11/30/2018, 14.26
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The Russian parishes of Constantinople are abolished

by Vladimir Rozanskij

The Russian Orthodox churches in Europe are left free to join Russian Orthodoxy, after the tensions between Moscow and Constantinople linked to Ukrainian autocephaly. The Russian Churches in Europe were formed in the first decades of the 20th century, around the Russian exiles of the Revolution. They gathered great personalities like Berdjaev, Bulgakov, Losskij. The best known Russian theologians of the 1900, such as Florovskij, Afanasev, Schmemann, Evdokimov, Clement worked at the Institute of Orthodox Theology "St. Sergius" in Paris.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - The Patriarchate of Constantinople has dissolved the particular Russian ecclesiastical jurisdiction in Western Europe, which had formed after the 1917 revolution for Russian refugees and emigrants. The rather unexpected decision was communicated in a very essential form, creating perplexities among priests, faithful and observers.

The dissolution was carried out during the Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate held from 27 to 29 November in Istanbul, during which it was also decided to proceed for the autocephaly of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, drawing up a kind of Constitutional Charter of the new autocephalous Church.

According to the November 28 communiqué, signed by Metropolitan John of Charioupolis, patriarchal administrator, the dissolution wants "to respond to the pastoral and spiritual needs of our era, respecting canon law and the responsibility that derives from it". The details and consequences of this choice will be discussed at the next meeting of the Constantinopolitan Synod, and Metropolitan John invites the faithful and priests to "remain calm, awaiting the identification of the best forms of pastoral care" for the faithful interested in sudden decision.

This pastoral care of the Ecumenical Patriarchate dates back to the 1920s. Some Russian bishops and metropolitans had remained cut off from their homeland, where between 1918 and 1921 the Soviet regime took over, following the revolution and the civil war between "whites" and "reds". The defeat of the pro-Tsarist white armies, to which these bishops had given their blessing, imposed painful choices.

Most of the bishops met in the Serbian town of Sremski Carlovci, seat of the Serbian Patriarchate under the Habsburgs, and founded the "Russian Orthodox Church Abroad", which remained throughout the Soviet period custodian of Russia's traditions and the pre-revolutionary tsarist sentiments. This part of the Russian Church did not recognize the legitimacy of what remained under the Soviets, accusing it of collaborating with the atheist state.

This split was remedied by the reunification of 2004, achieved mainly thanks to the efforts of Metropolitan Kirill (Gundjaev), now Patriarch of Moscow, and the current Metropolitan of Pskov Tikhon (Shevkunov), then known as the "spiritual father" of the president Putin.

One of the most influential metropolitans of the group of exiles, Evlogy (Georgievsky), did not resign himself to the division from Moscow and moved to Paris, as a patriarchal delegate for the Russians in Western Europe. Once relations with the homeland became impossible, Evlogij agreed with the Ecumenical Patriarchate, founding the Exarchate for the Russians in Western Europe. Around him formed the most prestigious group of Russians abroad, including the intellectuals of the "ship of philosophers" expelled from Russia in 1922, with personalities such as Berdjaev, Bulgakov, Lossky and many others. They gave life to the Institute of Orthodox Theology "St. Sergius "of Paris, at the church of St. Aleksandr Nevsky in rue Daru, where later the most well-known Russian theologians of the 1900s worked, like Florovskij, Afanasev, Schmemann, Evdokimov, Clement and many others.

Evlogij always considered himself in communion with the Moscow Patriarchate, and this group of "Constantinopolitan" Russians always remained a bridge of mediation between "Soviet" Orthodox Russia and the rest of Orthodoxy, and of the Christian and Western world. In light of the rupture between Moscow and Constantinople, due to the announced Ukrainian autocephaly, the decision seems to affirm that the role of the "ecumenical" Russians, by right and by choice, is now exhausted.

The priests and faithful belonging to this group, which in 1999 had been restructured in a special archdiocese, will now probably have to make a choice between the return to the jurisdiction of Moscow, or "to become Greek" to stay with Constantinople. In fact, the decision prevents the formal "steps" from one jurisdiction to another, what was already beginning to take place in recent weeks, because of the mutual discomfort of those who refer to one side or the other. In recent days, for example, the Russian community of Florence decided to join Moscow and break with Constantinople. Similar fluctuations are taking place in different communities.

These passages, moreover, are not new: they also occurred during the Soviet Union, depending on the favorable or contrary positions of the Russians abroad against the regime. Today the alternative is no longer between red and white, but between patriots and ecumenists.

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