2nd November 2006 (click above for potos)
An Interview with the Secretary of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russias (ROCOR) Committee for Negotiations with the Moscow Patriarchate
On 2 Novmeber 2006, Protopresbyter Alexander Lebedev, Secretary of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russias (ROCOR) Committee for Negotiations with the Moscow Patriarchate visited the Church of St. Catherine the Great Martyr, the Representational Church of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA). During his visit and meeting with Archimandrite Zacchaeus, the Representative of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA), Father Alexander graciously agreed to be interviewed during the final meeting between the Moscow Patriarchal Committee and the ROCOR Committee.
1. Dear Father Alexander: You are the Secretary of the ROCOR Committee for Negotiations with the Moscow Patriarchate. As we all know, a meeting of the Moscow Patriarchal and ROCOR committees recently took place in Cologne, Germany. Could you share your impressions of what transpired with us?
Father Alexander: Yes, the eighth meeting between our committees took place last week, and I can tell you that for the past two and one-half years we have arrived at a point where we already work not as two separate committees, but rather as one joint committee with a common goal of re-establishing unity and overcoming any obstacles that might interfere with such a reunion. In fact, I can share with you that as distinguished from the first meeting, where members of the Moscow Patriarchal Committee sat on one side and members of the ROCOR Committee sat on the other we sat all mixed together at this most recent meeting.
2. We are already aware that an Act of Canonical Unity has been prepared. As the Committee Secretary, are you satisfied with this Act? Does it contain provisions that were difficult to agree to?
Father Alexander: As a member of the Commission, I was to say that of course my personal opinion does not have any significance. We worked as representatives of our Primate and as members of our Synod. But I can say that, in working closely with the ROCOR Hierarchical Synod and presenting options for obtaining canonical unity for two years, we have always taken into consideration the opinions of our hierarchs, and we expressed those opinions at the joint Committee meetings. I think that the Act that was agreed to as a result of this lengthy work process corresponds to the requirements placed before us at the very beginning of this process namely, the re-establishment of canonical and Eucharistic union between the two divided branches of the Russian Orthodox Church.
3. When, in your opinion, will the long-awaited reunion of the two branches of the territorial Russian Orthodox Church be completed?
Father Alexander: One of the commissions we received from the (ROCOR) Hierarchical Synod was to determine the time, place and proper procedures for a ceremonial signing of an Act of Canonical Unity. This matter was discussed in great detail at the most recent meeting in Cologne. I wish to state that a final answer to this question will be given by our two Synods. Our (ROCOR) Hierarchical Synod will meet in the beginning of December, and the Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate will meet toward the end of December, and then a specific date will become known. At any event, it wont realistically happen any earlier than Paschal Tide next year.
4. You yourself are an American of Russian heritage, and you live in America. What do you think? Will this rapprochement have any effect on the canonical situation in North America? If so, then what effect?
Father Alexander: I think that anything that helps to overcome differences reflects positively on the canonical situation not only in North America, but also in other countries where more than one Orthodox jurisdiction exists within the same national boundaries. Witnessing to Orthodoxy is of course far more effective if Orthodox Christians work together rather than quarrelling with each other. I think that this is extremely important in our current times.
5. What do you think? Will the reunion of the Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian Orthodox Church in Exile serve to further the cause of unifying all Orthodox jurisdictions in America?
Father Alexander: Our negotiations with the Moscow Patriarchate of course dealt only with the specific relationship between our Russian Orthodox Church in Exile and the Church in the Fatherland. The question of our relations with other jurisdictions of course did not occur as a specific subject of our discussions. However, it may be noted that the re-establishment of canonical and Eucharistic union with the Moscow Patriarchate could create possibilities for us to enter into similar relations with other territorial churches. I dont think that unification of all Orthodox Christian jurisdictions in America should be anticipated in the near future. Too many of the territorial churches, following the examples of their representations in America, have become accustomed to existing independently. But for the purposes of preserving Orthodoxy in a non-Orthodox environment as well as for proselytizing Orthodoxy to local inhabitants meaning internal and external missionary
activities these jurisdictions could find themselves experiencing significant losses without [the benefit of] formal unification.
6. We are aware that the Russian Orthodox Church in Exile is now concentrated on the process of unifying with the Russian Orthodox Church/Moscow Patriarchate; but the Russian Orthodox Church [Moscow Patriarchate] has parishes throughout the entire world and this unification will take place on an international scale. What do you think? Are your priests prepared to serve together with other territorial churches? With, for example, the Rumanian, Bulgarian, American Orthodox Churches that serve according to the Gregorian Calendar or, as it is known, the New Style?
Father Alexander: First, it should be noted that the official position of the Russian Orthodox Church in Exile has always been one of adhering to the traditional Julian calendar. The ROCOR never considered the introduction of the Gregorian Calendar a heresy, but rather considered it merely a tragic mistake. The ROCOR never under any circumstances rejected the presence of grace among the Orthodox churches that introduced the new calendar. I believe that the majority of our priests will welcome the re-establishment of normal relations with their Orthodox brother priests, with whom it has been impossible to concelebrate because of the absence of canonical unity with the Moscow Patriarchate. In re-establishing unity with the Russian Orthodox Church, the prospect of Eucharistic communion with other Orthodox churches has opened up for us.
7. Thank you, dear Father Alexander, for your sincerity, and for your willingness to answer our questions. You are well known not only in America, but also in Russia; and we wish you success in your career of service to the Church and in furthering Church unity.
Father Alexander: Thanks be to God
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