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.


At the Council of Bishops of the ROCOR in 2001, Metropolitan Vitaly officially retired in protest as the First-Hierarch of the ROCOR, though attempts to retract what was done on his part were ignored. The reason given was that it was clear that a large faction had already decided upon union with the Moscow Patriarchate and the Metropolitan wanted no part of the union. Archbishop Laurus was immediately elected the new First-Hierarch by secret ballot, winning by a majority of one vote (the Metropolitan did not participate). Metropolitan Vitaly congratulated Arcbishop Laurus on his election and then left the Synod for ROCOR's Holy Transfiguration Skete in Mansonville, Quebec.

In Mansonville, Metropolitan Vitaly was joined by Bishop Varnava, the then suspended vicar bishop of ROCOR's Western European Diocese. Shortly after taking up residence in Mansonville, Metroplitan Vitaly issued a declaration, stating that he had been forcibly removed from his position as First Hierarch and that he was withdrawing his resignation. Bishop Varnava then ordained Hieromonks Sergius (Kindiakov) and Vladimir (Tselischev) to the episcopacy. The new group became called the Russian Orthodox Church in Exile, and was led by Metropolitan Vitaly.

Almost immediately, the ROCiE began to fracture because of internal infighting. Conflict broke out between Bishop Varnava and Protopresbyter Benjamin Zhukov of Paris, France, the rector of ROCiE's largest parish and acting ROCiE secretary. As a result, Bishop Varnava, who was suspended by the ROCiE Synod, declared the ROCiE's actions uncanonical. Bishop Varnava subsequently petitioned to be received back into the ROCOR, a petition granted at the ROCOR's 2006 Council of Bishops.

Critics of the ROCiE claim that the aged Vitaly was kidnapped and was essentially a figurehead, being unfit for episcopal governance, while ROCiE affairs were run by Zhukov and L.D. Rosnyanskaya, the aged Metropolitan's secretary. Courts in Canada and New York have rejected the claim that Metropolitan Vitaly was psychologically unfit 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 ROCiE 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 re-accepted into the ROCOR. Following bitter infighting and accusation of misusing Metropolitan Vitaly, the group splintered into five factions.

  • A group of clergy and parishioners from Bp. Varnava's Western European diocese joined the Russian True Orthodox Church, a self-proclaimed offshoot of ROCOR's activity in Russia in the 1990's.
  • 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"). The group includes Victor Pivovarov, "Bishop of Slavyansk and Southern Russia. ROCIE (A)(A).
  • A group splintering from the Nikita Orlov, which also uses the name "Russian Orthodox Church" (RosPTs), commonly referred to as the ROCIE(A)(D) or the "Zinoviev-Balabanov faction". It is headed by Damaskin Balabanov and Ioann Zinoviev. ROCIE(A)(D)
  • A group still using the name "Russian Orthodox Church in Exile", headed out of Mansonville, Canada, by Vladimir Tselischev. It is commonly called the ROCIE(V)(V). ROCIE(V)(V)
  • A group (the ROCIE(V)(A)) headed out of Moldova by Anthony Rudei[3]

According to its website, the ROCIE(V)(V) 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 membership figures of the other ROCIEs are unknown. The various ROCIEs may have a handful of clergy and laymen throughout the world which hold allegiance to them 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.

The various ROCIEs do not maintain communion with each other or with any other jurisdiction.


  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]
  3. Extraordinary Statement (of the ROCIE(V)(V)

External links

Pro-ROCE sites

Anti-ROCE sites