Russian Church reps explain creation of African Exarchate

Moscow, January 18, 2022

Met. Hilarion (left), Met. Leonid (right) Met. Hilarion (left), Met. Leonid (right)     

On December 29, the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church announced the creation of an African Exarchate with two dioceses covering the whole of the African continent, and the reception of 102 African clerics into this Exarchate.

Though the Russian Church had been receiving appeals from African clergy for two years, the Synod decided to act upon them after Patriarch Theodoros of Alexandria concelebrated with Epiphany Dumenko, the head of the schismatic Ukrainian organization, in August.

The Holy Synod of the Alexandrian Patriarchate responded at its session earlier this month, characterizing the creation of the African Exarchate as “direct retaliation,” “blackmail,” and “revenge.” The Synod also stated that the Russian Church is distorting ecclesiology and evangelical love under the influence of ethnophyletism and “neo-colonialsm.”

In various interviews and statements since late December, hierarchs and clergy of the Russian Church involved in the creation of the Exarchate have explained the Russian Synod’s reasoning for establishing its presence in Africa.

A week before the Russian Synod announced its Exarchate, Vladimir Legoida, head of the Synodal Department for Church Relations with Society and the Media, explained in an interview that while the Russian Church had fully broken communion with the Patriarchate of Constantinople, the same can’t be said of the Churches of Alexandria, Greece, and Cyprus, where the primates chose to enter into communion with the schismatics without the backing of their Synods.

“That is why Eucharistic communion has been preserved with some bishops and clerics of these Churches,” Legoida explained.

In an interview with RIA-Novosti a few days after the session of the Russian Synod, Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, head of the Russian Church’s Department for External Church Relations, explained that while the Russian Synod previously emphasized the non-conciliar character of Pat. Theodoros’ decision, no Alexandrian bishops have publicly rejected this decision in the intervening two years, unlike in Greece and Cyprus.

“We proceed from the fact that the bishops of the Patriarchate of Alexandria are in solidarity with their primate, since none of them opposed this decision, and some have even concelebrated with schismatics or have otherwise expressed support for the schism,” the DECR head explained.

Thus, motivated by the petition of more than 100 clerics, the Russian Synod resolved to create its new African Exarchate after a “thorough study of the petitions received.”

And speaking on the weekly Church and the World television program earlier this month, Met. Hilarion commented that from the Russian Church’s point of view, the creation of the Exarchate constitutes neither an invasion of Alexandrian territory nor an attempt to weaken the Alexandrian Patriarchate, but an opportunity for Orthodox believers to receive the Sacraments from canonical priests.

His Eminence again emphasized that the Moscow Patriarchate waited for two years to see how things would develop in the Alexandrian Patriarchate, during which time it several times signaled to Alexandria that it didn’t want to enter its territory. But after all the Russian Church’s proposals were rejected, and Pat. Theodoros showed by personally concelebrating with Dumenko that he had no intention of changing his position, “What was left for us to do?” the Metropolitan asks.

In his interview with RIA-Novosti, Met. Hilarion comments that after the November visit to Africa of Metropolitan Leonid, who was subsequently appointed Patriarchal Exarch in Africa, the Russian Church received several “rude letters” from Alexandrian bishops, declaring that, “Our priests don’t even know where Ukraine is.”

However, in an interview with Radio Vesti, Met. Leonid argues that such a view of the African priests is out of touch with the reality on the ground. It’s not like the internet doesn’t exist in Africa and the priests aren’t able to read about what is happening in the Orthodox world, he says. Thus, they are aware of what is happening in Ukraine and are concerned about the schism expanding into their own backyard, the Russian hierarch explained.

102 priests have already been accepted together with their flocks, while many more, possibly more than 200, are expected, Met. Leonid said. These priests have been suffering for a while now under the conditions created by the Alexandrian hierarchs, and the Russian Church won’t allow anyone to trample upon the canons, he emphasizes.

In addition to creating dioceses and possibly establishing new churches, the Russian Church will also help with humanitarian and social issues, says Met. Leonid. Many families live on but a few dollars a day; many have no access to clean drinking water, or medicine, or a decent education, “but we will bring all this into order,” the Archbishop says.

The whole Ukrainian crisis was planned by politicians who know nothing about Orthodoxy, and Pat. Theodoros recognized the schismatics under pressure from the Greek Foreign Ministry, the Patriarchal Exarch added.

On January 12, Fr. George Maximov, a Moscow priest who has traveled to Africa several times and is personally acquainted with several of the priests who have joined the Russian Exarchate, offered a report in Moscow entitled, “Orthodoxy in Africa: Problems and Perspectives.”

He pointed out that, in fact, the Russian Church presence in Africa was already restored in December 2019, when the Holy Synod resolved to convert the Russian representation church in Cairo into a parish of the Russian Church, and to withdraw the Russian churches in Africa from the jurisdiction of the Alexandrian Patriarchate. The hierarchs also decided at that time that Patriarch Kirill would no longer commemorate Pat. Theodoros in the Divine services.

Historically, the Alexandrian Patriarchate didn’t claim the whole of Africa as its territory until 1930, and the Russian Church already had several parishes throughout Africa before that, Fr. George explains. After WWII, it was agreed that the Patriarch of Alexandria would be commemorated in these churches, though that ended in 2019 after Pat. Theodoros entered into communion with the schismatics.

“Therefore, the jurisdiction of the Russian Church in Africa is already more than 100 years old,” Fr. George argued.

According to him, “the vast majority” of Alexandrian priests want to join the Russian Church.

And the reason so many want to switch jurisdictions is “the extremely unhealthy, inadequate, and erroneous arrangement of Church life, which took shape under the Greeks in the last 10-20 years,” Fr. George says.

These negative trends have intensified under Pat. Theodoros he argues, leading to many parishes and sometimes even whole deaneries leaving the Church.

There is a problem with racism among the Greek hierarchs, Fr. George states, noting that Pat. Theodoros has often talked about the Patriarchate’s task as “preserving the heritage of Hellenism.” The hierarchs, many of whom live abroad, visiting their flock but once or twice a year, use the Africans for photo ops, Fr. George says. “All this created an extremely unhealthy situation in the Orthodox Church of Alexandria and pushed many of its clerics to change their jurisdiction.”

Fr. George also recalls that many clerics of Alexandria, including several bishops, were caught by surprise by Pat. Theodoros’ decision to enter into communion with the schismatics. “They were plunged into a conflict that they didn’t want,” Fr. George says.

“The Patriarchate of Alexandria has taken the wrong path,” Fr. George said, succinctly summarizing the Russian Church’s position.

Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Vkontakte, Telegram, WhatsApp, MeWe, and Gab!


See also
Where is the Authoritative Voice of the Judge of the Universe? Where is the Authoritative Voice of the Judge of the Universe?
Met. Agafangel of Odessa
Where is the Authoritative Voice of the Judge of the Universe? Where is the Authoritative Voice of the Judge of the Universe?
A Heartfelt Letter to Patriarch Theodoros of Alexandria
Metropolitan Agafangel of Odessa
Following the sorrowful news of Patriarch Theodoros of Alexandria’s decision to recognize the schismatic “Orthodox Church of Ukraine,” His Eminence Metropolitan Agafangel of Odessa of the canonical Ukrainian Church penned a moving and heartfelt letter to the Patriarch, with whom he has long been personally acquainted.
Your Own Mouth Condemns You! Your Own Mouth Condemns You!
Jad Ganem
Your Own Mouth Condemns You! Your Own Mouth Condemns You!
Jad Ganem
Who will remind the patriarch of his words on that day? Who will save the Church of Christ from the great scandal into which its leaders have fallen by surrendering and dociley complying with the politics of this world and abandoning the Law of God?
“We are One in Christ:” The Missionary Work of “Orthodox Africa” “We are One in Christ:” The Missionary Work of “Orthodox Africa”
Jesse Dominick, Fr. Silouan (Brown)
“We are One in Christ:” The Missionary Work of “Orthodox Africa” “We are One in Christ:” The Missionary Work of “Orthodox Africa”
A Conversation with Fr. Silouan (Brown) on His Missionary Trip to Kenya and the Continuing Work
Jesse Dominick, Fr. Silouan (Brown)
Last July I sat down with Fr. Silouan (Brown) to ask him about his upcoming mission trip to Kenya, on behalf of the charitable organization “Orthodox Africa” he founded as a way for the global Orthodox community to be able to participate in the furtherance of God’s Kingdom by providing a means for the average layman who may not be able to travel to faraway lands, to participate in global missionary work. The organization works with several mission and shelters in Kenya. In this follow-up interview, Fr. Silouan shares his thoughts and reflections on the trip, how it compared to expectations, what he learned about how to better serve the people of Africa, and about the bond of Orthodox Christians worldwide, rooted in our common faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.
Petroc11/2/2022 9:39 pm
For sure Africa need Russian Orthodox Church, basing on the fact that Greek Orthodox Church has been in Africa especially Uganda 100 years and beyond but almost nothing has impacted the spiritual ground of people in Africa. From the patriach, archbishops, bishop and the administration have selfish interests, they work for there families and friends. The worst part of the game is the way they handle the priests. These poor men of God work under the worst conditions. They are not paid, and supported in any of there daily life. In Uganda Priests get 200000 a month Ugandan shillings. A months yet these people have families, children at school and many others needs. The patriach is aware of this insanity and we are sure he behind all this mismanagement of the priests resources. Therefore RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH is highly needed to End all this suffering Priests, good for the church and prominance of orthodox faith in Africa. Fr. Isabirye Petroc.
Evangelos9/20/2022 8:34 pm
In my humble view, Patriarch Theodoros of Alexandria is a magnificent man of God who truly cares about the issues befalling a troubled continent and world...Our Orthodox Church should be proud of such leadership and we should all work as brothers and sisters to the glory of God's Kingdom. We require prayer and a spirit of love to tackle the myriad of issues that divide us and together we shall prevail as the nation of God. See Ecclesiastes 7:8 GOD BLESS YOU ALL DEAR BROTHERS AND SISTERS IN THE LORD!
Fr. Joseph Thomas2/1/2022 2:03 am
… “canonical order”, Mikhael? Surely, you jest!
Ramón Pérez1/26/2022 5:59 pm
Are we Orthodox being divided by human ambition? Is this an expression of Russian Imperialism? This is NOT Christian nor Orthodox! It´s time to revise the issue of jurisdictions, we are not living in the Bizantine Empire... the entire world is looking us divided!!!
Cat1/21/2022 1:31 pm
There's a lot of intellectualism and little-to-no mercy for a brother...still, I think this is the same evil spirit which the Russians despise in the case of Constantinople/Ukraine issue. You don't heal a wound by putting more salt in it. African clergy has my deepest sympathies, but I think it would be better to stay with your bishops and put the care of the flock over high politics and its antichrists. Forgive my boldness.
Rdr Daniel1/21/2022 1:49 am
Whilst their are real pastoral concerns in Africa, there are three major problems here. Firstly, Egypt and the surroundings are canonically the territories the Patriarch of Alexandria as confirmed by the First Ecumenical council, any attempt for another bishop to establish a diocese here is entirely uncanonical. Secondly, sub-sahran Africa is another matter but like the Archbishop of Albania says what does this say for the unity and face of Orthodoxy in this vast missionary land? What happens in the future if the situation is resolved? What about competing liturgical traditions coming from Russia? What about the divisions on a local level between priests? This is the one place outside tradition Orthodox nations where one local church exists, is it realized how great a decision this really is? Thirdly, whilst Moscow could canonically receive priests whose Bishop is in communion with schismatics (and as I say their Bishop not his Metropolitan's Patriarch), this would be as those fleeing from schism and would be temporally until the situation is resolved. It is not canonical to take them on permanent basis and integrate them into a new diocesan structure.
Seraphim 1/20/2022 4:18 pm
Hello Steve, Thanks for your comment. I’m not saying he should preach fire and brimstone. Diplomacy yes, but some of these comments are quite extreme. Does he really need to say that Alllah and the Trinity are the same? That God will send Muslims their just reward for observing Ramadan? This is going too far unnecessarily I think. Also the last remark seems to deny the uniqueness of Christian soteriology? That seems to be very dangerous territory. As far as the diplomacy you mention goes, I do think there is a place for that. The problem I have is that there is a syncretism here which is above and beyond anything he has to say.
Steve1/20/2022 4:43 am
Seraphim, indeed, it would probably please some folks if Patriarch Bartholomew would preach fire and brimstone by telling people they are going to hell in a hand basket, and then ending it with an altar call. Instead, what he's doing is basically diplomacy. Sometimes diplomacy works by maintaining peaceful relations with angry neighbors, but sometimes it doesn't work. It is a traditional role of the Ecumenical Patriarch to do this however. At any rate, these are not words addressed to Orthodox Christians.
sherlock_holmes1/20/2022 12:49 am
Tales of Nasreddin Hodja, the Turkish Trickster ! Everyone Is Right ! Once when Nasreddin Hodja was serving as qadi, one of his neighbors came to him with a complaint against a fellow neighbor...The Hodja listened to the charges carefully, then concluded, "Yes, dear neighbor, you are quite right."...Then the other neighbor came to him. The Hodja listened to his defense carefully, then concluded, "Yes, dear neighbor, you are quite right."...The Hodja's wife, having listened in on the entire proceeding, said to him, "Husband, both men cannot be right."...The Hodja answered, "Yes, dear wife, you are quite right."
Seraphim 1/19/2022 11:00 pm
Some statements of Bartholomew of the Phanar, all easily available to find online. Many on the Phanar website. This is just a small taste of the vast repetoire of similar pronouncements. I will let them speak for themselves: "Orthodox Christian and modernist, Protestant and modernist, Jew and modernist, Catholic and modernist - however we worship, as long as we abide in our faith and unite it to our works in the world, we bring the living and always timely message of Divine Wisdom into the modern world" [REMARKS AS PREPARED FOR DELIVERY ADDRESS OF HIS ALL HOLINESS ECUMENICAL PATRIARCH BARTHOLOMEW AT EMORY UNIVERSITY IN ATLANTA GEORGIA AT THE PRESIDENTIAL MEDAL AWARD CEREMONY, 31 October 1997]. On 7th Sept 2009, Bartholomew greeted the Muslims of the world with these words: "It is with feelings of love and respect that we convey to all Muslims around the world our heartfelt congratulations and best wishes upon the occasion of the end of Ramadan. After this extended period of fasting, which has also been a time of reflection, prayer and almsgiving, the time has come for each to celebrate their labor and receive their just reward from above. In the spirit of peace, love and understanding we wish you once again a blessed celebration, praying that God Almighty grant you every spiritual blessing from above in the hopes that the world may live as one." [Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew issues message for the End of Ramadan, Istanbul, Turkey, 9/21/2009] "Of course God is but one, independently of the name we give him: Allah or Yahweh and so on. God is one; and we are his children."
Alexander Leitner1/19/2022 4:05 pm
@Common Sense: Of course Alexandria fell into schism! How many times now? They are schismatics in communion with schismstics. Also Greeks, especially Bartholomew, he is a schismatic. We are only waiting the officual judgement. The condemnation. So there is no orthodox church in Alexandria right now!
Dionysius Redington1/19/2022 5:14 am
This is all good up to a point, but it leaves unresolved an important question: what will become of this jurisdiction if (hopefully when) Alexandria repents? Why were the priests required to sign a lifelong oath of loyalty to Moscow? Would it not have been better to take them in *temporarily*? The argument that Alexandria only claimed Subsaharan Africa in 1930 ignores the question of where people in Egypt are supposed to go to find a canonical priest. Dionysius Redington Lubbock TX
David1/19/2022 4:03 am
And yet...hundreds are being baptized into Orthodoxy (as this website has documented). Before 2019, articles praising the missionary efforts of Alexandria have appeared on this website and elsewhere in the Russian Orthodox press (and in other Church media). All of this within the last "10-20" years. What happened? Either these articles from the past are balogna, or these recent statements are. Who is lying, MP media 2012 or MP media 2022? It reminds me of seeing youtube videos of politicians making statements in the past, and then saying the opposite later. It's absurd. The MP knows what its doing here is wrong, otherwise, why be so defensive about it? The MP wasn't this prickly when they decided to make moves against the EP. This sensitivity is probably due to the pushback and criticism they have received from quarters that were previously supportive. "Bartholomew made me do it!" is wearing pretty thin at this point.
Stephen Njeruh1/19/2022 3:33 am
....the Russian Church received several “rude letters” from Alexandrian bishops, declaring that, “Our priests don’t even know where Ukraine is.”... Few African priests if not none, have been offered a chance to further their theological studies. With internet, who can't see what is happening in the world? I pray that this problem in our Holy Orthodox Church will find a solution not many days from now. Grant this oh Lord?
Common Sense1/19/2022 3:13 am
Insufficient and non-canonical explanations per usual. Russia has no right to do anything in Africa. Even if Alexandria "fell away into schism" (which it didn’t), then it would be up to Antioch to take over. You people are dense, my goodness.
Steve1/18/2022 8:10 pm
According to Metropolitan Leonid of the new African Exarchate, the 102 priests that have joined "are concerned about the schism [of Ukraine] expanding into their own backyard." Indeed, that would be awful if there was a schism in Africa. Will this new African Exarchate be in communion with the Alexandrian Patriarchate?
Mikhail1/18/2022 6:58 pm
Theodoros did not see this coming? He chose loyalty to Bartholomew over canonical order. He flip-flopped on a dime...concelebrated with the layman Dumenko...and stabbed Metropolitan Onufriy in the back. What did he expect? Now he is losing 102 priests...and possibly 200 more! Thank God for the Russian Church.
Here you can leave your comment on the present article, not exceeding 4000 characters. All comments will be read by the editors of OrthoChristian.Com.
Enter through FaceBook
Your name:
Your e-mail:
Enter the digits, seen on picture:

Characters remaining: 4000

to our mailing list

* indicates required