An Interview with Metropolitan Laurus by Pavel Korobov of the Russian Kommersant Newspaper
Pavel Korobov: How do you characterize the initial stage of discussions between the ROCOR and the ROC/MP? Is this the beginning of unification, or is it simply the establishment of diplomatic relations?
Metropolitan Laurus: The forthcoming trip to Russia will, I hope, serve as the beginning of a pre-conciliar process, which will lead to the resolution of questions and problems that raised barriers between the different parts of the Russian Church as a result of the tragedy of 1917, and the restoration of prayerful-eucharistic communion through mutual repentance for the errors and mistakes which occurred during the years that were so difficult for the Church.
PK: Without doubt, the ROC hopes to use the influence of ROCOR among its flock abroad in its resistance to the Patriarchate of Constantinople. Can you help Patriarch Alexey in this?
ML: The present actions of the Patriarchate of Constantinople do not correspond to the canonical norms and structure of the Orthodox Church, specifically the widening of jurisdiction to the canonical territories of the Russian Church. It should be added that the Greek Church is also against the actions of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, not to mention the other Local Churches. The mutual relationship between the Orthodox Churches must foster Orthodox unity and must always be based on mutual goodwill and brotherly love, not on ambitious claims.
PK: It is well known that the Moscow Patriarchate has a negative view of existing and newly-developing parishes of ROCOR in Russia. If the ROC helps the ROCOR win positions in Europe, will the Moscow Patriarchate be more loyal to them? What benefits overall do you see for the Church Outside Russia in the rapprochement with the ROC/MP?
ML: The status of the parishes of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia in Russia will naturally be discussed in the course of the joint work of the committees of the two Churches, and we hope will be resolved positively. The Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia has not sought, nor does it seek, to gain anything, but seeks a way to understand our common foundations and mutual understanding, it seeks to overcome divisions through conciliar repentance and brotherly love and everything else will stem from this situation.
PK: How do you envision the coexistence of the parallel ecclesiastical structures of the ROCOR and the ROC/MP?
ML: Outside the borders of Russia, we do not see the need to introduce any significant changes. It is hoped that in those places where parishes of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia and the Russian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate are near each other, peaceful and friendly coexistence could develop in order to fulfill the one mission of the Christian witness to the Risen God and Saviour. The future establishment and organization of dioceses and parishes outside Russia will be discussed during meetings, while in Russia, we will try to resolve the matter of parishes of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia in a spirit of peace and prayerful unity.
PK: How do you envision the administrative organization of the two parts of the Russian Church, if the process of integration is successful, that is, what jurisdiction will the Church Outside Russia have (Autonomy, Autocephaly, a Metropolia subject to the ROC/MP)?
ML: Over the more than 80 years of the independent existence of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, she has not only preserved the succession, traditions and customs of the Russian Church, but she has also acquired an identity which has helped her preserve her Orthodox heritage in foreign, heterodox surroundings. She has been able to impart to several generations of Russian Orthodox people in exile the treasure of Orthodoxy and the ideals of Holy Russia. This service must continue in the light of experience gained and practices developed, but also taking into account the newly-developing situation. The Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia has been a unifying force among Russian Orthodox faithful, not only those who suddenly found themselves outside Russia, but also those who were born and raised there. The Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia has also fulfilled her service of witness by contradicting blasphemous lies and stating to the world the truth about the persecutions and sufferings of the Russian Orthodox Church in the hands of the godless state, and about the numerous martyrs and confessors of the Faith of Christ. The situation of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia in the countries of the worldwide Russian diaspora has its own unique characteristics. The legal status of its structures is determined by local civil laws. The fourth generation of her clergymen has been brought up and educated outside Russia, they know the language, customs and culture of the countries they reside in. For this reason, to radically change the autonomous structure of the administration of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia at this stage is not practical.
PK: How will property disputes between ROCOR and the ROC/MP be resolved? In part, one of the central questions remains the property of the Church Outside Russia in the Holy Land, which is claimed by the ROC, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Israeli authorities etc. How do you propose to resolve these problems?
ML: With regard to property, the ownership of real and other Church property is also regulated by the laws of the specific country. Sudden changes in this regard would make no sense, and so it is necessary to keep the status quo. Future decisions can be made through new forms of co-operation which are constructive for local Church life. In this way, the previous acute conflicts, which have occurred in various places, can be avoided.
PK: What role does President Vladimir Putin of Russia play in the rapprochement? Do you plan to meet the Russian President, and if so, what questions would you like to discuss with him?
ML: The President of Russia has a positive view of the nascent process of rapprochement between the two parts of the one Russian Church, which is not without his support. Of course, I would be happy to meet him, but in the light of the President's busy schedule, it is not yet clear if this will occur. At the present time, I will not speak of the questions we would like to discuss with him, since, as I said, his time is limited and it is not clear to what extent we could discuss matters of interest to us.
PK: In the information given out on your visit, it has been said that 'during the course of the visit agreements are expected to be signed, and these will determine the canonical, pastoral and practical ecclesiastical foundations for the unity of the Russian Church'. It is true that other sources state that you do not plan to sign anything. What can you say about this?
This will be a fact-finding visit, and also an earnest effort on the part
of our Church to seek a path to find our common foundations and mutual
understanding. With regard to determining the canonical, pastoral and
practical ecclesiastical bases for the unity of the Russian Church, these
matters will be discussed and elaborated by the joint activities of the
committees established by the Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox
Church Outside Russia and the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate.