The Russian Orthodox Church from Moscow now has six active bishops in Western Europe: Archbishop Simon of Brussels and Belgium; Archbishop Elisei of the Hague and the Netherlands; Bishop Nestor of Paris, France, Spain and Portugal; Bishop Tikhon of Podolsk for Germany; Bishop Antony of Italy, Austria and Hungary; Bishop Matvei for the British Isles and Ireland. The Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) has only three bishops. Moreover, one of them, the elderly Archbishop Mark, may retire to Mt Athos, as he already expressed the desire several times over the last two years, leaving only two ROCOR bishops in Western Europe.
We know that one day a Russian Orthodox Metropolia of Europe will be formed, though we do not know when or who will be the Metropolitan. Nobody knows what the future will bring, but perhaps it could be something like this: The Paris-born ROCOR Archbishop Michael (Donskov – formerly of Geneva) could become Metropolitan of Paris and Western Europe. The ROCOR Archbishop Agapit of Stuttgart could look after the 50 ROCOR parishes in Germany, Austria and Denmark. Then ROCOR could appoint deans for its parishes in shared territories such as Switzerland, under the supervision of the Metropolitan, who would in any case care for the ROCOR parishes in France and Benelux.
In such a case, the much younger Bishop Nestor of Paris could become bishop at the restored Cathedral in Nice, remaining the closest advisor and then successor to Metropolitan Michael. From Moscow it would be necessary to appoint three more bishops: one in Vienna for historic Austria-Hungary, leaving Bishop Antony to look after the 70 or so parishes in Italy; one in Madrid for Spain and Portugal, leaving Bishop Nestor to look after France; and one for Scandinavia, perhaps in Helsinki, where there is a desperate need for a missionary bishop of the Russian Orthodox Tradition, looking after the many Russians in Finland, as also in Sweden, Norway and Iceland.
This would create a Metropolia of eleven bishops, nine from Moscow and two, including the Metropolitan, from ROCOR. Of course, there are many practical and financial problems and many points here may be quite, quite unrealistic. Only those in charge can see the big picture. There are also many variations. For example, in the British Isles and Ireland if Moscow blessed it, ROCOR could permanently appoint a bishop from the USA to look after all the parishes there. Or, in the case of a retirement, the Netherlands Diocese could take over parishes in northern Belgium, those in southern Belgium joining the French diocese. But not as we will, or imagine, but as God wills.
Archpriest Andrew Phillips M.A. (Oxon), Cert. Theology (Paris)
Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR)
Member of the ROCOR/Patriarchal Commission for the Diaspora
Representative for Western Europe of the ROCOR Missionary Department
Member of the Ecclesiastical Court of the ROCOR Diocese of the British Isles
Member of the Theological Committee of the Orthodox Bishops in the British Isles