Moscow, Orthodox theology is reborn: the first doctoral thesis discussed after more than a century
by Vladimir Rozanskij

The thesis by Fr. Oleg Davydenkov, at the institute "Ss. Cyril and Methodius ", directed by Metropolitan Ilarion (Alfeev). In recent years the faculty of theology has also been introduced in secular universities. Patriarch Kirill's interest. The problem of textbooks that refer to theology that pre-dates the revolution or the Russian diaspora

Moscow (AsiaNews) - After more than a century, the defense of a doctoral dissertation in theology was held on 21 May in Russia. Father Oleg Davydenkov, former professor of Eastern Christian philology at the University "San Tikhon", defended his thesis entitled "Christological system of moderate monophysitism in the history of Byzantine theological thought" at the Institute for Aspiring and Doctoral students "Sts. Cyril and Methodius", directed by Metropolitan Ilarion (Alfeev), the closest collaborator of the patriarch of Moscow Kirill (Gundjaev).

The highly specialized theological institute was established in the Russian Orthodox Church a few years ago, and Fr. Davydenkov’s doctorate is its first official fruit. In fact, there are several schools of theology in Russia at various levels, both ecclesiastical and secular, but there was no institutional coordination by the Patriarchate. Thus a history of academic studies has been renewed, after its interruption by the revolution over a century ago, when there were four great Orthodox Theological Academies in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Kiev and Kazan.

The following day, 22 May, Metropolitan Ilarion himself spoke at the II International Symposium on "Theology in today's scientific and educational space", organized at the "Sts. Cyril and Methodius ". In his paper he addressed the developments of theological teaching in present-day Russia, "at different levels and in different perspectives", both in terms of true Orthodox theology and in supporting the teaching of theology in all senses at secular universities. Ilarion recalled the great attention of Patriarch Kirill to in all the meetings of the Synod of Russian bishops and of the Superior Council of the Patriarchate.

An important step was the "synchronization of the curricula of all Orthodox educational institutes", comparing the contents and levels of the various courses, trying to bring them together to a higher level, and providing an adequate choice of specific literature. The course lecture notes were examined by a special commission, which revealed that most of the theology courses were conducted based on the literature prior to the revolution, or even on texts of two or three centuries ago, or alternatively using texts from the Russian twentieth century diaspora, but without a true current Russian theology.

Today, more than thirty new theological manuals approved by the Patriarchate are available, or being published, prepared with the contribution of over 100 theologians of all the various specializations of theology. The ecclesiastical higher theological schools are subjected to the state university accreditation procedure, to obtain confirmation of the correspondence of their standards to academic requirements. So far a dozen theological institutes have obtained this accreditation, first among them "Sts. Cyril and Methodius " which focuses on doctoral research.

At the same time, the Orthodox Church pays great attention to the teaching of theology in secular universities, where the corresponding chair has been introduced in recent years, but is not yet active in most Russian universities. The Church's desire is to support theological and traditional teaching, and not simply a generic presentation of "religious sciences", deemed abstract and dissociated from traditional religious denominations. Theology in the university is not a form of "missionary preaching for the purpose of proselytism", says Ilarion, but a proposal to let everyone know about religious traditions and their specific contents. The same purpose applies to the teaching of religion at secondary level schools.

Before the revolution, theology in Russia had reached remarkable levels of elaboration, but remained a "separate body" with respect to society. Those who studied in Theological Academies, "mostly candidates for the priesthood, could not study or teach in secular universities. In the Soviet period theology was almost entirely clandestine, or developed by the Russian diaspora, but unknown at home; today in fact has the opportunity to become a protagonist in the life of the Church and of society in Russia.