Vilemov, Czech Republic, November 15, 2019
The Patriarchate of Constantinople has legally registered a monastery in the Czech Republic without the blessing of the ruling primate His Beatitude Metropolitan Rostislav of Prešov and All the Czech Lands and Slovakia, thus setting up a parallel jurisdiction on the territory of another Local Church.
Constantinople did the same in Estonia in the 1990s, in Ukraine last year, and, according to the head of the “Latvian Autonomous Orthodox Church,” is in the process of doing the same in Latvia now.
OrthoChristian was informed of this development last month by Doctor of Theology and member of the Prague Diocesan Council Jakub Jiří Jukl, and a detailed report was published by the Union of Orthodox Journalists today.
The Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia has had a rocky relationship with the Patriarchate of Constantinople over the past several decades, and most recently it has rejected the schismatic “Orthodox Church of Ukraine” created by the Patriarchate last year.
On October 11, 2018, Met. Rostislav sent a letter to the Russian Church, affirming his support for the canonical Ukrainian Church and his rejection of the interference of politicians and the Patriarchate of Constantinople in Ukrainian Church affairs.
The Orthodox world recognizes the only canonical primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church—His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and All Ukraine. This fact was repeatedly mentioned and confirmed by the primate of the Great Church of Christ His Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew on behalf of all present at the Synaxis of the Primates of the Local Orthodox Churches that was held in Chambésy (Switzerland) from January 21 to 27, 2016. Therefore, any attempt to legalize the Ukrainian schismatics by the state authorities should be strongly condemned by all the primates of the Local Orthodox Churches.
On February 3, the same day that Epiphany Dumenko was enthroned as the schismatic primate in Kiev, Met. Rostislav declared Dumenko to be an impostor and pledged his support for the canonical primate in Ukraine, His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev.
The Czech-Slovak Church has also called for a pan-Orthodox council to resolve the Ukrainian crisis, and several other hierarchs have taken a strong stand against the schismatics. For example, His Eminence Archbishop Michael of Prague has categorically forbidden his clergy from serving with clergy from the schismatic OCU.
Then, in August, the Patriarchate of Constantinople created a legal entity, “Association: Holy Patriarchal Stavropegial Monastery of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos,” adopting its statutes at a constituent assembly attended by Metropolitan Arsenios (Kardamakis) of Austria of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, Bishop Isaiah (Slaninka) of Šumperk, who was consecrated in Constantinople in 2015 to create an alternative Synod in the Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia during the crisis following the resignation of Metropolitan Christopher, and Roman Rugiko.
Minutes of the constituent аssembly. Photo: spzh.news via open sources
Met. Arsenios is legally recognized as the Chairman of the “Association” and Bp. Isaiah as the Deputy Chairman.
The “Association” was registered by the Provincial Court of Ostrava on October 1.
Extract from the register of communities of the Provicial Court of Ostrava. Photo: spzh.news via open sources
However, as the Union of Orthodox Journalists notes, this “monastery” is not, in fact, new, as a monastery under the same name at the same address has already existed for a long time within the Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia.
According to the azbuka.ru, “The Monastery of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos is located in the town of Vilemov, which is located in the Czech Republic. Throughout the many years of its existence, this convent has become one of the main centers of Orthodoxy in the traditionally Catholic Czech Republic. Located in a quiet area, the monastery became a place of solitude for a small Orthodox community.”
Dormition Monastery. Photo: pravoslaviecz.cz
Thus, the Patriarchate of Constantinople has established a monastery/association on the site of a pre-existing convent of the Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia with three members who have no connection at all with the existing monastery.
According to the “Association’s” statutes:
The Association is a voluntary, non-governmental, non-profit association of Orthodox believers under the spiritual leadership of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, which brought together defenders of the spiritual development of Orthodox citizens living in the Czech Republic and other supporters of the Orthodox faith to meet their spiritual needs, to actively work in this development, to promote this goal and to ensure charitable activities in the field of this missionary work. The task is also to lead a spiritual and liturgical life, doing charity, helping those in need and at the same time to create contact spiritual centers (sketes) for this purpose. To do this, the Chairman of the Association (abbot) appoints priests who have received a canonical mission. At the same time, they pay attention to and help protect the rights of citizens and Orthodox believers and defend their interests in accordance with the Charter of fundamental rights and freedoms. At the same time, we must ensure that no one incites hatred and intolerance or supports violence and violates the constitution and laws.
Note that the “Association” intends to spread its mission throughout the Czech Republic and to establish more locations for its work.
Writing for the Union of Orthodox Journalists, Kirill Alexandrov writes that it is likely that the “Association” is headed by a bishop to attract clergy and entire parishes, to expand Constantinople’s influence within the Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia. With enough members and influence, it could even revoke the Church’s autocephaly, as it threatened to do in 2011:
The Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia originally received full and complete autocephaly from the Moscow Patriarchate in 1951. However, the Ecumenical Patriarchate, believing only it can grant autocephaly, never recognized this autocephaly. In 1989, after the fall of the communist regime, the Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia began to seek to mend its relationship with Constantinople and to achieve the recognition of its autocephaly. However, this search culminated, rather, in the granting of a new tomos of autocephaly from Constantinople.
This tomos stipulates, among other things, that ecclesiastical courts in the Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia are to be overseen by hierarchs from Constantinople, the Church is to receive its Chrism from Constantinople, and it is “obliged” to appeal to Constantinople in the event of any misconduct. Thus, the Church lost its full independence.
Despite the 1998 tomos from Constantinople, the Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia continued to celebrate its independence beginning with the 1951 tomos from Moscow. Thus, 50th anniversary celebrations were held in 2001, 55th in 2006, and 60th in 2011.
However, following the 60th anniversary celebrations, Pat. Bartholomew wrote to His Beatitude Metropolitan Christopher, the primate of the Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia at that time, and threatened to revoke the Church’s autocephaly if it ever celebrated the anniversary of the 1951 tomos again.
Constantinople again interfered in the life of the Czech-Slovak Church after Met. Christopher stepped down in 2013, which can be read about in the article “The Ecumenical Patriarchate’s Role in the Crisis Period of the Orthodox Church in the Czech Lands and Slovakia.”