Alexy II: Turkmen parish assignment should be decided by council

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MOSCOW, July 11 (RIA Novosti) - Patriarch Alexy II, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC), said in a letter to the Turkmen president that reassigning Orthodox parishes in Turkmenistan was an issue to be addressed by a bishops' council or a local church council.

Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov had said parishes on Turkmen territory should be subordinate to Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexy II.

Under the Russian Orthodox Church government charter, decisions of that scale fall within a local and a bishops' councils' jurisdiction, the patriarch said.

Alexy II thanked Niyzov for "heeding Orthodox parishes' needs" and said "Turkmenistan had a rich experience in ensuring effective cooperation between two major religions - Orthodoxy and Islam."

Archbishop Nikolai Balashov, the secretary of the Moscow patriarchy's inter-Orthodox relations department, said the borders of many ROC dioceses had been changed in recent years. However, under Alexy II the number of ROC dioceses has grown more than twofold, he said.

"Dioceses' borders are often changed with account to the opinions of the secular authorities of the region in question," said Balashov.

Twelve ROC parishes are currently registered in Turkmenistan. They are grouped into three deaneries (church organizations) and are part of the ROC's Tashkent (Uzbekistan) and Central Asian dioceses.

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