Michalovce, Slovakia, November 22, 2019
According to a hierarch and member of the Holy Synod of the Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia, a recent statement from Metropolitan Arsenios (Kardamakis) of the Patriarchate of Constantinople concerning the establishment of a Constantinople dependency in the Czech Republic is full of inaccuracies.
It was recently reported that the Patriarchate of Constantinople has legally registered a monastery/association in the Czech Republic without the blessing of the ruling primate His Beatitude Metropolitan Rostislav of Prešov and All the Czech Lands and Slovakia or the Holy Synod.
Met. Arsenios of the Patriarchate of Constantinople is legally registered as the Chairman of the association, and Bishop Isaiah (Slaninka) of Šumperk of the Czech-Slovak Church as the Deputy Chairman. The connection between Met. Arsenios and Bp. Isaiah goes back at least to 2015, when Met. Arsenios and Metropolitan Emmanuel of Gaul, also of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, decided that then-Archimandrite Isaiah would be consecrated as a bishop for the Czech-Slovak Church, which took place on February 22, 2015, without the primate’s or Synod’s blessing. He was accepted as a bishop by the Czech-Slovak Church as part of the compromise in 2016 whereby Patriarch Bartholomew finally agreed to recognize the canonically-elected Met. Rostislav as the primate of the Church.
Bp. Isaiah is also the hierarch who served with the Ukrainian schismatics yesterday and on Wednesday, despite Met. Rostislav’s warning of canonical sanctions, and gave them a piece of the relics of St. Wenceslaus.
Speaking with the Greek outlet Romfea yesterday, Met. Arsenios denied reports of a parallel jurisdiction being established on the territory of the Czech-Slovak Church, saying everything has been done with the consent of the Church. According to Met. Arsenios, Constantinople has the right to establish a stavropegial institution on the territory of other Churches, and, in this particular case, it was initiated by the Czech Church, and in particular Archbishop Simeon of Olomuc-Brno.
It was Abp. Simeon who consecrated Bp. Isaiah, together with Bishop Tikhon (Hollósy), who had been released from his duties as Locum Tenens of the Prešov Diocese and sent into retirement in 2012.
According to Met. Arsenios, Abp. Simeon sent repeated written pleas to Constantinople, and the Metropolitan Council of Abp. Simeon’s diocese also approved of the matter.
“Of course the archbishops of the Czech Church were aware of it, but also Met. Rostislav himself through whom the correspondence was made,” Met. Arsenios asserted.
In closing, he stated that the establishment of a stavropegial monastery has nothing to do with the establishment of a parallel jurisdiction, though he argued that the presence of the Moscow Patriarchate’s representation church in Karlovy Vary constitutes a parallel jurisdiction.
However, statements from His Eminence Archbishop Juraj of Michalovce and Košice, a member of the Holy Synod of the Czech-Slovak Church, paint a different picture.
In his comments to OrthoChristian, Abp. Juraj noted that he has been at every Synod meeting, and he “insists that it has never been discussed” and thus no Synodal decision has ever been made on the matter of Constantinople establishing a stavropegial monastery on the territory of the Czech-Slovak Church.
While Met. Arsenios claims all the bishops of the Czech-Slovak Church were aware of the plans, Abp. Juraj says, on the contrary, they heard only vague rumors.
Asked if the hierarchs consider Constantinople’s move as an attempt to establish a parallel jurisdiction, as in Estonia or Ukraine, Abp. Juraj said, “The bishops don’t know what to think, because we don’t have enough information. We have never been properly informed, which is a big problem. The bishops should be informed of what happens on the territory of their Local Church.”
Thus, the reality is far more complicated than Met. Arsenios has presented, and “his statement is full of inaccuracies,” according to Abp. Juraj.
Further, the Archbishop believes there is no need for such an institution under Constantinople. While the “Association’s” statutes speak of evangelism and sending priests throughout the country, His Eminence commented that if someone wants to help, they could send a priest or a monk with a blessing to help out in various ways.
“But why should we copy the situation of the diaspora in a canonically secure territory?” he wondered.
Regarding the Moscow Patriarchate’s representation church in Karlovy Vary, Abp. Juraj noted that it is there for historical reasons that cannot be ignored. “We live not only in the present, but have roots in the past,” he said.
Following the Second World War, the Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia was revived under the Moscow Patriarchate, and it was the Moscow Patriarchate that granted it full and total autocephaly in 1951, though Constantinople refused to acknowledge its independence.
Abp. Juraj also noted that he lives only 25 miles from the Ukrainian border, and he knows the truth of the situation there quite well. His Eminence has often expressed his unwavering support for the canonical Ukrainian Church in word and by concelebrating with Ukrainian hierarchs. Most recently, the Archbishop concelebrated with Metropolitan Amfilohije of Montenegro of the Serbian Orthodox Church and Metropolitan Anthony of Boryspil and Brovary, the Chancellor of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, in Western Slovakia on the feast of St. John the Merciful.
He also often goes to Ukraine, he noted, and spends time among the people.
“May the good old days return when bishops were willing to meet their brother bishops from elsewhere” and there wasn’t a sense of competition and enmity between hierarchs, he said.
In conclusion, Abp. Juraj asked for prayers for the Czech-Slovak Church and all the hierarchs of the Orthodox Church.
See the article “The Ecumenical Patriarchate’s Role in the Crisis Period of the Orthodox Church in the Czech Lands and Slovakia,” for more details on the relations between the two Churches.