Metropolitan Laurus meets with Patriarch Alexey:http://www.russianorthodoxchurch.ws/english/index.html
New interview with metropolitan Laurus:http://www.russianorthodoxchurch.ws/01newstucture/pagesen/news04/kommersantint.html
Interview with Metropolitan Laurus by Pavel Korobov of Kommersant
Today the head of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, Metropolitan Laurus of Eastern America and New York arrives in Russia for discussions with Patriarch Alexy II. This is the first official visit of the head of the Russian Church Abroad to Russia over the 80-year history of the schism between the two parts of the Russian Church. The meeting of the two religious leaders will determine what the tempo of rapprochement of the Russian Church will be. Metropolitan Laurus shared his prognosis of the topic with Pavel Korobov of Kommersant.
Pavel Korobov: How do you characterize the beginning stage of discussions between the ROCOR and the ROC/MP? This is the beginning of unification or is it simply the establishment of diplomatic relations?
Metropolitan Laurus: The forthcoming trip to Russia, I hope, will serve as the beginning of the 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 in the errors and mistakes which occurred during years that were so difficult for the Church.
PK: Without a doubt, the ROC hopes to use the influence of ROCOR within its flock abroad in its resistance to the Constantinople Patriarchate. Can you help Patriarch Alexy in this?
ML: The present actions of the Constantinople Patriarchate do not correspond to the canonical norms and structure of the Orthodox Church, specifically, the widening of ones jurisdiction to the canonical territories of the Russian Church. It should be added that the Greek Church is also against that actions of the Constantinople Patriarchate, not to mention the other National Churches. The mutual relationship between the Orthodox Churches must foster the unity of Orthodoxy and must always be based on mutual good will and brotherly love, and not on ambitious claims.
PK: It is well known that the Moscow Patriarchate has a negative view of the existing and newly-forming 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 Abroad in the rapprochement with the ROC/MP?
ML: The status of the parishes of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia in Russia, naturally, will be discussed over the course of the joint work of the committees of the two Churches, and we hope will be resolved in a positive way. The Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia has not sought nor does it seek any gains, but seeks a way to understanding our common foundations and mutual understanding, seeks the overcoming of divisions through conciliar repentance and brotherly love, and all 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 imagine it efficacious to introduce any significant changes. It is hoped that in those places where parishes of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia and the Russian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate are near each other, peaceful and friendly coexistence could be developed for the fulfilling of the one mission of Christian witnessing of the Resurrected Savior-God. The future establishment and organization of dioceses and parishes abroad will be discussed during meetings, while in Russia, we will try to resolve the matter of parishes of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia in the spirit of peace and prayerful unity.
PK: How do you envision the administrative organization of the two parts of the Russian Church if the integrative process is successful, that is, what jurisdiction with the Church Abroad have (autonomy, autocephaly, a metropoliate subject to the ROC/MP)?
ML: Over more than 80 years of independent existence of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, she not only preserved the succession, traditions and customs of the Russian Church, but she acquired an identity which helped her in preserving her Orthodox heritage in alien, heterodox surroundings. She was 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 be continued in the light of the experience gained and practices developed, but also in consideration of the newly-forming situation. The Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia was a unifying force among the Russian Orthodox faithful, not only those who suddenly found themselves abroad, but those who were born and raised there. The Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia also fulfilled her service of witnessing 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 of Russia in the countries of the global 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 reared and educated abroad, they know the language, customs and culture of the countries they reside in. For this reason, radically changing 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 Abroad in the Holy Land, which is claimed by the ROC, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia, 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 retain the status quo. Future decisions can be made through new forms of cooperation constructive for local church life. 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 on meeting the Russian President, and if so, what questions would you like to discuss with him?
ML: The President of Russia has a positive view towards 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 with him, but in light of the busy schedule of the President, 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 degree we could discuss matters of interest to us.
PK: In the information disseminated on your visit, it has been said that "during the course of the visit it is expected that agreements will be signed which will determine the canonical, pastoral and practical ecclesiastical foundations for the unity of the Russian Church." True, other sources state that you do not plan on signing anything. What can you say on this matter?
ML: 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. In regard to the determination of canonical, pastoral and practical ecclesiastical bases for the unity of the Russian Church, these matters will be discussed and worked out by the joint work of the committees established by the Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia and the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate.