Some may be surprised to read of the existence of only two jurisdictions of Russian Orthodoxy outside the canonical territory of the Russian Orthodox Church (the ex-Soviet Union minus Georgia, plus Japan and China). They say: Surely there are three groups, since there is the Paris Jurisdiction? They forget that that jurisdiction was founded by aristocrats who, obsessed with Western Europe, hated everything Russian. So much so that it betrayed the Tsar for the sake of its class privileges and in Paris exile left the Russian Church for the sake of its privileged fantasies. Thus, the Paris Jurisdiction has never been part of the Russian Church, even though it had an influence on some ex-Uniat Slavs from the former Austro-Hungarian Empire settled in the USA (now in a group called ’the OCA’). However, those who were involved are all dead now.
Today, the tiny Paris Jurisdiction, at worst, the disgruntled and dissident or, at best, the betrayed and naïve, is dying in lost relevance and lack of Tradition. It continues only as self-justification for its schism and disobedience. All the pro-Russian forces that were once in that jurisdiction have since 1989 gladly returned to one or other of the two jurisdictions of the Russian Church. Cut off and isolated, Paris has been left with nothing to say about the Russian Church. So in the context of Russian Orthodoxy outside Russia, the Paris Jurisdiction, like the North American jurisdiction that is called the OCA (Orthodox Church in America), can be ignored here, for it has for generations not been part of the Russian Church. So which are these two jurisdictions of Russian Orthodoxy outside the canonical territory of the Russian Orthodox Church?
- The Patriarchal Churches Directly Dependent on Moscow
Once upon a time this was largely an ethnic jurisdiction of those who were at times such Soviet patriots that they were even prepared to lie about the persecution of the Church inside the then Soviet Union, denying even its own martyrs. Once upon a time it contained corrupt and compromised senior figures, both inside and outside Russia, who were allowed to do anything they wanted as a result of the paralysis of the Church administration, which was under KGB surveillance and desperate for ecumenical links to counter persecution. That political enslavement is over and the compromised are dead, though one can still meet ageing individuals who live and think in the past.
A very small jurisdiction a generation ago, today it has over 300 parishes and seven bishops. Notably, it has some 35 parishes in North America, a diocese in South America, all the parishes in Thailand, other parishes scattered throughout Asia and, above all, some 250 new parishes in Western Europe. It is here that enormous growth has taken place through the economic emigration from the ex-USSR , especially from Kazakhstan, Moldova and those ethnically cleansed from the Baltic States and the Ukraine. Thus, those who always belonged to these Patriarchal churches and were both patriotically and internationally minded, their ideal being Holy Rus, have been much reinforced.
- The Patriarchal Churches Indirectly Dependent on Moscow
Once dying out, there are now nearly 600 parishes in the self-governing Church Outside Russia (ROCOR), headquartered in New York but part of the whole Russian Orthodox Church. Once, in the bad old Soviet and immediate post-Soviet days, ROCOR was providentially independent of the politically enslaved Church administration in Moscow and so the free voice of the Russian Orthodox Church. At that time,however, there were also some who belonged to ROCOR who were not so much Orthodox as simply anti-Communists. These often worked for Western spy agencies in various countries and saw the Church as a mere vehicle for their right-wing nationalist political ideology.
Obsessed and blinded by their right-wing politics, they did not understood that their work against the Soviet Union for Western spy services or propaganda agencies, like The Voice of America or the BBC, was in fact work against Russia and so against the territory of the Russian Empire. This is now history, for today the whole of the Russian Church is politically free. That situation of political enslavement is over, though one can still meet individuals who live and think in the past. On the other hand, those like the ever-memorable Metr Laurus, who belonged to ROCOR and were always both patriotically and internationally minded, their ideal being Holy Rus, have been much reinforced.
Given the fact that most of the faithful of both jurisdictions are people who have left the ex-Soviet Union since 1992 and frequent churches in both groups, why are there still two jurisdictions when there is fundamental unity under the same Patriarch? Why should past history still play a role? It plays a role because the present unity has existed for only ten years, since 2007, and not a full generation. The influence of the past will continue for some years, perhaps even for a generation, to come. What can we say of the process that will eventually lead to a seamless unity in the future? Then the existence of two jurisdictions will not depend on history, it will depend on efficiency, competence, missionary-mindedness and the decision to treat the clergy and people properly by listening to them. Incompetence will be unacceptable.
Thus, in recent years we have seen that most Russian Orthodox churches in South America have passed to being directly dependent on Moscow and not on ROCOR, whose parishes were lost because of the lack of local episcopal care. Exactly the same thing seems to be happening throughout Western Europe, where parishes directly dependent on Moscow now outnumber those indirectly dependent by three to one and the lack of episcopal understanding is losing ROCOR favour. This too is a total transformation when compared to 25 years ago. As a result, Moscow now has a clear and logical intention of setting up a Western European Metropolia based in Paris. Only in Russophobic North America and Australasia does indirect dependence still prevail. An American-based ROCOR seems to be the future: the rest will depend directly on Moscow.