Holy Synod

Holy Synod (Sviateishii Vserossiiskii Pravitelstvuiushchii Sinod). The highest ruling body of the Orthodox church in the Russian Empire, established by Peter I in 1721 to replace the Moscow patriarchate. It was created in order to subordinate the church to secular authority. The first statutes were laid down in the Spiritual Regulation written by Teofan Prokopovych in 1722. Under the Holy Synod the clergy became civil servants and the church was turned into a bureaucratic institution. While the Holy Synod was given responsibility for educational and benevolent work and certain ecclesiastical matters, its power was clearly limited; eg, it could only nominate candidates for bishop, whom the tsar then appointed. It was composed of representatives of the church hierarchy and the clergy appointed by the tsar, and was presided over by the tsar's representative, the ober-prokuror, whose rank from 1824 was equivalent to that of a minister. In 1764 the Holy Synod's large estates were confiscated, further undermining its independence. It continually limited any remnants of autonomy of the Kyiv metropoly and opposed the use of the Ukrianian language in church schools in 1860 and 1912. When the Moscow patriarchate was re-established in 1917, the Holy Synod was abolished.

[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 2 (1989).]

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