Orthodoxy in Dialogue urges our readers very strongly to read The Daily Signal‘s How Putin Uses Russian Orthodoxy to Grow His Empire and our Report: Archdiocese of Russian Orthodox Churches in Western Europe Votes to Remain in Existence in conjunction with the present article.
Clergy and laity representatives of the Archdiocese of Russian Churches in Western Europe of the Patriarchate of Constantinople gathered in Paris on February 23, where they overwhelmingly voted not to dissolve the Archdiocese, despite the sudden and unexpected decision of Constantinople in late November to revoke the body’s status as an Exarchate and to direct that the parishes move under the local Greek Constantinople hierarchs. The Archdiocese will decide which jurisdiction to transfer to at a later Assembly.
A translation of the letter of His Eminence Archbishop Anthony of Vienna and Budapest, the head of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Synodal Department for the Administration of Institutions Abroad, to His Eminence Archbishop John of Charioupolis concerning the Russian Church’s proposals for the Archdiocese of Russian Churches in Western Europe to reunite itself to the Russian Church has been published in French on Orthodoxie.
The letter was read out by Abp. John at the General Assembly after the participants voted against dissolution. Abp. John openly supports the option of the Archdiocese returning to the Moscow Patriarchate. [Emphasis ours.] In an interview given the day after the Assembly, Abp. John notes that while he is getting older, Constantinople has not allowed any new bishops to be consecrated, and thus, “They have denied us in the future.”
Abp. Anthony begins by noting that His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia received Abp. John’s letter in which he wrote about the future of the Archdiocese and that he was instructed to transmit the contents of the present letter.
The Russian Church always regarded the separation from its ecclesiastical body in Western Europe, resulting from the terrible persecutions in Russia last century, to be temporary, Abp. Anthony writes, as had Metropolitan Evlogy, the head of the Archdiocese in 1931: “We will return to our previous situation when the central ecclesial authority recognized by all, as well as the normal conditions of the life of the Russian Orthodox Church will be restored… It is just a temporary pause in official administrative relations.”
“It is with joy that the Russian Church is ready to re-establish its pastoral solicitude for the communities of Russian tradition in Western Europe that lie beneath your omophorion and whose origins are in the Russian Church,” Abp. Anthony writes. Dependent upon the results of the General Assembly, the Holy Synod of the Russian Church could make such a decision, he writes, based on the following principles:
The Archdiocese joins the Moscow Patriarchate, preserving the historical integrity of its parishes, monasteries, and other ecclesiastical institutions and with all the clergy who desire it, under the leadership of Abp. John;
The Archdiocese’s historical heritage, including its liturgical and other traditions and the particularities of the diocesan and parish functioning, will be preserved;
The election of the hierarchy of the Archdiocese will be held in accordance with its own statutes after the approval by the Patriarch of the list of candidates and then with the canonical confirmation of the election by the Russian Holy Synod;
All the hierarchs of the Archdiocese will members of the Local Councils and Bishops’ Councils of the Russian Church;
The Archdiocese’s elected delegates will be members of the Local Councils;
The decisions of the Holy Synod will be in force for the Archdiocese to the extent of its statutory particularities.
The restoration of ecclesiastical unity and communion could be confirmed by Abp. John and the clergy of the Archdiocese concelebration with Pat. Kirill at Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow, with the Patriarchal and Synodal Act reflecting the above principles being granted.
Abp. Anthony asks Abp. John to share the contents of the letter with the clergy and laity who were to participate in the General Assembly on February 23.
“His Holiness sends them all his love and blessing,” the Russian hierarch concludes.