The Patriarchate of Constantinople intervenes in the ecclesiastical affairs of not only Ukraine; for several years now, representatives of Phanar have been trying to take control of the Orthodox Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia.
Having provided a Tomos of autocephaly to this Church in 1998, the Church of Constantinople did not show its ambitions for power for fifteen years. But everything changed after the retirement of the Archbishop of Prague, Metropolitan Christopher (Pulec), when the election of the new Bishop of Prague took place.
Many articles have already been published concerning the actions of the Phanar in relation to the Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia. The Union of Orthodox Journalists has published (in Russian), a detailed account of how, in 2013, representatives of the Phanar Metropolitan Emanuel of Gaul and his colleague Metropolitan Arsenios of Austria, tried to become members of the Synod of the Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia, and seize its leadership.
In 2014, Constantinople did not recognize the results of the Local Council of this Church, and the election of the Archbishop of Prešov, Metropolitan Rastislav (Gont) as the Primate, which essentially led to a schism in the Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia. Only the need to hold the Council of Crete, in 2016, forced Patriarch Bartholomew to ease the pressure.
However, three years later, the Phanar continued its provocations against the Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia. In 2019, the bishops of the Patriarchate of Constantinople established a parallel church structure in the Czech Republic, which is completely unacceptable from the point of view of canon law.
In the same year, Bishop Isaiah (Slaninka) of Šumperk, ordained in 2015 by the Phanar for the Church of the Czech and Slovak Lands, contrary to the decision of the Czech-Slovak Synod to not recognize the OCU, served in Kiev with members of this (schismatic) structure.
Now, Doctor of Theology, and Member of the Prague Diocesan Council, Jakub Jiří Jukl, explains in detail how the Phanar operates on the canonical territory of the Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia.
In recent weeks, alarming news has begun to arise from the Olomouc-Brno Diocese of the Orthodox Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia. Events are unfolding that threaten to destroy the fragile peace and unity of the Church, established on the basis of agreements concluded in January 2016, in Constantinople, which were supposed to put an end to the ambiguities that arose in Czech-Slovak Orthodoxy, after the resignation of the former Metropolitan Christopher.
Despite the fact that these agreements were never finalized (for example, the priests and nuns of the Olomouc-Brno diocese who were deposed for their loyalty to Metropolitan Rastislav and the Holy Synod, were not restored), everyone hoped that over time, everything would be resolved, and the situation would get better.
But all hopes for the peaceful development of our Church ended with nothing on August 19, 2019. On this day, a society was founded under the name “Holy Patriarchal Stavropegial Monastery of the Dormition of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a registered society”,1 which received state registration on October 1, 2019 at the Regional Court in Ostrava.
What is hiding behind this name? Stavropegic monasteries are monasteries subordinate directly to the head of the Local Church (the Patriarch, in some Churches, the Metropolitan), although they are located on the territory of another diocese [within that Local Church—Trans.] An ignorant reader might think that this monastery, although located in the Olomouc-Brno Diocese, is subordinate to the head of our Local Church, Metropolitan Rastislav.
However, it’s all quite different. The chairman of this registered entity, according to the judicial protocol, and its charter, is “Dr. Konstantinos Kardamakis”. This is the civil name of Bishop Arsenios, Metropolitan of Vienna, and Exarch of Hungary and Central Europe, who belongs to the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate (the date of birth given in the relevant documents is the same).
This means that a bishop of one jurisdiction (Constantinople) has moved onto the canonical territory of another autocephalous Church (the Orthodox Church of the Czech lands and Slovakia). Since the foundation of this society and the appointment of Metropolitan Arsenios as its head took place completely without the consent or even knowledge of the Holy Synod and Metropolitan of the Czech-Slovak Church, this constitutes open interference on the soverign territory of the canonical jurisdiction of our Local Church.
There is no doubt that the Ecumenical Patriarchate—that is, of course, if Metropolitan Arsenios is acting with his knowledge—will argue the Tomos of Autocephaly that he gave to our Local Church in 1998. But even according to this Tomos, in which the autocephaly of the Czech-Slovak Church is significantly limited and, in many respects, subordinate to Constantinople, in no case, even with a freer interpretation, does not it give the Ecumenical Patriarchate the right to circumvent, or directly ignore the Holy Synod of this Autocephalous Church, as well as its Metropolitan. Recall that Metropolitan Rastislav, enjoys quite a lot of respect in Constantinople, and participated as head of the Czech-Slovak Church and Council in the Synod of Bishops in Crete of 2016.
Of course, the intervention of Metropolitan Arsenios in the canonical affairs of our Local Church would not have been possible without the assistance of at least some members of our clergy. We are talking mainly about the Vicar of the Olomouc-Brno diocese, Bishop Isaiah (Slaninka) of Šumperk. It is he who is listed as the vice-chairman of the Stavropegial Monastery society (see the original Czech document here).
But the intentions of the founders of the Stavropegial entity are not limited to the foundation of the monastery itself, but go much further. According to the charter of this society, its goal, among others, is “the creation of spiritual centers of contact (sketes). <...> To accomplish this task, the chairman of the society (the abbot), appoints clergy on whom this canonical mission is assigned”, (quotes from the original Czech charter).
From this it follows that in Moravia, the Stavropegial Monastery of the Dormition of the Blessed Virgin Mary should be formed in Vilémov (where at present there is only a monastery building, but no monastic community). It should be added that this is a women’s monastery, and the nuns were expelled from there several years ago, because they remained faithful to the Metropolitan and the Holy Synod. According to the agreements of January 2016, they were supposed to return to the monastery, but this did not happen.
This Stavropegic monastery would be subordinate to Metropolitan Arsenios, and more directly, the Ecumenical Patriarchate. The monastery will have the right to found its sketes in other places, where the “chairman of society" (i.e. Metropolitan Arsenios) will appoint the following clergy.
Based on the fact that theoretically, we are talking about sketes of a Stavropegic monastery which is subordinate to the Patriarch of Constantinople, it is obvious that obtaining consent will not even be taken into account, neither from the Holy Synod, nor from the Metropolitan of the Church of the Czech and Slovak Lands, and probably not even from the corresponding diocesan bishop.
Therefore, this threatens to establish a parallel church structure under the omophorion of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, on the canonical territory of the Orthodox Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia.
These fears are further reinforced by the fact that His Eminence Isaiah, vice chairman of the society, is part of the statutory body of all three monasteries in the territory of the Olomouc-Brno Diocese (in addition to the monastery of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos in Vilémov, the monastery of St. Ludmila in Brno and the monastery of St. Gorazd in Hrubá Vrbka) and three other church communities of this diocese (Olomouc—there is his Cathedral itself, Prostějov and Uherský Brod). These facts can be checked on the official website of the Ministry of Culture of the Czech Republic in the Register of Registered Legal Entities // Orthodox Church section.
At the same time, at least concerning the mentioned monasteries in Brno and Hrubá Vrbka, it would be possible to establish sketes, which are mentioned in the charter of the Stavropegial Monastery society. According to classified information, confirmed by several sources, an attempt has already been made to transfer the Vilémov Monastery to the ownership of the aforementioned society, but this was prevented at the last moment by the timely intervention of Archbishop Michael of Prague as the highest representative of the Orthodox Church in the Czech Republic.
Thus, we are talking not only about attempts to circumvent state law, completely ignoring the canonical church territory, but also, about actions that are unbecoming of people who have dedicated themselves to Christ, and who are therefore unworthy custodians of such holy things as a monastic dwelling.
Metropolitan Arsenios, on November 11, 2019, responded to accusations of the non-canonical nature of the actions of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, which began to spread around the world. He stated that this was not about creating a parallel canonical structure, but that with a petition for the foundation of a stavropegic monastery in the Olomouc-Brno diocese, the diocesan bishop Archbishop Simeon (Jakovlevic) had addressed the Ecumenical Patriarchate. According to him, the Diocesan Council of the Olomouc-Brno Diocese was to join in this petition.
In addition [he stated that] the bishops of the Czech-Slovak Church, including Metropolitan Rastislav, were allegedly informed about everything. Metropolitan Arsenios also equated this Stavropegic monastery, subordinate to the Patriarchate of Constantinople, with the already existing Metochion (representation church) of the Moscow Patriarchate in the Czech Republic, which has been functioning for many years under the omophorion of the Russian Orthodox Church.
However, at least a portions of the statements by Metropolitan Arsenios is definitively not based on truth. The very next day, November 22, 2019, Archbishop Juraj (Stránský) of Michalovce and Košice, a member of the Holy Synod of the Czech-Slovak Church, resolutely refuted the idea that the Holy Synod had ever received or discussed Constantinople’s statement on the establishment of a stavropegic monastery. The synod was by no means informed of its forthcoming foundation; individual bishops received news of it only by chance, from second hand sources.
As for the Metochion of the Moscow Patriarchate, we can add that, of course, it would not be a problem to establish in our Local Church a similar Metochion of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, but only with the consent of the Holy Synod of the Czech-Slovak Church, just as it was in the case of the Moscow representation church. This was, by comparison, also properly registered in the Czech Republic, under the mentioned law on churches and religious organizations.
In this strange case, one thing is striking about the Stavropegial monastery—the absolute silence of the diocesan bishop of the Olomouc-Brno diocese, Archbishop Simeon [who is 94 years old—Trans.] In no single document relating to the foundation of the monastery is he even mentioned, his blessing is absent for this entity, but despite this, everything is happening on the territory of his diocese.
The words of Metropolitan Arsenios, that the monastery is based the repeated petition [of Archbishop Simeon], therefore, cannot be confirmed. In the entire case, only his vicar, Bishop Isaiah speaks on the Moravian side (Added from the meeting of the Holy Synod on December of 2019: at the meeting Archbishop Simeon actually stated that Bishop Isaiah carried out this initiative without his blessing or knowledge).
And indeed, it is a question on whose behalf, in fact, Bishop Isaiah speaks. It seems that recently he has ceased to respect the authority of the Metropolitan and the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia. On November 20-21, 2019, he served with Epiphany Dumenko and other representatives of the so-called Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU) in Ukraine.
In January of 2019, this OCU received autocephaly from the Ecumenical Patriarchate, despite the fact that Ukraine has an independent Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Therefore, the status of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine established by Epiphany is still not canonically clarified, and constitutes the reason for serious disunity in universal Orthodoxy.
In any case, the Orthodox Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia refused to recognize that “church”, and considers the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, headed by His Beatitude, Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and all Ukraine, to be the only canonical Church in Ukraine.
For these reasons, Bishop Isaiah, due to his active participation in the service with the OCU, found himself at the center of disagreement with the canonical position of our Local Orthodox Church. And this is despite the fact, that on the eve of the service, he was warned in writing our Primate, Metropolitan Rastislav, who drew his attention to the fact that such actions would have clear canonical consequences for Bishop Isaiah.
But Bishop Isaiah neglected the warning of the Metropolitan, and took part in the service. This is another manifestation of his close relationship with the Patriarchate of Constantinople, which granted autocephaly to the Orthodox Church of Ukraine.
We pray to God for our Bishops, so that He gives them strength and wisdom, and that with His help we defend the unity and autocephaly of our Local Orthodox Church, the legacy of Saints Cyril and Methodius,2 and the Holy New-Martyr St. Gorazd.