The Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (Russian: Русская Православная Церковь Заграницей), also called ROCOR is a semi-autonomous part of the Russian Orthodox Church.
The ROCOR is also referred to as the Karlovtsy Synod (from its seminal formations in Serbia) or simply the Synod, the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, or ROCA
The Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia was formed as a jurisdiction of Eastern Orthodoxy as a response against the policy of the Soviet Union soon after the Russian Revolution of 1917, and separated from the Russian Church of the Moscow Patriarchate in 1927 after an imprisoned Patriarch Sergius I of Moscow.
The Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia officially signed the Act of Canonical Communion with the Moscow Patriarchate on May 17, 2007 restoring the canonical link between the churches.
In 1920 near the end of the Russian Civil War, after the White Russian Army under Admiral Aleksandr Kolchak was crushed, a mass exodus of Russian refugees moved into Manchuria. Over ninety thousand refugees settled in Harbin, Shanghai, Dairen, Hailar and the smaller towns along the Chinese branch of the Trans-Siberian Railway within three years.
Lacking adequate lodgings or employment many migrated to America, Europe or Australia.
Also in 1920 the Soviet government revealed that it was hostile to the Russian Orthodox Church. Tikhon, Patriarch of Moscow, issued an ukase (decree) that all Orthodox Christians currently under the authority and protection of his Patriarchate seek protection and guidance elsewhere. Among some Russian Bishops and other hierarchs, this was interpreted as an authorization to form an emergency synod of all Russian Orthodox hierarchs to permit the Church to continue to function outside Russia.
To add urgency to the synod’s motives, in May 1922, the Soviet government proclaimed its own “Living Church” as a “reform” of the Russian Orthodox Church.
In September 13, 1922, Russian Orthodox hierarchs in Serbia met in the town of Sremski Karlovci and established a Synod of Bishops of the Russian Church Abroad, the foundation of ROCOR.
In November 1922, Russian Orthodox in North America held a synod and elected Metropolitan Platon as the primate of an autonomous Russian exarchate in the Americas. This led to a three-way conflict in the United States among the Exarchate, ROCOR (sometimes known as “the Synod” in this period), and the Living Church, which asserted that it was the legitimate (Soviet-government-recognized) owner of all Eastern Orthodox properties in the USA.
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Between 1997–2000 the ROCOR and the ROC came into direct conflict over ownership of churches and properties within Palestine.
In 2000 Metropolitan Laurus became the First Hierarch of the ROCOR and expressed interest in the idea of reunification.
In 2003 Vladimir Putin met with Metropolitan Laurus in New York. This event was later hailed as an important step by Patriarch Alexy II who said that it showed the ROCOR that “not a fighter against God, but an Orthodox Christian is at the country’s helm.”
In May 2004, Metropolitan Laurus, the head of the ROCOR, visited Russia participating in several joint services.
In June 2004, a contingent of ROCOR clergy meeting with Patriarch Alexey II. Committees were set up by both the Patriarchate and ROCOR to begin dialogue towards rapprochement. Both sides decided to set up joint commissions, and determined the range of issues to be discussed at the All-Diaspora Council, which met for the first time since 1974.
On December 28, 2006, it was officially announced that the Act of Canonical Communion would finally be signed. The signing took place on the May 17, 2007, followed immediately by a full restoration of communion with the Moscow Patriarchate, celebrated by a Divine Liturgy at the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow, at which the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Alexius II and the First Hierarch of ROCOR concelebrated for the first time in history.
On May 17, 2007, at 9:15 a.m., Metropolitan Laurus was greeted at Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow by a special peal of the bells, and shortly thereafter, Patriarch Alexey II entered the Cathedral. After the Patriarch read the prayer for the unity of the Russian Church, the Act of Canonical Communion was read aloud, and two copies were each signed by both Metropolitan Laurus and Patriarch Alexey II. The two hierarchs then exchanged the “kiss of peace,” and they and the entire Russian Church sang “God Grant You Many Years.” Following this, the Divine Liturgy of the Feast of the Ascension of Our Lord began, culminating with the entirety of the bishops of both ROCOR and MP partaking of the same Eucharist.
The ROCOR has over 400 parishes worldwide, and an estimated membership of over 400,000 people. Within the ROCOR there are 13 hierarchs, and also monasteries and nunneries in the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, and South America.