Paris, January 21, 2019
According to a communiqué released by the Archdiocese of Russian Orthodox Churches in Western Europe of the Ecumenical Patriarchate released on January 17, the Greek hierarchs of the Ecumenical Patriarchate throughout Europe have ordered that the clergy of the Archdiocese surrender their parish documents and join the Greek dioceses.
The statement reads: “In recent days, many 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 Metropolia, to consider that our parishes and communities are already part of these Metropolia and finally ordering them to hand over all relevant parish documents and records.”
However, the Archdiocesan Council says that this “intervention by external bishops in the very body of our Archdiocese, even if they are bishops of the same Patriarchate, is irregular from the point of view of ecclesiology and law,” asserting that His Eminence Archbishop John (Renneteau) of Chariopoulis is the only lawful ruling bishop, having been elected on March 28, 2016, with his election ratified by the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate on April 22, 2016.
The Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Constantinople resolved on November 27 to abolish the status of the Exarchate of the Archdiocese, though this move was neither requested nor expected by Abp. John and the Archdiocese.
The communiqué also refers to the Archdiocesan statutes that define the administrative authority as belonging to the Archbishop, who exercises his functions for life. He can be removed from office only by the judgment of the competent higher ecclesiastical tribunal—the Holy Synod of Constantinople.
Thus: “These provisions do not permit any other interpretation: 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 direct obedience to His Eminence, Archbishop John. All diocesan files are up-to-date at the Archdiocese and they may not, for legally binding reasons, be transferred to an external authority without good reason.”
Further, the Archdiocesan Council notes that it regrets the unilateral rescinding of the Patriarchal and Synodal tomos of June 19, 1999 in late November, it nevertheless recognizes that the Patriarchate had the right to do so. The statement clarifies that this indicates the withdrawal of the status of Patriarchal Exarchate but not the “dissolution of the Archdiocese.”
In fact, only the General Assembly of the Archdiocese has the authority to dissolve it. Further, the Council writes: “However, neither the Greek Metropolitans of Western Europe, nor the Council of the Archdiocese, nor even the Archbishop can take the place of the Church Assembly which has been validly convened for 23rd February,” to discuss the recent actions by Constantinople.
The Archdiocese is considering various options, including joining the Moscow Patriarchate, the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, or the Romanian Orthodox Church.
In response to the announcement of the February 23 meeting, Archbishop Job Getcha of the Patriarchate of Constantinople wrote on his Facebook page: “The former Exarchate of the Ecumenical Patriarchate rejects the directives of the Ecumenical Throne. Anti-canonically, they will gather on the day of the Red Army, on 23 February 2019, to decide whether they join the ROCOR, the Moscow Patriarchate, or the Church of Romania.”
The Council also writes that it is grateful to the Ecumenical Patriarchate “for its canonical protection during all these years.”
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