Moscow, November 28, Interfax - In light of the decision of the Church of Constantinople to disband its Exarchate of Russian parishes in Western Europe, the Moscow Patriarchate has reminded about the idea for these parishes to switch to its jurisdiction.
"Fifteen years ago, in the spring of 2003, the late Patriarch Alexy II proposed to all bishops and Orthodox parishes of the Russian tradition in Western Europe to unite as part of the self-governing metropolitan district of the Russian Church. It's possible the time is coming to reconsider this call, which was not heeded by everyone at the time, anew," Archpriest Nikolay Balashov, deputy head of the Moscow Patriarchate Department for External Church Relations, told Interfax on Wednesday.
"Judging by the recent decision of the Russian parish in Florence, the soil for that is maturing," he said, referring to the parish of Florence's Church of the Nativity of Christ and Saint Nicholas the Thaumaturge's recent switch to the jurisdiction of the Russian Church Abroad. The parish switched because it disagrees with Constantinople's actions in Ukraine.
The Synod in Istanbul adopted a decision to disband the "Russian exarchate" in Western Europe at its meeting on Tuesday. The Moscow Patriarchate said it was not surprised at this decision.
"I see no particular reason to be surprised. We saw that they did not ask the episcopate, the clergy, the monks, the laypeople of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Istanbul whether they want to return to the Patriarchate of Constantinople, they just announced that 300 years of their history have been canceled and they are again under the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, but will be granted autocephaly soon. And no one cares that did not ask about that as well, that they do not need autocephaly," the priest said.
Similarly, the Paris exarchate was abolished without input from the bishop, the clergy, or believers, Father Nikolay said. "They didn't stand on ceremony with their own subjects! And their tomos is only 18 years old, the ink is still practically wet, they managed to repeal an even older document," he said.
He referred to Metropolitan Evlogy, who headed Russian parishes in Western Europe and was taken under the jurisdiction of Patriarch Photious of Constantinople in 1931 temporarily and only due to the plight of the Orthodox Church in the Soviet Union. "The Temporary Exarchate of the Holy Apostolic and Patriarchal See of Constantinople in Western Europe" was founded at the time.
"This transfer happened without any documents of dismissal from the Russian Church, which has always considered it canonically illegal. However, both Patriarch Photious and Metropolitan Evlogy strongly emphasized the temporary nature of the situation at the time," the archpriest said.
The Russian exarchate dates back to 1921, when Patriarch Tikhon of Moscow and All Russia appointed Paris-based Metropolitan Evlogy the official representative of the Russian Church in Western Europe. In 1927, the Karlovici Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia banned Evlogy from performing his duties and severed liturgical communion with him, which caused Russian emigrants to split into those loyal to the Synod and those loyal to the Moscow Patriarchate.
In 1931, Metropolitan Eulogius, wishing to evade the Soviet authorities' pressure to sign "a pledge of loyalty," temporary switched to the jurisdiction of the Constantinople Patriarchate but less than a year before his death was again accepted to the jurisdiction of the Russian Orthodox Church by Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and All Russia. Nevertheless, the majority of clergy and laypeople, led by the new metropolitan, decided to remain under the jurisdiction of Constantinople.
The exarchate currently comprises 65 parishes, 11 acting churches, two monasteries, and seven sketes in Belgium, Denmark, Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom, and it has over 100 priests and 30 deacons.