Moscow, December 3, 2021
ROCOR's Holy Protection Church in Berlin. Photo: Facebook
A conference was held last month in honor of the centenary of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR). In his concluding remarks, His Eminence Metropolitan Mark of Berlin spoke about relations with the Archdiocese of Orthodox Churches of Russian Tradition in Western Europe. He noted that in the Russian immigration after the Bolshevik revolution, there were three different Russian jurisdictions formed: ROCOR, the Orthodox Church in America, and what is now the Archdiocese under His Eminence Metropolitan John of Dubna based in Paris.
Each has developed its own ecclesiastical practices, which are not always in agreement. He has therefore had to forbid his clergy recently, after certain instances he did not name, from concelebrating with clergy from the Paris jurisdiction. He nevertheless stated in conclusion that ROCOR and the Archdiocese under Met. John must eventually work towards healing these differences.
Video of Met. Mark’s speech was posted by Deacon Andrei Psarev in the Facebook group dedicated to the conference.
The Paris Archdiocese reunited with the Moscow Patriarchate in 2019 after it was unceremoniously dissolved by the Patriarchate of Constantinople, to which it most recently belonged. In his remarks, Met. Mark spoke about the Archdiocese as having “seemingly reunited with the Moscow Patriarchate,” and “violating the canons at every step.”
There are also tensions between the Paris Archdiocese and the ROCOR Diocese of Great Britain and Western Europe under His Grace Bishop Irenei. Last December, Met. John received Fr. James Siemens, a former Ukrainian Catholic priest, into the Orthodox Church by vesting, a rite whereby a man is received into the Church as a priest through the placing of priestly vestments upon him and the concelebration of the Divine Liturgy.
Rejecting this means of reception into the Church, in January 2021, Bp. Irenei forbade his clergy from concelebrating with Fr. James, who lives and serves in Cardiff, Wales, or any clergy or local institutions of the Paris Archdiocese in the British Isles. He also resolved that the faithful may not receive the Sacraments in churches of the Paris Archdiocese.
In disagreement with this directive, several clerics sought to leave the ROCOR Diocese of Great Britain and join the Paris Archdiocese. On August 24 and September 2, Bp. Irenei’s diocese published a statement emphasizing that a cleric cannot leave one diocese or jurisdiction for another without a canonical release from his hierarch, and that none of the clerics involved had been granted such releases.
However, the next day, Met. John’s Archdiocese issued a statement announcing that the clerics had been received into the Archdiocese in August. In October, a statement was circulated with Met. John’s blessing explaining the Archdiocese’s rationale for receiving the ROCOR clerics.
Commenting on the situation and Met. Mark’s video, His Eminence Metropolitan Anthony of Korsun, the Russian Church’s Patriarchal Exarch in Western Europe, said that the ban on concelebration between clerics of the ROCOR Diocese of Berlin and those of the Archdiocese shouldn’t be perceived as a break in communion between these two structures of the Moscow Patriarchate.
“Indeed, there is some minor roughness” in relations between ROCOR and the Archdiocese, but “certain steps are being taken” to smooth them out, including fraternal meetings between representatives of both groups, Met. Anthony told RIA-Novosti.
“We hope that wherever there are any misunderstandings, the right solutions will be found ... that it will be possible to agree on everything,” Met. Anthony said.
The Patriarchal Exarch also recalled that there were such difficulties when ROCOR first reunited with the Moscow Patriarchate in 2007, but that those difficulties had been ironed out over time.
RIA-Novosti also reached out to His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, the Chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations for comment.
“I don’t want to go into the details of this conflict, because it’s not part of the sphere of my competence and the sphere of official responsibility of the Department of External Church Relations. But I hope that the temporary difficulties that have arisen will be overcome through negotiations,” he said.
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