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Russian Orthodox Church today

Russian Orthodox Church MessaThe Russian Orthodox Church is a multi-ethnic Local Autocephalous Church maintaining communion in prayer and canon law with other Local Orthodox Churches. Her jurisdiction extends to people of Orthodox confession living in the canonical territory of the Russian Orthodox Church including Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kirghizia, Latvia, Lithuania, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Estonia, as well as those Orthodox people who are her voluntary members living in other countries. In 1988, the Russian Orthodox Church celebrated the Millennium of the Baptism of Russia. In that jubilee year, she had 67 dioceses, 21 monasteries, 6893 parishes, 2 theological academies and 3 theological seminaries.

Under the primatial guidance of His Holiness Alexy II, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, the fifteenth patriarch in the history of the Russian Orthodox Church who was elected in 1990, the church life is reviving today in a comprehensive way. At present, the Russian Orthodox Church has 133 dioceses (136, taking into account those of the Japanese Autonomous Orthodox Church) in various countries and over 23000 parishes. Pastoral service is carried out by 156 bishops including 130 diocesan and 26 vicar bishops; 12 bishops are retired. There are 620 monasteries including 298 male monasteries and 322 convents; in addition, there are 160 monastery representations and 38 hermitages. The number of church educational institutions has grown. Nowadays there are 5 theological academies, 32 seminaries, 43 pre-seminaries, 1 theological institute, 2 Orthodox universities, 6 training pastoral courses, and 2 diocesan theological schools for women. In addition, there are several choir-conducting and icon-painting schools and departments, as well as Sunday schools at most of the parishes.

The Russian Orthodox Church has a hierarchical structure of governance. The supreme bodies of church authority and governance are the Local Council, the Bishops' Council and the Holy Synod chaired by the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia.

The Local Council consists of the bishops and representatives of the clergy, monastics and laity. It interprets the teaching of the Orthodox Church, preserving the doctrinal and canonical unity with the Local Orthodox Churches. It also deals with internal matters of church life, canonizes saints, elects the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia and establishes the procedure of such elections.

The Bishops' Council consists of the diocesan bishops and the vicar bishops who direct Synodal departments and theological academies or have canonical jurisdiction over parishes in their charge. The term of reference of the Bishops' Council includes, among other things, preparation for convening a Local Council and monitoring the implementation of its decisions. It also adopts and amends the Statute of the Russian Orthodox Church, resolves basic theological, canonical, liturgical and pastoral issues, canonizes saints, adopts liturgical offices, gives competent interpretation to church regulations, expresses pastoral concern for contemporary problems, defines the nature of relations with governmental bodies, maintains relations with Local Orthodox Churches, establishes, re-organizes and dissolves self-governed Churches, exarchates, dioceses and Synodal institutions and approves church-wide awards, etc.

The Holy Synod, chaired by the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, is the governing body of the Russian Orthodox Church between Bishops' Councils.

Russian Orthodox Church MolebenHis Holiness Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia is the first in honour among the bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church. He takes care of the internal and external welfare of the Russian Orthodox Church and governs her together with the Holy Synod as its Chairman. The Patriarch is elected by the Local Council consisting of bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church who are at least 40 year old, who enjoy a good reputation and confidence among the bishops, clergy and people, who are higher theological school graduates, who have sufficient experience of diocesan governance and are distinguished by their commitment to the canonical order and 'have a good report of them which are without' (I Tim. 3:7). The Patriarch is elected for life.

The Synodal institutions are executive bodies under the Patriarch and the Holy Synod. There are a Department for External Church Relations, a Publishing Board, an Education Committee, a Department for Catechism and Religious Education, a Department for Charity and Social Service, a Mission Department, a Department for the Armed Forces and Law-Enforcement Bodies and a Youth Department. The Chancellery is also part of the Moscow Patriarchate with the status of Synodal institution. Each of the Synodal institutions is responsible for a particular range of church-wide affairs included in its term of reference.

Department for External Church Relations represents the Russian Orthodox Church in her relations with the external world. It is in charge of maintaining the Russian Orthodox Church's contacts with Local Orthodox Churches and non-Orthodox Churches as well as Christian associations, non-Christian religions, governmental, parliamentary and public organizations and institutions, international inter-governmental, religious and public bodies, secular mass media, and cultural, economic, financial and tourist organizations. Within its canonical powers, the DECR exercises hierarchical, administrative and financial and economic governance over the Russian Orthodox Church's dioceses abroad and assists the Local Orthodox Church representations in their work in the canonical territory of the Moscow Patriarchate. Operating under the DECR are the Orthodox Pilgrimage Service, which organizes trips for bishops, clergy and laity of the Russian Church to shrines in the far abroad; the Communication Service responsible for maintaining the Church's relations with secular mass media, monitoring publications about the Russian Orthodox Church and supporting the official website of the Moscow Patriarchate in the Internet; the Publication Section, which publishes the DECR Newsletter and Tserkov i vremya (Church and Time), an academic church journal. Since 1989, the Department for External Church Relations has been headed by Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad.

The Moscow Patriarchate Publishing Board is a collegiate body made up of representatives of the Synodal institutions, theological schools, church publishing houses and other institutions of the Russian Orthodox Church. It coordinates the publishing work on the church-wide level, submits publishing plans for approval to the Holy Synod, and reviews the manuscripts to be published. It publishes Zhurnal Moskovskoy Patriarkhii (Journal of the Moscow Patriarchate) and Tserkovnyi vestnik (Church Messenger), two official publications of the Moscow Patriarchate. It also publishes Bogoslovskiye trudy (Theological Studies), the official church calendar, keeps record of Patriarchal services and publishes official church documents. In addition, the Moscow Patriarchate Publishing Board is responsible for printing Holy Scriptures, liturgical and other books. The Publishing Board of the Moscow Patriarchate is directed by Archpriest Vladimir Silovyev.

Education Committee directs the network of theological schools which train clergy and church workers. It coordinates the development of curricular and a single educational standard for theological schools. The Education Committee is chaired by Archbishop Yevgeny of Vereya.

Department for Religious Education and Catechism coordinates the propagation of religious education among the laity and in secular educational institutions. Religious education and catechism are offered to the laity in various forms, such as Sunday schools at churches, clubs for adults, adult groups for preparation for baptism, Orthodox kindergartens, Orthodox groups in state-run kindergartens, Orthodox gymnasiums, schools and lyceums and catechetical courses. Sunday schools are the most popular forms of catechization. The Department is led by Archimandrite Ioann (Ekonomtsev).

Department for Charity and Social Service carries out a number of socially significant church programs and coordinates social work on the church-wide level. It runs several medical programs. Noteworthy among them is the work of the Moscow Patriarchate's Central Clinic of St. Alexis the Metropolitan of Moscow in what used to be the Fifth City Hospital. In a situation where medical service is being commercialized, this medical institution is one of few clinics in Moscow in which medical check-up and treatment are offered free of charge. In addition, the Department has been repeatedly involved in delivering humanitarian aid in emergency situations and conflict areas. The Chairman of the Department is Metropolitan Sergiy of Voronezh and Borisoglebsk.

Mission Department coordinates the missionary work of the Russian Orthodox Church. Today this activity includes primarily the internal mission, that is, work to bring back to the Church those who found themselves torn away from the faith of their forefathers as a result of the persecution to which the Church was subjected in the 20th century. Another important area of the missionary work is opposition to destructive cults. The Department is chaired by Archbishop Ioann of Belgorod and Stary Oskol.

Department for the Armed Forces and Law-Enforcement Bodies is engaged in pastoral work with servicemen and law-enforcement officers. In addition, the Department's terms of reference include pastoral care for prisoners. Archpriest Dimitry Smirnov is the Chairman of the Department.

Youth Department coordinates the pastoral work with young people on the church-wide level and organizes cooperation between church, public and governmental organizations in the spiritual and moral formation of children and youth. The Department is directed by Archbishop Alexander of Kostroma and Galich.

The Russian Orthodox Church is divided into dioceses, which are local churches headed by a bishop and uniting diocesan institutions, deaneries, parishes, monasteries, church representations, theological educational institutions, brotherhoods, sisterhoods and missions.

The parish is a community of Orthodox Christians consisting of clergy and laity united at its church. The parish is a canonical unit of the Russian Orthodox Church supervised by its diocesan bishop and directed by a priest rector assigned to it. The parish is formed by the voluntary consent of believing citizens of Orthodox confession who have attained their majority, with the blessing of the diocesan bishop.

The Parish Assembly is the supreme governing body of the parish. It is headed by the rector who is ex officio chairman of the Parish Assembly. The Parish Council is the executive and administrative body of the Parish Assembly; it is accountable to the rector and the Parish Assembly.

Brotherhoods and sisterhoods can be formed by parishioners with the consent of the rector and the blessing of the diocesan bishops. Brotherhoods and sisterhoods have as their aim to involve parishioners in maintenaning keeping the church in proper order, in charity and religious and moral education and formation. Brotherhoods and sisterhoods at parishes are supervised by the rectors. They begin working as soon as the blessing of the diocesan bishop is obtained.

The monastery is a church institution in which a male or a female community lives and works. The monastic community consists of Orthodox Christians who have voluntarily chosen the monastic way of life for their spiritual and moral perfection and common confession of Orthodox faith. The question on opening a monastery, submitted by a diocesan bishop, is decided by His Holiness Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia and the Holy Synod. Diocesan monasteries are supervised and controlled canonically by diocesan bishops. Stauropegial monasteries are under the canonical control of His Holiness Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia or those Synodal institutions which are authorized by the Patriarch to exercise such control.

Dioceses of the Russian Orthodox Church may be consolidated in Exarchates. This consolidation is based on the national-regional principle. The decision on consolidation or dissolution of Exarchates as well as their designation and territorial boundaries belongs to the Bishops' Council. At present, the Russian Orthodox Church has the Byelorussian Exarchate located in the territory of the Republic of Belarus. It is headed by Metropolitan Filaret of Minsk and Slutsk, Patriarchal Exarch for All Belarus.

The Moscow Patriarchate incorporates autonomous and self-governed Churches. Their establishment and the definition of their boundaries is in the competence of the Local Council or Bishops' Council of the Russian Orthodox Church. Self-governed Churches function on the basis and within the limits provided by the Patriarchal Thomos issued by the decision of the Local Council or the Bishops' Council. At present, self-governed are the Latvian Orthodox Church (Primate - Metropolitan Alexander of Riga and All Latvia), the Orthodox Church of Moldova (Primate - Metropolitan Vladimir of Kishinev and All Moldova) and the Estonian Orthodox Church (Primate - Metropolitan Kornily of Tallinn and All Estonia). The Ukrainian Orthodox Church is a self-governed Church with the right of broad autonomy. Her Primate is His Beatitude Metropolitan Vladimir of Kiev and All Ukraine.

The Japanese Autonomous Orthodox Church and the Chinese Autonomous Orthodox Church are independent Churches free in their internal affairs and linked with Universal Orthodoxy through the Russian Orthodox Church.

The Primate of the Japanese Autonomous Orthodox Church is His Eminence Daniel, Archbishop of Tokyo, Metropolitan of All Japan. The Primate is elected by the Local Council of the Japanese Autonomous Orthodox Church consisting of all the bishops as well as representatives of the clergy and laity elected to this Council. The nomination of the Primate is approved by His Holiness Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia. The Primate of the Japanese Autonomous Orthodox Church mentions the name of His Holiness the Patriarch during divine services.

At present, the Chinese Autonomous Orthodox Church consists of several communities of believers who do not enjoy permanent pastoral care. Till a Council of the Chinese Autonomous Orthodox Church is conducted, the archpastoral care of her parishes is exercised by the Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church in accordance with the existing canons.

ATTENTION! This materials was copied from 'DECR Communication Service', the Official Site of the Russian Orthodox Church http://www.mospat.ru

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