Last Chance for Rue Daru

The candidate for next Archbishop of the Rue Daru jurisdiction in Paris (at present under Constantinople, but with what was a Russian Orthodox heritage) was finally elected on 1 November with over two-thirds of the votes. He is Archimandrite Job (Getcha), a 39-year old French-Canadian intellectual of Ukrainian origin, with ties to the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church, part of the Confederation of the Russian Orthodox Church. The other candidates had been a French convert from Cistercian monasticism, a virtually unknown Greek and an even more unknown Russian.

In Fr Job, the seventh hierarch of Rue Daru, the new world has taken over from the old world. This is the opposite of recent history, when the old world Paris jurisdiction colonised the former Metropolia in new world North America and created there the so-called OCA (‘Orthodox Church in America’). This is a small group of Russian/Uniat origin which does have sincere and pious members, but which is not recognised as canonical by most Local Orthodox Churches. Sadly it has also blazed a trail of scandals – to the great sorrow of those much mistreated sincere and pious members. After decades of anti-monastic ideology, Rue Daru had simply run out of candidates to be bishop. Its last four bishops numbered two converts from Catholicism, who tried to be Orthodox but never really managed to, and two widowed priests. Now in Fr Job it has a chance.

Ever since Rue Daru went into schism from both parts of the Russian Church in the 1920s, it has always been a small, Paris-centred group run by laypeople, usually freemasons. In the 1980s, we discovered to our shock that seven out of twelve laymen who composed the Archdiocesan Council were freemasons. This was not hearsay; they openly proclaimed this, giving each other masonic handshakes in church. Many of their grandfathers had been freemasons in St Petersburg, so they were simply following family tradition. At that time two of their churches in or near Paris were used for masonic initiations. Again, this was not a secret or a conspiracy theory, but well-known. Openness was always a Paris-Russian virtue.

We know that Fr Job will need a strong character to stand up to this influence. We also know that he faces immense problems. Although on paper Rue Daru claims about 100 parishes, about three-quarters of these are communities less than thirty strong, many of them less than ten strong. Most of them use ‘temporary’, non-owned premises and the majority of the clergy are untrained and depend on full-time jobs or pensions to live. Probably, today, Rue Daru has fewer than 10,000 members all told.

Moreover, many of the young parishioners are newly arrived from Russia, the Ukraine and Moldova and have no loyalty to Rue Daru’s incredibly old-fashioned, highly politicised, Russophobic ideology. If the Russian Orthodox Church, either the part based in Moscow or the part based in New York, could only organise and finance the establishment of proper churches with trained clergy, these people would drift away from Rue Daru at once. Most of the vital and youthful lay forces in Rue Daru today want to live according to the Tradition of the Russian Orthodox Church and not a semi-Orthodoxy.

The financial situation is also dire. The St Sergius Theological Institute is once again facing bankruptcy, unable to pay its teaching staff and there is no longer any of the once large revenue from St Nicholas Church in Nice, which has reverted to its legal owner, the Russian Orthodox Church. The majority of the members of the church in Biarritz, also Russian Orthodox built, would also like to revert to the Russian Orthodox Church. The Cathedral on Rue Daru itself, again built by the Russian Orthodox Church, belongs to the City of Paris. Otherwise it too would probably have reverted. As regards the children of the present generation in power at Rue Daru, two have become clergy in the Russian Orthodox Church. The tide of history is clear. You cannot go on living in the Cold War past; one day you will have to face reality.

The other even greater problem facing the new Archbishop is the split in the members of the Archdiocese. The older Parisians, who mostly grew up in the 1950s and 1960s, with their ‘fraternal’ masonic ideology, want to stay with the Patriarchate of Constantinople, where they are free to ‘innovate’ i.e. to ‘new calendarise’, uniatise, westernise and secularise their Orthodox heritage, as have done their idols in North America and Finland. As one of their priests in Engalnd (like many of them, until recently an Anglican vicar) told me. ‘We are glad we have no bishop; it means that we can do whatever we like’.

‘Whatever we like’ ranges from ‘charismatic’ type practices (calling out names for prayer during the Liturgy), renovationist Proskomidias in the middle of the church, having women in the altar with, of course, uncovered heads and wearing trousers, intercommunion, obligatory communion at every liturgy for all, no fasting, no confession ever, ordination of the divorced and remarried, loss of liturgical tradition etc). This is not invented; here in England we see scandalised refugees from such modernist ‘churches’ virtually every Sunday.

It is now ten years since Patriarch Alexei II of the Russian Orthodox Church at last proposed setting up a Russian Orthodox Metropolia of Western Europe, of which the faithful Orthodox parts of Rue Daru could play an important role. Such a Metropolia would become the foundation of a future Western European Orthodox Church and was first proposed at least as early as the 1980s. Since the tragic death of Archbishop Sergius of Rue Daru in 2003, this hope has come to nothing. Meanwhile the Russian Orthodox Church has opened a seminary in Paris and there are plans, very delayed after a strange secular design was fortunately rejected, to build a Russian Orthodox Cathedral there, the spiritual centre of this future Western European Metropolia.

Fr Job became a full monk at the Athonite monastery of Pere Placide Deseille in France in 1998. Fr Placide, a well-known Patristics expert and authentic monk, is well-known for his desire to see the Rue Daru jurisdiction return to its Russian Mother-Church, as also the late Patriarch Dimitrios of Constantinople desired. Fr Job has diplomatic abilities, which have been sorely lacking at Rue Daru in recent years. Does he have the will and strength of character to guide his divided flock back to canonicity? Or does he side with ecumenist and modernist dissidents and even renegades who wish to remain outside the Russian Church? We do not know. But we do suspect that this Godsend from Franco-Ukrainian Canada really is the last chance for Rue Daru and that Fr Job needs all our prayers. May God guide him and protect him.