BASIC PRINCIPLES OF THE ATTITUDE OF THE RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH ...

TOWARD THE OTHER CHRISTIAN CONFESSIONS

 

Adopted by the Jubilee Bishops' Council of the Russian Orthodox Church - August 14, 2000

 

1. The unity of the Church and the sin of human divisions

1.1. The Orthodox Church is the true Church of Christ established by our Lord and Saviour Himself, the Church confirmed and sustained by the Holy Spirit, the Church about which the Saviour Himself has said: "I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (Mt. 16:18). She is the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, the keeper and provider of the Holy Sacraments throughout the world, "the pillar and ground of the truth" (1 Tim. 3:15). She bears full responsibility for the proclamation of the truth of Christ's Gospel, as well as full power to witness to "the faith which was once delivered unto the saints" (Jude 3).

1.2. The Church of Christ is one and unique (St. Cyprian of Carthage, On the Unity of the Church). The unity of the Church, the Body of Christ, is based on the fact that she has one Head, the Lord Jesus Christ (Eph. 5:23), and that working in her is one Holy Spirit Who gives life to the Body of the Church and unites all her members with Christ as her Head.

1.3. The Church is the unity of a "new humanity in Christ". By His incarnation the Son of God "commenced afresh the long line of human beings"(St. Irenaeus of Lyons, Adversus Haereses, 3, 18), creating a new grace-bearing people, the spiritual posterity of the Second Adam. The unity of the Church is above every human and earthly union, for it has been given from above as a perfect and divine gift. The members of the Church are united in Christ like vines, rooted in Him and gathered in one eternal and spiritual life.

1.4. The unity of the Church overcomes all barriers and frontiers, including racial, linguistic and social differences. The message of salvation is to be proclaimed to all nations in order to bring them into one fold, to unite them by the power of faith and the grace of the Holy Spirit (Mt. 28:19-20; Mk. 16:15; Acts 1:8).

1.5. In the Church, enmity and alienation are overcome, and humanity, divided by sin, is united in love in the image of the Consubstantial Trinity.

1.6. The Church is the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph. 4:3), the fullness of uninterrupted grace-filled life and spiritual experience. "Where the Church is, there is the Spirit of God; and where the Spirit of God is, there is the Church, and every kind of grace" (St. Irenaeus of Lyons, Adversus Haereses, 3, 24). This unity of grace-filled life is the foundation of the unity and changelessness of the Church's faith. Always and without change "the Holy Spirit teaches through the holy fathers and doctors. The Catholic Church cannot transgress or even err or utter falsehood instead of truth: for the Holy Spirit, who always acts through the faithfully serving fathers and doctors of the Church, guards her against every mistake" (The Letter of Eastern Patriarchs).

1.7. The Church is universal, but she exists in the world in the form of various Local Churches This does not diminish the unity of the Church in any way. "The Church, illumined with the light of the Lord, sheds forth her rays over the whole world, yet it is one light which is everywhere diffused, nor is the unity of the body separated. She spreads her branches, laden with fruit, over the whole world. He freely flowing streams extend to the farthest regions, and yet throughout all this her head is one, her source one, and she is one mother, rich in the abundance of her fruitfulness" (St. Cyprian of Carthage, On the Unity of the Church).

1.8. Church unity is bound up inseparably with the Sacrament of the Eucharist, in which the faithful, partaking of the one Body of Christ, are really and truly joined in the one and catholic Body, in the mystery of Christ's love, in the transforming power of the Spirit. "Indeed, if 'we are all partakers of that one bread', then we all comprise one Body (1 Cor. 10:17), for Christ cannot be divided. That is why the Church is called the Body of Christ, while we are 'members in particular', according to the understanding of the apostle Paul (1 Cor. 12:27)" (St. Cyril of Alexandria).

1.9. The One, Holy, Catholic Church is the Apostolic Church. Through the divinely instituted priesthood the gifts of the Holy Spirit are communicated to the faithful. The apostolic succession of the hierarchy, beginning from the holy apostles, is the basis of the communion and unity of grace-filled life. Any deviation from the lawful Church authority is a deviation from the Holy Spirit, from Christ Himself. "See that you all follow the bishop, even as Jesus Christ does the Father, and the presbytery as you would the apostles; and reverence the deacons, as being the institution of God. Let no man do anything connected with the Church without the bishop. <…> Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude of the people also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church". (St. Ignatius of Antioch, To the Smyrnians, 8).

1.10. It is only through relationship with a particular community that each member of the Church realises his communion with the whole Church. By breaking canonical relations with his Local Church a Christian damages his grace-filled unity with the whole Church body, tearing himself away from it. Any sin distances a person from the Church to a greater or lesser degree, but it does not cut him off from her altogether. In the understanding of the Early Church, excommunication was exclusion from the eucharistic assembly. Those excommunicated, however, were never re-admitted to Church communion through re-baptism. Faith in the indelible nature of baptism is confessed in the Nicean-Constantinopolitan Creed: "I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sin". Apostolic Canon 47 reads: "Let a bishop or presbyter who shall baptise again one who has rightly received baptism… be deposed".

1.11. In this way the Church bore witness that those who have been excommunicated retain a certain "seal" of belonging to the people of God. By accepting them back the Church brings back to life those who have already been baptised by the Spirit into the one Body. Even while excommunicating one of her members, sealed by her on the day of his baptism, the Church hopes for his return. She considers excommunication itself to be a means of spiritual rebirth for such person.

1.12. Throughout centuries Christ's commandment of unity has been repeatedly violated. Contrary to the catholic unanimity enjoined by God, differences and divisions have arisen in Christianity. The Church has always shown a strict and principled attitude towards those who have challenged the purity of her saving faith and those who have brought division and confusion into the Church: "Why are there strifes, and tumults, and divisions, and schisms, and wars among you? Have we not [all] one God and one Christ? Is there not one Spirit of grace poured out upon us? And have we not one calling in Christ? Why do we divide and tear to pieces the members of Christ, and raise up strife against our own body, and have reached such a height of madness as to forget that we are members one of another?" (St. Clement of Rome. First Letter to the Corinthians, 46).

1.13. Throughout Christian history, not only individual Christians but also entire Christian communities moved away from the unity with the Orthodox Church. Some of them have perished in course of history, while others have survived through the centuries. The most fundamental divisions of the first millennium, which have survived to this day, took place after the Third and Fourth Ecumenical Councils, when some Christian communities refused to accept their decisions. As a result, the Assyrian Church of the East and the non-Chalcedonian Churches, including the Coptic, Armenian, Syrian Jacobite, Ethiopian and Malabar Churches, are separated even today. In the second millennium, the separation of the Roman Church was followed by internal divisions in Western Christianity, brought about by the Reformation, which resulted in the continual formation of different Christian denominations outside of communion with the Roman see. There were also breakaways from the unity with Local Orthodox Churches, including the Russian Church.

1.14. Delusions and heresies result from a person's desire to assert himself and set himself apart. Every division or schism implies a certain measure of falling away from the plenitude of the Church. A division, even if it happens for non-doctrinal reasons, is a violation of Orthodox teaching on the nature of the Church and leads ultimately to distortions in the faith.

1.15. The Orthodox Church, through the mouths of the holy fathers, affirms that salvation can be attained only in the Church of Christ. At the same time however, communities which have fallen away from Orthodoxy have never been viewed as fully deprived of the grace of God. Any break from communion with the Church inevitably leads to an erosion of her grace-filled life, but not always to its complete loss in these separated communities. This is why the Orthodox Church does not receive those coming to her from non-Orthodox communities only through the Sacrament of Baptism. In spite of the rupture of unity, there remains a certain incomplete fellowship which serves as the pledge of a return to unity in the Church, to catholic fullness and oneness.

1.16. The ecclesial status of those who have separated themselves from the Church does not lend itself to simple definition. In a divided Christendom, there are still certain characteristics which make it one: the Word of God, faith in Christ as God and Saviour come in the flesh (1 Jn. 1:1-2; 4, 2, 9), and sincere devotion.

1.17. The existence of various rites of reception (through Baptism, through Chrismation, through Repentance) shows that the Orthodox Church relates to the different non-Orthodox confessions in different ways. The criterion is the degree to which the faith and order of the Church, as well as the norms of Christian spiritual life, are preserved in a particular confession. By establishing various rites of reception, however, the Orthodox Church does not assess the extent to which grace-filled life has either been preserved intact or distorted in a non-Orthodox confession, considering this to be a mystery of God's providence and judgement.

1.18. The Orthodox Church is the true Church in which the Holy Tradition and the fullness of God's saving grace are preserved intact. She has preserved the heritage of the apostles and holy fathers in its integrity and purity. She is aware that her teaching, liturgical structures and spiritual practice are the same as those of the apostolic proclamation and the Tradition of the Early Church.

1.19. Orthodoxy is not a national or cultural attribute of the Eastern Church. Orthodoxy is an inner quality of the Church. It is the preservation of the doctrinal truth, the liturgical and hierarchical order and the principles of spiritual life which, unchangingly and uninterruptedly, have been present in the Church since apostolic times. One should not yield to the temptation to idealize the past or to ignore the tragic shortcomings and failures which marked the history of the Church. Above all the great fathers of the Church themselves give an example of spiritual self-criticism. The history of the Church in the IV-VII centuries knew of not a few cases when a significant proportion of believers fell into heresy. But history also reveals that the Church struggled on principled terms with the heresies that were infecting her children and that there were cases where those who had gone astray were healed of heresy, experienced repentance and returned to the bosom of the Church. This tragic experience of misunderstanding emerging from within the Church herself and of the struggle with it during the period of the ecumenical councils has taught the children of the Orthodox Church to be vigilant. The Orthodox Church, while humbly bearing witness to her preservation of the truth, at the same time remembers all the temptations which arose during her history.

1.20. Due to the violation of the commandment of unity which has led to the historical tragedy of schism, divided Christians, instead of being an example of unity in love in the image of the Most Holy Trinity, have become a source of scandal. Christian division has become an open and bleeding wound on the Body of Christ. The tragedy of divisions has become a serious visible distortion of Christian universality, an obstacle in the way of her witness to Christ before the world. For the reality of this witness of the Church of Christ depends to a considerable degree on her ability to live up to the truths preached by her in the life and practice of Christian communities.

2. The quest for the restoration of the unity

2.1. The essential goal of relations between the Orthodox Church and other Christian confessions is the restoration of that unity among Christians which is required of us by God (Jn. 17:21). Unity is part of God's design and belongs to the very essence of Christianity. It is a task of the highest priority for the Orthodox Church at every level of her life.

2.2. Indifference to this task or its rejection is a sin against God's commandment of unity. According to St. Basil the Great, "all who are really and truly serving the Lord should have this one aim — to bring back into union the Churches that have been severed from one another" (Letters,114).

2.3. Nevertheless, while recognising the need to restore our broken Christian unity, the Orthodox Church asserts that genuine unity is possible only in the bosom of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. All other "models" of unity seem to us to be unacceptable.

2.4. The Orthodox Church cannot accept the assumption that despite the historical divisions, the fundamental and profound unity of Christians has not been broken and that the Church should be understood as coextensive with the entire "Christian world", that Christian unity exists across denominational barriers and that the disunity of the churches belongs exclusively to the imperfect level of human relations. According to this conception, the Church remains one, but this oneness is not, as it were, sufficiently manifest in visible form. In this model of unity, the task of Christians is understood not as the restoration of a lost unity but as the manifestation of an existing unity. This model repeats the teaching on "the invisible Church" which appeared during the Reformation.

2.5. The so-called "branch theory", which is connected with the conception referred to above and asserts the normal and even providential nature of Christianity existing in the form of particular "branches", is also totally unacceptable.

2.6. Orthodoxy cannot accept that Christian divisions are caused by the inevitable imperfections of Christian history and that they exist only on the historical surface and can be healed or overcome by compromises between denominations.

2.7. The Orthodox Church cannot recognise "the equality of the denominations". Those who have fallen away from the Church cannot re-unite with her in their present state. The existing dogmatic differences should be overcome, not simply bypassed, and this means that the way to unity lies through repentance, conversion and renewal.

2.8. Also unacceptable is the idea that all the divisions are essentially tragic misunderstandings, that disagreements seem irreconcilable only because of a lack of mutual love and a reluctance to realise that, in spite of all the differences and dissimilarities, there is sufficient unity and harmony in "what is most important". Our divisions cannot be reduced to human passions, to egoism, much less to cultural, social and political circumstances which are secondary from the Church's point of view. Also unacceptable is the argument that the Orthodox Church differs from other Christian communities with which she does not have communion only in secondary matters. The divisions and differences cannot all be reduced to various non-theological factors.

2.9. The Orthodox Church also rejects the assumption that the unity of Christendom can only be restored through common Christian service to the world. Christian unity cannot be restored through agreement on earthly matters, in which case Christians would be united in what is secondary but still differ in what is fundamental.

2.10. It is inadmissible to introduce relativism into the realm of faith, to limit unity in faith to a narrow set of necessary truths so that beyond them "freedom in what is doubtful" may be allowed. Even a position of tolerance towards differences in faith is unacceptable. At the same time, however, one should not confuse unity of faith and the form of its expression.

2.11. The division of Christendom is a division in the experience of faith itself, not just in doctrinal formulations. Formal doctrinal unity does not exhaust what is meant by the unity of the Church, though it is one of its essential conditions.

2.12. The unity of the Church is first of all a unity and communion in the Sacraments. True communion in the Sacraments, however, does not have anything to do with the practice of so-called "inter-communion". Unity can be realized only in an identical grace-filled experience and life, in the faith of the Church, in the fullness of sacramental life in the Holy Spirit.

2.13. The restoration of Christian unity in faith and love can come only from above as a gift of Almighty God. The source of unity is in God, and therefore merely human efforts to restore it will be in vain, for "except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it" (Ps. 127:1). Only our Lord Jesus Christ, Who has commanded us to be one, can give us the power to fulfill his commandment, for He is "the way, the truth, and the life" (Jn. 14:6). The task of Orthodox Christians is to be co-workers with God in the task of salvation in Christ. As the holy fathers have said: God saves us, but not without us.

 

3. Orthodox witness before the non-Orthodox world

3.1. The Orthodox Church is the guardian of the Tradition and the grace-filled gifts of the Early Church. Her primary task, therefore, in her relations with non-Orthodox confessions is to bear continuous and persistent witness which will lead to the truth expressed in this Tradition becoming understandable and acceptable. According to the Third Pre-Conciliar Panorthodox Conference (1986): "The Orthodox Church, in her profound conviction and ecclesiastical consciousness of being the bearer of and the witness to the faith and tradition of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, firmly believes that she occupies a central place in matters relating to the promotion of Christian unity within the contemporary world…It is the mission and duty of the Orthodox Church to transmit, in all its fullness, the truth contained in the Holy Scripture and the Holy Tradition, the truth which gives to the Church her universal character. The responsibility of the Orthodox Church, as well as her ecumenical mission regarding Church unity, were expressed by the Ecumenical Councils. These, in particular, stressed the indissoluble link existing between true faith and sacramental communion. The Orthodox Church has always sought to draw the different Christian Churches and confessions into a joint search for the lost unity of Christians, so that all might reach the unity of faith…"

3.2. The task of the Orthodox witness is entrusted to every member of the Church. Orthodox Christians should clearly realise that the faith they preserve and confess has a global and universal character. The Church is not only called to teach her children, but also to witness to the truth before those who have left her. "How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?" (Rom. 10:14). The duty of Orthodox Christians is to bear witness to the truth that has been entrusted to the Church for ever, since, according to St. Paul, "we are labourers together with God" (1 Cor. 3:9).

 

4. Dialogue with the non-Orthodox

4.1. The Russian Orthodox Church has carried on theological dialogue with non-Orthodox Christians for over two centuries. This dialogue has been characterised by the combination of a principled dogmatic approach and a fraternal love. This principle was formulated in the "Response to the Letter of the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate" [?] (1903) as a method of theological dialogue with the Anglicans and the Old Catholics. With regard to non-Orthodox confessions, it was said, "there must be fraternal readiness to help them by explanations, normal consideration for their best wishes, all possible forbearance towards their natural perplexities, given the age-old division, but at the same time the firm confession of the truth of our Universal Church as a sole guardian of Christ's heritage and a sole saving ark of divine grace… Our task with regard to them should be… without putting before them unnecessary obstacle for union by being inappropriately intolerant and suspicious… to interpret for them our faith and unchangeable conviction that it is only our Eastern Orthodox Church, which has preserved intact the entire pledge of Christ, that is at present the Universal Church, and thus to show them in fact what they should consider and decide upon if they really believe that salvation is bound up with life in the Church and sincerely wish to be united with her…"

4.2. Characteristic of the dialogues conducted by the Russian Orthodox Church with other Christian confessions is their theological nature. The task of theological dialogue is to explain to her partners in dialogue the ecclesial consciousness of the Orthodox Church, the foundations of her doctrine, canonical order and spiritual tradition, and to dispel perplexities and existing stereotypes.

4.3. Representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church conduct dialogues with non-Orthodox confessions on the basis of faithfulness to the apostolic and patristic Tradition of the Orthodox Church and the teaching of the Ecumenical and Local Councils. Any dogmatic concessions or compromises in the faith are excluded. No document or paper adopted in theological dialogues and talks is obligatory for any of the Orthodox Churches until it is adopted by the Orthodox Church as a whole.

4.4. From an Orthodox perspective, the way to reunification for the non-Orthodox lies through the transformation and healing of their dogmatic consciousness and experience. Along this path, the issues discussed in the era of the Ecumenical Councils should be thought through once more. An important part of the dialogue with the non-Orthodox confessions is the study of the spiritual and theological heritage of the holy fathers, the mouthpieces of the faith of the Church.

4.5. Witness cannot be a monologue, since it assumes the existence of listeners and therefore of communication. Dialogue implies two sides, a mutual openness to communication, a willingness to understand, not only an "open mouth", but also a "heart enlarged" (cf. 2 Cor. 6:11). That is why the problem of theological language, comprehension and interpretation should become one of the most important issues in the dialogue of the Orthodox theology with other confessions.

4.6. It is gratifying and inspiring that non-Orthodox theological thought, as expressed by its best representatives, has shown a sincere and profound interest in studying the patristic heritage and the faith and order of the Early Church. At the same time, it must be admitted that between Orthodox and non-Orthodox theology there are still many unsolved problems and differences of opinion. Moreover, even the formal similarities existing in many aspects of the faith do not point to authentic unity, since the doctrinal elements are given different interpretations in the different theological traditions.

4.7. Dialogue with non-Orthodox confessions has revived the understanding that the one catholic truth and norm can be expressed and embodied in a variety of cultural and linguistic contexts. In the course of dialogue it is essential for Orthodox theologians to be able to distinguish between a specific context and an actual deviation from catholic plenitude. It is also necessary to investigate the question of the limits of diversity in the one catholic tradition.

4.8. Joint study centres, groups and programs should be established within the theological dialogues. It is important that joint theological conferences, seminars and scholarly meetings, exchange of delegations, exchange of publications and information as well as joint publishing projects should be held on a regular basis. The exchange of experts, teachers and theologians is also of great significance.

4.9. It is especially important for the Russian Orthodox Church to send her theologians to the major centres of non-Orthodox theological scholarship. It is also necessary to invite non-Orthodox theologians to the theological schools and other educational institutions of the Russian Orthodox Church to study Orthodox theology. The theological schools of the Russian Orthodox Church should pay more attention in their curricula to study of the progress and results of theological dialogues and to the non-Orthodox confessions.

4.10. Along with theological themes proper, dialogue should also be conducted on a wide range of problems involved in the relationship between the Church and the world. Among the important areas in the development of relations with the non-Orthodox confessions is joint work in the service of society. In situations where it does not come into conflict with Orthodox faith and spiritual practice, joint programs of religious education and catechism should be developed.

4.11. The bilateral dialogues conducted by the Russian Orthodox Church differ from her multilateral relations and participation in inter-Christian organisations in that they are structured in size and form as she thinks most suitable at the time. The yard-stick and criterion here is the success of a dialogue itself and the readiness of the partner in dialogue to consider the position taken by the Russian Orthodox Church on a broad (not only theological) range of ecclesiastical and social problems.

 

5. Multilateral dialogue and participation in the work of inter-Christian organisations

5.1. The Russian Orthodox Church conducts dialogues with non-Orthodox confessions not only on a bilateral but also on a multilateral level, while also participating in pan-Orthodox delegations and in the work of inter-Christian organisations.

5.2. With regard to her membership in various Christian organisations, she adheres to the following criteria. The Russian Orthodox Church cannot participate in international, regional or national Christian organisations in which (a) the constitution or rules require the renunciation of the doctrine or traditions of the Orthodox Church; (b) the Orthodox Church has no opportunity to bear witness to herself as the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church; (c) the decision-making process does not take into account the ecclesiological consciousness of the Orthodox Church; and (d) the rules and procedures make a "majority opinion" obligatory upon the members.

5.3. The level and forms of the Russian Orthodox Church's participation in an international Christian organisation should take into account its internal dynamics, agenda, priorities and general nature.

5.4. The scope and extent of the Russian Orthodox Church's participation in an international Christian organisation is determined by the Church authorities on the basis of its usefulness for the Church.

5.5. While stressing the great importance of theological dialogue and discussion concerning the norms of faith, Church order and the principles of the spiritual life, the Russian Orthodox Church, like the other Local Orthodox Churches, considers it possible and beneficial to participate in the work of various international organisations in such spheres of service to the world as diakonia, social service and peacemaking. The Russian Orthodox Church maintains co-operation with various Christian denominations and international Christian organisations in the task of common witness before secular society.

5.6. The Russian Orthodox Church maintains working relations on the level of membership or co-operation with a wide variety of international Christian organisations, as well as with regional and national Councils of Churches and Christian agencies specialising in diakonia, youth work and peacemaking.

 

6. Relations of the Russian Orthodox Church with the non-Orthodox on her canonical territory

6.1. The relations of the Russian Orthodox Church with non-Orthodox Christian communities in the CIS and Baltic states should be carried out in the same spirit of fraternal co-operation in which the Orthodox Church works with other traditional confessions in order to co-ordinate social work, promote social harmony and put an end to proselytism on the canonical territory of the Russian Orthodox Church.

6.2. The Russian Orthodox Church maintains that the mission of the traditional confessions is possible only if it is carried out without proselytism and not at the expense of "stealing" the faithful, especially with the aid of material benefits. The Christian communities in the CIS and Baltic countries are called to unite their efforts for reconciliation and the moral revival of society and to raise their voice in the defence of human life and human dignity.

6.3. The Orthodox Church draws a clear distinction between the non-Orthodox confessions which declare their faith in the Holy Trinity and the divine-human nature of Jesus Christ, on the one hand, and the sects which reject fundamental Christian doctrines on the other. While recognising the right of non-Orthodox Christians to witness to their faith and conduct religious education among the population groups that traditionally belong to them, the Orthodox Church is against any destructive missionary activity on the part of sects.

 

7. Internal tasks in relation to dialogue with non-Orthodox confessions

7.1. While rejecting views which are erroneous from the point of view of the Orthodox doctrine, the Orthodox are called to treat with Christian love those who confess these views. In their relations with the non-Orthodox, the Orthodox should bear witness to the holiness of Orthodoxy and to the oneness of the Church. In bearing witness to the Truth, however, the Orthodox should be worthy of their witness: causing offence to non-Orthodox Christians is inadmissible.

7.2. It is essential to give the members of the Church competent and trustworthy information about the progress, tasks and prospects of the contacts and dialogue of the Russian Orthodox Church with non-Orthodox confessions.

7.3. The Church condemns those who, by using inauthentic information, deliberately distort the task of the Orthodox Church in her witness before the non-Orthodox world and consciously slander the Church authorities, accusing them of the "betrayal" of Orthodoxy. These people, who sow seeds of temptation among ordinary believers, should be subject to canonical sanctions. In this regard, guidance is given by the decisions of the pan-Orthodox meeting in Thessaloniki in 1998: "The delegates unanimously denounced those groups of schismatics, as well as certain extremist groups within the local Orthodox Churches themselves, that are using the theme of ecumenism in order to criticise the Church leadership and undermine its authority, thus attempting to create divisions and schisms within the Church. They also use non-factual material and misinformation in order to support their unjust criticism. The delegates also emphasised that the Orthodox participation in the ecumenical movement has always been based on Orthodox tradition, on the decisions of the Holy Synods of the local Orthodox Churches, and on Pan-Orthodox meetings... The participants are unanimous in their understanding of the necessity for continuing their participation in various forms of inter-Christian activity. We have no right to withdraw from the mission laid upon us by our Lord Jesus Christ, the mission of witnessing the Truth before the non-Orthodox world. We must not interrupt relations with Christians of other confessions who are prepared to work together with us… Durine Orthodox participation of many decades in the ecumenical movement, Orthodoxy has never been betrayed by any representative of a Local Orthodox Church. On the contrary, these representatives have always been completely faithful and obedient to their respective Church authorities, and acted in complete agreement with the canonical rules, the Teaching of the Ecumenical Councils, the Church Fathers and the Holy Tradition of the Orthodox Church". A threat to the Church is also presented by those who participate in inter-Christian contacts, speaking on behalf of the Russian Orthodox Church without the blessing of the Church authorities, as well as by those who bring temptation into the midst of Orthodoxy by entering into canonically inadmissible sacramental communion with non-Orthodox communities.

 

Conclusion

The twentieth century now drawing to a close has been marked by the tragedy of divisions, enmity and alienation, but in it divided Christians have shown a desire to achieve unity in the Church of Christ. The Russian Orthodox Church has responded to this desire with a readiness to conduct a dialogue of truth and love with non-Orthodox Christians, inspired by the call of Christ and by the goal of Christian unity as ordained by God. And today, on the threshold of the third millennium after the Nativity according to the Flesh of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, the Orthodox Church again lovingly and persistently calls all those for whom the name of Jesus Christ is above all other names under heaven (cf. Acts 4:12) to seek blessed unity in the Church: "Our mouth is open unto you, our heart is enlarged" (2 Cor. 6:12).

Communication service of the Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate
Adress: 22, Danilovsky val, Danilov monastery DECR, 113191 Moscow, Russia
Telephone: (7-095) 2302439 Fax: (7-095) 2302619

E-mail: commserv@mospat.dol.ru

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