Report by Archimandrite Luke (Murianka) on the
First Meeting of the Negotiating Committees of the
Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia and the Moscow Patriarchate
Written at the request of Metropolitan Laurus.
In June, 2004, a preliminary meeting of the Committee of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia was held in Munich. Over the course of three days, we discussed and agreed upon our position. Archbishop Mark expressed the wish that we arrive in Moscow having coordinated our views on important church matters which were formulated in the mandate imparted to our Committee by the hierarchy of our Church; for example, on the relationship of the state and the Church, ecumenism, the ROCOR churches in Russia. This was achieved in Munich. Although the discussions were not easy, but thanks to them we formulated a common position for further discussions.
On Monday, June 8/21, we arrived in Moscow and soon began our work. The discussions were held in the building of the Office of External Church Affairs in Danilov Monastery. Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk opened the meetings with an address, but did not participate in further discussions. We handed the members of the Moscow Patriarchate's Committee an outline of our documents and commenced discussing the mandate.
I wish to share my personal impressions of the Committees' work.
There were absolutely no attempts made to smooth over or black out the complicated matters of the relationship between the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia and the Moscow Patriarchate, including Sergianism, ecumenism and other vital, burning questions.
The Committee of the Moscow Patriarchate frankly expressed its position on the matters in question, and in a general sense we often reached a common opinion. Still, there were difficult areas which need mutual understanding both on our part and on theirs. Of course, we did not cover all the difficult topics during these negotiations. It is necessary to take into consideration the life experience of our Churches. For example, the membership of the Moscow Patriarchate in the World Council of Churches is not at the present time caused by the desire to promote the false teaching of ecumenism, but is dictated by the desire to protect the interests of the Russian Orthodox Church. Since our Church Abroad has no communion with the Local Churches, it is difficult for us to understand those constant problems which exist in the area of inter-Church relations. Although we understood the difficulties of the positions of the Moscow Patriarchate, we still expressed our opinion on how Orthodoxy should be defended and what sacrifices must be made to achieve that goal.
Naturally, as one might expect, there were disagreements that arose during the discussions, which demand a great deal of consideration and the exchange of opinion. In those areas where we appeared to reach a dead end, we agreed to leave those questions for future discussions, but not to obscure or ignore them, but in order not to harm the existing dialog. We always felt the virtual presence of our flock, whose expectations we tried to take into consideration. One often heard from the members of our delegation: ТThis disturbs our flockЙУ or ТOur flock thinks thatЙУ The sense of alarm felt by a portion of our flock with regard to these negotiations was openly discussed. Even members of the Moscow Patriarchate's Committee expressed their complete understanding of our complicated position, the sensitivity of the topics discussed, and offered advice not to hurry into anything. I personally noted that the members of the Moscow Patriarchate's Committee were prepared to listen to us and to learn from the experience of the Church Abroad.
The general atmosphere of the discussions in Germany and Moscow was that of seriousness and sobriety. Never was there felt a desire to hastily resolve problems for gain. Our goal is difficult, for in such negotiations, clarity and precision in conclusions drawn and terminology used is necessary. The work was intense; it was performed as an obedience, with a sense of responsibility before God and our flock. We were greeted hospitably, but we did not gather for a vacation, but for work, which was more than once emphasized by Vladyka Mark. The next joint session of the Committees is scheduled for the fall of this year.
In conclusion, I wish to say a few words about the fact that after the work of the Committees, I visited Orthodox holy sites, mainly around Moscow. My last visit to Russia was 32 years ago, and, without a doubt, I saw a great change. I do not wish to speak of the external flourishing and renascence of churches and monasteries, but must state briefly—I was deeply movedЙ Besides, I also was able to have contact with the widest range of representatives of lay and Orthodox society in Russia: from professors of Moscow State University, official church representatives, to monastics, members of the Church Abroad, Catacomb Christians living in remote parts of Russia. If it is God's will, I wish once again to return soon for a pilgrimage to our much-suffering Fatherland.
Jordanville, July 2/15, 2004