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Serbian Orthodox Church mulls reunification with Moscow Patriarchy

SAN FRANCISCO, May 8 (RIA Novosti, Olga Lipich) - Serbian Patriarch Pavle has called for the reunification of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR) and the Moscow Patriarchy, an Orthodox leader in the region said.

"Without reunification of the Russian Orthodox Church there cannot be unity and spiritual, moral, and national renewal of the Russian people," Patriarch Pavle wrote in his address to the ROCOR council, announced by Metropolitan Amfilohije of Montenegro and the Coastlands, an honorary member of the council.

Representatives of Russian Orthodox communities from around the world gathered in San Francisco for a week starting May 7 to discuss the reunification at the Fourth All-Diaspora Council, which is expected to lay the groundwork for a canonical decision to join the Moscow Patriarchy as a self-governed branch, similar to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

According to the draft act, ROCOR will remain independent in terms of pastoral, educational, administrative, economic, property and secular issues.

The revolutions of 1917 and ensuing Civil War in Russia caused a split in the Russian Orthodox Church in the 1920s, when some top clergy in exile refused to be subordinated to Church leaders who had allegedly collaborated with the Communists.

After the revolution, the Serbian Orthodox Church harbored hundreds of thousands Russian refugees, including clerics.

"Now that all conditions are ready, we can re-establish normal relations between ROCOR and the Moscow Patriarchy," Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Alexy II said earlier. "We expect that they will be regulated by the Act on Canonical Communion."

Metropolitan Laurus, the head of ROCOR, visited Russia in May 2004 and participated in a number of joint services. The sides decided at the time to set up joint commissions, and determined the range of issues to be discussed at the All-Diaspora Council that will meet for the first time since 1974.

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