On the African Schism

With thanks to our old friend, Fr George Maximov

Nearly two years after the Patriarchate of Alexandria was browbeaten and bribed into recognising the schismatic, Phanariot-sponsored group of Epiphanius Dumenko in the Ukraine, the September Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church decided to take action. It would examine the possibility of opening an Exarchate for Africa.

This decision came, not because the Russian Church had ever sought jurisdiction in Africa, but because it had received dozens of requests from African clergy, desiring to leave the schismatic Patriarchate of Alexandria. Some are still surprised by this and doubt whether the Russian Church has the right to open an African Exarchate. Surely, they say, Africa is the canonical territory of the Patriarchate of Alexandria? In any case, they object, how can the Russian Church accept African clergy without letters of release from their bishops?

First of all, according to Canon VI of the First Universal Council and Canon II of the Second Universal Council, Alexandria has jurisdiction only over Egypt, Ethiopia and Libya. And indeed, this remained the case right up to 1926, when the lamentable freemason, Patriarch Melitios (Metaksakis), kicked out of Constantinople, changed the title of his Patriarchate and claimed for it ‘All Africa’. This fact is obvious from history, as we know that there used to be other Local Churches in Africa, notably the Latin-speaking Church in Carthage and North-West Africa (St Cyprian and the berber Blessed Augustine). The unilateral decision of 1926 was never ratified by any other Orthodox in a conciliar manner and indeed it was accepted by Constantinople only in the 1970s in a diplomatic compromise.

Already on 26 December 2019, in view of the Alexandrian schism, the Russian Orthodox Church had decided to take all Russian parishes ‘on the Continent of Africa’, including that in Cairo, Egypt, out of the jurisdiction of Alexandria and make them stavropegic under the Russian Church. Therefore, it can be said that even two years ago the Russian Church opened parishes in Africa. So when dozens of priests and parishes of black Africans, and not Russians, asked to join it, so removing themselves from schism, why did the Russian Church refuse them for two long years? Because it is racist? Obviously not. However, there was hesitation about the question of letters of release. As everybody knows, clergy cannot join another Local Church without such letters.

Here of course, as we know very well in England today, there is the question of episcopal schism. The Church Fathers affirm that salvation is impossible in a situation of schism. Even in the 20th century, St Hilarion (Troitsky) wrote that to fall into schism, heresy and a sect is spiritual death (1). As we well know in our little island today. And Canon II of the Council of Antioch affirms that we are to have no concourse with those in schism and that if we do, we ourselves will be tainted by their schism. As St John Chrysostom says in his well-known words: ‘To create a division in the Church is a no lesser evil than to fall into heresy – the sin of schism is not washed away even by the blood of martyrdom’ (2).

Indeed, Canon VI of the Second Universal Council draws a parallel between heretics and schismatics. In this situation, how can the Russian Church allow the unwilling to remain in schism? Yes, diplomacy exists, but there is also the matter of principle of canonical, dogmatic and pastoral truth. And since not a single bishop of the Patriarchate of Alexandria has been brave enough to stand up to Patriarch Theodore and repent, what else can the Russian Church do than take these poor priests and people into its jurisdiction?

Notes:

  1. St Hilarion (Troitsky) https://azbyka.ru/otechnik/Ilarion_Troitskij/o-zhizni-v-tserkvi-i-o-zhizni-tserkovnoj/
  2. St John Chrysostom https://bible-teka.com/zlatoust/56/