Message to the clergy and faithful of the Exarchate from His Eminence Archbishop Gabriel on the occasion of the restoration of communion between the Moscow Patriarchate and the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia

The Patriarchate of Moscow and the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) have recently re-established eucharistic communion, and thereby, canonical relations. This brings about the resolution of a distressing schism that has existed between the two Churches for eighty years. We cannot but rejoice over this event, which concerns the whole of Orthodoxy, for everything that touches one part of the Body of the Church of Christ concerns the whole.

The restoration of eucharistic communion between the Moscow Patriarchate and ROCOR will also enable the latter to re-establish the necessary link with the whole of universal Orthodoxy, and thus also with our own ecclesial entity, enabling us from now on to receive communion together from the same cup. There are many clergy and faithful in the Exarchate as well as in ROCOR, who here in Western Europe have waited in hope of this moment, and we want very much to express to them our joy in seeing this hope realised. An opportunity is opened up to establish good relations between us, for the good of the people of God who are entrusted to us by the Lord, and for the integrity of the witness of the Orthodox faith in the place where the Lord has called us to live one with another.

As far as our Exarchate is concerned, it is important to realise that our situation is different from that in which ROCOR has found herself until now. ROCOR cut herself off from the rest of universal Orthodoxy for a number of decades, since according to the instructions of the Holy Fathers, each ecclesial entity must be in living communion with the whole Church. For us this connection is assured by our status in the bosom of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, which has allowed us for seventy years to live in complete autonomy and protect our Exarchate from foreign influences in the Church.

Though relations between our Exarchate and the Patriarchate of Moscow were cut off at an administrative level in the special circumstances of the early 1930s, eucharistic communion with the Moscow Patriarchate was never broken, thanks to our canonical attachment to the Church of Constantinople, the Mother Church of the Church of Russia. Under the various successors to the blessed founder of our ecclesial entity, Metropolitan Evlogii, numerous occasions are recorded of liturgical concelebration between clergy of the Moscow Patriarchate and the Exarchate. In 1995, my predecessor of blessed memory, Archbishop Serge of Eucarpia, had the joy of being able to concelebrate with His Holiness Alexis II, Patriarch of Moscow, in the Cathedral of the Dormition in the Moscow Kremlin. Since then, despite the difficulties which have arisen from time to time in our relations with the Moscow Patriarchate, this communion, thanks to God, has remained intact.

We must now look together towards the future. The restoration of communion with the Moscow Patriarchate - and thereby with the rest of the universal Church - logically implies for ROCOR participation in the commun work that is being done, in many countries, by Orthodox bishops of different jurisdictions in order to witness together to the Orthodox faith and to work, with cooperation and good will, for the building up and salvation of Orthodox Christians who live in these countries. Experience of this work already exists over a long period in France, and more recently in Germany. This witness of unity and love should lead the Orthodox of our countries to work together for the building up of a single Church, which can only define itself in local, territorial terms, beyond differences of nationality or ethnic origin, which is not to suggest they should abandon their liturgical traditions, their languages and their customs, nor the ties of love and affection for their different Mother Churches.

We must redouble our prayers to the Lord God for the consolidation of Orthodox unity, and the strengthening of the people of God in faith and piety, so that ‘with one mind and one heart’ we may all confess the Divine Trinity, Source of Life and Holiness. For it is above all in prayer that we will, with humility, ask the Lord to illumine anew our reciprocal relations with the light-filled grace of Love and of Truth.

† Gabriel, Archbishop of Comana,
Exarch of the Ecumenical Patriarchate
Paris, 18 May 2007

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