Moscow, May 7, Interfax - More than half the bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) and about one-third of its priests will attend a planned historic worship service in Moscow on May 17 that will celebrate ROCOR's unification with the Moscow-based Russian Orthodox Church.
Seven ROCOR bishops, including the head of the Church Abroad, Metropolitan Laurus, and more than 70 ROCOR priests will arrive in Moscow by May 17, when the two churches are to sign the Act of Canonical Communion, Archpriest Nikolay Balashov, secretary of the Moscow Patriarchate Department for External Church Relations, told reporters.
He said about 600 members of the ROCOR community were going to attend the service, to be held at the Cathedral of Christ the Savior. The altar doors will stay open throughout the service, which is usually done only during Holy Week.
"The laity wanted to see with their own eyes this happen for the first time - to see Metropolitan Laurus and foreign priests take communion together with ours from the same chalice for the first time," Fr. Balashov said.
There will be other important events as well.
On May 19, Laurus and the head of the Moscow-based Church, Patriarch Alexy II will co-preside in a service to consecrate the Church of the New Russian Martyrs in Butovo, an area in Moscow where the Stalin regime put to death a tremendous number of people, including clergy.
Laurus and Alexy laid the cornerstone for this church in 2004 during the ROCOR head's first official visit to Moscow.
On May 20, Alexy and Laurus will serve together again, this time at Russia's main church, the Assumption Cathedral in the Kremlin.
As the cathedral is relatively small, it has been decided to minimize the number of Moscow clergy who will take part in that service, Fr. Balashov said. "This will be done specially to enable as many of our foreign brothers as possible to co-serve with the patriarch," he said.