Solemn events are taking place in Moscow on the occasion of the accession to the Russian Orthodox Church of the Archbishopric of the West European parishes of the Russian tradition, formerly part of the Patriarchate of Constantinople. The day before, a delegation of the Archdiocese headed by its Primate, Archbishop of Dubna John (Renneto) arrived in the Russian capital. He was accompanied by more than a hundred people - both representatives of the clergy and laity.

“I am very happy to be here with you today to celebrate the unity that has been restored between the Archbishopric of Western European parishes and the Moscow Patriarchate,” said Archbishop John upon arrival in Moscow.

On November 2, a delegation of the Archbishopric of Western European parishes visited the Don Stauropegial Monastery in Moscow and the Trinity-Sergius Lavra.

The most important event in the framework of this visit is supposed to happen on November 3 - on Sunday during a service in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill is to present the archbishop John with a patriarch and a synodal letter of accession. Her patriarch signed on November 1. Thus, the transition of the Archdiocese of Western European parishes under the omophorion of the Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church will be formally completed.

“What is happening without exaggeration can be called a historical event,” Vakhtang Kipshidze, deputy head of the synodal department for relations between the Church and society and the media, noted in an interview with RT.

According to him, the Archbishopric of Western European parishes appeared as a result of the 1918 revolution.

“The national division has forced a number of our compatriots to seek spiritual nourishment under the jurisdiction of other churches. At the same time, our compatriots who were in exile were able to not only preserve their spiritual traditions, but also talk about them, show their beauty and spiritual depth to many Europeans. It is very important that this multinational association by decision of the hierarchy and by the free will of believers becomes a part of the Russian Orthodox Church, ”Kipshidze said.

Bridging the gap

The archbishopric of Western European parishes as a separate church formation traces its history to the temporary exarchate of the Patriarchate of Constantinople in Western Europe that arose in the 1930s and was led by Metropolitan Evlogiy (Georgievsky).

The October Revolution, the Civil War and the Bolshevik persecution of the church led to the demarcation of Russian Orthodoxy. Some bishops who found themselves in exile formed the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad (ROCOR), which came into conflict with the Moscow Patriarchate. Metropolitan Eulogius, in turn, with loyal parishes in the Western European countries, became subordinate to the Patriarch of Constantinople.

In 1944, Metropolitan Evlogy made an attempt to overcome the split and expressed his desire to return to the omophorion of the Moscow Patriarch along with his parishes. However, this desire was never realized - after the death of the Metropolitan in 1946, most of the parishes decided to remain subordinate to Constantinople.

Having received the status of Archbishopric in 1965, these parishes remained in the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Constantinople until recently. However, on November 27, 2018, Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople decided to dissolve the Archdiocese. Parishes were ordered to join the Greek metropolis of the countries in which they are located.

However, the Archbishopric did not want to dissolve and did not comply with the decision of the patriarch. On September 28, 2019, by a majority vote, the clergy meeting of the Archdiocese of Western European parishes of the Russian tradition decided to ask for accession to the Moscow Patriarchate.

On October 7, the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church spoke out in favor of satisfying this request.

  • Archbishop of Dubna John (Renneto)
  • RIA News
  • © Irina Kalashnikova

“The accession meets the aspirations of Metropolitan Eulogius (St. George) and his associates, who stood at the origins of the Archbishopric of Western European parishes of the Russian tradition. The long-term rupture of the Russian Church Abroad was restored, the restoration took place with part of the Russian emigration, which became multinational, absorbed the representatives of many European peoples - those who sought through the tradition of the Russian Church to discover the beauty of Holy Orthodoxy, ”the statement on this subject said. official website of the Moscow Patriarchate.

Vladislav Petrushko, a professor at the Orthodox St. Tikhon Humanitarian University, in an interview with RT, called the reunion of the Archbishopric of Western European parishes with the Russian Orthodox Church "one of the most significant events in church life in recent years," comparable in value to the reunification of the Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad in 2007.

“The circumstances were complex, but they led to this joyful event, the complete reunification of the entire church diaspora with the Church in the fatherland,” Petrushko emphasized in a conversation with RT. “It is joyful that the Cathedral of St. Alexander Nevsky, which was and remains the Cathedral of the Russian Archdiocese, will also return to the fold of the Russian Church.”

As the head of the Association of Orthodox Experts Kirill Frolov noted in a conversation with RT, the very separation of the Archdiocese from the Russian Church "was the greatest tragedy."

“This historic event of the Russian national reunion is a key moment in the unification of the Russian people, comparable to the reunification of the Russian Church Abroad and the Moscow Patriarchate, Crimea with Russia. This is a return home to the Russian Orthodox Church, ”said RT Frolov.

On special position

Over the long period of existence as an autonomous unit within the framework of another patriarchy in the Archdiocese of Western European parishes of the Russian tradition, many liturgical, linguistic and other features have appeared, including those in the church administration, which the Moscow Patriarchate promises to leave intact.

As Vladislav Petrushko notes, there "there was a very special canonical situation, which can conditionally be called quite democratic."

“The archbishopric of the West European parishes of the Russian tradition will retain its autonomy, its unique church-canonical structure as part of the Moscow patriarchy. It was possible to agree that with all the differences, we can be one, ”the expert emphasized.

Although initially the main backbone of the parishioners of the Archbishopric was Russian emigrants, now it is multinational. Metropolitan John (Renneto) is a Frenchman. The delegation that arrived in Moscow included Russians, Belarusians, Moldavians, French, Belgians, Dutch, Germans, British, Scots, Romanians, Poles, Serbs.

  • Archpriest Alexander Shmeman
  • © Wikimedia commons

Back in 1924, Metropolitan Eulogius in Paris created a unique educational institution - the Orthodox St. Sergius Theological Institute. At different times, such prominent Russian thinkers and theologians as archpriest Sergey Bulgakov, Georgy Fedotov, archpriest Vasily Zenkovsky, archpriest George Florovsky, archimandrite Kiprian (Kern), archpriest Alexander Shmeman and protopresbyter John Mendy worked in it.

However, in recent years, this educational institution was in a deplorable state.

“If the Paris St. Sergius Institute returns to the fold of the Russian Church, it is possible that restoration will begin,” said Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk on October 5, 2019 on the Rossiya television channel.

As Vakhtang Kipshidze noted, it was the decision to preserve their traditions that made the Archbishopric of the West European parishes of the Russian tradition return to the Russian Orthodox Church.

“The accession of the Archdiocese to the Moscow Patriarchate takes place in the context of Fanar’s anticanonical, treacherous actions, which, without taking into account all the will of the faithful, tried to abolish their originality and traditions and abandoned the promises made earlier by him,” the deputy head of the synodal department for relations between the Church with society and the media emphasized.

This, according to him, is impossible in the Russian Orthodox Church. On the contrary, the Moscow Patriarchate will strive to preserve the spiritual heritage of the Archdiocese, "which has value for world Orthodoxy, and not only for Russian Orthodoxy."

Strict canonicity

As Vakhtang Kipshidze notes, the process of returning the Archbishopric of Western European parishes to the Russian Orthodox Church shows that, unlike the Patriarchate of Constantinople, Moscow is guided by church canons in relations with other religious organizations.

“This historical event testifies to the fact that the Russian Orthodox Church demonstrates its flexibility and ability, in strict accordance with canon law and fraternal love, to accept church structures that would like to become part of the Moscow Patriarchate for various reasons,” Kipshidze noted.

A special representative of the synodal department for the relationship of the Church with society and the media emphasized that one cannot compare the reception in the Russian Orthodox Church of the Archdiocese of Western European parishes and the adventure of the Patriarch of Constantinople with the issuance of the “tomos” of the so-called Orthodox Church in Ukraine.

“There is a significant difference between these events, and it lies in the fact that the decision of the Archdiocese was formed in the context of the attempts of the Patriarchate of Constantinople to liquidate this formation contrary to earlier promises,” Kipshidze noted. “If we talk about the situation in Ukraine, then there is the Ukrainian Orthodox Church recognized by all, headed by Vladyka Onufry, and this church has not addressed any requests to the Patriarchate of Constantinople.”

According to Vladislav Petrushko, "it is completely inappropriate to draw parallels between these two events."

“In Ukraine, Constantinople virtually without repentance accepted schismatics with a very dubious canonical status into its fold, legalized the split. There are great doubts as to whether they possess legal episcopal ordination, ”the expert said. - As for the Archbishopric of Western European parishes, its canonical status has never been called into question. It has never been considered a schismatic entity. It was for some unknown reason that Constantinople itself decided to take measures that prompted the Russian archbishopric to return to the bosom of the mother church, depriving her of exarchate status, depriving her of autonomy and the diversity that she possessed. ”

Open to all

As noted by Kirill Frolov, “the example of Archbishop John (Renneto) can inspire those Orthodox who still remain in the Patriarchate of Constantinople, gain courage and follow it.”

According to Vladislav Petrushko, it can theoretically be argued that reunification with the Archbishopric of Western European parishes demonstrates the possibility of returning under the omophorion of the Moscow Patriarch those churches that were once in his jurisdiction, the churches of the Russian church and liturgical tradition.

First of all, according to the expert, this may concern the canonical Finland Orthodox Church, which is now subordinate to Constantinople, and has the dubious canonical status of the Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church. Historically, Orthodoxy in these countries appeared under Russian influence.

“On the other hand, our patriarch emphasized that our church is not the church of the Russian people only. This has always been condemned as a manifestation of church nationalism. Our church is open to all. If Constantinople offends someone like the Russian Archdiocese, I think that the Moscow Patriarchate will always be ready to consider the possibility of helping and accept such a church structure in its jurisdiction, ”said Vladislav Petrushko.