Russian Orthodox Church in Exile

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The Russian Orthodox Church in Exile (ROCE/ROCIE) is a jurisdiction formed in 2001 in protest against and breaking from the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR), primarily over the latter's ongoing rapprochement process with the Moscow Patriarchate. The ROCE still sometimes uses the ROCOR/ROCA name and regards itself as the true ROCOR.

The two jurisdictions are sometimes distinguished, especially by those in the breakaway jurisdiction, as ROCOR (V) (ROCE) and ROCOR (L) (the mainstream ROCOR), the initial in parentheses referring to the primate of each group.


The ROCE was led by Metropolitan Vitaly (Ustinov) of New York, who had retired as the primate of the ROCOR, but passed away on September 25, 2006. Upon the formation of the ROCE Metr. Vitaly was declared by it to have been retired forcibly by his enemies in ROCOR. According to their description of events, he then removed to Canada, where he governed the ROCE. It is contrarily claimed by critics of this jurisdiction that the aged Vitaly was kidnapped and was essentially a figurehead, being unfit for episcopal governance. Courts in Canada and New York have rejected this claim after taking into account multiple court-mandated psychiatric evaluations.[1] However, it should be noted that the erratic behavior of Metropolitan Vitaly caused several factions of the ROCE to claim at various times the very thing that they denied earlier—namely, that the metropolitan was being taken advantage of by unscrupulous people, and so various epistles, actions, or ukazes should be ignored. [2].

Current status

Following the repose of Metropolitan Vitaly, the ROCIE has broken into several rival jurisdictions. In 2006, the group's only legitimate bishop, Varnava (Prokofiev) of Cannes asked to return, and was reaccepted into, the ROCOR. The group subsequently splintered into four groups.

  • A group of clergy and parishioners from Bp. Varnava's diocese joined a self-proclaimed sect, the so-called Russian True Orthodox Church.
  • A group called the "Russian Orthodox Church" (Rossiiskaya Pravoslavnaya Tserkov'), commonly referred to as RosPTs, RossPTs, or ROCIE (A), headed by Nikita Orlov ("Metropolitan Anthony of Moscow and All Russia, Los Angeles and All Abroad") (1). The group also
  • A group splintering from the Nikita Orlov, which also uses the name "Russian Orthodox Church", commonly referred to as the "Zinoviev-Balabanov faction". It is headed by Damaskin Balabanov and Ioann Zinoviev. (2)
  • A group still using the name "Russian Orthodox Church in Exile", headed out of Mansonville by Vladimir Tselischev commonly called ROCIE (V). (3) There have been rumors of a split within this group between Tselischev and Anthony Rudey, the bishop in Moldova, though this has not been confirmed officially.

According to its website, the ROCIE currently has twelve parishes, missions and home chapels, along with one convent, in the United States; eight parishes, missions and chapels, along with two monastic sketes, in Canada; two parishes and one convent in South America; eleven parishes and missions in Europe; and a "deanery" of clergy and monastics in Russia, at twenty-three parishes and three monasteries. The ROCE also has a handful of clergy and laymen throughout the world which hold allegiance to it but may not have any parish associated with them, and a number of communities across Russia which remain unlisted to avoid unwanted attention from the state.


  1. New York Supreme Court, Part 34, Index No. 500180/2001, Chemodakov v. Oustinow, p. 11
  2. For example, on the "official" ROCE site that is under the control of Anthony Orlov, we find this statement claiming that a "group of common thugs led by L. D. Rosnyansky [had] isolated the First Hierarch against his will from his Assistant and members present at the Sobor..." (August 16, 2006)[1]; and then on this page, we find claims that the metropolitan was being taken advantage of by these same people, and that these people managed to get Metropolitan Vitaly to sign documents he would not have agreed to.[2] It should be noted that these "thugs" are the same people who talked Metropolitan Vitaly into leaving the ROCOR Synod immediately after the election of Metropolitan Laurus, which he had taken part in, and initially approved of.[3] Then on the rival "official" web site of the ROCIE, we find this letter, in which a group of bishops in Russia are condemned for having somehow "managed to acquire [Metropolitan Vitaly's] written blessing to perform their proposed episcopal elevations and to create an ecclesiastical administration in the form of some sort of parallel Synod", which the group in Mansonville did not consider to be authoritative, because the Metropolitan acted on his own, having again been taken advantage of by unscrupulous people (August, 21 2002).[4] See also this page, April 20 2002. All of this is very much like what occurred in the last couple of years that Metropolitan Vitaly was First Hierarch of ROCOR. In synod meetings he would sign on to statements, and then subsequently issue epistles taking back what he had said, only to again contradict his epistles at the next Synod meeting.[5]

External links

Pro-ROCE sites

Anti-ROCE sites