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With the reconciliation of the two parts of the Russian Church, and thus the re-formation of the Mother-Church of all Russian Orthodox, now only a month away, on 17 May 2007, rumours are going around. On the one hand, there are the optimists, who foresee the dawn of a new era, and the pessimists, who foresee nothing but difficulties. On the other hand, there are those who are neutral, seeing just a restructuring of the present situation, with a more rational and streamlined structure for all Russian parishes and monasteries outside Russia, and others who foresee no changes at all. As for myself, I hope that the two parts of the Russian Church will simply be able to help and strengthen one another.

It is not for us to comment on rumours, nor to report the details of such speculations. Nevertheless, sensible questions about the role of ROCOR in the future can legitimately be raised. Fourteen years ago, in 'Orthodox Christianity and the English Tradition', we wrote the following of the role of ROCOR, warning against any kind of 'museification' of the Faith or uncanonical politicization of the Church. The following article, 'Church, State and the Position of ROCOR', can be found in full on this site, but we will reproduce this extract here, in the hope that it is still of relevance and interest to our readers.

...In such a (contemporary) situation what can the role of the ROCOR be? These are the observations of a parish priest of the ROCOR, they may be right, they may be wrong - we express them here with hesitation, sure and reassured that our bishops see more clearly and more deeply than ourselves:

1. Conserve the Orthodox Faith among the Russian Emigration.

This difficult task is complicated by the secular nature of modern life, with Orthodox of Russian origin being assimilated into the countries where they live. The result is that in Protestant countries there is a tendency for the Orthodoxy of parts of the emigration to resemble an 'Eastern-rite' Protestantism or Anglicanism, and in Catholic countries, Uniatism. At the other extreme there is the temptation to form ethnic ghettos which simply die out after a generation or two with the memory of 'the old country'. We must conserve the Faith, not preserve it, and be sure that first and foremost we conserve the Faith, and not something else, and this in whatever language is necessary.

2. Continue the Missionary Work of the Russian Church.

This work started before the Revolution and such holy men as St Tikhon the Patriarch of Moscow were involved in it. Here, too, there are temptations, for example, to refuse to use the local language to attract converts, unlike Sts Cyril and Methodius, or to refuse to ordain non-Russians, for fear of derussification. Such a refusal cannot be justified on racial grounds, only on dogmatic ones, for fear of losing Orthodoxy. Indeed the Faith has to be guarded zealously, whatever the attractions of 'the easy way out' i.e. the new calendar, cremation, weddings during the fasts or other conveniences and opportunist compromises sadly favoured by many other jurisdictions. Above all we must realise that our Church exists here and now, whatever nostalgia we may feel for pre-Revolutionary Russia, pre-1925 Greece, Anglo-Saxon England or Christian Gaul. The Church as the Body of Christ is Incarnate, here and now.

3 Help to Restore Orthodoxy in Russia

In Russia we must witness that, although in the world, the Church is not of it. This knowledge and this mentality has been largely lost in Russia today. If we are to help bring the Patriarchal Church in Russia back, or rather forward, to this knowledge and spirit, we must in no wise compromise ourselves through possible political temptations, the seductions of power, glory, pride or money. Our witness there must be spiritual, only thus is our help positive and therefore canonical.

These threefold tasks, carried out in humility, avoiding extremes, are Trinitarian in their inner meaning. To conserve the Faith is to be faithful to the Father. To continue our missionary tasks is to be faithful to the Incarnation of the Son. And a spiritual witness in Russia that the Kingdom of Christ is not of this world is to be faithful to the Holy Spirit. Our threefold task is indeed Trinitarian.

And should we seek a living icon of one who did his utmost to carry out these three tasks, I can think of none so clear as a contemporary saint, soon to be canonised by the Synod of our Church, Blessed John of Shanghai/Western Europe/San Francisco. He, I would suggest, embodies the very vocation of our Church, to bring all who wish to follow Her to life and salvation in Christ, the Crucified and Risen Lord of All Creation.

'Tell the people: although I have died, I live.'

Blessed John

September 1993


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