Russian patriarchs meet to forge stronger links

The Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church has convened in Moscow. It's the first time that the foreign and the Moscow-based branches of the Russian Orthodox Church have met in an assembly since their reunification.

This year the Church is marking the 1020th anniversary of the Baptism of Rus – the old name for Russia. This year's Bishops' Council welcomed the highest ranking members from the Russian Orthodox Church outside Russia, for the first time in eighty years.

Metropolitan Kliment said that the unity of the Church has to be strengthened.

“There is a lot of work ahead to actually bring the branches of the church closer together. The last year has shown that we are actively cooperating,” he added.

While the Moscow Patriarchy has managed to mend its relations with the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, it now fears a row with the Kiev Patriarchy. Some Ukrainian clerics are calling for a split. Moscow considers it politically motivated.

Kiev is the birthplace of Orthodoxy in Russia, insists Nikolay Balashov from the Moscow Patriarchy.

“The unity of our churches is a question of life and linked to our history. Our people are strong when they're united, spiritual unity should go beyond state boundaries”.

Another issue that might take centre stage is human rights. The Russian Church remains highly conservative in dealing with sexual minorities. It strongly opposed gay parades in Moscow and speaks out against gay marriages.

Boris Falikov from “Culture” newspaper says that the Russian Orthodox Church says that human freedom should be limited for the sake of ‘God’s freedom’.

“Real freedom is ‘God’s freedom’, according to them. They stick to the point that human beings are not perfect, and if they have the rights but don’t have responsibilities, it’s bad from the Church’s point of view”.
After the Bolsheviks came to power many churches and cathedrals were destroyed. A lot of clerics fled the country.

In 1927 the Metropolitan of Moscow, Sergiy, issued a Declaration of Loyalty to the Soviet Government, which split the church in two.

After several years of negotiations, the Act of Canonical Communion was finally signed in May 2007 and a joint service was conducted in Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Saviour.