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    WORLD RUSSIAN COUNCIL TO MEET OLD BELIEVERS HALFWAY: METROPOLITAN CYRIL

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    MOSCOW, FEBRUARY 2, RIA NOVOSTI - The World Russian Popular Council welcomes Old Believers to join, says Cyril Metropolitan of Smolensk and Kaliningrad, head of the Moscow Patriarchate Department of External Church Relations.

    "Old Believers and the Russian Orthodox Church belong to one and the same ecclesiastical and cultural tradition. The 17th century schism was purely canonical, and clean of a spiritual or cultural purport, he said to a news conference on the forthcoming council.

    Regrettably, official spokesmen of the Russian Orthodox Church of the Old Rite, popularly known as Old Believers, have never to this day taken part in council work, he added.

    An 8th World Russian Popular Council is gathering at the Holy Trinity Monastery of St. Sergius, in the Moscow environs, February 3-4, and in Moscow, for debates on, "Russia and Eastern Christendom". Unlike previous councils, the event will represent the Russian Church in Exile and all Local Orthodox Churches. Other Christian confessions will have no representation due to a specific agenda, said Metropolitan Cyril.

    The Russian Orthodox Church of the Old Rite branched off from the established Church in a violent schism of the mid-17th century to bring together opponents of a thorough-going theological, liturgical and ritual reform. It has brought together many independent trends and sects, in harsh opposition to the officially established Church for close on 300 years now.

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