The Russian Orthodox Church, 31 December 2018

With 164 million faithful the Russian Orthodox Church makes up 75% of the whole Orthodox Church. All the other 12 universally-recognized Local Orthodox Churches (in order of size: Romania, Greece, Serbia, Bulgaria, Georgia, Antioch, Alexandria, Poland, Cyprus, Czechoslovakia, Albania and Jerusalem) are in communion with her. (Sadly, the Local Churches of Rome and Constantinople also used to be in communion with her, but have over time fallen away from the confession of the Orthodox Faith. As for the tiny North American group called the Orthodox Church in America (OCA), it has never been recognized by all) (1).

As a multinational Orthodox Church, the various parts of the Russian Orthodox Church enjoy different levels of independence from its leading bishop, the Patriarch. Thus, first comes the Ukrainian Orthodox Church which has a special status of autonomy close to autocephaly or full independence, as it can elect its own leading bishop (at present His Beatitude Metropolitan Onufry), but it still commemorates the Patriarch. Next come the Japanese Orthodox Church and the Chinese Orthodox Church which are both autonomous, only their main bishop needing the approval of the Patriarch. Thirdly, there are the four Churches of EstoniaLatviaMoldova and the New York-based Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) largely looks after Russian Orthodox in the three Metropolia-type Continents of North America, South America and Oceania. These Churches are self-governing, meaning that all their bishop-candidates require approval from the Patriarch before they are consecrated.

Fourthly, there are the three Exarchates which have a limited autonomy, though they cannot nominate their own bishops. These are the Belarusian Orthodox Exarchate (Belarus), the Western European Exarchate (Andorra, Belgium, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Spain, Italy, San Marino, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, the Netherlands, Portugal, France and Switzerland) and the South-East Asian Exarchate (Singapore, Vietnam, Indonesia, Cambodia, North Korea, South Korea, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines and Thailand). Finally, there is the Metropolia of Kazakhstan which also has a certain independence regarding internal affairs in relation to the local laws of Kazakhstan.

The Russian Orthodox Church today has 381 bishops in 60 metropolias and 304 dioceses. These have 36,878 churches or other facilities in which the Divine Liturgy is celebrated by 34,774 priests and 4,640 deacons. In addition, there are 462 monasteries and 482 convents. Outside the former Soviet Union there are over 1,000 parishes and monasteries of the Russian Orthodox Church, including the parishes and monasteries of the Russian Church Outside Russia (ROCOR).

Note

  1. It is difficult to see a future for the OCA group, founded for political reasons nearly fifty years ago at the height of the Cold War. It has in recent years been maintained as a challenge to Constantinople. Therefore, following the recent fall of Constantinople from communion, it will perhaps be dissolved. Rather like the recently-dissolved Rue Daru group in Paris, perhaps about half of it will return to the Russian Orthodox Church and the rest will join new calendarist groups.