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The Paris-based translator and journalist, Nikita Krivoshein, has suggested in an interview with the Russian Orthodox Radio Radonezh that the Paris Exarchate of Parishes of the Russian Tradition under the Patriarchate of Constantinople should drop the word ‘Russian’ from its title. The reason for this is that, under its new Archbishop Gabriel, the Exarchate has consistently adopted a policy hostile to the Russian Orthodox Church. This policy is very much the opposite of his predecessor Archbishop Sergius and, further back, of Metropolitans Eulogius and Vladimir and Archbishop George (Tarasov).

According to the journalist, the present situation in the Paris Exarchate and at the St Sergius Theological Institute in Paris is ‘chaotic and close to schism’. In order to overcome this chaos and ‘the game of Russianness’ and the Exarchate’s claim to ‘a special path’, the adjective ‘Russian’ should be dropped from the title of the Exarchate, stated the journalist. He considers that the public declarations of Archbishop Gabriel and others, including those of the secretary of the Diocesan Council, clearly indicate that they wish to set up ‘a Traditionless’ Orthodoxy in Western Europe. Indeed, being without the Tradition would appear to define the ‘special path’ of the Exarchate.

According to him, many Orthodox faithful arriving in France from Russia and countries of the former Soviet Union and looking for a Russian parish fall into the Constantinople Exarchate with all its ‘Russophobia’ and are used by it. No wonder that they are astonished on discovering that the services in the Exarchate churches are ‘not celebrated correctly’, from a Russian Orthodox viewpoint, and that they meet ‘with contempt’ from certain other parishioners. According to the journalist, it would seem more honest to drop the word Russian.

For our part, we would add that the word Tradition could also be dropped. And although the Exarchate does have parishes outside France, especially those uncanonically taken over in England last year, ‘Western Europe’ also seems to be an exaggeration. Perhaps something like the ‘the Paris Exarchate of the Patriarchate of Constantinople’ by itself would be an adequate title.

This interview given by Nikita Krivoshein comes three weeks after the end of the visit of Patriarch Alexis of Moscow to Paris. It comes a week after the repose of Metropolitan Gabriel, the Paris-based Antiochian Bishop in charge of that Patriarchate’s parishes in Western Europe (may his memory be eternal!). And it comes on the same day as news that the Paris Exarchate’s parish in Lyons has decided to rejoin the Russian Orthodox Mother-Church, established when the multinational Patriarchate of Moscow and the multinational Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, comprising the vast majority of Russian Orthodox outside Russia, joined forces in a historic celebration of unity last May.

With all these momentous events, we cannot help thinking that perhaps a long overdue realignment of Orthodoxy all over Western Europe may yet take place. It may be time for all Orthodox of all nationalities in Western Europe who are in some way attached to the Russian Tradition, to take sides, to stop sitting on the fence. The choice is: a semi-secularised and compromised Orthodoxy or the Real Thing.

Fr Andrew

14/27 October
St Paraskeve the Serb, Patroness of Moldova.

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