After more than 100 years, the Moscow patriarchate retakes European Russians
by Vladimir Rozanskij

The vast majority of priests in Europe have asked to be welcomed by  Kirill. Fears of "normalization". The Russian Church of England, shaped by the famous Metropolitan Antony of Surozh (Antony Bloom), was annihilated by Metropolitan Ilarion (Alfeev), who was also Bloom’s disciple.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - The vast majority of priests of the Russian European Exarchate, once under the obedience of Constantinople, have returned to the mother Church of Moscow which they had left after the 1917 Revolution.

Three weeks after the assembly, which had officially rejected the patriarchate of Moscow, the priests met again on September 28th and decided to follow the example of Archbishop Ioann (Jean Renneteau), who received the new title of "Archbishop of Dubninsk ".

The assembly resolved to send a formal request for a reception to the patriarch of Moscow Kirill (Gundjaev), which - according to a patriarchal statement - will be promptly accepted by the Moscow Synod. The Russians had already formally welcomed Archbishop Ioann, who "resigned" his title of Chariopoulis and as the leader of the exarchate dissolved last November by Constantinople. He was awarded the new title of "Dubninsk", which refers to the Dubna river, a tributary of the Volga north of Moscow, where in 1941 the Soviet army managed to stop the Nazi invader on the threshold of the capital. In memory of that heroic resistance, the city of Dubna was founded in 1956, of which Ioann is today titular bishop. The anti-Soviet exarchate of the past is today a symbol of anti-Greek and anti-Western Russian resistance.

In the synodal decision to welcome Ioann, issued on September 14 (the evening of the day of the request), it is stated that Moscow "is ready to reembrace the European parishes of Russian tradition that want this, taking into account the historical peculiarities of their formation and organization, as well as their liturgical and pastoral traditions, originally established by Metropolitan Evlogy in the context of Western Europe in which the exarchate was formed ”.

The great "democratic" and enlightened Orthodoxy of Russian emigration was based on the decisions of the 1917 Moscow Council, in which Evlogij himself had participated before his exile and the revolutionary catastrophe, which had canceled all the approved reforms, except the restoration of the patriarchy.

Only time will tell whether Moscow will really be able to respect the characteristics of European Russians. A disturbing example is that of the Russian Church of England, shaped by the famous Metropolitan Antony of Surozh (Antony Bloom), a splendid example of orthodoxy integrated in the Western and Anglo-Saxon world. After the death of Antony, it was completely destroyed and "normalized" by the Moscow envoy, Metropolitan Ilarion (Alfeev), who was also a disciple of Bloom. Ilarion today presides over the department for external relations of the Moscow patriarchate.

In the 10 European countries, around 100 churches are involved in the transition. It is not yet clear how many of them will pass to the Moscow patriarchate. One example: the cathedral of St. Aleksandr Nevskij in the rue Darue, in Paris, the historical seat of the exarchate, was entrusted to Fr. Aleksij Struve, one of the most authoritative priests of the group, and he had expressed many doubts about the transition to Moscow. The metropolitan of Paris Antonij (Sevrjuk), exarch of Moscow for Western Europe, is one of the closest hierarchs to the Patriarch Kirill, as he was formerly his personal secretary. Last May, Antonij had replaced Metropolitan Ioann (Roscin), appointed in Paris on December 27 last year, but considered too accommodating. Antonij was the true "gray eminence" of the assembly of 28 September.

Archbishop Ioann nonetheless  has continued to celebrate in the Paris cathedral, naming Patriarch Kirill in the place of Bartholomew of Constantinople. Several priests had already personally formalized their passage to Moscow, some of them had even signed the "open letter" of Orthodox priests in defense of the unfairly imprisoned Moscow demonstrators. These include Fr. Vladimir Zelinskij, Russian parish priest of Brescia and former exponent of religious dissent in the last Soviet period, before becoming a priest in Italian diaspora.

The parishes and priests who will not accept the transition to Moscow will remain under the jurisdiction of Constantinople: formally, the "ex-Russian" archbishopric remains under the guidance of the metropolitan of Gaul Emmanuil (Adamakis). Some churches, however, have already passed to the patriarchate of Romania: many faithful are in fact of Russian-Moldavian mixed ethnicity.