The Ecumenical Patriarchate’s Role in the Crisis Period of the Orthodox Church in the Czech Lands and Slovakia

Cathedral of Sts. Cyril and Methodius in Prague Cathedral of Sts. Cyril and Methodius in Prague

At present, we are witnessing the desire of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to influence the ecclesiastical process taking place in Ukraine, whose Church is universally recognized as the canonical territory of the Russian Orthodox Church. This is not the first time that Constantinople has tried to interfere in the affairs of other autocephalous Churches. A few years ago there was an analogous attempt concerning our Orthodox Church in the Czech Lands and Slovakia.

In the following lines, I will try to generally outline the situation from the point of view of an eyewitness, who throughout this whole period was a member of the Diocesan Council of the Prague Orthodox Diocese, working the majority of this time in the Church administration. I would like to stress that I’m speaking about my personal, purely unofficial point of view, and I in no way want to offend, denigrate, or accuse anyone.

First of all, a few words about the formation of the Orthodox Church in the Czech Lands:

The history of our Local Church

Monument to Sts. Cyril and Methodius in Prague Monument to Sts. Cyril and Methodius in Prague
The Orthodox faith was brought to us by Sts. Cyril and Methodius in 863 from Constantinople. However, this wasn’t the sending of a bishop, but it so happened that the Church was established here already in 869, when St. Methodius was consecrated as the Archbishop of Moravia by the then still Orthodox Pope of Rome Hadrian II. Thus, the first Mother of our Local Church was the Roman Church. However, considering the intrigues of the Latin clergy and the political pressure of the Franks, after the death of the Archbishop in 886, St. Methodius’ disciples were driven out of Moravia. Despite this, the Orthodox faith and Slavic worship existed in the Czech lands until the end of the eleventh century when, in 1096, the Slavic Sazavsky Monastery was dispersed, where, among other things, the precious remains of the holy Martyrs Boris and Gleb had been preserved. Orthodoxy disappeared from the Czech lands for many centuries…

Only in 1874 was it possible to revive Orthodox services in Prague, in the Church of St. Nicholas on Staromestskaya Square. The priests who served in this church and in three churches in recently-opened western Czech resort cities belonged to the Moscow Church. At the same time, the Austrian government refused to establish an Orthodox parish in Prague, and from the point of view of parish registration, the Czech Orthodox belonged to the Serbian parish in Vienna. “Orthodox conversations” arose around St. Nicholas’ Church, uniting hundreds of Czech faithful.

In 1918, following the reemergence of the Czech Republic, a movement began to create a Local Orthodox Church. At the head of the group, which arose out of the Orthodox conversations, was Archimandrite Savvaty (Vrabets). At the same time, in 1920, the national Czechoslovakia Church was formed, which numbered several hundred thousand members, and negotiated with the Serbian Church about adopting Orthodoxy. In the end, the association took a very different, liberal path. Only Bishop Gorazd (Pavlik), consecrated in Belgrade, and several hundred believers remained loyal to Orthodox. The community headed by him was, of course, under the jurisdiction of the Serbian Orthodox Church.

Hieromartyr Gorazd (Pavlik) Hieromartyr Gorazd (Pavlik)
This was also why Belgrade, despite Savvaty’s repeated requests, refused not only to recognize him but also to consecrate him as a bishop. Therefore, Savvaty turned to Constantinople as the only way out with a request to be consecrated. On March 4, 1923, Patriarch Meletios IV of Constantinople not only consecrated but also appointed him as the Archbishop of the recently-established Orthodox Church of Czechoslovakia under the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. After his return home, a dispute broke out between Savvaty and Gorazd about who would head Czech (and Moravian) Orthodoxy, in which, quickly enough, thanks to the support of the majority of the faithful, Vladkya Gorazd was able to claim the victory. It was he who created the Church in the Czech Republic and Moravia under the Serbian jurisdiction in the interwar period. Thus, the Serbian Church became the second Mother of our Local Church. In 1942, Vladyka Gorazd was sentenced to death for helping the anti-fascist resistance and received a martyr’s crown. He is venerated as a saint today.

Following his defeat, Vladyka Savvaty retired into solitude and practically did not participate in the life of the Church. He was imprisoned in a concentration camp during the occupation and died in 1959 in Prague, forgotten by nearly everyone. The Tomos on the creation of the autonomous Church of Czechoslovakia, which he received in Constantinople, remained but dead letters.

During the occupation, the Church of Gorazd was officially dissolved and (once again) dispersed. In the difficult years following the end of the Second World War, the Church was revived under the jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate, which, in the end, granted it autocephaly in 1951, with its territory including not only the historical Czech lands, where the Church of Gorazd was active earlier, but also Slovakia. Thus, Moscow became the third Mother of our Church. A particular problem of that time was that the Church then had several hundred thousand members on paper, but the vast majority of them represented the population of the Uniates reunited with Orthodoxy in Eastern Slovakia. When the Greek Catholic Church’s activity was permitted to resume in 1968, then only about 100,000 people remained among the members of the Orthodox Church in Czechoslovakia. Despite that, the granting of autocephaly made the future development of our Local Orthodox Church possible.

The issuing of Constantinople’s tomos

And now we move from ancient times to the much more recent history. Constantinople, of course, never recognized Moscow’s granting of autocephaly to the Czechoslovakian Church. After the fall of the communist regime in 1989, the Orthodox Church in the Czech Lands and Slovakia began to look to mend relations with the Patriarchate of Constantinople and to achieve the recognition of its autocephaly. These efforts culminated in 1998 with the publication of a Patriarchal and Synodal Tomos by which Constantinople recognized our autocephaly.

The Czechoslovakian Church had hoped that the new tomos would bring an atmosphere of a brotherly or, at least, paternal spirit and mutual love, and would only ratify the situation that already effectively existed for several decades. Perhaps it could have been so if the Patriarch of Constantinople hadn’t lost face. The Church received a document of completely different content and sound. Here are just excerpts from the tomos, but the reader can get the picture:

From the introduction (emphasis by the author):

Our holy and great Church of Christ, which is entrusted with the care of all the holy Churches of God and which never leaves a single one of its children without protection and never allows anyone else to do what it has no right to do, and which, as a living Church—living the life of the higher Life, manifested by the Lord’s resurrection from the dead—bearing its ministry, gave in 1923 the honor of autonomy to the Local holy Church in the Czech Lands and Slovakia, living in a free, sovereign, and liberal state, despite the fact that this Church is small, by the issuing of a Patriarchal and Synodal Tomos. From that time until today, the holy Local Orthodox Church in the Czech Lands and Slovakia existed in spite of its several non-canonical actions, which we forgive in silence, knowing that everything carried out non-canonically, not on the basis of the rules and traditions of the one, holy Orthodox Church, inherently has no force, is invalid, and will not be approved even unto the end of the ages.

Thus, the founding act of our Local Church should be considered to be in the future the Constantinople Tomos of 1923 which was never viable and on the foundation of which the Church never relied. All of the traditions of the Gorazdite Church, including its suffering in the period of the Nazi occupation and its traditions after 1945, should be consigned to oblivion. No matter what happened in this period, it’s all non-canonical and Constantinople can question it at any time.

The tomos reads further on:

D. Deacons and priests are under the jurisdiction of the courts of the second level, bishops—of the courts of the first level, and are, according to the sacred canons, in all matters of their duties under the jurisdiction of the canonically established courts, for the work of which are invited, by agreement with the Ecumenical Patriarch, hierarchs exclusively from the jurisdiction of the Mother Church, that is, the Ecumenical Throne.

G. As a sign of spiritual unity with the Mother Church, the Church in the Czech lands and in Slovakia receives holy Chrism from the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

H. The first and most important task of the Holy Synod is to observe the purity of the Orthodox faith and communion in the Holy Spirit with the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the other Orthodox Churches. At the same time, it is obliged, in the event of any misconduct, to appeal not only to the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, but to the larger, expanded Synod, convened for this purpose by the care of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and by the initiative of the latter.

I. As regards global themes and questions of an ecclesiastical character, beyond the possibilities of the Local Orthodox Churches, His Beatitude the Archbishop of Prague and all the Czech Lands and Slovakia also has the right to appeal to our holy Patriarchal Ecumenical Throne, which is in communion with all the Orthodox bishops, rightly dividing the word of truth. The Ecumenical Patriarchate will ask the Sister Churches for their opinions and positions.1

In principle, the tomos gives the Orthodox Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia independence, but at the same time, in court cases over bishops and in Church-wide matters it puts it in complete dependence upon the Ecumenical Patriarchate. The external manifestation of this situation is the obligation to receive holy Chrism from the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

Thus, Constantinople became already our fourth Mother. However, our Church, independent until today, which was in a position to deal with its own administrative affairs, by the reception of the Tomos became a Church subordinate to Constantinople in essential matters, and moreover—it would have to defend the interests and positions of the Ecumenical Patriarchate at Church-wide forums.

It’s no wonder that our Church didn’t know what to do with the Tomos and never officially adopted it. Everyone, it seems to me, was hoping that Constantinople would be satisfied with issuing it and that in the future everything would remain as before.

The events of 2013

For fifteen years after the confirmation of autocephaly in 1998, truly nothing did happen. However, at the first opportunity, the Patriarchate of Constantinople showed itself and began to assert its rights. This opportunity presented itself in 2013 after the resignation of Metropolitan Christopher (Pulec). Talks began then on electing a new Archbishop to the vacant See of Prague. Despite the fact that according to our charter, at that time either the Archbishop of Prague or of Prešov could be chosen as the primate of the Church (and, according to an unwritten law at that time, the Slovak [Prešov] hierarch was next in line), from Constantinople’s point of view, only the Prague Archbishop could be chosen as the head of the entire Church. In this sense, the Patriarchate of Constantinople was very interested in the filling of the See of Prague.

In this aggravated situation, one of the possible candidates for election as Archbishop of Prague—Archbishop Simeon of Olomuc-Brno and Locum Tenens of the Metropolitan throne as chosen by the Synod of the Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia—appealed to the Patriarchate of Constantinople for help. Constantinople’s interference in the life of the Orthodox Church in the Czech Lands and Slovakia dates to that moment. The basis for the negotiations, of course, was the 1998 tomos.

On October 19, 2013, the second diocesan meeting of the Prague Diocese was held at which should have been elected, after the unsuccessful first diocesan meeting, according to the charter of our Local Orthodox Church, a new Archbishop of Prague (a two-thirds majority of the delegates present—clergy and laity chosen by individual parishes—was needed for the election of the bishop). There were two candidates for the position: Vladyka George (Stransky) of Košice-Michalovce and Archimandrite Dorothei (Raptsun). The Constantinople Patriarchate representative Metropolitan Emmanuel of Gaul came to the meeting as a guest.

Just before the election, Vladyka Emmanuel asked for the floor. Everyone in the church expected a brotherly greeting or fatherly encouragement. But instead, the Metropolitan had some harsh words: The Patriarchate of Constantinople would not recognize the election of either of the proposed candidates—Vladyka George because certain gossip about him had appeared online and Fr. Dorothei because he was tonsured as a monk only a month or two prior.

It should be emphasized that both candidates were previously recognized as canonically competent by the Holy Synod of our Local Orthodox Church (headed by the acting Metropolitan, Simeon), and this, of course, was a necessary condition for nominating their candidacy.

As a witness of these events, I should add that the accusations against Vladyka George (too disgusting to write about here) were published on one or two sites that were deliberately created during the period of the Church crisis and their authors showed themselves willing to say anything. Not just me, but others who personally know Vladyka George never believed these rumors, which didn’t have a single piece of evidence. However, in the period of the election, the Patriarchate of Constantinople considered these reasons conclusive enough to refuse to recognize Vladyka George should he be elected, without any further proceedings.

Indeed, Archimandrite Dorothei was tonsured as a monk not long before, after his divorce (to which, however, Vladyka Emmanuel did not point as a reason for the restrictions), but we’re talking about a worthy priest with many years of service—one of the best in our diocese.

Metropolitan Emmanuel of Gaul Metropolitan Emmanuel of Gaul
Metropolitan Emmanuel’s speech completely shocked the present delegates, laity and clergy, torpedoing the entire assembly. In such an improper atmosphere the election began, and neither of the candidates received the necessary two-thirds of the votes. This all led to the subsequent confusion in our Local Church.

Constantinople’s next interference wasn’t long in coming. There was a meeting of the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia in Prague in December 2013. It was headed by Archbishop Simeon of Olomuc-Brno as the Locum Tenens of the Metropolitan throne. Among its members were Archbishop Rostislav of Prešov, Archbishop George of Košice-Michalovce, and the Vicar Bishop of Moravia Vladyka Joachim of Hodonin. The See of the Prague Archbishopric was still vacant.

Vladyka Simeon, as the Locum Tenens, invited two bishops from the Patriarchate of Constantinople to the meeting: the aforementioned Metropolitan Emmanuel and Metropolitan Arsenios of Austria. With their help, he tried to implement his plans. Vladyka Joachim received a written notification of dismissal and was to be excluded from the Synod, and Vladyka George was threatened with an ecclesiastical court proceeding (for the aforementioned internet gossip). The court, had it come to pass, no doubt, would have been held in the spirit of the Tomos with the participation of judges from the Patriarchate of Constantinople.

But in the end, the meeting took what was for some an unexpected turn. Metropolitan Hilarion from the Moscow Patriarchate arrived, who the three remaining bishops, aware of the participation of the Constantinople delegates and in anticipation of what was happening, had invited. Vladyka Hilarion quickly agreed with the Constantinople representatives that neither side would interfere in the Synod’s meeting and would give our autocephalous Church the chance to resolve its own affairs. As a result, Archbishop Simeon was removed from the post of Locum Tenens by the Synod, and in his place was chosen Archbishop Rostislav of Prešov. However, Vladyka Simeon did not recognize this decision that was in accordance with the charter and continued presenting himself as the Locum Tenens.

Light was shed on the role of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, which intervened in this case by the request of Archbishop Simeon, by the letter of Patriarch Bartholomew to Vladyka Simeon on 12/23/2013 (protocol No. 1127), which, among other things, says the following (emphasis by the author):

Therefore, our Mediocrity sent its Exarch, His Eminence Metropolitan Emmanuel of France, on the basis of a formal invitation according to article 9 of the Tomos of autocephaly, expressed in the October 10th letter of Your Eminence with the authority as Locum Tenens, in which you entreat “to fill up the number of bishops—members of the Holy Synod of Your Church,” so the decisions adopted by the Synod would satisfy the requirements of the sacred canons of our holy Orthodox Church, such a decision, which concerned the replacement of the vacant Prague See, which later turned out to be impossible, as the proposed candidates for this position did not meet the requirements put forth by the sacred and holy canons, as His Eminence the Metropolitan of France informed us in his lengthy and detailed report.

Dear brother, we confess that the Mother Church was disappointed by the unexpected and improper development of the situation. Nevertheless, it continued to show its conscious and benevolent interest and again responded to the invitation expressed in the letter of Your Eminence from October 22, 2013, and sent, by our proposal and the decision of the Synod, our brothers—the Most Reverend Metropolitan Emmanuel of France and Arsenios of Austria—as observers and advisers who took part in the meeting of the Holy Synod of the All-holy Church in the Czech Lands and Slovakia that occurred on December 9, 2013, where, during the Synod session, they were surprised to find representatives of the All-holy Russian Church who appeared there without an invitation—and we are very interested on what canonical basis (after all, why weren’t representatives of other Orthodox Churches invited?)—about which our aforementioned representatives reported to us.

Your Eminence will certainly agree that these events, which cannot be described otherwise, contain evidence of the unhealthy functioning of the Synodal system and willful regime of the autocephalous Local Orthodox Church. This fact raises various questions among educated canonists, theologians, and hierarchs and leads them to the conclusion that the autocephaly of Your Local Church is experiencing a crisis, inasmuch as the relevant canonical criteria are not being fulfilled, one of the fundamental ones, namely: the ability of the autocephalous Church to be governed by its own hierarchs, which should have been mature and able to canonically recognize its members as equal, and also to recognize its primate and First Hierarch in its midst. This leads the Mother Church to the desperate situation of searching for other means of resolving this unlawful situation, which is already taking place and is constantly developing, both in accordance with the sacred and holy canons and with the historically confirmed tradition of the Church.

The logical conclusion of this state of affairs was that the Patriarchate of Constantinople not only did not recognize the removal of Vladyka Simeon from his position but continued to consider him the Locum Tenens, and also did not recognize the subsequent election of Archbishop Rostislav as Metropolitan, which took place at the Council of the Orthodox Church in the Czech Lands and Slovakia on January 11, 2014 in Prešov. All this led to a de facto schism in the Church that spread primarily to the Olomuc-Brno Diocese, and, to a lesser degree, to the Prague Diocese.

In the end, the Patriarchate of Constantinople simply called the canonical position of our Local Church into question, not recognizing in April the election of Metropolitan Rostislav.

The official message of the Patriarchate of Constantinople:

Regarding the autocephalous Orthodox Church in the Czech Lands and Slovakia, the Ecumenical Patriarchate came to an agreement today and declares the following:

I. The election of the new primate of the Church, following the vacating of the See by Archbishop Christopher, occurred without the recognition of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and other Orthodox Churches due to the recognition of non-canonical actions in the holding of this election.

II. For this reason, every successive action undertaken by this Church, given the final election of the hierarchy of this Church, is non-canonical and unrecognized by the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

III. The Ecumenical Patriarchate, as the Mother Church of this Church, stands ready to contribute to the canonical resolution of the grievous situation that has arisen there and invites all the parties present to continue these negotiations with the Mother Church in order to find an appropriate resolution and to prevent any actions that could further complicate the present rather regrettable situation in this Church.

Ecumenical Patriarchate, April 1, 2014

Recorded by the head of the Secretariat of the Holy Synod

Patriarch Bartholomew even sent a personal letter to the Minister of Culture of the Czech Republic to prevent the state from recognizing Archbishop Joachim of Prague, appointed by the Holy Synod. In the end, the Ministry did not recognize Vladyka Joachim, thereby inflicting huge problems upon the Church.

Consulate General of the Czech Republic in Istanbul, register No. 336/2014

Ministry of Culture CR, register No. 24399/2014

His Excellency Daniel German, Minister of Culture of the Czech Republic

Your Excellency,

With a feeling of deep sorrow and great concern, we address You with this Patriarchal message and would like to confidentially inform you of the sorrowful situation in which our daughter Church, the autocephalous Orthodox Church in the Czech Lands and Slovakia, finds itself, whereby the canonicity of Orthodoxy in your land is threatened, and the terrible fear of schism has become a palpable reality.

Therefore, we, the members of the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, issued the attached communiqué on April 1, 2014, which says that the First Throne of the Orthodox Church, which is also the Mother of the Local Church there, together with ten other canonically autocephalous Orthodox Churches, excluding the Patriarchates of Moscow and Antioch and the Orthodox Church in Poland, does not recognize the newly-elected “primate,” due to the recognized non-canonical actions during his election. Therefore, we do not recognize the actions that the Orthodox Church in the Czech Lands and Slovakia calls “canonical.” We would also like to note that the “primate” of the said Church was not invited to the Synaxis of the heads of all the Orthodox Churches at the beginning of March. His removal from the Synaxis clearly illustrates the seriousness of the whole affair, as the “primate” is thereby isolated from the rest of the Orthodox world.

These non-canonical and unethical actions on the part of the hierarchs of the Orthodox Church in the Czech Lands and Slovakia, who manage the affairs today, deeply grieved the Ecumenical Patriarchate and us personally. Irresponsibility, thoughtlessness, and a lack of prudence and Church morality in the administration of a Local Church damages the unity of the entire Orthodox Church. Despite the fact that it causes pain, the Ecumenical Patriarch will consider the future actions of the Orthodox Church in the Czech Lands and Slovakia non-canonical until a canonical resolution is found. We believe that the civil bodies of Your country will take this situation into account when making decisions on the recognition of Church bodies by the state.

The schism in the Czech-Slovak Church (which was largely caused by the actions of the Patriarchate of Constantinople) gave that Patriarchate the opportunity to act as the judge between the two sides. A number of negotiations took place over time, at which Patriarch Bartholomew and his hierarchs acted, in principle, as judges. It is a fact that the party represented by Metropolitan Rostislav, including the majority of our Local Church, never agreed with this ambition of Constantinople; however it took part in the negotiations, making every effort to achieve a truce and unification, and defending our autocephaly with a clear position.

The first negotiations were held March 1, 2014 in Constantinople, without result. Some changes occurred in the following period, among which the most important was the removal of Vladyka Joachim from the See of Prague, with the subsequent election of Abbot Michael (Dandar) to this cathedra. He was recognized by the state. However, this did not resolve the question of the ecclesiastical schism in our Local Church.

The relationship with Constantinople deteriorated even further after they got a hold of secretly-made recordings of several informal statements of Metropolitan Rostislav, uttered in the heat of indignation at an unofficial meeting, at the expense of the Patriarchate of Constantinople. On August 25, 2015, Patriarch Bartholomew sent a letter “to the Central Secretariat of the holy autocephalous Orthodox Church in the Czech Lands and Slovakia” (protocol No. 836), in which, among other things, he writes:

That is why I bring to your attention today the above-mentioned events, about which the holy Local Orthodox Churches have also been notified, that the Ecumenical Patriarchate can no longer show ecclesiastical mercifulness (economia) in resolving the issues that have accumulated in the Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia, considering the election of its primate. Therefore, we urgently demand that the Holy Synod convoke a gathering of the clergy and laity of the united autocephalous Orthodox Church in the Czech Lands and Slovakia, aware of the destruction towards which the helmsman of their Local Church is leading, so that they would generally reconsider the question in light of the annulment (termination of validity)—of the unsuccessful, non-canonical, and not recognized by the entire Orthodox world—election of the aforementioned Metropolitan Rostislav to the post of the primate of this Church, and would proceed to the election of a new primate, in accordance with the ordinances of the Patriarchal Tomos of 1998 and the existing charter of the Church in the Czech Lands and Slovakia. (Author’s note: Although the document speaks about “Metropolitan” Rostislav, according to the Greek terminology it has in mind only the title of the Bishop of Prešov, in any case, not the head of the entire Local Church).

It seemed that any path to a truce was blocked, as Patriarch Bartholomew wrote about in his letter. However, it was at this time that the inter-Church discussions on the eve of the Great Pan-Orthodox Council on Crete had reached their climax. The non-participation of one of the Local Churches in the discussions could complicate its preparation. The Russian Orthodox Church adopted a clear position at that time, that the Council couldn’t be held without the participation of one of the Local Orthodox Churches. In the end, Constantinople decided to step back somewhat from its radical declarations and promised to settle the issue peacefully.

In this regard, the next meeting of both sides was held in Constantinople on January 12 and 13, 2016, where they finally came to an agreement, which is currently a compromise, but in the future outlook could be a victory for the Patriarchate of Constantinople. The protocol of the negotiations is given below (emphasis by the author):

(Meeting protocol)

On January 12 and 13, 2016, at the Patriarchate, under the chairmanship of His Eminence Metropolitan John of Pergamon and with the participation of His Eminence Metropolitan Maximos of Selyvria and Archimandrite Bartholomew (Samaras), the General Secretary of the Holy Synod, a meeting of the special commission was held, which by instruction of the Synod met with each side separately and then with the two authorized delegations of the conflicting parties of the Orthodox Church in the Czech Lands and Slovakia, headed by His Eminence Archbishop Michael of Prague,2 the representative of His Eminence Archbishop Simeon of Olomuc-Brno, and His Eminence Archbishop George of Košice-Michalovce, the representative of His Eminence Archbishop Rostislav of Prešov. The purpose of the meeting was to find a solution to the problems tormenting this Church in recognizing the previous election of His Eminence Rostislav as its Metropolitan, which, for well-known canonical reasons, was not recognized by the Ecumenical Patriarchate and other Orthodox Churches, as well as the first of the above-mentioned conflicting parties, which notified the Ecumenical Patriarchate about it.

After an exchange of views between the members of the Patriarchal Commission and the above-mentioned delegations, it was decided that on the basis of economia, the recognition of the election of His Eminence Archbishop Rostislav of Prešov as the primate of this Church is possible only if the following conditions are met:

1. His Eminence Archbishop Rostislav of Prešov will publicly ask forgiveness for the indecent and insulting remarks he publicly made towards the Ecumenical Patriarchate—the Mother Church of the Orthodox Church in the Czech Lands and Slovakia, from which it received the Christian faith, and towards the venerable person of the Ecumenical Patriarch, and Greek-speaking Orthodox Churches.

2. Both conflicting parties of the Church in the Czech Lands and Slovakia consider only the Patriarchal and Synodal Tomos, issued in 1998 by the Ecumenical Patriarchate, to be valid regarding the declaration and blessing of autocephaly of this Church (protocol No. 1058, August 27, 1998).

3. A joint commission of the delegations of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Church in the Czech Lands and Slovakia (with the participation of representatives of both hitherto separated parties) will be created, whose task will be to regulate the articles of its Charter in accordance with the provisions of the above-mentioned Patriarchal and Synodal Tomos, issued in 1998, and the implementation in the Charter of the Tomos, the founding document of the autocephalous Church in the Czech Lands and Slovakia, and also the general revision of the Charter on the basis of the sacred canons, with the purpose of ensuring unity and a normal Church life in this Church.

4. His Eminence Metropolitan Simeon of Olomuc-Brno will be legally recognized as a canonical Metropolitan of the Church in the Czech Lands and Slovakia, freely exercising all rights in his diocese and in the Holy Synod of the Church in the Czech Lands and Slovakia, which flow from the sacred canons and the Charter of this Church.

5. On the basis of economia, with the creation of a canonical precedent, Hieromonk Michael (Dandar) and Archimandrite Isaiah (Slaninka) will be recognized as canonical hierarchs, the former as the Archbishop of Prague and the latter as the Vicar Bishop to the Metropolitan of Olomuc-Brno, with the title of Bishop of Šumperk.

6. Both groups assume the duty before God and the Mother Church to respect and observe the above-stated without deviation, to respect the position and service in the Church of all the clergy and monastics belonging to both aforementioned sides, without taking any steps that could further violate the unity of the Orthodox Church in the Czech Lands and Slovakia, and to restore the clergy and monastics dismissed during the period of the conflict to their previous positions.

Metropolitan Rostislav of the Czech Lands. Photo: Metropolitan Rostislav of the Czech Lands. Photo:

Thanks to this compromise, Constantinople recognized Metropolitan Rostislav as the primate of the Orthodox Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia, and he was immediately able to take part in the meeting on the eve of the Synaxis which, by the invitation of Patriarch Bartholomew, took place in Switzerland, in Chambésy, January 21-28, 2016. A delegation from our Local Church subsequently took part in the Pan-Orthodox Council on Crete.

Thanks to this, it was possible to settle the schism in our Church, although some disagreement still continues, and in the Olomuc-Brno Diocese there are priests who were dismissed from their ministry for their loyalty to the Holy Synod, who, contrary to the agreements, were not received back into their ministry. The same applies to the community of sisters from the monastery in Vilémov.

The main thing that Constantinople managed to achieve was the agreement on the harmonization of the provisions of the 1998 Tomos with the Charter of the Orthodox Church in the Czech Lands and Slovakia. The project of incorporating the Tomos was approved at the joint meeting in Constantinople on April 14, 2016. Now, in the spirit of the Tomos, our autocephalous Church is obligated to request the point of view of Constantinople on a number of issues, trials over bishops must occur with the participation of Constantinople hierarchs, and bishops can appeal to Constantinople. Some provisions provide an opportunity, in the event of a problem in the Local Church, for the Ecumenical Patriarchate to actively interfere in local Church life. The autocephaly of our Church to a large extent has become only an illusion. Only the Council of the entire Czech-Slovak Church headed by the Holy Synod can approve amendments to the Charter, but the Council has not been convened since that time, and there aren’t even any plans to convene it. From 2016, very little has been done concerning the harmonization of the Tomos and Charter.

In conclusion, with your permission, I will allow myself to sum up the results, which do not pretend to be objective.

First, in 1998, the Patriarchate of Constantinople took advantage of the situation when the Orthodox Church in the Czech Lands and Slovakia came to it with humility and love hoping to settle its canonical discrepancy and asked for recognition of its autocephaly. The Patriarchate gave it a Tomos that, however, under the cover of independence was to lead to the subjugation of our Local Church to Constantinople. I believe and hope that the Patriarchate of Constantinople was guided then only by care and guardianship over the young and relatively small Church in the former Czechoslovakia. Our Church did not approve this Tomos and did not reconcile it with the Charter because it well knew that it would mean the loss of independence and the denial of its existing tradition, created by the holy New Martyr Gorazd.

At the moment of confusion after the resignation of Metropolitan Christopher in 2013, Constantinople had the opportunity to incorporate the provisions of its Tomos into the Charter of our Local Church, through which to gain control over it. And even if in this case it was guided by good intentions, then everything occurred in the complete opposite way. The disunion of our Local Church occurred, where truly a man's foes shall be they of his own household (Mt. 10:36). Our Church will bear the consequences of this schism for many decades. If the Patriarchate of Constantinople truly cared for our Local Church with good intentions, then this time its efforts failed. If it sought something else, which is quite possible, then it succeeded at the cost of the breakdown of one of the Local Churches. Let everyone fill in the picture for himself with the help of God of how it really was.

If my words have hurt someone, I apologize in advance. I maintain respect for every person and Orthodox Christian, and above all for the most reverend bishops who bear the burden of the pastoral ministry, entrusted to them by our Lord Jesus Christ.

Doctor of Theology Jakub Jiří Jukl
Member of the Prague Diocesan Council
Translated by Jesse Dominick


1 For comparison, the Tomos of autocephaly granted by the Russian Church in 1951 reads in full:

“The Russian Orthodox Church, in the person of Alexei of Moscow and All Russia, and the entire sacred Bishops’ Council, in consideration of the petition of the Church Council of the Orthodox Church in Czechoslovakia, grants this Church, heretofore an Exarchate of the Moscow Patriarchate, autocephaly.

“With one heart, the Russian Orthodox Church prays to the Heavenly Shepherd our Lord Jesus Christ to grant His Divine blessing to the youngest sister in the family of the autocephalous Orthodox Churches, the Church of Czechoslovakia, and to crown it with eternal glory.


2 Here and beyond we translate titles according to Czechoslovakian custom, which differs from the Greek original, because in Greece the head of a Local Church is the “archbishop,” and the ruling bishop of each locality is a “metropolitan.”—Trans.

Anthony11/14/2018 9:17 am
Hi all! And to add to this, Bart is even trying it on in our Hellenic Motherland!!! Talk about gasping for breath as his ship sinks!!!
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