Questions and Answers on ROCOR

Q: As I understand it, since 1920 the Russian Orthodox Church has been divided into two parts, the very large Russian Orthodox Church Inside Russia and the very small Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (known as ROCOR). Although both are united under the Russian Patriarch, could the two parts be joined together? And another question, what is the difference between ROCOR and the name ROCA (Russian Orthodox Church Abroad)? And also what does the term ‘Moscow Patriarchate’ mean?

A: Firstly, there is no division here between the two parts. The Church is already united, already joined together. There is a simple administrative separation for ease of governance, which was instituted as long ago as November 1920 by the then Patriarch of Moscow, St Tikhon, and continues to this day. Like the Church Inside Russia, the Church Outside Russia has always been Patriarchal in ethos, even when it could not be so in practice because of the terrible persecutions in Moscow and indeed throughout the Church Inside Russia after 1917. In fact, the first Senior Hierarch of ROCOR, Metropolitan Antony of Kiev, had been the favoured candidate to become Patriarch.

Secondly, there is no question of abolishing the Church Outside Russia and having one central administration. The Russian Orthodox Church is far too big to be governed centrally from Moscow. Thus, it has several autonomous parts or ‘divisions’ if you prefer to call them that, namely, in the Ukraine, Moldova, Latvia, Estonia, Japan and China; ROCOR is simply a further autonomous part making up the whole, the missing piece in the worldwide jigsaw, if you like.

As regards terms, there are older people who still use the historical translation ROCA instead of ROCOR. However, officially that was dropped (as also was the term ‘Russian Orthodox Church in Exile’) in the 1970s, fifty years after the Revolution, because by that time a majority of members of ROCOR were not living ‘abroad’, but in the countries where they had been born and so were not ‘in exile’ either. Despite this, some older people still use the historical translation ROCA. The term ‘Moscow Patriarchate’ was used for the Church Inside Russia before the reconciliation between the two parts of the Church in 2007 after the Church Inside Russia had become free. Since all of us commemorate the Patriarch, it is for us now a meaningless term, fit only for history books. It is simple: We all belong to the one Russian Orthodox Church.

A: So what do the terms ‘Inside Russia’ and ‘Outside Russia’ actually mean?

A: ‘Inside Russia’ means inside the canonical territory of the Russian Orthodox Church, meaning the whole of the former Russian Empire, modified as the post-1945 Soviet Union, and including Japan and China with their autonomous Churches. ‘Outside Russia’ means the rest of the world outside that territory.

Q: How large is ROCOR in terms of numbers?

A: The Church Outside Russia, known in full as ROCOR, a self-governing or autonomous part of the Russian Orthodox Church, has 593 parishes and 51 monastic foundations in 43 countries throughout the world, served by 672 clergy. The distribution of parishes is as follows: 194 parishes and 11 monasteries in the United States; 67 parishes and 11 monasteries in the Australian diocese; 48 parishes and 2 monasteries in Germany; 25 parishes and 3 monasteries in Canada; 22 parishes in Indonesia. ROCOR churches and communities also exist in Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Denmark, the Dominican Republic, France, Haiti, Ireland, Palestine, Italy, Luxembourg, Mexico, Morocco, Portugal, South Korea, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Pakistan, Paraguay, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, Uganda, the United Kingdom, Uruguay and Venezuela. ROCOR is probably about a million strong – this compares to the Church Inside Russia which numbers some 163 million.

Q: How big are these ROCOR parishes?

A: Some of these parishes are small, some are hundreds strong, others are thousands strong.

Q: What about the Church Inside Russia? Ironically, I believe, it too has some parishes ‘outside Russia’, I mean, on ROCOR’s canonical territory.

A: Yes, for historical reasons there exists an inside out situation here. Compared to the nearly 650 foundations of ROCOR, the Russian Orthodox Church inside Russia, despite its name, still has over 100 representations outside its canonical territory. Thus, it has parishes in certain former Communist countries, mainly in Eastern Europe, for example, in Hungary and former East Germany, or in countries like Iran, Cuba, Morocco and North Korea, to which ROCOR has at present no diplomatic access. Apart from these parishes, it also has over 30 parishes in North America, as well as a good many parishes scattered throughout Western Europe, in Finland, Spain, Portugal, Austria, Italy and four permanent churches in England, as well as an important mission in Thailand and Laos. Indeed, I suspect that South-East Asia will in time become part of the canonical territory of the Church inside Russia, like Japan and China.

Most of these churches are connected with areas of very recent immigration from the ex-Soviet Union. According to the 2007 agreement between the two parts of the Church, all these churches outside its canonical territory will eventually be handed over to the Church Outside Russia, the part of the Church which has canonical responsibility for all countries outside the canonical territory of the Church Inside Russia, as we have defined it above. It is significant that the bishops dependent on the Church Inside Russia, but administrating these parishes outside Russia, are mainly aged, suggesting that canonical regularization is just a question of time.

Q: Once this regularization happens, will any other changes take place?

A: It can be assumed that once political situations outside Russia ease and the extra-territorial parishes of the Church Inside Russia are united with ROCOR, together with their clergy and some younger bishops, ROCOR itself will be administered slightly differently. This would mean the restoration of Regional, or rather Continental, Metropolitan Districts, as in the Church Outside Russia until the Second World War, or as in the Russian Church Inside Russia today. Here there could be a Metropolia for Oceania, a second for Western Europe, a third for North America – with potentially a separate one for Alaska – and potentially a fourth, or fifth one, for South America.

All would be governed under the authority of the senior Metropolitan based in New York, just as now. This is just as in the other self-governing parts of the Russian Orthodox Church, in the Ukraine, Moldova, Latvia and Estonia, although they are concentrated over small territories, not over Continents, or as in the Church Inside Russia as a whole, which is also composed of Metropolitan Districts, although under a Patriarch, not under a senior Metropolitan

Q: Does the Church Outside Russia have characteristics which distinguish it from the Church Inside Russia?

A: There are some traits, but these should not be exaggerated; the traits that we have can all be found in different parts of the Church Inside Russia, whose canonical territory after all stretches from the Polish border to Vladivostok and beyond to Japan and China and covers many nationalities and languages. For example, in Estonia, you can find churches where you have two choirs, one sings in Estonian, the other in Slavonic; in the southern Ukraine you can find a similar situation with Slavonic and Romanian.

Q: So what are these traits?

A: First of all, and most obviously, most members of the Church Outside Russia use various languages in worship, not just Church Slavonic. Secondly, we venerate local Western saints who are virtually unknown inside Russia. This is especially the case in Western Europe. Thus, in Paris there is veneration for St Genevieve, in England for St Edward, in Ireland for St Patrick, in the Netherlands for St Willibrord, in Germany for St Boniface, in Austria for St Brigid etc. There is here in the matter of venerating these Western saints a vital question of safeguarding the roots of Western civilization – which are in Orthodoxy, in the saints. Outside Orthodoxy people have all but given up the memory of these saints who stand at the foundations of the old Western culture, but Orthodoxy keeps their memory.

A third trait of the Church Outside Russia is that many, if not all, of us are particularly traditional, ‘patriotic’ (patriotic in terms of Orthodox patriotism and Orthodox identity, not in terms of nationalism). For instance, this can be seen in our veneration of the martyred Tsar Nicholas II and our hopes for the restoration of the Orthodox monarchy inside Russia. We know that this event which we pray for daily would have a huge positive effect on the whole world and especially on the Orthodox world.

Q: Is that a realistic hope?

A: Seven years ago, I thought it a very distant possibility, but as time has gone it, it has become an ever more realistic and nearer possibility.

Q: Why?

A: I think that ever since Communism was discredited, except among a few elderly and brainwashed people, Orthodoxy has clearly won the ideological argument in Russia. Everyone can now see that the only ‘alternative’ to Orthodoxy is Western consumerism – and that is just a bad joke; it was tried in Russia in the 1990s, enforced by idiotic, pseudo-American Harvard graduates and their corrupt, Western-backed, billionaire, oligarch friends, and has failed miserably. The people never accepted it.

Now we are moving on to the next stage, which is when Orthodoxy has won the argument on paper, people have to realize that the consequence is to start going to Church, to put Orthodoxy into practice, to be active not passive. And that means the re-establishment of the Orthodox social, economic and political order. And that can only mean the restoration of the people’s monarchy, the Tsar, the Orthodox Empire. And this, by the way, is also the only system that will help us Orthodox, who will only ever be small minorities in the Western world but who still belong in heart and mind to the Orthodox Empire, which is and will be until the end of time centred in Moscow. And that is also the only system which will free the smaller Local Orthodox Churches from pro-Western tyrannies.

Q: Are there signs of the presence of such a new order already?

A: There was the case of Greece and Cyprus which looked to Russia during the banking crisis – but Russia was not strong enough to help in their cases since those countries are enslaved to the feudal EU structure, having been betrayed by their political elites, like all the other EU countries. On the other hand, relations with the Patriarchate of Antioch are very close because of the help Russia gave in preventing Syria from being bombed back to the Stone Age by the West, as it did in Iraq, Libya and elsewhere and is now doing in parts of the eastern Ukraine with its phosphorous bombs and hundreds of thousands of refugees.

In general, a generation after the fall of Communism, Russia is beginning to become once more the force that ‘withholds’, that is, the force which prevents the coming of Antichrist, to which the Western and Westernized world has now clearly dedicated itself. However, this process of withholding, with the stand against ‘gay pride’ marches, against homosexual propaganda among children, against GM food that causes so many allergies, and now the stand against the use of bad language in public and against abortion, is only just beginning. Russia is becoming the only place in the world that resists the satanic New World Order, and which stands for Christian civilizational values, which the Western media call, at best, ‘cultural conservatism’, but which in fact is normality.

Nevertheless, it is highly significant and proves that Russia and the West are heading in opposite directions, Russia towards Christ, the West towards Antichrist.

Q: What are the forces that resist the restoration of the old Orthodox Imperial consciousness?

A: There are two such forces. The first is that in Russia which resists Orthodoxy as a living force, in other words, Russian nominalism, which resists the calling of Russia as the worldwide Orthodox Power because it resists the practice of Orthodoxy. The second force is the nationalism or phyletism of smaller Local Churches, as we can see quite clearly in the Patriarchate of Constantinople, for example. This force we can call Balkanization and it is actively encouraged by the secularist Western Powers that want to reduce Orthodoxy and the Church to a piece of mere ethnic exotica, to irrelevant folklore and so subject to the same secularist manipulations as so-called Western Christianity is subject to.

Q: How do you see the role of ROCOR in the contemporary world?

A: I would prefer to speak of a calling or a duty, rather than a role. Actors play roles – we live according to our responsibilities. I think our priority is inevitably to look after the Orthodox who already live here outside the Russian canonical territories and who come to us. However, outside that, there is a mission to anyone from the local, mainly Western, populations who contacts us and comes to our services. Here we make no distinction between backgrounds, races and religions. Our task has always been to prepare the ground for the sowing of the seeds of Orthodoxy, above all in the Western lands, the very lands which lapsed from the Church a millennium ago and are now in danger of losing all sense of their roots, of civilization itself.

In respect of missionary work, I must say that sadly, in recent decades in England at least, there seems to have been a misconcept among some mainly convert Orthodox that we had a special mission to ‘recruit’ only ‘Anglo-Catholics’ or ‘Conservative Evangelicals’, who on paper were supposedly ‘closer to Orthodoxy’ than others. That was utterly wrong; most of them in their tiny, ‘greenhouse’ convert groups turned out to be further away from Orthodoxy than anyone else and soon lapsed from authentic Orthodoxy. We look after the needs of those whom God sends to us and who are serious about entering into the Orthodox Church as She is, coming to us without peculiar, distorting agendas of their own, whatever their background, race and religion, our calling is to bring Light to the vast masses of the West without pre-judging them.

Q: Where does St John’s parish fit into this?

A: Although our parish in Colchester owns the largest Orthodox church building in England, which I believe is also the second largest in Western Europe, with 628 parishioners currently, it is not at all the largest parish. However, we do cover a whole region, the East of England, and our flock is scattered throughout that region and includes 25 different nationalities, including English, Italian, French, Turkish, American, Norwegian and Indian.

Q: How do you view the other Local Orthodox Churches?

A: The people there are Orthodox like us and we welcome them to our churches. Of course, we regret that some of the smaller and politically weaker Local Churches have been politically compromised by individual patriarchs and bishops, who seem to agree with anyone who is in power, secularist, atheist, Western-bribed tyrants or whatever, rather than with Christ. We feel closer to those who have kept the integrity of the faith, as in Serbia, Georgia and on Mt Athos. However, we also clearly understand that whatever a few individual bishops may do to compromise themselves, the faith of ordinary Orthodox is not affected. Only those who have compromised Orthodoxy will have to answer for that at the Last Judgement, not the ordinary people.

Q: How do you view the little groups of Orthodox who belong to the old calendarists and so on?

A: Wherever the Church has been, tiny minorities have always created sects. It is a distortion inherent to fallen, human nature. In terms of the contemporary Orthodox Church, this is above all a Greek problem, but wherever State Churches have compromised, extremist individuals have been outraged and cut themselves off in sects. However, I doubt if throughout the world such sects, usually personally cults or ‘one-man shows’, number even 50,000 and that is out of 216 million Orthodox. But I do find the existence of such sects very sad; the people in them often have so much anger and sectarian hatred. The existence of such sects is simply due to a lack of love. Obedience is always better than schism.