For context glance over Archdiocese/Exarchate to Be Abolished (11/28/18), It’s Official: Ecumenical Patriarchate Dissolves Russian Archdiocese of Western Europe (11/28/18), Rue Daru Responds: Communiqué of the Archdiocesan Council of the Russian Archdiocese of Western Europe (12/1/18), the latter part of A Way Out of the Orthodox Church’s Present Crisis (1/2/19), and The Choice Facing the Archdiocese of Russian Churches in Western Europe (1/14/19).

Communiqué of the Archdiocesan Council – January 17, 2019

In recent days numerous priests and deacons of the Archdiocese have received a letter from the Greek metropolitan of the country where they reside, ordering them to cease commemorating their own Archbishop, to join the clergy of the Greek Metropolises, to consider that our parishes and communities are already part of these Metropolises, and finally ordering them to turn over all required documents and parish registries.

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On this subject the Archdiocesan Council refers to its communiqué of this past November 30 and offers some clarifications.

This intervention by outside bishops in the very body of our Archdiocese, even if bishops of the same Patriarchate, is irregular with regard to ecclesiology and the law: indeed, His Eminence, Archbishop John [Renneteau], is the only legitimate ruling bishop of the Orthodox Parishes of Russian Tradition in Western Europe. On March 28, 2016 he was elected in a regular manner by the extraordinary General Assembly of Archdiocese, composed of all the clergy and lay delegates from the parishes which make up our ecclesial body; on April 22, 1016 the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate ratified this election. From that very moment Archbishop John was installed in a definitive manner in his functions. Since then he has neither resigned nor requested retirement, and he remains—by the very definition of episcopal ministry—the instrument of the diocese’s catholicity, and the president of the Diocesan Union, the legal entity according to French law which assures the communion of all the parishes and communities of the Archdiocese. 

Like all his predecessors since the Venerable Metropolitan Evlogy, and in all the countries where his parishes are established, His Eminence, Archbishop John, celebrates the Church’s Eucharist in catholicity, as well as all sacramental acts: he presides at the consecration of churches and antimensia, he ordains [men] to every rank of ecclesial service in our Archdiocese. In his capacity as bishop of the Patriarchate of Constantinople he participated recently in the Synaxis of the Hierarchs of the Ecumenical Throne [September 1-3, 2018] and, in 2016, at the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church [in Crete]. His place as sole diocesan bishop is canonically and juridically irrefutable, as confirmed by the official Statutes of the Archdiocese.   

The Statutes of the Archdiocese are known to the Patriarchate and have been approved consistently by the Holy Synod since 1931. In the version in force to this day, they stated notably:

Article 11

The Archdiocese and member associations [parishes and monasteries] are placed under the administrative authority and the spiritual, pastoral, and moral direction of a ruling bishop with the rank and title of Archbishop under obedience to His Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople. The Archbishop is the President of the Archdiocese.

Article 40

The Archbishop exercises his functions for life. He may nevertheless retire from the governance of the Archdiocese after consulting with the Episcopal Committee and the Archdiocesan Council. On the other hand, he may not be dismissed from his functions except after the judgment of the competent ecclesiastical supreme court, namely the patriarchal Holy Synod.

These provisions allow no other interpretation of things: our diocesan clergy must continue the manner of liturgical commemoration that they have always practiced, and they remain, just like the parishes and monasteries, under immediate obedience to His Eminence, Archbishop John. All diocesan files are up-to-date at the Archdiocese and cannot, for obligatory legal reasons, be transferred to an outside authority without a justified reason.

On November 27, 2018 the Ecumenical Patriarchate decided to rescind the Patriarchal and Synodal Tomos of June 19, 1999, which conferred on the Archdiocese the status of Patriarchal Exarchate. Even though the Archdiocesan Council regrets the unilateral and unplanned character of this decision, we recognize that the Patriarchate had the right to make this decision. However, we cannot confuse withdrawing the status of Patriarchal Exarchate with “dissolving the Archdiocese” according to the derogatory expression used by certain sources on the internet.

The November 27 decision of the Patriarchate of Constantinople entails a unilateral component (the withdrawal of the Tomos of 1999) and a bilateral, indeed trilateral component (the invitation to integrate the parishes of the Archdiocese into the Greek Metropolises, concerning which we do not know whether they [the Metropolises] were consulted on this subject). That which is multilateral must necessarily be the object of deliberation by the collective subjects (parishes) and individuals (clergymen) concerned. No one can prejudge the ecclesiologically fundamental act constituted by the reception of a decision of outside provenance.  

Indeed, to dissolve the Archdiocese founded in 1921 (that is, even before its reception into the Patriarchate of Constantinople), only the General Assembly is competent. The Assembly has been validly called for the coming February 23 and has only one point on its agenda: the discussion of this decision by the Patriarchate.

In the same way that the Ecumenical Patriarchate conforms, for its local operation in Turkey, to the sometimes very constraining legislative regime of the Turkish Republic, so has the Patriarchate always encouraged our Archdiocese to organize itself in conformity with the laws of the countries where out parishes are established and to respect those laws fully. Far from infringing on the good organization of the Church, respect for statutory procedures constitutes the safest canonical application, directly inspired by the Orthodox ethos.

De jure our Archdiocese finds itself today in the same situation as it did before its reception into the Ecumenical Patriarchate. De facto, nevertheless, we would not want this long and fruitful period to end without a face-to-face human encounter between the representatives of our Archdiocese and the Patriarchate authorities. 

Indeed we will never be able to find the right words to express our gratitude to the Ecumenical Patriarchate to its canonical protection during all these years. The Holy Church of Constantinople has taken care to respect the particularities of our diocesan operation inspired by the decisions and debates of the 1917-18 Council of Moscow, and for this we are deeply grateful to [the Ecumenical Patriarchate]. This shows how much the ecclesial vocation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate is truly supra-ethnic.

If the Ecumenical Patriarchate closed the door to any possibility of the Archdiocese to remain within it, the General Assembly would consequently reach a decision. At any rate, neither the Greek Metropolises of Western Europe, nor the Archdiocesan Council, nor even the Archbishop can take the place of the ecclesial Assembly which has been validly called for this coming February 23.

Until then, the Archdiocesan Council calls all parties to respect the peace of the Church and the legal provisions which guarantee that, in the Body of Christ, “all things be done decently and in order” (1 Cor 14:40). “For,” as the Apostle Paul still teaches, “God is not a God of confusion but of peace” (1 Cor 14:33). The opposite of disorder is therefore not order, but peace.

This communiqué appeared in French on January 17, 2019 on the website of the Archdiocese of Russian Orthodox Churches in Western Europe. Translated for Orthodoxy in Dialogue by Giacomo Sanfilippo.
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