21 February 2022, 11:55
Patriarch of Alexandria should carefully read the decision of Russian Synod
Archpriest Andrey Novikov and Priest Georgy Maksimov were summoned to the church court of the Patriarchate of Alexandria for their missionary work in the newly created exarchate of Russian Church in Africa. The reason for the creation of exarchate, as reported, was the desire of more than a hundred African priests to transfer to Russian Church as a sign of disagreement with the fact that Patriarch Theodore of Alexandria recognized the non-canonical "Orthodox church of Ukraine" (OCU). The arrival of Russian Church to Africa was met with hostility by the Alexandrian episcopate and perceived as an encroachment to canonical territory of another Church. The patriarchal exarch in Africa, Metropolitan Leonid of Klin, commented on the latest developments in this field in an interview with Interfax-Religion.
- You've reported in your Telegram that our priests who are now settling formal issues of the transition of African communities to Russian Church were suddenly summoned to a court session of the Patriarchate of Alexandria. Is this a common practice, as far as it is permissible to judge priests belonging to another local Church?
- No, of course not. This is an extraordinary situation, and I don't remember such a thing in my priestly and episcopal practice. But the creation of the exarchate itself is extraordinary. I'll say that the Patriarch of Alexandria shouldn't look for the guilty among the priests who fulfill their pastoral duty with the blessing of the hierarchy, but should carefully read the decision of Synod of Russian Orthodox Church and the latest message from the Department for External Church Relations, where it is written in black and white that Russian Church calls on Patriarch Theodore to reconsider his anti-canonical decision on Ukraine, and return to the rails of canonical Orthodoxy, and not to make a split in it.
As for the competence, then, of course, they have no right to call our clerics to court. The Patriarch of Alexandria can address his clerics, his flock. As for the other local Church, there are certain framework rules, the charter, and if Patriarch Theodore has any questions, he should address directly to the fullness of Russian Church, and not act as is customary in some seemingly serious organizations that speak in one person and absolutely don't want to hear anyone around. We hear such mantras now on the political platform, we hear them from the Patriarch of Constantinople, and, of course, the Patriarch of Alexandria echoes him.
- Can the decision of the Alexandria court in the case of Russian priests have any consequences for our recently launched mission in Africa?
- It will have absolutely no consequences. This is an illegal decision that the Russian Orthodox Church will never recognize.
- How many priests have already transferred from Alexandrian to Russian Church for today?
- I can't give exact figures yet. One missionary group has already returned, the second one is still working, now two other groups will fly to replace it, and statistical calculations change almost every day. The approximate number of clerics who have transferred to Russian Church is now about 160-170 people. But we understand that behind many figures are primarily living people with whom we work on earth. They didn't hear from the Patriarch of Alexandria an explanation of why he recognized the OCU, there were only excuses like "we will decide everything ourselves." In one of the African countries, Patriarch Theodore didn't hesitate to answer a direct request to explain the situation: "You don't need it, it's between me and Patriarch Kirill."
- And how many priests are there in the Patriarchate of Alexandria?
- We have no data. But the most amazing thing is that they don't either. Can you imagine, right? Despite the fact that the missionary reach of Africa has occurred at the beginning of the last century, people have been serving on the African continent for more than a hundred years, but they still don't have any statistics. And this also characterizes the episcopate of Alexandria.
- The Orthodox live all over the world, the flock of the Patriarch of Constantinople is in Europe and in America. The head of the Church of Greece, who also recognized the OCU, has an extensive flock within the Greek Republic. But why exactly did African parishioners and clerics so acutely perceive the fact that their spiritual leader agreed with the deepening of the schism in Ukraine, and began to en masse to Russian Church? It would seem that where is Ukraine and where is Africa...
- I can't judge on other continents, but as for Africa, which I have been overseeing recently, I can say that a lot of negativity has accumulated here over the decades – both the racism of Greek bishops towards their clergy from the local population, and the elementary lack of care for parishioners. I understand that it's difficult to provide 1.3 billion people with care. If we are talking about some time frame, it's difficult to do it in five, ten years, but something could be done in a hundred years! So that not booths were put up as churches, but some kind of similarity of the house of God was created and something weighty was done to ensure the mission in these countries.
- Let's return to our priests, who are now making their sensational missionary trip to the African continent. This journey itself is very exotic. What struck them most about the structure of Orthodox life in Africa, in the conditions in which this life takes place?
- They were struck by the lack of conditions for Orthodox life, which we are used to seeing in Russia, for example. In some countries, people are completely abandoned. Bishops visit them a couple of times a year, and mostly they are, as a rule, in their homeland, Greece. According to statistics, only a few black bishops have been ordained recently, and this happened, please note, for the first time in the last few decades!
Many things that we face there, such as social, humanitarian, educational programs, not only doesn't exist, but the Alexandrians further aggravate the situation by depriving the clergy of their homes, expelling them from the homes of the clergy who have transferred to us, expelling children from school, depriving them of education, and shutting off water somewhere in the parishes. I've seen a lot of things in my life and experienced more than one war, I don't want to use the word "genocide" in the absence of hostilities, but I don't remember such humiliation of the indigenous population.