Rue Daru: The Final Chapter?

The immense tension between Archbishop Job of the small Rue Daru jurisdiction in Paris and the rebels who in most unChurchlike manner oppose him, reported in the French religious media (La Croix, for example) and widely in the internet, has its roots nearly thirty-five years ago.

Then after the repose of the humble and saintly Russian-born Archbishop George (Tarasov) in 1981, the nearest I have ever had to a spiritual father, a new Archbishop was elected. This was a Berliner of a Roman Catholic and academic background, Archbishop George (Wagner). Breaking his promises to the faithful, he uniquely managed to alienate both the Russians and the Non-Russians in his jurisdiction. This he managed to do by setting himself against any return to either part of the Russian Church, which the inherently unstable Rue Daru group had left four times! (in 1927, 1931, 1935 and 1945) and at the same time most vigorously opposing the liturgical use of Western European languages and also opposing the veneration of local Western saints (as well as a few Eastern ones, who he dismissed as ‘apocryphal’, not to mention the New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia). I speak, as usual, of facts, of which we were eyewitnesses and abused victims. There is no space for polemics in this tragedy.

The very aggressive attitude against the liturgical use of Western languages was a factor in the loss of the large Ghent parish and the Peckstadt family in, I think, 1986. It went straight to the Patriarchate of Constantinople, fed up with abuse and insults from its Archbishop in Paris. They were by far from being the only ones, as we, and our children named after local Western saints, knew only too well. At a time when, after recent consultations in 2015, His Holiness Patriarch Kyrill is urging the inclusion of these very Western saints into the general Russian calendar, much as our beloved St John of Shanghai did sixty years ago, it all seems very ironic, not to say anachronistic. Such was the total lack of vision and mission of that time and the very real and unrepented for persecution against those who had either or both.

As a result of Archbishop George Wagner’s disastrous policies, control of the Rue Daru group was handed over to the masonic and Russophobic Fraternite Orthodoxe, many of whose ancestors had originally fomented the Revolution in 1917, breaking their oaths to the Tsar. I was told in 1985 by Archbishop George’s Belgian deacon that the Archbishop had been appointed by the Patriarch of Constantinople to ‘close down’ the Rue Daru group, so that it could go directly under the local Greek bishop. In my youthful naivety, I foolishly disbelieved him. He was of course right. I was told by a millionaire who later became another Rue Daru bishop that I had ‘been too close to the engine room, where it smells’. True.

Although Archbishop George died unexpectedly young in 1991, the policy of Constantinople, thoroughly logical from its own viewpoint, has not changed and indeed, in an anti-monastic Rue Daru incapable of generating a serious candidate of its own as archbishop, it has now been strengthened. The present Archbishop, the protégé of the present Patriarch of Constantinople who imposed him on his rebellious jurisdiction, is now carrying out the same policy. If Rue Daru does not want him, irony of ironies, then the under-employed Metropolitan Athenagoras (Peckstadt) in Brussels is available to take over. All the more so, as only last week he ordained a vicar-bishop for himself in Belgium, where his diocese is not much bigger than the average Russian parish.

Hellenization, the seamless merger of the Rue Daru so-called Exarchate of ‘the Russian Tradition’ (though the Russian Tradition seems largely invisible in many areas with their Greek calendar, Greek vestments and Greek liturgical customs) is the only logical outcome. Elsewhere the same thing is already being done with ACROD, the equally small American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese, which now also has a Greek bishop. Any who feel that they do not wish to become Greeks are welcome to return to the Russian Orthodox Church, whose new Paris Cathedral is opening next year, its cupolas already in place, or go and study at its seminary in Paris (now the only Orthodox seminary in Western Europe). Hopefully, the Rue Daru group will, before it finally becomes Greek, hand back Russian church property, notable on Rue Daru in Paris, in Biarritz, San Remo and Florence. After decades of neglect these churches will needs millions of euros spending on them, however, unlike some, the Russian Church will look after its heritage. So, it seems, will close the book of the history of Rue Daru.