Patriarch Theodoros threatens to defrock Russian Exarch of Africa

Alexandria, February 22, 2022

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Patriarch Kirill must revoke Metropolitan Leonid of Klin’s status as Patriarchal Exarch of Africa or the Patriarchate of Alexandria will defrock him, the Alexandrian primate warns.

Patriarch Theodoros sent a letter to Patriarch Kirill last week, emphasizing that the Russian Synod’s decision to establish an African Exarchate is “completely uncanonical and goes beyond the scope of Orthodox ecclesiology.”

At the same time, Alexandria published a response to the Russian Exarch’s recent interview in which he declared that the Alexandrian Synodal Court has no authority to judge Frs. George Maximov and Andrei Novikov—Russian priests who have been active on the territory of the Patriarchate of Alexandria. The statement argues that there is proof that Fr. George served with a defrocked priest.

Pat. Theodoros has so far endured the existence of the “canonically and ecclesiologically unsupported” Russian Exarchate “in prayerful and expressive silence,” anticipating its withdrawal, he writes to the Russian primate.

His statement mirrors the position expressed by the Russian Synod—that it patiently waited for two years for Pat. Theodoros to renounce his recognition of the Ukrainian schismatics, or for other hierarchs of Alexandria to publicly protest.

Pat. Theodoros also declares that the Russian Church’s position against the “Orthodox Church of Ukraine”—a position that Pat. Theodoros himself held for many years towards the OCU and its predecessor organizations—is “not serious,” and that it has no authority to judge those who have recognized the OCU.

Thus, Pat. Kirill must remove Met. Leonid’s appointment as Exarch, otherwise Alexandria will “subject him to punishment in the form of deposition from the high ministry of the episcopacy, inasmuch as the sacred and Divine canons have been violated.”

In his letter, Pat. Theodoros refers to Pat. Kirill as a “beloved brother in Christ the Lord,” a “concelebrant of our Mediocrity,” and “our dear friend.”

This markedly differs from the language he is reported to have used during the consecration of Archimandrite Chrysostomos (Maidonis) as Bishop of Bukoba on Sunday, when he referred to Russian clerics as “pseudo-brothers from the north” and “bears and jackals … who come in an Orthodox cloak to ‘kill and destroy.’”

Response to Exarch of Africa, Met. Leonid

And in response to Met. Leonid’s assertion that Alexandria has no right to judge Frs. George Maximov and Andrei Novkov, the Patriarchate states that according to the canons, an offense is judged where it happened, so it does have the right to judge the activity of the Russian priests.

And while Fr. George has denied charges that he has concelebrated with any excommunicated clerics, the Patriarchate argues that he can be seen in photos serving with Fr. Nifont Hule, who it says is a deposed former priest of the Diocese of Nigeria (see more about Fr. Nifont below).

Further, while Met. Leonid has shared stories about the persecution of priests and communities that have joined the Russian Exarchate, the Alexandrian statement retorts that these stories are “products of a morbid imagination and infamous means of propaganda, reminiscent of other times and other methods.”

Hierarchs of Alexandria have alleged several times that clergy are switching to the Russian Church for promises of material benefit, which Met. Leonid and Fr. George have denied. However, Alexandria believes their denials are unconvincing, given all the Exarchate’s talk of “raising the standard of living” in Africa. Moreover, the Patriarchate again makes the claim that lists of material benefits from the Russian Church are being circulated among priests online.

However, according to the Patriarchate, the line about “philanthropic Russians and inhuman Greeks” has already fallen apart, as many priests have returned to Alexandria, “completely disappointed by their self-appointed saviors.”

In conclusion, the Patriarchate again appeals to all clergy who have joined the Russian Exarchate to return to Alexandria.

The question of Fr. Niftont Hule

Given the questions that have arisen about Fr. Nifont, Fr. George explained today that he was formerly the secretary of Archbishop Alexander of Nigeria, but he submitted his resignation on March 1 of last year, making a number of accusations against Abp. Alexander. The bishop responded on April 7 that Fr. Nifont was suspended from serving on the basis of his resignation and his unwillingness to continue serving in the diocese.

All relevant documents were provided by Fr. Nifont to Met. Leonid for examination, Fr. George writes.

After he was suspended, Fr. Nifont participated in a service with a schismatic group once, for which he sincerely repented when joining the Russian Church, Fr. George states.

Meanwhile, the so-called “Genuine Greek Orthodox Church of Nigeria” reported in August that Fr. Nifont had actually joined its jurisdiction.

Those who were ordained in schism are welcome to join the Russian Church, but only as laymen, but in the case of Fr. Nifont, there is no question about his ordination, Fr. George continues.

As for his suspension, “since the main reason for it was the refusal to heed the call of the bishop who supported the schism to continue serving under his omophorion, it would be strange for the Russian Orthodox Church to recognize such a prohibition,” Fr. George writes.

He concludes:

Patriarch Theodoros should take an example from Fr. Nifont, since he, having the same sin of concelebrating with schismatics, unlike the Nigerian priest, hasn’t found the strength to repent. Nevertheless, the Russian Orthodox Church addresses this call to him and, if Patriarch Theodoros repents, it is ready to accept his repentance with the same joy with which it accepted the repentance of Fr. Nifont.

In response, Natallia Vasilievich, a well-konwn pro-Constantinople commentator on Church events who describes herself as a “daring theologian,” reports that she was informed by the Diocese of Nigeria that Fr. Nifont suddenly announced one day after a sermon that he was leaving the priesthood, after which he addressed a series of letters to Abp. Alexander, again declaring his intentions to leave the priesthood and demanding payment for his time spent in the Church.

According to her sources, the Diocese is in possession of a letter in which he specifically renounces his priesthood, which was the basis for his defrocking.

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Isa Almisry2/26/2022 7:44 am
Schismatics do not have rules.
Ilya Zhitomirskiy2/24/2022 10:33 am
Please tell me that this is a joke. There is no way that one can depose a cleric of another church.
Paul2/24/2022 5:45 am
In response to Troy: 1) Alexandria's claim to all of Africa is without substance. The claim was originally made by the infamous Meletios Metaxakis, a freemason infiltrator, in the early 20th century. Alexandria is a small and stagnant jurisdiction that cannot possibly hope to minister to all of Africa, so it is absurd and irresponsible for them to claim exclusive rights over the entire continent. 2) Alexandria has acknowledged Bartholomew's schismatic thugs in Ukraine. Theodoros has commemorated Epiphany Dumenko, this means he is now a schismatic. 3) You are completely deluded if you actually believe that Greece has any chance of going toe-to-toe with Russia. The days when they dominated the Orthodox Church and treated non-Greek Christians like servants is over and it won't come back, and no amount of obnoxious Greek ego is going to change that.
Troy2/23/2022 7:27 pm
Mr. Alexander Leitner: I don't know how you think that you as a simple layman have the right to judge and declare the 2,000 year-old second throne of Orthodoxy "schismatic." Even the so-called "Exarch of Africa" Metropolitan Leonid of Klin confessed that his Church still recognizes the Patriarchate of Alexandria as a valid church with graceful sacraments. And how many times do I need to remind you that all the Orthodox primates, save Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, are still in communion with His Beatitude Patriarch Theodoros II of Alexandria? How thick is your head? You may need to see a doctor, friend.
Alexander Leitner2/23/2022 4:55 pm
@Troy: Alexandria does not have rules anymore since it is schismatic. How often you need to be told.
Alex2/22/2022 11:48 pm
Patriarch Theodoros is lucky that he's still an Orthodox bishop! (If you get into the sandbox and don't play nice...then expect to get sand kicked back into your face.)
Troy2/22/2022 5:56 pm
Good! If they’re gonna play in Alexandria, then they’re gonna have to play by Alexandria’s rules.
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