On the Successor of St John of Shanghai and Western Europe: The Ever-Memorable Archbishop Antony of Geneva and Western Europe

The future Archbishop Antony (Bartoshevich) was born into a pious family in Saint Petersburg on 17/30 November 1910 and baptised Andrei. After the illegitimate overthrow of the Tsar and his government by Western-orchestrated traitors from the military, aristocracy and intelligentsia in 1917, Andrei’s mother left with him for his grandmother’s home in Kiev, while his father joined the White Army. In 1921 the family emigrated, first to Germany and then to Yugoslavia. Here in Belgrade Andrei had initially thought of becoming an engineer like his father, but in the mid-1930s he abandoned engineering and chose instead to study theology.

Among his teachers was Fr (now St) Justin (Popovich) (+ 1979) and his mentors included Metr Antony (Khrapovitsky), First Hierarch of the Church Outside Russia and former Metropolitan of Kiev (+ 1936). Vladyka Antony told me himself in 1986 that if the Metropolitan had not rid Russian academic theology of alien scholastic theology and the theory of satisfaction, he would not have come to serious Church life and to study theology. There was also the influence of the fathers of the Russian monastery in Milkovo and that of the icon-painter Pimen Sofronov, who taught Andrei iconography. In 1941 Andrei became a monk, taking the name Antony after St Antony of Kiev. He was soon ordained hierodeacon and in 1942 was ordained hieromonk by Metr Anastasy (Gribanovsky). He served in the Russian church in Belgrade and taught young people how to paint icons, attracting many to the Church.

In 1945 the church in Belgrade was placed under the Moscow Patriarchate. Patriarch Alexei I himself made Fr Antony archimandrite on account of his zeal. Fr Antony wished to return to Russia to serve the Church there. However, there he was unwanted, his petitions ignored – no doubt providentially, because otherwise he would have been sent straight to the Gulag. Thus, after four years of patient waiting, Fr Antony accepted that it was God’s Will for him not to return to Russia, but to serve the Church in Western Europe.

In 1949 he went to Switzerland, where his saintly brother, Bp Leonty, was Bishop of Geneva. Fr Antony served in several parishes in that Western European Diocese of the then Church Outside Russia. He painted the iconostasis for the parish in Lyon. From 1952-57 he served in Brussels, taking care of all, travelling around and paying special attention to young people. After the early repose of his brother, in 1957 Fr Antony was consecrated Bishop of Geneva by the future St John (Maximovich), who was then Archbishop of our Western European Diocese.

Archbishop Antony was a model Archpastor, he loved the services, which he celebrated with great care and prayer, and wrote for and edited the Diocesan journal. He lived as a monk, reading or singing all the services every day, fasting strictly himself, though he was always indulgent towards the weaknesses of others, and took particular care of the young. He directed pilgrimages both to the Holy Land and also to the holy places of Western Europe like Lyon, the city of several early martyrs. In this he had been inspired by his spiritual father, the future St John, who had promoted the veneration of forgotten Western saints. Archbishop Antony always listened to the advice of others, other bishops and especially Athonite monks.

While remaining firmly Orthodox in the face of such heretical deviations as ecumenism and modernism, Archbishop Antony never fell into any extremes. At the Third Russian Church Council in Jordanville in 1974, he played a critical role in quelling the divisive passions of highly politicised right-wing extremists and sectarian isolationists in the USA, among them bishops who had put St John on trial in San Francisco. One of them, a CIA agent and future ROCOR bishop, would end up dying outside the communion of the Orthodox Church altogether. On his return Vladyka Antony said, ‘If Vladyka John had been there, we would have spoken quite differently’.

Thus, Archbishop Antony kept the unity of the Church, which had been endangered by these American extremists, who had lost their roots and been manipulated by the secret services. He asked for understanding for those who were hostages in Russia and, vitally, urged all to keep close links with the other Local Churches of the Universal Church. He asked all not to look at a few individual and unworthy clerics in Russia who compromised themselves under political pressure, but to look at the faithful there, especially the New Martyrs and Confessors, as also elsewhere. (There were no martyrs in ROCOR, only in the Church inside the Soviet Union). For Vladyka the Church inside the USSR always had grace, despite unworthy ‘representatives’ there or elsewhere.

All this time he organised the sending of spiritual literature to Russia and informed the Western world of the persecution of the Church there. He knew that the Faith there was being reborn. The canonisation of the New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia in 1981 under Metropolitan Philaret of New York was a great event in Archbishop Antony’s life and he played a key role in preparing their glorification, knowing that it would be a turning-point in history. For him the prayers of these new saints would give rebirth, as indeed they did. The Saints are the Unity of the Church. After the repose of Metropolitan Philaret in 1985, many bishops hoped that Archbishop Antony would become the next Metropolitan of ROCOR and indeed he received enough support to do so at the election in 1986. Never ambitious, Vladyka did not want this, and ceded all interest to Archbishop Vitaly after a lot had been cast, as he related to me with great humour on his return from New York.

Always a man of unity, Vladyka worked hard to bring back the Rue Daru group, centred in Paris, from its division. Thus, he concelebrated at the funeral of Metropolitan Vladimir (Tikhonitsky) and always concelebrated with others of the group, as had St John (Maximovich). Indeed, when he was still Bishop Antony, he offered not to take the title ‘Archbishop’ which had been proposed, and to cede that title to the Archbishop of the Rue Daru group once it had returned. At the Third Russian Council in 1974 he authored a message to the group, calling all back to unity. In this Vladyka was well ahead of his time. As we know, the Orthodox part of the group, some 60% of what then remained of it, did indeed return to the Russian Church, but only in 2019.

Just like St John, his predecessor as Archbishop of Western Europe, Archbishop Antony was a Russian patriot, but he was not some narrow nationalist or political bureaucrat. For him the Church was universal, as it was for his mentor Metr Antony (Khrapovitsky). He would serve in the Romanian and Serbian churches in Paris (the Romanian church was under him and kept the new calendar) and loved to hear services in Greek. He was also very open to Swiss, Dutch, French and others who had embraced the Orthodox Faith and he served in French for them.

He blessed the composition of the service to all the Saints of Switzerland for local use. He is remembered for his missionary work in Western Europe, keeping peace and love in his multinational Diocese, which he expanded to Portugal in 1992. True, he was let down by some. But when in 1987 a small group of extremist French intellectual converts left him to join a sect, he said to me, with a shrug of his shoulders, ‘ We’ll just have to start again’. Perhaps his missionary consciousness was partly due to the fact that his grandfather was a Polish Roman Catholic.

Almost exactly one year before his repose, the Archbishop had said that he had only one year to live. Just two weeks before he passed away, he consecrated two new bishops to replace himself, Bishop Seraphim and Bishop Ambrose. He fell asleep in the Lord on 19 September/2 October 1993, the day when Orthodox who use the new calendar commemorate St Andrew the Fool. He was laid to rest inside the Cathedral next to his brother, Bishop Leonty. Perhaps the greatest witness to his missionary efforts was the presence of ten different nationalities among the twenty-two priests who bore at various moments his coffin at his funeral: Russian, French, Swiss, Austrian, Serb, Romanian, Dutch, English, Spanish and Slovak, many of whom he had himself ordained since becoming diocesan bishop in 1963. Sadly, most of them had been forbidden by a certain Archbishop to concelebrate at the Liturgy before the funeral. It was an ominous sign of things to come.

Vladyka Antony is remembered for his faithfulness to the end to his Diocese, his wisdom and openness to others, his love for the young, his personal generosity, warmth of character, humour, pastorship, his love of his homeland and also his efforts to spread Orthodoxy in Western Europe. Nor can we forget his efforts to rekindle the fire of uncompromised Orthodoxy inside Russia, where he was never able to return, though he often spoke of visiting, especially Kiev, where he had family. St Paisios the Athonite (+ 1994) said of him: ‘Your Antony is a hero. He is neither with the ecumenists, nor with the others’ (the sectarian zealots).

This Archpastor’s very rare values, which coincided with our own and inspired us, were:

  1. To keep the purity of Holy Orthodoxy free from political meddling and bureaucracy, from love of power and money, from both the left (modernists and syncretists) and from the right (nationalists and sectarians), keeping to the royal path of the unity of Truth and Mercy.
  2. To be faithful to the best of Imperial Russia and the spirit of the Imperial Family, who stood above petty nationalisms, narrow-minded factions and personality-cults, confessing the Faith as protectors of the unique Civilisation of the Orthodox world and standing up to be martyred when required.
  3. To remain multinational, inevitable in the Western European context, carrying out the missionary task of the Russian emigration assigned to us by Providence among the peoples of the world, in faithfulness to the words of Christ (Matt, 28, 19-20).

A spiritual son of Archbishop Antony, I was proud (in the good sense) that he before me had also been named Andrei. I have a reflex of asking myself: What would Vladyka have done? What would Vladyka have said? Those who have been fortunate enough to have a spiritual father no doubt all have the same reflex, when their spiritual father leaves this world.

Today, as we approach the 29th anniversary of his passing, it is my thought, and that of others with whom I have checked, that he would have been heartbroken by the horrible demise of parts of Russian Orthodoxy, which have failed to keep the purity of Holy Orthodoxy free from political meddling, bureaucracy and love of power and money, they have failed to be faithful to the best of Imperial Russia and the spirit of the Imperial Family, to stand above petty nationalisms, narrow-minded factions and personality-cults. and they have failed to remain multinational, carrying out the missionary task of the Russian emigration assigned to them by Providence among the peoples of the world. They have been taken over by the American spirit, exactly as Vladyka and so many of us in the 1980s and 1990s feared, which before him St John had already prophesied: ‘America is a great country, but it will be destroyed by greed for money and lust’.

Vladyka always believed in Russia and the Russian people, but he would never compromise with Sergianists, for whom he did have compassion while they were under the Soviet yoke, but he would absolutely despise those who still behave in that way when they are in freedom.  As regards the Ukraine, he said that the eastern three quarters was Russian. As for the far west, it should be handed back to Poland, from which Stalin had stolen it, causing all the problems.

Today, Vladyka’s former flock is scattered to the four winds, betrayed by those who failed to remain faithful to the traditional Russian Orthodox ethos.

To the Very Reverend and Ever-Memorable Antony, Archbishop of Geneva and Western Europe, Eternal Memory!

2 October 2022

29th Anniversary of Vladyka’s Repose