Department for external church relations of the Moscow Patriarchate (DECR)
On 31 March 2009, the Holy Synod appointed Bishop Hilarion of Vienna and Austria (now Metropolitan of Volokolamsk, Vicar of the Moscow Diocese) as chairman of the department for external church relations.
At the same time, some DECR functions were transferred to the newly-established department for church-state relations, which is to maintain relations with legislative bodies, political parties, trade unions, creative profession associations and other institutes of the civil society in the canonical territory of the Moscow Patriarchate. The representative offices, church representations, monasteries and patriarchal parishes, which earlier were in the DECR jurisdiction, are now placed under the direct authority of the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia. An appropriate secretariat has been set up to help the Patriarch direct Russian Orthodox institutions abroad. The post-graduate course of the Moscow Theological Academy, which was attached to DECR, is now transformed into a church-wide graduate school and doctoral candidacy.
At present, DECR’s status and tasks are defined by the Statute of the Russian Orthodox Church and the DECR By-Laws. DECR is accountable to the Patriarch and the Holy Synod who annually approve its work plan. The documents guiding DECR are actions of Local and Bishops’ Councils of the Russian Orthodox Church, resolutions of the Holy Synod and patriarchal instructions. DECR chairman is appointed by the Patriarch and the Holy Synod. According to the Holy Synod decision of 16 December 1961, DECR chairman shall be a bishop who shall have the status of permanent member of the Holy Synod.
DECR is to maintain the Church’s relations with Local Orthodox Churches, non-Orthodox Churches, Christian organizations and non-Christian religious communities, as well as governmental, parliamentary, inter-governmental, religious and public bodies abroad and public international organizations.
It is also DECR’s task to inform the Patriarch and the Holy Synod about events and activities taking place outside the Russian Orthodox Church and involving its interests and to draft church-wide documents and decisions concerning inter-Orthodox, inter-Christian, interreligious, international and other issues within its terms of reference.
Among the DECR major areas of work is fraternal cooperation with Local Orthodox Churches maintained through the DECR secretariat for inter-Orthodox relations. The inter-Orthodox agenda includes such matters as Orthodox unity and observance of canonical principles in inter-Orthodox relations, common witness before the external world and promotion of cooperation among Orthodox nations in all aspects of public life.
Relations with non-Orthodox Christians are maintained through the efforts of the DECR secretariat for inter-Christian relations. It informs inter-Christian organizations about the position taken by the Russian Orthodox Church on particular socially significant issues. There is also an increasing dialogue with the Roman Catholic Church and continued contacts with Protestant confessions as well as Oriental (non-Chalcedonian) Churches.
The secretariat for the far abroad supports the Moscow Patriarchate’s relations with inter-governmental institutions, international non-governmental organizations as well as governmental bodies, public and interreligious associations and non-Christian religious communities in other countries. It also works with compatriots who live outside the canonical territory of the Moscow Patriarchate.
The DECR communication service maintains contacts with secular mass media and monitors publications about the Russian Orthodox Church. It also supports the DECR official web-site and participates in supporting the official site of the Moscow Patriarchate.
The publications section publishes Church and Time, a theological and church public magazine and carries out particular publishing projects.
In addition, there are also a protocol section, an office, archives, a language and other services which ensure DECR’s everyday work.
The chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate’s department for external church relations is Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, permanent member of the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church.
Vice-chairmen of the department are Archpriest Nikolay Balashov and Hegumen Philaret (Bulekov).