26 January 2021, 19:50
Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia doesn't object to Jerusalem-based compound's transfer to Russia if it remains responsible for its 'pastoral ministry'
Moscow, January 26, Interfax - The Orthodox Palestine Society of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR) said it does not object to the legal registration of Russia's property rights to the St. Alexander Metochion (the Alexandrovsoye Podvorie) in Jerusalem, provided that this guarantees that ROCOR preserves the canonical responsibility for "its ecclesial divine service and pastoral ministry."
At the end of last week, the chancellery of the ROCOR Synod called the Orthodox Palestine Society the lawful owner of the metochion, but the society clarified what exactly this meant two days later.
"In fact, ROCOR never rejected the cooperation with the Russian Federation (RF) in matters pertaining to the Alexandrovskoye Podvorie on condition that the Synod of Bishops preserves the canonical responsibility for its ecclesial divine service and pastoral ministry," the Orthodox Palestine Society's Supreme Council said in a statement published on ROCOR's website.
The statement says that the Russian Ecclesiastical Mission in Jerusalem (REM), part of ROCOR, has "celebrated divine services in the Church of St. Alexander Nevsky in the Russian Excavations (Alexandrovskoye Podvorie) in Jerusalem" for over 100 years.
In 1948, the British government in Palestine recognized the REM (ROCOR) and the Orthodox Palestine Society as "having ownership rights to Alexandrovskoye Podvorie," it said.
In 1996, an arbitration court in Israel resolved that the Orthodox Palestine Society (Holy Land Section) had property rights to Alexandrovskoye Podvorie as part of ROCOR, and this decision "was confirmed on an international level in New York in 1997," it said.
"Until January 2021, the status quo regarding divine services by the clergymen of the REM (ROCOR) was maintained. Divine Liturgy and other divine services were regularly celebrated. But after Christmas, 2021, a group of civilians, unlawfully situated in the building of Alexandrovskoye Podvorie, ceased to allow the clergy of the REM (ROCOR) to perform services, referring to the epidemic," it said.
"The Chief of the REM (ROCOR), Archimandrite Roman (Krassovsky), requested that a welfare check be made of the people in the building of Alexandrovskoye Podvorie to determine if they were infected with COVID. During the inspection, conducted by an Israeli police officer, it was revealed that these civilians had no symptoms of the disease. Nonetheless, the clergymen of the REM (ROCOR) were denied in conducting divine services," it said.
"The civilians, citizens of Ukraine and found illegally in the Podvorie, provoked a conflict to which the Israeli police were summoned, who, unable to sort out the situation, ejected the clerics of the REM (ROCOR) from the Podvorie building," ROCOR said in presenting its view on the recent unrest at the metochion, which was reported by the media.
According to the 2007 Act of Canonical Communion between the ROCOR and the Moscow Patriarchate, "the property of ROCOR remains within its administrative control. Until now, this agreement has been observed by both sides."
"The process of full unity can be difficult, but we cannot forget that we have one Russian Orthodox Church headed by His Holiness the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, and one nation, living in the Fatherland and in the diaspora," it said.
As reported earlier, the Jerusalem District Court ruled on January 7 to decline a motion by ROCOR's Russian Ecclesiastical Mission against the St. Alexander Metochion's registration as Russia's property.
The St. Alexander Metochion, an archeological and architectural complex, is located in the Old City of Jerusalem, right near the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. The land on which it is located was purchased by Russia in 1859. The compound was built by the Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society in 1896.
The controversy surrounding its ownership began after the revolution of 1917 and emigration of most of the Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society members. At present, two different organizations of the same name - Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society - exist separately in Russia and in Germany. ROCOR's Orthodox Palestine Society is also involved in the dispute as a third party.