The leadership of Russia’s Orthodox Church has welcomed moves by its exiled counterpart, the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, to end decades of division between the two. At a special conference in San Francisco it adopted a resolution to accept the patriarch in Moscow as its spiritual head.
“The times of a separate, completely cut-off existence of the Russian Church Abroad are now over,” said the spokesman for the overseas church Father Alexander. However, delegates at the meeting in San Francisco voted to recommend their church keep its administrative autonomy.
It nevertheless remains a big step towards reunification. A spokesman for church authorities in Moscow said:
“Obviously, it’s an important development for the Russian Orthodox Church, for all the family of Orthodox churches in the world, because it rebuilds the unity of Russian people that was broken by the catastrophe, revolution, civil war – it’s a spiritual sign that this divide is now over.”
Some exiled church officials remain suspicious of Moscow’s Patriarch Alexiy II and claim he once had links to the KGB. In bridge-building efforts he has sought to heal the rift, apologising for past transgressions and resolving some theological differences. Moscow canonized Russia’s last czar who was shot by the Bolsheviks – a sainthood that was long demanded by the Church Abroad.
Throughout Soviet rule the Church abroad considered the Moscow Patriarchate a tool of the state and of the secret police. Feelings were so strong that it has taken 15 years since the fall of Communism for spiritual reconciliation to take place.