‘Brotherly, prayerful relations’ for ROCOR & OCA

An interview with Metropolitan Hilarion (Kapral) of Eastern America and New York, First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, was published on the ROCOR Web site. The metropolitan was interviewed by Alexander Bondarev, editor of the magazine Tribuna russkoj mysli [Tribune of Russian Thought], and by Anataly Stepanov, editor of the information agency Russkaja linija [Russian Line]. (HT: Byzantine, Texas). Metropolitan Hilarion discusses relations with the OCA and preparations for an “8th ecumenical council.” Full text available here.

Editors: Vladyka, we know that there are conversations with the Orthodox Church in America now. What is the direction they will be taking? What decisions might we expect with regard to the relationship between ROCOR and the OCA?

Metropolitan Hilarion: Upon reconciliation between the Russian Church Abroad and the Russian Orthodox Church in the Fatherland, the question arose about our relationship with the Orthodox Church in America, which had received autocephaly from the Moscow Patriarchate. At one time we were together, but divisions occurred twice. In 1924, Metropolitan Platon separated from the Russian bishops who were abroad, but in 1935, Metropolitan Theophilus, with the intercession of Patriarch Varnava of Serbia, made peace with ROCOR, and there was again one Russian Church in America. This continued until 1946, when there was not only a break with the Church Abroad, but with the Moscow Patriarchate. The Orthodox Metropoliate of America became, de facto, independent.

We would like to improve relations with the Orthodox Church in America, so our Synod of Bishops appointed a commission comprised of several clergymen who, we hope, will meet with a similar commission representing the OCA in order to study our common history. We must determine why divisions occurred, how we can restore Eucharistic communion. Nonetheless, we do not intend on merging with the Orthodox Church in America, only establish brotherly, prayerful relations. For many in our Church Abroad, the new calendar, which the OCA adopted, is unacceptable. This is a painful question, because many of our clergymen and laypersons would not wish to participate in a service where ecclesio-liturgical order is violated. So there are things that need to be discussed.

We welcome the election of the new head of the OCA, Metropolitan Jonah, who is known for his piety, he loves the old calendar, he loves order in the Church. So we hope that good relations with the Orthodox Church in America can be established.

Editors: Vladyka, many are now discussing the need for convening a Pan-Orthodox conference. For a great many unresolved problems have developed between the Orthodox Churches, which should be discussed together. At the same time, there are rumors among the people of the Church that this must be something like an 8th Ecumenical Council, that such an assembly would make decisions of a renovationist character: moving to the new calendar, etc. What is your view on the idea of convening a Pan-Orthodox conference, and the fears surrounding it?

Met. Hilarion: There are many questions of a general nature in the life of the Local Orthodox Churches which need mutual resolutions, and the Churches must have such means of communication. We sometimes have controversies with the Constantinople Patriarchate, which views the diaspora differently than the Russian Orthodox Church does. The Ecumenical Patriarch, of course, must be honored for his historical place in the hierarchy of the Local Churches as first among equals, but there cannot be universal authority with only one bishop in the Orthodox Church.

The universal character of the council is determined by the fullness of the Church only afterwards. As far as an 8th Ecumenical Council is concerned, I feel that one is necessary. Ecumenical Councils were always convened to defend the Church against all sorts of heresies which arose at one time or another. We must have a great deal of spiritual strength to preserve the pureness of the faith. In this regard, there can be no political reasons to gather such a council.


  1. George Michalopulos :

    Two things jumped out at me from this interview, both of which appear to throw significant cold water over the Chambesy protocols and any erstwhile Great and Holy Council:

    1. According to Metropolitan Hilarion, ROCOR “does not intend to merge with the OCA,” and

    2. The new calendar is “unacceptable.”

    No. 1 speaks for itself, the stated purpose of Chambesy was to unite the various jurisdictions of “the diaspora.” (Interestingly enough, +Hilarion said he does not “intend” for a merger with the OCA. Is this diplomatese for wiggle room?)

    No. 2 is rather more puzzling to me. I’ve been on record stating that I don’t think there’s a need for another pan-Orthodox council as there are no dogmatic controversies raging within the Church at present. Like Fr Justin Popovich, I fear that such a council would end in schism, apostasy or God knows what else. That’s my opinion though, I could very well be wrong. Having said that, the only stated reason I could see for convening such a council would be to resolve the calendar issue once and for all time. This however would be a deal-breaker for the +Hilarion and we must assume ROCOR. So I’m quite confused by this interview.

  2. I’m confused by the statement that the commission, “must determine why divisions occurred, [and] how we can restore Eucharistic communion.”

    This isn’t something I’ve had to address pastorally, since I don’t have any regular contact with ROCOR clergy or laity.

    But ROCOR has reconciled with Moscow and Moscow recognizes the OCA. How is it, then, that the Metropolitan describes a need of restored communion with the OCA?

    What is lacking?

  3. George Michalopulos :

    Fr Mark, a good question. One that escaped me. Perhaps because it’s too confusing?


  4. That would be a good question, as I remember the flurry of concelebrations once ROCOR signed the papers with the PoM.

    I would also like him to say to the EP that the New Calendar is unacceptable. Not that he wouldn’t, but just to point out that that is hardly an OCA issue.

    The problem is that ROCOR is by definition a Church outside its canonical boundaries. No such Church can exist, according to the canons. As a result, ROCOR is going to have the hardest time no matter the fall out from Chambesy.

  5. George Michalopulos :

    Isa, as usual, you raise several good points. On a personal level, I can say that as a member of the OCA, I’ve had the privilege to take Communion in a ROCOR parish with the full knowledge and blessing of the priest at that parish as well as my own pastor. I’m sure I’m not the first or that I’m all that exceptional in this regard.

    Upon reflection, I’m curious as to what +Hilarion’s statements actually mean. Is he unaware that ROCOR parishioners attend OCA parishes and vica versa? Otherwise, I’m at a loss to explain this statement.

    As for the calendar issue, I see your point. Personally, I think that we are dealing with an astronomical phenomenon, therefore the updating of any calendar (including eventually the present Gregorian one) to conform to astronomical reality should proceed. However –and this is a big “but”–the way the new calendar was foisted upon us by the ecumenical poobah of the universe Meletius IV Metaxakis was a travesty that is wounding the Church to the present. For this reason I wish we had never accepted it and yes, stick with the O.S. calendar. Simply for peace in the Church; it’s adoption has done nothing but harm. Unless it’s resolved, I see eventual schism.

  6. It is hard to explain the joy of celebrating the Nativity of Christ on January 7th to my friends who belong to the OCA, Antiochian, Roman Catholic, and others who follow the new calendar.

    When I take the day off of work, everyone knows that it is because we are Orthodox Christians. Curious people ask me “what is Orthodoxy” and “why January 7th” and it gives me a chance to witness and declare the Gospel.

    On January 7th we are able to focus entirely on “the reason for the season”. We are separated from the commercialized nightmare that modern Christmas has become in the USA.

    We use the same calendar that we have always used. After all, Orthodox don’t change. And being able to eat Thanksgiving food is a bonus.

    The old calendar is very dear to us over here in ROCOR, UOC, UOCC, ACROD and others. I don’t see us ever giving it up. Yet somehow, almost everyone in the OCA or AOC just can’t understand the attachment. It’s almost like explaining many of traditions to non-Orthodox and getting the “confused” look. Just trust me, it is VERY important to us.

  7. George Michalopulos :

    Pete, I understand your concerns. However, one thing instantly pops into mind: you are quick to criticize the OCA and AOCA but are mum on the GOA. Why is that?

    As to your larger point, would you be so kind as to explain to me why +Hilarion thinks that a great and holy council is “necessary”? After all, the only thing of importance that will be discussed at such a council is the calendar issue. What will you do then when the ROC accepts the Gregorian Calendar?

    This is why I’m confused by his words. On the surface they are kind and sober, but one only has to scratch a little bit below the surface to ask the next question.

    Any answers would be most appreciated and I mean this sincerely.

  8. As a deacon in the ACORD, I served on the Old Calendar for 4 years–while I can’t speak to the experience of all, I can say that most people I knew simply celebrated Christmas (to take but one example) twice: “American Christmas” in December and “Orthodox Christmas” in January. I should add that in the last 12 or so years as a priest, I have found this to largely be the case with most people I know if follow the OC. Truth be told, the OC is more a “convert thing” than it is a “Russian thing,” that is, it is more a concern for those who have only lately become Orthodox.

    As for Metropolitan Hilarion’s comments–forgive me but he is simply off base. The ROCOR is part of the MP and so is in communion with the OCA. While the matter of the New Calendar was poorly handled by the EP and lead to any number of injustices, it is hardly the most pressing matter facing the Church and except in a very few instances has never been seen as a dogmatic issue over which communion could, must less should, be broken.

    More generally, and as I mentioned in other places, we need I think to be very careful of creating what Sr Vassa Larin (herself in ROCOR) as Disneyland view of the Church and her history. While the OC is certainly ancient, it is not the calendar the Church has always used–it is itself a revision of an earlier calendar. The fact is the Church does change. To quote from Sr Vassa (

    The grown-up version of church history tells us that the Church of the Apostles decided on a change in policy from the very outset. The so-called Council of the Apostles in Jerusalem decided not to circumcise the Gentiles (as described in Acts 15), in blatant discontinuity with no less than the Law of Moses, and with what the Apostles themselves had been preaching thus far. The decision was not popular with everyone and resulted in the schism of the Judaeo-Christians. Nonetheless, it was this that “seemed good to the Holy Spirit” and to the Apostles, and not a more consistent and traditional policy. There was apparently a “bigger picture” that was more important than consistency with past policy. In the mid-3rd c., after many Christians broke under the pressure of persecutions and worshipped pagan gods, previously upheld canonical discipline demanded that these “lapsi” or fallen ones be excommunicated for life. But, to the dismay of many, the
    Church chose to be inconsistent with previous policy and opted for clemency. The many faithful who opposed this decision, which did indeed signalize a break with past policy, broke away into the schism of the Novatianists. Similar unpopular decisions were that of the Second Ecumenical Council to not re-baptize the Arians (the Arians!); the decision of the Seventh Ecumenical Council to accept iconoclast bishops as bishops; and the list could go on.

    So, inconsistency and change in and of themselves are nothing new in the history of the Church, nor is opposition and schism on the basis of such changes. Yet it seems that in the recent discussions and divisions in our Church, change was perceived as something of a shock. This is what I meant by “insensitivity to history.”

    For all that we are a Church that values history, I find us curiously–and increasingly in some quarters–tone deaf to the empirical situation of the Church. While history, especially Church history to say nothing of Holy Tradition, is more than mere empirical facts (persons, dates, events, etc) it certainly cannot ignore, much less dismiss, the facts on the ground whether today or 10 centuries ago.

    Sorry, but I think the Calendar issue is a red herring.

    In Christ,


  9. George Michalopulos :

    Fr Greg, thank you for clarifying the issue in the light of Church history. This still leaves the issue of what +Hilarion really meant. His words are very confusing to me and to be honest, cause me to question his sincerity. As I’ve said, there are many in the OCA who have communed in ROCOR churches (I’m one of them). I received a blessing from both my priest and the ROCOR priest. And as you’ve said, ROCOR is now a part of the MP and the MP is the mother church of the OCA. Am I missing something here?

  10. I’m not sure what is going on in this interview. In fact, with Metropolitan Hilarion’s blessing, his vicar bishop Jerome concelebrated at Metropolitan Jonah’s enthronment and since then there have been numerous concelebration of the Liturgy with OCA and ROCOR clergy participating.

  11. George Michalopulos :

    If this is a game of raising the stakes, it’s failing.

  12. I fully agree with Fr Justin Popovich that a council convened by revisionists may very well lead to heresy. In the past our bishops were true monastics, and by monastics I mean saint, hysicasts. Which means they did not just read theology and think about it but they had direct personal experience of God through participation in his energies, and personal and objective encounters with saints and angels who personally instructed them in the faith. I have not heard about this very much. From all accounts I have heard, most bishops are worldly kinds of people driving big cars and eating expensive dinners at the Waldorf, etc. . . If we had real saints as bishops, those with personal experience with the uncreated Grace of the Holy Trinity and instructed by the holy martyrs and angels, then we could have confidence that a council would render a decision in accordance with the leading of the Holy Spirit.

    Secondly, has no one else found discussions of an 8th Ecumenical Council rather strange and revisionist since we have already had an 8th and an 9th Ecumenical Council. For a long time, bishops letters and local councils spoke of the Photoian Council of 879 as the 8th Great Ecumenical (or Imperial) Council and the Palamas Council as the 9th.

    Consider that the 8th Ecumenical Council clearly condemned the Frankish fillioque and the 9th Ecumenical Council defended the Heyicasim of the Athonite spiritual tradition. These councils have much less authority than they used to in the Orthodox Church. It seems that there is a rejection of the older understanding of theology I described at first, giving credence to a non-Christian understanding of authority as simple episcopal fiat. Furthermore, reunion with the Frankish Catholic Church may be in view. A robust endorsement and defense of the 8th and 9th Ecumenical Councils will lay the foundation for an Orthodox Catholic 10th Ecumenical Council.

  13. As a ROCOR/OCA convert, I’ve found a spiritual home in the OCA for the last three years– I love the spiritual riches I have found there and I believe in its mission and vision to be the Local Church for everybody. Nevertheless, my recent move to south of St. Louis has put me back into a thriving ROCOR parish for most weekly services. The ROCOR priest here has no problem at all with it. And why should he? I think we forget that even ROCOR bishops have to play political sometimes and that maybe here his audience was to allay fears of the crazy converts and uber-Russophiles who can’t stand the idea of being together with the OCA.

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