MOSCOW: February 5, 2013
Document Adopted by the Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church
(February 2-5, 2013)
1. The members of the Holy Council of Bishops lift their prayers to our Chief Pastor, the Lord Jesus Christ, thanking Him for His mercies to His Church and for preserving her during these days of growing external temptations and enticements aimed against church unity.
2. The Council of Bishops approves of the work of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia, the Holy Synod, the Supreme Ecclesiastical Council, the Inter-Council Presence, the Synodal institutions and commissions during the inter-council period. Special satisfaction is evoked by the development of systematic efforts in fulfilling the decisions of the Council of Bishops and the higher organs of ecclesiastical administration, under the constant supervision of the Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church, the Holy Synod and the Supreme Ecclesiastical Council.
3. The Council confirms the decisions of the Holy Synod on the establishment of the Middle-Asian Metropolitan District, and also the inclusion of the heads of the Metropolitan District in the Republic of Kazakhstan and the Middle-Asian Metropolitan District as permanent members of the Holy Synod. The Regulations of the Supreme Ecclesiastical Council adopted by the Holy Synod is confirmed.
4. Having studied the results of the work of the Inter-Council Presence from 2011-2012, the Holy Council accepts the following documents:
5. The members of the Council view positively the trial application of the “Temporary Regulations on Material and Social Support for Clergymen, Church Servers and Employees of Religious Organizations of the Russian Orthodox Church, and also of Members of Their Families,” adopted by the Council of Bishops on February 2-4, 2011. Taking into consideration proposals received from a series of dioceses since that time, the Holy Council now accepts the “Regulations on Material and Social Support for Clergymen, Church Servers and Employees of Religious Organizations of the Russian Orthodox Church, and also of Members of Their Families,” therefore the aforementioned “Temporary Regulations” are no longer in effect.
6. The Holy Council adopts the new edition of the “Regulations on Awards of the Russian Orthodox Church.” As a result, the earlier edition approved by the Council of Bishops of 2008 is no longer valid. The “Regulations of Liturgical-Hierarchal Awards” adopted at the Council of Bishops in 2011 is likewise no longer valid.
Changes in Church Administration, the Increase in Number of Dioceses and Parishes
7. The Holy Council approves the formation of Metropoliates and the significant increase in the number of bishops and dioceses, and where the latter is impossible, the establishment of territorial vicariates. The increase in number of dioceses and the alleviation of the distance between bishops and their flocks will enable the fulfillment of the decision of the Council of Bishops of 2011 on increasing the number of parishes, and also of the development of catechization, religious educational, missionary, youth and social humanitarian work on the deanery and parish levels. The members of the Council of Bishops draw attention of the heads of metropoliates to the importance of supporting recently-created dioceses which comprise their metropoliates.
8. The Council confirms the decisions of the Holy Synod on the creation of the following metropoliates: Archangelsk, Bashkortostan, Belgorod, Volgograd, Vyatsk, Don, Ekaterinburg, Ivanovsk, Irkutsk, Krasnoyarsk, Kuzbassk, Kursk, Mordovia, Nizhny Novgorod, Novgorod, Novosibirsk, Omsk, Orenburg, Penza, Priamuriye, Primoriye, Ryazan, Samara, Saratov, Simbirsk, Stavropol, Tambov, Tatarstan, Tver, Tula, Chelyabinsk, Chuvashia and Yaroslavl.
The Council also confirms the decisions of the Holy Synod and the Synod of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church on the creation of the dioceses: Alatyr, Almetyevsk, Amursk, Ardatov, Arsenyev, Balashov, Baltiysk, Barysh, Bezhetsk, Belebey, Bishkek, Borovichi, Bratsk, Buzuluk, Valuyki, Vladikavkaz, Voznesensk, Volgosensk, Vyksa, Georgiyevsk, Gorodets, Gubkinsky, Dushanbe, Yeniseysk, Zheleznogorsk, Izyum, Isilkul, Iskitim, Kainsk, Kalachinsk, Kalachinsk, Kanash, Kamenka, Kansk, Karasuk, Kasimov, Kinel, Kinesha, Kokshetau, Kotlas, Krasnoslobodsk, Kuznetsk, Kyzyl, Lyskovo, Magnitogorsk, Mariinsk, Makhachka, Melekess, Michurinsk, Mogilev-Podolsky, Narva, Naryan-Mar, Nakhodka, Neftekamsk, Nizhny Tagil, Novokuznetsk, Orsk, Otradnoye, Petropavlovsk, Pokrovsk, Pyatigorsk, Rzhev, Rovenkovsk, Rybinsk, Salavat, Salekhard, Sayansk, Serdobsk, Skopin, Tara, Troitsk, Uvarovo, Urzhum, Uryupinsk, Ust-Kamenogorsk, Feodosiya, Khanty-Mansiysk, Chistopol, Shakhty, Shuya, Shchigry, Yaransk.
9. The Council confirms the Regulations of the Metropoliates of the Russian Orthodox Church and Regulation of the Diocesan Deaneries of the Russian Orthodox Church adopted by the Holy Synod. The Council approves the typical by-laws for stavropighial monasteries, diocesan monasteries and podvories [representative offices—transl.] of stavropighial monasteries confirmed by the Holy Synod.
10. Satisfied with the growth in the number of parishes and clergymen of the Russian Orthodox Church, the members of the Council deem it necessary to begin a new stage in the realization of the decisions of the Council of Bishops of 2011 on the increase in number of churches and other premises suitable for prayer. Every population point in rural areas where a church cannot be built or a permanent rector appointed must be assigned to a specific church and priest. At the same time, in case a population center has few people, its community may be assigned to a parish which has a priest, to which he is assigned, and in case of need it can be registered. Such communities must have a space suitable for prayer. The priest must visit these population points, for which he bears responsibility, on a regular basis, to be determined by the diocesan bishop or dean.
11. Dioceses must continue their efforts to build churches and create church communities in cities so that these places of prayer are maximally accessible for it residents.
Administrative and Legal Matters
12. The members of the Council deem it useful to create a registry of church property. The Financial-Administrative Authority must continue efforts in this direction.
13. The Council approves the proposed establishment of typical draft and planning documentation on building churches for the free use by all dioceses of the Russian Orthodox Church. The Financial-Administrative Authority is instructed to hasten the gathering of typical projects developed for the city of Moscow and provide free access to them to all diocesan administrations. Dioceses must direct all available construction projects to the Financial-Adminstrative Authority for inclusion in this database. After providing diocesan administrations with access to this database, the Financial-Administrative Authority is to track the use of each project.
14. The Council of Bishops instructs diocesan bishops acting as unilateral supreme administrative organs in dioceses to coordinate statements of the dioceses of the Russian Orthodox Church on the transfer of ownership (use) by the diocese of state or municipal property of a religious nature, as well as proposals devised by dioceses on security requirements for properties of cultural value.
15. The members of the Council of Bishops note the benefits stemming from the efforts of diocesan, monastic and parish ventures to produce church vestments, utensils and candles. Such endeavors not only serve to improve the financial situation of local church institutions, but provide a broader selection of quality items for church use. At the same time, worthy of note is the artistic-manufacturing concern “Sofrino,” which has provided professional skills to many craftsmen. The Holy Synod is instructed, on the basis of proposals made in the speech of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill, and also decisions made at the meetings of the Council, to adopt a document regularizing the relationship between “Sofrino” and the canonical subdivisions of the Russian Orthodox Church. The Council of Bishops reminds all diocesan bishops, priors, abbots and abbesses of stavropighial and diocesan monasteries, parish and podvorie rectors, that, in accordance with the Regulations [Ustav] of the Russian Orthodox Church, “the use in churches of candles and other liturgically-necessary items acquired and manufactured outside the Church is prohibited” (Article 40, chapter 15 of the Ustav).
Education and Science
16. The development of spiritual educational institutions is continuing with the aim of adapting suitable teaching and educational systems they employ to the high standards to which pastors of the Church must be held. Not all goals set by the Council of Bishops of 2011 in this area have been resolved to this day. Partly this is due to the special difficulty inherent in the reformation of any educational system. Such delays can be connected to the misunderstanding of the goals set by individuals of authority or to lack of conscientiousness. The Educational Committee of the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church, diocesan bishops and rectors of religious educational institutions must hasten the realization of these decisions, contained in the documents adopted by the Holy Synod of March 22, 2011, to guarantee that candidates to the priesthood be provided with the educational level decreed by the Council of Bishops of 2011, to introduce uniform systems of elevating qualifications, correspondence study and the attestation of clergymen, in consideration, too, of the experiences gained by Novospassky Stavropighial Monastery in Moscow.
17. A significant factor affecting the development of a single ecclesial educational system is the great variation in the educational potential of seminaries. On the basis of the inspection of religious-education schools conducted at the end of 2012 and beginning of 2013, the Educational Committee must submit to the consideration of the Holy Synod realistic proposals for optimizing the activity of religious schools.
18. Within the borders of Russia, the distribution of the graduates of religious academies and seminaries as regards the needs of dioceses which sent them for study, as well as remote dioceses suffering from a lack of clergymen, are vital questions. In connection with this, the Chancery of the Moscow Patriarchate is to prepare a corresponding document, and is instructed thereupon to present it to the Holy Synod for its decision on the matter.
19. The Council of Bishops approves of the creation of a Church-wide Dissertational Council, at which doctoral dissertations are defended by doctoral candidates of active religious schools in Russia, in cases when the religious educational institutions themselves are unable to form such a council, which shall be oriented to the demands of the Supreme Attestation Commission of the Russian Federation and international certifying organs.
20. The development of theological education in a group of countries located in the sphere of canonical responsibility of the Moscow Patriarchate has been satisfactory. It remains an important challenge to significantly strengthen the cooperation of church-wide and local church structures with the theological departments of lay institutions of higher learning. With this goal in mind, the benefit of establishing councils on theological training in each diocese is apparent. The members of the Council also deem it important to include in the budget funds for the study of theology in lay colleges in proportion to funds dedicated to other schools and departments. Otherwise stagnation may set in and even the loss of theological schools and departments.
21. The members of the Council of Bishops approve the documents adopted by the Holy Synod which enable the standardization of Sunday school programs with consideration of their various forms—from small educational groups to full-fledged establishments of continuing education which have legal status. The Synodal Department of Religious Education and Catechization must cooperate with dioceses in the execution of decisions contained in these documents. It is important to note the significance of educational methodical package on the study of the Law of God for Sunday schools developed by the Synodal Department. Analogous work should be done in other disciplines taught in Sunday schools.
22. The Holy Council has examined the situation regarding the introduction into the middle schools of Russia of the “Foundations of Orthodox Culture” as part of the curriculum entitled “Foundations of Religious and Civil Ethics.” The experiences garnered by Russian dioceses might be needed by other countries of the canonical territory of the Moscow Patriarchate in those cases when such decisions are adopted by those governments. It is necessary to continue the work in including spiritual-moral studies in the systems of preschool education, and the coordination of the participation of diocesan representatives in the preliminary preparations of instructors to teach “Foundations of Orthodox Culture.” Dioceses must continue working with the parents of schoolchildren to clarify the importance of this teaching module, alongside the methodological support of the Synodal Department of Religious Education and Catechization.
23. Dialog with civil science in the Russian Orthodox Church continues, but is in need of systemization and further development. More active development of actual theological science is needed, which should be helped by the resolution of challenges set in this area by the Council of Bishops in 2011. The Synodal Biblical-Theological Commission, in cooperation with the Scholarly Commission, should submit proposals to the Holy Synod for its consideration for forming a corresponding coordinating center uniting the efforts of theological institutions of the Russian Orthodox Church. The Synodal Biblical-Theological Commission must also complete its work on the Catechism of the Russian Orthodox Church before the next session of the Council of Bishops.
Monasteries and Monasticism
24. The foundation of monastic life is undoubtedly ascetic practice, first of all works of prayer and repentance. To this must be subject all obligations and obediences imposed on residents of monasteries both within monasteries and outside of them. Responsibility for the proper order of the lives of monastics lies upon abbots and abbesses, who must serve as examples for the brothers and sisters entrusted to their care.
25. In the prior inter-council period, deliberations regarding the draft “Resolution on Monasteries and Monastics” developed by the Inter-Council Presence was an important element in the life of the monasteries of the Russian Orthodox Church. This discussion revealed the need for a more responsible and considered deliberation of the contemporary state of monasticism and paths for its development. The Synodal Department of Monasteries and Monasticism is charged with organizing this discussion. It is important that this process is not hurried and considers the participation in the dialog of monastics and also presents a full spectrum of existing opinions on questions that are raised. Work on the “Resolution on Monasteries and Monastics” must be continued upon the conclusion of this discussion and with consideration of its conclusions. At the same time, a series of questions regarding monastic life demands immediate settlement. It is necessary to determine the status of tonsuring into monasticism and the consequences of receiving it, since at the present time this matter does not follow a standard practice. It is also necessary to determine the ecclesio-judicial consequences of a resident leaving a monastery or the abandonment of monastic life. The Inter-Council Presence’s Committee on Monasteries and Monasticism should in the near term present documents on these topics to the Holy Synod.
26. The Holy Council ascertains that in most stavropighial and in many diocesan monasteries, the practice of residents obtaining theological education has widened. Yet further work is needed in this area. The Synodal Department of Monasteries and Monasticism, together with the Scholarly Commission, must develop and submit to the Holy Synod a system whereby monastics will receive theological education not only in stavropighial but also diocesan monasteries, to the extent of their abilities. Upon approval of the system, the Synodal Department of Monasteries and Monasticism is authorized to oversee its manifestation both in stavropighial and diocesan monasteries.
27. The Council of Bishops of 2011 pointed to the need to provide proper hospitality to pilgrims and visitors to monasteries. In many monasteries this practice is satisfactory. The Synodal Department of Monasteries and Monasticism is instructed to summarize experience in this area, prepare and submit to the Supreme Ecclesiastical Council corresponding recommendations, taking into consideration differences in the location and number of monasteries.
The Veneration of Saints
28. The Council of Bishops studied the information on the broad dissemination throughout a series of diocese of the veneration of St Dalmat of Isetsk (1594-1697), glorified among the local Siberian saints in 2004. The members of the Council bear witness to the fact that the podvig of St Dalmat, the miracles resulting from his prayers, and also his veneration on a broad scale provide sufficient bases for including St Dalmat to the host of Church-wide saints. In this regard, the Holy Council gives its blessing for the Church-wide veneration of St Dalmat of Isetsk, with his feast day being designated as June 28 (July 8), and the day of the translation of his relics, July 24 (August 6). The name of St Dalmat is to be submitted to the Primates of the Local Orthodox Churches for inclusion in their calendar of saints.
29. The members of the Council of Bishops support the decision of the Holy Synod on the creation of a Clerical-Lay Council on Memorializing the New Martyrs and Confessors of the Russian Church. This organ is charged in particular with the responsibility of manifesting the decisions of the Council of Bishops of 2011, “Measures for Preserving the Memory of New Martyrs, Confessors and All the Innocent Victims of the Atheists in the Period of Persecutions.” The Clerical-Lay Council is to present a report on its work to the next Council of Bishops.
In many dioceses, this decision is already being manifested. Wherever the Council’s instructions have not yet been acted upon must expediently begin this work.
30. The members of the Council express their consent to the conclusions of the Synodal Liturgical Commission regarding the period of celebration the Host of New Martyrs and Confessors of the Russian Church as it relates to the differing practices adopted by the Russian Church Abroad and the Church in the Fatherland. The Holy Council decrees the establishment of the celebration of the Host of New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia as follows:
In 2013, the celebration of the Host of New Martyrs and Confessors of the Church of Russia will fall on January 28 (old style), as designated in the official calendar published by the Moscow Patriarchate Publications.
Catechization, Missionary, Youth and Social Service
31. The Holy Council confirms the document adopted by the Holy Synod “On the Religious-Educational and Catechistic Service of the Russian Orthodox Church,” “On the Organization of Missionary Work in the Russian Orthodox Church” and “On the Organization of Youth Ministry in the Russian Orthodox Church.” Deemed satisfactory is the activity of the dioceses in the application of these documents, and also of the document adopted by the Council of Bishops of 2011 “On the Principles of Organization of Social Work in the Russian Orthodox Church.” Earning a positive evaluation in particular has been the introduction of staff assistants to deans in the various areas of work. During the period before the regular session of the Council of Bishops, all dioceses are to complete the process of filling the corresponding responsibilities. At the same time, the diocesan leadership, deans and parish rectors are to tend to the proper remuneration for the services of persons fulfilling these duties. This work must not be considered secondary but as an important element of general Church service.
32. Work on the core directions of Church activity, including the levels of deaneries and parishes, must be manifested by personnel with special training. The core Synodal departments, with the support of the Scholarly Commission, is to continue the effort, already begun, to create a system of education for assistants to deans and rectors in the area of religious education and catechization, missionary, youth and social work. The members of the Council of Bishops approve the submitted “Rules for the Organization of the Preparation of Specialists in Catechism, Missionary and Social Work.”
33. At the present time, missionary work in the Russian Orthodox Church is developing in several main directions, though not extensively. These include mission among native peoples, including small populations, anti-sectarian work and mission work aimed at the education of those who have already been baptized but are not active church members, and also at those who have not yet been baptized but are among a people which historically confessed the Orthodox faith. Responsibility for the manifestation of the first two directions lies on the core Synodal and diocesan departments. The latter must, if necessary, recruit deanery and parish missionaries towards anti-sectarian work. The third aforementioned direction overlaps in many ways with youth, especially in catechizing efforts as defined in general Church documents. Corresponding diocesan institutions are to work out a mechanism of cooperation amongst themselves, and between core workers in the deans and parishes, which would enable the unification of efforts and would eliminate duplication. On the parish level, it is appropriate for the duties of missionary and catechizer to be combined.
34. The mission of the Church includes pastoral care for those in the military service. The work of many priests who carry out this work on a volunteer basis deserves much praise. The Council expresses hope that the process of appointing staff military chaplains within the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation will be given new impetus, and that such decisions will be adopted by the governments of other countries under the canonical oversight of the Moscow Patriarchate. The Synodal Department on Cooperation with the Armed Forces and Security Services, and also diocesan bishops serving in Russia are to take all necessary measures to allocate the needed number of clergymen in accordance with the demands set forth with the aim of filling vacancies of staff military chaplains within the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation.
It is necessary to continue to work in earnest on the spiritual ministry and churchification of the Cossacks.
35. The members of the Council of Bishops approve of the efforts of archpastors and pastors of the Church aimed at developing good relations with Old Believers, and consider it beneficial to continue to organize the activity of Old Believer (Old Rite) parishes of the Russian Orthodox Church.
36. Of principle importance is the involvement of young laypersons in social and charitable service in the Church. In connection with this, proper cooperation between structures and individuals responsible for such work must be established. A priority in the area of work with young people is the support and development of youth initiatives on the Church-wide and diocesan levels. The main efforts of the Synod Department of Youth Ministry must be applied in this direction. The creation of youth councils in metropoliates and in those dioceses which are not included in metropoliates must promote the execution of this goal. Such councils must be oriented not only to youth ministry as a whole, but first of all to the pastoral challenges of the Church. Methods of youth ministry acceptable to ecclesiastical service that are borrowed from civil practices must be applied to these goals.
37. The Holy Council, with thanks to God, bears witness to the evident willingness of Orthodox believers to actively respond to the call of the Church Hierarchy to help our suffering compatriots or flock of the Orthodox Church in other countries, displaying solidarity with our brethren in the faith who are experiencing difficult times. The level of social work within the Russian Orthodox Church is also satisfactory. At the same time, it is important to continue the development of a volunteer movement within the Church, including among the youth and first of all on the parish level. The Synodal Department of Church Charity and Social Service is challenged to consider the mechanisms which enable its further development.
38. The members of the Council approve of the decision by His Holiness the Patriarch and the Holy Synod on the formation of a Commission of the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia on Church Orphanages and Ecclesial Care for Children, and also a Patriarchal Commission on the Family and Defense of Motherhood.
Approving the effort to register Church orphanages in Russia, the Holy Council deems it important that such work be conducted in other countries of the canonical presence of the Moscow Patriarchate. The Synodal Department of Church Charity and Social Service, jointly with the Synodal Department of Religious Education and Catechization, are to organize the raising of qualifications of directors, teachers and other employees of Church orphanages.
Approving the proposal submitted to the Council on organizing Church work in the area of family support, the Council of Bishops stressed the need for further improvement in order that they may be adapted to various situations on the local level.
39. The Council of Bishops notes the importance of the work of the clergymen of the Russian Orthodox Church with incarcerated persons, the care for whom is one form of Christian service mentioned in the Holy Gospel, and also work with employees of correctional facilities. At the same time, overcoming a series of judicial and practical difficulties must not be ignored, which arise there in particular in the matter of introducing the permanent institution of prison clergymen. The Synodal Department of Prison Service must continue its work in this direction. It is necessary also to tend to the rehabilitation and reintegration of persons released from incarceration.
Culture, Publishing, Informational Service
40. The members of the Council of Bishop deem important the contribution of many faithful of the Church in the constructive development of contemporary culture. Wherever possible, dioceses are invited to create cultural-educational and religious education centers, most importantly at cathedrals or diocesan libraries. It is preferable to develop diocesan programs which would enable the furthering of the culture of the Fatherland. Such programs should be incorporated in regions at a distance from diocesan centers as well. The Patriarchal Council on Culture and the Publishing Council of the Russian Orthodox Church are instructed to coordinate this work and provide methodological support to the dioceses. Also crucial is the popularization within the dioceses of the Patriarchal Literature Medal of SS Kirill and Methodius, Equal-to-the-Apostles.
41. Diocesan bishops are to turn their attention to the proper use, preservation and reestablishment of movable and immovable monuments of culture transferred to the Church. Their registration, restoration and renovation must be held under strict control. The Patriarchal Council on Culture is called upon to provide consultation to the dioceses in this area.
42. The Publishing Council of the Russian Orthodox Church is to continue perfecting the system of stamps which would exclude the dissemination in monasteries and parishes of publications which contradict Church traditions, while at the same time not hindering publishers from producing high-quality Orthodox literature. With the aim of ensuring the realization of the decisions of the Holy Synod, it is deemed useful to create a centralized system of distributing books to the dioceses. Such a system must not be an additional material burden for monasteries and parishes with regard to obtaining literature, nor harm the interests of church and private publishers. Proposals on this matter submitted to the Publishing Council must be reviewed by the Supreme Ecclesiastical Council.
43. The Holy Council of Bishops deems important the work in filling the informational void with reliable information on the service of the Church, central to which is the preaching of Christ and pastoral responses to the challenges of today. Realizing this challenge demands in addition to all else the preliminary planning of informational illumination of all socially-important church measures, a coordinating role for which must be the Synodal Informational Department. Additionally, the consistent, systematic cooperation of all informational subdivisions of Church-wide and diocesan institutions with the Synodal Informational Department is crucial, with the aim of developing concordant positions on all matters demanding a response on the part of representatives of the Church, in order to follow a single Church-wide informational policy.
Efforts must continue on elevating the qualifications of personnel of diocesan informational departments and publishers of periodicals. The Synodal Informational Department is instructed to complete a cycle of courses for such personnel with the participation of all dioceses in the canonical territory of the Moscow Patriarchate before the next Council of Bishops.
44. The Council of Bishops reminds the members of the mass media who are Orthodox Christians of the lofty responsibility they bear before God and mankind for their professional activities, of the fatal character of discord and enmity, and the inadmissibility for the Orthodox Christians of the mass media to ignore Church-wide decisions. The Council authorizes the Synodal Informational Department to have greater care for Orthodox print and electronic periodicals.
Clergymen and the flock of the Church should remember the necessity of carefully choosing forums they participate in. The ultimate goal of such activity must be the convincing witness of the truth of Christ.
Noting the growing influence of social media such as public opinion, their educational and child-rearing potential, the Council deems important the development of new approaches to carrying out the Church’s mission in the internet. In this regard, the Synodal Missionary, Informational and Youth Departments are instructed to cooperate to develop and bring to life a system of measures to guarantee the effective presence of the Church in the social media.
Autonomous and Self-Governing Churches
45. The Council supports His Beatitude Metropolitan Vladimir of Kiev and All Ukraine and the episcopate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in their efforts to preserve ecclesiastical unity and the overcoming of schism, lifting prayers for the return to the bosom of the Church of all those who left her.
46. The members of the Holy Council, with gratitude to the Lord, note the staunchness against tribulations and the blossoming of the Japanese Autonomous Orthodox Church, which has now entered its second century following the repose of her founder, St Nicholas of Japan, Equal-to-the-Apostles.
47. The Council welcomes the continuing process of normalization of the Chinese Autonomous Orthodox Church.
48. This year marks the two-hundredth anniversary since the establishment of the Kishinev Diocese. The Council notes the importance of this event and deems it appropriate to hold high-level celebrations on this important jubilee.
49. The Council confirms the need to resolve the problems spawned by the uncanonical nature of the “Bessarabian Metropoliate,” which harms ecclesiastical unity.
50. Judging positively the development of the internal life of the Estonian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, the members of the Council express regret with regard to the continuing property-ownership inequality of many of its parishes when compared to communities of the Constantinople Patriarchate, which to this day complicates the relationship between the two Churches. This problem is in need of just resolution.
51. The members of the Council note with satisfaction the fifth anniversary of the signing of the Act of Canonical Communion which resulted in the reestablishment of full unity within the Russian Orthodox Church.
Church-State Relations in the Countries of the Canonical Authority
52. The Holy Council emphasizes that the Russian Orthodox Church, as a religious organization, does not meddle in government affairs and does not replace institutions of civil authority. Still, the Church and state, which in many cases involves the very same people, are called upon to cooperate on all levels towards the benefit of the people.
53. The Council expresses satisfaction over the general state of Church-Government relations in the countries of the canonical sphere of the Russian Orthodox Church, including interrelations with the heads of state, parliaments, civil authorities, various ministries and agencies, regional and local organs of power. The Council especially notes that many successful cooperative efforts have been arranged and realized with government institutions. Such practices should be developed and perfected. Also noted with satisfaction is the participation of representatives of the Church in the work of collective consultative structures established by various branches of government.
54. The Holy Council deems it necessary to continue dialog and cooperation with the governments of Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and other countries of the canonical sphere of the Moscow Patriarchate with the aim of imparting proper importance to the celebration of the Baptism of Rus, especially in connection with the 1025th anniversary of the adoption of Christianity by Rus. This holiday must be filled with great events bearing witness to the spiritual unity of the fraternal peoples.
55. A series of questions in the area of Church-state relations demands special attention.
The members of the Council of Bishops are satisfied with the adoption by the Russian Federation of ownership-rights laws guaranteeing the transfer to the Church of properties of religious purpose currently owned by states or municipalities. The Council hopes that these acts will be expeditiously fulfilled on the local level. Hierarchs who head metropoliates, and also ruling diocesan bishops, whose territory fall within the bounds of the Russian Federation, are to enter into dialog with the regional authorities for the speedy adoption of regulatory acts which permit the realization of the ownership laws adopted on the federal level. The Council likewise states with satisfaction that over the period since the Council of 2011, in Russia, rules were adopted on providing support from state budgets towards socially-oriented non-profit organizations. This decision allows Orthodox communities, educational institutions and social unions to receive subsidies for developing their socially-beneficial activities from the federal or regional budgets. The members of the Council deem it important to ensure in the Russian Federation the equal access to budgetary resources for both governmental and non-governmental educational and social establishments, including those created both by ecclesiastical entities and by laypersons. It is unacceptable when church social work, especially that which is aimed to help children who have lost the care of their parents, is not viewed as an organic part of the Russian social system and confronts obstacles, including instances when there is resistance to handing over children who have no parental care to church-run orphanages, the main goal of which are to rehabilitate and educate these children, and prepare them for adoption and seeking out families to adopt them.
Recognizing the efforts by the government of Ukraine to preserve inter-confessional peace, the members of the Council note the need for the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, as a religious union, to receive status as a legal entity, imparting transparency and effectiveness to the system of government registration of religious organizations, legislative support in returning to Church ownership of property, licensing and accreditation of religious schools, and the introduction of the institution of chaplaincy into the Armed Forces of Ukraine. The members of the Council are alarmed at the adoption by Ukraine of a law on the establishment of a single government demographic registry which would contain personal and biometrical date on the citizens of Ukraine, in connection with which many criticisms by the faithful are aimed at the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
The members of the Holy Council note the mapping out of constructive trends in the development of social life in the Republic of Moldova, having a positive effect on the missionary, social and religious-moral service of the Metropoliate of Moldova to its people. At the same time, it is alarming that the Parliament of Moldova enacted a law on equal rights, which has caused a rift within Moldovan society and contains elements which threaten its moral development, which the fullness of the Orthodox Church in Moldova does not cease to point out. The Council expresses confidence that the pious Moldovan people will preserve the moral truths brought to the world by Christ the Savior.
Noting the proper level of relations between the Church and government of the Republic of Kazakhstan, the members of the Council express concern over the absence of a positive resolution regarding the matter of governmental registration of the diocese as a religious entity, the supreme administrative organ of which is located outside the country, a fact which corresponds to many instances in accepted practice throughout the world.
56. An unacceptable situation arises when those offending the sensibilities of the faithful, desecrating holy sites or religious symbols they venerate, go unpunished or are charged token fines. The Holy Council draws attention to the fact that such actions, like insults based on nationality, lead to grave consequences for the civil peace, pitting significant sections of society against each other.
57. The growing frequency of attacks on the Russian Orthodox Church are connected most of all to her growing role in social life. This irritates those who try to monopolize influence on the human minds and hearts. Their objections to Orthodox teachings are often expressed by the enemies of the Church through blasphemy, acts of vandalism and the desecration of Orthodox holy objects.
The Council calls upon the clergy and all faithful to display to the world Christian virtues in word and in deed, and, witnessing their devotion to Christ, fulfill their religious duty, in every way possible to resist any effort to desecrate Orthodox holy things. Orthodox social organizations must direct more effort into organizing all forms of peaceful civil actions to protect the Church, the faith and holy sites. It is also appropriate to see to the creation of discussion platforms with the participation of the mass media, which would present the Orthodox view of various aspects of social life. At the same time, it is important to remember that the defense of the faith and of sacred objects excludes the expression of hatred and illegitimate use of force against opponents. The members of the Council hope for repentance and correction of those who embarked upon the path of the blasphemous violation of Christian holy sites. The Church grieves over the hardening of their souls and hearts.
58. Dioceses where small native populations live, together with the Synodal Missionary Department and the Synodal Department of Cooperation Between the Church and Society, should activate efforts to support such peoples, developing within them Christian moral-ethical training and education. It is deemed important to systematize church-state cooperation in this area.
Universal Orthodox Cooperation
59. The Council recognizes the importance of strengthening universal Orthodox unity, expressed through the communication of faith, joint prayer, mutual aid and support, especially during times of tribulation. The members of the Holy Council welcome and approve of the efforts made in this regard by His Holiness the Patriarch and the Holy Synod, noting especially the importance of His Holiness’ visits to the Antiochian, Jerusalem and Bulgarian Patriarchates, the Cyprus and Polish Orthodox Churches, and also the visit to our Church of Primates of the Alexandrian, Jerusalem, Georgian, Greek and Polish Orthodox Churches, and the Orthodox Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia.
60. Of great importance was the conference of the Primates and Representatives of the Local Orthodox Churches, which met on November 21, 2011, at the Patriarchal Residence in the Moscow Kremlin with the participation of the Primates of the Russian, Georgian, Polish Orthodox Churches, the Orthodox Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia as well as official representatives of the Antiochian, Rumanian and Bulgarian Orthodox Churches. The Holy Council supports and approves the general conviction expressed at that conference that all decisions during both the preparation for the Pan-Orthodox Council as well as at the Council itself must be made exclusively on the principles of unanimous expression of will of all the Local Churches, and not simply a majority.
61. During the preparation for the Pan-Orthodox Council, one cannot ignore the critical attitudes of the clergy and believers, their opinion to the possibility of the convening of such a Council. The Holy Council of Bishops stresses that the regulations and agenda of the Pan-Orthodox Council, the principles upon which it is established, the order of its divine services and meetings, the drafts of the basic documents of the Council must be agreed upon in advance by all the Local Orthodox Churches. The hierarchs of the Russian Church feel that the preparation for a Pan-Orthodox Council must consider the broad discussion of decisions being prepared and must be exceptional in the special care for preserving the purity of Orthodox teaching. The members of the Council of Bishops deem it crucial that the presidium of the Pan-Orthodox Council is comprised of Primates of all Local Orthodox Churches and that the episcopates of the Local Churches be represented at their maximums.
62. The members of the Holy Council express profound concern over the drastic worsening of the situation of Christians in the Near East and North Africa. The Council approves of the efforts of His Holiness the Patriarch and the Holy Synod to support our brethren Christians of the Near East who are suffering religious oppression due to the political destabilization in the region. The disappearance of Christianity in lands where it had existed for two thousand years and where the basic events of Sacred history occurred would be a spiritual and historic tragedy.
The defense of Christian presence in the region, as well as the rights and freedoms of Christians remain one of the most important directions in external Church activity.
Inter-Christian and Inter-Religious Relations, International Activity
63. The Council deems useful joint efforts with Christians of other confessions aimed at resisting the challenges of modernity such as aggressive secularization, the undermining of moral foundations of personal and social life, the crisis of family values, the persecution of and discrimination against Christians. At the same time the members of the Council view as impossible dialog with confession who openly trample upon Biblical moral norms, therefore the halt of bilateral dialogs with those Protestant communities which legitimized “blessing” “same-sex unions” and ordain persons who openly declare their non-traditional sexual orientations was justified.
64. A positive example of inter-Christian cooperation was the signing by His Holiness the Patriarch and the President of the Polish Catholic Episcopal Conference of a Joint Epistle to the People of Russia and Poland with a call to aid in the mutual forgiveness of offenses and the healing of the wounds of the past, rapprochement in the face of common challenges of the contemporary secular world and the building of a peaceful future.
65. Within its dialog with the heterodox, the Russian Orthodox Church will continue to occupy a strong position of witness of traditional Christian values, unwaveringly preserving fealty to the norms of Holy Scripture and Apostolic Tradition.
66. The Holy Council notes with concern the different approaches taken in the process of developing Orthodox-Catholic theological dialog, and also the rising doubts as to their correlation with documents devoted to the topic of conciliarity and primacy in the Universal Church, Orthodox theological and canonical tradition. The Council expresses confidence in the need to make the process of this dialog more transparent, taking into consideration as well the broad draft documents and their concordance with the entire fullness of the episcopacy of the Local Orthodox Churches, with a consideration of the special significance of adopted decisions, and also an augmented responsibility of the archpastors for preserving the purity of the Orthodox faith, for peace and unity within the Church.
67. The members of the Council support continuing cooperation with representatives of other traditional religions with the aim of defending the right of a religious world view to exist in the public arena, the preservation of the importance of moral values in the life of society, the protection of places of worship, countering terrorism and establishing peaceful relations between peoples.
68. The Council deems important the continuing witness of the God-given moral commandments before the whole world, the communicating to international social and political organizations, state authorities and social institutions of the positions of the Russian Orthodox Church on actual contemporary issues.
69. The members of the Holy Council express the hope that the fulfillment of its decisions by all pastors and laypersons of our Church will serve to better establish her life, helping our witness of the Truth of Christ in the contemporary world, in which it is important for each of us to preserve devotion to the word of God and fulfill His commandments.