Moscow, May 17, 2017
10 years ago today, on May 17, 2007, the feast of the Ascension, the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia was finally reunited with its mother Church, the Moscow Patriarchate. The Act of Canonical Communion was signed by His Holiness Patriarch Alexey II and the first hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad, His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus, in Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow.
The act, which incorporated the Russian Church Abroad into the Moscow Patriarchate as a “self-governing part of the Local Russian Orthodox Church” reads:
By this Act, canonical communion within the Local Russian Orthodox Church is hereby restored.
Acts issued previously which preclude the fullness of canonical communion are hereby deemed invalid or obsolete.
The reestablishment of canonical communion will serve, God-willing, towards the strengthening of the unity of the Church of Christ, of her witness in the contemporary world, promoting the fulfillment of the will of the Lord to “gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad” (John 11:52).
After signing the document of reunification, the first concelebrated Divine Liturgy was served by Pat. Alexey, Met. Laurus, and a number of other bishops.
Later reflecting upon the long-awaited reunification, Met. Laurus spoke of the greater witness to Christ that the reunion fosters:
In the reestablishment of ecclesiastical unity, the Lord “gave strength unto His people; the Lord blessed His people with peace.” This peace strengthens us in witnessing Christ, strengthens us in the service of the Church of Christ, in the preservation and dissemination of our Holy Russian ideals both in the Fatherland and beyond its borders. The main thing is to live in peace, help one another and support each other in the work of the Church, showing others the example of love, humility, patience and the good Christian life.
The division in the Russian Orthodox Church happened after the tumultuous events of the 1917 Russian revolution and the civil war in the 1920s. The Russian Church was essentially divided into two independent parts with parallel jurisdictions for many decades after that. The Russian Church Abroad always understood the situation as a matter of historical necessity, and prayerfully looked forward to the time when the two synods would again be united.
The first real attempts at reunion began in the late 1980s, although a long preparatory period was needed before the Act of Canonical Communion could finally be signed on May 17, 2007.
It is noteworthy that His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus reposed just under a year later on March 16, 2008, on the feast of the Triumph of Orthodoxy, after having accomplished a triumph of Orthodoxy in reuniting the two brother Russian Churches. The day before the Church had celebrated the Reigning Icon of the Mother of God which miraculously appeared on the day of Tsar Nicholas’ abdication from the Russian throne, and which was taken as the protectress of the Russian land throughout the long years of persecution under atheist communism which had forced the separation of the Russian Church Abroad.