Moscow Patriarch Alexy II, Vladimir Putin and Metropolitan Laurus, head of ROCOR. 19 May 2007. ( AFP Photo / Presidential press service / ITAR-TASS)
July 24, 2008, 13:57
This is the ninth in a series of RT online reports on Christianity in Russia, from its arrival more than 1,000 years ago to the present day…
The Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, established in the 1920s, served as a shelter for Christianity as the country was taken over by Bolsheviks. Eighty years later, the resurrected Russian Church and its 'embassy' abroad have happily restored their connection.
The Russian Orthodox Church shouldn’t be confused with the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, also known as the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia or ROCOR. It was proclaimed at a meeting in Serbia in 1922 by clerics who fled Russia after the Bolsheviks took power. ROCOR later relocated to the United States, making New York its home. It broke all ties with its mother church in 1927, believing it had fallen under Bolshevik control.
Talks to re-establish relations between the Russian Orthodox Church and ROCOR started soon after the collapse of the USSR. The two churches reconciled on May 17, 2007. ROCOR is now a self-governing part of the Russian Orthodox Church, independent in its administrative, pastoral and property branches.
Leaders of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad flew into Moscow for the historic reunification. The move was sealed by Patriarch Alexy II and the head of ROCOR, the late Metropolitan Laurus, at the Christ the Saviour Cathedral in Moscow. The ceremony ended the 80-year split and restored the canonical link between the two branches. Yet, some ROCOR members rejected the move. In response to the signing, some parishes and clergy broke communion with ROCOR and established a separate jurisdiction.
Meanwhile, Russia is seeing a marked religious revival. Christianity is now one of the country’s four official religions, along with Islam, Buddhism and Judaism. Decades of Soviet rule have left their mark: up to half of Russians declare themselves atheists, although numbers vary. Among believers, Orthodox Christianity dominates, but smaller Christian denominations also exist. Since the fall of communism, churches and monasteries have been springing up all over the country.
Religious holidays, banned after the 1917 revolution, are now back on the Russian calendar. Christmas and Easter are once again marked in grand fashion. Still, Russian Christians do it differently from the West. Soviet Russia adopted the Gregorian calendar, already widely accepted by most of the Western world. But the Russian Orthodox Church still uses the old Julian calendar that now falls 13 days behind. Instead of December 25, Russians mark Christmas on January 7. The same goes for the other religious holidays - when Europe’s already finished celebrating, Russia only begins to gear up for the festivities.