Soviet rule prompted and perpetuated the divisions of the Russian emigration. But the divisions still remained in place when the Soviet Union ended. Initially, a reinvigoration of the Moscow patriarchate was not enough to stimulate moves towards a merger. Yet the patriarchate had not forgotten its imperialist dreams of years gone by. Proposals of 1975 and 1976 were in 2003 reformulated in beguiling terms. The patriarch of Moscow signed the newly refurbished text as his own.32 It was comprehensive in its outreach and addressed the greater part of Europe. Even so, it ignored the patriarchate of Constantinople, including its exarchates, and thereby sought to diminish its status. It also ignored other diasporas, such as the Romanian, Serbian and Antiochean. The text addressed itself only to a Russian audience, or at least to those who belonged to 'the Russian tradition'. All Russian-origin jurisdictions were encouraged to ponder the prospect of a unified metropolitan province of western Europe, which might ultimately form an independent church. Meanwhile, so it was implied, the Moscow patriarchate could be its sponsor during the gestation process.
The proposals provoked some debate. Many European supporters of the Moscow patriarchate thought them to be reasonable and even selfless. There were also Russian members of the Constantinople jurisdiction who raised their voices in support. Yet most of those who had been addressed were left nonplussed. The project seemed burdened by a Wunschzettel which could be seen as Muscovite and even phyletistic to a fault. Was a future church of western Europe necessarily to be concerned only with Russians or, more loosely, with Orthodox Christians 'of Russian background'? There were at the same time other matters which engaged the patriarchate of Moscow. After decades of estrangement, it found itself in dialogue with the Church Abroad. Earlier the patriarchate had repeatedly doubted the latter's canonicity. The Church Abroad, for its part, went further in its rejection of the Moscow patriarchate. It considered it to be a church 'devoid of grace'. All this had to be set aside. By 2004 it was possible for courteous meetings to take place between the leaders of the two churches in Moscow. The president of Russia, Vladimir Putin, who helped to bring about their meeting, suggested that, even in the present situation, it would be false to speak of them as separate churches: 'In the awareness of our people, the Russian Church is one.'33 His was a populist, not to say phyletistic approach. The church leaders were more cautious on the subject: the burdens of the past could hardly be so lightly shed. Meanwhile, the
32 'Poslanie AleksiiaII, PatriarkhaMoskovskogoivseiaRusi',RusskaiaMysl' 14(4451), 10-16 April 2003,13.
33 RusskaiaMysl' 22 (4507), 3-9 June 2004,11.
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