Archdiocese of Russian Orthodox churches in Western Europe
Archdiocese of Russian Orthodox churches in Western Europe (abbreviation: AROCWE; Russian: Архиепископия православных русских церквей в Западной Европе) is an autonomous Eastern Orthodox archdiocese of the Russian Orthodox tradition, based in Paris, and having parishes throughout the Western Europe. It was initially created in 1921, and later reorganized on several occasions, under different canonical jurisdictions. The Archdiocese is sometimes referred to as Rue Daru, from the street in Paris where its Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is located.
Archdiocese of Russian Orthodox churches in Western Europe
Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, Paris, home to the archdiocese
|Territory||Western Europe, British Isles|
|Rite||Church Slavonic, local languages|
Music: Russian Chant, Byzantine Chant
|Bishop||Archbishop John of Charioupolis|
|exarchat.eu (in French)
exarchate.org.uk (in English)esarcato.it (in Italian)
From 1999 to 2018, the Archdiocese was also known as the Patriarchal Exarchate for Orthodox Parishes of the Russian Tradition in Western Europe, and during that time it functioned as a patriarchal exarchate of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. On 27 November 2018, the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Constantinople decided to dissolve the Exarchate, by revoking the Tome of 1999 that was regulating the canonical position of the Archdiocese within the Patriarchate. By the same decision, the Holy Synod went even further, declaring that all parishes and properties of the dissolved Exarchate should be transferred to existing regional dioceses within the Patriarchate of Constantinople, thus effectively trying to abolish the Archdiocese.
Within the Archdiocese, decisions of the Holy Synod were received mixed reactions. The first decision, on the dissolution of the Exarchate, was not challenged by the Archdiocese, since it was acknowledged that the Patriarchate had every right to grant or revoke the exarchial status, but the second decision, that would inevitably lead to the abolishment of the Archdiocese, was not implemented, and it was officially rejected by the Extraordinary General Assembly of the Archdiocese, that was held in Paris on 23 February 2019.
During the 19th century, several parishes were created for the Russian diaspora in various countries of Western Europe, under the jurisdiction of the Russian Orthodox Church. In 1861, Alexander Nevsky Church was built in Paris, and soon became the main regional center of Russian Orthodoxy. Within the Russian Orthodox Church, jurisdiction over parishes in Western Europe was granted to the Metropolitan of Saint Petersburg.
After the onset of the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, Russian Orthodox Christians based outside Russia, and those who fled there from the communist regime, found themselves in a very difficult situation. In 1920, Metropolitan Eulogius (Georgiyevsky) was sent to Western Europe in order to organize provisional administration. His jurisdiction was confirmed on 8 April 1921, by Patriarch Tikhon of Moscow and Metropolitan Benjamin of Petersburg, who issued a decree creating the Provisional Administration of Russian Parishes in Western Europe, centered in Paris, and appointing Metropolitan Eulogius as its first hierarch.
Faced with new political realities in Russia, and severe restrictions imposed by the Soviet regime upon the Moscow Patriarchate, Metropolitan Eulogius and other exiled Russian hierarchs found a temporary solution in the formation of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR). During the early 1920s, the vast majority of Russian Orthodox Christians in diaspora supported ROCOR, united in their opposition to the Soviet government.
At first, Metropolitan Eulogius was member of the ROCOR Synod, but in 1927 he came into conflict with the majority of ROCOR hierarchs and was subsequently suspended by them. In order to remove Metropolitan Eulogius from his office, ROCOR hierarchs decided to replace him with Metropolitan Seraphim (Lukyanov), but great majority of parishes in Western Europe remained loyal to Metropolitan Eulogius. Thus a split was created within the Russian community in Western Europe, between those who continued to follow Metropolitan Eulogius and those who recognized Metropolitan Seraphim as their new hierarch. Faced with those challenges, Metropolitan Eulogius appealed the Moscow Patriarchate, and received confirmation of his jurisdiction in Western Europe.
In 1930, Metropolitan Sergius (Stragorodsky), acting as locum tenens of the Russian Patriarchal Throne, initiated proceedings against Metropolitan Eulogius because of his public support for Christians suffering under the Soviet regime. On 10 June 1930, a decree was issued, intended to remove Metropolitan Eulogius from his office, and replace him with Metropolitan Vladimir (Tikhonicky). Decree failed, on both accounts, since both hierarchs decided not to obey it. Moscow responded by sending another hierarch, Metropolitan Eleutherius (Bogoyavlensky), who arrived in Paris at the beginning of 1931. Faced with new jurisdictional crisis, second in four years, majority of parishes decided to remain loyal to Metropolitan Eulogius, while minority recognized Metropolitan Eleutherius. Since there also was another group, created earlier (1927) under Metropolitan Seraphim, Russian diaspora in Western Europe found itself divided into three fractions, headed by Eleutherius (Moscow), Seraphim (ROCOR) and Eulogius (independent).
Transfers of jurisdictionEdit
In order to regulate his canonical position, Metropolitan Eulogius petitioned Patriarch Photius II of Constantinople, asking to be received under his canonical care. On 17 February 1931, he was appointed an exarch, with provisional jurisdiction over Russian parishes in Western Europe, and thus a provisional exarchate of the Ecumenical Patriarchate was created. That action caused a direct conflict between two Patriarchates (Constantinople and Moscow), leading to exchange of protests and accusations, without resolution.
Metropolitan Eulogius remained under the jurisdiction of Constantinople until 1944, when he decided to lead his community back into the Moscow Patriarchate. Reunion was formalized in 1945, but many important questions remained unsolved. However, after his death in 1946, a further break occurred in 1947, with a large number of parishes once again entering the Patriarchate of Constantinople.
The Provisional Exarchate was closed by Patriarch Athenagoras I through a letter dated 22 November 1965, with an assembly meeting 16–18 February 1966 noting that such provisional ethnic structures were no longer necessary, given that the passage of several generations had allowed immigrants to become accustomed to their new lands, which were now made up of more and more converts to the faith. The implementation of those decisions was challenged, and subsequently reconsidered. On 22 January 1971, the same Patriach Athenagoras I regulated the position of the Archdiocese, under the Omophorion of the Patriarch of Constantinople, recognising its internal autonomy.
New reorganization was implemented on 19 June 1999, when Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople created the exarchate by granting it a tomos. According to the Exarchate's own account, Patriarch Bartholomew "recognised the full autonomy of the Archdiocese in administrative, pastoral and material terms". In 2006, against the protests of Moscow, the Exarchate received Bishop Basil (Osborne) of Amphipolis (formerly the temporary administrator of the Moscow Patriarchate's Diocese of Sourozh), along with a number of parishes and clergy in the United Kingdom. Bp. Basil was elected as an auxiliary of the Exarchate's archbishop and given care of the Episcopal Vicariate of Great Britain and Ireland, formed of those parishes and clergy that came with him.
Dissolution and its aftermathEdit
On 28 November, a communiqué concerning the Ecumenical Patriarchate's decision to dissolve its exarchate of the AROCWE was published in French on the Phanarion blog and on the official Facebook page of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. The communiqué says the Ecumenical Patriarchate "decided to revoke the patriarchal tomos of 1999 by which it granted pastoral care and administration of orthodox parishes of Russian tradition in Western Europe to His Archbishop-Exarch. [...] [T]he ecumenical patriarchate has decided to integrate and connect parishes to the various holy Metropolises of the ecumenical patriarchate in the countries where they are located." On the same day, a communiqué on the website of the AROCWE exarchate was published. In the AROCWE communiqué, it is stated: that the AROCWE had "in no way" requested the Ecumenical Patriarchate's decision, that the AROCWE primate (Archbishop John of Charioupolis) had not been consulted prior to this decision being taken, and that said primate had learned about the decision during a private conversation with the Ecumenical Patriarch in Istanbul. The communiqué also asked the faithfuls of the AROCWE to maintain their calm.
On 28 November, the St. Sergius Orthodox Theological Institute, which was under the jurisdiction of the AROCWE, published a communiqué in which it declared it "renews today its faithful attachment to the person and action of His All-Holiness Bartholomew I and reaffirms its attentive following in the spirit of unity called by the Holy and Great Council of Crete."
On 29 November, after the synod had ended, the same communiqué which had been released one day prior concerning the Ecumenical Patriarchate's decision to dissolve the AROCWE was released, in French, on the official website of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. The Ecumenical Patriarchate "never explicitely justified" its decision to dissolve the AROCWE.
On 30 November, the council of the AROCWE declared in a communiqué that this decision of the Ecumenical Patriarchate was "unforeseen". The communiqué added that since the AROCWE had not requested this decision, two things should be done before the AROCWE would comply to this decision: Archbishop John of Charioupolis, as the head of the AROCWE, will have to "invite the priests of the Archdiocese to a pastoral assembly, on December 15, 2018, to discuss with those who carry with him the spiritual responsibility of the parishes and faithful of the Archdiocese" and the AROCWE council will have to "convene a general assembly of the Archdiocese, in which all the clergy and lay delegates elected by the parishes and communities, which are the adherent associations of the Diocesan Union, will take part." The communiqué concluded that since John of Charioupolis had not requested this decision, he still remained fully in pastoral charge of the Russian Orthodox Churches in Western Europe.
On 10 December, the AROCWE published a communiqué saying the 15 December Pastoral Assembly of 15 December was not a "a statutory decision-making body regarding the future of the Archdiocese [...] The legitimate collegial bodies to which our statutes [...] entrust the administrative responsibility for any decisions are the General Assembly [...] and, between two assemblies, the Archdiocesan Council."
After its 15 December Pastoral Assembly, the AROCWE released a communiqué in which it states that it decided to call an extraordinary General Assembly, scheduled for 23 February 2019, in Paris. The goal of this General Assembly was to discuss the November 2018 decision of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to dissolve the AROCWE.
On 17 January 2019, the AROCWE responded to the fact that "[i]n recent days, many priests and deacons of the Archdiocese have received a letter from the Greek Metropolitan of the country where they reside, ordering them to cease commemorating their own Archbishop, to join the clergy of the Greek Metropolia, to consider that our parishes and communities are already part of these Metropolia and finally ordering them to hand over all relevant parish documents and records". In this official communiqué, the AROCWE reaffirmed that the AROCWE still existed and that John of Charioupolis was still its primate.
On 17 (or 18) January 2019, the council of the AROCWE sent an official letter to the Ecumenical Patriach, informing him that "the structures of our Archdiocese permit no other body except the General Assembly to respond to a question of an existential nature concerning the status of our ecclesiastical body." The letter also reads concerning the existenceo of the AROCWE inside the Ecumenical Patriarchate: "we would not want this long and fruitful period to end without a human, face-to-face meeting between the representatives mandated by our diocesan structures. Indeed, we would never be able to find the right words to express our gratitude to the Ecumenical Patriarchate for its canonical protection during all these years."
Thereafter, "for the purpose of the preparation of the General Assembly of 23 February 2019", the AROCWE published a translation of the synodal canonical act sent by the Ecumenical Patriarchate, dated from 27 November 2018, which dissolved the AROCWE.
On 7 February 2019, Metropolitan Emmanuel of France [fr] wrote a letter to the priests of the AROCWE. In his letter, Emmanuel declared he was ready to give within his Metropolis of France [fr] the statute of vicariate to the members of the AROCWE, with the following caracteristics:
- "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 commemoration by His Excellency, Archbishop John, of His Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew;
- the guarantee, in keeping with the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s constant care about it, of the preservation of your Russian liturgical and spiritual tradition, as well as of your work of Orthodox witness in Western societies."
Emmanuel also declared in his letter he had met Archbishop John of Charioupolis, primate of the AROCWE, and had proposed those points to him.
On 8 February, the AROCWE published "a reminder that the Extraordinary General Assembly has been convened in response to the decision of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to change the status of the Archdiocese, that is to say, to withdraw its title of Patriarchal Exarchate. It is certainly the responsibility of the Patriarchate to grant or not the status of Exarchate to our Archdiocese; on the other hand, it is the responsibility of the Archdiocese and, in this case, of its sovereign statutory body, the EGA, to decide on its dissolution."
On 15 February 2019, Metropolitan Emmanuel of France gave an interview to Orthodoxie.com concerning the future of the AROCWE.
Extraordinary General Assembly and refusal of the dissolutionEdit
On 23 February, the AROCWE held its Extraordinary General Assembly (EGA). On this occasion, Archbishop John of Charioupolis declared: "Today we have a choice to make, a choice between life and death. The choice of life is the continuity of our Archdiocese in its own space in communion with the Church. Another path, perhaps, is also to say: yes, we stay in our own space, but we remain in a certain terra incognita, and there I think we do not have the right path."
191 out of the 206 voters voted against the dissolution, 15 voted in favor of the dissolution. A new assembly may possibly be held in June to choose a jurisdiction. After the vote, Archbishop John of Charioupolis read a letter that Archbishop Anthony of Vienna and Budapest, head of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Synodal Department for the Administration of Institutions Abroad, had written. In his letter, Anthony wrote that the Russian Orthodox Church was ready to receive the AROCWE under its jurisdiction.
After the assembly, the AROCWE published a communiqué in which it stated: "For the moment, the life of the Archdiocese continues as on the eve of the EGA. It should be noted, in celebrations, the Archbishop commemorates the Ecumenical Patriarch and the parish clergy commemorate the Archbishop according to the canonical rule."
Changing of jurisdictionEdit
Structure and compositionEdit
Since its initial foundation in 1921, the Archdiocese has grown to roughly 100 parishes (more than 40 of which are in France), served by about 66 priests who care for the needs of an increasingly multi-cultural flock, numbering roughly 100,000 strong. The Archdiocese also has one monastery for women, the Orthodox Monastery of the Veil of Our Lady (Bussy-en-Othe, Burgundy, France), which publishes translations of liturgical materials.
Communities of the Archdiocese, the largest Orthodox group in France where it is centered, range throughout Western Europe, including Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Italy and Spain. The Archdiocese has been particularly active in missionary work in Scandinavia, including developing worship in the local languages. Archimandrite Johannes (Johansen) announced on 16 December 2018 that the Norwegian Orthodox Parish of St. Nicholas has left the Archdiocese of Russian Orthodox churches in Western Europe and is now subject to the Serbian Orthodox Eparchy of Britain and Scandinavia.
Perhaps the best known institution of the Archdiocese was the St. Sergius Orthodox Theological Institute, founded in 1925 by Metropolitan Eulogius and sometime home of several well-known Orthodox theologians and writers of the twentieth century, including Georges Florovsky, Alexander Schmemann and John Meyendorff (although not Vladimir Lossky, who neither taught at St. Sergius nor was a member of the Archdiocese, himself remaining loyal to the Moscow Patriarchate).
Deanery of Great Britain and IrelandEdit
From June 9, 2006 to October 12, 2009 the Episcopal Vicariate of Great Britain and Ireland was a vicariate of the Archdiocese, overseen by an episcopal vicar in these countries (known at times simply as "The Vicariate"); since the retirement of its bishop on October 12, 2009, it has become a Deanery within the Archdiocese.
The Vicariate, as it existed under its vicar-bishop, was made up of a number of full-time parishes and some parishes and communities that meet less frequently. It was created by an act of the Council of the Archdiocese during an extraordinary meeting held on 9 June 2006, one day after the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Constantinople had met (8 June 2006) and issued a statement receiving Bishop Basil of Sergievo into the Patriarchate of Constantinople - an act that caused substantial controversy, as he had not been released from the Moscow Patriarchate. The same statement gave Bishop Basil the new title, Bishop of Amphipolis (taken from an ancient see in Greece that no longer has a bishop), and charged him with the care of parishes in Great Britain and Ireland, as auxiliary bishop under Archbishop Gabriel of Komana in Paris. At that time, no such parishes existed. After his appointment a number of parishes and communities, as well as some of the clergy and laity of the Diocese of Sourozh, followed Bishop Basil into the Archdiocese and came to constitute the Episcopal Vicariate. Other parishes and communities were formed later, where none had previously existed, for example in Cumbria, and Northampton.
Bishop Basil's first liturgical service as a member of the Archdiocese was a concelebration of the Divine Liturgy with Archbishop Gabriel in the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Paris on 18 June 2006. Statutes were adopted by the Episcopal Vicariate on 23 June 2007, and the Vicariate was registered as a charity (registration number 1124252) on 29 May 2008.
Retirement of Bishop Basil, and transition to the DeaneryEdit
Since Bishop Basil retired (on October 12, 2009) the Vicariate has become a Deanery within the Archdiocese. The formal name has now become the Deanery of Great Britain and Ireland within the Archdiocese of Orthodox Parishes of Russian Tradition in Western Europe.
Bishop Basil initially announced his retirement in a letter to parishioners on September 1, 2009, stating in that letter that he intended to retire on November 28, 2009, the same day that the Archdiocesan Council would meet to, presumably, discuss the Vicariate's future. However, when the Council met on September 23, 2009, under the presidency of Archbishop Gabriel, it moved Bishop Basil's retirement forward, to be effective from October 12, 2009. In its communique No. 05-09 (dated September 23), it noted that Bishop Basil "will not have any further pastoral, liturgical or administrative mission in the Vicariate" from his retirement. Archbishop Gabriel made clear that the life of the [Vicariate's] parishes and communities in Great Britain and Ireland "are continuing, and that new communities are in formation and the ordinations of new clerics in preparation."
- Eulogius (Georgievsky) ‡ (1921–1946)
- Vladimir (Tikhonicky) ‡ (1946–1959)
- George (Tarassov) of Syracuse ‡ (1960–1981)
- George (Wagner) of Evdokia ‡ (1981–1993)
- Serge (Konovalov) of Evkarpia ‡ (1993–2003)
- Gabriel (de Vylder) of Komana ‡ (2003–2013)
- Job (Getcha) of Telmessos (2013–2015), dismissed
- John (Renneteau) of Chariopoulis (2016–2018)
- Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, Paris
- Patriarchal Exarchate in Western Europe — An exarchate created by the Russian Orthodox Church in December 2018
- St. Sergius Orthodox Theological Institute (Paris, France)
- Assembly of Orthodox bishops of France
- Kiminas 2009, p. 156-157.
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- Kalkandjieva 2015, p. 46-48.
- Kiminas 2009, p. 157.
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The Synod of Bishops then heard a report on the meetings held on February 13-14 with delegates from the Archdiocese of Russian Orthodox Churches in Western Europe sent by His Eminence Archbishop John of Charioupolis. Protopriest Vladimir Jagello and Priest Christophe D'Aloisio were warmly welcomed at St Seraphim Memorial Church for the Restoration of Unity within the Russian Orthodox Church in Sea Cliff, NY, by Bishop Irenei, Bishop Nicholas and Fr Serafim Gan. ) The clerics, delegated to represent the Archdiocesan Council, reported on recent developments in Church life after the decision of the Constantinople Patriarchate to dissolve the ecclesiastical structure which had united a group of parishes of the Russian tradition in Western Europe. On February 14, the delegation was received by Metropolitan Hilarion, First Hierarch of ROCOR, who carefully heeded the delegates’ words and asked that they relay his brotherly greeting and good wishes of Divine aid to Archbishop John. This report, along with a report on the conclusions of the Extraordinary General Assembly of the Archdiocese, which convened on Saturday, February 23, were taken into account by the Synod.
- Cazabonne, Emma (2019-02-27). "The ROCOR Synod of Bishops and the Western Europe Archdiocese". Orthodoxie.com. Retrieved 2019-02-27.
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Bishop Basil of Amphipolis, assistant bishop in charge of the Vicariate of Great Britain and Ireland, has made known to Archbishop Gabriel his wish to retire on grounds of his age and his state of health. Archbishop Gabriel has accepted his request, which took effect from 12 October 2009.
- Kalkandjieva, Daniela (2015). The Russian Orthodox Church, 1917-1948: From Decline to Resurrection. New York: Routledge.
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- Official site (in French, Russian and English)
- Deanery website, official site of the Exarchate's Deanery in Great Britain and Ireland (in English and Russian)
- Eastern Christian Churches: The Russian Orthodox Exarchate in Western Europe, by Ronald Roberson, Roman Catholic priest and scholar
- Episcopal Vicariate
- Monastère Orthodoxe Notre Dame de Toute Protection (in French)
- Deanery in Italy
- Deanery in Belgium
- Danish Orthodox Church (in Danish)
- Norwegian Orthodox Church (in Norwegian)