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MOSCOW: January 22, 2008
The 18th Orthodox Theological Conference at St Tikhon Humanitarian University Opens With a Plenary Session On the Reestablishment of Canonical Unity Within the Russian Orthodox Church

The plenary session of the 18th Orthodox Theological Conference at St Tikhon Humanitarian University, scheduled in Moscow from January 22-26, was devoted to the reestablishment of canonical unity within the Russian Orthodox Church. Representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia are participating in the event.

His Grace Bishop Michael of Geneva and Western Europe read a greeting from the First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus of Eastern America and New York. Vladyka Michael himself feels that the reestablishment of unity is a great joy, and it is necessary to make sense of the events that once "divided the Russian people." People who found themselves in the emigration distanced themselves from the government that persecuted the Church, but they did not wish to separate themselves from the Russian people.

The Rector of St Tikhon's Humanitarian University, Protopriest Vladimir Vorobiov, discussed events in the country, the attitude of the Muscovite clergymen to the policies of Metropolitan Sergius (Stragorodsky) in the 1920's, and the spiritual foundations for the reestablishment of unity in the Russian Church. The University is conducting historical research on the Church in the 20th century. Fr Vladimir feels that a new era has arrived—an era of joint study of the history of the Church in Russia and abroad.

Protopriest Nikolai Artemoff spoke on how the preparation for the unification began in the 1990s through the example of the German dioceses (those of the MP and ROCOR). He stressed that inner unity between the Churches never ceased, and now canonical communion has been reestablished, that is, its external, visible form has taken shape. Between 1993 and 1997, meetings were held in Germany between representatives of both clerical organizations. The priests would share practical experience in their ministries, striving to recognize differences and explain them to each other. Questions on the relationship of the Church and state were raised, ecumenism, the transfer of clergymen from one diocese to another, questions of the baptism of laypersons, the new calendar, and other matters. Pastoral care guided the priests, and the need to dispel tension, resistance, and accusations of lack of grace became apparent.

A new publication of St Tikhon's was introduced at the session: a book by AA Kostriukov entitled "The Russian Church Abroad in the first half of the 1920's."

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