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the aggregate of rules, sanctioned or established by the state, that regulate the internal organization of the church and the relations between church organizations, believers, and the state. In countries where the church is separate from the state, ecclesiastical law does not exist, and the rules of internal church relationships have no legal character (seeCHURCH AND STATE, SEPARATION OF).
Until the October Revolution of 1917, church organizations had their own jurisdiction, both as regards family relations and with respect to certain other areas. Thus, the Russian Orthodox Church had the right to rule on conflicts between members of the Orthodox clergy concerning rights of ownership of church property and to conduct criminal proceedings against the clergy and laity accused of those criminal and lesser offenses subject to an ecclesiastical penance. Proceedings concerning criminal and lesser offenses committed by members of the clergy “contrary to their office, decorum, or moral behavior” were also relegated to the jurisdiction of the Church.
On Jan. 20 (Feb. 2), 1918, the Council of People’s Commissars passed a decree separating the church from the state and the schools from the church. Internal church affairs of the Russian Orthodox Church are subject to the Regulations for the Governance of the Russian Orthodox Church, adopted by the local council in 1945.
P. S. GRATSIANSKII