Interview with Sergey Govorun

Father Sergey Govorun, theology and Orthodox Christianity expert, commented on the signing of the Act of the Canonical Communion, which formalised the re-unification of the Russian Orthodox Church at home and abroad.

Russia Today: This was a historical event for the Orthodox Church, wasn't it?

S.G.: It's not just a re-unification of the two Churches. It's a healing of the memories. It's an overcoming of breaches and divisions that separated Russian society for many years. And this is the end of the epoch of political confrontation between the two parts of the Church. I'd say this in a sense is the end of a long period, when communism had this effect on Russian society.

RT: There are several Orthodox Church bodies that didn't accept this re-unification. Are they likely to be followed by others?

S.G.: Unfortunately, there were those splits in the ROCOR, and probably there will be some more. But what can be said for sure is that the majority of the Church is content with the decision of the high hierarchy of the Church to re-unite with the Moscow Patriarchate. Hopefully, those who hesitated to approve this step will see the results of this being together and change their mind.

RT: What exactly will happen in the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour after the signing ceremony?

S.G.: There will be a divine liturgy, which will seal the juridical act of re-unification in a sacral sense. You see, what “communion” means is not only a juridical merger but also a communion in Holy Mysteries, and this liturgy is the first served together by two Churches' hierarchies for such a long period. This will be the “real” unification in church terms.

RT: These events will not be limited to today's ceremony, is that right?

S.G.: That's right. There will be some events in Moscow, for example, on Saturday Metropolitan Laurus is going to attend the consecration of a church in Butovo dedicated to the martyrs of Russia. This church has been built anew and will be consecrated by Metropolitan Laurus and Partiarch Aleksy II together. The issue of new martyrs was very sensitive for the relations between the Churches, and recognition by the Russian Orthodox Church of many new martyrs as saints gave a good impulse to them. After that on Sunday, Metropolitan Laurus is going to co-celebrate a divine liturgy together with Partiarch Aleksy II in the Domishin Cathedral in Kremlin. After that he will leave for Kursk.

RT: We saw President Putting deliver a speech after the ceremony, and Partiarch Aleksy II gave the president an icon of the Holy Trinity. They have quite close relations, don't they?

S.G.: Close and personal relations, I'd say. Certainly, the Church in Russia is separated from the State, but it's not separated from the society, as the patriarch often says. The Church enjoys some help from the State, of course, but you should not overestimate this help.