Rue Daru: The End-Game

Tragically, two fragments of the Russian Orthodox Church in the emigration have still not joined the reunited Russian Orthodox Church. Her recovered unity came into being in 2007, when the Patriarchal Church inside Russia finally accepted all the conditions set it by the multinational Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR). Since that time, over five years ago, the reunited Church has gone from strength to strength, whereas the two disunited fragments, isolated from their spiritual roots, have suffered profound internal troubles and dissension.

One of the fragments, called the OCA and based in North America, has gone from one financial and moral scandal to another and has sacked two Metropolitans within that time. Its behaviour, akin to that of a secular US corporation and not to a Church, has astounded the Orthodox world. The other émigré fragment, the Paris Exarchate, based in Rue Daru in Paris, has for over twenty years been deeply divided. Like the OCA, only even smaller, it has been riven by Russophobic Western nationalism and has desperately sought to survive in its schizophrenic, self-imposed isolation.

This Paris split resembles very closely that undergone by the Sourozh Diocese in Great Britain (though outside Russia, strangely enough in the jurisdiction of the Church inside Russia). The ignoring by the Sourozh bishop and clerical and convert elite of the wishes of the trampled faithful for 25 years, resulted in 2006 in a tragic schism. In this schism, 300 mainly ex-Anglican dissidents, including their bishop, left the Russian Church and its tens of thousands of faithful in Great Britain and transferred themselves to Rue Daru. Their motivation was their inability to accept Orthodoxy, wanting instead a Protestant-style sect.

Now we are seeing the same thing again in Rue Daru. The story here is that five members of the 12-strong Diocesan Council of the Paris Exarchate, at present under the Patriarchate of Constantinople, have fallen into disagreement with their own Archbishop Gabriel. The group of five (Deacon Ioann Drobot, Karin Wothe, Basil Tiesenhausen Victor Lupan, Vadim Tichonicky), backed by many of the faithful, have even filed a lawsuit against him, the only bishop of their grouping. This extraordinary action on the part of these well-respected and long-standing members of the Church has been motivated by a profound disagreement.

This disagreement has been going on for decades. The turning-point was undoubtedly the 1988 celebration of the Thousand Years of the Baptism of Russia. Then the Rue Daru authorities turned their backs on the Russian Church and the trampled faithful, preferring instead a celebration together with the Catholic Church, of which we are eyewitnesses. Superficially, the tragic dispute has come about because Archbishop Gabriel is ill with cancer and so has not appointed a warden for the Rue Daru Cathedral. However, in reality, the problem is the underlying very deep split between two groups.

The first group consists of the ever-growing multinational group in the Exarchate who are faithful to Orthodox Christian Tradition and want to return to the reunited Mother-Church. The second group consists of French-speaking modernists who wish to remain in the Patriarchate of Constantinople, where they are free to continue to introduce modernistic innovations. The inaction of Archbishop Gabriel, whether through illness or otherwise, strangely resembles the situation of the Sourozh Diocese, where the governing elite had for 25 years also ignored the heartfelt protest of the multinational grassroots.

Twenty-one years after the fall of Communism and five years after the Patriarchal Church inside Russia finally reunited with the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR), this tragedy is now unfolding in Paris. It comes at the same time as in North America the OCA is about to elect yet another Metropolitan (there are now three who have been sacked) to lead it. It would seem that both these fragments of the emigration need our urgent prayers, that they may split no more and at last seek the cement of the Mother-Church before it is too late and they are assimilated and disappear into the Non-Orthodox mass.

Archpriest Andrew Phillips,

Colchester, England

23 October / 5 November 2012

Holy Apostle James