09/04/2019, 16.55
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Russians in W Europe caught between Moscow and Constantinople

by Vladimir Rozanskij

Constantinople has sacked Archbishop John, head of Russians Churches in Western Europe, but the latter has refused to go. Instead, he has placed himself under Moscow's protection. On Saturday, an assembly of Russian Orthodox churches in Western Europe will make a final decision. Or maybe not.

Moscow (AsiaNews) – Archbishop John of Chariopoulis (Renneteau), head of the historic Archdiocese of Russian Orthodox Churches in Western Europe established in Paris after the 1917 revolution, has rejected the letter by which the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew (Archontonis) relieved him of his duties.

The letter is dated 30 August, after Archbishop John announced to the patriarch on 17 August in Chambesy, Switzerland, his decision to join the canonical jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate. Bartholomew entrusted the Archdiocese to Greek Archbishop Emmanuel (Adamakis), Metropolitan of Gaul.

In a circular sent to the priests of his archdiocese, John (pictured) states that "following the decision of the Holy Synod to relieve me from the service of archbishop, which I did not solicit, I inform you that I remain in office as your archbishop, according to our statutes. Pending clarification with the Fanar, you can safely continue to remember my name in the liturgy."

Constantinople decided to dissolve the Archdiocese of Russian Orthodox Churches in Western Europe on 28 November, following the approval of Ukrainian autocephaly, in order to “rid” the Ecumenical Patriarchate of all official links with the Russians.

The members of the archdiocese, however, decided in the assembly to maintain their own structure, starting negotiations with other Churches, like the Church in Moscow or that of the Russian Orthodox outside of Russia, but also in Bucharest, Sofia and elsewhere.

Despite progress in talks with the Patriarchate of Romania, John seems to have opted for Moscow, which is said to have already prepared the official transfer, which will keep him in charge in Paris. However, many clerics and lay people in the Archdiocese are said not to be in favour of Moscow. A final decision is expected at the general assembly, set for this Saturday in Paris.

Some priests have compared the current situation to the biblical story of Susanna and the two lustful elders, personified by the two patriarchs, in Moscow and Fanar, eager to take over the graceful girl, i.e. the Russian Archdiocese in Paris, with her charm as the ‘Orthodoxy in the West’.

The problem is compounded by the fact that according to the French statutes of the Archdiocese, John himself is not one of its official members. Priests and laity are members, but not the ordinary appointed by Constantinople. Thus, the confusion in the parishes is complete.

Meanwhile, John is unwilling to let priests nominated by Constantinople join parishes. In various countries, like Italy, some parishes, the one in San Remo, have decided independently to change jurisdiction, adhering to other orthodox organisations more or less independent from the two senior patriarchates.

The confusion is made greater by the fact that Emmanuel of Gaul presides over the Greek parishes in France but has no jurisdiction over the other nine countries of the Russian Archdiocese, and he too has been issuing uncertain and contradictory directives.

Meanwhile, Metropolitan John (Rochtchine), sent to Paris last December, and Metropolitan Anthony (Sevruk), bishop of Vienna and Budapest, switched sees on behalf of Moscow. The two exchanged episcopal sees, creating further confusion among the clergy and parishes under the jurisdiction of Patriarch Kirill (Gundyayev).

Moreover, if John (Renneteau) were officially accepted into the Church of Moscow, his appointment would be short-lived since he has already reached the canonical age of 75. Given the intricate complexity of the case, next Saturday’s assembly will perhaps decide to postpone a final decision, still caught between the wishes of the various patriarchs.

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