Moscow, November 5, 2019
A great event in the life of the Russian Orthodox Church occurred on Sunday, as the reunion of the Archdiocese of Russian Churches of Western Europe with its Mother Church of the Moscow Patriarchate was formally liturgically celebrated.
A delegation from the Archdiocese, headed by Archbishop John of Dubna, visited Moscow from November 2 to 4 for the occasion. In all, the delegation consisted of more than 100 people, representing descendants of the first wave of Russian emigration at the beginning of the 20th century, descendants of Russian displaced persons, and representative of Russian, Belarusian Ukrainian, and Moldovan emigrations of the last decades, as well as representatives of the many peoples of Central and Western Europe, reports Patriarchia.ru.
On November 2, the delegation visited Donskoy Monastery in Moscow, which preserves the relics of Patriarch St. Tikhon, who founded the Western Archdiocese in 1921, the Holy Trinity-St. Sergius Lavra, where they venerated the relics of St. Sergius of Radonezh, and the Moscow Diocesan House, where the 1917-1918 Local Council was held. The Archdiocese has largely governed itself according to the principles laid down at that Council.
On Sunday, His Holiness Patriarch Kirill celebrated the Divine Liturgy at Moscow’s Christ the Savior Cathedral, together with Abp. John and members of the Archdiocese’s delegation, and a number of other hierarchs from throughout the Russian Church.
Following the Third Antiphon, the text of the Patriarchal and Synodal gramota of the restoration of unity of the Western European Archdiocese with the Russian Church was read out, after which Pat. Kirill gave the gramota to Abp. John, saying, “This Patriarchal and Synodal gramota is awarded in commemoration of the reunification of the Archdiocese of the Western European parishes of the Russian tradition and the Russian Orthodox Church.”
The gramota notes that the Archdiocese will retain its liturgical, pastoral, and administrative features as stipulated by its statutes. The Archdiocese will from henceforth receive its holy Chrism from the Moscow Patriarchate. It is also allowed to elect new diocesan vicar bishops, which it was not permitted to do under the Patriarchate of Constantinople.
The primate of the Russian Church then announced a decree elevating Abp. John to the dignity of metropolitan. Met. John is henceforth to be commemorated by his clergy as “Our Lord, His Eminence Metropolitan John of Dubna, Archbishop of the Western European parishes of the Russian tradition.”
His Grace Bishop Savva of Zelenograd also read out the text in French. Pat. Kirill then proclaimed, “Axios!” and placed the white klobuk on Abp. John.
The clerics of the Archdiocese Protopresbyter Anatoly Ravovich and Archpriest John Gate were also awarded the right to wear the patriarchal cross for their efforts in restoring ecclesiastical unity.
Special prayers were read during the litanies following the Gospel for the preservation of the Orthodox Church from the strife of schisms and divisions. A prayer was also read for the repose of the soul of Metropolitan Evlogy (Georgievsky), who served as the first hierarch of the Archdiocese.
Following the Liturgy Pat. Kirill gave a reliquary with relics of St. Tikhon and an icon of the New Martyrs and Confessors, who were members of the Local Council of 1917-1918 to the Archdiocese, saying, “May these gifts of the Mother Church become a sign of spiritual continuity and an immutable bond, the renewal of which we solemnly celebrate today.”
Met. John of Dubna was also presented with a commemorative Panagia and cross by Pat. Kirill. “Accept them as a testimony of the love with which you, a native of France, were received by the great and truly multinational Russian Orthodox Church,” the primate said.
In return, Met. John gave a pre-revolutionary icon of Christ the Savior from St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Paris to Pat. Kirill.
His Holiness then addressed the participants in the service with a closing speech, in which he noted the importance of overcoming the last Church division caused by the civil unrest in Russia at the beginning of the 20th century and congratulated the faithful on this historic event.
Following the service, a festal reception was held for the delegation from the Western European Archdiocese in the Christ the Savior trapeza. Pat. Kirill offered an enlightening word in which he noted that gratitude for the day’s glorious events belongs first of all not to himself, not to Met. John, not to the Synod, but to the Lord Himself, Who as if said, “Enough is enough, you have drunk the cup of division; now unite and remember that nothing like this should ever happen again.”
On the last day of its visit, the delegation took part in the Divine Liturgy in honor of the Kazan Icon of the Mother of God celebrated by Pat. Kirill in the Dormition Cathedral in the Kremlin.
The Archdiocese of Russian Orthodox Churches in Western Europe has had a windy history since its creation by St. Tikhon of Moscow in 1921. At various times over the past century it has belonged to the Moscow Patriarchate, the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, and the Patriarchate of Constantinople, and at times it has been an independent structure.
Most recently, the Archdiocese was an Exarchate under the Patriarchate of Constantinople, until the Holy Synod suddenly revoked this status without warning in November, instructing the parishes to move under the local Greek-tradition Metropolitans. However, the Archdiocese voted overwhelmingly to remain together as an ecclesiastical body and thus it began discussions and negotiations of how to move forward.
Most recently, Constantinople pulled another surprise move and released the Archdiocesan hierarch His Eminence Archbishop John of Chariopoulis, although he had never requested a canonical release. On September 14, he was received into the Moscow Patriarchate.
Most recently, it was reported that Metropolitan Emmanuel, the hierarch of the Patriarchate of Constantinople in France, where the majority of the Archdiocese is located, threatened to sue Abp. John if he did not stop acting as the head of the Archdiocese.