19 AUGUST 1991 - 19 AUGUST 2002.
11 YEARS ON: THE RECOVERY OF THE TRADITION: TOWARDS THE TRANSFIGURATION AND RECOMPOSITION OF THE RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH IN WESTERN EUROPE.
The destinies of Russian Orthodoxy outside Russia were very varied after the tragedy of 1917. Eighty-five years on from then, it would seem as though the separations among Russian Orthodox outside Russia, caused by the Communist persecution and takeover of the Orthodox Church in Russia, may soon be coming to an end. Let us look at that situation as it has developed over the decades and especially at the changes of the last decade since the fall of Communism in Russia in 1991.
After the Revolution of 1917 parts of the old Russian Empire were taken over by newly-formed States. The Orthodox there formed their own independent Churches, for example in Karelian Finland, Poland and the then Czechoslovakia. The Orthodox in China and Korea joined ROCOR, the Russian Orthodox Church outside Russia founded by St Tikhon, the Patriarch of Moscow, after 1917. Japanese Orthodox were eventually given their own Church. In Australia the Orthodox preserved their unity under ROCOR, the united Russian Orthodox Church outside Russia, the Church of the Russian emigration with its thirty-four bishops and two-million strong flock worldwide. In other countries, however, more complex and divisive events eventually unfolded.
In North America, despite initial unity under ROCOR, some Russian Orthodox went to the jurisdiction of the Church inside Russia, the MP or Moscow Patriarchate. Others, descendants of a pre-Revolutionary, mainly ex-Uniat emigration from western Russia, eventually after years of uncanonical wandering, came to form during the Cold War period their own Church, called the OCA or Orthodox Church in America, unrecognised by other Orthodox except for the MP. Yet other groups, from the fringes of the former Russian Empire, like the Ukranians, the Belorussians and Carpatho-Russians, formed their own regional ethnic dioceses. Others remained faithful to ROCOR.
In South America and the Holy Land, divisions occurred meaning that although most remained within ROCOR, some eventually went to the jurisdiction of the Russian Orthodox Church inside Russia, the MP.
In Western Europe the situation became even more complex, almost on a country to country basis. Groups not identifying themselves as Russian, like Poles, Latvians, Belorussians and Ukranians, all set up their own administrations along ethnic lines. As regards Russians themselves, the following occurred in Western European countries where Russian immigrants have settled since 1917:
After 1945 in the former East Germany all Russian immigrants were obliged to be under the Church inside Russia, the Moscow Patriarchate, the MP.
In former West Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Luxembourg and Portugal, virtually all Russian Orthodox put themselves under the jurisdiction of ROCOR.
In France, Belgium, Holland and Italy, a slim majority, controlled by St Petersburg aristocrats and Westernised intellectuals, calling themselves 'emigres' and centred in Paris, left the Russian Orthodox Church outside Russia in 1925, refusing its discipline, and put themselves for much of the time into the Constantinople Greek jurisdiction. They were generally called the 'Paris Jurisdiction' or PJ. It was joined by single parishes in Norway, Sweden (and England until 1945). Smaller numbers in those countries remained faithful to ROCOR or else later placed themselves under the MP.
An even stranger situation developed in the British Isles. Here the unity of ROCOR jurisdiction was again broken after Second World War, as elsewhere, for example in the USA. Here at that time a number of Russian immigrants with strong Paris links placed themselves under the MP, even though their sympathies were entirely with the PJ, the Paris Jurisdiction. They received the title of the Sourozh Diocese from the MP. This occurred because after 1945 the Greek Church of Constantinople would not allow the PJ (Paris Jurisdiction) to have any sway in the British Isles. Therefore these immigrants were obliged reluctantly to go under the MP. Yet other Orthodox, converts, led by the ex-Anglican Oxford scholar, Bishop Kallistos Ware, though with Russian customs and sympathies, placed themselves directly under Constantinople and later Antioch, refusing to be in either Russian jurisdiction, the MP or ROCOR.
Such is the complex situation of Russian Orthodoxy in Western Europe.
Exactly seventy-five years, three generations, after the 1917 tragedy, on the Feast of the Transfiguration 1992, Communism fell in Russia. The last ten years since then have seen remarkable changes in the Russian Orthodox Church inside Russia, the old MP. There are now twenty thousand parishes and over five hundred monasteries there operating in freedom. Persecution long ago ceased. Many of the New Martyrs of the Communist yoke, notably the Royal Martyrs, have been canonised inside Russia. The official policies of the past, the shameful erastian co-operation of the Church with the anti-Church State have been condemned in words. Voices, like those of the ever-memorable Metropolitan John of St Petersburg, have been raised against the ecclesial compromises of the KGB past of senior bishops and the KGB financing of the World Council of Churches and KGB dallying with the Vatican. The Vatican persecution of Orthodox in the Ukraine, the rise of monasticism and the voices of grassroots Russian Orthodox mean that the old KGB ecumenist hacks among the senior bishops are now losing ground. A new generation of uncompromised, albeit at present naïve, Russian clergy is rising from under the rubble of Communism.
Meanwhile in the last ten years in Western Europe many changes have taken place in the three Russian Church jurisdictions, the MP, ROCOR and the PJ.
Firstly, in Paris, the brief but utterly disastrous reign of Archbishop George (Wagner) over the PJ ended in 1992. Under him many clergy quit the jurisdiction for other Russian jurisdictions, the MP, the OCA and ROCOR or even went to Non-Russian jurisdictions, such as the Greeks. Under him, people continued to be initiated into freemasonry at the Russian church at St Genevieve de Bois to the south of Paris, though he himself denied being a freemason, unlike many of his clergy and senior laity who openly gave one another the masonic handshake in their churches. Homosexual and pedophile scandals brewed, for example in Toulouse, at the monastery of La Dalmerie and elsewhere. Under Archbishop George Wagner intercommunion and concelebration with Catholic clergy, for example in Florence, were encouraged. Parishes were closed, for as Archbishop George said in public: 'There are too many parishes and too many priests'. Many, like his deacon Fr Daniel Baeyens, said openly that he had deliberately been installed by certain powers in order to close down his own jurisdiction. True or not, this was the effect that he had. Children were definitely not to be brought to church. Any converts who thought about joining his jurisdiction were told by him to go away and learn Slavonic as the Archbishop maintained that there are only two liturgical languages in the Orthodox Church - Greek and Slavonic. Therefore the Romanian Church had better abandon Romanian and use Slavonic instead! Whistle-blowers and all those zealous for the Orthodox Faith, people of integrity, self-sacrifice, conscience and principle were wickedly slandered and persecuted; exiled, they left his jurisdiction. As a result of this disastrous period, the PJ went into a spiritual and moral decline which many thought was terminal.
After Archbishop George's very sudden and mysterious decease in 1992 at the age of 61, the fruits of seventy-five years of the anti-monasticism of the PJ were there for all to see. The Paris Jurisdiction was now led by three widowed priests consecrated to the episcopate. Later, in an all-too predicted and rumoured nationwide scandal, one, who had been consecrated by Archbishop George Wagner against the will of the people, was forced to leave, having been arrested by the French police on suspicion of pedophilia.
Today the PJ or Paris Jurisdiction is led by a widowed priest, the very sick Archbishop Sergius and the elderly and rarely-seen widowed Bishop Michael, though for Belgium and Holland there is a younger Dutchman, Bishop Gabriel, the fruit of the Dutch Orthodox mission of St John the Wonderworker (+ 1966) of ROCOR. However in France itself most of the few still unclosed Russian parishes are now fragile and small. Moreover, most French converts are under the Serbian Church led by the energetic Bishop Luka, or else are associated with the two Greek convents under Athonite jurisdiction. This is the fruit of the unwillingness of the Paris Jurisdiction to preach an authentic, apolitical and non-intellectualised Orthodoxy to the spiritually impoverished French people who surround them and the abusive and unChristian treatment of its few converts as second-class citizens.
As regards ROCOR, the situation is much stronger outside France, for instance in Germany. But in France itself the last ten years have been disastrous for ROCOR. A small faction of six active clergy, led by the defrocked Monk Barnabas in Cannes, set up their own sect, having separated from ROCOR. Although not more than one hundred parishioners followed this extreme right-wing, Donatist clique, the scandal caused by a uniquely political split has wounded ROCOR in France and also Belgium. In Western Europe there now remain only four ROCOR Bishops: Archbishop Mark, Archbishop Seraphim (retired), Bishop Ambrose and Bishop Agapit.
As regards the MP jurisdiction in Western Europe, many scandalous situations, such as those in Vienna and Paris, have been resolved. A new and energetic Bishop Innokenty is in place in Paris. Masses of new immigrants from Russia have filled churches. However, the curious situation in the British Isles has still not been resolved.
Recently the youthful Bishop Hilarion was sent to try and resolve the anomalous and even eccentric situation in the British Isles. Here a jurisdiction formally attached to the MP has gone its own way. This young and inexperienced Bishop Hilarion, failing to consult with those who have known the situation over the last thirty or forty years only too well, failed to resolve any of the problems there and restore it to Orthodoxy. Notably his failure to move it from its anti-Orthodox stance on many pastoral and liturgical issues, such as its anti-monasticism, which lost it the now Greek convent of Tolleshunt Knights nearly forty years ago, or the recent statement in the Times of London of one of its bishops scandalously rejecting many of the New Martyrs canonised by his own Church, the MP. As a result of the young Bishop Hilarion's activities, however, the British jurisdiction of the MP began negotiating to move to the Paris Jurisdiction, bringing Archbishop Sergius to London in July 2002. This failed for a number of reasons, not least because the Paris Jurisdiction itself is under internal pressure to go under the MP and the continued reluctance of the enfeebled Constantinople jurisdiction to take parishes from the MP. It is difficult to see how the British jurisdiction of the MP, 'the Sourozh Diocese', can continue on its eccentric course under its eighty-eight year old Metropolitan who reportedly, has asked to retire seven times over the last twenty years. (See: www.krotov.org ). Surely, Orthodoxy will eventually be restored even in this diocese of the MP jurisdiction.
Reviewing the situation of Russian Orthodoxy in Western Europe, surely it is now only a matter of cleansing time and political will in Moscow before we see the restoration of unity in administration and Orthodoxy to all Russian Orthodox in Western Europe. The end-game is here. As the Russian Orthodox Church inside Russia, still known as the Moscow Patriarchate (MP), steadily returns to the practice and confession of the Orthodox Tradition, surely other Russian Orthodox will return to unity with it, whether from ROCOR or the Orthodox parts of the PJ or the Orthodox part of the errant Sourozh Diocese. It may not happen tomorrow, but the process is now under way.
In the coming years the way ahead for Russian Orthodoxy outside Russia worldwide would appear to be in the establishment of autonomous (independent) Russian Orthodox Exarchates or Metropolias, one for Australasia, one for the Americas, and one for Western Europe. With a system of Metropolitans, Dioceses and Deaneries, such Exarchates would be the natural homes for all those of every natonality and language, who despite often bitter persecution, slander and exile, have throughout the decades remained faithful to the liturgical and pastoral traditions, piety and calendar of the One Russian Orthodox Church.