The fate of the Russian Orthodox of Paris (and of Europe)
by Vladimir Rozanskij

The exarchy of European Russians was born because of emigration to the Old Continent after the 1917 revolution. Moscow claims the return of these Churches under its authority, even if the jurisdiction was entrusted to Constantinople.



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.