Russian Orthodox Autonomous Church

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The Russian Orthodox Autonomous Church (or Free Russian Orthodox Church or Russian True Orthodox Church) is one of several "True" Orthodox churches in Russia which has roots in the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia and claims to be a continuation of the Catacomb Church of Russia. Its current primate is Metropolitan Valentine of Vladimir and Sudzal (1990 – present). It functions independently and is not in communion with any of the recognized Orthodox Churches.

Establishment of the "Free Russian Orthodox Church"

At the end of World War II, many parts of the catacomb church reconciled with the Moscow Patriarchate, due to the election of a new patriarch (Alexei I) and to a lessening of the level of persecution on the part of the Soviets. By the 1980s, what was left of the catacomb church no longer had any hierarchy of its own, and was very small and scattered. Due to a desire to support these people, the ROCOR decided to consecrate a secret bishop for the catacomb church in 1982—Bishop Lazar (Zhurbenko). This was the first step towards the establishment of ROCOR parishes inside Russia—a policy that was controversial even at the time, and which ROCOR later came to regret. These parishes came to be known as the Free Russian Orthodox Church (FROC).

Fracturing of the FROC and establishment of ROAC

As the number of parishes and bishops of the FROC increased in the 1990s after the collapse of the Soviet Union, conflicts among them likewise increased, as well as conflicts between the leaders of the Synod of ROCOR and the bishops in Russia. Bishops of the Free Russian Orthodox Church, were in communion with the jurisdiction of the ROCOR, i.e., Archbishop Lazar and Bishop Valentine, were ultimately removed from their sees. They chose to separate from ROCOR administratively and form an autonomous, self-governing Church, citing as their canonical basis Ukaz No. 362 of St. Patriarch Tikhon of November 20, 1920. They also consecrated three bishops for the Russian church, Theodore, Seraphim, and Agafangel.

A year later, after unsuccessful attempts to acquire ownership and control of the properties of the Russian parishes, on February 11/24, 1995, the Synod of ROCOR suspended five bishops of the FROC at one time. The result was a schism between the Synod of ROCOR and a large portion of the FROC.

In 1995, Abp. Lazarus, with Bishops Benjamin and Agafangel, came back to ROCOR, while three bishops, with Abp. Valentine at the head, remained in apart from them. In May 1995 the long-term secretary of the Synod of Bishops of ROCOR, the famous church historian and canonist, Bishop Gregory (Grabbe), visited Suzdal. He approved the decisions of the Russian bishops to withdraw from administrative collaboration with the ROCOR synod just before he passed away. Some attributed this to his age, while others claimed this was due to his belief that they were following the "true" historical course of ROCOR. Note:(The Church inside Russia never considered itself “in subordination” to the Church outside of Russia, but simply that they were peers who were in communion with each other.)

In October 1998 the "Free Russian Orthodox Church" (FROC) headed by Valentine was re-registered under the name of the Russian Orthodox Autonomous Church (ROAC). Presently the episcopate of ROAC consists of twelve bishops with over 300 parishes worldwide. The head of the church was elevated to the rank of Metropolitan in March 2001.

American parish list

Sources and external links

Official websites