GERMAN DIOCESE: February 1, 2004

ÒWe Expect Mutual Recognition of Each Other as Parts of One Russian ChurchÓ
an interview with Archbishop Mark


Your Eminence, Patriarch Alexy II, in his Epistle to the Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, speaks of the Òneed to restore unity.Ó At the same time, in the Epistle of the Council to the Flock, it says that the agenda included the Òmatter not of the confluence or unification of the Churches, but of the establishment of normal ecclesiastical relations between two parts of the once-united Russian Church.Ó It would seem that the aims of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia do not coincide with the aims of the Moscow Patriarchate. What can be expected then from dialog between the Russian Orthodox Church of the MP and the Church Abroad?

Firstly, we must expect the mutual recognition of each other as parts of one Russian Church. Only when we achieve that can we move to the painstaking work of creating unity both in prayerful/eucharistic life and in the organization of the administrative structure of our Churches. We are speaking of the recognition of autonomy of the Church Abroad which exists in fact, on the basis of canonical norms of the Russian Orthodox Church.

In your opinion, what should the scenario of rapprochement be?

It must be constructed on a strictly conciliar basis. These questions must be resolved by church councils of the Russian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate and the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. Concrete proposals made at these councils must be developed by special committees formed by both sides. I would not guess as to the proposals made by these committees, but I would advise everyone to preserve their creative freedom until these committees begin their work.

What concrete questions are expected to be resolved during the visit to Russia of Metropolitan Laurus?

The forthcoming visit of Metropolitan Laurus to Russia must serve as an official beginning of the pre-conciliar process.

In one of your interviews, you said that the Russian government requires the transfer of property of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia to the ownership of the Russian Federation. Was this in fact discussed during the discussions with the Russian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate? How do you see the resolution of the property question?

During our discussions with the Russian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate in November of last year, the property matter was not raised. In my view, the church property of the Church Abroad, wherever it may be, must remain the property of the diocese, as is required by canon law.

The establishment of any unity with the Moscow Patriarchate is impossible without the problem of clergymen in Russia of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, who in the opinion of the Russian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate were ordained uncanonically. Is there a chance that Moscow will reconsider this position?

I feel that in this area, one must act pragmatically. We cannot allow ourselves to continue criticize each other. Otherwise the status of clergymen of the Moscow Patriarchate in the West can be raised. How is their status different from that of clergymen of the Church Abroad in Russia?

The main criticism leveled by the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia against the Moscow Patriarchate is the cooperation with the godless state. How do you view the Russian government today?

Insofar as I do not live in Russia, and, unfortunately, do not travel there often, it is difficult for me to judge the new Russian government. But, looking from the outside, it seems that it is sufficiently neutral towards the Church.

Can the Church accept financial and political support from the present government? Can today’s Russian government regulate church-state relations or cooperate in the improvement of inter-ecclesiastical relations?

In my opinion, the Russian government is indebted to the Church. It robbed the Church over the course of decades and now is obligated to support the Church and cooperate in her rebirth and free development. As far as inter-ecclesiastical relations are concerned, the state can only encourage and cooperate in the resolution of difficult problems.

How do you view the present canonical status of the Moscow Patriarchate? For even in 1990, the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia deemed it impossible to recognize the appointment of Patriarch Alexy II as the expression of the conciliar will of the Russian Church.

The Russian people have made their choice. They recognized the present Russian Orthodox Church in Russia and her hierarchy. We must accept this, despite possible objections by some members of the Church Abroad. In the beginning of the 1990’s, we could not accept the processes occurring in Russia as they are accepted today. Life in Russia followed a different path that the ÎmigrÎs imagined.

Did you accept the repentance of His Holiness Patriarch Alexy II, and do you consider the matter of mutual repentance of the Churches resolved?

The Patriarch repented on a personal level, and we accept it as his personal podvig. Still, it seems to us that the repentance of the Russian Church must be on a church-wide basis, that it must be affirmed by a conciliar document. We speak of this not only to satisfy some personal feelings and resentments, but solely in order that negative manifestations do not occur in thefuture.

Daniil Shchepkov
Ezhenedel’niy Zhurnal