Department for external church relations of the Moscow Patriarchate (DECR)

Present-day activities

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.

That was also when some of the DECR’s functions were transferred to the newly-established Department for Church-Society Relations, which was charged with maintaining relations with legislative bodies, political parties, trade and artistic unions and other institutions of civil society in the canonical territory of the Moscow Patriarchate. The representations, metochions, monasteries and stavropegic parishes that earlier had been in the DECR’s jurisdiction were placed under the direct authority of the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia. An appropriate Secretariat was set up to assist the Patriarch in governing the institutions abroad. The post-graduate course of the Moscow Theological Academy, which had been attached to the DECR, was transformed into the Theological Institute of Postgraduate Studies.

On 24 December 2015, with the view of optimizing the work of church institutions, the Holy Synod took a decision to establish the Synodal Department for Church’s Relations with Society and Mass Media by merging the Synodal Department for Church-Society Relations and the Synodal Information Department. The functions of the Department for Church-Society Relations pertaining to the interreligious dialogue were transferred to the Department for External Church Relations.

At present, the DECR’s status and tasks are defined by the Statute of the Russian Orthodox Church and the DECR By-Laws. The DECR is accountable to His Holiness the Patriarch and the Holy Synod, which annually approve its work plan. The documents guiding the DECR’s work are resolutions of the Local and Bishops’ Councils of the Russian Orthodox Church, resolutions of the Holy Synod and Patriarchal instructions. The DECR chairman is appointed by the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia and the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church. According to the decision of the Holy Synod of 16 December 1961, the DECR chairman shall be a bishop and have the status of permanent member of the Holy Synod.

The DECR maintains the Russian Orthodox Church’s relations with the Local Orthodox Churches, non-Orthodox Churches, Christian associations, non-Christian religious communities, as well as governmental, parliamentary, non-governmental institutions abroad and inter-governmental, religious and public international organizations.

Among the DECR’s tasks is to inform His Holiness the Patriarch and the Holy Synod about developments and events taking place outside the Russian Orthodox Church and affecting its interests, as well as to draft church-wide documents and decisions concerning the inter-Orthodox, inter-Christian, interreligious and international relations and other issues within its competence.

One of the main spheres of the DECR’s work is fraternal cooperation with the Local Orthodox Churches carried out through the DECR Secretariat for Inter-Orthodox Relations. The inter-Orthodox agenda includes such matters as the Orthodox unity and observance of canonical principles of inter-Orthodox interaction, common witness before the external world and promotion of cooperation among the 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 brings to the notice of inter-Christian organizations the position of the Russian Orthodox Church on various socially significant issues, helps promote the dialogue with the Roman Catholic Church and maintain contacts with Protestant confessions as well as with the Oriental (non-Chalcedonian) Churches.

The Secretariat for Far Abroad Countries promotes 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 far abroad countries. It also works with compatriots who live outside the canonical territory of the Moscow Patriarchate.

Within the structure of the Department for External Church Relations there is also the Secretariat for Interreligious Relations that maintains and promotes contacts with various religious communities both in the countries of the Moscow Patriarchate’s canonical responsibility and in far abroad countries, as well as at international platforms, and helps develop the dialogue with traditional religions of the Russian Federation, in particular, within the framework of the Interreligious Council of Russia.

The DECR Communication Service is in charge of contacts with secular mass media and monitors publications about the Russian Orthodox Church. It also maintains the DECR’s official web-site and helps maintain the official site of the Moscow Patriarchate.

The Publications Section publishes the Church and Time theological and church-public magazine and carries out specific publishing projects.

In addition, there are also the Protocol Section, the Chancellery, the Archive, the Language Service and other offices that help the DECR carry out its 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.

The DECR vice-chairmen are Archpriest Nikolay Balashov and Archimandrite Philaret (Bulekov).