Tag Archives: Canonicity

Five Years of Schisms: The Church Torn by Needless Divisions

2024 opens in sadness for all the Local Orthodox Churches.

In 2021 well over half the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) Diocese in England left that New York-based branch of the Moscow Patriarchate. This was because of the new ROCOR schism against the Western European Archdiocese (WEA) branch of the same Moscow Patriarchate. The Archdiocese had accepted a Roman Catholic priest into its clergy in the normal Russian Orthodox way, by confession and concelebration. However, for that reason the new American ROCOR, strongly old calendarist and imposing a quite outrageous and very aggressive policy of Americanisation, to the point of imposing the American language (!), had broken off communion with the WEA. This was unthinkable under the old Russian European ROCOR. This schism then spread Europewide under another ex-Lutheran ROCOR bishop. And then the whole ROCOR Synod backed up its young, inexperienced and non-seminary trained American bishop, ‘converted’ from Lutheranism, who had instigated the schism.

In the meantime, the Moscow Mother-Church, of both ROCOR and the Western European Archdiocese, remained silent, for unexplained reasons known only to itself. Church discipline appeared and appears to be breaking down. However, any number of Orthodox bishops fell over themselves, and are still falling over themselves (too late), to receive the group of six parishes, including with by far the largest church, the senior priest of the Diocese (with nearly forty years of conscientious service), several other clergy and 5,000 people who left ROCOR on account of the American schism. This group are now thriving in the canonical Patriarchate of Romania, despite the absurd ‘suspensions’ and ‘defrockings’, with which they were punished by ROCOR after being received into the Romanian Church. Their position was all about standing up for the Orthodox Truth, canonical Church practice and generations of faithfulness to Russian Orthodoxy.

This is perhaps the fifth time (or is it more?) that ROCOR has faced schisms on account of its adoption of and (too late) abandonment of old calendarist positions on the reception of Non-Orthodox by rebaptism. All these occasions go back to its contamination by the fanatical Greek old calendarist ideology, with its easily identifiable convert language movement (‘Pascha’ for Easter, ‘Nativity’ for Christmas, ‘hierarch’ for bishop, ‘temple’ for church, ‘chant’ for sing etc), in the 1960s. The best-known occasions were perhaps the Guildford (England) schism of 1976, the Boston schism of 1986 and then the multiple schisms of 2007, including that of the Brookwood monastic community and London convent in England at that time.

In any case, the 2021 scandal in England spread back to North America. It turns out that there at least one ROCOR bishop there had actually been receiving unrebaptised Orthodox converts from Non-Orthodoxy by rebaptism, even though these converts (surely, by now former converts?) had been inside the Orthodox Church and receiving communion for years! This is despite the Nicene Creed, which states: ‘I believe in one Baptism for the remission of sins’. The ROCOR Synod appears to be in chaos, split down the middle. Not only does it face responsibilities for its uncanonical actions in England, but also in North America.

Here the recent concelebration of Fr Alexander Belya, (now again bishop-elect) with the Romanian Orthodox Church also has to be faced by the split ROCOR Synod. Fr Alexander, a former ROCOR priest chosen by the ROCOR Synod to be bishop and then suddenly dropped and ‘defrocked’ (!), was persecuted by the ROCOR Synod for still unknown reasons (the court case for libel is ongoing). Before being ‘defrocked’, he had already joined the Patriarchate of Constantinople with a large group of similarly appalled ex-ROCOR clergy and some 20 parishes. His concelebration with the Romanian Church means that, yet again, the Romanian Church does not recognise the actions of ROCOR. The latter is proving to be yet another (irrelevant) irritant to the Romanian Patriarch, who ignores all the increasingly strange letters from the New York group. The Moscow Mother-Church can be none too happy with its New York representatives who are discrediting themselves and the whole Russian Church through their eccentric, indeed scandalous, conduct and persecution of the faithful.

The latest twist to this sorry rebaptism saga is the case of at least one priest of the Antiochian Diocese in England, a certain Fr Matei. Having freely joined the Antiochian Diocese relatively recently, he decided that his bishop (and presumably therefore all Antiochian bishops) are heretical and stopped commemorating him. This was because this bishop follows the Orthodox practice of receiving Protestants who have been baptised by water in the Name of the Holy Trinity, by chrismation. (This is the normal practice of 1,000 Orthodox bishops – the opposite of the abnormal and new ROCOR practice). On top of this, this Fr Matei objects to the old Antiochian practice of giving Non-Chalcedonians communion, which is also a practice of the Patriarchate of Constantinople.

Although all the Local Churches receive Protestant converts by chrismation, they do not give communion to Non-Chalcedonians. However, they do accept that Antioch and Constantinople do this as their local practice, and that is no reason to break off communion with them. What is very strange is that Fr Matei objects to these practices, as he must surely have known that these are old-established Antiochian practices from long before he so recently joined the Antiochian Diocese. (Here we see the other side of the coin to the ROCOR rebaptism schism, which is a recent innovation and quite unheard of in the old ROCOR in Western Europe). Nevertheless, in the USA, there are now other Antiochians who have suddenly woken up to the reality of long-held Antiochian practices and object to them. Where they have been all these decades remains a mystery.

All of this comes against the background of the 2018 schism between the Russian Church and various Greek Churches, such as the Patriarchates of Constantinople and Alexandria, as well as with individuals in the Greek and Cypriot Orthodox Churches, who supported setting up a fake Church on age-old Russian Orthodox canonical territory. As one correspondent has put it: ‘This is worse than Protestant dissension’.

Clearly, the solution to reverse this chaos is for all to return to canonical practices, namely of:

  1. Not setting up ‘Churches’ on the canonical territory of other Local Churches.
  2. Not refusing to concelebrate with and not breaking off communion with others because of their different practices regarding the reception of Non-Orthodox.
  3. Refusing to rebaptise those who have already been received by another Local Orthodox Church and who have taken communion in it.
  4. Suspending and defrocking only priests who have committed criminal acts (usually, the theft of money or property, or else who work as spies for the CIA or other spy agencies), or who have committed immoral acts (heterosexual, homosexual, or even pedophile), and not because priests refuse not to concelebrate with canonical Orthodox, or because they profess political opinions and vote for political parties, different from those of their bishop. (This, apparently, is considered to be disobedience and is therefore ‘uncanonical’!!).
  5. Suspending and defrocking bishops for criminal or immoral acts, instead of protecting them (for example the late Archbishop Nathanael of Vienna, (ROCOR)), Metropolitan Joseph of the Antiochian Archdiocese in North America. Apart from them, there are other immoral, homosexual and even pedophile bishops of all nationalities, who (out of jealousy?) persecute heterosexual priests and laymen who have normal family lives.

But will any of this return to canonical practices take place?

Reflections on the New Offer to Join the Moscow Patriarchate

On Saturday 11 November 2023 we were asked by a bishop of the Moscow Patriarchate if our group of six parishes and 5,000 parishioners would like to transfer from the Patriarchate of Romania to the Moscow Patriarchate. He has told us that this can be arranged, apparently following new instructions from the now besieged Moscow, backtracking from the past. Here is our answer, reprinted and updated from 20 February 2022:

 

Even if I look at the situation as an outsider, just objectively, it will seem absurd, unthinkable and outrageous. There is a very small ROCOR diocese covering a sizeable part of Europe. Its bishop created a schism, causing a lot of damage and pain to many faithful and clergy, including to some widely-known priests. And its American Synod is paralysed due to Metr. Hilarion’s illness (dementia and cancer). And there is the Moscow Patriarchate, the main centre, which can take steps and heal the schism any time, and punish its instigator, any time it wishes. But, instead, it coldly and calmly observes the situation, pretending to ignore it, and in effect taking the perpetrator’s side, without protecting the suffering faithful and clergy. How does it look after that? As if the main centre is afraid of the instigator. Even if you look at this as a pure outsider, its behaviour appears absurd and far from Christian.

From a Correspondent in Moscow, February 2022

 

Many untruths, slander, vilification and much misinformation have been posted about us on the internet over the last thirty months. It is the same vilification as led to the unjust suspension of the great St John of Shanghai in his time, sixty years ago. These postings have clearly been centrally organised. Other lies, or simply misunderstandings, will follow.

This whole affair has been a story of bullying and then betrayal. Throughout the several months of this affair, a certain young, inexperienced and non-seminary trained neophyte bishop, formerly a tutor in a Roman Catholic college in the City of Oxford, has consistently portrayed our departure from the Russian Church as a ‘personal rebellion’. He did this in order to portray himself in a good light and to minimise the gravity of the situation, in which he has lost over half his diocese in the British Isles.

On 23 August 2021 16 clergy left ROCOR in the British Isles in all. True, three of them were Western rite and they are not involved in our group, now that we have been forced into leaving the Russian Church. The annual throughput of our six parishes (excluding the Western rite ones) is about 5,000 Orthodox.

This was never a ‘personal rebellion’, but the collective decision to reject the ROCOR schism from the MP Archdiocese of Western Europe on the issue of rebaptism, which began over a year ago in Cardiff and has now spread throughout both ROCOR dioceses in Western Europe.

ROCOR’s excessive reactions were caused by what really lies behind his attitude: the determination to seize our properties and extract more money from us by bullying over the last four years. We resisted this, but never dreamed of leaving his jurisdiction for reasons of disputes about property ownership, or his bullying, negativity and spectacular rudeness. We consider that you can only canonically leave a jurisdiction in cases of episcopal heresy, episcopal schism or episcopal attempts to force people into acts of gross immorality.

That very young and untrained bishop managed to offend everyone in our multinational group.

He offended our Russian core by writing the most untruthful and unChristian personal attacks against the popular Fr Andrew Phillips on the internet over the last thirty months. As one of our parishioners said: ‘Everyone who knows Fr Andrew and the other 25 members of his family knows all that to be lies. He is a well-known figure internationally, tireless worker for Russian Church unity over the decades, writer, hagiographer, European cultural historian, author of the Services to All the Saints of the Isles (of the North Atlantic) and to All the Saints of the Western\ Lands, and the greatest Russophile you can find in England, who has been faithful to the Russian Church despite continual persecution for nearly fifty years. Unlike his bishop, he speaks and writes fluent Russian and he does not tell Russians to ‘learn English’, so they can speak to him. If the Russian Church rejects him, it will have no friends left in Western Europe. What an appalling way to treat people who have sacrificed their whole lives for the Russian Church’.

The young neophyte bishop then offended the Romanians, telling them to their face that he did not like them and then offended  the Moldovans that he only half-liked them and then forbade them from kneeling on Sundays, something that Orthodox in Moldova have been doing for centuries.

He offended the Greeks by telling them publicly that they must not venerate the icon of St Sophrony, whom Fr Andrew knew well and who was also forced to leave the Moscow Patriarchate because of persecution, and that their Greek Patriarch is ‘possessed’.

He offended the French, with whom he communicates by Google translator, by excommunicating members of their family and friends of 50 years standing who live in France and have always belonged to the Western European Archdiocese of the Moscow Patriarchate. For decades Fr Andrew had battled for this Archdiocese to rejoin the Russian Church and he with others had been successful in this.

He offended the English in an act of swaggering American imperialism and crass cultural insensitivity by insisting that they speak American English, instead of their own native English, which they had been using in the Orthodox context for long before he had been born.

He insisted that we left ROCOR without letters of canonical leave. At any point he could have written those letters in a matter of 15 minutes. Although these letters were politely requested on several occasions by Metr Jean and then by Metr Joseph, he refused to write them. However, in reality no letters of canonical leave were ever necessary, since clergy do not need letters of canonical leave in order to quit a bishop who is in schism (Canon XV of the First and Second Council held under St Photius the Great).

After Metr Jean of the Moscow Patriarchal Archdiocese of Western Europe was forced, stabbed in the back by a certain MP Metropolitan (even younger than nearly all our children), to abandon us on 10 February 2022, with the words ‘I could not care less about them’, We discussed what to do. Tired of the utter divisiveness and sectarianism of the Russian Church, whose bishops are out of communion even with each other, we as a group considered offers from various Local Churches to join them.

We decided for the following reasons to join the Romanian Orthodox Church:

The Romanian Church is in communion with everyone. They are not involved in the Russian-Greek dispute, which began in the Ukraine and has already spread to Africa and elsewhere, isolating the Russian Church.

Over 60% of all Orthodox in England are Moldovans or Romanians. They have an Autonomous Synod of seven Bishops for Western and Southern Europe, nearly 700 parishes, a large number of parishes and two monasteries. No Local Church will ever be formed in the British Isles and Ireland without this majority.

Among our 13 clergy are two Moldovan priests, one Romanian priest, one Moldovan deacon, one Moldovan reader and one Romanian reader. Thus, nearly half our clergy are Romanian-speaking.

The majority of our people are Moldovans or Romanians. As we have so many Moldovans, Ukrainians and Russians, we remain on the old calendar and all our liturgical customs, with the full blessing of Metr Joseph. Nothing changes. Effectively we are a Diaspora part of the Metropolia of Bessarabia, which is under the Patriarchate of Romania.

There are 30,000 Moldovans in Essex and East London who have been pastorally neglected. We have a pastoral duty towards them.

All our six parishes and twelve clergy were received into the Patriarchate of Romania in just four hours on 16 February 2022, with the help of the leading Professor of Canon Law of the Patriarchate of Romania.

We believe that the four very aggressive clerical personalities in the Russian Church who are entirely responsible for the divisions and who have either created or else supported sectarian division inside it will in time be removed.

Then will have to begin the work of re-establishing canonical, and not political, principles of action. The present situation leaves the Russian Church in Western Europe in a state of three jurisdictions, divided and feeling betrayed. It has created great scandal among the people who can only see warring, aggressive and bullying bishops. This is all because of the lack of conciliarity between the three Russian jurisdictions. They ask: ‘Are those bishops even Christians?’

This whole intra-Russian situation reflects the wider and scandalous divisions between the Local Orthodox Churches, which can only be overcome through a return to canonical, and not political, practices, to be re-established by a Council of the whole Orthodox Church.

20 February 2022

This very cruel rejection and betrayal by the Russian Church of its greatest Non-Russian friends in the United Kingdom, ourselves, after nearly fifty years of faithfulness, has led to a spiral of departures from it caused by further astounding acts of Russian nationalism, resulting in November 2023 in its now disastrous situation in the Ukraine, Latvia and Moldova. In the last case, senior priests are now pleading with their Metropolitan to lead the remains of his Church and follow the 30% who have already left it into the Patriarchate of Romania (See the article below, Metropolitan Vladimir….). This is exactly what we did first, over twenty months ago on 16 February 2022, fleeing schism, sectarianism, cultishness, phariseeism, censoriousness, bigotry, greed, sheer lack of love and lack of pastoral care. We fled a very young, inexperienced neophyte bishop who knew very little about the realities of Orthodoxy, only bookish theories, and did not understand even the language of his Russian clergy and people. As by far the senior and most experienced priest in his diocese and financially and morally independent, I had the responsibility and duty of leading the exodus across the Red Sea of his old calendarist schism. What began then has now developed into the heresy (I do not use that word lightly) of the rebaptism of Orthodox who wish to join ROCOR. As the proverb says: ‘Those who sow the wind shall reap the whirlwind’.

City of Colchester

13 November 2023

 

Metropolitan Vladimir convenes a meeting with all the deacons, after receiving the letter from the priests from Botanica

On Thursday, at the Metropolia of Chisinau and All Moldavia, a meeting is to be held with all the archpriests and abbots of monasteries subordinate to Metropolitan Vladimir, at which the proposal of some priests regarding the in corpore accession of this Church structure to the Patriarchate will most likely be discussed in Romanian.

According to the priest Pavel Borsevschi, the Metropolitan convened the meeting, after receiving today the letter from the clerics of the Botanica Deanery of Chisinau, which urges him to switch to the Romanian Orthodox Church.

A single priest from the II Deanery of the Archdiocese of Chisinau spoke out against the accession of the Metropolia of Moldova to the Romanian Patriarchate. The Dean of Botanica, priest Pavel Borșevschi, said this for Jurnal.md. We mention that 30 churches from the Botanica Deanery, but also from the villages of Sângera, Revaca, Băcioi, Străsiteni and Brăila are part of the II Deanery of the Archdiocese of Chisinau.

“The letter is signed by most of the priests in the diocese. We do not propose to join the Metropolia of Bessarabia, but we demand that the entire Metropolia, as a canonical structure, led by Metropolitan Vladimir, renounce the Russian Church and Patriarch Kyrill and come under the jurisdiction of the Romanian Patriarchate. We cannot be in a church where the Patriarch blesses his priests to pray for the victory of the Russian army over Ukraine, which is our suffering sister. We have just had a war in Transnistria, with the blessing of Patriarch Alexiy II. In such cases, when we say “victory”, we are talking about humiliation. It is something that cannot be explained from a Christian point of view.

When he received the letter, the Metropolitan did not tell us either yes or no, but decided to summon all the deacons and abbots of the monasteries on Thursday to discuss this issue. I don’t think he has any reason to disagree with us, based on his letter to Patriarch Kyrill and considering that this opinion is not only ours, the priests’, but also that of the religious community, which we shepherd” . priest Pavel Borševschi reported.

We remind you that, on September 5 Metropolitan Vladimir addressed a letter to Patriarch Kyrill, in which he informs him that he cannot do anything to stop the rise of the Metropolia of Bessarabia in the Republic of Moldova and that the Russian Church is perceived in society as an outpost of the Kremlin and a supporter of the Russian intervention in Ukraine. The letter also states that “the people of Moldova have Latin roots and it is perfectly normal to aspire to remain in this civilizational space, after centuries of artificial division”.

A Public Letter of Support to Archbishop Jean Renneteau of Rue Daru

La diaspora russe, toutes jurisdictions confondues, avait une mission très simple: de rester fidèle à la tradition russe malgré la servitude involontaire de l’episcopat de l’Eglise russe en URSS et en même temps d’apporter la lumière de l’Orthodoxie aux indigènes dans leurs langues occidentales. Les meilleurs représentants de chaque jurisdiction de la diaspora ont fait précisément cela. On peux penser à St Jean de Changhaï de l’Eglise hors Frontieres et à son fils spiritual, l’archévêque Antony de Genève, à Mgr Basile Krivosheine du patriarchat de Moscou à Bruxelles, ou encore à l’archévêque Georges Tarassoff de la Rue Daru (un saint à mon avis; à quand sa canonisation?).

A chaque fois que l’on ne respectait pas la fidèlité à la tradition russe et à la mission dans les langues locales, on se vouait au suicide spiritual. Nous l’avons bien vu avec Mgr Georges Wagner à la Rue Daru, qui détestait l’utilisation des langues locales et a ainsi perdu beaucoup de clergé et de fidèles (par exemple l’actuel Mgr Athénagore (Peckstadt), l’archiprêtre Nicolas Soldatenkoff, l’archimandrite Georges (Leroy) et nous-mêmes, ou à la tentative de Mgr Georges Grabbe de l’EORHF aux Etats-Unis qui avait esssayé de faire de l’Eglise un outil politique et sectaire de la guerre froide, ou à des individus du patriarchat de Moscou, qui, privés du troupeau russe politiquement disaffecté, avaient essayé de recruter des ouailles parmi des occidentaux naïfs avec des résultats lamentables.

Ma matouchka Sabine, (née Sardo), était présente à la Crypte lors de la réception de l’actuel Mgr Jean Renneteau en 1974, qui a été ensuite ordonné par Mgr Georges Tarassoff. Nous le soutenons sans réserve. Il faut que la Rue Daru retourne a l’Eglise-Mère, après avoir perdu son chemin après le décés de Mgr Georges Tarassoff en 1981. L’Eglise hors frontières a fait cette expérience il y a 12 ans et ainsi a affirmé notre victoire contre le sectarisme style vieux-calendariste qui avait infiltré l’EORHF aux Etats-Unis. Aujourd’hui l’EORHF devient l’Eglise orthodoxe du monde anglo-saxon. Depuis peu c’est le patriarchat de Moscou qui a établi son Exarchat de l’Europe Occidentale à Paris, avec bientôt des centaines de paroisses, et devient l’Eglise de l’Europe continentale. C’est maintenant à la Rue Daru, quoique devenue petite, de faire partie de cet Exarchat de l’Europe continental et de lui apporter son expérience pastorale.

L’archiprêtre Andrew Phillips, Angleterre (ancien de Saint Serge)

Questions and Answers February 2019

Moscow/Constantinople

Q: What would you answer to those who claim that the present problems between the Patriarchates of Constantinople and Moscow regarding the Ukraine are simply an ethnic problem?

A: No, it is not an ethnic problem, it is a dogmatic problem. It is all about faithfulness to Orthodoxy, that is, to the Oneness, Holiness, Catholicity and Apostolicity of the Church.

Just imagine if the Russian Church had backed atheist-promoted modernists in Constantinople against its persecuted Patriarch (as Constantinople did in the 1920s in Russia against the heroic missionary Patriarch St Tikhon), interfered in the internal affairs and territories of other Local Churches, insisted on a racist and nationalistic ethos and so had opposed itself to any missionary, apostolic work and multinational activity, had fallen away from the Orthodox calendar, messed about with the Liturgy, canonized dubious political figures, promoted freemasonry, practised simony, preached ecumenism and semi-Catholicism (as Constantinople had already done in the fifteenth century), got itself paid by the US State Department, but the Church of Constantinople had remained faithful to the Orthodox Tradition. In that case we would be supporting the Church of Constantinople and not the Church of Russia. Canonical crimes are canonical crimes, regardless of the ethnicity of the culprits.

Moreover, it is now clear that Constantinople will not repent, as it is still justifying its outrageous acts. It is even going to sack the old bishops and appoint new Bartholomew-esque bishops in North America, Australia and the UK and so everywhere dig an abyss between itself and us Orthodox. Therefore, it is clear that this schism is at least semi-permanent. Only repentance on the part of the proud of Constantinople can overcome the problem they have caused and there is absolutely no sign of this at present.

Therefore, given the paralysis and irresponsibility of others, the Russian Church is now reorganizing its administration of the Non-Orthodox world, as in the now 15 countries in the Russian Orthodox Western European Exarchate. (Since the Synod on 26 February Malta has been added to it, leaving only the five Nordic countries and Germany, Austria and Hungary to be added in due course). The same thing is happening in the Russian Orthodox South-East Asian Exarchate with its Metropolitan of Singapore and now four dioceses, Singapore, Korea, Thailand and the Philippines and Vietnam. South Asia, mainly India and Pakistan, is at present a no-go area. (South-West Asia is largely the canonical territory of Antioch, as Africa is that of Alexandria, just as North Asia is Russian canonical territory). In the remaining continents of the New World, maybe we shall one day see a Russian Exarchate for Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean and possibly another for South America, leaving the rest of North America and Oceania to ROCOR, if competence is shown.

Thus, all faithful Orthodox of all nationalities will end up independent but in association with the Russian Church. This will recreate the canonical situation in North America before 1917, with all Orthodox united within the Russian Church, before Constantinople introduced division with its ‘jurisdiction’ 100 years ago. Only the modernists in the Local Churches will go under Constantinople. The tiny, modernist and unfaithful minority who want a Protestant, ‘reformed’ Orthodoxy, a Traditionless, gutless and saintless Halfodoxy, disunited, unholy, uncatholic and unapostolic, will follow the schismatics. This is simply a falling away from the Orthodox Church. In these latter times the chaff is being separated from the wheat. This is not some ethnic dispute, where there is truth on both sides, but a dispute in which there is right and wrong, Thirteen Local Churches against One evildoer. This is the great cleansing we have been awaiting for so long, the tares are leaving us.

Q: What is your policy regarding those who frequent churches under Constantinople and who want to take communion and other sacraments in the Russian Church? Do you refuse them?

A: Certainly not! We do not punish the people for the anti-canonical actions of an elderly US-run Turkish Patriarch, whom they never chose. As long as the Russian Church does not have a full network of parishes in the Diaspora, catering for all the faithful of all languages, we will give the sacraments to those who have no choice but to attend nearby Constantinople churches at times, even though they know that their Patriarchate is utterly wrong. Of course, if there are actually those among them who consciously support their Patriarch, then we cannot have communion with them because they are enemies of the Church of God. But such extremists do not approach the Russian Church anyway.

Q: The Patriarchate of Constantinople has only one Western Diocesan bishop, Metropolitan Athenagoras in Belgium. Will he stay with Constantinople?

A: This is none of my business, though I know that he fully shares in the Phanariot ideology. I also note that the only Non-Diocesan Western bishop under Constantinople, Metr Kallistos (Ware), has not expressed any indication that he will move either.

I remember Metr Athenagoras in the 70s when he was a young layman. He and his family left Rue Daru for the Greeks of Constantinople, if I remember rightly, in 1987, after the whole Bruges convert parish (and Peckstadt family) was mistreated by the tyrannical and unjust German Archbishop of Rue Daru, George (Wagner). (He was an ex-Catholic, who managed to alienate Russians with his Russophobia and Western Orthodox with his refusal to recognize any liturgical languages apart from Greek, Latin and Slavonic!! What a disaster – really Rue Daru never recovered from this German intellectual. I witnessed all this first-hand).

At that time the Bruges parish could have joined Moscow, though many of the Moscow bishops outside Russia were very corrupt. (I can still remember how in 2003 the Sourozh Diocese Cathedral was still refusing to have any icon of the Royal Martyrs (‘there is no space for them’, as they so eloquently said, in fact not about their empty walls, but about their empty hearts), even though Moscow had at last canonized the New Martyrs and was negotiating with ROCOR, and how that Cathedral also refused to sell books written by Fr Seraphim (Rose), who was very popular inside Russia.

Or else the Bruges converts could have joined ROCOR. However, to accept the Tradition and disciplines of the Church in all their integrity, as is normal for ROCOR, was far too much for them. They wanted a ‘pick and choose’ Orthodoxy for the consumer age. Such converts play a fantasy game and never want the real thing, skirting around it, like people who skirt around a lighthouse and are then surprised when they are wrecked on the rocks around the lighthouse.

Rue Daru

Q: What do you think is the future for this group after their meeting on 23 February?

A: Here the chickens have come home to roost and decisions have to be made at last after so many decades of putting off the question. These decisions cannot, like Brexit, be continually put off. A few will surely join one part or another of the Russian Church (as some already have), including perhaps the elderly Archbishop Jean himself. However, most will remain under Constantinople, and a few may go off to join various curious Protestant-style or New Age sects, where some of them originally came from.

Q: Will the Rue Daru parish in Rome join ROCOR?

A: I have no idea – you must ask those involved. What I do remember is how ROCOR lost this parish to Rue Daru in 1985 through the incompetent meddling of Bishop Gregory Grabbe, who had sent an old calendarist American convert priest there (he was later defrocked, like several other convert priests whom Bp Gregory had had ordained by the innocent and naïvely pure Metr Philaret). I was there at the time and remember it well. Rue Daru at once ordained a Russian-speaking man for the Rome parish and three months later made him an archpriest (such was the favouritism of Rue Daru also!)

Politics

Q: Do you think that Brexit will happen?

A: Only if the UK is democratic will it happen. Over 45 years have already been spent in the Brussels straitjacket. On the other hand, both the EU and the UK Establishments, including the Remainer Mrs May, are against Brexit. The mere fact that the people were once allowed to express their opinion was a miracle, but since then we have seen the battle of the people against the elite and anything can happen.

Q: Why do countries which have lost their monarchy veer between left-wing and right-wing governments?

A: Because such countries get governed by ideologies/philosophies of either left or right. Whenever this happens, injustices happen because such ideologies are based on ideals, not on reality. Idealistic intellectuals (like Lenin or Hitler) are ruthless because they always force reality to fit their personal ideology, slaughtering all the millions who refuse to accept it and silencing all others by fear. We can see this on a lesser level in recent UK history with the idealistic obsessions of Thatcher (‘the free market’), Blair (meddling in other countries and starting wars) and Corbyn (Stalinist socialism). The question these ideologues never answer is: Does my ideal actually work? And by definition no ideal ever works, precisely because it is ideal, not real, not realistic, not practical. If you govern with an ideology, you will always end up being tyrannical and being hated. You have to govern with a heart.

Q: There are only two faiths in the world which have always been persecuted, Orthodoxy and Judaism. Why?

A: Because they both contain Truth. Where there is no Truth, there is never any persecution. The Truth of Judaism is that God is One and that He is sending His Son to bring justice to the world (The Second Coming). The Truth of Orthodoxy we know (The First Coming).

Worldliness in the Church

Q: Why are there so many Orthodox in the Ukraine, Russia (and maybe other parts of the world, and this may have nothing to do with just Orthodoxy, but all religions) who can be heard saying, “My believing is inside me.  I don’t believe in Church but I believe in God.  I follow Orthodox traditions and go to church sometimes.”  Is this primarily a reaction to the influence and momentum of Communism, like the saying about how the Communists almost accomplished in Russia in 70 years what the Ottoman Empire failed to accomplish in the Balkans in 400 years?

A: You are indeed quite right, this saying is very common, but it is also universal. The reason for this is corruption (’institutionalization’) in the Church; clerics turning the Church and Faith into a business, a mere religion. This makes people cynical. We need churches which are free of the tables of moneychangers and we need bishops (the simoniacs are usually Greek and Romanian) and priests whose main concern is people’s souls, not their wallets. In the West no jurisdiction is free of this; I remember the old ‘pre-Revolutionary’ ROCOR of 45 years ago – it too sometimes had this money, money mentality, which was the bane of the pre-Revolutionary Church. Our universal Russian Orthodox task is not at all the restoration of the pre-Revolutionary Church (as some very ignorant people imagine), but the cleansing of the pre-Revolutionary Church.

Therefore, this is nothing to do with Communism. We need apostolic St Pauls, who work as tentmakers, not rich bishops with fancy cars. This has been the combat of my life; it is why I do not serve in a den of corruption. I have always refused to do so and for that reason they have never wanted me.

Russian Converts

Q:  Why are there personality tensions in the Church inside Russia, for example as in the recent internet conflict between Fr Andrei Tkachov and Fr George Maximov?

A: The Church inside Russia has many converts. It sometimes reminds me of what I saw in the West in the 1970s: young women dressed in long drab dresses and young men with long beards, crosses or prayer knots on display. The neophyte mentality – imitating the external dress of monks and nuns – works regardless of nationality and even if the parents were nominal Orthodox. Converts have to show off – just like neophytes in any religion, from Islam (long beards and a uniform) to Buddhism (people dressed in saffron robes and with shaven heads). It is converts who create this hothouse mentality, usually on the internet. It is all so immature. It is time for teenagers to grow up.

The Future

Q: When will there be a new Tsar in Russia?

A: It is vital to understand that this can only come about when Russian Orthodox are worthy of the last Tsar. You cannot have a next Tsar, if you do not love and venerate the last Tsar and all those who served him – and were martyred for it. Read what others said of the last Tsar and his family:

‘It was the holiest and purest family’. (The Tsar’s valet Volkov, when interviewed by the investigator Sokolov 100 years ago).

‘There, in that house (the Ipatiev House), blossom the great souls of Russia, smeared with the mud of politicians’. (The Holy Martyr Eugene (Botkin)).

When this happens, then we shall see headlines like this:

‘Tsar restores the unity of the Russian Lands’.

‘Christian troops from Russia liberate Eastern Europe from EU tyranny’.

‘Afghans plead with Russian Imperial forces to free them’.

‘Russian Tsar stands on the Mexican border and demands: ‘Tear down this wall, Mr Trump’.

Do not be surprised; everything is still possible.