatoly, he was powerless to do anything about the situation. Too little too late.

With its programme of renewal, in 2002 however, Moscow sent another Bishop, Hilarion, to try and re-establish Orthodoxy in the Sourozh Diocese. He is struggling to renew the Sourozh Diocese under its eighty-eight year old Metropolitan and restore it to Orthodoxy as part of the ongoing renewal of the Patriarchate.

If he and others succeed in re-establishing Orthodoxy, why should we talk about the Moscow Patriarchate any longer? It will have become again the Russian Orthodox Church inside Russia. The Soviet product, the Moscow Patriarchate, will have died out. At that point, and only at that point, with the rejection of Sergianism, modernism and the acceptance of all, and not just some, of the New Martyrs, representatives of the former Moscow Patriarchate will be able to sit down with representatives of the ROCOR. Together they will be able to work out a system of canonical autonomy for all the parishes faithful to the Russian Orthodox Tradition outside Russia.
May Thy will be done, O Lord.


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