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  1. 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
  2. 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
  3. A special statement on the situation in the Ukrainian Orthodox Church was adopted by the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church at its session yesterday, reports the press service of the Russian Orthodox Church. The Synod again notes the lamentable situation of increased persecution that has arisen in Ukraine thanks to Constantinople’s interference in Church life there, and calls upon the other Local Orthodox Churches to support their suffering brethren and the Ukrainian authorities to cease its persecutions. The statement reads in full: The Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church notes with deep concern the sharp deterioration of the situation of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. The granting by the Patriarchate of Constantinople of a “tomos of autocephaly” to the so-called “Orthodox Church of Ukraine,” artificially created by the merger of two schismatic organizations, further strengthened the division between the Orthodox of Ukraine and significantly exacerbated inter-confessional relations. Of particular concern is the gross interference of the state authorities of Ukraine in the internal Church life and attempts by politicians to use the Church in opportunistic interests. At the same time, the fundamental rights and human freedoms enshrined in the Ukrainian constitution are flagrantly trampled upon. Discriminatory laws have been adopted by the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine and entered into force, the purpose of which is to deprive the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of its name and to legalize the seizure of its churches and monasteries. The faithful of the canonical Church are also stricken in other rights: Its clergy are deprived of the opportunity to meaningfully nourish soldiers, law enforcement officers, and prisoners. It is becomingly increasingly clear that the aim of the representatives of the current state powers is the liquidation of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. The local authorities and law enforcement agencies were given recommendations to maximally facilitate the transfer of Ukrainian Orthodox Church communities into schism. There are threats of taking the largest monasteries and historical holy sites from the Ukrainian Orthodox Church—the Kiev Caves Lavra and the Pochaev Lavra. The majority of cases of churches being taken from their religious communities happen contrary to their decisions to remain in the canonical Church. The decision of the religious community is replaced by the vote of a general assembly of citizens who most often are not members of the parish of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. The minutes of such meetings are immediately approved by the authorities, after which the church is seized with the assistance of security forces. This lawlessness has led to a surge of violence against the clergy and faithful of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Despite the assurances of the leadership of Ukraine and the Patriarchate of Constantinople about the peaceful character of the so-called “unification of Ukrainian Orthodox,” dozens of churches have been seized by breaking in, with the support of paramilitary groups, often with the beating of priests and the faithful of the canonical Church, trying to defend their holy sites. Dozens of communities of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church are forced to gather for prayer in private homes or on the street. In this difficult situation, we call upon all faithful children of the Russian Orthodox Church to strengthen their prayers for their suffering brothers in Ukraine, that they might be granted courage and Christian patience in their stand for holy Orthodoxy. We appeal to the state authorities of Ukraine with a call to cease the persecution against their own citizens who do not want to join the schism. We entreat our fraternal Local Orthodox Churches to prayerfully support the persecuted Ukrainian Orthodox Church, headed by Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and All Ukraine. We call upon the global community to be attentive to the blatant facts of the violation of human rights and to give a proper assessment to the gross interference of the Ukrainian state in the affairs of the Church. http://orthochristian.com/119594.html?fbclid=IwAR0xGOfJ1c2xiEy1AdwdFL2vEFeyekljeTxzXJLY-bk5QJqGyQ48qS_iqzY
  4. The Archdiocese of the Russian Churches in Western Europe, officially the Patriarchal Exarchate for Orthodox Parishes of the Russian Tradition in Western Europe, reportedly intends to ask to be accepted into the Russian Orthodox Church. The Archdiocese had been a part of the Patriarchate of Constantinople for decades, though it was suddenly abolished without warning by the Holy Synod of the Constantinople on November 27. The Patriarchate then officially announced that it had revoked the 1999 tomos that gave the care of the Archdiocese to its own Archbishop-Exarch and that the Russian parishes were to be integrated into the dioceses of the Patriarchate of Constantinople already present in their countries. The Archdiocese then announced that it would hold a clergy meeting on December 15 that would set a date for a General Assembly that would formulate a response to Constantinople. And today, a Russian translation of a letter sent from the Archdiocesan hierarch Archbishop John (Renneteau) of Chariopoulis to His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia, received by the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department of External Church Relations (DECR), has been published on Credo Press, revealing that the Archdiocese intends to petition for canonical recognition by the Russian Orthodox Church. The letter reads: Your Holiness! After my meeting with Metropolitan Hilarion on November 30, 2018, I am allowing myself, as Archbishop, to begin a correspondence with you regarding the Archdiocese of the Russian Churches in Western Europe's new situation. My main pastoral concern is to preserve the unity, integrity, and specificity of this Archdiocese, which played an important role in preserving the theological, liturgical, and ecclesiological spiritual tradition of the Russian Church in Western Europe in a difficult historical period. We are planning to ask you for canonical recognition of the aforementioned Archdiocese, which would ensure the continuity of the inheritance and mission that is turning 100 (in 2024), and which will also allow many to enter the path of reconciliation after so many years of mutual distrust. To this end, we would like you to consider it possible to confirm to us the assurance of the legal and ecclesiastical continuity of our structure, regulated by its statutes, in accordance with the provisions of the Act of July 1, 1901 and the Act of December 9, 1905, and also the decree of May 6, 1906, in accordance with the laws of the French Republic on relations between the state and churches. Moreover, our statutes directly refer to the resolutions of the Moscow Council of 1917-1918. It is this inheritance that we would like to preserve, because it allowed for the preservation of an open Church life including the participation of the laity in the life of the community. Asking this, Your Holiness, we do not want to enter into any competition with your dioceses in Western Europe, but into cooperation with respect for our own historical path. It could be fruitful and allow us to join the Synod or Metropolia of the Russian Church in Western Europe, allowing for the better integration of all our parishes of various languages in various countries, while maintaining the integrity of this Archdiocese in the universal mission of the Orthodox Church. Requesting this, Your Holiness, I understand that we will have to deepen this return together, addressing the fundamental principles of our Archdiocese, which is within the Mother Church from which it is transferring. Being confident in your positive and pastoral attitude towards our request, I wish you a good feast of the Entrance of the Most Holy Theotokos and we entreat your holy prayers for us all, and your blessing. Archbishop John of Chariopoulis Paris, December 7, 2018 http://orthochristian.com/117864.html?fbclid=IwAR2kAsK7LKUi-unGjzcFaNSAQDuzg_BbU17PdwdS5N35gkAdzwPv0IH-bQ4
  5. The Patriarchate of Constantinople has declared that the Russian Church of the Life-Giving Trinity in Pyongyang, North Korea to it, as was stated in the calendar published by the Orthodox Metropolis of Korea of the Patriarchate of Constantinople on the occasion of the visit of Patriarch Bartholomew to Seoul, South Korea. The church is the first and only Orthodox parish in North Korea, and has nothing do with the Ecumenical Patriarchate as the Russian Embassy in North Korea wrote on its Facebook page yesterday. “The question is, what relation does Patriarch Bartholomew have with our church? Why does he want it? To gratify his ambitions? To turn the fruits of the ministry of the Russian missionaries into politicking, parasitic for the faith? We will not allow him to cause chaos, as he has managed to do in Ukraine, here in DPRK,” the message reads. The decision to build the church was personally made by former North Korean leader Kim Jong Il on August 22, 2002, as a sign of Russian-Korean friendship, after he visited the Church of St. Innocent of Irkutsk in Khabarovsk, Russia, according to the site of the Russian Embassy in North Korea. The foundation stone for the church was laid on June 24, 2003, and four North Korean students entered the Moscow Seminary the same year, two of them being ordained as deacons in 2005. The parish community of the Church of the Life-Giving Trinity was officially established by the Russian Holy Synod in July 2006, and the church was consecrated on August 13, 2006, with the two deacons being ordained as priests. The parish is part of the Vladivostok Diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church. However, Constantinple has always considered the church to be its own, under the idea that that entire Korean Peninsula is its own canonical territory. “When the parish was finally prepared, the then head of the Russian Orthodox Department for External Church Relations and now Patriarch of Moscow, Kirill, with the support of the Russian Embassy in North Korea, went into the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and uncanonically consecrated the parish,” Metropolitan Ambrosios of the Korean Metropolis of the Ecumenical Patriarchate said in an interview last summer. In its post entitled “UNSEEMLY AMBITIONS,” the embassy reports: “We were very surprised that in far-away Istanbul, they seriously consider the Pyongyang Holy Trinity Church to be their own. In any case, this follows from the calendar published by the Korean Metropolis of the Patriarchate of Constantinople on the occasion of Patriarch Bartholomew’s visit to Seoul.” Patriarch Bartholomew is visiting South Korea from December 3 to 8. His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev), the head of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations, also just visited China and both Koreas in late November. Further, the embassy notes that such ambitions from Constantinople have been rebuffed several times by North Korea. “Just recently, Patriarch Bartholomew was given the cold shoulder when he again asked to be received in Pyongyang. More than once, and more than twice the Orthodox Committee of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) has explained its position to the Turkish subjects: The Holy Trinity Church was erected as a symbol of Korean-Russian friendship by decision of the former leader of the DPRK Kim Jong Il,” the embassy’s message reads, adding that the church has been a place of prayer for many years for diplomats of the Russian Embassy and others. “The Ecumenical Patriarch, which was brought to Korea on the bayonets of Greek soldiers in 1950, cannot, by definition, have any relation to this project,” the message further reads. The embassy also notes that the parish was built and beautified by the embassy staff and their families, together with the Koreans, and with financial support from Vladivostok. The icons and bells are Russian, the clergy were trained and ordained by the Russian Church, and the altar is blessed with the presence of relics of the New Martyrs and Confessors of the Russian Church. In his interview, Met. Ambrosios also states that Metropolitan Sotirios, the previous ruling hierarch for Constantinople, had sent large containers with materials for the church three times, and that he had even sent and traveled with a crane to place the dome on top the church. He also notes that Met. Sotirios was invited by the parish to visit and serve several times, with their gratitude for his help in building the church. The parish’s permanent parishioners are all embassy staff and their families. http://orthochristian.com/117710.html?fbclid=IwAR1_hr-yS3PjoJpTeqt4F_kuzj0EuMMRAAhk5xE-YCc-h-_BTchGZCKe-lY
  6. On August 31, the primate of the Russian Orthodox Church His Holiness Patriarch Kirill will celebrate the glorification of the newly-proclaimed saints the Roslavl elders Theophan and Nikita in the Dormition Cathedral in Smolensk, reports the site of the Smolensk Diocese. During the December 27, 2016 meeting of the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church a report was heard from the chairman of the Synodal Commission for the Canonization of Saints, Bishop Pankraty of Troitsk, regarding the petition received from Metropolitan Isidore of Smolensk and Roslavl about the local canonization of Schemamonks Nikita and Theophan, desert dwellers of the Roslavl Forest (Journal no. 126). The Holy Synod decided to canonize Schemamonks Nikita and Theophan, desert dwellers of the Roslavl forests, for local veneration in the Smolensk Diocese. The memory of Venerable Nikita is to be kept on March 29/April 11, the day of his departure to the Lord. The memory of Venerable Theophan—June 15/28, the day of his departure to the Lord. On the same day, Pat. Kirill will celebrate a moleben for the beginning of the academic year, after which, a memorial to the holy Prince Vladimir Monomakh will be consecrated on Cathedral Hill. The patriarch will be in his native Smolensk for the celebration of the 880th anniversary of the establishment of the Smolensk Diocese by the holy Prince Rostislav, according to Metropolitan Isidore of Smolensk. “The memorial, which His Holiness Pat. Kirill will consecrate, is timed to this event so important for our region, inasmuch as Prince Vladimir Monomakh brought the wonderworking Hodigitria Icon and installed it in the Dormition church, as the chronicles testify, and his grandson Prince Rostislav of Smolensk officially established our Smolensk Diocese,” the diocesan head stated. *** The future Schemamonk Nikita was born in Orel in 1695. When and by whom he was tonsured into monasticism is unknown. As a young man he departed from his family’s home and relocated to one and a half miles from the Beloberezhsk Hermitage (now the Bryansk Diocese), attending services at the monastery. There he remained into old age. In 1780 Schemamonk Nikita moved to a cell he built in the Roslavl forests, on the south side of “Monk’s Ditch,” near the village of Akimovka. There the elder spent no less than ten years in monastic podvigs known only to him. Then he again moved to the Beloberezshk Hermitage, but before death, in 1792, he wanted to return again to his desert. His disciple Dositheus, receiving the blessing of the Beloberezshk Hermitage, took Nikita to the Roslavl forests. There Nikita died on March 29, 1793. The body of the reposed Schemamonk Nikita was buried in the ditch near his cell. Because there was constant water in the ditch, within a few years Dositheus dug up Nikita’s coffin to move him to another place. The coffin was intact and Nikita’s body and clothes were incorrupt. They moved his body into a new coffin and, having served a Panikhida, buried him on a hill on the northern edge of the ditch. One sick monk attended the burial, suffering from a stomach sickness. Drinking some water from the coffin, he was healed from his sickness. Fifteen years after Fr. Nikita’s death his grave was again opened: as before his body remained incorrupt. From the time of his death the faithful have honored the memory of Fr. Nikita. As many as 5,000 people gather at his grave on his name’s day. The grave of the elder is revered to this day and has witnessed many instances of healing. Not far from the burial of Fr. Nikita is the grave of another ascetic—Schemamonk Theophan. Little information has been preserved about his life—it is mainly the following recollections of Archimandrite Moses, the venerable Optina elder. “Fr. Theophan, a native of Vladimir, served in the Black Sea Cossack army; before his tonsure he was called “Cossack Theodore Talunin.” At first he lived in the Sophroniev Hermitage, then he left for Moldavia, where he stayed with Elder Paisius [Velichkovksy—trans.]. Upon his death he returned to Russia and entered the brotherhood of Optina Pustyn in 1800. He labored in extreme non-acquisitiveness, in meekness of spirit, in the active virtue of fasting, prayer and prostrations with fervent zeal. < … > The Elder departed to the Lord on June 15, 1819. A few minutes before his death I asked him: ‘Is your soul calm? Don’t you fear anything in the hour of death?’ He replied: ‘I joyfully desire to be delivered from this life.’ And his end began immediately: he raised his hand to make the Sign of the Cross and gave his soul into the hands of God. He was buried in the wilderness.” The venerable Optina elder Anthony, in the arms of whom Elder Theophan died in the Roslavl forests said that he forgot to beseech his prayers before his death. On the fortieth day the reposed appeared to him in a dream and promised to pray for him. Fr. Anthony said the following about Fr. Theophan: “In life this elder had such a face shining with grace that I lacked the spirit to look him straight in the eyes, but only secretly looked at him from the side.” The grave of Schemamonk Theophan is revered by pilgrims in modern times. http://orthochristian.com/106069.html

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