Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

The Moscow Council (1917-1918): The Creation of the Conciliar Institutions of the Russian Orthodox Church

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

The Moscow Council (1917-1918): The Creation of the Conciliar Institutions of the Russian Orthodox Church

Article excerpt

The Moscow Council (1917-1918): The Creation of the Conciliar Institutions of the Russian Orthodox Church. By Hyacinthe Destivelle, O.P. Edited by Michael Plekon and Vitaly Permiakov. Translated by Jerry Ryan. (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press. 2015. Pp. xviii, 447. S36.00 paperback. ISBN 978-0-268-0217-2.)

The local Council of Moscow of 1917-18 was a pivotal event in the history of the modern Russian Orthodox Church. The last council had taken place in 1667, when Tsar Alexis attenuated the reform movement that Patriarch Nikon had initiated. Peter the Great went further and replaced the patriarch with the Holy Synod, which was headed by a layman who reported directly to the government. That arrangement prevailed until Tsar Nicholas II abdicated in February 1917. The provisional government that succeeded Nicholas allowed religions to organize and manage their own affairs, and, in response, the Russian Orthodox Church convened the local Council of Moscow.

The purpose of the council was to elect a new patriarch and to launch a reform agenda once again, particularly in the light of historical changes related to modernization. The council was particularly interested in exploring more deeply the notion of sobornost'-that organic sense of conciliarity that tied together bishops, clergy, and laity in a unique relationship of love and service where each had its role, its special charism from God, and worked and sacrificed willingly to improve the community. However, council members never reached agreement on a definition of conciliarity. Some argued that it meant more lay involvement and more democratic procedure in the church, and others claimed that it related to defining functions for different groups that remained subordinate to bishops and a patriarch. The council delved into a wide variety of topics, including church administration, missionary activity, liturgy, preaching, monasticism, schools, local churches, and parochial life. …

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