Prague, February 28, 2020
If the Archbishop of Prague does not reject the decision of the Synod of his own Church in favor of the decision of the Patriarchate of Constantinople to act on the territory of the Church of the Czech Lands, he could face “severe interference,” according to a letter he received from one Constantinople hierarch.
On January 20, Metropolitan Apostolos of Derkoi of the Patriarchate of Constantinople wrote a letter on behalf of Patriarch Bartholomew to His Eminence Metropolitan Michael of Prague and the Czech Lands, informing him that he is engaged in “inappropriate and non-canonical activities,” as he “encourages and incites Metropolitan [Archbishop—Ed.] Simeon of Olomouc-Brno to oppose and resist the canonical decision to grant a complex of buildings in the city of Vilemov in his diocese for the opening and functioning of a Patriarchal and Stavropegial monastery there,” reports the Czech outlet parlamentnilisty.cz.
On October 1, the Patriarchate of Constantinople legally registered the “Association: Holy Patriarchal Stavropegial Monastery of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos” in Vilemoz, Czech Republic, with Metropolitan Arsenios (Kardamakis) of Austria of the Patriarchate of Constantinople legally recognized as Chairman and Bishop Isaiah (Slaninka) of Šumperk of the Czech-Slovak Church (who was consecrated as a bishop for the Czech-Slovak Church by hierarchs of Constantinople without the Holy Synod’s blessing and who recently concelebrated with the Ukrainian schismatics) as Deputy Chairman. The association also plans to send priests throughout the country and to establish more locations.
In November, Met. Arsenios told Romfea that this action was taken at the initiative of Abp. Simeon of Olomuc-Brno and with the knowledge of the bishops of the Church and the blessing of His Eminence Metropolitan Rastislav of the Czech Lands and Slovakia.
However, in an interview with OrthoChristian, His Eminence Archbishop Juraj of Michalovce and Košice, a member of the Holy Synod of the Czech-Slovak Church, diplomatically characterized Met. Arsenios’ statement as “full of inaccuracies” and insisted that the bishops were never informed of Constantinople’s actions and the matter was never discussed by the Holy Synod.
Meeting on October 17, the Czech-Slovak Holy Synod categorically forbade members of other Local Orthodox Churches from creating their own stavropegial institutions on the canonical territory of the Czech-Slovak Church. Thus, any efforts from Abp. Michael to dissuade Abp. Simeon from assisting Constantinople in setting up a stavropegion are in accordance with the decision of the Czech-Slovak Synod.
However, Constantinople is certain, the letter reads, that Abp. Michael’s purpose is “to disrupt the implementation of the blessed decision of your Mother the Church of Constantinople, from which you received Orthodox Baptism and a tomos of autocephaly.”
Recall that the Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia first received a tomos of autocephaly from the Moscow Patriarchate in 1951—its Mother Church at the time—that granted full and complete independence. However, Constantinople never recognized this autocephaly, and in an effort to regularize its relations with Constantinople, the Czech-Slovak Church was obliged to accept a new tomos from Constantinople in 1998 that significantly curtailed its freedoms and independence.
Met. Apostolos then hints that Constantinople could disgrace the Czech hierarch with details of his personal life:
We have previously received news of your life, which is not at all befitting a hierarch of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Orthodox Church, in which the leader as First, as determined by the sacred canons and martyric consecrated practice and Tradition of the Church, is the Archbishop of Constantinople—New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch, who for centuries took not only those living in the Thracian, Pontic, and Asian dioceses, but also those outside the borders of Orthodox Church, “among the barbarian peoples,” into the one united and indivisible Church reality under the protection of the wings of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, thus becoming a faithful guardian of unity and faith.
“Such an institution, or better to say, the holy custom of the Patriarchal stavropegia, attested to in the consciousness and actions of the Church ‘from time immemorial even to this day,’ is included within the framework of this unifying grace-filled and institutional function of the Great Church of Constantinople,” the Constantinople hierarch writes.
Met. Apostolos continues that Constantinople has stavropegial institutions throughout nearly the entire world and that the Epanagogue code of laws states that: “The primate of Constantinople is also allowed to grant stavropegia in the dioceses of other sees where there was no consecration of a church before.”
However, a monastery of the Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia already exists at the exact same address that Constantinople used to legally register its own monastery-association.
Met. Apostolos also characterizes Abp. Michael’s actions, which are in accord with the decision of the Holy Synod of the Czech-Slovak Church, as a “rebellion.”
“So, we are deeply saddened by this behavior, which does not correspond to your sacred order and is aimed at opposition and rebellion, and by the ruin caused by it and the irreparable harm to the souls and minds of pious Orthodox believers living in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, who are subject to the influence of slanderous rumors from the evil one and his actions, as his Eminence Metropolitan Arseny of Austria and Exarch of Hungary and Central Europe informed us in writing and in personal communication,” the letter reads.
Thus, the hierarch of Constantinople calls on Abp. Michael to “take control of your way of life and activities and the spread of false information and groundless accusations against the Mother Church and the local bishop of Olomouc-Brno, Vladyka Simeon which discredit the daughter Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia in one way or another.”
However, “we declare that if your pernicious tactics continue, the Mother Church will strictly intervene.”
“Having the firm hope that Your Eminence will stop violating the established Church order and respect the hierarchy that exists in it, we give You our Patriarchal blessing,” the letter concludes.
Constantinople has threatened to interfere in the life of the Czech-Slovak Church before. 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.”
Abp. Michael of Prague previously defied the Patriarchate of Constantinople when on February 20 he issued a decree categorically forbidding his clergy from concelebrating with “clergy” of the schismatic “Orthodox Church of Ukraine.”