Parishioners of Italian parish unanimously vote to switch to ROCOR, rector calls on Archdiocese to follow their lead

Sanremo, Italy, February 5, 2019

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The Church of Christ the Savior, St. Seraphim of Sarov, and the Great Martyr Catherine in Sanremo, Italy held a general parish meeting on Sunday in which all 33 participating parishioners voted unanimously to join the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR), thus confirming the previous vote of the parish council, reports the parish’s website.

The parish had been part of the Archdiocese of Russian Orthodox Churches of Western Europe that was suddenly stripped of its Exarchate status in late November and whose future is now uncertain. An Archdiocesan general assembly is being held on February 23 to discuss the Archdiocese’s response. The parish council voted on January 24 to join ROCOR.

In Constantinople’s understanding, the parishes of the former Exarchate are already under the geographically corresponding metropolitan of the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s Greek dioceses throughout Europe, though the Archdiocese has not accepted this understanding, continuing to operate under the episcopacy of Archbishop John (Renneteau) of Chariopoulis.

In a letter dated January 23, Metropolitan Gennadios of the Patriarchate of Constantinople’s Archdiocese of Italy and Exarchate for Southern Europe suspended the parish rector, Fr. Dionysiy, from the priesthood for a period of three months for unspecified “anti-canonical actions” and the failure to appear for an appointment at the See of Venice. This “aggressive action” from a bishop that was not their own prompted the parish to seek spiritual shelter in ROCOR.

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Following the parish vote on Sunday, Fr. Dionysiy penned an open letter to the rest of the Archdiocese, calling on them to vote to dissolve the Archdiocese and follow their lead in joining ROCOR. The letter reads in full:

To the parishes and communities
of the Archdiocese of Russian Orthodox Churches in Western Europe

Dear fathers, brothers and sisters!

In connection with the aggressive actions of the Greek Metropolis of the Patriarchate of Constantinople against our parish (on January 21, Metropolitan Gennady suspended me and declared his claims to our church. There was no official reaction to this suspension from the Archdiocese), the parish council of the Church of Christ the Savior, St. Seraphim of Sarov, and Great Martyr Katherine in Sanremo (Italy) unanimously decided to go under the omophor of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad.

Our parish is an independent structure according to Italian law and has the full right to self-determination. No external force can influence our choice.

Unfortunately, on Sunday, February 3, a representative of the Archdiocese came to our parish to prevent us from holding an emergency parish meeting. He declared the personal responsibility of every parishioner for the “non-canonical and lawless” transfer to ROCOR.

The parish meeting unanimously approved the decision of the parish council on canonical subordination to the Russian Church Abroad.

Our parishioners received the Archdiocese’s unfriendly step with disappointment and deep pain. I personally, and the members of the parish council explained our decision to Vladyka John, but our letters went unanswered. We sincerely hope that no one else will make a claim to our church.

We always sincerely believed that the Russian Exarchate respects the free choice of every person.

I appeal to you, dear fathers, brothers and sisters, with a call to vote at the coming Assembly on February 23 for the dissolution of the Archdiocese so the parishes can independently and freely choose their canonical jurisdiction, and I invite your parishes to follow our example and join the Russian Church Abroad. It is this Church jurisdiction that is most similar to the former Russian Exarchate both in its independence and respect for parish charters and its rootedness in the traditions of the Russian Orthodox diaspora. We can preserve the rich spiritual culture and historical inheritance of our Archdiocese only as parishes of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad.

With brotherly love in the Lord,

Fr. Dionisiy Baikov
Rector of the Church of Christ the Savior,
St. Seraphim of Sarov
and the Great Martyr Catherine in Sanremo, Italy
Western European Diocese, ROCOR
February 4, 2019

It is unclear to the parish why they never received any reply from Abp. John. An Archdiocese communiqué dated November 30 states that “Clerics and communities wishing to leave the Archdiocese to join an episcopal jurisdiction other than that of Archbishop John will have to proceed in accordance with the canonical order and request their leave from Archbishop John of Charioupolis,” while noting that, “Our preference, however, is for consultation and dialogue in truth, in a regular deliberative assembly of the diocesan Union as a whole.”

The Church of Christ the Savior is the second Italian parish to move from Constantinople to ROCOR. On October 28, the Orthodox Church of the Nativity of Christ and St. Nicholas the Wonderworker in Florence, Italy made the same move due to the outrageous interference of the Patriarchate of Constantinople in Ukrainian Church affairs.

Two priests formerly of the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese, Fr. Mark Tyson and Fr. Nectarios Trevino have also transferred to ROCOR due to the present situation in Ukraine.

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