Moscow, September 9, 2019
While it is currently uncertain if the Western European Archdiocese of Russian Churches will join the Russian Orthodox Church as a whole, as that option only received a small majority in Saturday’s vote, Interfax reports that the Moscow Patriarchate is willing to accept those individual communities of the Archdiocese wishing to join it.
The fate of the Archdiocese of Russian Churches in Western Europe has been under great question since November of 2018. In a shocking decision, the former exarchate of the Constantinople Patriarchate was summarily dissolved, to the surprise of the Archdiocese itself, and its ruling hierarch.
The Archdiocese, however, voted against its dissolution, and has since then been exploring several options to resolve the rather unorthodox situation it was placed into.
Recently, the Archdiocesan General Assembly voted on what many considered the most natural solution—joining the Moscow Patriarchate, which has stated it would allow the Archdiocese to maintain its particular liturgical and administrative traditions.
The result was a small majority voting in favor of joining, however the movement did not reach the 2/3 majority required by the Archdiocesan statutes to pass, meaning further deliberation will be required. According to a parishioner who attended Liturgy at the St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Paris on Sunday, Archbishop John stated that the 58% who voted in favor of joining the Moscow Patriarchate cannot be ignored, and that the Archdiocese will hold another vote, hoping to receive the needed 2/3 in order to stay united.
Archpriest Nikolai Balashov, the Deputy Head of the Department of External Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate, also commented on Saturday that the Russian Church would receive individual communities of the Archdiocese that request to join it.
Fr. Nikolai noted that “a significant group of clergy and communities wish to join the Russian Church”, while an insufficient number of votes were recently gathered to allow the Archdiocese to join the Russian Church as a single united structure, but “those [communities] who turn to the Russian Church with a request to join will be accepted.”
This apparently means the Moscow Patriarchate is willing to allow individual parishes and groups within the Archdiocese to freely join it, regardless of whether or not the Archdiocese is able to make a decision as a united body, however the status of both those communities, and the Archdiocese as a whole is still to be decided. According to Fr. Nikolai, it is hard to say with certainty what will become of them at the current moment, emphasizing that it all depends on their own free choices.
While the Moscow Patriarchate made it very clear that it would allow the Archdiocese to maintain all its unique liturgical and administrative traditions, should it join the Russian Church, it is important to note that this offer was only made to the Archdiocese as a single Church structure.
It is likely that if only certain individual communities of the Archdiocese join the Russian Church, that their new status would differ than if the entire Archdiocese transferred as a single Church body.
Fr. Nikolai specified that, under these circumstances, the potential organization of those communities within the Moscow Patriarchate would have to be determined based on just how many priests and communities choose to transfer to it.
The fate of the Archdiocese is ultimately in the hands of God and the free-will which he endowed unto its members.