Wednesday, July 10, 2019

On the fraught exarchate in Europe

Moscow (AsiaNews) - Archbishop Ioann of Chariopoulis (Jeanne Rennetau), exarch of European Russians, has convened an assembly of the archdiocese's clergy for 7 September, in order to definitively resolve the fate of this particular Orthodox community. The exarchate was formed among the emigrants who fled from Russia after the 1917 revolution, creating their own European ecclesiastical structure, based in Paris, under the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Constantinople.

Due to the dramatic split between Moscow and Constantinople, following the establishment of the autocephalous Church of Ukraine, Patriarch Bartholomew (Archontonis) dissolved the exarchate last December, forcing the Russians to sell their churches to the Greeks. On February 23 of this year, the assembly of Russian priests in Paris voted 93% for the preservation of the archdiocese, effectively refusing the decree of dissolution issued by Constantinople. Some parishes in Italy and France have decided independently to join the Russian Church abroad (Zarubezhnaja) and the Moscow Patriarchate, the others are still considering their options.

Archbishop Ioann wants an autonomous solution, a kind of "autocephaly" of European Russians, which would hardly be recognized by other Orthodox. His intention is based on the particular "democratic" nature of this Church, daughter of the 1917 Moscow Council, in which a very liberal reform of the dioceses and parishes was discussed, then not applied because of the revolution.

At the same time, the lack of support from Constantinople has created practical and administrative problems that are difficult to solve, starting with the management of the cathedral and the exarchate buildings of Rue Darue in Paris. The Moscow Patriarchate, in turn, presses on the Russian European clergy for a return to the Russian "Mother Church", promising to take on the debts and needs of the communities scattered in over ten countries of Western Europe.

Immediately after the dissolution of the Exarchate by Constantinople, Moscow set up its own Exarchate in Paris for Western Europe, entrusted last December to Metropolitan Ioann (Roscin), a man very close to Patriarch Kirill (Gundjaev).

Last month Kirill himself replaced Ioann, who had shown himself too accommodating, with Metropolitan Antonij (Sevrjuk), who occupied the Vienna office, to whom the same Ioann was sent.

Antonij, appointed bishop of the Russians in Italy in Rome in 2015 at the age of 29, was the secretary of the patriarch, and applies his directives with a much more resolute form, almost threatening the European Russians with punitive measures, if they do not accept reunification with Moscow.

This is why Ioann of Chariopoulis decided, after weeks of internal controversy in the exarchate, to make one last attempt to submit the possible autonomy of his Church to the democratic vote , to save, as he writes, "an exclusive right in our canonical world, involving everyone in participation and lived communion".

If the vote does not achieve the outcome he hoped for, the Patriarchate of Moscow will finally be able to reunite all the parts of its Church, which had been dispersed a century ago in Europe and in other parts of the world.


  1. "Asianews" is so blatantly disingenuous here it is almost laughable. They have written many slanderous and untruthful articles in the past, of which this one is not the first. They are often very unjustly accusatory of the Russian church of this or that false scandal, or some other made-up controversy. They were particularly scathing and slanderous right after the Ukranian debacle in November, making terrible predictions that the Russians would try to make Patriarch Kirill the Pope and somehow blackmail Bartholomew. Dime a dozen tabloids.

    The Western European Exarchate is in my opinion a very venerable institution, filled with many faithful laity and just Hierarchs. Archbishop John is a wonderful bishop, and a great man. Despite the accusations that he is trying to proclaim some sort of "aucocephaly" by his refusal to submit his church to the Greek Bidhops, he has been faithfully leading his flock towards the Russian Church, which the Ecarchate split off from (much like ROCOR) in 1931. It was created by joint personal order of St. Tikhon and St. Benjamin of Petrograd in 1921 NOT in the 1917 synod as this article falsely claims. From what I have learned, the laity and hierarchy of the Exarchate simply want to preserve their self governing status, and be semi-autonomous. This request has been met with open arms by the ROC, with the ROC even offering to change the charter of the Russian Missions department in order to accommodate the autonomous status of the Exarchate, just like they did when ROCOR was recieved back into the Patriarchate.

    Sorry to go off like this, but slander against such good hierarchs like Archbishop John really gets my goat. Especially when it is so blatantly motivated by politics, as articles from "Asianews" often are.

    Sidenote: I visited the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral on the Rue Daru just this past summer, and saw Archbishop John Serve. It was wonderful!

    1. Apparently the source that the Asianews article gets it's weird claims from is one "Credo press" from which, and I quote "The selection of materials is carried out in accordance with the public position of the portal, which is a liberal opposition party that is critical of the Russian Orthodox Church"


    2. "In 2008, M.N. Kuznetsov and I.V. Ponkin noted that “Credo-Press” gained fame by “the systematic publication of slanderous and false; offensive materials, including in relation to the Russian Orthodox Church and other major religious organizations historically represented in Russia, traditional religions, and has already established itself as an information resource that promotes extremist and other marginalized sect promotes homosexuality , and other human vices "