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Russian Orthodox believers could soon be united in one church after a rift that has outlasted the fall of communism
Russian Orthodox believers could soon be united in one church after a rift that has outlasted the fall of communism, a Moscow church official said Friday The Russian Orthodox Church and the Orthodox Church Outside of Russia have been in talks on unification and Nikolai Balashov, secretary of the Moscow Patriarchy's commission on talks with ROCOR, said the two churches could sign the Act on Canonical Communion next year. The act was approved by the ROCOR governing body, the Council of Bishops, this May. "If circumstances are favorable, as ROCOR hierarchs intend to discuss the issue again at a Council of Bishops in December, we believe the full restoration of relations could happen next year," Balashov said. He said the signing would be a major step toward unity, which the Moscow Patriarchy and the Orthodox Church abroad had been working to achieve since fall 2003, when a ROCOR delegation first visited Moscow. The revolutions of 1917 and ensuing Civil War in Russia caused a split in the Russian Orthodox Church in the 1920s, when some top clergy in exile refused to be subordinated to Church leaders who had allegedly collaborated with the communists. Metropolitan Laurus, the head of the ROCOR, visited Russia in May 2004 and participated in a number of joint services. The churches decided at the time to set up joint commissions and determined the range of issues to be discussed at the All-Diaspora Council, which met for the first time since 1974. The ROCOR is expected to join the Moscow Patriarchy as a self-governed branch, which will retain its autonomy in terms of pastoral, educational, administrative, economic, property and secular issues. Balashov said the churches were still to discuss "details of the great event" and clear up remaining controversies. Their representatives will meet this fall to talk about ROCOR parishes on the Moscow Patriarchy's canonical territory and the status of clerics who have left the Moscow Patriarchy for positions in ROCOR without due canonical procedures. Decisions to be made at the meeting will be offered for consideration of the ROCOR Council of Bishops and the Holy Synod in Moscow. The latter will gather late this year, Balashov said.
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