First monastic tonsured for ROC’s African Exarchate

Moscow, January 5, 2023

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The first monastic tonsure in the Russian Orthodox Church’s African Exarchate was served yesterday in Moscow.

Novice Abigail Jepchirchir from Kenya was tonsured into the small schema, taking the name of Matrona in honor of St. Matrona of Moscow.

Photo: Photo: The rite was celebrated by Metropolitan Leonid of Klin, Patriarchal Exarch of Africa, in the Church of the Kazan Icon of the Mother of God in Moscow’s Nativity of the Theotokos Convent, the Exarchate’s press service reports.

Gertrude Pende from Nigeria was also received as a novice at the monastery.

The first tonsure comes just two weeks after Met. Leonid celebrated the first ordinations for the Exarchate.

For several months now, students from throughout Africa have been studying and preparing for ordination in Moscow and St. Petersburg, and monastic candidates have been gaining experience in Moscow monasteries.

In the morning yesterday, Met. Leonid also celebrated another round of priestly and diaconal ordinations for the Exarchate.

However, in the eyes of the Alexandrian Patriarchate, whose canonical territory includes all of Africa, the ordinations and tonsures celebrated by Met. Leonid have no canonical force, as he was declared defrocked by the Alexandrian Holy Synod at its session in late November, citing a number of charges connected with the operation of the ROC’s African Exarchate on the Patriarchate’s territory.

The Exarchate was initially established in December 2021, and since then, Russian priests and catechists have been traveling throughout Africa, bringing more clergy and parishes into the Exarchate. Two of the leaders, Archpriests George Maximov and Andrei Novikov, were also declared defrocked by Alexandria back in February.

However, the Moscow Patriarchate, in turn, doesn’t recognize the validity of the defrocking of Russian clerics by the Alexandrian Synod.

The tense relations between the Moscow and Alexandrian Patriarchates are manifested in the fact that neither Patriarch commemorates the other in the Divine services. Patriarch Kirill stopped commemorating his Alexandrian counterpart in December 2019, after he entered into communion with and concelebrated with the schismatics of the “Orthodox Church of Ukraine,” and Patriarch Theodoros of Alexandria reciprocated at the same November 2022 Synodal session, after a year of the African Exarchate.

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