THE LAST DAYS OF RUE DARU?
The Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR)
Firstly, there were the Russian refugees who had fled the Revolution. Joining together under a Synod of the thirty-four Russian refugee bishops and the blessing of decree No 362 of 1920 of Patriarch (later St) Tikhon of Moscow, they formed what is known as the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR). Although, as we shall see, over 20% of its membership later broke away, this was and is a worldwide group, with very large and numerous churches in North and South America, Australia and many parts of Western Europe. Under its relatively new leader, a true monk, Metropolitan Laurus, it is now negotiating, slowly but successfully, with the rest of the Russian Church inside Russia. Its fourteen bishops and clergy and laity wish to continue as a self-governing part ('samoupravliaiushchaia chast' - Russian for 'autonomous') of the Russian Church. However, most also now wish to be in eucharistic communion with the other, much greater part, of the Church inside Russia, since this is now free of Communist persecution.
As was related at our Diocesan Conference in Frankfurt last week, at which the author was a participant, an All-Diaspora clergy and laity Council of ROCOR is to be called at the end of 2005 or at the beginning of 2006 to discuss details of such an agreement. This will be followed by a Council of the Bishops, which may at that point decide to re-enter into communion with the Church inside Russia, or may decide that further time is required. Clearly, the now multinational Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, with its eighty-five years of living outside Russia and its formidable knowledge of local pastoral conditions on all Continents and ability to serve in many languages, is a group which is also large enough to continue to stand on its own feet. Nevertheless, now that Communist persecution has ceased in Russia, eucharistic communion with the rest of the Church inside Russia is seen by most of its members as desirable.
The Orthodox Church in America (OCA)
There was a second group of Russians outside Russia which also found itself cut off from the Church inside Russia. These were Russian and Carpatho-Russian economic migrants to the USA from long before 1917. Many of them indeed were Uniats, who converted back to Orthodoxy only once in the USA. After 1917, they first joined together with the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia. However, eventually after much hesitation, a small number of Russian bishops in North America cut themselves off from the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia and formed an independent but uncanonical group, called the Metropolia. In 1970 this group was given autocephaly (independence) by the still enslaved Church in Russia. Since then it has been known as the 'Orthodox Church in America' (OCA). Although the canonicity of this act is still contested by some other Orthodox in North America and elsewhere, this is a group which, through its geographical concentration, is large enough to stand on its own feet. It now has several bishops and unites the numerous descendants of pre-Revolutionary Russian immigrants to North America together with some other Orthodox. At the present time its administrative head spends much time in Russia, renewing links with the Mother-Church. It is clear that some in this Church now wish to return to their roots in the Russian Orthodox Tradition, after a phase of Americanizing modernism and erring since the 1960s.
The Paris Archdiocese/Exarchate - Rue Daru
Finally, there was and is a small splinter-group based around the Russian Cathedral in Rue Daru in Paris. In 1926, under its leader Metropolitan Eulogius, similar to the North American group above, it also broke off from ROCOR, of which it then represented about 10%. Having decided that it did not want to be connected with the worldwide Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, it also wanted to be independent of the politically oppressed Mother-Church inside Russia. Eventually, therefore, it resolved to leave the canonical authority of both parts of the Russian Church altogether, putting itself under the Greek Patriarchate of Constantinople. This group was composed of the majority of Russian emigre parishes in France and a certain number outside France in other parts of Europe, notably in Brussels and London.
The first particularity of this group was, and is, that it was centred in only one country - France. Therefore it was strangely introverted and lost the overall picture of the wider, worldwide Russian emigration. Perhaps this was what gave rise to this tiny group's very exaggerated idea of its own importance in the Orthodox world. True, it was later to leave fatal fragments of its modernist heritage in London, under the late Metropolitan Antony Bloom, and also in Holland and elsewhere, but it has never been as important as it has imagined itself to be.
A second particularity of this group was that, unlike the vast majority of Russian emigres, this group also united a great many of the St Petersburg aristocrats, many of them freemasons, who had actually fomented the anti-Tsarist Revolution of 1917. After their original Revolution, which they had encouraged, had gone wrong, being taken over by the murderous Bolsheviks, these aristocrats had emigrated to France. This was a natural choice, indeed a spiritual home for a francophile and francophone class. It was this political dimension which differentiated this Paris emigration from the rest of the Russian emigres who had formed ROCOR. Not surprisingly, this group therefore included many of the liberal intellectuals and left-leaning philosophers of the Russian emigration.
The sociological composition of this group explains to large extent its other peculiarity. This was its anti-patriotic choice of leaving the canonical authority and discipline of both parts of the Russian Church, inside and outside Russia. It also explains the development inside it of a group who denigrated the Russian Orthodox Tradition and its saints. In its indiscipline and disobedience, anti-monastic, anti-ascetic, masonic, modernist and pro-renovationist, this Rue Daru group even spawned one of the very few heresies to come out of the Orthodox Church in the twentieth century. This was the philosophical fantasy known as Sophianism. An attempt to reconcile Orthodox theology with Western humanist philosophy, it is now, as such, thank God, largely forgotten in the dust of library bookshelves. However, the indirect influence of this modernist current has always loomed large in the Rue Daru group.
However, it should be said that from the beginning this group also contained within it some solidly Orthodox personalities. For example even its first Metropolitan, Eulogius, firmly maintained in 1931 that the status of this group, then an Exarchate under the Patriarchate of Constantinople, was purely temporary and that when the Mother-Church in Russia was free once more, this group would return to the canonical authority of the Mother-Church. In fact this is what that Metropolitan did twice, briefly.
The first time was in 1935 when, encouraged by the great Patriarch Barnabas of Serbia, he briefly returned to ROCOR. The second time was in 1945, when he had prematurely thought that the Mother-Church had been freed by Stalin, and returned to the Mother-Church in Russia. However, he was not followed in his actions by the rest of his group on either occasion. Between 1966 and 1971 the Rue Daru group became an isolated and uncanonical grouping, abandoned by the Patriarchate of Constantinople, under political pressure from the Soviet Communist Party. Then in 1971, Constantinople took it back, but as an Archdiocese. However, in the last five years, it has regained the status of an Exarchate.
The dual nature of this group is illustrated by my own experience. I can well remember as a student at the St Sergius Institute of Orthodox Theology in Paris, which is under the jurisdiction of the Rue Daru group, exactly twenty-five years ago the following piece of schizophrenia. As students at the Institute, we were shocked to be taught that the new calendar was 'the only correct calendar' and that all Orthodox adopt the Roman Catholic Easter! However, in the parish church of St Sergius, everything was traditional. Indeed the mere mention of using the new calendar would have caused a riot! Another priest told us in his courses of 'Pastoral Theology', which turned out to be a mere eulogy of the Second Vatican Council, that the heretical and schismatic Bolshevik Renovationist sect of 1920s Russia was 'not such a bad thing' (sic!). On the other hand, some of its clergy and many of its faithful were utterly loyal to the Russian Orthodox Tradition.
This group, with today some forty places of worship in France where it regularly celebrates the liturgy and another twenty elsewhere in Western Europe, is in a very difficult position. Unlike both ROCOR and the OCA, it is far too small to stand on its own feet. It can never become a self-governing part of the Russian Church. At best it could only be a small diocese, part of a much larger Church. Although it has three bishops, two are all but retired for various reasons. Without any monastery, thanks to its anti-monastic spirit, for decades it has relied on widowed priests for its bishops. Moreover, with the death of its fifth head, Archbishop Serge (Konovalov) in 2003, who had sought a gentle reintegration into the Mother-Church inside Russia, it has been going through turbulent times. In 2003 it elected its sixth head, Archbishop Gabriel, who has taken an anti-Russian and anti-Tradition stance.
He has clearly sided with the modernist elements inside his group, known as 'La Fraternité Orthodoxe'. They consider themselves to be heirs of the modernist 'Sophianist' trend of the Rue Daru group and publish their views in a renovationist magazine known as the SOP. Some indeed say that Archbishop Gabriel is merely a captive or else at best, a puppet, of this 'Fraternité' group. His recent canonizations, unrecognized by any other part of the Russian Church, are also unrecognized by certain members of his own jurisdiction.
Indeed, he seems to have returned to the pro-Phanariot, anti-Russian and anti-local Orthodox policies of the late Archbishop George (Wagner) (1981-1993), head of this group before Archbishop Serge (1993-2003). Those who suffered from the policies of Archbishop George at that time in the 1980s, well remember his anti-Tradition stance. In fact, I think we know what is going to happen, if the present policies of the Rue Daru group are continued. What has already happened in recent years tells us of the future direction and decomposition of this group.
Firstly, in very recent years the Rue Daru parish in Rome (formerly under ROCOR) returned to the jurisdiction of the Mother-Church in Moscow. Then the church in Clamart (a suburb of Paris), always a hotbed of Moscow, that is traditional, and not St Petersburg, that is modernist, Orthodoxy, returned to Moscow. The same priest, a Russian patriot, was involved in both cases. More recently under Archbishop Gabriel, the church in Charleroi in Belgium has returned to Moscow. Now, only a few days ago, the pre-Revolutionary church in Biarritz, under the leadership of Fr George Monzosh, a former ROCOR priest, has also returned to Moscow.
Secondly, and at the same time, individuals have also drifted Moscow-wards, if not physically, as in the recent cases of one priest, a protodeacon and at least one other priest at present requesting transfer to Moscow, then spiritually. Such is the case of the members of the organization known as OLTR, the movement for Local Orthodoxy of the Russian Tradition, which is mainly composed of members of the Rue Daru jurisdiction. The inevitable looms. Clearly, after Biarritz, Moscow they will be hoping to reclaim other pre-Revolutionary monuments, the churches in Nice and also of course, in Paris, Rue Daru itself. Interestingly, the main priests at both of these major churches are former ROCOR laymen. It is said that Archbishop Gabriel is now limiting contacts with Moscow, concelebrations with Moscow and pro-Moscow and pro-Russian proclamations. For some Russians, this is tantamount to persecution, persecution of their ideals of Holy Russia and their roots.
In fact, it is exactly what others already underwent in the 1980s, under Archbishop George (Wagner). Then too, patriotic and traditional elements were cast aside and even persecuted. I well remember how in 1988, on the Millennium of the Baptism of Russia, the Rue Daru Cathedral was forbidden territory to other Russian bishops, but the Polish Roman Catholic Cardinal of Paris was present! For many then it was a last straw. The recent service of Orthodox Vespers in the Roman Catholic Notre Dame Cathedral, with its prayers for the Cardinal of Paris, may also be a last straw for others of the Rue Daru jurisdiction.
It is clear that all Russian patriots and all who confess the Russian Orthodox Tradition, regardless of their nationality and the liturgical language they use, must return to one part or another of the Russian Church. Reintegration with the Mother-Church, but with local autonomy, is the historic inevitability of all Russian Orthodox faithful outside Russia. The question is not 'if', but 'when'. It is this that the bishops and faithful of ROCOR are undertaking. Though guarding their autonomy, providentially given by the future St Tikhon of Moscow in 1920, most members of ROCOR wish to return to normal relations with Moscow and their canonical roots. It is also for this that the movement for a Local Orthodoxy of the Russian Tradition (OLTR), are searching. Why not the rest of Rue Daru as well?
Perhaps the only surprise is that the Rue Daru jurisdiction as a whole has not fully returned to Moscow already. It is greatly to be regretted that its present head, Archbishop Gabriel, appears to have taken an anti-Russian and modernist policy, failing to grasp the historic moment of opportunity before him. Surely, this stance is but a sign of desperation before the end. Surely, Rue Daru has erred long enough. The policy of intolerance (there is nothing so intolerant as liberalism) and isolation is leading to the inevitable collapse of the Rue Daru jurisdiction.
Gradually its parishes are spontaneously returning to the Mother-Church, just as several of its clergy and faithful in the further past returned to the Mother-Church by entering ROCOR. The Rue Daru group risks being left as an isolated group of anti-patriotic, anti-Russian, modernist intellectuals, to wither outside both parts of the canonical authority of the Russian Mother-Church. Thee only alternative to return to the Russian Church is to accept full absorption into the new-calendarist, modernist and ecumenist practices of the controversial leadership of the Patriarchate of Constantinople.
He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.
Eve of the Nativity of Christ