On Saturday 11 November 2023 we were asked by a bishop of the Moscow Patriarchate if our group of six parishes and 5,000 parishioners would like to transfer from the Patriarchate of Romania to the Moscow Patriarchate. He has told us that this can be arranged, apparently following new instructions from the now besieged Moscow, backtracking from the past. Here is our answer, reprinted and updated from 20 February 2022:
Even if I look at the situation as an outsider, just objectively, it will seem absurd, unthinkable and outrageous. There is a very small ROCOR diocese covering a sizeable part of Europe. Its bishop created a schism, causing a lot of damage and pain to many faithful and clergy, including to some widely-known priests. And its American Synod is paralysed due to Metr. Hilarion’s illness (dementia and cancer). And there is the Moscow Patriarchate, the main centre, which can take steps and heal the schism any time, and punish its instigator, any time it wishes. But, instead, it coldly and calmly observes the situation, pretending to ignore it, and in effect taking the perpetrator’s side, without protecting the suffering faithful and clergy. How does it look after that? As if the main centre is afraid of the instigator. Even if you look at this as a pure outsider, its behaviour appears absurd and far from Christian.
From a Correspondent in Moscow, February 2022
Many untruths, slander, vilification and much misinformation have been posted about us on the internet over the last thirty months. It is the same vilification as led to the unjust suspension of the great St John of Shanghai in his time, sixty years ago. These postings have clearly been centrally organised. Other lies, or simply misunderstandings, will follow.
This whole affair has been a story of bullying and then betrayal. Throughout the several months of this affair, a certain young, inexperienced and non-seminary trained neophyte bishop, formerly a tutor in a Roman Catholic college in the City of Oxford, has consistently portrayed our departure from the Russian Church as a ‘personal rebellion’. He did this in order to portray himself in a good light and to minimise the gravity of the situation, in which he has lost over half his diocese in the British Isles.
On 23 August 2021 16 clergy left ROCOR in the British Isles in all. True, three of them were Western rite and they are not involved in our group, now that we have been forced into leaving the Russian Church. The annual throughput of our six parishes (excluding the Western rite ones) is about 5,000 Orthodox.
This was never a ‘personal rebellion’, but the collective decision to reject the ROCOR schism from the MP Archdiocese of Western Europe on the issue of rebaptism, which began over a year ago in Cardiff and has now spread throughout both ROCOR dioceses in Western Europe.
ROCOR’s excessive reactions were caused by what really lies behind his attitude: the determination to seize our properties and extract more money from us by bullying over the last four years. We resisted this, but never dreamed of leaving his jurisdiction for reasons of disputes about property ownership, or his bullying, negativity and spectacular rudeness. We consider that you can only canonically leave a jurisdiction in cases of episcopal heresy, episcopal schism or episcopal attempts to force people into acts of gross immorality.
That very young and untrained bishop managed to offend everyone in our multinational group.
He offended our Russian core by writing the most untruthful and unChristian personal attacks against the popular Fr Andrew Phillips on the internet over the last thirty months. As one of our parishioners said: ‘Everyone who knows Fr Andrew and the other 25 members of his family knows all that to be lies. He is a well-known figure internationally, tireless worker for Russian Church unity over the decades, writer, hagiographer, European cultural historian, author of the Services to All the Saints of the Isles (of the North Atlantic) and to All the Saints of the Western\ Lands, and the greatest Russophile you can find in England, who has been faithful to the Russian Church despite continual persecution for nearly fifty years. Unlike his bishop, he speaks and writes fluent Russian and he does not tell Russians to ‘learn English’, so they can speak to him. If the Russian Church rejects him, it will have no friends left in Western Europe. What an appalling way to treat people who have sacrificed their whole lives for the Russian Church’.
The young neophyte bishop then offended the Romanians, telling them to their face that he did not like them and then offended the Moldovans that he only half-liked them and then forbade them from kneeling on Sundays, something that Orthodox in Moldova have been doing for centuries.
He offended the Greeks by telling them publicly that they must not venerate the icon of St Sophrony, whom Fr Andrew knew well and who was also forced to leave the Moscow Patriarchate because of persecution, and that their Greek Patriarch is ‘possessed’.
He offended the French, with whom he communicates by Google translator, by excommunicating members of their family and friends of 50 years standing who live in France and have always belonged to the Western European Archdiocese of the Moscow Patriarchate. For decades Fr Andrew had battled for this Archdiocese to rejoin the Russian Church and he with others had been successful in this.
He offended the English in an act of swaggering American imperialism and crass cultural insensitivity by insisting that they speak American English, instead of their own native English, which they had been using in the Orthodox context for long before he had been born.
He insisted that we left ROCOR without letters of canonical leave. At any point he could have written those letters in a matter of 15 minutes. Although these letters were politely requested on several occasions by Metr Jean and then by Metr Joseph, he refused to write them. However, in reality no letters of canonical leave were ever necessary, since clergy do not need letters of canonical leave in order to quit a bishop who is in schism (Canon XV of the First and Second Council held under St Photius the Great).
After Metr Jean of the Moscow Patriarchal Archdiocese of Western Europe was forced, stabbed in the back by a certain MP Metropolitan (even younger than nearly all our children), to abandon us on 10 February 2022, with the words ‘I could not care less about them’, We discussed what to do. Tired of the utter divisiveness and sectarianism of the Russian Church, whose bishops are out of communion even with each other, we as a group considered offers from various Local Churches to join them.
We decided for the following reasons to join the Romanian Orthodox Church:
The Romanian Church is in communion with everyone. They are not involved in the Russian-Greek dispute, which began in the Ukraine and has already spread to Africa and elsewhere, isolating the Russian Church.
Over 60% of all Orthodox in England are Moldovans or Romanians. They have an Autonomous Synod of seven Bishops for Western and Southern Europe, nearly 700 parishes, a large number of parishes and two monasteries. No Local Church will ever be formed in the British Isles and Ireland without this majority.
Among our 13 clergy are two Moldovan priests, one Romanian priest, one Moldovan deacon, one Moldovan reader and one Romanian reader. Thus, nearly half our clergy are Romanian-speaking.
The majority of our people are Moldovans or Romanians. As we have so many Moldovans, Ukrainians and Russians, we remain on the old calendar and all our liturgical customs, with the full blessing of Metr Joseph. Nothing changes. Effectively we are a Diaspora part of the Metropolia of Bessarabia, which is under the Patriarchate of Romania.
There are 30,000 Moldovans in Essex and East London who have been pastorally neglected. We have a pastoral duty towards them.
All our six parishes and twelve clergy were received into the Patriarchate of Romania in just four hours on 16 February 2022, with the help of the leading Professor of Canon Law of the Patriarchate of Romania.
We believe that the four very aggressive clerical personalities in the Russian Church who are entirely responsible for the divisions and who have either created or else supported sectarian division inside it will in time be removed.
Then will have to begin the work of re-establishing canonical, and not political, principles of action. The present situation leaves the Russian Church in Western Europe in a state of three jurisdictions, divided and feeling betrayed. It has created great scandal among the people who can only see warring, aggressive and bullying bishops. This is all because of the lack of conciliarity between the three Russian jurisdictions. They ask: ‘Are those bishops even Christians?’
This whole intra-Russian situation reflects the wider and scandalous divisions between the Local Orthodox Churches, which can only be overcome through a return to canonical, and not political, practices, to be re-established by a Council of the whole Orthodox Church.
20 February 2022
This very cruel rejection and betrayal by the Russian Church of its greatest Non-Russian friends in the United Kingdom, ourselves, after nearly fifty years of faithfulness, has led to a spiral of departures from it caused by further astounding acts of Russian nationalism, resulting in November 2023 in its now disastrous situation in the Ukraine, Latvia and Moldova. In the last case, senior priests are now pleading with their Metropolitan to lead the remains of his Church and follow the 30% who have already left it into the Patriarchate of Romania (See the article below, Metropolitan Vladimir….). This is exactly what we did first, over twenty months ago on 16 February 2022, fleeing schism, sectarianism, cultishness, phariseeism, censoriousness, bigotry, greed, sheer lack of love and lack of pastoral care. We fled a very young, inexperienced neophyte bishop who knew very little about the realities of Orthodoxy, only bookish theories, and did not understand even the language of his Russian clergy and people. As by far the senior and most experienced priest in his diocese and financially and morally independent, I had the responsibility and duty of leading the exodus across the Red Sea of his old calendarist schism. What began then has now developed into the heresy (I do not use that word lightly) of the rebaptism of Orthodox who wish to join ROCOR. As the proverb says: ‘Those who sow the wind shall reap the whirlwind’.
City of Colchester
13 November 2023
Metropolitan Vladimir convenes a meeting with all the deacons, after receiving the letter from the priests from Botanica
On Thursday, at the Metropolia of Chisinau and All Moldavia, a meeting is to be held with all the archpriests and abbots of monasteries subordinate to Metropolitan Vladimir, at which the proposal of some priests regarding the in corpore accession of this Church structure to the Patriarchate will most likely be discussed in Romanian.
According to the priest Pavel Borsevschi, the Metropolitan convened the meeting, after receiving today the letter from the clerics of the Botanica Deanery of Chisinau, which urges him to switch to the Romanian Orthodox Church.
A single priest from the II Deanery of the Archdiocese of Chisinau spoke out against the accession of the Metropolia of Moldova to the Romanian Patriarchate. The Dean of Botanica, priest Pavel Borșevschi, said this for Jurnal.md. We mention that 30 churches from the Botanica Deanery, but also from the villages of Sângera, Revaca, Băcioi, Străsiteni and Brăila are part of the II Deanery of the Archdiocese of Chisinau.
“The letter is signed by most of the priests in the diocese. We do not propose to join the Metropolia of Bessarabia, but we demand that the entire Metropolia, as a canonical structure, led by Metropolitan Vladimir, renounce the Russian Church and Patriarch Kyrill and come under the jurisdiction of the Romanian Patriarchate. We cannot be in a church where the Patriarch blesses his priests to pray for the victory of the Russian army over Ukraine, which is our suffering sister. We have just had a war in Transnistria, with the blessing of Patriarch Alexiy II. In such cases, when we say “victory”, we are talking about humiliation. It is something that cannot be explained from a Christian point of view.
When he received the letter, the Metropolitan did not tell us either yes or no, but decided to summon all the deacons and abbots of the monasteries on Thursday to discuss this issue. I don’t think he has any reason to disagree with us, based on his letter to Patriarch Kyrill and considering that this opinion is not only ours, the priests’, but also that of the religious community, which we shepherd” . priest Pavel Borševschi reported.
We remind you that, on September 5 Metropolitan Vladimir addressed a letter to Patriarch Kyrill, in which he informs him that he cannot do anything to stop the rise of the Metropolia of Bessarabia in the Republic of Moldova and that the Russian Church is perceived in society as an outpost of the Kremlin and a supporter of the Russian intervention in Ukraine. The letter also states that “the people of Moldova have Latin roots and it is perfectly normal to aspire to remain in this civilizational space, after centuries of artificial division”.