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Russian True Orthodox Church

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Сatacomb Church
TypeEastern Orthodox
ClassificationEastern Orthodox Church
OrientationTrue Orthodoxy
Patriarch Patriarch Christopher Maier
Primate Metropolitan Alexy (Bondarenko)
LanguageChurch Slavonic
HeadquartersMoscow, Russia
PossessionsRussia, Western Europe, United States
FounderMetropolitan Joseph (Ivan Petrovykh)
OriginApril, 1925
RecognitionUnrecognized by most Orthodox churches - see True Orthodoxy
Separated fromRussian Orthodox Church
Merger ofAutocephalous Greek International Orthodox Christian Church Canonical
Official websiteRussian true Orthodox Church – Metropolis of Moscow

The Russian True Orthodox Church (Russian: Русская истинно-православная церковь, tr. Russkaya istinno-pravoslavnaya tserkov), commonly known as the Catacomb Church[1][2] (Russian: Катакомбная церковь, tr. Katakombnaya tserkov), is a denomination that separated from the Russian Orthodox Church during the early years of Communist rule in the Soviet Union. It is a part of what is called True Orthodoxy. While the True Orthodox Church in Russia was never a single organization, many of its followers were labeled Josephites, after Metropolitan Joseph (Ivan Petrovykh) of Leningrad, the leader of its largest branch.[citation needed]


The death of Patriarch Tikhon, the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church in April 1925 led to unrest among the followers of the church. Tikhon's designated successors were arrested by the civil authorities and Metropolitan Sergius was named '"locum tenens," or a cleric designated to substitute for another. Sergius issued a declaration in 1927 calling all members of the church to profess loyalty towards the Soviet government. The declaration sparked division among the hierarchy, clergy, and laity, which led to the formation of the Russian True Orthodox Church.

Opposition to Sergius's declaration was based not only on his political concessions, but also on canonical and theological disagreements. His alliance with the authorities allowed him to turn over to the civil authorities all hierarchs, or church administrators, and clergy who were at odds with him on both political and church-related issues.


Many church members and clerics were opposed to Sergius in church doctrine and backed the stand of the new True Orthodox Church. Most of them tried to observe Soviet law. Yet the Soviet authorities had taken their stand in the dispute and were prepared to use whatever means necessary to bring the bishops under the control of their favorite, Sergius. This control by the Soviets caused True Orthodox Church eparchies (geographical areas under control of a bishop) and communities to go underground for the entire Soviet period.

In the 1970s and 1980s, many of these communities had lost their last bishops and many of their priests. They were forced to exist underground and celebrate services without a spiritual leader. Until July 14, 2019 when Metropolitan Archbishop title of Patriarch Christopher Michael Maier has taken them underneath his jurisdiction of the Orthodox Patriarchate of Pietermaritzburg and all the States of the East of the Autocephalous Greek International Orthodox Christian Church Canonical. Archbishop Alexy of Moscow and Patriarch Christopher of Pietermaritzburg of South Africa which before Patriarch Christopher was Patriarch he was the Archbishop of Birmingham Alabama Metropolitan of America, Canada and Philippines. Patriarch Christopher has given them hope and now they have entered into a Mainstream Canonical Jurisdiction in communion with Orthodox Churches again until this present day.


With the change in Russian political life in the late 1980s, the True Orthodox Church began to make itself known publicly. Individual fellowships solved the question of their future in different ways: Some of them joined the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, which by that time had begun to operate within the country itself. Others, like the Russian True Orthodox Church, Metropolis of Moscow, renewed their episcopacy and clergy through arrangements made with other jurisdictions.

In 1996, a group of Russian Orthodox clergy and laity approached Patriarch Dymytriy of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC), to ask for assistance in restoring a hierarchy for what was to be named the Russian True Orthodox Church. In June 1996, with the blessing of Patriarch Dymytriy, Archbishop Roman, and Bishop Mefodiy (later Metropolitan Mefodiy) of the UAOC, Hieromonk John was ordained a bishop of the Russian True Orthodox Church in order to restore apostolic succession. In December 1996, Bishops John and Mefodiy ordained Archimandrite Stefan a bishop for the Russian True Orthodox Church. These two bishops, John and Stefan, might thereupon pass the succession to the rest of the bishops of the Russian True Orthodox Church.

See also[edit]

  • Eastern Orthodox Church
  • Eastern Orthodox Church organization
  • Comparable cases: Nonjuring schism in British history, Refractory clergy in French history


  1. Graham, Loren; Kantor, Jean-Michel (2009). Naming Infinity: A True Story of Religious Mysticism and Mathematical Creativity. Harvard University Press. pp. 133–34. ISBN 978-0-674-05391-5. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help) Search this book on Amazon.com Logo.png
  2. Andreyev, Ivan; Rose, Seraphim (1982). "Introduction to Russia's Catacomb Saints". Russia's Catacomb Saints. Platina, CA: St. Herman of Alaska Press. Search this book on Amazon.com Logo.png

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