Articles Deacon Andrei Psarev Kizenko, Dr. Nadieszda Moscow Patriarchate Non-Orthodox

The Russian Church Abroad, the Moscow Patriarchate, and Their Participation in Ecumenical Assemblies during the Cold War, 1948-1964

The Cold War reached into unexpected spheres. Among its consequences were the attitudes of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR) and the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) toward participation in such ecumenical and inter-Christian gatherings as the World Council of Churches.

This is not to say that the Cold War was the only factor in shaping the responses of both churches to ecumenical activity. Political events, personal relations among clerics, theological attitudes expressed at the assemblies — all played a part. By and large, both the ROCOR and the ROC sought to witness to “traditional” Orthodoxy. Still, the larger political struggle between Communism and its opponents created a climate that influenced the attitudes of Russian Orthodox hierarchs and clerics in both churches. Given the close relationship of the Moscow Patriarchate (MP) with the Soviet state, the ROC was often directly affected by Soviet religious policies. Despite some initial misgivings, for example, the ROC ultimately used international ecumenical assemblies as a means of advancing an agenda set in part by the Soviet state. By contrast, although the ROCOR maintained an anti-Communist stance, its attitudes to the ecumenical movement were not tied to concrete American policies. Some key moments in the relationship of both the ROCOR and the ROC with the ecumenical movement show how much they were — and were not — shaped by the Cold War context. Examining those moments provides a useful way to consider the impact of the Cold War on representatives of Russian Orthodox churches operating in Soviet and in American political structures.

The ROCOR’s anti-Communist pedigree was clear even before the Cold War began. The Russian Church Abroad 1 was founded in November 1920 in Istanbul by bishops evacuating the Crimea with General Wrangel’s White Russian Army. Opposition to Communism consistently characterized the ROCOR’s political position wherever its headquarters were located, whether in Serbia from 1921 to 1944, in Munich from 1946 to 1950, or in New York from 1950 onward. 2

The ROCOR’s attitudes to inter-Christian activity were less clear-cut. In the interwar period, the ROCOR kept inter-Christian activity to a minimum. 3 Still, the ROCOR did take part in two 1937 inter-Christian conferences: one on Life and Work in Oxford, and the other on Faith and Order in Edinburgh. At both conferences, Bishop Serafim (Lade) of Potsdam represented the ROCOR Synod of Bishops. 4 His participation helped to crystallize ROCOR attitudes. 5 Should the ROCOR maintain that the Orthodox Church was the sole repository of truth, and therefore any discussions with non-Orthodox were pointless — or could inter-Christian dialogues be an opportunity for Orthodox Christian witness?

An official resolution on the attitude toward the ecumenical movement adopted by the ROCOR bishops’ council of 1938 became a product of the compromise between these two visions. The first paragraph of the resolution followed the “defensive” position by stating that only the Orthodox Church was a genuine una Sancta. 6 The second paragraph, however, took care to distinguish between the leaders of the ecumenical movement who are “close to anti-Christian Masonic organizations and even expressed sympathy for Bolshevism,” 7 and other people in the ecumenical movement who were “full of desire, searching for the truth, loving Orthodoxy and striving toward it.” 8 Therefore, witnessing to those Christians in the ecumenical movement searching for “true Orthodoxy” might be a valid reason to participate.

Before the Cold War, the more open second paragraph formed the dominant ROCOR attitude. ROCOR bishops’ desire to participate reflected another concern as well. They feared that other, non-ROCOR, Orthodox representatives at the ecumenical meetings might give a distorted presentation of the Orthodox faith. Therefore, in the third paragraph of their 1938 resolution, bishops required ROCOR representatives at such meetings to “uncompromisingly [explain] the doctrine of the Orthodox church and its views on all matters arising with connection with the ecumenical movement,” and “not to participate in common prayers with the participants, nor in vocal and submitted resolutions restricting missionary and informational activities.” 9 The ROCOR hierarchy’s still-open attitude appears in a key phrase in the files of the bishops’ council, which nevertheless they did not put in the printed text: “to charge Bishop Serafim [Lade] of Potsdam to participate in this [ecumenical] movement for missionary purposes”. 10 On the eve of the Second World War, then, ROCOR did admit the possibility of inter-Christian dialogue for the purposes of missionary activity.

The Cold War Begins and Ecumenical Activity Resumes: The First Assembly of the World Council of Churches, Amsterdam 1948

Wartime years of isolation in Serbia under the Nazis, and the ROCOR bishops’ position as displaced persons, largely removed the ecumenical question from the ROCOR agenda. 11 After the war, ecumenical activity tentatively resumed. The minutes of the synodal missionary committee record a request to ask Bishop Nafanail (L’vov) and one Dr. Lodyzhenskii to inform the committee on the work of an ecumenical conference that was to take place in Oslo in June of 1947. 12 The 1948 rescheduling in Amsterdam of the prewar planned unification of the Faith and Order and Life and Work movements into the World Council of Churches, however, revealed a new factor in the attitudes of other Christian bodies to the ROCOR. Changes in religious politics in the USSR called into question ROCOR’s participation.

This quickly became clear. On September 4, 1948, the synod of bishops informed Mikhail Zyzykin that he could not be assigned to participate in Amsterdam as a representative of the ROCOR not only because “we do not participate in the ecumenical council” (which was the familiar “defensive” position) but also for the simple reason that the synod had not received an invitation from Amsterdam. 13 An anonymous article published a few months before the Amsterdam Assembly declared that representatives of the ROCOR were not invited to Amsterdam by the general secretariat of the assembly because of the fear of compromising future relations between the ecumenical movement and the “Soviet Church.” 14 The assertion was not unfounded. The general secretariat of the WCC did indeed have to deal with a delicate question. Metropolitan Nikolai of Krutitsy, who had received an invitation from the WCC general secretariat, responded on August 1, 1948. His letter expressed both gratitude for the invitation and a refusal to participate in the ecumenical movement. For our purposes, the interesting thing is something else he wrote. As a representative of the Moscow Patriarchate, he sought to have the authority of his church accepted as the sole legitimate “Russian” church; thus he hoped that the WCC would not consider those Russians under the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the “schismatics” from the groups of Metropolitan Feofil in America, 15 and the ROCOR Metropolitan Anastasii in Munich as the representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church. Indeed, he called them groups which “have nothing in common with the Russian Orthodox Church.” 16

Metropolitan Nikolai’s statement reflected the abrupt shift in Soviet policy with regard to the Orthodox Church. In exchange for physical survival and some room for activity at home, the ROC was expected to serve Soviet interests abroad through its international contacts. And Soviet interests after the Second World War had significantly expanded. Because of the geopolitical situation of the Cold War, the USSR could now influence, directly or indirectly, areas home to the Polish, Albanian, Czech, Romanian, Bulgarian, and Serbian Orthodox churches. It attempted to establish a unified Orthodox church in Hungary. Indeed, as Daniela Kalkandjieva has demonstrated, Stalin envisioned turning the Moscow Patriarchate into a kind of Soviet Vatican for the Orthodox. 17 But the interests of the Soviet government went beyond its newly Communist East European bloc. It also sought to foster support and sympathy in Western Europe as well as in the United States for its aims. In the pursuit of these aims, the anti-Communist stance of the Vatican was clearly an obstacle. All these represented challenges and opportunities. To implement policies directed by the Council for Religious Affairs and the Council for ROC Affairs, the ROC’s Department of External Church Affairs was formed in 1949. 18

The means that the ROCOR had at its disposal, and its aims, were more modest than they had been before the war. Its representatives had not been invited to Amsterdam. Some clerics and hierarchs continued to resist ecumenical participation in principle. After the assembly in Amsterdam, Archpriest Igor Troianov from Switzerland sent a letter 19 to Archpriest Georgii Grabbe, the secretary of the synod, expressing his hope that the ROCOR would not compromise with the Protestant tendencies of the WCC; it was important for those Protestants who were close to Orthodoxy, he thought, that the ROCOR did not settle with the more liberal ones. Thus the ROCOR was driven by an urge to maintain ties to conservative Protestants disposed to Orthodoxy, not to further a Cold War agenda. This letter was heard at the meeting of the synod of bishops on April 13, 1949, in the presence of Metropolitan Anastasii, Metropolitan Serafim (Lade), Archbishop Venedikt (Bobkovskii), and Bishop Evlogii (Markovskii). That group resolved to explain to Troianov that, in accordance with previous resolutions of the bishops’ council and the synod, the ROCOR was not participating in the ecumenical movement. The bishops’ council considered it possible to be present at the various conferences only for the exposition of Orthodox teaching. 20

The First Postwar Statement on Ecumenism

On November 29, 1950, the council of bishops in Mahopac, New York, heard Troianov’s written report regarding the possibility of the ROCOR’s participation in the ecumenical movement. 21 While critically mentioning the ecumenical statements of Fathers Bulgakov and Zen’kovskii, Troianov positively commented on the ecumenical participation of the representatives of Eastern Orthodoxy, who with few exceptions defended the Orthodox viewpoint. The author referred to Father Georges Florovsky, who claimed that the Orthodox must participate in the ecumenical movement in order to witness to the truth in face of the world. 22 But Troianov believed otherwise. Although the Toronto declaration of the WCC (1950) in its third section stated that “The World Council of Churches is not and must never become a Super-Church,” in reality the ecumenical movement was a federated church with a Protestant worldview. All this led Troianov to suggest that the ROCOR bishops not participate in the ecumenical movement in its present form. After this report was discussed, a commission was established to compose the resolution regarding the ecumenical movement. This resolution, composed by Archbishop Ioann (Maksimovich) of Western Europe, Bishop Nafanail (Lvov), and Bishop Nikon (Rklitskii), was accepted by the council of bishops on the same day. Its text is more categorical than the resolution of the Second Pan-Diaspora Council of 1938:

1. Orthodox Christians must recognize the Holy Orthodox Church as the one and only Church of Christ;
2. Because of that, it is impossible to participate in any non-Orthodox religious movements, societies, or organizations;
3. Cooperation with the heterodox is possible only in the spheres of social work and charity with the preservation of full independence in the efforts of faith and confession;
4. Orthodox Christians, following Christ’s teaching, must show love and goodwill toward all, without differentiation of their faith and nationality, trying to help in their needs and to be thankful to those who beneficiated them. 23

Note that, compared to the resolution of 1938, the bishops’ council document does not even mention the possibility for ROCOR’s representatives to participate in ecumenical discussions. Still, this appears to be a function of theology, not Cold War politics.

The Death of Stalin and Its Impact

Stalin’s death in 1953 and the ascent of Nikita Khrushchev as the new chairman of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) brought changes both to Soviet general religious politics and to the attitude toward the Vatican. Despite a new wave of antireligious policies in the USSR, the state’s expectations for the ROC to continue its international activity for the benefit of Soviet foreign interests remained unchanged. 24 Stalin’s death appears to have had no effect on the now US-based ROCOR. Archpriest Georgii Grabbe submitted a memorandum containing guidelines for relations with the heterodox based on the precedents of different ROCOR dioceses to the bishops’ council of 1953. 25 The authoritative status of this document as instruction for clergy was established by the council on October 26, 1953; this was confirmed by the synod on September 26, 1974. This document returned to the position of the 1938 bishops’ council regarding witness for the Orthodox faith among the non-Orthodox. On the one hand, one must follow church rules, and on the other, one must be kind to benevolent non-Orthodox people. Priests and parishes were under no circumstances allowed to enter local councils of churches. Only priests having a sufficient theological background and the blessing of their bishops were allowed to participate in Protestant conferences, in order to explain dogmatic or practical questions.

The Assembly of the WCC in Evanston, Illinois, 1954

In accordance with the 1950 resolution on ecumenism, Metropolitan Anastasii refused to participate in the pre-Evanston conference of the International League of Apostolic Faith and Order, which was scheduled for July 1954 in Racine, Wisconsin. In his letter of May 27, 1954, to the Reverend Michael Bruce, organizing secretary of the conference, Anastasii wrote: “Our Church does not participate in the Oecumenical movement, it is not a member of the Council of Churches and will not be represented at Evanston. Moreover, we are not informed sufficiently about the preparations for the Evanston conference and its points of issue… But we do not think that any agreement between different Churches can be achieved in matters of Faith, and for this reason, we have never applied for membership in the Oecumenical movement. Therefore I am afraid we would not be helpful in a meeting which is aimed to be preparatory to the Evanston Conference, although its members consist of most distinguished persons who, as far as I understand, are some of the nearest to our Church in regard to their Catholically minded conceptions.” 26

Nevertheless, from Archpriest Georgii Grabbe’s letter to Metropolitan Anastasii of July 14, 1954, it appears that Anastasii wanted him to go to the Evanston conference in the capacity of observer. Grabbe received an invitation from Paul F. Anderson, who said that his presence as an observer would be desirable. 27 In his reply of July 20, 1954, Grabbe wrote that, although one should avoid participation in the ecumenical movement, “since we are invited as observers, I think it is possible to accept a personal invitation in accordance with our original practice.” 28

There may have been other factors in Metropolitan Anastasii’s decision. The WCC had provided help to the Russian refugees in Europe and Asia. 29 Indirectly, the Cold War played a role as well. A ROCOR press release issued prior to Evanston stated: “We very much appreciate the manifestations of Christian love on the part of the World Council of Churches in regard to refugees who had to leave their countries behind the ‘Iron Curtain’ in order not only to save their lives but also to maintain the liberty of their conscience.” The press release (August 13, 1954) of the synod of bishops contained a statement by Grabbe, who was on his way to Evanston as an observer to be informed of the activities of the WCC. 30 Stating its belief in the Orthodox Church as the only true church, the document explained why the ROCOR could not join the WCC:

“There are Orthodox Churches who find it possible to participate, with some reserve, in the World Council of Churches in order to witness the Orthodox Faith in the fold of the ecumenical movement.

We, however, assume a different position in this respect. Since we believe the Orthodox Church to be the true Church, we consider it more consistent to withhold from being members of an organization which is founded with the aim to find what is believed as the Truth by various Christian Communities and achieve the formation of a body uniting them all. Such Truth would necessarily be found on some dogmatic minimum acceptable to all the members and such a body if ever achieved would be a new Church but not the one we believe in.” 31

In private conversation at Evanston, Grabbe was able to clarify why the ROCOR did not participate in the WCC, and his clarifications were met with-out any vexation. In a letter written to Anastasii from Evanston on August 21, 1954, Grabbe singled out the report of Father Georges Florovsky at the assembly as more or less satisfactory. 32 Moreover, Dr. W. F. Goiterman associated Florovsky s ideas at Evanston with the position of the Second Pan-Diaspora Council: “During a congress in Yugoslavia in 1938 of Russian Orthodox migrants, it was stated that participation in the Öecumenische movement was only taking place to be able to explain the Creed of the Church and to give information. They refused to make any compromise with respect to the Creed, and will therefore not vote about points of Creed and church order. According to this principle, Mr. Florovsky said in Evanston during the discussions in Section I, that the division of the Church has to be considered as a partition of the Church. It is not for the Orthodoxy to recognize other churches as living parts of the Universal Church, because they lack completeness. Hierarchy, dogma, completeness; and to be truly church, one cannot miss one of those just mentioned… The Orthodox Church is the only Church of Christ, therefore responsible to be the witness for truth in the world.” 33

In an article written not long after the assembly, Grabbe agreed with the position of the Orthodox participants regarding section 1 of Faith and Order. 34 Archbishop Michael of the Greek archdiocese clearly stated that the whole approach of the section toward the problem of reunification was completely unacceptable from the point of view of the Orthodox Church. Florovsky was also right, Grabbe notes, when he said that in ecumenical conversations and brotherly exchanges of opinion, a point had been reached beyond which it was more and more difficult to speak with a common voice, to make agreed on statements or unify in common action.

Grabbe’s assessment of the Evanston Assembly led to a stricter attitude of the ROCOR toward the WCC. In his letter of November 11, 1955, to the Reverend Dr. G. Merill Lennox of the Michigan Council of Churches, Metropolitan Anastasii wrote: “The Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia does not belong to the World Council of Churches and is not affiliated to the National Councils. We have, however, had a very fruitful and friendly period of cooperation with the World Council of Churches and with Church World Service in practical matters of welfare and resettlement for the past several years. Yet we feel that membership in the Council of Churches would involve certain implications which do not fit in with our conception of the dogma of the nature of the Church. For this reason, our Church as a whole, and also our local communities, have never participated in the Ecumenical movement. At Evanston, we were therefore represented only by an observer.” 35

Again, ROCOR’s reluctance to actively participate in the ecumenical movement stems less from Cold War politics than from theological attitudes. Moscow’s trajectory was rather different. As early as 1959, there was some discussion about ROC representatives attending Vatican II. 36 On April 27, 1961, the Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate announced that it had applied for membership in the WCC. Thus continued the integration of churches from the Soviet bloc into the WCC begun in Evanston. In November 1961, a delegation of the Moscow Patriarchate came to New Delhi for the Third Assembly of the WCC. Now, however, the ROCOR began to be more explicit about opposing Moscow’s claims to Russian universality, and in equating the Moscow Patriarchate with Soviet control. Father Grabbe took the floor at an ecumenical meeting in Seneca Falls, New York, in October 1961 and stated that “the Kremlin-controlled prelates are not authentic representatives of the Russian Orthodox people.’” 37

Father Lazarus (Moore), the ROCOR’s clergyman in India, was assigned as the official observer at the New Delhi Assembly. 38 On March 31, 1962, Archimandrite Lazarus reported his disagreement that the WCC assembly protested against the brutality of the Portuguese in Angola but did not protest against Khrushchev’s persecution in the USSR. But his overall comments were favorable: “This meeting of persons of differing persuasions helps to fix our minds on what is positive, rather than what is negative. We all have much in common in Christ, we all share a Spirit, not of this world, we have and seek a supernatural grace for a supernatural life of service to God and man… We need to thank God far more for the work of non-Orthodox Christians.’ But for their zealous and devoted labors, the world would be in a desperate state indeed.” 39 Lazarus’s irenic attitude prompted Metropolitan Anastasii to send Archpriest Georgii Romanov to New Delhi, since Father Lazarus seemed more interested in “ecumenical ideology” than in finding out more on the “malicious activity of the pro-communists.” Lazarus, nevertheless, was present at the assembly in the capacity of official observer and was thanked for his report by the synod of bishops at their meeting on June 13, 1962. 40

The Reception of the Moscow Patriarchate in the WCC

The December 1962 responses of Archbishop Savva of Australia and New Zealand to a questionnaire from an unnamed source provide additional insights on the relations of the ROCOR toward the WCC. [/ref] Archive of the Synod, File 5/48. [/ref] Regarding the question how the reception of the Moscow Patriarchate into the WCC would influence the life of the Russian church in Australia, Savva answered that if the local representatives of the WCC, because of their official relations with the Moscow Patriarchate, would decide to help them get legal status for their parishes, then the free part of the Russian church in Australia would face troubles. For Savva, it was clear that, by receiving the Moscow Patriarchate, the WCC would experience the same influence that the UN was experiencing as a result of the membership of the USSR. It might place the WCC in a difficult situation, for instance, regarding the defense of the oppressed faithful in Communist countries. Nothing good would result from Moscow’s communications with the WCC; the Soviet government would not allow it. By accepting the Moscow Patriarchate, the WCC had abandoned its freedom. This is a reasonably clear example of the Cold War context in ROCOR attitudes to ecumenical participation.

Grabbe, by contrast, focused on the implications of ecumenical participation itself. 41 He criticized the Greek theologian Nikolaos Nissiotis for declaring that the term “Orthodox” was “not exclusive, but an inclusive term which goes beyond the limits of the churches which call themselves Orthodox. It includes all those churches and believers who seek to offer an honest confession and achieve a life which is untouched by heresies and schisms and to arrive at the wholeness of the divine revelation in Christ.” 42 This statement contradicted all official, previously mentioned statements of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia that emphasized the uniqueness of the Orthodox Church versus other Christian ecclesiastical bodies. Grabbe’s negative reaction toward Nissiotis’s statements was supported by theologians who did not otherwise have much common: Fathers Georges Florovsky and Alexander Schmemann. 43 Moreover, Grabbe explicitly engaged the words of Patriarch Aleksii of Moscow, addressed to the Third Assembly, where he stated that the Russian church never identified witness with proselytism. Such “disarming” of the Orthodox in front of the heterodox was a serious danger for the church, Grabbe argued. The ecumenical movement was a contradiction to the teaching of the Orthodox Church, since “ecumenism does not seek unity in the true faith but replaces it with the fellowship of people of different opinions (raznomysliashchikh).” 44

But the picture of the Orthodox participation in the ecumenical movement had more shades than are represented in the article by Grabbe on the assembly in New Delhi. In his report to the 1962 council of bishops, Metropolitan Anastasii noted that the presence of the ROCOR’s observers at the pan-Orthodox meeting at Rhodes 45 and in New Delhi did not enhance the authority of the representatives of Moscow but helped representatives of the other churches to understand that the ROCOR had serious reasons for its stance. 46 Father Aleksander Trubnikov mentioned that at a Paris meeting, Orthodox representatives, including those of the Moscow Patriarchate, objected to what was unacceptable in the report of Pastor Vergez. The report of the missionary department was met by a similar reaction from the Orthodox representative. 47 Thus it was perfectly possible for Moscow and New York, or rather for ROC and ROCOR, to express similarly anti-ecumenical positions.

Cold War Divergences, 1962-1964

The differences between the ROCOR and the ROC emerged with particular clarity soon afterward. In 1962, a ROCOR epistle of the bishops’ council addressed to the Russian diaspora engaged the Soviet use of Orthodoxy in the Cold War. The first argument was theological: ecumenism was the primary threat posed by modernity. “We cannot place our Church in the same position as different factions of Protestantism, reduce her to the level of a sect. Therefore our Church cannot be a member of the WCC, which you, our spiritual children, should clearly understand.” 48 But then the epistle became more political. It noted that the ROCOR and the Serbian church did not join the WCC, while the churches of the Soviet bloc entered by order of their governments. Why, the epistle asked, did the Orthodox churches of the free world join as well? The WCC had negatively influenced some Orthodox leaders, who began to repeat after the Protestants that the church was apparently divided. Such people confused the faithful and involuntarily posed a question: Is it necessary to believe in the one and holy church, as one reads in the creed? The bishops warned of many protests, particularly in Greece, against confusing statements of the leading hierarchs. They called their flock firmly to confess the dogma of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church and stated that this new heresy would not be introduced into the ROCOR.

By contrast, the ROC moved decisively not only to participate in the ecumenical movement but also to establish closer relations with the Vatican. At a pan-Orthodox council in Rhodes in 1961, the Moscow Patriarchate had taken a strong antiecumenical, anti-Vatican stance, promoting a resolution for the Orthodox churches to act in ecumenical affairs only in complete consensus. But the election of Pope John XXIII, and his speeches urging a peaceful settlement of the September 1961 Berlin crisis and the October 1962 Cuban missile crisis appealed both to Russian hierarchs and to Khrushchev. 49 As a result, even as they pursued an antireligious campaign within the USSR, Soviet diplomats and security agencies began to reach out to the Vatican, and the ROC was expected to contribute accordingly. And it did. At a pan-Orthodox conference in September-October 1963, the ROC’s delegation joined Constantinople in promoting a resolution “to initiate an equitable dialogue with the Roman Catholic Church.” 50 This resolution bore fruit: although individual Orthodox clerics and hierarchs, including Father Alexander Schmemann and the ROCOR’s bishop Antonii of Geneva, attended the first session of Vatican II, for example, the ROC was the only Orthodox church to formally send observers. 51 ROC participation in ecumenical affairs continued through the end of the Cold War.


Thus the ROCOR and the ROC moved along different paths when it came to ecumenical relations during the Cold War. As a church of anti-Bolshevik refugees, the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia could not tolerate the prosocialist or pro-Communist tendencies they sensed at inter-Christian meetings. They were quick to note the influence of the Soviet state on ecumenical participation by the ROC. Nevertheless, particularly in the early years of the Cold War, demand for information about traditional Orthodoxy moved the leaders of the ROCOR to come to ecumenical gatherings in order to clarify Orthodox doctrine and praxis. The aid to Russian refugees provided through the WCC and the unsatisfactory witness for the true faith by other Orthodox at ecumenical meetings also contributed to ROCOR’s willingness to send observers to some WCC assemblies and to Vatican II, even as other ROCOR spokesmen like Father Georgii Grabbe used Orthodox ecclesiology and anti-Communist views for ideological purposes. But ROCOR’s anti-Communist position predated the Cold War, was not directly influenced by US foreign policy and did not affect ROCOR’s participation in ecumenical meetings. By contrast, the ecumenical activity of the ROC seems more directly influenced by Soviet aims regarding foreign policy.


  1. Although the names the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR) and the Russian Church Abroad (RCA) are used interchangeably, first one is an official name.
  2. For a concise English-language summary of the ROCOR, see Dimitry Pospielovsky, The Orthodox Church in the History of Russia (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1998) 219-27,294-99. For the attitudes of the ROCOR to Communism, see Priest Georgii Mitrofanov, Pravoslavnaya Tserkov’ v Rossii I emigracii v 1920e gody (Saint Petersburg: Noah, 1995), and the letters of the ROCOR’s primate, Metropolitan Antonii Khrapovitskii, Zhizneoptsanie: pisma k raznym litsam 1919-1939 godov (Saint Petersburg: izd. Olega Obyshko, 2006). For the attitudes of the ROCOR to the church in Russia, see Andrei Psarev, “Looking toward Unity: how the Russian Church Abroad viewed the Partiarchate of Moscow, 1927-2007”, Greek Orthodox Theological Review 52, nos. 1-4 (2007): 121-43, Andrei Kostriukov, Russkaia Zarubezhnaia Tserkov’ v 1928 – 1938 gg. Iurisdiktsionnye konflikty i otnosheniia s moskovskoi tserkovnoi vlast’iu (Moscow: PSTGU, 2011); and Russkaia Zarubezhnaia Tserkov v 1939-1964 gg. Administrativnoe ustroistvo i otnosheniia s Tserkov’iu v Otechestve (Moscow: PSTGU, 2015).
  3. By contrast, Metropolitan Evlogii represented the Russian church at the preparatory conference of the movement of Life and Work in Geneva in August 1920. In 1927, Evlogii, Father Sergei Bulgakov, and Professor Nikolai Glubokovskii participated in the conference of the movement of Faith and Order in Lausanne. For Metropolitan Evlogii’s account of this, see his Put Moei Zhizni: vospominaniia mitropolita Evlogiya (Georgievskogo), (Moskow: Moskovskii rabochii, 1994).
  4. For Oxford, see Graeme Smith, Oxford 1937: The Universal Christian Council for Life and Work Conference (New York: Peter Lang, 2004). For Edinburgh, see The Edinburgh Conference on Faith and Order: Report of the Committee Appointed by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York (London: Press and Publication Board of the Church Assembly, 1939).
  5. The evolution of the views of the most noticeable representative of the “defensive” approach at the council of 1938 is worth noting. At the first Pan-Diaspora Council m Sremskii Karlovci in 1921, the report of the Missionary Department headed by Bishop Serafim (Sobolev) of Lubny explained the mission of the Orthodox abroad: “To manifest before people of other faith in the diaspora the unfading light of Orthodoxy and the purity and magnificent beauty of her truth” (Deiania russkago zagranichnago tserkovnago sobora sostoiavshagosia 8/21-XI-20/3 XII 1921 goda [Sremski Karlovci, 1922], 76). At the next Pan-Diaspora Council (1938), the same hierarch, Archbishop Serafim, pointed out the example of one Catholic who had become an Orthodox, who for many years searched in his church for Saint Serafim of Sarov. This Catholic decided to join the church where Saint Serafim is found. According to Archbishop Serafim, Christian unification could only take place on the basis of pious life, and therefore the goal of the ecumenical movement was not attainable (Deianiia Vtorogo Vsezarubezhnago Sobora RPTsZ [Belgrade, 1939], 369).
  6. For a contemporary assessment of this attitude, see the working paper of Paul Gavrilyuk, “The Future Pan-Orthodox Council on Relations with the Non-Orthodox Other: A Measured Defense of Christian Unity against Those Who Consider Ecumenism a Heresy,” _Non-Orthodox_Other_A_Measured_Defense_of_Christian_Unity_against_those_who_Consider_Ecumenism_a_Heresy_a_working_paper_.
  7. The resolution of August 28, 1938. Deianiia Vtorogo, 373-74.
  8. Deianiia Vtorogo, 373-74.
  9. Deianiia Vtorogo, 373-74. It is important how the stance of the second Pan-Diaspora Council on ecumenism was received ten years later at the conference of the heads of the autocephalous Orthodox churches, held in July 1948 in Moscow. The response is found in the report by Archpriest Grigorii Razumovskii: “The Russian Orthodox Church thanks God for the understanding which He has bestowed on our Russian brothers abroad, who realized the divergence between true acts of the Church and the acts and intentions of the Oxford Conference of 1937, and who restrained themselves from entering the ecumenical movement at the Karlovci [sic] Council of 1938” (Major Portions of the Proceedings of the Conference of Heads and Representatives of Autocephalous Orthodox Churches in Connection with the Celebration of 500 Years of Autocephalicity of the Russian Orthodox Church: July 8-18,1948, trans. Mrs. O. F. Clarke, ed. Paul B. Anderson [Paris, 1952], 178). Contrarily, Grabbe gave the highest assessment to the Razumovskii report and to the general evaluation of the ecumenical movement by the 1948 conference (Grabbe to Fr. Dimitrii Dudko, 1992, Stanford University Library, Department of Special Collections, M0964, Box 2, Folder 2).
  10. The State Archive of the Russian Federation (GARF), f. 6343, op. 1, d. 18.
  11. Bishop Seraphim, in his report to the second Pan-Diaspora Council on the Oxford conference, mentioned that, prior to his departure to London, he was warned by “people knowledgeable in the spheres of the international policy and informed by the tempers of certain circles [masons] that it is doubtful that the Oxford conference will decide to make an open Anti-Bolshevik appearance” (Deianiia Vtorogo, 313). In 1943 Archpriest V. Zen’kovskii and L. Zander were interrogated at the Propaganda-Abteilung regarding the ecumenical activity (F. G. Spaskii, “Kratkaia letopis’ Akademii,” Pravoslavnaia mysl’: trudy Pravoslavnago Bogoslovskago Instituta v Parizhe 5 [1947]: 149). Lodyzhenskii likely refers to Iurii Il’ich Lodyzhenskii (1888-1977), active in anti-Communist activity both in the interwar and postwar periods. His papers are in the Museum of Russian Culture in San Francisco and are microfilmed in the Hoover Institution.
  12. Archive of the Synod of the Bishops in New York, File 80/46.
  13. That is, the WCC (Archive of the Synod, File 5/48).
  14. “Sredi inoslavnykh: Ekumenicheskoe dvizhenie,” Pravoslavnaia Rus’ 12 (June 11/24, 1948): 15.
  15. A successor to Metropolitan Platon (Rozhdestvenskii, d. 1934), who, along with Metropolitan Evlogii, separated from the bishops in Serbia in 1926.
  16. “The Moscow Patriarchate and the First Assembly of the World Council of Churches,” Ecumenical Review 12 (Winter 1949): 188-89.
  17. See “The Growth of Moscow’s Jurisdiction (1945-1946),” “The Moscow Patriarchate and the Autocephalous Churches outside the Soviet Union (1944-1947),” and “Toward an Eight Ecumenical Council (1944-1948),” in Daniela Kalkandjieva, The Russian Orthodox Church, 1917-1948: From Decline to Resurrection (New York: Routledge, 2015), 207-39, 264-344.
  18. Anastacia Wooden, “‘The Agent of Jesus Christ’: Participation of Fr. Vitali Borovoy in the Second Vatican Council as an Observer from the ROC,” Occasional Papers on Religion in Eastern Europe 36, no. 4 (July 2016): 1-27.
  19. Archive of the Synod, File 1/49.
  20. Archive of the Synod. No reference is available.
  21. Troianov was one of the ROCOR’s experts on the ecumenical movement. As late as 1959, his report on the different currents within the WCC was read at a synod meeting, on November 25 of that year (Archive of the Synod. No reference is available).
  22. Perhaps Florovsky was singled out also because, during the war years, he was a clergyman of the ROCOR in Serbia.
  23. “Opredeleniia,” Tserkovnaia zhizn 1 (July 1951): 2. Metropolitan Anastasii expressed the same reasons for not participating in the National Council of Churches in his letter, written not long after the council, to Father Aleksei Godniaev in Wellington, New Zealand (Archive of the Synod, File 8/36).
  24. Tatiana Chumachenko, “Church-State Relations between 1948 and 1957,” in Chumachenko, Church and State in Soviet Russia: Russian Orthodoxy from World War II to the Khrushchev Years, ed. and trans. Edward E. Roslof (New York: Routledge, 2002), 87-142.
  25. Archive of the Synod, File 5/48. Also found in Bishop Grigorii (Grabbe), Tserkov’ i iia uchenie v zhizni 3 (Jordanville, 1992), 159-60.
  26. Archive of the Synod, File 15/51.
  27. Bishop Grigorii Grabbe, Pis’ma (Moscow, 1998), 10-11. (Grabbe took the name Grigorii when he became a bishop.)
  28. Archive of the Synod, File 15/51.
  29. Archive of the Synod, File 5/48.
  30. Archive of the Synod, File 5/48.
  31. Archive of the Synod, File 5/48.
  32. Grabbe, Pis’ma, 12.
  33. “Eastern Orthodoxy and Oikumene” (Dutch title not available), Gemeenschap der Kerken, April 1955, n.p. An outline of this article is provided to Archpriest Georgii Grabbe by Jan S. F. Van Hoogstraten in his letter from June 17, 1955, written in English (Archive of the Synod, File 5/48).
  34. “Evanstonskaiia konferentsiia,” Tserkov’ i eia uchenie v zhizni 2 (1970): 243-45.
  35. Archive of the Synod, File 5/48.
  36. “Non Possumus!” Zhurnal Moskovskoi Patriarkhii 5 (1961): 73-75; Wooden, “The Agent of Jesus Christ,” 10.
  37. “Moscow, Partner in Quest for Unity,” Catholic Courier Journal: Official Newspaper of the Rochester Diocese, October 27, 1961, 5.
  38. Archive of the Synod. No reference is available.
  39. Archive of the Synod. No reference is available.
  40. Archive of the Synod, File 5/48.
  41. “Rodos i N’iu-Deli,” Tserkov’ i eia uchenie v zhxzni 2 (Montreal, 1970): 260-74.
  42. “The Witness and the Service of Eastern Orthodoxy to the One Undivided Church,” WCC, press release, November 24, 1961.
  43. “Nissiotis’ address expresses his private opinion only and can in no way be regarded as the common Orthodox position” (Florovsky); “I am surprised that this address was allowed to be delivered, because it must have been obvious to everyone, even the heretics, that once in print, it would cause objections” (Schmemann). “Protopresbyter George Grabbe’s Correspondence with Archpriests Georges Florovsky and Alexander Schmemann,” ed. Maria Psarev, trans. Anna Platt, ROCOR Studies, November 2004, /documents/2oi5/i2/i2/protopresbyter-george-grabbe-correspondence-with-archpriests-georges-florovsky-and-alexander-schmemann/.
  44. “Rodos i N’iu-Deli,” 274.
  45. The first Pan-Orthodox Conference was convened in 1961 to set up an agenda for the future Great and Holy Council of the Orthodox Church. The ROCOR was represented there by Archpriest Georgii Romanov.
  46. Archive of the Synod. No reference is available.
  47. “Zasedaniia ekumenicheskago soveta v Parizhe,” Svet Khristov prosveshchaet vsekh 8 (August 1962): 6.
  48. Archive of the Synod. No reference is available.
  49. See the discussion in Vatican II in Moscow (1959-1965), ed. Alberto Melloni (Leuven: Peeters, 1997); Karim Schelkens, “Vatican Diplomacy after the Cuban Missile Crisis: New Light on the Release of Josyf Slipyj,” Catholic Historical Review 97 (October 2011): 679-712; and Vitaly Borovoi, “The Second Vatican Council and Its Significance for the Russian Orthodox Church,” in The Holy Russian Church and Western Christianity, ed. Giuseppe Alberigo and Oscar Beozzo, Concilium 1996/6 (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 1996), 130-42.
  50. Shkarovskii, quoted in Wooden, “The Agent of Jesus Christ,” 9.
  51. Adriano Roccucci, “Russian Observers at Vatican II. The ‘Council for Russian Orthodox Church Affairs’ and the Moscow Patriarchate between Anti-religious Policy and International Strategies,” in Melloni, Vatican II in Moscow (1959-1965), 45-72. See also Wooden, “The Agent of Jesus Christ,” 14.

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