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Last Updated: Friday, 12 May 2006, 12:50 GMT 13:50 UK
Russian Orthodox rift healing
Russian Orthodox Easter in Moscow
The Church's confidence has grown since the USSR collapsed in 1991
The Russian Orthodox Church has moved towards overcoming a schism that has divided it since 1927.

Clergy and lay members of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia have called for spiritual unity to be restored with the Moscow Patriarchate.

Their call came at a synod in San Francisco on Thursday - only the fourth to be convened since 1920.

The emigre church cut ties with Moscow in 1927, after Patriarch Sergiy declared loyalty to the Soviet leaders.

The Moscow Patriarchate has said Sergiy was motivated by a desire to save the church from ruin in the athiest communist state. It has disavowed his declaration.

The Church Outside Russia's bishops will meet next week to have the final say on healing the rift with Moscow.

The Moscow Patriarchate's external relations secretary, Nikolai Balashov, welcomed the San Francisco recommendation.

He said "it shows that the clergy and parishioners of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad want to restore the unity of the Church no less than believers at home".

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