14 February 2022, 10:00
Russian Orthodox Church says proposal to deprive it of autocephaly absurd
Moscow, February 14, Interfax - The Russian Orthodox Church said the proposal made by a Greek hierarch to deprive it of autocephaly for five years to punish it for establishing an exarchate in Africa is absurd.
According to Greek media reports, Metropolitan of Peristeri Grigorios has suggested depriving the Russian Orthodox Church of autocephaly and defrocking Russian Orthodox Church Metropolitan Leonid, whom it appointed exarch in Africa.
"The autocephaly of a local Church is not a franchise of a foreign commercial enterprise, which can be easily granted and then taken away. The Russian Orthodox Church officially became independent in 1589, when Metropolitan Job became the first patriarch of Moscow," Metropolitan Leonid told Interfax.
The Russian Church took centuries to form "from martyrs and confessors, reverends and saints, the blessed and afflicted," and it has a long history and traditions, he said. "We went through the abolition of patriarchs under Peter [the Great] and after Peter [the Great], we were tested by godless years under the Soviets, and nothing broke us!" he said.
The metropolitan said the Russian Orthodox Church serves God and millions of people. "We are needed and we are implementing our programs inside Russia and outside it, without violating the canons and rules of the Ecumenical Councils. And we will continue doing that. The Russian Orthodox Church is always for equal dialogue based on canonical principles," he said.
"As to my modest person and the threats to 'defrock me,' they cause nothing but a smile. They didn't ordain me, they are not the ones to defrock me," the patriarch's exarch said.
Patriarch Theodore of Alexandria recognized the non-canonical church of Ukraine, created by the Constantinople Patriarchate, in November 2019. Many clergymen of the Alexandria church, whose canonical territory is Africa, disagreed with that and wished to join the Moscow Patriarchate. Their request was granted in late December 2021: the Synod in Moscow accepted 102 priests from eight African countries in the Russian Orthodox Church. More than 160 African clergymen from 12 countries on the contingent have now joined the Russian Orthodox Church. The clergymen are joining the Russian Orthodox Church along with their flock.