MOSCOW: November 20, 2017
A Delegate From the Russian Church Abroad Participates in St Tikhon Humanitarian University’s Conference on the 100th Anniversary of the All-Russian Pomestny Council
On November 16, 2017, the final day of the International Academic Conference “Sobor and Sobornost’: On the Hundredth Anniversary of a New Epoch,” [sobor means council, sobornost’ is church collegiality—transl.] a section was devoted to “The Pomestny Sobor of 1917 and the Beginning of a New Epoch of Persecution.”
Professor of Church History Priest Alexander Mazyrin (St Tikhon Orthodox Humanitarian University-- OSTHU), read a lecture titled “The Question of Convening the All-Russian Pomestny Sobor in the 1920’s and 1930’s.” In accordance with decisions of the Sobor, Pomestny Sobors [Local or National Councils] were to convene every three years. In practice, it was impossible to realize this goal due to the repressive policies of the Soviet regime. A condition of legalizing the Patriarchal Church was the convening of a Sobor with the participation of the obnovlentsy [“Living Church”], which threatened schism. Patriarch Tikhon could not agree to this. In the end, no Pomestny Sobor was held under Patriarch Tikhon nor his successor, but the Russian Church did not abandon the idea.
A lecture by AL Beglov was titled “Works of the 1917-1918 Holy Sobor on Reform of the Orthodox Parish,” which dealt with deliberations on the fundamental issues of parish life: the status of the temple, the clergy, parishioners and parish property. The Introduction to the Parish By-Laws was the only document of the Sobor which contained dogmatic content in which soteriological teaching on the salvation of the soul within parish life was developed.
AG Kravetsky spoke on “Divine Services in the Pomestny Sobor: Modernization or Archaization?” He analyzed the results of the liturgical section of the 1917 Council. Such matters as the language of divine services, singing, the restoration of ancient rituals, etc., were discussed. In the opinion of the speaker, the effort was aimed at the future, but was based on the return to past traditions. Unifying archaicizing and modernism was one of the fundamental characteristics of the Sobor’s work. Answering questions on the status of debate on liturgical language, the historian brought to mind that the Sobor allowed the use of Russian language in divine services with the permission of the Supreme Ecclesiastical Authority.
NA Krivosheev, in her lecture “Two Decrees of the Holy Sobor of 1917-1918 Which Determined the Life of the Russian Orthodox Church During the Era of Persecutions,” traced how the decisions of the Sobor on parish life and the role of women in the Church developed under Soviet persecution.
Don Franceso Brasci of Milan read a speech titled “The Pomestny Sobor of the Russian Orthodox Church 1917-1918: Echoes and News in the Catholic Press.” In his words, the Russian Council evoked great interest in the Catholic press, though information that reached the West was greatly delayed and sporadic.
LB Milyakova, in her talk “Policy Questions in the Bolshevik Party Relating to the Russian Orthodox Church,” which revealed the genesis of the anti-clerical attitudes of the Bolsheviks. Many thought that the Bolsheviks adopted the decree on the separation of the Church and state to counter the decisions of the Sobor. Milyakova demonstrates, however, that the sources show that the anti-Christian tendencies abounded among all socialists, beginning with the Paris Commune through Marx and Engels, so Lenin and Stalin simply continued the anti-Church policies of the founders of Communism.
KV Kovyrzin reported in his speech “The Formation of Positions of the Holy Council of the Russian Orthodox Church of 1917-1918 on Soviet Legislation on the Separation of Church and State,” on reactions by the delegates of the Sobor to the early persecutions of the Church by the Soviet state. Soviet decrees were called “acts of open persecutions of the Church,” and cooperation with these efforts was threatened by excommunication from the Church, while Soviet leaders were called “persons seizing power by force.” From the lecture by YA Biryukova, “Receiving Decrees of the All-Russian Pomestny Sobor of 1917-1918 in the South of Russia During the Civil War,” the listeners heard about how news from the Council was disseminated, how parish life was established throughout the free parts of Russia based on the decisions.
DP Anashkin, in his lecture “The Parish By-Laws of the Sobor of 1918 and Tendencies in its Amendment in the ROCOR,” revealed questions relating to the application of the By-Laws by the emigres of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. In Soviet Russia, fulfilling the requirements of those regulations was impossible due to persecution, while in the emigration, the by-laws were applied in a new reality, where civil rights were broadly applied, though the councils of bishops abroad tried to direct the parishioners according to their duties. Overall, the Normal Parish By-Laws of ROCOR helped strengthen church life on the parish level which was for the Russian refugees “a piece of the Homeland.”