Category Archives: Russian Church

Questions and Answers – July 2018

Q: What in your view is the greatest problem for the Orthodox Church in the UK today?

A: Without doubt it is the pastoral crisis, the chronic shortage of priests and lack of our own churches. Why? Well, who wants to be a priest when you are not paid and you have to find your own churches? Among Catholics, Anglicans and Protestants all the infrastructure, churches, houses and salaries, is already provided. What an easy life they have!

My ‘parish’ covers five counties and 7,500 square miles (20,000 square kilometres). I only have two permanent churches here, which I have had to obtain and fit out, and two assistant priests, neither of whom is available on weekdays. Here there is the failure of bishops to provide priests (lack of a seminary, as opposed to a centre for ivory tower intellectuals who do not understand real Church life) and to provide for their priests. And, frankly, this is the case over most of the world. How can we have a Church that gives no pastoral care? This is why children are not being baptized, couples are not being married and people are not being buried by priests. There are no local priests. This is indeed a DIY church. We shall perhaps look back on this period as the most decadent in Church history.

Q: When did the contemporary Church begin to venerate the local saints of the West?

A: The turning-point came in 1952 when St John of Shanghai submitted a list of local saints for veneration to the Synod of Russian Bishops Outside Russia. All his ROCOR disciples followed him, from Archbishop Nathanael of Vienna to Archbishop Antony of Geneva, from Fr Seraphim Rose to my sinful self. This movement was followed and imitated by other jurisdictions a generation or two later, without repentance for their earlier rejections. I can remember in 1975 when I submitted a list of these saints, how mocked I was at the time by the Sourozh Jurisdiction, the Thyateira Jurisdiction and the Paris Jurisdiction. The attitude was racist. How times change!

Q: Why does the West reject ascetic life? The Catholics made their Church into a State and none of them has any concept of fasting or even standing for services.

A: The great problem for the Church has always been how to deal with the world. The Orthodox view is to do our best to sanctify the world, suffering persecution and even martyrdom if necessary, submitting to martyrdom. The Western view has been to conquer and control the world: the result of this is the secularization of the Western ‘Church’ – their ‘Church’ has become the world.

This rejection of ascetic effort goes back to the filioque. This says that the Holy Spirit (all truth and authority in Church life) proceeds from the Son and therefore from all those who represent the Son on earth. In 800 this was interpreted to mean Charlemagne, who called himself the Vicar of Christ and began massacring the Saxons in the Name of God (= Caesaropapism). In the later 11th century, however, it was the Bishop of Rome who changed his official title from Vicar of St Peter (in reality the title of the Patriarchs of Antioch) to Vicar of Christ and his ‘Church’ became more powerful than any State (Papocaearism). So began Papal-sponsored massacres in 1066 in England and then in ‘crusades’. So began clericalism. In the 16th century everyone became vicars of Christ, and so was born Protestantism. Anyone had the right to go off and start their own ‘church’, regardless of repentance and ascetic practice. So was born anti-ascetic humanism. So was born sitting down, sing-song hymns and clapping your hands – in effect an early form of karaoke, ‘fun-religion’.

Q: Why are liberals so hostile and aggressive to the Russian Church when only about 5% of the Russian population actually practises the Orthodox Faith?

A: The trouble for the liberals, who also represent only about 5% of the Russian population, is that the culture of the Russian Federation and of countries like the Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova is still largely Orthodox in practical domains, that is outside attendance at Church services, regardless of the narrow Protestant understanding of ‘practice’ as ‘going to church’. (The Orthodox understanding of ‘practice’ is how we live our life, which is totally different from ‘God-slot’ Protestantism, based on guilt, or obligatory attendance Catholicism). Liberals are angry at their failure to root out Christian cultural values from everyday life of the 90% in these Orthodox countries, which is what they have achieved in the West over the last fifty years. Our way of life which persists disturbs them, delaying and thwarting their plans for totalitarian domination of every aspect of life.

Q: According to the West, Russia is Asiatic. Is this so in your view?

A: First of all, this is racist and ethnocentric: the word ‘Asiatic’ is used to mean ‘barbaric’, ‘savage’ and cruel’. So everyone in Asia, with its fine and delicate culture, is so? Secondly, it is incredibly hypocritical: it was the West that invented the Crusades and the Inquisition, the Maxim gun and modern artillery, chemical weapons and the bomber, Communism and Fascism, the concentration camp and the Atomic bomb, the cluster bomb and the drone. Are these not cruel and barbaric? Thirdly, it is geographically incorrect, since 90% of Russians live in Europe and all the Slav peoples originate north of the Carpathians – in Europe. Fourthly, it can be argued that in any case there is no such thing as ‘Europe’. There is only one Continent – Eurasia, Europe is an artificial invention at the western tip of a single Continent. All the other continents, Africa, Australia and the Americas are clearly different continents because they are separated from one another by the sea. Not so little Europe, which has been artificially separated from the mass of Asia by the relatively low hills called the Urals. In the south of Asia, India and China are both considered Asian, and yet they are separated by the giant mountains of the Himalayas, not the hills of the Urals!

The charge of ‘Asiatic’ is always made to justify Western barbarianism. The next time that the West commits some war-crime, we should say: ‘What do you expect of Europe? It is so European’.

Q: What makes a good candidate for the priesthood?

A: A kind-hearted man, who knows the services and is understanding with others, patient and a good listener, who is not stupid and not intolerant, not money-minded and not a careerist.

Q: Why is the West so fond of the Grand Duchess Elizabeth, yet ignores or even condemns her sister, the Tsarina Alexandra?

A: Both were ex-Protestants who joined the Orthodox Church and both were martyrs, and so whatever their sins and mistakes, they were washed away by their blood. However I think the West is fond of the errors of the Grand Duchess Elizabeth, for example her naïve dabbling in politics, condemnation of Gregory Rasputin, whom she had never even seen, let alone met,  and her purely Protestant desire for deaconesses, which was naturally rejected by the Church. In some respects she did not fully become Orthodox until the last year of her life, unlike her younger sister Alexandra who joined the Orthodox Church out of love and never tried to change anything, integrating the Faith very quickly, as it says in the Akathist to the Royal Martyrs, she was ‘an example’ of one who turned from Protestantism to Orthodoxy. That irritates the demon of the West, which can only understand Orthodoxy through the deforming prism of its errors. This is why it absurdly accuses St Alexandra of being fanatical, neurotic and hysterical. St Alexandra is a convert who became fully Orthodox and she should be the patron-saint of all who convert to the Orthodox Faith.

Q: Since you like the old calendar, why don’t you join the old calendarists?

A: There is a great difference between being faithful to the old (= Church) calendar and being an old calendarist. Isms are always fatal. The question that I ask old calendarists is: Why do you claim to be Orthodox (and indeed ‘super-Orthodox’), when you are not even in communion with the 215 million members and 900 bishops of the Orthodox Church?

Q: What are the chances that Gregory Rasputin will be canonized, do you think?

A: At the present moment they are near zero. Only two or three bishops are in favour, although there are many priests and people in favour in a few dioceses, like Ekaterinburg, in which diocese Gregory was born and grew up. So a local canonization could happen there in a few years time. The situation is very similar to that of the chances of the canonization of St Seraphim of Sarov in the 1880s (when it had been considered, but was opposed by most of the Synod of bishops), the Royal Martyrs in the Church Outside Russia in the 1960s and 1970s (when, as I remember, it was opposed by many, despite the long-held view of the future St John of Shanghai) or inside Russia in the 1980s (when it was opposed by large numbers of bishops, clergy and people).

In other words, for canonization to take place you need a certain spiritual maturity, you have to be spiritually ready, spiritually awake, and that leads to unity. In a Church of converts, which is what the Russian Church today is, we do not find that. There is still not sufficient consensus on the understanding of the past, neither of the Soviet period, nor of the pre-Revolutionary period. Many supposedly Orthodox academics and also bishops are opposed to the canonization of Gregory, just as their forebears were opposed to the canonization of St Seraphim of Sarov and the Royal Martyrs in the past.

We must wait until such people come round to reality and wake up to the new research done in the Russian State archives, which has completely overturned the old prejudices and ignorance of the anti-Orthodox past, both of the Soviet and similar pre-Revolutionary periods. Similarly, such intellectuals, even ‘theologians’, detest the veneration for Gregory among the devout masses who in turn detest the Church bureaucracy. At present, this canonization is supported only by the most committed and well-educated Orthodox. We must be patient and wait for the ignorance of others to dissipate. We do not divide the Church.

Q: What forms do the ‘the right side’ and ‘the left side’ take, in the spiritual sense of these terms?

A: The enemy wields a double-edged sword. The right side is Establishment Religion: Phariseeism / Talmudism / Monophysitism / Nationalism / Ritualism / Fascism / Old Calendarism. The left side is Sectarian Religion: Saduceeism / Hellenism / Arianism / Scholasticism / Rationalism / Liberalism / New Calendarism.

Q: How can we protect the English language against its bastardization today?

A: We should use and revive the terms of disappearing English. We should use expressions like: my sainted aunt / until the cows come home / till Kingdom come / how far afield? / by George , and use such words as, mild, meek, noble, which the younger generation hardly knows. I am sure that you can expand on such a list.

The Church and the Two Western Europes

The news has come that last week’s Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow agreed to include the names of three Irish missionary saints in Western Europe, Sts Gall, Fridolin and Columban, into the Russian Orthodox calendar. It is yet another step in bringing the Church inside Russia into line with the practices of the Church Outside Russia, which has a far greater experience of local Orthodox life and missionary work.

The Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) began introducing such local saints into its calendar over 60 years ago with St John of Shanghai, his disciples Bishop (later Archbishop) Nathanael (L’vov) and Archbishop Antony of Geneva and then their disciples in England and the USA, just as it began using local languages in services. Thus, 40 years ago, the Church Outside Russia accepted St Edward the Martyr into its calendar, painted his icon and composed a service to him.

It now remains for the whole Church to accept all 10,000 Saints of Orthodox Christian Europe into its calendar, as was proposed by ourselves 43 years ago, in 1975, and has been ever since. The acceptance of the local languages and local saints of Orthodox Christian Western Europe into the Russian Orthodox Church’s spiritual and liturgical life and the rejection of divisive petty nationalism sets the Church against Western Europe.

Western Europe has consistently abandoned its saints, replacing them with popes, kings, knights, soldiers, philosophers, architects, conquerors, artists, explorers, inventors, writers, nationalists, dictators, scientists and mass murderers. It has, in other words, consistently abandoned the things of God for the things of man, it has abandoned the Spirit for the worship and justification of fallen man, of sin, of Heaven for Earth, of sacrifice for comfort.

As a result of this abandonment of Orthodox Christianity and the mixture of its vestiges with a host of isms issued from Roman paganism and barbarian heathenism, it did not adopt Orthodox saints into its calendar. Rather it set about attempting to destroy their Christian world and its civilization, notably in 1204 sacking and looting the Christian capital of New Rome, and then in 1917 sacking and looting the Christian Empire itself.

The European Orthodox thinker wonders and asks: ‘Where will all this end?’ And he receives the answer: ‘It will end with the end’.

Russian Orthodoxy in South Africa

Summary. In this article the author, Dr Vladimir de Beer, depicts the establishment of the Russian Orthodox Church in South Africa. It is preceded by a sketch of the historical background, including the participation of Russian volunteers in the Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902). Recognition for their sacrifice in the service of Boer independence came more than a century later with the dedication of a new chapel on the premises of the Russian Orthodox Church in Midrand.

Key words: South Africa; Afrikaners; Boers; Anglo-Boer War; Russian volunteers; Russian Orthodox

Historical background

The Christian religion (albeit in its Protestant form) was brought to the Cape of Good Hope by the Dutch, German and French settlers who arrived at the southern tip of Africa from 1652 onwards. This new Dutch-ruled colony was established to provide a replenishment station for cargo ships and other vessels sailing between Western Europe and South-east Asia. In this way the future city of Cape Town, the Afrikaner people and the Afrikaans language gradually came into being. Among these early European settlers there was a Moscow-born Russian named Johannes Swellengrebel, whose son Hendrik in 1739 became the first Cape-born governor of the new colony [7]. Towards the end of the Dutch colonial era in South, Africa, in 1798, a Russian cellist named Gerasim Lebedev gave a number of well-attended concerts in Cape Town before returning to St Petersburg [2, pp 11-12].

In 1806 the Cape colony was annexed by Britain during its wars against Napoleonic France. Among notable Russians whose accounts of their visits to the Cape during its early British-ruled era became popular were the naval officer Vassili Golovnin, the novelist Ivan Goncharov and the artist Alexei Vysheslavtsov [2, pp 13-16]. However, the most famous Russian to visit the Cape colony during the nineteenth century was Grand Duke Alexei, son of Tsar Alexander II. His first visit occurred in 1872 when the Cape parliament formally welcomed the Russian dignitary, and the second visit took place in 1874 as commander of the frigate Svetlana. Moreover, in 1886 a remarkable letter was sent by the Pondo1 chief

1     A Xhosa tribe living in the Eastern Cape.

Faku to Tsar Alexander III, requesting Russian protection against the British annexation of his land [2, pp 18-20].

Many of the Afrikaners were not content to live under British rule, and therefore during the 1830’s several thousand men, women and children migrated in ox wagons northwards across the Orange and Vaal Rivers. This Great Trek, as it came to be known, gave rise to the establishment of the Boer republics of the Orange Free State, the Transvaal and Natal, although the latter was swiftly annexed by the British. The Transvaal and Free State republics, in contrast, had their independence recognised by the British government in 1852 and 1854 respectively. However, this peaceful situation only lasted until the discovery of the world’s richest gold-bearing strata in the southern Transvaal in 1886. This development brought substantial wealth and growing international recognition to the Transvaal, which was officially known as the South African Republic. Given the global ambitions of the imperialist rulers in London, as well as the influential diamond magnate Cecil John Rhodes’ vision of a British-ruled Africa stretching from Cape Town to Cairo, it was only a matter of time before the Transvaal became their next victim. The resultant escalating tensions between the British and the fiercely independent Boers (as the northern Afrikaners were called, the word meaning ‘farmers’ in Dutch and Afrikaans) eventually led to the outbreak of war in October 1899, in which the Transvaal and the Free State (with a combined Boer population of less than a million) were allied against the might of the British Empire.

In the ensuing three years of conflict the Boer farmers-turned-soldiers astonished the world by their military prowess in the face of overwhelming odds, facing around half a million well-trained soldiers from the British Isles, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902) eventually became Britain’s longest and costliest war in the century between the Napoleonic Wars and World War One, prompting the well-known author Rudyard Kipling to declare that the Boers had taught the British ‘no end of a lesson’. The Boer republics enjoyed the sympathy of many European nations, including Germany, Holland, Belgium, France, Norway, Sweden, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Russia [3, p 46]. Although none of these countries dared to openly provide military assistance to the Boers, thousands of volunteers risked life and limb travelling to the South African fields in order to fight on the Boer side. A notable contingent came from Ireland, which at that time was under British rule, and consequently the Irish pro-Boer volunteers were viewed as traitors by the British and treated accordingly when captured. It is with this groundswell of support for the Boer cause in Europe that Russian Orthodoxy made its entry into South Africa.

Enter the Russians

The Boer republics enjoyed the moral support of Tsar Nicholas II (later to be venerated as St Nicholas the Royal Martyr) and of the celebrated author Leo Tolstoy. Confiding in his sister Xenia, the Tsar wrote “I am wholly preoccupied with the war between England and the Transvaal; every day I read the news in the English newspapers from the first to the last line, and then share my impressions with the others at the table… I can not conceal my joy at the confirmation of yesterday’s news that during General White’s sally two full English battalions and a mountain battery have been captured by the Boers!” In a similar vein Tolstoy admitted, during the early months of the war when the British suffered a series of humiliating defeats by the Boer forces, that even as a well-known pacifist he rejoiced at the victories of the Boers [2, pp 26-27].

Around 225 Russian volunteers came to South Africa to assist the Boers in their freedom struggle against the mightiest empire up to that point in recorded history [1, p 45]. Their number included a unit of Scouts containing many Cossacks, such as Prince Bagration of Tiflis and Count Alexis de Ganetzky [3, p 47]. There was also a Russian-Dutch ambulance service active in the Transvaal and the Free State during the war, as well as medical staff from the Russian Red Cross [2, pp 27-28]. Such was the Russian enthusiasm for the Boer republics that a folk song ‘Transvaal, Transvaal, my country’ became quite popular throughout Russia in the early years of the twentieth century. It was still being sung at the time of the Great Patriotic War, while famous Soviet writers such as Anna Akhmatova and Ilya Ehrenburg also paid tribute to the Boers [2, pp 25, 29].

Among the Russian volunteers who fought in the Boer armies, the most famous was Colonel Evgeny Maximov, who initially served as second-in-command of the International Corps [3, p 47]. Renowned among the Boers as an excellent shot and horse-rider, Maximov was also an adviser to the Boer presidents Kruger and Steyn [2, pp 68, 73]. He was eventually appointed commander of the Dutch Corps, in which capacity he was severely injured during the battle of Thaba Nchu on 30 April 1900. A month later he left the Transvaal (as did the afore-mentioned ambulance service) when the conventional phase of the war came to end with the British capture of Pretoria [2, pp 77, 81]. To the chagrin of the British, this was followed by two years of highly effective guerilla warfare by the Boer commandos (to which Winston Churchill would later pay tribute when he designated the British special forces during World War Two as commandos). The British military responded by destroying more than 90 percent of the farms in the Boer republics, as well as herding most of their women and children into concentration camps erected on the open field, where around 30 000 were to die from malnutrition and disease. Prompted by these devastating losses of their families and farms while remaining undefeated in the field, the Boer leaders signed the Treaty of Vereeniging with the British in Pretoria on 31 May 1902, thereby ending the war and bringing the former republics into the Empire.

Another prominent Russian volunteer in South Africa was Lieutenant Yevgeny Augustov, whose memoirs of the war were published in Russia in 1902 [2, pp 24-25, 30-33]. With some of his countrymen he had fought in the Battle of Spioenkop in January 1900 (which was vividly described by Augustov), during which the British suffered one of the worst defeats of their imperial history. Captain Leo Pokrovsky was killed while leading a commando raid on the British garrison at Utrecht in December 1900, later receiving a memorial plaque in that Natal town in 1938. Captain Alexander Shulzhenko fought in the commando of the legendary Boer leader General De Wet, until he was captured by the British in April 1901 [1, pp 42-43]. Alexander Guchkov was wounded in July 1900 and remained paralysed for the rest of his life. However, this setback did not prevent him from later becoming chairman of the Russian Duma and eventually War Minister in the Provisional Government, following the abdication of Tsar Nicholas II [1, p 64]. Another volunteer, Vladimir Semionov, designed the opera and ballet theatre in Yekaterinoslav shortly after the war, and had by the 1930’s become a prominent architect and academic in Moscow [1, pp 57-58]. Remarkably, even some opponents of the Tsarist government volunteered for military service with the Boers. Among them were Ivan Zabolotny, a member of the first State Duma in 1905; Alexander Essen, who became a leading Soviet economist in the 1920’s; and Prince Mikhail Yengalychev, who in 1907 attempted to form a republican organisation in Russia [1, pp 65-67].

It is interesting to note that when Russia sent its Baltic fleet around Africa towards the end of 1904 in order to fight the Japanese with whom they were at war, the British government issued strict orders that no Russian ships would be allowed to enter British-controlled ports anywhere in the world, which at the time included the South African ports. This armada included the cruiser Aurora, which would later become legendary for signalling the start of the Bolshevik revolution in 1917. Tragically, most of the Russian sailors in the armada sailing past the Cape of Good Hope never returned to their homes, having died in the disastrous naval battle of Tsushima in 1905 [2, pp 30-31].

During the first two decades of the twentieth century a variety of economic, cultural and academic ties were developing between Russia and South Africa. The economic link was centred on the mining industry, which is not surprising given the abundance of minerals found in both countries. In addition, the years before the outbreak of the First World War saw both the Transvaal and the Cape province import timber, textiles and railway rails from Russia. The academic link, overlapping with agriculture, included co-operation in locust control and irrigation. And in the cultural sphere the novels of the South African author Olive Schreiner became highly popular in Russia from the 1890’s onward, being published in most of the Russian popular magazines and literary journals. One of her publishers was Maxim Gorky, who like many Russians found resonance with Schreiner’s socialist views [2).

  • 37-38]. A later famous Afrikaans author, Louis Leipoldt, visited Moscow in 1908 and was enamoured by the architectural splendour and colourful crowds of the Russian capital, which he vividly described in his letters to a friend. As a young physician Leipoldt was equally impressed by the high level of the Russian medical services, which he considered to be superior to that of Britain at the time. His only complaint was the exorbitant prices in Moscow [2, pp 32-33].

However, by the early 1920’s relations between the newly formed Soviet Union and South Africa practically came to an end, as was the case with all of the British dominions [2, p 38]. Although the two countries were Allies during the Second World War, Soviet-South Africans relations deteriorated further during the second half of the century. The South African Communist Party (SACP) was declared illegal by the Afrikaner nationalist government in 1950 and then formed a strategic alliance with the African National Congress (ANC), which continues to this day. Moreover, from the early 1960s until the late 1980s the Soviet Union actively supported the black guerilla movements fighting white rule in South Africa, Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and South-west Africa (now Namibia). The Soviets and South Africans also clashed in Angola during the period 1975 to 1988, backing the Moscow-aligned MPLA government and the pro-Western rebel movement UNITA, respectively.2 However, with the transfer of power from the Afrikaner nationalists to the ANC in 1994, the SACP became an integral component of the new South African government. This surely has to count as one of the greatest ironies of recent history, since by that time the Communist era in Russia had already ended.

Russian Orthodoxy is established

Only in the 1990’s would diplomatic, economic and cultural relations be restored between the post-Soviet Russian Federation and post-apartheid South Africa. An office of the South African diamond mining giant, De Beers, was opened in Russia in 1992 [2, p 34]. Another beneficiary of the renewed links between Russia and South Africa was the Russian Orthodox Church, which founded a parish in Midrand (situated halfway between Johannesburg and Pretoria) in 1998. Named after St Sergius of Radonezh, this became the first Russian Orthodox parish in sub-Saharan Africa. The first rector of the new parish was Father Sergius Rasskazovsky, who was also a professor at the St Petersburg Theological Academy.3 Under a new rector, Father Philaret Bulekov, a church began to be built for the parish towards the end of 2001. Funded by the Russian engineering construction company Stroytransgaz and supported by the Russian embassy in South Africa, the newly built church was consecrated early in 2003 by Metropolitan Kyrill of Smolensk, who later became the Patriarch of Moscow and all Rus’ [6]. With beautiful golden domes placed atop the building in 2004, the Russian Orthodox Church of St Sergius of Radonezh makes a striking appearance not far from the N1 motorway between Pretoria and Johannesburg.

The Russian volunteers who had fought and died in South Africa at the beginning of the twentieth century finally received recognition from the Church that most of them were

  • The most comprehensive accounts of this protracted yet neglected conflict from a South African viewpoint are the following books: South Africa’s Border War 1966-89, by Willem Steenkamp; and The South African Defence Forces in the Border War 1966-1989, by Leopold Scholtz.
  • This author had the privilege of receiving his first Communion as Orthodox Christian from Father Sergius in 1999.

members of in 2013, when a chapel commemorating them was built on the premises of the Midrand church [4 & 5]. The new chapel is dedicated to St Vladimir, Equal-to-the-Apostles, thus affirming a significant link between Russian Orthodoxy and the South African population, particularly the Afrikaners. The current rector of the Russian Orthodox parish of St Sergius of Radonezh in Midrand is Father Daniel Lugovoy, who also travels to Cape Town periodically to serve the Slavonic liturgy in a newly built chapel there. In addition to services every weekend and on major feast days, the parish conducts an active Sunday school for children and an Orthodox study group for adults. It also has a well-stocked library with over a thousand titles in Russian and English [6]. May God grant the Russian Orthodox Church in South Africa many years!

Bibliography

  1. Apollon Davidson & Irina Filatova. The Russians and the Anglo-Boer War 1899-1902. Cape Town, Pretoria & Johannesburg: Human & Rousseau, 1998.
  2. Apollon Davidson. Russia and South Africa before the Soviet era. National Research University Higher School of Economics, 2013. hse.ru/data/2013/04/18/1297820237/21HUM2013.pdf
  3. Donal Lowry. ‘When the World loved the Boers’, in History Today, 43-49, May 1999.
  4. Andrew Phillips. ‘Orthodox who Fought for Freedom in the Boer War Commemorated.’ (17 April 2013). http://www.events.orthodoxengland.org.uk/orthodox-who-fought-for-freedom-in-the-boer-war-commemorated/
  5. ru: ‘Foundation laid for a new chapel in Johannesburg’ (15 April 2013). http://www.pravoslavie.ru/english/60855.htm
  6. Russian Orthodox Church of St Sergius of Radonezh: http://www.st-sergius.info/en/our-church
  7. Wikipedia: Hendrik Swellengrebel. https://af.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hendrik_Swellengrebel

Dr. Vladimir de Beer

Email: vladimir.debeer@gmail.com

Bristol, England

30 November 2016

Even as a Hen Gathers Her Chickens Under Her Wings: The Future of the Prophetic Mission of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside the Russian Lands

The truth will set you free.

Blessed are you, when men shall revile you and persecute you and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my Name’s sake.

  1. Introduction

As a result of the tragedy that struck the Russian Empire in 1917, today there exist four Russian Orthodox-connected Church jurisdictions or groups outside the canonical territory of the Russian Orthodox Church (that is, outside the former Soviet Union except for Georgia, plus China and Japan). These are, in order of size: The international ROCOR (Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia) group; the international Moscow Patriarchal group; the local OCA (Orthodox Church in America) group, geographically limited to North America; the local Paris group, geographically limited to a scattering in Western Europe. Their future is important because it will shape the now vital prophetic mission of the Russian Orthodox Church to today’s apostate and spiritually vacant Western world.

  1. The Past and the Present                                                                                                           a.The ROCOR group

The exiles in this group, born just before or after 1917 as well as their descendants, often had an unjustified admiration for the pre-Revolutionary Russian State. This émigré childhood nostalgia for the largely unknown past was to a considerable extent illusory. After all, the Church administration before the Revolution was dominated not by the spiritual, but by careerists, nationalists and bureaucrats, opposed by renovationists. Between them they managed to cause all the divisions inside and outside Russia after the Revolution. In March 1917 most of them at once betrayed the pious Tsar, whose desire to canonize the saints, like St Seraphim of Sarov, they had resisted – a clear resistance to the Holy Spirit! If everything had been so wonderful before 1917, there would indeed never have been a Revolution and if, impossibly, we recreated the past as it was, there would simply be another Revolution. Moreover, that Revolution was caused by the treason of the elite of aristocrats and intellectuals, so many of whom ended up as nostalgic emigres, leaving the Russian Empire and Church to its tragic fate that they had created.

Historically comprising the vast majority of Russian émigrés, ROCOR has always had two wings: a political wing and what may be called a ‘Johannite wing’. The political wing was always much concerned with political, administrative, nationalist, financial and property matters (even accepting money from the CIA during the Cold War, placing anti-Communism before Christ). The Johannite wing is that of the three saints, St John (from whom it takes its name) of Shanghai, Western Europe and San Francisco, St Jonah of Hankow and St Seraphim of Sofia. Of course, it also includes many others: Archbishop Antony of Geneva, Archbishop Averky, Bishop Sava, Bishop Nektary and a great number of clergy and faithful. It has always seen itself as an integral and organic part of the Russian Orthodox Church and Tradition, only temporarily separated from the then enslaved Church in Moscow. (I write as a spiritual son of the ever-memorable Archbishop Antony of Geneva, + 1993, who was in his turn a spiritual son of St John, + 1966).

Today, numbering several hundred thousand, ROCOR faces domination by American cultural conservatism. Centred in New York and with the vast majority of its parishes in North America and its Australian satellite, outside of which it has lost much of its former influence and numbers, it must look to reality and the future. It cannot be a prisoner of the past, for the authentic Tradition is always spiritual, radical and dynamic. It must conserve and live, not preserve and die, in other words, it must keep alive, not preserve as in a museum. It must resist the temptation of the New World which, without its own culture, tends to preserve and freeze all imported culture in the state in which it was first imported, regardless of its spiritual value, as a sort of ethnic curiosity from the Old World. Today, ROCOR has been much revitalized and renewed by immigration from the ex-Soviet Union and so links with reality. Its survival is dependent on these links with the living source of its Faith.

b. The Moscow Patriarchal group.

This group used to be tiny and paradoxically often expressed Soviet State nationalism. It was at times capable of being pro-Stalinist and often showed strong signs of the spiritual impurity of renovationist modernism. These spiritually repulsive abuses are rapidly disappearing into the darkness of the past. With huge immigration from the ex-Soviet Union, the group has now greatly expanded, especially, but not only, in Western Europe. Today in numbers it has begun to rival ROCOR, which it will soon overtake. With the gradual transfiguration of the Church inside the Russian Lands over the last generation, especially since the turning-point of the Council in 2000, the living Church inside the Russian Lands is the key on which this and all the other groups depend.

c. The OCA Group

The OCA group, numbering 90,000 faithful, grew out of Slav Uniat immigrants to North America from the former Austro-Hungarian Empire. At last free of Roman Catholic and State oppression, they joined their ancestral Russian Orthodox Church in the USA in the years around 1900. Today, the OCA is only indirectly under the patronage of the Russian Orthodox Church. This group has for 100 years been politically and culturally subject to domination by American cultural liberalism. This is not at all a question of the use of the English language, which of course is perfectly natural as language is only a missionary tool, but a question of the assimilation of an alien, anti-Orthodox American culture and so spiritual degradation.

The OCA will either remain anchored to the Orthodox Tradition of its Mother-Church or else it will die out as spiritually irrelevant, like parts of the Greek Archdiocese in North America, assimilated into the surrounding Non-Orthodox culture. Optimistically, over one quarter of it does remain faithful to the Tradition and parts of the rest have been revitalized and renewed by immigration from the ex-Soviet Union and so by links with reality. However, its future remains fragile and uncertain after a century of instability and there are voices in it which wish to betray the Mother-Church.

d. The Paris Group

The Paris group, by far the smallest of the four, was formed by pro-Western masonic aristocrats and emigre intellectuals who had plotted and created the anti-Tsar Revolution, setting up the brief, incompetent Kerensky dictatorship in 1917. This group was so politicized, anti-Russian and modernist that it rejected the Russian Orthodox Church and Tradition. Today, it has in part been renewed by Moldovan immigrants and so links with reality. However, it is not yet clear if the Paris group, controlled by ageing ideologues who have deliberately cut themselves off from the living Russian Church, will meet the spiritual needs of its flock, or if it will be assimilated into spiritual irrelevance.

  1. The Future: Making the Church Local

In the last few years before the Revolution there were between 142 and 163 bishops for some 117 million faithful in the Russian Orthodox Church. This was pitifully few bishops, on average about one for every 800,000 faithful. Today, for example, the Church of Greece has 100 bishops for 8,500 priests and 10 million people, one bishop for every 100,000 people. On this basis, the Russian Orthodox Church should today have 1,640 bishops and 139,000 priests for its 164 million faithful. Instead, there are only 368 bishops and a pitifully few 36,000 priests, one bishop for every 450,000 faithful and one priest for every 4,500 faithful! Bishops are still very distant figures. (In the Church of Jerusalem which has a flock of 130,000, there are 20 bishops, one for every 6,500 faithful).

It is clear that at least another 100,000 priests and churches are needed in the Russian Church, if ever this pastoral crisis of nominalism is to be overcome. Clearly, just as has long been done outside Russia, devout married men, financed by secular occupations, will have to receive basic practical training and then be ordained as ‘worker priests’. Under the direction of experienced full-time priests, they could serve in simple, cheap-to-build, wooden churches, without the golden luxury and marble pomp of cathedrals. Such ‘kit-churches’ would create real local parishes and pastoral centres, at last bringing the Church back home to the people at the local level. However, this ‘pastoralization’ and ‘localization’ of the Church is still for the future. But at least the first step in making the Church local has taken place in the process of ‘Metropolitanization’.

Here the principle of one bishop for about every 100 priests is now respected in the Russian Church. These 368 bishops have at last been arranged in groups, generally of four or five bishops, called Metropolias. The word ‘Metropolia’ means ‘the Church of the Mother-City’ and ‘Metropolitanization’ is an attempt to return to the practice of the first centuries and make the Church local. Metropolias are thus like miniature local churches within the Local Church. This ‘Metropolitanization’ of the Russian Church worldwide is a sign of health and is inevitable and irreversible. Non-Metropolitanization is a sign of distance and irrelevance of the Church to local life, its reduction from an incarnate way of life to a theatre of ideology.

However, outside the canonical territory of the Church, Metropolitanization is a gradual and complex process. This is firstly because there are two parts of the Russian Church outside the canonical territory, that directly under the Patriarchate and that under the self-governing Church Outside Russia (ROCOR). Both must first agree to co-operate and so it takes time to form new Russian Orthodox Metropolias worldwide (regardless of whether the two local fragments, the OCA and Paris, would one day want to take part – probably not). Secondly, and even more ambitiously, new Russian Orthodox Metropolias outside the canonical territories are ultimately called on to become the foundations for new Local Churches. This will be when other Orthodox, from far smaller Local Churches and living in those territories, wish to participate in them. This would be a purely voluntary process that could take another 100 years or more.

  1. Conclusion

This setting up of Metropolitan structures, foundations for new Local Churches, is a question of responsibility. There is no room here for destructive nationalism and centralization, either of the aristocratic emigre Russian sort or of the ‘Soviet tank’ sort. Instead sensitivity is required towards different peoples and their legitimate customs. In all these matters we would do well to recall the words of Christ in St Matthew’s Gospel concerning the phariseeism of the Old Jerusalem, which rejected the New Jerusalem: ‘O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets and stonest them which are sent to thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings, and ye would not’.

 

 

 

Trends in the Russian Orthodox Church Today

Introduction

After the revolution of the last generation, the generation since the end of the Cold War, what is the situation of the two parts of the Russian Orthodox Church today, of the Russian Patriarchate and of the Church Outside Russia (ROCOR)? Once they were bitterly divided. And now?

A. The Russian Patriarchate of the Past

1. Attitudes to the Outer World

In the bad old days, a few prominent bishops of the Patriarchate were forced to sit in front of cameras and tell blatant lies, for example, that there was no persecution of the Church inside Russia. Why? Simply because if they did not, their priests and parishes would suffer. As hostages, they took the political sin of lieing onto themselves. Personally, such blatant lies never really bothered me. I knew why they were doing it. Frankly, I thought the sin was more with those who asked them such compromising questions. However, something else did bother me.

2. Attitudes to the Inner World

What bothered me was hypocrisy. There were certain bishops and others of the paralysed Patriarchate who were utterly corrupt, whether sexually or financially. And that corruption rotted all of Church life. Those people were not Christians. As a victim of them at that time, I know what I am talking about.

B. ROCOR of the Past

1. Attitudes to the Outer World

In the bad old days, ROCOR in the USA sometimes took CIA money. That bothered me. At that time, quite a few in ROCOR worked for various anti-Soviet (in fact, anti-Russian) Western spy agencies. These people have today almost all left the Church or else died of old age. Today, for example, I know of people who have joined the Paris Exarchate because they are not allowed to join either part of the Russian Church as they work as spies at GCHQ or spy agencies in Paris. Loyalty to the Western Establishment comes first for them, Christ second. That is clearly wrong.

2. Attitudes to the Inner World

Hypocrisy in the old ROCOR also bothered me. Some considered that as long as you were anti-Communist, you were fine, you could be as anti-missionary and racist as you wanted, as well as practise abortion. I could quote names. Fortunately, such outrageous phariseeism was the domain of a minority.

C. The Russian Patriarchate Today

1. Attitudes to the Outer World

Today, the Patriarchate is a Church of 150 million converts and various neophyte deformations can be found on the fringes. For example, we can find secularizing, pro-Soviet attitudes, the arrogance and racism of the old ‘Soviet tank’ mentality that simply wants to barge in and take over everything. This type of imperialism, with an undiscriminating admiration for the present State, pays no attention to pastoral matters and building up parish life, has little understanding of families and children. It is ritualistic, careerist and money-orientated, its representatives never having suffered.

However, we can also find pro-Western (ecumenist, liberal, ‘diplomatic’) attitudes among those from a bourgeois background. They vilify the Soviet past, dismissing its positive preservation of re-Revolutionary cultural values, detest President Putin and adore the Atlanticist Prime Minister Medvedev.

2. Attitudes to the Inner World

We can also find a conservative, pietist movement. Piety is good, but pietism generally means ritualism, sentimentalism, zeal without understanding, words without meaning. How many churches have we visited where services are read and sung in such a way that not a single word can be understood. This is what drives away men, meaning that services are attended by 80%-90% women. This may have been normal in abnormal Soviet times, when men would lose their jobs for attending church, but today it is abnormal. A huge work of catechism is under way. There is far to go.

We can also find a pro-social movement. Many of its representatives are very liberal, but they are at least beginning to deal with the huge social problems of post-Soviet society: massive and endemic corruption, alcoholism, abortion, drug-taking, environmental degradation, the handicapped…

D. ROCOR Today

1. Attitudes to the Outer World

Today, there is a danger of ROCOR becoming an Americanized Church, which simply refuses to understand the unpaid clergy and the plight of the mass of poor people who have come to us out of Soviet Russia and Eastern Europe. It does not want to know our sufferings. Here too there is a certain arrogance and spirit of takeover. ‘We are right, you are wrong’. Just as in today’s Russia, there can sometimes be a spirit of show, a concentration on externals. There can also be a spirit of mafia, a concentration of power among the first and wealthy, so that others are excluded as second-class citizens.

This lack of love is also fostering a liberalism, unheard of before in ROCOR, which comes from outside the Church. If unchallenged, this American-style cultural infiltration of ecumenist, liberal and ‘diplomatic’ attitudes from a bourgeois background will hamper our uncompromised witness.

2. Attitudes to the Inner World

Exactly as in the Patriarchate, we can also find a conservative, pietist movement. Piety is good, but pietism generally means ritualism, sentimentalism, zeal without understanding, words without meaning. How many churches have we visited where services are read and sung in such a way that not a single word can be understood. This can be accompanied by a self-righteous denial of the ROCOR past. ‘Everything was perfect’. This nostalgia of course is totally unjustified. Many ROCOR parishes are real and model communities, examples for the Patriarchate, but not all.

Pastorally, many are positively moving parish life into the inevitable multinational and bilingual future and creating real communities. Here there is also a danger – that Church life becomes only social, emotional, all words, the ascetic foundation forgotten, as in the Exarchate and the OCA.

Conclusion

Thus, we can see remarkable parallels, indeed convergence, between the two parts of the Russian Church. Clearly, only the positive trends are needed, all that is negative is not needed. Above all, we need the central unity of the spiritual food to be found in the purity of our Tradition of Holy Rus.

The Good New Days

28 January 2018 will go down in our local Orthodox history. Two dynamic, young Russian Orthodox bishops in this country were celebrating in parishes in the provinces, in Cambridge and in Colchester. In the bad old days, there were never two bishops and even if there was one, he would have been found only in London.

27 January 2018 was also a historic day. 33 people gathered at the London church of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russsia (ROCOR) for clergy training. Only 7 were priests; nearly all the others were future priests and deacons. Last year the number of priests in the new ROCOR Diocese of the British Isles and Ireland doubled. More are coming. Tripling? Quadrupling? More? Everything is possible.

In the bad old anti-missionary days in 1994, I can remember being summoned from the Western European Diocese in Paris to go and serve in London, where there were no priests available. By that time the whole of ROCOR in England had been reduced to just two priests, both of whom later left it. How times change.

Some question why the two spiritually united Russian Orthodox Church still has two parallel dioceses on this island territory. Perhaps we are like two trees, growing side by side in the jungle. The more we grow, the greater the canopy we can produce together over the jungle. That is Providence, which is the Love of God manifested in human life.

 

The Mystical Meaning of the Establishment of a Russian Orthodox Metropolia of Europe (ROME)

‘Yes, it is Europe, from the Atlantic to the Urals, it is Europe, all of Europe, which will decide the fate of the world’.

President Charles de Gaulle, 22 November 1959

Introduction: Holy Rus

Having accepted the Orthodox Christian Church and Faith, Rus, the Russian Lands, became known as ’Holy’, for, alone out of all  other lands, holiness was its ideal. As a reward for being faithful to holiness, the Lord gave the Russian Lands immense territories, as far as the Pacific and even beyond, with great natural wealth and, above all, holy men and women. Indeed, after the final spiritual and physical fall of the Second Rome in 1453, its successor was this Holy Rus, the Third Rome, the last bastion of Universal Uncompromised Christianity. This last Christian Empire was called on to restrain the spread of global evil which has prepared the coming of Antichrist. For this reason, the Russian Lands have had many enemies. Some coveted her lands and resources, others wanted to destroy her Church and Faith, but always first by destroying her Sovereign Monarchy (Samoderzhavie, deliberately misleadingly translated by anti-Christians as ‘autocracy’).

The Overthrow of Holy Rus

Thus, nearly 200 years ago, Tsar Nicholas I (1796-1855) tried to cleanse and restore the Sovereign Monarchy of the atheist tyranny of anti-Christian absolutism, with which it had been stained by its enemies in the century before. He also knew that serfdom, introduced as such by the same Westernized absolutists in the same century, was not Christian, and began preparing its abolition. However, from 1908 on, the British elite began planning to overthrow the Sovereign Monarchy and replace it with a Protestant-style Constitution, thus enabling it to dismember and exploit the Christian Empire. From 1911 on, Germany similarly began planning to destroy the Russian Lands and colonize them. From 1915 on, the financial centres of Britain and Germany and of the USA began plotting against the Sovereign Monarchy, financing masonic liberals and atheist revolutionary allies to disrupt the Empire’s infrastructure and distribution system.

The Fall and Rising Again of Holy Rus

Indeed, by the early 20th century the Christian Faith had much weakened in the Russian Lands and with it the mystical sense of awe before the Lord’s Anointed, the Christian Emperor. ‘Treason and cowardice and deceit’ were all around, as Tsar Nicholas wrote in March 1917. And so, Christ-like, he went to his Gethsemane and then to his Golgotha, accepting God’s Will. As those who had risen against the God-given Tsar had risen against God, so the Christian Empire fell through apostasy. Without the Orthodox Faith, there could be no Sovereign Monarchy. However, the Lord had destined the Russian Lands to be the last bastion of Universal Christianity in the time of general apostasy before Antichrist. Thus, He has begun restoring the Russian Orthodox Church, which is called on to preserve the purity of the Faith before the Second Coming, in order to lead the repentant remnant of mankind to Christ, thus meeting the mission of the Third Rome.

The Russian Role in Restoring a Sovereign Europe

In 1959 the French statesman President De Gaulle had spoken of a united Europe from the Atlantic to the Urals, seeing Europe as an alliance of independent, sovereign states. He was right in that he fundamentally rejected a supranational character for Europe as ‘a supranational Europe is a Europe under American command’, a ‘Europe of the Americans’. Indeed, on 15 May 1962 he clearly declared that ‘there cannot be any Europe other than that of (nation) states, apart from in myths, fiction and parades’, which is precisely the present EU. However, he was wrong in that he identified such a Confederation of Sovereign States stretching only as far as the Urals: it must stretch to the Pacific. And here is the mystical meaning of the establishment of a Russian Orthodox Metropolia of Europe. It means that the still for the moment Tsarless Third Rome may stretch from the Atlantic to the Pacific, uniting East and West, overcoming Europe’s self-imposed isolation.

Russia and Europe

The pure Christian roots of Western Europe can still redirect it to salvation from its present apostasy. But these roots have been conserved ecclesially only by the Russian Orthodox Church, which stretches to the Pacific and even across it. It is a mistake to try and isolate the culture of Europe, in the extreme western corner of Northern Eurasia, from its roots in Christ. The European attempt to isolate and nationalize Christ from Asia, to claim Him for itself, first resulted in the deformations of Rome and Geneva. Then apostate Europeans replaced Christ with anti-European ‘European values’. Among others, Austria, Hungary, the Czech Lands, Slovakia and Poland are now resisting this attempt. However, spiritually they can do little without Russian Orthodox support. Before the great European suicide of 1914-1918, there was hope that Paris-Berlin-Saint Petersburg could be united. Now, 100 years after the First War ended, we have the same hope again.

The Self-Annihilation of Europe

Today European peoples face their spiritual annihilation, imposed on them by the two-edged sword of the choice of the atheist European elite. On the one hand, there is its self-imposed abortion holocaust (2-3 million European children slaughtered each year for decades). On the other hand, there is its self-imposed, massive Muslim immigration of cheap labour, which will result in a generation’s time in large parts of Western Europe being peopled by a 25% Muslim population. Since renouncing the fullness of Christ’s Church 1,000 years ago, Europe has fallen prey to a host of self-imposed isms, from Catholicism to Protestantism, from Secularism to Communism, from Fascism to Capitalism, from Atheism to Globalism. Obsessed by its barbaric pagan past, whether Roman or Germanic, it renounced the Holy Spirit. It has forgotten the glory of its saints, its holiness, which blossomed in Europe for the first millennium and then dried up.

The Repentance of Europe

Only by appealing to the glory of these, its own saints, and repenting and returning to the Church and Faith in which they gained their holiness, the grace of the Holy Spirit, can Europe be saved. Western Europe must renounce its self-isolation that it so fatefully chose in 1054 and tragically repeated in 1914. Otherwise it will disappear into the abyss of its suicidal isolation. In order to do this, it must make its peace with the remains of the Christian Empire in the Russian Lands. Western Europe has continually attempted to destroy this Empire, most notably in the four multinational invasions that it so aggressively and barbarically launched against it in the space of only 130 years between 1812 and 1941. In order to do this, it must repent for continually attempting to undermine its Faith and Sovereign Monarchy and commit genocide against its Peoples and those of other Orthodox Christian lands. This is going on right now, from Kosovo to the Ukraine.

Conclusion: The Salvation of Europe

The mystical meaning of a Russian Orthodox Metropolia of Europe is the opportunity for salvation, the return to the Church of God of the living souls of those Europeans still spiritually sensitive and not yet zombified by EU bread and US circuses. A Russian Orthodox Metropolia of Europe (ROME) (not just in Europe) is, in the words of its former Patriarch, the foundation of a future Local Church, which will be reborn, as soon as Europe is worthy of it. It can gather together not only the Orthodox of all nationalities who already live and pray in Western Europe now, but also can gather together all the saints of Europe, those who lived and prayed here in the distant past, and their descendants. All this is in order to prepare for the future. This will be a Europe cleansed of its atheism and of its spiritually impure institutions, polluted by their refusal to accept the Holy Spirit Who proceeds from the Father. This will be a Europe that can seek – and find – holiness, the Spirit of God.

 

 

 

The Metropolia of Western Europe Takes Shape

The nightmare is over.

Just over a generation ago the Russian Orthodox Church in Western Europe was divided into two warring groups. One group, the MP, tiny, was influenced in part by scandalous spiritual and moral compromises and was under the control of militant atheists who ruled in Moscow. The other group, ROCOR, much larger but very elderly and clearly dying out, was in part influenced by a right-wing, nationalist movement, influenced by the Vlasovites of World War II. Some, refusing to take part in either politicized group, had already joined another politicized group, the ‘Paris Jurisdiction’, entirely outside the Russian Church, under the US-run and largely masonic Patriarchate of Constantinople.

Abandoned and without leadership, we had to ‘do the Church’ ourselves. We became independent-minded. We had no choice. In 1988 I wrote down some ideas for the future. It was thrown away into a rubbish bin by the Archbishop who had requested it. With radical changes within the last twelve months to the configuration of the three ROCOR dioceses in Western Europe and yesterday’s radical changes to the now six MP dioceses in Western Europe, we are seeing many of our hopes of exactly thirty years ago at last coming true, but in the form of one single Russian Orthodox and multi-diocesan Metropolia of Western Europe. Here is what we wrote then:

A VISION FOR THE ORTHODOX CHURCHES OF WESTERN EUROPE

The twentieth century in particular has seen decade after decade of immigration to Western Europe from the contemporary homelands of Orthodox Christianity, from Russia, the Balkans and the Near and Middle East. At the same time there has taken place the conversion of small numbers of Western Europeans to the Orthodox Christian Faith. As a result, there are now not insignificant groups of Orthodox Christians of diverse background in Western European countries.

These facts raise many questions. What might be the future in the twenty-first Century of those groups? Will they remain attached to foreign homelands and the linguistic, political and regional divisions of those lands? Will number of converts and their non-convert descendants be content to remain in the dioceses of culturally and linguistically foreign Churches? What will happen to immigrant groups within a generation of the fall of the Berlin Wall, when the generation of gerontocrats who ran the Communist Empire have died out and are replaced by young Western-style technocrats? What will happen as the old State Church mentalities of Eastern Europe are offloaded with the new globalized mentalities of the Internet generation?

Nobody can answer such questions with any degree of assurance, but we could perhaps at least express some idea of what might be desirable, but to do that we must start off from reality. Firstly, let no mistake be made, there are large numbers of immigrants who do not wish for any change to the present situation. In other words they are happy to live in Western Europe in a mental and ecclesiastical extension of their homelands. The fact that as a result there are, contrary to the canons, several Orthodox bishops, admittedly of different nationalities, on the same territory, is of no significance to them. Indeed official Church hierarchies have actually encouraged this uncanonical development by giving their bishops titles of disappeared sees in foreign countries.

For example, in this country the Greek Archbishop has taken the title of a village in Turkey and the Russian Patriarchal Metropolitan that of a ruined town on the Black Sea coast, rather than take the title ‘of London’. In other words, the sense of ethnic identity and loyalty of many remains strong. (And it must be said that that is not always a bad thing). However, it does mean that the numbers of those who consciously wish to see local and self-governing Orthodox Churches develop in Western Europe are still relatively small. Secondly, we must recognize that Western Europe itself is by no means homogeneous. There runs through it a North-South fault-line which by and large separates the Germanic and Protestant North from the Latin and Roman Catholic South.

Mentalities are not the same to either side of that line. For instance, the North is more liberal, but paradoxically more rigid, the South more flexible but paradoxically less open to Orthodoxy. In addition to this, despite the influx of Greeks and Cypriots, the North of Western Europe has been culturally affected more by the settlement of Russian Orthodox refugees, the South more by the settlement of the Greeks. As a result of these factors, there have been more converts in the North of Western Europe than in the South. Despite the ineffectual intellectualizing of some Russians, the attraction of converts in the North has been overwhelmingly to the various parts of the Russian Church or even to Russian practices, even if under the Patriarchate of Constantinople. Peoples here are more attracted to the more European mentalities of Russian Orthodoxy than the Mediterranean and Oriental ways of Greek Orthodoxy.

In the South of Western Europe, however, a different situation has developed. Here most immigrants have come from Greece. Nevertheless, in their political pact with the Vatican, the Patriarchate of Constantinople responsible for these immigrants agreed not to witness to Orthodox Christianity in those predominantly Roman Catholic countries of south-western Europe. Thus those who wished to become Orthodox in these areas were forced to become Orthodox in Greek Old Calendarist groups, outside the control of both Constantinople and the Vatican. This situation was then further complicated by the realization of those convert groups that they had become members of sects. Thus, one after another, most of these groups, whether in Portugal and Spain, or in Catalonia and south-western France, or in Italy, have left Old Calendarism and joined Slav Churches, respectively the Polish, Serbian and Russian Churches.

From this ethnic, political and jurisdictional chaos, how can any semblance of order evolve? It would seem to the present writer that a starting point for those who wish to belong to future Orthodox Churches of Western Europe would be the following: to group themselves into Deaneries whose shape would correspond to the linguistic, geographical, historical, cultural and national realities of Western Europe. (This presumes, of course, that such Orthodox, whatever their background, convert or immigrant, are sufficiently numerous to be able to persuade canonical Orthodox bishops to agree to the establishment of such Deaneries).

In such a scenario, the territory of Western Europe could first be divided into two Dioceses comprising its two racial and cultural components – Germanic North and Latin South. These two Dioceses could be structured into a pattern of Deaneries as follows:

1) The Diocese of North-Western Europe. This part of Western Europe can be subdivided into three separate cultural areas:

a) A Deanery of the Isles. This would cover the whole of the British Isles, with a Metropolitan base presumably in a historic centre such as York, the Imperial City of Constantine.

b) A Deanery of Germania. This would cover Germany, Austria, Holland, Luxembourg and much of Alsace, Switzerland and Belgium, with a Metropolitan See in some historic Patristic centre such as Trier, the City of St. Athanasius the Great.

c) A Deanery of Scandinavia. This would cover Iceland, Norway, Sweden and Denmark, with a base perhaps in Roskilde, where the Orthodox Faith entered into Scandinavian territorial consciousness.

2) The Diocese of South-Western Europe This part of Western Europe can also be subdivided into three separate cultural areas:

a) A Deanery of Gallia. This would comprise France (including Brittany, Occitania, Provence and French-speaking Alsace), and also French-speaking Belgium and Switzerland, with a base perhaps in the historic Orthodox Patristic Metropolitan See of Lyons.

b) A Deanery of Iberia. This would comprise Spain (including all the Basque Country on both sides of the Franco-Spanish border, Catalonia and Galicia) and Portugal, with a base in a historic Apostolic centre, for example, Santiago de Compostela.

c) A Deanery of Italia. This would comprise Italy, Sicily, Sardinia, Corsica and Italian-speaking Switzerland, with its centre in the Apostolic Orthodox See of Rome.

If ever this vision came to pass, these two Dioceses of Western Europe, North and South, could become Archdioceses and their six Deaneries, Dioceses. Eventually the six Dioceses would then themselves become Archdioceses with their own internal regional dioceses. In turn these six Archdioceses would then become self-governing regional Orthodox Churches. Thus Western Europe would become home to no fewer than six regional Orthodox Churches. These Churches would not be Churches in a place (implying that they were foreign churches imposed on the places without being acculturated), rather they would be Churches of a place:

The Church of the Isles.

The Church of Germania.

The Church of Scandinavia.

The Church of Gallia.

The Church of Iberia.

The Church of Italia.

Such a division of Western Europe into regional Churches could avoid the monolithic temptations of a sole centre which led in history to the pride of the Roman See and its falling away from the Orthodox Faith. At the same time, however, the existence of regional Churches would also avoid the balkanized nationalism to be found in ‘local’ national Churches. Thus a ‘Church of the Isles’ could not fall victim to, say, English or Irish nationalism, for both nationalities, together with the Scottish and the Welsh, would be ‘conjoined’ in one ‘confederal’ regional Orthodox Church. This is why Metropolitan centres should not be in secular capitals but in historic Orthodox centres, spiritual capitals – York, Trier, Roskilde, Lyons, Santiago and Rome. This would avoid the danger implied in such terms as ‘Russian Orthodox’ (centred in the secular capital of Moscow) and ‘Greek Orthodox’ (centred in the secular capital of Athens), when what is really meant is ‘The Church of Russia’ and ‘The Church of the Hellenes’.

Perhaps some, on reading this, will grow excited, while others will condemn it as fantasy. It has to be said that the first are wrong, because the spirit of Orthodox Christianity is one of sobriety and not excitement. And it must be said that the others may be right. For it we are honest, we are still a century or more away from any of this. And if the present situation of human degeneration is anything to go by, the world and Western Europe with it, may not even last until the twenty-second century. And however it may be, we personally will not last until the twenty-second century.

Some may agree that indeed we will not be here to see this Vision made reality, but that we are working for our children and our children’s children. To those, however, I would say this: let us first of all simply work for our own salvation – for if we do not save ourselves, how can we possibly say that we are working for our children and our children’s children? If we cannot save ourselves, how will others be saved around us? First things first – for all the rest will only come to pass if it is God’s Will. For this after all is the essence of Vision – to see what is God’s Will and do it.

Translated from the consultative paper ‘L’Eglise Orthodoxe de L’Europe Occidentale – Vision ou Rêve’ by Deacon Andrew Phillips, Paris, April 1988.

The Future Metropolia Receives New and Young Strength

At the latest Synod Meeting in Moscow today:

Archbishop  Elisei  of Sourozh has been appointed Archbishop of the Hague and the Netherlands. Bishop Matvei of Bogorodsk (formerly Fr Gennady Andreev from Manchester) has been appointed Bishop of Sourozh.

Bishop Tikhon of Podolsk has been appointed Bishop for Berlin and Germany, replacing the elderly Archbishop Theophan who died earlier this year. He does not take the title ‘of Berlin and Germany’ because that for the moment still belongs to Archbishop Mark.

Bishop Antony of Zvenigorod has been appointed Bishop of Vienna and Budapest, replacing Bishop Tikhon of Podolsk, and Bishop Antony also returns to his post as Bishop for Italy.

Meanwhile, Bishop Nestor remains in charge of France, Spain and Portugal and Archbishop Simon becomes Bishop of Belgium, having been relieved of the Netherlands.

The average age of all these bishops is about 45. A new generation is in charge. Thanks be to God.

 

 

The Sins of the Fathers: On the Coming Russian Orthodox Church Administrative Unity in Western Europe

 

The Russian Orthodox Church exists in two separate administrations in Western Europe. Although both have the same Patriarch in Moscow, one is directly dependent on Moscow, the other only indirectly on him, as it is primarily dependent on a Metropolitan in New York. The Moscow group numbers some 210 parishes in several dioceses, the New York group some 70 parishes in three dioceses, one third of that under Moscow, though in some local regions it is still a majority. On the other hand Moscow has more or less complete control in Austria, Italy, Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands and Scandinavia.

As we slowly move towards future administrative unity in a single Russian Orthodox Metropolia of Europe (ROME), all over Western Europe a choice will have to be made: Which administration do parishes wish to belong to? In other words, ultimately, which group is to be absorbed by the other? And will that absorption take place all over Western Europe, or only in some areas? This is not a simple matter because this implies that each administration is going to have to answer for the very saddening errors of the past.  And there were many of these and their consequences have been postponed for a generation and more.

These include political and moral compromises, which, even if forgiven, are not forgotten, incompetence in failing to build up infrastructure, obtaining and building churches and encouraging and training local clergy, refusal to look after local people and locally-born children and grandchildren and general lack of pastoral and missionary effort. Refusal to take responsibility and ask for forgiveness with repentance will be dismissed. Childish phrases like ‘We’re right because we’re bigger than you…’, or ‘We were here first’, or ‘We’ve got more money than you’, do not wash with people made distrustful by past sins and errors.

The people, and ultimately the clergy with them, will not choose a cold manager or bureaucrat, but the pastoral bishop who shows genuine love for them and does not neglect, ignore and insult them. However, the lack of love of the past is about to receive its just rewards. The people will choose genuine communities. Parishes where people know one another and to which people feel a sense of belonging will win the day. People will not choose parishes which they pass through like railway stations, which are money-making machines, or are centres of cold and formal ritualism in foreign and unknown languages.

There is a moment of danger here, for Western Europe is already littered with the wreckage of small ex-Russian Orthodox communities, alienated by the heavy-handedness of both administrations. These include the tiny marginal communities of the ‘Paris Jurisdiction’ on the one hand, which on paper are canonical, as well as the tiny fringe communities of various ‘Pure’ or ’True’ sectarian jurisdictions, which even on paper are not canonical. For those who suffered under both administrations and never received an apology, we leave the choice to Divine guidance. The chickens come home to roost; the sins of the fathers have a price.

In 2003 the Paris Jurisdiction, then under Archbishop Sergiy, was negotiating its return to the Russian Orthodox Church. It would have become the local element in hopes for a future Russian Orthodox Metropolia of Western Europe, the foundation of a new Local Orthodox Church. It was not to be. Archbishop Sergiy died, and his successors took a virulent anti-Russian line. Now it is on the way to becoming a deanery of the Greek Orthodox Church in Paris. However, together with the 70 parishes established in Western Europe for up to 100 years, Moscow can still establish a joint Metropolia. This can heal both past injustices and avoid future injustices.