Kampala, Uganda, May 19, 2022
Metropolitan Leonid of Klin has arrived in Africa for his first visit in his capacity as the head of the Russian Orthodox Church’s new African Exarchate.
Having arrived to the canonical territory of the Ugandan Church of the Patriarchate of Alexandria, the Russian hierarch is facing resistance from local Ugandan hierarchs.
“I am glad to finally be on African soil, in a different status and with other powers,” the Metropolitan told RIA-Novosti, referring to his previous service as representative of the Patriarch of Moscow to the Patriarch of Alexandria from December 2004 to May 2013.
“We have come with good goals, bringing peace and development to the continent. But the main thing is to give the clergy and flock an opportunity to remain faithful to ecumenical Orthodoxy and avoid the schism caused by the Patriarchate of Alexandria,” he explained.
Several priests of the Russian Church have already been active in Africa since the creation of the Russian Exarchate in December, including Archpriests George Maximov and Andrei Novikov, who were declared defrocked by the Alexandrian Patriarchal Ecclesiastical Court, though the Russian Church does not recognize this decision.
Patriarch Theodoros of Alexandria has also threatened to defrock Met. Leonid.
Met. Leonid’s visit is the first of a Russian hierarch to the territory of the Patriarchate of Alexandria since the creation of the Exarchate. As of February, the Russian Exarchate was reported to have 10 clerics in Uganda.
RIA-Novosti reports: “On May 19 and 20, His Eminence will hold a number of meetings, including at a high level, as well as with the clergy who have passed under the omophorion of the Russian Orthodox Church—African priests and their flock.”
However, having learned of Met. Leonid’s visit, the Patriarchate of Alexandria has managed to disrupt some of his plans.
On May 11, the Russian embassy in Uganda wrote to the Ugandan Ministry of Foreign Affairs to inform them of the Metropolitan’s visit from May 18 to 21 and request their assistance in “organizing an appointment for Metropolitan of Klin Leonid (Gorbachev) with the members of the Council of Presidents of the Inter-Religious Council of Uganda.”
The Council of Presidents includes Metropolitan Jeronymos of Kampala of the Patriarchate of Alexandria, Anglican and Episcopalian bishops, Pentecostal and Born Again Faith representatives, the President of the Seventh-Day Adventists in Uganda, and the Grand Mufti of Uganda.
As a member of the Council, the Ugandan Orthodox Church sent a letter of objection on May 14, and on May 18, Joshua Kitakule, Secretary General of the Inter-Religious Council of Uganda, informed the Russian embassy that due to the Ugandan Church’s objection, “the interaction of the [Russian] delegation and the Council of Presidents cannot take placed as planned.”