Moscow, December 24, Interfax - The Russian Orthodox Church has not ruled out opening parishes in Africa, should the Patriarchate of Alexandria support the Ukrainian schism, the head of Synodal Department for External Church Relations Metropolitan Hilarion said.
"I don't want to make any forecast now as to how things will develop. If the Patriarchate of Alexandria sides with the schism, then we might, of course, have to create parishes for our believers, because they won't be able to take communion at Patriarchate of Alexandria temples," Hilarion told the Rossiya 24 television channel on Tuesday.
This is a novel situation for the ROC which has always seen Africa as a canonical territory of the Patriarchate of Alexandria, he said.
"But, first of all, one has to say that the title 'All Africa' was not added to that of Patriarch of Alexandria before the 1920s, until which time the traditional area of influence of the Patriarch of Alexandria was confined to North Africa, i.e. to the Patriarch of Alexandria's historical domain," Metropolitan Hilarion said.
Throughout the 20th century, the Patriarch of Alexandria extended his jurisdiction to the whole of Africa, with the backing from the Russian Church which had always consulted the patriarchate before building its own churches in Africa, and those churches then were part of the Patriarchate, and even the priests seconded from Russia to minister in Africa would become members of the Alexandria clergy on a temporary basis.
"But now that the patriarch of Alexandria has unfortunately sided with schismatics, we will have to correct this paradigm. We don't know yet how this will happen, but we can see already that certain African clergymen have been turning to us," Metropoitan HIlarion said.
The ROC priests currently in Africa are no longer canonically linked to the Patriarchate of Alexandria, there is a growing discontent within the patriarchate with what their leader has done: a few days ago 27 priests from Kenya, Tanzania and Zambia wrote an open letter to him expressing disagreement with the recognition of Ukrainian schismatics, Metropolitan Hilarion said.
Over the next two days the ROC Synod will be meeting in Moscow to decide about Alexandria Patriarch Theodore's decision this fall to recognize the non-canonical church of Ukraine, which was created a year ago by the Patriarchate of Constantinople with the support of then Ukrainian authorities.
In November 2018 Patriarch Kirill, in response to Constantinople's actions in Ukraine, dispatched a Moscow priest to minister to Russian speakers in Turkey, which the ROC used to see as a canonical territory the Patriarchate of Constantinople. Later Metropolitan Hilarion announced the ROC's intention to open "parishes, dioceses and outposts abroad without looking back at Constantinople."