Paris, May 31, 2019
The administration of the Archdiocese of Russian Churches in Western Europe, formerly an Exarchate of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, has published a number of texts leading up to and resulting from its recent pastoral assembly on May 11 in which the clergy of the Archdiocese gathered in Paris to further deliberate on their future following Constantinople’s sudden revocation of Exarchate status in November.
In a proposal on the future of the Archdiocese, a group of Archdiocesan clergy write about the structure’s history as the continuation of the Provisional Administration of the Russian Parishes in Western Europe, founded by St. Tikhon of Moscow in 1921. It was this structure, created by the Russian Church, that later received Exarchate status from the Patriarchate of Constantinople in 1931, 1971, and 1999—and it was this status that linked the group to a Local Church in communion with the broader Orthodox community, the authors write.
“Therefore, we consider that while the Patriarchate of Constantinople may indeed revoke the status of Exarchate as stated in the synodal act of November 27, 2018, it is not for it to abolish a structure that the Patriarchate did not create,” they continue. With the tomos granting Exarchate status revoked, the Archdiocese must be attached to a Local Church.
The proposal notes that the Archdiocese is looking for a home that will respect its administrative independence, statutes, and liturgical and linguistic practices, grant the possibility of electing hierarchs by Clergy-Laity Assemblies, according to the principles of the Moscow Council of 1917-1918, grant the status of metropolis to the group and of metropolitan to its primate, and grant the possibility of participating in the work of the councils and hierarchical assemblies of the given Local Church.
Moreover, the authors “note that at present, only the Russian Orthodox Church is likely to give an answer that would make it possible to elaborate a solution corresponding to the requirements of our principles of ecclesiastical functioning.”
Likewise, in his letter of April 22, His Eminence Archbishop John of Chariopoulis, the ruling hierarch of the Archdiocese, noted that contact with the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, the Orthodox Church in America, and the Romanian Patriarchate did not yield results.
He then notes that contact was made with the Moscow Patriarchate via His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev), recalling the words of Metropolitan Evlogy who, on the eve of a receiving the tomos that provisionally linked the group to Constantinople, noted that it was not therefore separating from the Russian Church and had every intention of returning fully to the Moscow Patriarchate when conditions would allow.
Abp. John notes that the dialogue with the Russian Church has been frank and respectful and allows the Archdiocese to continue its mission in Western Europe. He has openly spoken previously about his desire to see the Archdiocese join the Moscow Patriarchate, which has offered to accept it intact as an ecclesiastical body.
He also writes that following the Assembly of February 23, a delegation was sent to Istanbul to ask the Patriarchate to reexamine the situation, though it was told only that it had to implement the Synod’s surprise decision of November 27 because the Patriarchate had no intention of reversing its decision. Moreover, the delegation was told that not only had the Archdiocese lots its Exarchate status, but it no longer existed at all in Constantinople’s vision.
No response has been received to letters sent to the Patriarchate of Constantinople, Abp. John notes.
A General Assembly is scheduled for September 7.
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