25 December 2006

Statement by the Communications Service of the Office of External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate Concerning the Discussion in Russian Society of the Question of the Political Rehabilitation of the Royal Family

The subject of the rehabilitation of the last Russian emperor, Nicholas II, and his family has become a topic of discussion in Russia after the submission by Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna of a request for a review of the matter to the procurator-general of the Russian Federation on 1 December 2005. Since then, Russian media and society in general have expressed a variety of points of view. Representatives at all levels of the Russian Orthodox Church have taken an active part in the discussions of this question and have often expressed their own personal opinions on the matter. The Communications Service of the Office of External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate has been authorized to affirm that the Church’s general position on the matter of the Royal Family has already been stated in the year 2000.

After a careful examination of the life and the circumstances surrounding the death of Emperor Nicholas II and his family, the Jubilee-Year Meeting of Bishops in 2000 made the decision to count the Royal Family among the heavenly choir of Passion-Bearers. The canonization was magnificently celebrated by His Holiness Patriarch Aleksei II of Moscow and All Russia on the Feast of the Transfiguration, on 19 August 2000. The canonization does not in and of itself indicate that the Church has the authority to make someone a saint. Rather, a canonization is a recognition by the Church hierarchy and by God's people of the fact that a person already is a saint.

However, having first and foremost a spiritual significance, the act of canonization reflects also a legal position, since a criminal, who has violated God-pleasing laws, can never be regarded as a saint. A saint who violates godless laws, on the other hand, is righteous and a confessor of the faith. And thus it is stated in the Foundations of the Social Concepts of the Russian Orthodox Church: “A Christian, following the precepts of his conscience, cannot fulfill the laws of a government that directs him toward sin” (III, 5). Therefore, the Church expressed its historical judgment both in regard to the laws that facilitated the execution of the Royal family, and in regard to the very executions themselves.

Nonetheless, the Church’s determination in these matters carries weight only among the faithful. Senior members of the current Russian government repeatedly have expressed themselves about the executions of the Royal Family and about the repressions after the revolution as being inhumane and immoral crimes. However sincere these expressions of regret, these crimes have not received a legal determination, which would then become an inalienable part of modern Russian jurisprudence and would validate their connection with the thousand-year history of the Russian State. In addition, such a legal determination would be clear proof of the Russian Federation’s condemnation of this crime and of similar evil acts, the Russian Federation being, according to international law, the successor to the Soviet Union. This step would have enormous significance in society, since Emperor Nicholas II was the head of the state not only for his Russian Orthodox subjects, but also for all peoples and confessions of the Russian Empire.

Taken from the Official Site of the Moscow Patriarchate

»Russian Orthodox Church»


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