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The Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Constantinople unexpectedly decided to remove the exarchate status of the Archdiocese of Russian Churches in Western Europe, telling the parishes that they had to become part of the Patriarchate’s Greek metropolises. However, the clergy and faithful of the Archdiocese then overwhelmingly voted to remain together as an ecclesiastical body. They are actively considering several options for their future, the most likely being to join the Moscow Patriarchate, which has the backing of the Archdiocese’s hierarch, Archbishop John of Chariopoulis, though there are certainly those members who actively oppose returning to the Russian Church. On August 9, the parishes of the former Exarchate received two documents, one with a proposal from the Patriarchate of Constantinople, and the other with a proposal from the Moscow Patriarchate. The clergy and parishioners have until September 7 to consider the two proposals, when the Archdiocese’s next General Assembly will be held to take a vote, “either to preserve its identity, specificity, and traditions under the Patriarchal omophorion of Moscow,” or “to abandon the past, becoming a vicariate without a future,” Abp. John wrote in his address accompanying the letters, reports the Independent Gazette. The 24-page document from Constantinople is, “in fact, the same statutes that the parishes of the Russian tradition live by today, but with all the references to the Archdiocese as a territorial and legal entity replaced with ‘vicariate,’ with the addition of ‘the Gallic Orthodox Metropolis, in the canonical jurisdiction of the Constantinople (Ecumenical ) Patriarchate.” Whereas the statutes previously proclaimed the independence of the Exarchate, they now note that decisions can be made only with the “consultation” or “approval” of Metropolitan Emmanuel of Gaul. Metropolitan Emmanuel previously sent a letter with a proposal for the churches within his territory to become a vicariate to the priests of the Archdiocese. His letter stipulated the “the preservation of the existing association, which will continue to manage the property belonging to it, and to function according to its own statutes, probably with some necessary adaptations.” The new Constantinople letter makes clear that the “necessary adaptations” are to strip the Archdiocese of its former freedom, as Abp. John comments. Moreover, both Met. Emmanuel’s letter and the present proposal apply only to the churches in France. No offer has been made for the parishes throughout the rest of Western Europe. “We are not talking about the preservation of the Archdiocese, but only about the preservation of its French part,” Deacon Alexander Zanemonets explained to the Gazette. Noting that Abp. John would be able to take actions only with the consent of Met. Emmanuel, Dcn. Alexander commented that “the proposal of the Russian Orthodox Church should be considered both in the context of the Romanian refusal and in the context of this Constantinople option.” As Dcn. Alexander explained, the Romanian Patriarchate offered the Archdiocese to join it only temporarily, and required a canonical release from Constantinople. “But since the Archdiocese is no longer part of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, there cannot be any canonical release,” the clergyman explained. Meanwhile, as he notes, the Moscow Patriarchate’s latest offer “corresponds to what was originally discussed.” That is, His Holiness Patriarch Kirill’s winter letter and the final proposal are identical, with all the features of the entire Archdiocese being preserved, including the independence of the Archdiocese in all internal decisions. “That is, in fact, the only change is that the Patriarch of Moscow will be commemorated instead of the Patriarch of Constantinople, while the structure of the internal life of the Archdiocese remains the same,” Dcn. Alexander explained. And, importantly, the Moscow proposal allows the Archdiocese to quickly elect diocesan and vicar bishops. Abp. John’s age has been a point of concern for the Archdiocese, but there has been no hope of electing successor bishops under Constantinople. The Russian Church has even offered to amend its own statutes to accommodate the traditions of the Archdiocese of Russian Churches. http://orthochristian.com/123008.html?fbclid=IwAR3HtowjDzzE4_a-elqZ6iVnTD7ueCxwnDFDr0yrIRTnxJEbymxXBzW9lV4
ARCHDIOCESE OF RUSSIAN CHURCHES IN WESTERN EUROPE LIKELY TO RETURN TO RUSSIAN CHURCH The administration of the Archdiocese of Russian Churches in Western Europe, formerly an Exarchate of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, has published a number of texts leading up to and resulting from its recent pastoral assembly on May 11 in which the clergy of the Archdiocese gathered in Paris to further deliberate on their future following Constantinople’s sudden revocation of Exarchate status in November. In a proposal on the future of the Archdiocese, a group of Archdiocesan clergy write about the structure’s history as the continuation of the Provisional Administration of the Russian Parishes in Western Europe, founded by St. Tikhon of Moscow in 1921. It was this structure, created by the Russian Church, that later received Exarchate status from the Patriarchate of Constantinople in 1931, 1971, and 1999—and it was this status that linked the group to a Local Church in communion with the broader Orthodox community, the authors write. “Therefore, we consider that while the Patriarchate of Constantinople may indeed revoke the status of Exarchate as stated in the synodal act of November 27, 2018, it is not for it to abolish a structure that the Patriarchate did not create,” they continue. With the tomos granting Exarchate status revoked, the Archdiocese must be attached to a Local Church. The proposal notes that the Archdiocese is looking for a home that will respect its administrative independence, statutes, and liturgical and linguistic practices, grant the possibility of electing hierarchs by Clergy-Laity Assemblies, according to the principles of the Moscow Council of 1917-1918, grant the status of metropolis to the group and of metropolitan to its primate, and grant the possibility of participating in the work of the councils and hierarchical assemblies of the given Local Church. Moreover, the authors “note that at present, only the Russian Orthodox Church is likely to give an answer that would make it possible to elaborate a solution corresponding to the requirements of our principles of ecclesiastical functioning.” Likewise, in his letter of April 22, His Eminence Archbishop John of Chariopoulis, the ruling hierarch of the Archdiocese, noted that contact with the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, the Orthodox Church in America, and the Romanian Patriarchate did not yield results. He then notes that contact was made with the Moscow Patriarchate via His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev), recalling the words of Metropolitan Evlogy who, on the eve of a receiving the tomos that provisionally linked the group to Constantinople, noted that it was not therefore separating from the Russian Church and had every intention of returning fully to the Moscow Patriarchate when conditions would allow. Abp. John notes that the dialogue with the Russian Church has been frank and respectful and allows the Archdiocese to continue its mission in Western Europe. He has openly spoken previously about his desire to see the Archdiocese join the Moscow Patriarchate, which has offered to accept it intact as an ecclesiastical body. He also writes that following the Assembly of February 23, a delegation was sent to Istanbul to ask the Patriarchate to reexamine the situation, though it was told only that it had to implement the Synod’s surprise decision of November 27 because the Patriarchate had no intention of reversing its decision. Moreover, the delegation was told that not only had the Archdiocese lots its Exarchate status, but it no longer existed at all in Constantinople’s vision. No response has been received to letters sent to the Patriarchate of Constantinople, Abp. John notes. A General Assembly is scheduled for September 7. http://orthochristian.com/121549.html?fbclid=IwAR3LH-7lF1h00h3ibUjIP3hcW_xKrV0t9psVUk7BrG8lOsxF85l_cuvDvNI
Archbishop John of Charioupolis addressing the assembly today Today, in Paris, was held an extraordinary general assembly of the Archdiocese of Russian Orthodox Churches in Western Europe, or more precisely of the diocesan governing union of Russian Orthodox associations in Western Europe. The assembly voted against the dissolution of the Archdiocese (206 voters, 15 for the dissolution, 191 against). No decision has been made regarding the jurisdictional choice. A new assembly be may held in June to choose one. An official statement is expected. https://orthodoxie.com/en/the-extraordinary-general-assembly-of-the-archdiocese-refused-the-dissolution/