Skip to main content



Derived from the Russian sobiratj, meaning "to gather" or "a state of being united." It is identified with Alexy Khomyakov's concept of the church as a theandric organism of love, effecting its unity as a free association of all peoples in Christ, patterned on the communal unity of the first Christians (Acts 2.42), and corresponding to the Greek term κοινωνία. Between what it considers a kind of mechanical unity based upon exterior authoritythis it attributes to the Roman Catholic Churchand the individualistic excess of libertythis it attributes to Protestantismthe Orthodox Church considers that it realizes a synthesis of such opposites in its characteristic of a free communion of all in charity. Its catholicity, termed sobornaja, equivalent to the Greek καθολικη, is interior; it diverges from the concept of external authority as vested in the person of the pope, whose prerogatives of primacy and infallibility are, according to the Orthodox, immanent to the church as a whole. The covenant principle of sobornost goes beyond the usual idea of conciliarity by seeing the government and sovereign magisterium of the church as residing in the college of bishops, equal in dignity and rights, who only when assembled in a universal synod legislate on matters of faith or regulate affairs of ecclesiastical government affecting the universal church. While C. Lialine associated this idea only with "dialectical solidarity" in the Oecumene, G. Dejaifve considered the concept of sobornost to be more than mere feeling and fellowship; he claimed that when rightly understood it is compatible with the hierarchical principle, even with that of a supreme papal authority.

Bibliography: g. dejaifve, "Sobornost ou Papauté? La Notion de l'église dans l'orthodoxie contemporaine," Nouvelle revue théologique 74, 355371; Eng. version, "'Sobornost' or Papacy?" The Eastern Churches Quarterly, 10 (195354) 2838, 7585, 111124, 168176. g. florovsky, "Sobornost in the Church of God," An Anglo-Russian Symposium (London 1934) 5374. s. bolshakoff, "Patristic Foundations of Khomyakov's Theology," The Eastern Churches Quarterly 10 (195354) 233237. c. lialine, "Nouvelles précisions sur le Conseil Oecuménique des Églises," Irénikon 24 (1951) 3754. n. zernov, Three Russian Prophets: Khomyakov, Dostoievsky and Soloviev (New York 1944). n. zabolotsky, "Esprit communautaire et conciliarité (sobornost')," in Procès-verbaux du Deuxième Congrès de théologie orthodoxe à Athènes (Athens 1978) 129140. m. g. ritchey, "Khomiakov and his theory of Sobornost," Diakonia 17 (1982) 5362. a. ugolnik, "An Orthodox hermeneutic in the West," Saint Vladimir's Theological Quarterly 27 (1983) 93118. c. d. h. doherty, Sobornost: Eastern Unity of Mind and Heart for Western Man, rev. ed. (Combermere, Ont. 1992).

[l. nemec/eds.]

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Sobornost." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . 23 Sep. 2018 <>.

"Sobornost." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . (September 23, 2018).

"Sobornost." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . Retrieved September 23, 2018 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.