Christianity in the World Today

“I will report to the Soviet churches, recommending that they join the World Council.”

The speaker, according to Religious News Service, was Metropolitan Nikolai, second-ranking leader of the Moscow Patriarchate, who had just met for two days with top WCC officials at Utrecht, The Netherlands.

The metropolitan’s declaration represented the most significant development thus far toward possible Russian Orthodox Church membership in the WCC.

“We cannot express a firm decision on joining the World Council of Churches,” Metropolitan Nikolai was quoted as saying. “We can only say the next stage will be one of consultation with Soviet church leaders.”

A joint statement issued after the meeting said the Russian delegation would report to the Moscow patriarch and synod that it was in “a spirit of full sympathy with the fundamental principles of the ecumenical movement.”

The Soviet delegates, the statement added, will also report favorably on the conference to other autonomous Eastern European Orthodox churches which, like the Russian body, refused to join the WCC when it was formed at Amsterdam in 1948.

The Utrecht conference was the first official meeting between leaders of the Russian Orthodox Church and the WCC, which was represented by General Secretary W. A. Visser ’t Hooft, Central Committee Chairman Franklin Clark Fry, and Greek Orthodox Metropolitan James of Melita, a member of the Central Committee.

Metropolitan Nikolai said the conference provided “undoubtedly a good basis for future contacts” between the Russian Orthodox Church and WCC leaders. He was accompanied to the meeting by Archbishop Michael of Smolensk and Mr. Alexis Buevsky, a layman.

The statement said that WCC leaders were similarly ...

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