Paris, October 28, 2019
The trouble surrounding the Archdiocese of Russian Churches in Western Europe, which the Patriarchate of Constantinople suddenly dissolved last November, could soon rise to another level.
His Archdiocese having been dissolved and himself having been suddenly canonically released by Constantinople, His Eminence Archbishop John of Dubna led the majority of the parishes and clergy of the Archdiocese into the canonical jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate, where the Archdiocese began its journey 100 years ago, though not everyone in the Archdiocese welcomed this move.
Further, the Patriarchate of Constantinople, and Metropolitan Emmanuel of Gaul in particular, are unwilling to let the Archdiocese go, despite having revoked its Exarchate status and having released its hierarch, Abp. John. In an effort to convince the clergy and parishes to remain with Constantinople, Met. Emmanuel was appointed as Locum Tenens, or temporary administrator, of the Diocesan Union of Russian Orthodox Associations in Western Europe, even though it no longer exists according to the decision of the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Constantinople.
And in a letter dated October 12, Met. Emmanuel threatens to take legal action against Abp. John if he does not cease presenting himself as, and undertaking the duties of, the hierarch of the Archdiocese.
Met. Emmanuel opens his letter with a friendly greeting: “I have the honour once again to write to you in my capacity as Locum Tenens ... of the Russian Orthodox Associations in Western Europe, appointed to this office by the decision of the Patriarchal Synod (at the request of the Archbishop’s Council) which, at the same time, dismissed you from your duties as Archbishop of Charioupolis and, consequently, as president of the Association.”
Met. Emmanuel is referring to those members of the Archbishop’s Council who have remained with Constantinople and previously attempted to take over the Archdiocesan website to post their own communiqués.
The Constantinople hierarch tells Abp. John that the Archdiocesan statutes dictate that the hierarch must be a member of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, while Abp. John has been received into the Moscow Patriarchate, “and thus decided to leave the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.”
However, Abp. John did not decide to leave the Patriarchate of Constantinople, but was instead suddenly released, to his surprise and dismay. Further, reports indicate that it was Met. Emmanuel’s idea to suddenly release Abp. John. And again, recall that the Archdiocese was dissolved by Constantinople, and thus it is not clear how it can still consider its statutes to be in effect.
Due to his new duties as a hierarch of the Moscow Patriarchate, Abp. John is now in “total incapacity” to lead the Archdiocese, Met. Emmanuel believes. The Constantinople hierarch thus goes on to accuse the Moscow hierarch of several specific acts:
- continuing to use the Archdiocese’s means of communication (website, lists of addresses) to “falsely affirm” that the Archdiocese is now under the Moscow Patriarchate, although the Extraordinary General Assembly of September 7 did not receive a 2/3 vote to move into the Russian Church;
Regarding this charge, Abp. John previously responded that the Archdiocesan statutes do not even address whether a General Assembly can decide on canonical attachment, and thus it is ultimately the hierarch’s heavy responsibility.
- pressuring clerics to “abandon their duty of loyalty” to the Archdiocese and join the Moscow Patriarchate;
- continuing to serve in the Church of St. Serge, “which [he] claims to own.”
“I would like to inform you that the Archbishop's Council and I cannot allow such actions on your part to continue, which seriously damage the religious and civil interests of our archbishop and the Diocesan governing Union of Russian Orthodox Associations in Western Europe,” Met. Emmanuel continues.
He therefore calls on Abp. John “to cease definitively, from the moment of receipt of this letter”:
- introducing himself as President of the Diocesan Union of Russian Orthodox Associations in Western Europe to other hierarchs, to parishes and communities, and to organizations such as banks and post offices;
- exerting pressure on clerics or parish leaders to “force them to follow you with their communities” into the Moscow Patriarchate;
- using Archdiocesan means of communication;
- celebrating the Eucharist in the Church of St. Serge.
A video from the feast of St. Sergius of Radonezh on September 8 shows the rector of the Church of St. Serge, Fr. Vladislav Trembolveski, trying to prevent Abp. John from entering to serve the Divine Liturgy. Abp. John informed him that he is the ruling hierarch and has the right to serve, and eventually he did enter the church and serve the Divine Liturgy.
A petition of the parishioners of St. Serge’s, written in October, states that Fr. Vladislav had actually been released from the Archdiocese months ago and received by Met. Emmaneul in to his Greek metropolis months ago, without the parish knowing. Abp. John thus dismissed Fr. Vladislav as rector of St. Serge’s on October 9, the day after the feast of St. Sergius. The parishioners therefore ask Fr. Vladislav to stop serving in their church and for a parish vote to be taken, to show support for Abp. John’s decision to join the Russian Church. They also reject Met. Emmanuel’s encroachments upon their spiritual life and property.
Returning to Met. Emmanuel’s letter, he continues: “Finally, the Council of the Archdiocese and I intend, by this letter, also to inform you of the termination of your executive Archdiocese allowances as of this month.”
The Constantinople hierarch then threatens to take Abp. John to court: “If I do not see the immediate cessation of the acts of which you are accused, then I shall be obliged to take legal action.”
“May the grace and infinite mercy of God always be with Your Eminence,” Met. Emmanuel concludes.
Met. Emmanuel also wrote a similar letter to Mr. Nicolas Loupoukhine, the Secretary of the Archdiocesan Council, in which he notes that the first task of a bishop is to preside over the Eucharist and thereby affect the sacramental bond between the faithful of the Archdiocese and the rest of the Orthodox Church. Having joined the Moscow Patriarchate, and therefore ceasing to have Eucharistic communion with the Patriarchate of Constantinople, “Archbishop John of Dubna is now totally unable to serve this sacramental bond,” Met. Emmanuel believes.
The communities of the Archdiocese were therefore forced, he believes, to find another Orthodox bishop to commemorate, as the Archdiocese is “devoid as of today of a full-fledged archbishop.” However, the Secretary has misinformed the people of the Archdiocese, Met. Emmanuel charges, by informing them of the move into the Moscow Patriarchate.
Met. Emmanuel therefore orders Mr. Loupoukhine to correct the “erroneous communications” about joining the Russian Church and to revoke administrative rights to the Archdiocesan website to anyone outside the Archdiocesan Council, which includes restricting Abp. John.
Met. Emmanuel gives the Secretary eight days to offer a satisfactory answer to the letter, otherwise the Archdiocesan Council will be convened to deal with his “breaches as Secretary.”
Abp. John informed the clergy and faithful of the Archdiocese of the threatening letters, lamenting that the churches could not move on with their life in the Moscow Patriarchate in peace. He calls on all his clergy to ensure that calmness and respect would prevail.
“We are gathered around a pastoral and liturgical mission, and not for a struggle of power,” he said.
Despite the threatening letters, the Archdiocese’s official website published a communiqué of October 24, reporting that the Board of Directors of the Archdiocese met on October 21 under the chairmanship of Abp. John.