From January 30 to January 31, 2020, the hall of church councils at the Moscow Christ the Savior cathedral hosted a plenum uniting all members of the Inter-Council Assembly (ICA) of the Russian Orthodox Church. The ICA, founded in 2009 to draft position papers on a range of topics dealing with the external and the internal life of the Church, comprises 204 people: 81 bishops, 74 clerics (including 14 monks and 1 deacon), 12 abbesses, 1 rasaphor nun, 36 laymen and 20 laywomen. At the end of 2019, new clergy members from the Archdiocese of Russian Orthodox Churches in Western Europe were incorporated into the ICA.
The ICA is not a representative, but rather a consulting body. Its members have been appointed by the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church. From the Russian Church Abroad, His Eminence Metropolitan Mark of Berlin and Germany, Deacon Andrei Psarev, Associate Professor of Russian Church History and Canon Law and Rasaphor Nun Vassa (Larina) attended this plenum.
In his opening address, His Holiness Patriarch Kirill noted the importance for ICA members of conducting dialogue on social media in order to participate in discussions on various issues, particularly family ones, testifying to Christ in the modern world. Then Metropolitan Mark, Chair of the Church Law Commission, explained the work on the document of Regulations on Church Punishments of Clerics. The work on this document began in 2017. The document was discussed during the four plenary sessions on Thursday and Friday. Since the emphasis was placed on quality rather than speed, only half of the thirty-page document was discussed at this time, with the remainder to be discussed at the next plenary meeting of the ICA. The Regulations do not intend to describe all types of offenses, but will serve to protect both the canonical Church order, and the clergy themselves. In its work, the ICA follows the set-up of the Moscow All-Russian Local Council of 1917-1918: documents are developed in seven commissions, then sent to the dioceses, processed by the editorial commission, discussed at the plenum, and then approved by the Bishops’ Council.
In early 2019, the Commission on Canon Law of the Russian Orthodox Church completed work on the themes approved by the Presidium of the Inter-Council Assembly (ICA) in 2015. On March 11, the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church approved a list of new themes for the Commission’s work.
On March 17, the Commission met at the Sretensky Theological Seminary in Moscow. Since the chairman of the Commission, Metropolitan Mark of Berlin and Germany, could not chair this session due to the virus-related restrictions on travel, Metropolitan Clement of Kaluga and Borovsk headed the work. Deacon Andrei Psarev took part in the discussions. The Commission outlined ways for further study relative to the canonization of saints, the practical aspects of relations with non-Orthodox, and the use of penances in ministry to the laity. Father Andrei was assigned to submit a report to the commission on practical relations of the Russian Church Abroad with non-Orthodox Christians. He has already touched upon this matter in his talk at the fourth Pan-Diaspora Council in San Francisco, in 2006. https://www.rocorstudies.org/2008/11/18/the-development-of-russian-orthodox-church-outside-of-russias-attitude-toward-other-local-orthodox-churches-and-non-orthodox-christians/
Inter-Council Assembly - Jan 30-31, 2020