NEW YORK: January 25, 2021
Statement by the Supreme Council of the Orthodox Palestine Society on Recent Events at Alexandrovskoye Podvorie in Jerusalem
The Russian Ecclesiastical Mission in Jerusalem (REM), part of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR) has over the course of 100 years celebrated divine services in the Church of St Alexander Nevsky in the Russian Excavations (Alexandrovskoye Podvorie) in Jerusalem
The Church of St. Alexander Nevsky was consecrated in 1896, when it was transferred to the control of the Russian Ecclesiastical Mission in Jerusalem.
After the Revolution of 1917, the church became part of the Russian Church Abroad, and the administration of the Podvorie under the control of the Orthodox Palestine Society (OPS).
In 1948, the REM (ROCOR) and the OPS were recognized as having ownership rights to Alexandrovskoye Podvorie by the British Government in Palestine. In 1969, the OPS united with the Synod of Bishops of ROCOR in order to guarantee the security of its properties. A Supreme Council of the OPS was appointed, the President of which became the First Hierarch of ROCOR. From that moment on, Alexandrovskoye Podvorie with the Church of St. Alexander Nevsky has been under the control of the REM (ROCOR), and the building of Alexandrovskoye Podvorie in the administration of the OPS as part of the Supreme Council.
In 1996, and Arbitration court in Israel recognized the property rights to Alexandrovskoye Podvorie of the OPS (Holy Land Section) as part of ROCOR. This decision was confirmed on an international level in New York in 1997.
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. 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. 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. This incident was cynically exploited by a citizen of Germany, N. Worontsov-Hoffman (who is exploiting this holy site for personal gain), through spreading disinformation about the incident to society at large. Unfortunately, the President of the Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society (IOPS), S.V. Stepashin, without grasping the situation, disseminated this disinformation in the Russian press, not to mention directing insults at ROCOR. 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, which fully corresponds to the Act of Canonical Communion and the desire of the clergy and flock of ROCOR. This position of ROCOR was communicated to the Hierarchy of the Russian Orthodox Church last year. Our main goal is not to undermine the trust of the flock abroad to the continuing process of the strengthening of Church unity.
In 2007, with the active participation of Russian President V. V. Putin, ROCOR reestablished the fullness of brotherly communion with the Moscow Patriarchate. According to the aforementioned Act of Canonical Communion, signed by the blessed Primates of both parts of the Mother Church-in the Fatherland and abroad, the property of ROCOR remains within its administrative control. Until now, this agreement has been observed by both sides.
Unfortunately, in recent statements, representatives of the IOPS felt the desire to draw us into conflict and divide once again. 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.