May 21, 2007

Russian Orthodox Church Reunites, Ending 80-year split

MOSCOW (AFP) - The domestic and exiled branches of the Russian Orthodox Church reunited in a ceremony here Thursday in the presence of Russian President Vladimir Putin, ending an 80-year split over communism.

The head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Alexy II, and the leader of the church's branch in exile, Metropolitan Lavr, signed the historic reunification agreement during an elaborate ceremony at Moscow's largest cathedral.
"By this Act, canonical communion within the Local Russian Orthodox Church is hereby restored," the act read, according to a transcript published on the web site of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia.
Dozens of bearded priests flanked Alexy II, dressed in flowing green robes, while he and the blue-clad Lavr signed the act and embraced.
Putin then stepped forward to accept Alexy's congratulations for his "service to the faith and country."
The Russian leader, a former KGB officer who has since publicly embraced Christianity, told the thousands gathered that the reunification was a moment of renaissance for the country.
"The rebirth of church unity today is the most important condition for restoring the lost unity of the entire Russian world," Putin said in remarks broadcast on state-run television.
At the culmination of the service, the once rival church leaders were due to take communion from the same chalice in a gesture to seal the spiritual reunification.
The agreement, which became possible following the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, welcomes almost half a million believers back into the Moscow-led fold and ends decades of recriminations over collaboration with the Bolshevik regime.
The Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia was formed by clergy who fled the atheist Bolshevik Revolution and split with the Moscow patriarchate after its 1927 declaration of submission to the Soviet authorities.
At the time the atheist Bolshevik regime was demolishing hundreds of churches, persecuting believers and arresting priests.
After decades of acrimony, contacts between the churches were officially renewed in 2003, with the two agreeing to call the 1927 declaration "a tragic compromise."
The reunification is an important symbolic victory for Putin, who regards the Orthodox Church as a key pillar of post-Soviet Russian society and has prioritized the promotion of Russian culture abroad.
He met Lavr in New York in 2003 in a bid to convince the exiled church to return to the fold.
The deal was sealed last year when 150 delegates from North and South America, Australia, Europe and ex-Soviet republics voted in favour at the conference in San Francisco.
However, some elements of the emigre clergy remain against the move, suspecting some Orthodox priests who served during the Soviet regime of collaborating with the KGB secret service.
In Moscow the merger was welcomed as a historic reunion, with a long line of faithful queuing outside Christ the Saviour cathedral in the rain at dawn to celebrate.
The imposing marble church was blown up by Stalin, then was rebuilt in the late 1990s as a symbol of the rebirth of Orthodoxy in Russia.
"We must all rejoice in this reunification, because the Orthodox people must be together," said Svetlana Novolodskaya, a 47-year-old nursery teacher, echoing the words of Alexy II.
"Joy fills our hearts," the patriarch said during the ceremony. "Historical events have occurred which we have waited for for many years. The unity of the Russian church has been re-established."
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የአቡነ ጳውሎስ "ሐውልተ ስምዕ"

ነጻ ፓትርያርክ ምርጫ ቢሆን ኖሮ ማንን ይመርጡ ነበር? እንበልና ሁሉም ነገር ሥርዓቱን ጠብቆ የተከናወነ የእጩዎች ምርጫ ቢሆን ኖሮ፣ አሁን የምናነሣቸው ጉድለቶች ባይኖሩ ኖሮ፣ 6ኛው ፓትርያርክ እንዲሆን የምትመርጡት ማንን ነበር? (ማሳሰቢያ፦ አሁን ያለው ክፍፍል እና የመንግሥት ተጽዕኖ ባይኖር ኖሮ ተብሎ የሚመለስ ጥያቄ ነው። የምን “ባይኖር ኖሮ ነው” የሚል አስተያየት ካለዎትም እናከብራለን።)