Brno, Czech Republic, September 1, 2021
The priest and faithful of one Orthodox parish in the Czech Republic are now forced to hold services outside until a dispute over the parish can be settled by the Holy Synod.
The keys to St. Wenceslaus Church in Brno were handed over to local authorities for safekeeping after the rector, Archpriest Jozef Fejsak, had to lock himself in the church in order to prevent it from being physically seized by Bishop Isaiah (Slaninka) of Šumperk, the vicar of the Archdiocese of Brno and Olomouc, who attempted to replace the locks on the church.
The conflict over the church has been going on at least since late last year when Bp. Isaiah suddenly removed Fr. Jozef as rector without the knowledge of the Parish Council. The move caused an uproar among parishioners, who greatly love Fr. Jozef, who has pastored them for decades. Even His Eminence Archbishop Abel of Lublin and Chełm of the Polish Orthodox Church came to the defense of the long-suffering priest.
His Eminence Archbishop Simeon of Brno has confirmed that Fr. Jozef remains the legal administrator of the parish, but Bp. Isaiah continues his attempts.
Unfortunately, Bp. Isaiah, who is known to promote the policies of the Patriarchate of Constantinople over and against those of the Czech-Slovak Church itself, is no stranger to scandal.
He was consecrated in 2015 by decision of Constantinople hierarchs Emmanuel of Gaul and Arsenios of Austria without the blessing or recognition of His Beatitude Metropolitan Rastislav or the Czech-Slovak Holy Synod, in order to create an “alternative Synod” in the Church.
Constantinople also interfered in the elections that saw Met. Rastislav ascend the primatial throne in 2014 and refused to acknowledge him as the canonical primate until the Patriarchate was forced to reconcile with the Czech-Slovak Church to assure that it would attend 2016’s Crete Council. It was then that Bp. Isaiah was accepted as a hierarch of the Church as part of the reconciliation.
Bp. Isaiah caused multiple controversies in late 2019. In November, he celebrated with the Ukrainian schismatics in Kiev, in defiance of the stance of the Holy Synod and the warning of his primate, Met. Rastislav. That same month, it was reported that Bp. Isaiah was cooperating with Constantinople to establish a monastery and legal association in the Czech Republic without the blessing or even knowledge of the Czech-Slovak Holy Synod, which later strongly condemned this invasion by Constantinople.
And last year, he began his battle against the Brno parish. On August 25, Fr. Jozef and the other clergy learned that Bp. Isaiah had changed the statutes of the parish and they were not allowed to enter. The parish was forced to hold services, including for the feast of the Dormition outside.
On August 30, the bishop attempted to change the locks on the church, but Fr. Jozef locked himself in the church to prevent this from happening. Waves of faithful parishioners filled the area around the church as local police tried to understand and mediate the situation, the parish reports.
As no solution could be worked out between the faithful and Bp. Isaiah, the parish agreed to hand over the keys to local authorities until the Holy Synod of the Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia could decide on the matter.
Thus, the parish has no choice but to continue holding services outside until the matter can be resolved.