Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia
|Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia|
|Current bishop||Metr. Laurus|
|Headquarters||New York, New York|
|Territory||United States, worldwide|
|Liturgical language(s)||Church Slavonic, English, German|
|Musical tradition||Russian Chant|
|Population estimate||60,000 to 100,000|
The Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (also called the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, ROCA, ROCOR, the Karlovsty Synod, or the Synod) is a semi-autonomous jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate originally formed in response against the policy of Bolsheviks with respect to religion in the Soviet Union soon after the Russian Revolution. The ROCOR exists overlapping with previously existing dioceses of the Moscow Patriarchate throughout the diaspora.
Formation and early years
In 1920, the Soviet government had revealed that it was quite hostile to the Russian Orthodox Church. Saint Tikhon, Patriarch of Moscow, issued an ukaz (decree) that all Russian Orthodox Christians abroad currently under the authority and protection of his Patriarchate organize and govern themselves independently of the Mother Church, until such time that the Patriarchate would again be free.
Among most Russian bishops and other hierarchs, this was interpreted as an authorization to form an emergency synod of all Russian Orthodox hierarchs to permit the Church to continue to function outside Russia and provide spiritual care for nearly three million Russian emigres. To add urgency to the synod's motives, in May of 1922, the Soviet government proclaimed its own "Living Church" as a "reform" of the Russian Orthodox Church.
On September 13, 1922, Russian Orthodox hierarchs in Serbia gave their blessing to the establishment, in Serbia, of a Synod of Bishops of the Russian Church Abroad, the foundation of ROCOR. In November of 1922, Russian Orthodox in North America held a synod and elected Metropolitan Platon as the primate of an autonomous Russian exarchate in the Americas (also known as the Metropolia, which eventually became the Orthodox Church in America). Although the hierarchs of the Metropolia participated as full equals in the Synod Abroad, eventually a three-way conflict in the United States erupted between the patriarchal exarchate, ROCOR (sometimes known as "the Synod" in this period), and the Living Church, which asserted that it was the legitimate (i.e., Russian-government-recognized) owner of all Orthodox properties in the USA. (See: ROCOR and OCA)
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In 1927, ROCOR declared "The part of the Russian Church that finds itself abroad considers itself an inseparable, spiritually united branch of the Great Russian Church. It does not separate itself from its Mother Church and does not consider itself autocephalous," indicating that ROCOR considered itself to speak for all of the Russian Orthodox outside of Russia. The Church Abroad also considered itself to be the free voice of the enslaved Mother Church in the Soviet Union.
After the end of World War II, the Patriarchate of Moscow broached the possibility of reunification between Moscow and ROCOR, presumably at the behest of the Soviet government, which had adopted a more conciliatory attitude towards religion during the war and was presumably trying to capitalize on its wartime alliances to win a more respectable position internationally. This was not deemed possible at that time by ROCOR, given that Russia was still under communist dictatorship and the Church was still persecuted and controlled by the atheist authorities.
Holy Transfiguration Monastery and ROCOR
In the 1960s, ROCOR took under its care Holy Transfiguration Monastery (Brookline, Massachusetts) (today the principal monastery of HOCNA) after the latter had broken communion from the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America following sexual abuse scandals regarding the monastery's leadership. At some point later, they gradually assumed responsibility for much of ROCOR's external communications and publications. (The monks of Holy Transfiguration were English-speaking and the ROCOR bishops in America mainly were not.)
It is believed by many that the allegedly sectarian spirit of ROCOR came into its flowering during this time and under the influence of this monastery, which frequently misrepresented the official policies and views of the Synod of Bishops. In the early 1980s the hierarchs of the Synod began to correct and censor the narrow-minded and incorrect views of the followers of Holy Transfiguration Monastery. Subsequently this group broke communion with ROCOR (again regarding allegations of sexual abuse by the monastery's leadership), styling themselves the Holy Orthodox Church in North America (HOCNA). They became affiliated with the True Orthodox Church of Greece, a Greek Old Calendarist group which broke from the Church of Greece. According to Fr. Alexey Young (author of The Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia: A History and Chronology), the association of ROCOR and Holy Transfiguration Monastery resulted in deep damage to ROCOR.
After the Soviet fall
Since the end of the Soviet Union, ROCOR maintained its independence from the Moscow Patriarchate on the grounds that the Church inside Russia had been unacceptably compromised. Some accusations went so far as to claim that the entire hierarchy within Russia were active KGB agents. ROCOR also attempted to set up missions in post-Soviet Russia.
This did not prevent all communication, however. For many years there had been unofficial and warm contacts between the two groups. In 2001, the Synod of the Patriarchate of Moscow and ROCOR exchanged formal correspondence. The Muscovite letter held the position that previous and current separation was over purely political matters. ROCOR's response expressed concern over continued Muscovite involvement in ecumenism, which was seen as compromising Moscow's Orthodoxy. Nevertheless, this was far more friendly discourse than had been seen previously.
After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia continued to establish itself in its homeland. It now has about 100 worshiping communities in Russia and other countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States. Currently four bishops oversee these parishes. Two of them broke with Metropolitan Vitaly in New York in April 1994. They founded their own temporary administration called the Free Orthodox Church of Russia and ordained three additional bishops. They were reconciled in November 1994, and the ordination of the three new bishops was declared invalid. However, some tensions remain.
Rapprochement with Moscow
Since the election of Metropolitan Laurus as First Hierarch of ROCOR in 2001, a steady process of rapprochement occurred between ROCOR and the Moscow Patriarchate. Multiple official visits have been exchanged between hierarchs and other clergy of both churches, and the date for restoration of full communion was officially announced by both sides. 
In October 2001 Patriarch Alexei II and the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate sent a letter to the Bishops' Council of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia calling for reconciliation, but without success. However, there was mutual recognition of grace in the sacraments of each church. Then, in November 2003, a delegation of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia consisting of three bishops and two priests paid an official visit to the Moscow Patriarchate. This signaled a warming in relations, and in May 2004 for the first time since the foundation of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, the First Hierarch of ROCOR, Metropolitan Laurus, visited Moscow and met with Patriarch Alexei. The two church leaders established a joint committee to examine ways to overcome the division between their churches. This committee met successfully on several occasions, working out the details of intercommunion between the two Church bodies.
This possibility of rapprochement led to a small schism from ROCOR, taking the self-retired Metropolitan Vitaly (Metropolitan Laurus's predecessor) with it (regarded by many in ROCOR as having been abducted by the schismatics). The resultant body refers to itself as the Russian Orthodox Church in Exile (ROCE/ROCiE), though it often still uses the ROCOR name. A few other communities have also broken off from ROCOR, some joining with Greek Old Calendarist groups.
On June 21, 2005, it was announced simultaneously by both the ROCOR and the MP on their respective websites that rapprochement talks were leading toward the resumption of full relations between the ROCOR and the MP and that the ROCOR would be given the status of autonomy.
In May 2006, the ROCOR met in its IV All-Diaspora Council, which was held at Most Holy Theotokos Joy of All Who Sorrow Cathedral in San Francisco, California. The council consisted of clergy and lay delegates from all dioceses of the ROCOR, and adopted a resolution, expressing "great hope that in the appropriate time, the unity of the Russian Church will be restored upon the foundation of the Truth of Christ, opening for us the possibility to serve together and to commune from one Chalice."
Following the IV All-Diaspora Council, the Council of Bishops of the ROCOR was held. According to sources close to the council, it generally agreed with the text of the proposed "Act of Canonical Unity," but remitted it back to the Committee for Dialogue with the Moscow Patriarchate to rework certain aspects of the document.citation needed The exact nature of the elements to be worked out is unclear, but, according to sources close to the Synod of Bishops, involves, among other things, property issues in the Holy Land.citation needed
On September 6, 2006 The Synod of Bishops of ROCOR decreed their confirmation and approval of the revised Act of Canonical Unity and instructed the Commission on Discussion with the Moscow Patriarchate to work jointly with the Moscow Patriarchate to work out details of the official signing of the Act.  Subsequently on September 11, 2006 The Synod of Bishops of ROCOR published on ROCOR's website a clarification of their decision to confirm and approve the Act.  Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and All Russia acknowledged the work of the commissions and declared that the act of reunification, while moving in the right direction, will take time. 
Both the Moscow Patriarchate and the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia published on their respective websites the final full text of the Act of Canonical Unity  with all relevant supporting documents   on November 1, 2006. The Act having been approved by both the Moscow Patriarchate and ROCOR, it was formally signed in Moscow on May 17, 2007, followed by a concelebration of the Divine Liturgy, bringing the ROCOR into the Moscow Patriarchate.
ROCOR currently has over 400 parishes as well as monasteries for men and women in 40 countries throughout the world, served by nearly 600 priests. In North America, it has approximately 133 parishes in the US and 22 in Canada. There are three ROCOR communities in the United Kingdom and 21 in Australia and New Zealand. There are also roughly 100 communities which owe allegiance to ROCOR in Russia and the other nations of the former Soviet Union.
There are five ROCOR monasteries for men and women in North America, the most important and largest of which is Holy Trinity Monastery (Jordanville, New York), to which is attached ROCOR's seminary, Holy Trinity Orthodox Seminary.
In concert with the Church of Jerusalem, ROCOR also oversees the Russian Ecclesiastical Mission in Jerusalem, headed by Hegumen Andronik (Kotliaroff), which acts as caretaker to three holy sites in Palestine, all of which are monasteries.
Ecclesiastical status before 2007
Until the reconciliation with Moscow in 2007, the ROCOR was in relative Eucharistic isolation from much of the Orthodox world, not always exchanging full communion with the majority of Orthodox jurisdictions. It maintained good relations, intercommunion, and concelebration with the Church of Serbia, the Church of Jerusalem, and the Church of Sinai.
Before the reconciliation, ROCOR's status with regard to full communion was not entirely clear-cut. There was never a formal declaration of a break in communion made between ROCOR and most other Orthodox churches, though in many dioceses concelebration had been suspended. In others, concelebration was active. A formal declaration of breaking communion with the OCA was issued by the ROCOR Synod after the Moscow Patriarchate issued the Tomos of Autocephaly to the OCA. (See: ROCOR and OCA.) Generally Orthodox Christians from all local Orthodox churches were welcome to the chalice in ROCOR churches. There was never a declaration from the ROCOR synod that grace did not exist in the New Calendar jurisdictions, in spite of statements to the contrary by the followers of Holy Transfiguation Monastery in Boston when they were still with the Synod.
ROCOR formerly maintained communion with a few Old Calendarist jurisdictions, including the Holy Synod in Resistance (True Orthodox Church of Greece, so-called "Cyprianites"), the Old Calendar Orthodox Church of Romania (Synod of Metropolitan Vlasie), and the Old Calendar Orthodox Church of Bulgaria (Bishop Photii). In 2006, communion with the Holy Synod in Resistance was suspended, after the ROCOR Synod received a letter from Metropolitan Cyprian of Oropos and Fili stating that Metropolitan Laurus' name had been "struck from the diptych."  Relations with the Synod of Metropolitan Vlasie and with Bishop Photii of Triaditza were subsequently severed as well.
As of 2007, with the reconciliation with Moscow, the ROCOR is now in communion with all of mainstream Orthodoxy by virtue of its incorporation into the Moscow Patriarchate.
- Metropolitan Laurus (Skurla) of New York and Eastern America, First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, Ruling Bishop of the Syracuse-Holy Trinity Diocese, Locum Tenens of the Eastern part of the Diocese of Montreal and Canada
- Archbishop Alypy (Gamanovich) of Chicago and Mid-America
- Archbishop Mark (Arndt) of Berlin, Germany and of Great Britain
- Archbishop Hilarion (Kapral) of Sydney, Australia and New Zealand
- Archbishop Kyrill (Dmitrieff) of San Francisco and Western America, Locum Tenens of the Western part of the Diocese of Montreal and Canada
- Bishop Michael (Donskoff) of Geneva and Western Europe
- Bishop Evtikhii (Kurochkin) of Domodedovo, Patriarchal Vicar for the service of Synodal parishes in Russia
- Bishop Daniel (Alexandrow) of Erie, Vicar of the President of the Synod of Bishops for the service of Old Believers
- Bishop Gabriel (Chemodakov) of Manhattan, Vicar of the Eastern American and New York Diocese
- Bishop Agapit (Gorachek) of Stuttgart, Vicar of the German Diocese
- Bishop Peter (Loukianoff) of Cleveland, Vicar of the Chicago Diocese
- Bishop Ambrose (Cantacuzène), Retired, formerly of Geneva and Western Europe
- Bishop Varnava (Prokofiev), Retired, formerly of Cannes, Vicar for the Western European diocese
- Bishop Agafangel (Pashkovsky), suspended. Formerly bishop of Odessa and the Crimea
- Bishop Alexander (Mileant) of Buenos Aires and South America (reposed September 13, 2005 )
- Bishop Mitrophan (Znosko-Borovsky) of Boston, reposed February 15, 2002.
- Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (Official site, Russian)
- Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (Official site, English)
- ROCA: A collection of Russian Orthodox Materials (Unofficial site)
- History of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, by St. John Maximovitch
- Bishops of the ROCOR
- "Glory be to God, Who Did Not Abandon His Church": The Self-Awareness of ROCOR at the Third All-Diaspora Council of 1974, by Nun Vassa (Larin)
- Voices of Reason, a collection of articles in response to those who oppose the reconciliation of ROCOR with the MP