ROCOR and Filaret: Is the analogy appropriate?
One of the arguments why Met. Simeon refused to sign the Bishops’ Council’ decisions is his disagreement with the fact that schism cannot be overcome by "legalization".
Commenting on the refusal to sign the decisions of the Council of Bishops of the UOC, Metropolitan Simeon of Vinnitsa and Bar said that he disagreed with the clause stating: “The history of the Orthodox Church does not know any cases of overcoming the schism by simply legalizing it. Having taken such anti-canonical decisions, recognizing the schismatics in the existing dignity, the Patriarchate of Constantinople itself took the path of schism, according to church canons.”
Commenting on his position, Vladyka Simeon draws a historical parallel and refers to the experience of reunification between the ROC and the ROCOR, when after almost eight decades the schism was overcome, and now both Churches are in full communion. However, representatives of the ROCOR were not required to repent of the sin of schism; it was just enough to conclude the “Act of canonical communion”. Now Constantinople, his supporters say, could accept the Filaret schism into communion, without demanding repentance.
What is wrong in this analogy? To put it briefly: everything. From the beginning to the end. But the example of reunification in the Russian Church itself is interesting – precisely, as an example of how schisms are healed when there is a big wish to overcome them.
To begin with, the event itself – the reconciliation of the ROC and the ROCOR – was an act of overcoming, not legalizing the schism. As a result, Eucharistic communion was restored, not lost.
Did the Phanar's actions heal the schism? Exactly the opposite – they led only to its expansion. We could talk about analogy if Filarert’s followers, as a result of the efforts of Constantinople, would reunite with the Orthodox world and, above all, with the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, with which they once broke off. Then it would resemble how the ROCOR reunited with the ROC. In this case, we might wonder whether the restoration of communication was enough canonical.
But in this case, as a result of the Phanar’s actions, the schism not only remained, but also deepened dramatically – if there has been no communion between the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and the KP supporters before, now, in addition to this, the communication between the Ukrainian Church and Constantinople has been destroyed.
It sounds ironical to call this “reconciliation” or “healing”, which should be avoided when speaking about subjects so serious and sad. In reality, the Phanar, without having healed the old schisms, only added new ones to them.
But can one admit that Constantinople at least tried to heal the old divisions but failed under the pressure of some insurmountable circumstances? Alas, but the efforts to overcome the schism, when they are made, look quite different. Reconciliation is the result of the consent of the parties, and in order to achieve it, you need to talk with people, listen to their arguments, show patience and humility, and, above all, goodwill. It inevitably takes a lot of effort and even more time. This is a long process that cannot be timed, say, to someone's elections.
And the process of reconciliation between the ROC and the ROCOR took long: people talked for years, overcame accumulated grievances and mutual distrust, discussed controversial issues, listened to each other, discussed all the conditions for future reconciliation and the future status of the ROCOR. If Constantinople wanted to work on overcoming the schism, its actions would be completely different, it would begin with long and detailed consultations with both the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and Filaret followers. This is obvious: if you want to reconcile the two, you need to talk to both parties. It is time-consuming and tedious, but otherwise, it does not work.
If Constantinople wanted to work on overcoming the schism, its actions would be completely different, it would begin with long and detailed consultations with both the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and Filaret followers. This is obvious: if you want to reconcile the two, you need to talk to both parties. It is time-consuming and tedious, but otherwise, it does not work.
It is impossible to reconcile anyone with the Ukrainian Church or the Church with anyone, simply refusing to talk to it. It is easy to declare that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate no longer exists — this is obviously a non-working way to reconcile anyone with it.
Therefore, the actions of Constantinople simply do not look like an attempt, even unsuccessful, to heal the schism. Against the background of the actual healing that occurred in the history of the ROCOR, this is particularly striking.
Another reason why the analogy does not work here is the fact that the ROCOR hierarchy, which was ruling at the time of reconciliation, did not make the schism. It inherited it from previous generations, and the people who stood at its origins had long gone into eternity. Of course, we could note completely different circumstances and motives for the emergence of the ROCOR, but this is a separate big talk. It is worth mentioning that the First Hierarch of the ROCOR, Metropolitan Laurus, cannot be compared with Filaret and his surroundings for the obvious reason that Metropolitan Laurus at least did not initiate the schism, he was already born in the conditions of the schism that had arisen before.
However, repentance in the harshness of mutual controversy was brought – on November 19, 2003, during negotiations, the delegation of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia "asked to forgive for all the harsh remarks about the Moscow Patriarchate". In response, Patriarch Alexy II "expressed repentance for those words and deeds that had not contributed to reconciliation".
Another striking difference (perhaps it was worth starting with it) is that the ROCOR reconciled with that Local Church, from which it once had fallen – that is, we would have some analogy if the Filaret followers reconciled with the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, led by Metropolitan Onufry, after long direct bilateral negotiations, in which Constantinople (if it were interested in the church peace) could play the role of mediator.
The situation when another local Church — from which the schism did not separate — just came in and declared the dissenters canonical and in communion with itself, does not look like the ROCOR case anyway.
Thus, the history of the reconciliation of the ROCOR and the ROC, which Metropolitan Simeon pointed out, is definitely very useful to recall – in order to highlight what the actual healing of schism looks like, and make sure that Constantinople, unfortunately, is doing anything but not this.