Tag Archives: Metropolia of Western Europe

The Great Opportunity

Put not your trust in princes, nor in the sons of men.

With the dissolution of the Rue Daru Exarchate in Paris behind the back of its ruling archbishop, the daydreams of autonomy of the ecumenist Fraternite Orthodoxe have been dashed. Now the way is at last free for the Russian Orthodox Church to establish its Local Metropolia of Western Europe. Called for by ourselves in 1988 and, much more importantly, promised by Patriarch Alexey II in 2003, it is time to move forward. With the Patriarchate of Constantinople having officially removed itself from the equation through the phyletism of ‘the superior Greek race’ which has swallowed the Paris Jurisdiction, all eyes are now looking to the Russian Orthodox Church.

The two parts of the Russian Orthodox Church in Western Europe, one attached to Moscow, the other to New York, joined by any Churchly remnants of the Rue Daru group, together can build the long-awaited multinational Church of Western Europe, which ceased to exist in 1054. Surely 964 years of patience is enough! Unlike the Phanar and others, the Russian Orthodox Church is free from the meddling US State Department. Just as in the Ukraine, it is for our free Church to take responsibility for the future of the flock, putting the Truth of God over the enfeebling diplomacy and petty nationalism of men: it has long been apparent that nobody except the Russian Church will.

Temptation and Opportunity

The recent temptation experienced by the Patriarchate of Constantinople, under intense financial and political pressure from Washington, to set up schismatic Churches under its authority in the Ukraine and (North) Macedonia, has already been publicly condemned by the Churches of Russia, Poland, Serbia, Bulgaria and Georgia. The Churches of Antioch and Czechoslovakia will no doubt agree with them, tired of past meddling from Constantinople. Thus, some 85% of the Church has stood united against uncanonical political interference.

True, the Church of Greece, also tired of past interference from Constantinople, has stood on the fence, as no doubt will the four other tiny, Greek-controlled Churches (Alexandria, Cyprus, Albania and Jerusalem, with scarcely 2 million faithful between them). The Romanian decision, like other decisions there, may perhaps be taken by the US ambassador in Bucharest. The headline, ‘Constantinople falls into schism and is isolated’ is very unlikely, for we are all hoping and praying that this temptation will be resisted by those in the Phanar.

Against this disturbing background, the foundation by the Russian Orthodox Church of an Orthodox Metropolia of Western Europe, on hold for fifteen (and more) long years, is moving forwards despite delays. A great step forward was taken last December, when new bishops were appointed in Moscow for Russian Orthodox Dioceses in Western Europe, making the Metropolia inevitable. Only details such as ROCOR participation and timing remain to be resolved. 2018 is thus becoming another turning-point in the formation of this Metropolia.

Western Europe is after all simply the westernmost tip of Northern Eurasia, 90% of which has long been the canonical territory of the Russian Orthodox Church, so that a Russian Orthodox Metropolia here is just a natural extension of this territory. It is rather like the Belarusian Exarchate, with its Metropolitan, eleven dioceses, four monasteries, seminary and five million faithful. With as many faithful, eight dioceses, monasteries and a seminary, Western Europe too will have its own Metropolitan, being the foundation of a new Local Church.

This is also like the Russian-founded Churches in Poland and in the Czech Lands and Slovakia. It may have eight dioceses: Italy and Malta; Spain, Portugal and their islands; France, southern Belgium and western Switzerland; the British Isles and Ireland; Scandinavia; Germany and German Switzerland; Dutch-speaking Benelux; Austria-Hungary. Such a Church will be a centre of resistance amidst anti-Christian and secularist Western Europe. It will be larger than the Western EU core, as it includes Norway, Switzerland, Iceland and Brexit Britian.

After all, Brexit was never an objection to Europe, but only to the political construct of the European Union. A Russian Orthodox Metropolia of Western Europe is an answer to those who want some sort of ‘Euro-Orthodoxy’ or ‘Brussels Orthodoxy’, a salt that has lost its savour, an Orthodoxy mingled with secularism, new calendarist, masonic, liberal and modernist. For this is proposed by those who want to see in the Church of God female clergy and homosexual marriage! But there is no communion between Christ and Belial, God and Mammon.

It is appropriate to consider the foundation of the Metropolia in this centenary of the martyrdom of Tsar Nicholas II. It was he who built 17 churches in Western Europe, hoping to establish a church in every Western capital, including London, for which plans had been drawn up. Speaking fluent English, French, German and Danish and married to an English-educated, Hessian grand-daughter of Queen Victoria, who fully converted to the Orthodox Faith, he well understood the need for a Russian Orthodox Church of Western Europe. As do we.


The Situation of English Orthodoxy and a Vision for the Future of Russian Orthodoxy in Europe

God is not in Might, but in Right.

St Alexander of the Neva


I have been told that, ‘I tell it as it is’. Perhaps as a result, I have been asked to write of the contemporary situation of English Orthodoxy, with particular emphasis on the tragic legacy of the late Metr Antony (Bloom) and the resulting Sourozh schism. This I will do, as I knew the Metropolitan well, some forty years ago between 1974 and 1982, and in January 1981 he tonsured me reader. I also think it is worthwhile because the past and present situation in England reflects much that is true in the broader European picture. However, I still do this reluctantly as I dislike talking about the sad past and would much prefer to talk about the future. On the other hand, how can we have a vision of the future, if we do not first understand the past and the present?

True, I have few good memories of the past. However, apart from hundreds of young parishioners, of whose children I baptize up to fifty a year, I have six adult children as well as grandchildren and it is for their future, not for my past, that I live. This is why I think we should put the situation of English Orthodoxy into the general situation of all us Russian Orthodox in Western Europe. In so doing I also wish to avoid the common English (and not so English) disease of parochialism and insularity. The past is a dead country, all we can and must do is pray with compassion for those weak human beings like us who took part in it. One day we shall all stand side by side at the Dread Judgement. Let us look to the future, where all is possible. However, before we can do this I must do my duty and start at the beginning.

Part One: The Past and Present: English Orthodoxy

Today, around two thousand English Orthodox (the numbers of Scottish, Irish and Welsh Orthodox are even tinier – there being only a few dozen of each at most) and some seventy English clergy are divided among three main jurisdictions or dioceses. The other four jurisdictions present in England, as elsewhere, the Romanian, Serbian and tiny Bulgarian and Georgian Orthodox jurisdictions, are almost wholly mononational and have hardly any English members. The three jurisdictions or dioceses with English members are: the Patriarchate of Antioch, the Patriarchate of Constantinople (two groups) and the Russian Orthodox Church (two groups).

1. The Patriarchate of Antioch

Some twenty years ago about 300 dissatisfied Anglicans were received with their own agenda into this Patriarchate. They had previously been turned away by the Patriarchate of Constantinople and by the Sourozh Diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church, which were both bound by their ecumenical ties with Canterbury. As Antioch had hardly existed in England until then, basically a new jurisdiction and so a further division were born. All the priests except for one now in this group were once Anglican priests, ordained as Orthodox priests with little training. One now suspended man was ordained within three days of being received.

Given this history, today the group seems to form a rather isolated ex-Anglican club, holding less attraction to the vast majority of English people. Indeed, some in the group seem to reject Non-Anglicans, one parish even banning the use of any language except English, and some call this group ‘Anglioch’. These ex-Anglican parishes appear to have little to do with Arab Orthodox and seem to avoid concelebrating with other jurisdictions, though they dress as Russian clergy. One person, perhaps unfairly, put it to me that: ‘Anti-Russian and Anti-Greek = Anti-och’.

Such a view represents only the negative half of the reality. On a positive side, this group is very dynamic, some parishes have their own properties and there are some younger clergy, over fifteen altogether now. Its larger parishes attract mainly Eastern Europeans, who are deprived of services in their own languages, or of once lapsed Greeks. Some of these people know their Faith and are able to educate the Antiochian clergy. The recent appointment for them, 20 years late, of an Antiochian bishop, who may get a visa to come to England this November, could at last mean the introduction of liturgical discipline and an entry into the mainstream of the Church from the margins. This should include teaching clergy how to serve, teaching people how to sing (at present Anglicanized ‘Russian-style’ singing is used), as well as stopping intercommunion, ‘charismatic’ and other alien practices, such as the commemoration of the Armenians and Ethiopians as Orthodox, using girl acolytes or making communion compulsory for all, as does happen in some parishes.

Antiochian services I have attended resemble a mixture of Anglicanism and a very confused knowledge of the Orthodox typicon with invented services, a kind of ‘make it up as you go’ approach. This style has discredited the Antiochian group. In conclusion, the Antiochians have zeal, which is admirable, but not knowledge, which is not admirable. The question is if they want the knowledge and have the humility to accept the discipline and traditions of the Orthodox Church and an Orthodox bishop, instead of imposing Anglican agendas on the faithful. Retired Anglican priests whose hobby is the ‘Eastern rite’ are one thing, the Orthodox Church is another.

2. The Patriarchate of Constantinople

a. The Archdiocese of Thyateira

This is a large and mostly Greek Cypriot Diocese, whose ruling hierarch must have either a Greek or Cypriot or Turkish passport. However, as the Greek Cypriots mainly moved to England from Commonwealth Cyprus between 1945 and 1975, they are now dying out. Nationalism is rife and English enquirers into Orthodoxy (as well as Romanians and others) are typically turned away from parishes and told to go and join the Anglican Church because they ‘are not Greeks’. The loss of young Cypriots is such that no fewer than six ethnic Cypriots are priests in the Anglican Diocese of London. At least there they can understand the services.

The hellenization of the few Anglicans who have been received and ordained is obligatory. Ultra-Greek names like Kallistos, Meliton, Aristobulos, Athanasios, Eleutherios, Dionysios, Christodoulos, Pankratios, Ephraim, Panteleimon, Palamas, Kosmas etc are placed on ex-Anglican vicars with perfectly good Orthodox names and they are ordained as cheap (unpaid) Greek Orthodox clergy. One of them is so hellenized that he even changed his surname to a Greek name. The best-known example of this group is the former Oxford academic, Timothy (Metr Kallistos) Ware, who lives very much as a retired parish priest and has never been a diocesan bishop, but rather a ‘conference bishop’. These hellenized ex-Anglicans use Russian-style singing in their services, probably because of the difficulty of using foreign-sounding Greek chant in any language other than Greek.

b. The Deanery of the Exarchate

As elsewhere in the world, the Patriarchate of Constantinople has for political reasons also taken into its jurisdiction dissidents such as Ukrainian nationalists and the Paris Exarchate. The latter group has again been present in England since 2006, refounded by 300 mainly ex-Anglican ‘Bloomites’, including over ten clergy. In other words, these were dissidents from the Sourozh Diocese of the then Moscow Patriarchate (MP), previously run by Metr Antony Bloom (see below, Paragraph 3b). After the death in 2004 of Metr Antony, their leader and protector, these did not want to adhere to the discipline and traditions of the real Russian Orthodox Church, which were then being reintroduced into their Diocese. Thus, they left for the Paris Exarchate, at first under the controversial Bishop Basil (Osborne), then after his defrocking becoming a small Deanery.

Here, under the Patriarchate of Constantinople, they would be allowed to do anything they wanted, including keeping the personal practices of Metr Antony (Bloom), without interference from either Constantinople or Thyateira or Paris, as one of their clergy proudly told me. For example, they could have communion without confession, give intercommunion (as their Amphipolis website used to proclaim, though now they tell me that intercommunion is limited to Monophysites), use the new calendar, celebrate the Proskomidia in the middle of the Church, wear Greek vestments (strange when you claim to be of the Russian Tradition) or shout out names during the service in Anglican ‘charismatic’ style, or make communion compulsory for all.

This group is very small, with several communities of ten or fewer people. Where it is bigger, it is because of the presence of Eastern Europeans, for example Church-deprived Romanians, who have no loyalty to or knowledge of Bloomite ideology. The Deanery has virtually no property of its own and although it has in recent years ordained several retired Anglican clergy virtually without any training, it seems to be dying out. The average age of its clergy is about 70 and many of the original laypeople are of the same generation.

It seems difficult to understand, if they wish to survive at all, why they do not simply join the ex-Anglican Antiochian group or at least join the ex-Anglicans in the mainstream Thyateira Diocese. Some have suggested that their isolation is to do with their ferocious Russophobia, which Antioch does not share. Indeed, some of their statements about other Christians makes it difficult to believe that they are Christians. Interestingly, their cause was backed to the hilt at the time by the Establishment Times and the MI5-fed Daily Telegraph. Others have suggested that there is a class reason, that it is because the Exarchate is largely composed of upper-class Anglicans, whereas the other ex-Anglicans are middle-class. Some call this group, like the Antiochian group, ‘Anglicans with icons’ or ‘Anglodox’, rather than Orthodox.

3. The Russian Church

a. The ROCOR (Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia) Diocese of the British Isles and Ireland

Having established the first ROCOR parish in England in 1919, ROCOR established a diocese in England in 1929 under Bishop Nicholas (Karpov), who uniquely was not given a fictitious title like ‘of Thyateira’ or ‘of Sourozh’, as given to other dioceses, but the real title ‘of London’. It was also the first Orthodox diocese to have any monastic life in England and the first diocese to use English, from the 1930s on. The diocese expanded after 1945 with a wave of new immigrants. However, after the departure of Archbishop John (Maksimovich) (now St John of Shanghai) in 1962, the diocese fell into nationalistic and sectarian currents and for a time became isolated.

From the 1970s on, a small group of unintegrated Anglo-Catholic converts began to impose old calendarism, imported from the USA under the influence of Bishop Gregory (Grabbe) in New York. Their views were marked by anti-Anglicanism rather than Orthodoxy, a negativity that came from spiritual pride. Given the failure of nationalistic Russians to pass on the Faith to their children and grandchildren and these sectarian trends, once far larger than the new Diocese of Sourozh, in the 70s and 80s the ROCOR Diocese began to die out. In the late 1970s and 1980s, in quick succession it lost its last two elderly and ill bishops, its London priest and its London church building. English people were turned away from the Russian parishes or were deterred by the sectarian old calendarism trying to take over diocesan life. It seemed as though the ROCOR Diocese would disappear altogether.

This period must be understood in the context of the then general internal battle in ROCOR between New York and Jordanville, that is, between the political, nationalist and sectarian wing of ROCOR and the spiritual wing, which saw in St John of Shanghai its figurehead. (Sadly, it is also true that when St John was in England, he was never frequented by personalities such as Metr Antony (Bloom) or Fr Sophrony (Sakharov), by both of whom he was at best ignored). In his later life in San Francisco, St John was much persecuted by this political wing of ROCOR because he was a missionary to Non-Russians, because he prayed for the captive Patriarchs of Moscow and because, like the mainstream in ROCOR, he knew that Church unity would come as soon as the Church inside Russia was free from atheist tyranny. This was denied by the political sectarians, who from the 1970s began to assert in justification for their sectarianism that the MP was ‘without grace’ and that somehow ROCOR was the last True Church on earth!

As the elderly Russians died out in the ROCOR British Diocese, in the 1990s it was providentially renewed by new arrivals from Russia, who found the same underlying ethos in it as in the MP inside Russia (unlike in the Sourozh Diocese, which, ironically, was officially part of the MP!). These new arrivals paid for the building of the small, Russian-style ROCOR Cathedral in London. As unity between ROCOR, under the ever-memorable Metr Laurus, and the MP, under the former émigré Patriarch Alexis II, approached in 2007, the long predicted schism occurred. Some forty mainly Anglo-Catholic converts and a few very right-wing individuals of Russian extraction (including even pro-Nazis) lapsed from ROCOR. This mirrored exactly the Sourozh schism (see Paragraph 3b below).

This was a spiritual tragedy for them but the relief felt by the faithful was palpable – the abscess which had been growing since the infiltration of sectarianism from the USA in the 1970s had at last burst. Peripheral and other problems also solved themselves as a few other individuals left and by 2009 all the extremes had fallen away, normal Church life could continue from a now healthy centre and the Church was ready to grow again. ROCOR was able to return to its destiny and pioneering historic path of being the integrated and bilingual Russian Orthodox Diocese, faithful to the Tradition, culturally at ease in the British Isles, and without fear of interference from outside forces. Having been through its adolescent growing pains, the ROCOR Diocese had overcome the crisis and become much stronger and adult.

What is the situation today? Today most members of ROCOR are people who have settled in England (and also in Wales and Ireland) from the ex-Soviet Union. In other words, the flock is virtually identical to the flock of the new Sourozh Diocese (see Paragraph 3b below). However, eight of the clergy are English, though there is also a Romanian deacon and two excellent Russian clergy from the ex-Soviet Union. In 2006 the future Archbishop Elisei of Sourozh was actually nominated to the Patriarchate in Moscow (then faced with the Sourozh schism) by the ROCOR ruling bishop, Archbishop Mark of Berlin.

Although most members of ROCOR come from the ex-Soviet Union, unlike Sourozh, the ROCOR Diocese has a long history, with memories going back before the Second World War and the Revolution to the time of the Tsar, a long and deep pastoral experience, including the use of English, its own church buildings and therefore a voice independent of heterodox organizations. In other words, ROCOR could certainly never be accused of being dependent on one personality or being ‘Soviet’, as the Sourozh Diocese sometimes is, and it is much better established than that Diocese. However, the weakness of the ROCOR Diocese is definitely its shortage of priests, especially in Wales and Ireland, and its lack of a resident ruling bishop. The main issue now is further growth.

b. The Diocese of Sourozh – the former Moscow Patriarchate (MP)

Several hundred English Orthodox find themselves in the Sourozh Diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church inside Russia, which used to be known as the MP. Some go back to the time when that Diocese was ruled by Metr Antony (Bloom) (+ 2004), others have come more recently. I have been asked to set down a record of Metr Antony’s tragic legacy. This will be long, as it is complex.

When the small Paris Exarchate parish in London returned to the Moscow Patriarchate (MP) jurisdiction after the Second World War (following its leader in Paris, Metr Eulogius), Fr Antony (Bloom), a beardless hieromonk without theological education, was sent by Moscow from Paris to look after the group in question. The vast majority of Russian emigres in England, whether arrivals after 1917 or after 1945, would have nothing to do with the Moscow Patriarchate or the modernist-looking Fr Antony, and continued to belong to the far larger parishes of the Diocese of the Church Outside Russia (ROCOR).

Therefore, virtually without a flock, the very talented Fr Antony learned English and began to do missionary work among Anglicans, attracting several hundred into the former Anglican church he used in London. Over the years, their numbers swelled, perhaps to over 2,000, and he was able to form a tiny diocese which was given the title of Sourozh. This looked good in theory; the reality was quite different. The Sourozh Diocese was a paper diocese, an empire of the imagination. There were three reasons for this.

Firstly, Metr Antony, as he had become by the early 60s, anxious to create a diocese, would take people without preparation, that is, without relieving them of their Anglican baggage and so spiritual impurity first. As they had little idea of the Russian Orthodox Tradition, most of them lapsed very quickly, often within a few weeks or months. As an example of this, I will relate what five years ago one of the new Russian subdeacons from the Sourozh Cathedral in London told me about a weekend visit of the new ruling hierarch, Archbishop Elisei of Sourozh, to a provincial community.

When Archbishop Elisei got up on the Sunday morning, the priest’s wife asked him whether he would like bacon and eggs for breakfast. Now that is a normal question in the Church of England (or even in parts of the Catholic Church today), where communion, if it is given at all, is simply a memorial of bread and wine and there is no fasting before it. For an Orthodox of course it is shocking that an Orthodox priest would have bacon and eggs before the Liturgy and communion. In fact, I was shocked by the subdeacon and said: ‘You mean to say that you did not know that that was how the whole Sourozh Diocese was run for decades?’ I was amazed by his naivety and told him: ‘Now you understand why serious Orthodox joined ROCOR’.

In 1976, falling foul of the Soviet government’s anti-Solzhenitsyn line (which it also forced onto the MP) and looking for political freedom from Soviet political pressure (especially distasteful to the upper-class Establishment Anglicans in his London Cathedral), Metr Antony asked to join ROCOR. As a result of his unOrthodox attitudes, illustrated above, he was refused. ROCOR did not want a bishop with unOrthodox practices; if ROCOR had accepted him, it would all have resulted in scandals.

Secondly, Metr Antony never reached out to the mass of English people, to whom he remained completely unknown despite his TV appearances (at a time when only the wealthier half of society had TV) and radio interviews. He concentrated on the upper class, especially wealthy academics, artists, novelists, musicians and poets, many of whom lived around his former Anglican Cathedral in the richest part of London. Metr Antony seemed to have little time for ordinary English people, if ever he knew we existed.

He was also notorious for never visiting his parishes and flock. Most of these had never seen him there and had no idea what an episcopal visit or service was. (Metr Antony usually served as a priest, refusing to celebrate episcopal services, if he knew how to do them). He was not a liturgist and did not teach anyone how to celebrate the services. His was a religion of the elite and it was often difficult to know exactly what he said – it all seemed to be the French philosophical style and not substance. In the 1970s and early 1980s, as I know only too well from personal experience, he had no time at all for the veneration of local saints, though he was later forced to change this attitude. And he also had no space in his Cathedral for icons of the New Martyrs, even after their later canonization in Moscow in 2000.

We should not forget that Metr Antony was himself from the Russian upper class and, partly as a result, his convert group seemed to be an upper-class Anglican club or clique. Conversations that I heard at his Cathedral revolved around villas in Tuscany and on Patmos which belonged to these people: hardly typical English people, who felt excluded by such snobbery. All this was combined with Metr Antony’s marked emotionalism, his strong psychic abilities and affectations, which lacked the sobriety of the Orthodox Tradition. Some middle-aged women fell in love with him and, with his good looks and exotic and exaggerated Russian-Parisian accent, by the 1970s his nicknames included ‘the guru’ and ‘the romantic bishop’. I remember one such tragic case very clearly. For us who came from solid and pragmatic English backgrounds, this was all nonsense. We would see through this act from miles away.

This brings us to the problem of Metr Antony’s personality cult. As we have said, he was an immensely talented man with a very strong personality. Indeed, his father, Boris Bloom (buried in Meudon outside Paris), a Tsarist diplomat who was well-known in Paris, had delved into the occult and taught his son how to hypnotize. I knew two women whom Metr Antony tried to hypnotize in the 1970s. For what reason I do not know. In such a Diocese there could be room for only one personality. This is why in 1965 an equally unusual Parisian personality, the former Hindu, Art Nouveau painter, personalist philosopher and one-time monk of Mt Athos, where he had met a saint, Fr Sophrony (Sakharov), left the Diocese of Sourozh. With his three monks. he switched back to the Patriarchate of Constantinople and the new calendar and introduced some very unusual and indeed unique practices. The fact that Metr Antony was notoriously anti-monastic did not help.

The cult of Metr Antony was also why his ordinations were generally controversial, often being those of men who for canonical reasons would never have been ordained by another bishop. This created a dependency of such clergy on Metr Antony, a misplaced sense of gratitude and idolization among weak personalities. This was also why Metr Antony strongly discouraged English people from visiting other parishes and travelling to Orthodox countries, especially Russia and Mt Athos; he did not want them to be exposed to the broader reality, which would raise awkward questions about his peculiar style and values.

Here I do not wish to go into the painful details and I would rather quote the Establishment figure of Metr Kallistos (Ware), who is now in his eighties. Known as ‘o anglikanos’ (the Anglican) by certain of his Greek brother bishops, Metr Kallistos is known for his caution in speaking. Although he has very curious and Phanariot views of the Diaspora, he is well-known for this Anglican-style diplomacy. In an interview with the liberal ‘Pravmir’ site, he has expressed the situation around Metr Antony as mildly as is possible:

‘Now the main criticism that I would make of Bishop (sic) Antony is that he would allow people to become colossally dependent upon him. They would idolize him. Perhaps that was not entirely his fault that they came to feel such ardent devotion towards him. But I felt there was something unhealthy here. It was too personal in the wrong sense, that they saw him almost as a god on earth. And he would allow people, particularly women, to become very closely dependent upon him. And then he would suddenly abandon them. I don’t think I am indulging here in malicious gossip, but I know a number of cases where he had spent a lot of time with people, particular people, and then suddenly he would cut off, not see them any more, not respond to their letters or telephone calls. Now I don’t know why he allowed such a close relationship to be built up and then abandoned them. But if I was to criticize his work, I would think there was the weakest point’.

In other words, it could be said that Metr Antony was the London equivalent of Bishop Jean (Evgraf) (Kovalevsky) in Paris, a bishop who set up a kind of fringe diocese on the edge of the Church and which also collapsed after his death. (However, many clergy and laity also left the Sourozh Diocese during Metr Antony’s lifetime, having seen through it). True, Bishop Jean attracted guenonists, occultists, freemasons and other marginals, ordaining them within days, whereas Metr Antony attracted those who fell in love with his personality and pseudo-mysticism. Sadly, Metr Antony’s existentialist personalism (mid-twentieth century French intellectual philosophy rather than the Church Fathers, whom Metr Antony hardly ever mentioned) had led to the construction of a mini-diocese ‘centred on his personality and not on the Church’. These are the exact words used to me by the present ruling bishop of Sourozh, Archbishop Elisei, soon after his appointment in 2006.

Now anything built on a personality, even more on a dead personality, is extremely fragile. People who idolize a personality are unable to pass on anything to their children, who cannot get to know the personality because he is dead, and so the members simply get old and die out, becoming historical sidelines, alienated from the mainstream. A diocese centred on a personality is a paper diocese. Thus, Sourozh still has hardly any Church property because everyone, as I was told in 1981, was expected to go to London and worship at the feet of the personality. So, nothing got built up. Tragically, the Sourozh Diocese still only has a fairly small Cathedral in west London (far too small for the flock) and four chapels in Oxford, Nottingham, Manchester and London, which can only contain a few dozen Orthodox. For the rest, the Sourozh Diocese is still dependent on borrowing mainly Anglican churches which it can occasionally use, often only once a month on a Saturday.

On top of this it suffers from a chronic shortage of priests with training. The average age is about 63. The disastrous personality cult in other words completely failed to set up the infrastructure necessary for a real diocese, however small. Everything had to be centred around the Cathedral in London because that is where ‘the personality’ was. This is the tragic legacy of Metr Antony, an utter lack of vision because there was no Tradition, only a personality. It contrasts very sadly with the radiant legacy of a saint in another island archipelago on the other side of Eurasia, St Nicholas of Japan, who built on the Tradition.

In 1982, a senior priest, the American Fr (later as Metr Antony’s successor, Bishop) Basil Osborne told me that ‘as soon as Metr Antony is dead, we’ll go to the Greeks’. This statement as well as the personality cult and renovationist practices (no confession before communion – as in Anglicanism – , the introduction of the new calendar, no Third and Sixth Hours before the Liturgy, no attempt to ask women to dress as Russian Orthodox etc.), caused us to leave the Diocese of Sourozh for good. I had wanted to be part of the Russian Orthodox Church, not of an émigré cocktail of modernist practices and fantasies, which had nothing to do with the Russian Orthodox Tradition. In such a way the Sourozh Diocese chased away those who were the most devoted to the Russian Orthodox Church. People were ready to die for the Church, for ‘the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church’, but in Sourozh the seed of the faithful was rejected – and so the Church did not grow. This was no way to treat the faithful.

In response to my view that the Church was failing to preach the Gospel to ordinary English people and was not providing food for the soul, but only intellectual philosophy, Fr Basil also told me that ‘there is no such thing as ordinary people’. Clearly, this said a great deal about him who became Metr Antony’s successor. Living in the ivory towers of Oxford, Fr Basil simply had no contact with the vast masses of English people. Later, an aristocratic priest-colleague of his, also ordained by Metr Antony, told me exactly the same thing. In 2005 it was Bishop Basil who provocatively invited the notorious neo-renovationist, Fr George Kochetkov, once suspended by Patriarch Alexis II, to come from Moscow and become the main priest at the London Sourozh Cathedral. This makes clear that the Sourozh schism was indeed a renovationist schism and it is indeed renovationists who revere Metr Antony’s memory.

Apart from his English convert adepts, it is true that Metr Antony was also idolized by some naïve Soviet convert dissidents, mainly of Jewish origin. These ‘intelligenty’ of the third wave started to arrive in London in the 1970s and fell in love with Metr Antony. I remember one of them telling me how he had first seen the Metropolitan cleaning the Cathedral floor, dressed in a simple undercassock. The dissident at once took him for a saint! I told him that all bishops and priests in the Diaspora lived like this and that if that was a criterion of sainthood, then we were all saints. Conditioned by Soviet practices of distant and unknown bishops sweeping past the people in big black cars under KGB surveillance, he could not make the cultural jump to Diaspora reality. Culture shock totally distorted his judgement.

From the 1990s, in the last years of Metr Antony’s life, as immigrants flooded in from the ex-Soviet Union, a virtual civil war began in his London Cathedral. The immigrants expected Russian Orthodoxy, not some pseudo-mystical convert personality cult. Apart from the small ROCOR Cathedral, there was no other church they could go to in London. Inevitably, only two years after Metr Antony’s death, with the young Bishop Hilarion expelled, the Sourozh Diocese collapsed. The bubble had finally burst. Metr Antony’s divisiveness and pastoral failure had led in turn to the divisiveness and pastoral failure of his pupil, Bishop Basil (Osborne).

Just as the Paris Exarchate’s modernist experiment failed (and Metr Antony was 100% Parisian), Metr Antony’s experiment failed because he had tried to build a Diocese on the divisive sand of a personality cult instead of on the collective rock of Russian Orthodox Tradition. This all came as no surprise to us who had known how it would all end since 1982 and had been pleading with the Moscow Patriarchate since 2000 to do something about the catastrophic pastoral situation in London. Nevertheless, we can at least learn from such failures.

Part Two: The Future: European Orthodoxy

I have done my duty in answering questions about the past and present situation of English Orthodoxy and Russian Orthodoxy in England. I hope that this will help us to avoid repeating the errors and extremes of the past and will also help us to pray for those involved, whether living or departed. That is our duty, for we are no better than they. I would now like to speak of something much more positive, much closer to my heart, the future.

1. The European Dimension of the Orthodox Church

In this context of the future people ask me about the possibility of there one day being a ‘British’ Orthodox Church. Since the 1990s I have written about such a possibility – and always negatively, even though I have since 1975 championed the use of local languages in services, whether English or French, and at great personal cost from hostile clergy. Why, this refusal of even the concept of a ‘British Orthodox Church’?

Firstly, it is because there is no such thing as ‘British’. Just as we do not talk about a ‘Soviet’ Orthodox Church, so we do not talk about a ‘British’ Orthodox Church. The word ‘British’ has only been used on three occasions in history and always by foreign invaders. Once by the Romans, then by the Normans and lastly by the Hanoverians and their Germanic followers among the Saxe-Coburg-Gotha Victorians and those nostalgic for their imperialism like Thatcher, Blair and Cameron. In other words, ‘British’ is a word for an artificial, colonial conglomerate of countries and as such is used by London imperialists; the Irish rightly long ago rejected it as a dirty word and the Scots are now in open revolt against it. Personally, like everyone I grew up with in the English countryside, I have never recognized myself as ‘British’, but as English, and I hope that the Irish, Scots, Welsh and we English will soon gain complete freedom from the ‘British’ and their tyrannical and foreign Establishment, to which the alien ‘British’ alone belong.

Secondly, all European countries, including Britain, are in any case far too small to have their own Local Orthodox Churches and, thirdly, Europe has anyway suffered quite enough from nationalism. We do not want any more insularity and nationalism in the Church – there is enough of that in the Balkans. What we need today is vision. Now, in this context, nearly thirty years ago, in 1986, I wrote a paper at the request of Archbishop George (Wagner) of the Rue Daru Paris Jurisdiction (Patriarchate of Constantinople) entitled, ‘Une Eglise Orthodoxe pour l’Europe: Vision ou Reve’ (‘An Orthodox Church for Europe: Vision or Dream’). As he was German, I thought he might be interested, especially as I had envisioned the Rue Daru jurisdiction as the possible kernel of such a future Local Church – in 2004 Patriarch Alexis II was to make the same mistake. I later found the paper thrown away into his kitchen wastepaper bin. Such were those visionless days – and he was by far from being the only bishop who had no vision for an Orthodox Europe.

Since that time it is true that we have seen the development of the pompously-named ‘Pan-Orthodox Episcopal Assemblies’ (= bishops’ meetings) in Western Europe. This is the imperialistic concept of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, rather naively promoted by Metr Kallistos (Ware) and Metr Athenagoras (Peckstadt) in Belgium. Of course, it is good that now the Orthodox bishops of any territory actually meet each other and know what each other looks like, but we all know that these meetings are going nowhere; they are often talking shops which occasionally meet, but at which no decisions of any consequence are ever taken. They just give a superficial prestige to Constantinople.

What I am saying from both the above examples is that we can expect nothing for the future of Orthodoxy in Western Europe from the Patriarchate of Constantinople, which has never freely given any Church autocephaly and has continually tried to take back autocephaly even when political circumstances forced it to grant it – as in the Ukraine, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia etc. In this way Constantinople, fallen since 1453, politically captive since 1948, and through Greek nationalism totally failing to recognize that Church leadership long ago passed to the Russian Church, today resembles the other Balkan Churches. None of them has the vision, is big enough, is missionary-minded enough or is unphyletist and mutinational enough to set up the Pan-European Metropolitan structure necessary for the foundation of any future Orthodox Church in Europe.

2. The Duty of Care of the Russian Orthodox Church in Europe

This leaves the Russian Orthodox Church, fifty times larger than the Patriarchate of Constantinople, as the only Local Orthodox Church which can do anything for European Orthodoxy. After all, of all the Local Churches only the Russian Orthodox Church is large and supra-national. Its name in Russian is ‘Russkaya’, meaning ‘of Rus’, not ‘Rossiyskaya’, meaning ‘of the Russian Federation’. In other words, it alone is multinational – like its Patriarch, the Russian Orthodox Church is the Church of All Rus and this means not just Russia, the Orthodox Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova and Carpatho-Russia, but any part of the world where Russian Orthodox faithful live. It alone has kept the old multinational Orthodox ideal of ‘romaiosini’, of the unity in diversity of the Christian Empire. Indeed, in 2004 Patriarch Alexis II at last spoke precisely of the need to establish a Russian Orthodox Metropolia in Western Europe. However, in 2004 the proposition of Patriarch Alexis II could only be theoretical. Only since 2007 has the Russian Orthodox Church even been in a theoretical position to establish such a Metropolia. Why?

a. Russian Orthodox Church Unity

In May 2007, the MP and ROCOR signed the Act of Canonical Communion in Moscow. With this one act, the division that began after the Russian Revolution between the Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) and the Church Inside Russia (then called the MP) and was forced onto the Church by atheist persecution inside the Soviet Union ceased. According to the 2007 agreement, ROCOR was gradually to give up its few small temporary communities on the territory of the ex-Soviet Union (the canonical territory of the Church Inside Russia) and in return, in time, the Church Inside Russia would, as is only logical, cede its relatively few but sometimes large communities outside Russia to ROCOR.

The first part of this agreement took place fairly swiftly, but the second part of the agreement, for perfectly good pastoral reasons, can only be implemented with time. This situation concerns above all the shared territories of Western Europe and Latin America, since the vast majority of Russian Orthodox parishes in its other territories in Oceania and North America are in any case under ROCOR. Thus, for the moment, we still have the absurd situation of two Russian Orthodox bishops of Berlin, Archbishop Theophan and Archbishop Mark. However, all agree that this will not last.

In effect, both the old MP and the old ROCOR ceased to exist on that day in May 2007. What came into being was a reunited and worldwide Russian Orthodox Church, three-quarters of the whole Orthodox Church, with the same Faith and under the same Patriarch, politically free but administratively in two parts, inside Russia and outside Russia, so that both parts are Patriarchal, but one is based in Moscow and the other, much smaller, is based in New York. The unique canonical territory of the Church inside Russia covers all the countries of the former Soviet Union (except Georgia) and countries where all the missions were founded by it, officially only China and Japan, but in reality also Thailand, Iran, Cuba and North Korea.

The territories of the Church Outside Russia, and these are territories mainly shared with other Orthodox, include Western Europe, North America, Latin America and Oceania (including Australia, New Zealand and Indonesia). Thus the new ROCOR has the potential to become again (as it was in the beginning) a multi-Metropolia Church, with four Metropolias, one in Western Europe, one in North America, one in Latin America and one in Oceania. Perhaps one day it could also include Alaska as a fifth Metropolia, but only if that territory returns to the Russian Orthodox Church from its present American administration.

b. The Territory of Europe to be United in a Metropolia

Europe, that is Western Europe, is a cultural ensemble, because it is all basically ex-Orthodox (1,000 years ago) and now, as it has largely lapsed into its Gadarene secularism, ex-Catholic (historically ex-Protestant also means ex-Catholic). I am speaking of the following 25 countries: Iceland, Ireland, Wales, Scotland, England, Norway, Denmark (with the Faeroes), Sweden, Finland, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, France, Monaco, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Austria, Hungary, Portugal, Spain (and the part of Spain called Gibraltar), Andorra, Italy, San Marino and Malta. I exclude from this definition of Western Europe Poland, the Czech Lands and Slovakia, as they already have their own Local Churches and canonical territory. Similarly, I also exclude Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, since, like Montenegro and Macedonia, they are part of the canonical territory of the Serbian Church. As for Albania, like Romania, Greece, Bulgaria and Cyprus, it already has its own Local Church.

It is true that Finland, which is in this list of 25 countries, has over 20 parishes and other communities that at present belong to the Patriarchate of Constantinople and celebrate Easter on the Catholic calendar (similar to a non-canonical group in Estonia). However, Russian Orthodox do not frequent such churches, whose Faith has been called ‘Lutheranism with icons’. They prefer to attend the quite separate and canonical Russian Orthodox churches in Finland, which are growing. Also there are those who consider that Hungary, also in the list of 25 countries, should have its own Local Church, like the Poles and the Czechs and Slovaks. However, we live in the world as it is now, not as it may be one day. For the moment, therefore, Hungary must be included in the territory of a European Metropolia, as defined above.

3. A Future Metropolia

a. Structure

Now as regards a future European Metropolia under the Patriarchal Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR), it is clear that this will be a real Metropolia with several hundred real parishes and real churches and, very importantly, real monasteries. This will not be like the Paris Exarchate or the old Sourozh Diocese, a paper empire, a series of modernistic, semo-Uniat communities often fewer than ten or twenty in number, celebrating in front rooms and garden sheds, or composed of clergy who were ordained with little training because no-one else would ordain them or even who use blackmail against their Archbishop in Paris: ‘If you do not allow me to do what I want, I will join the Greeks’. (Or the Romanians or someone else. Much more rarely, this blackmail may involve a threat of passage to ‘the Russians’. However, this threat is rarely used because those who today remain in the Exarchate generally believe in Russophobia – the ideology which justifies the continued existence of the Exarchate).

Where should the geographical centre of such a Metropolia be? Until recently I had always thought of it as Paris, the historical centre of the Russian emigration, where there is, in temporary premises, a Russian Orthodox seminary and where a Cathedral complex has long been planned. However, as a Metropolitan centre this choice is threatened by two things, the ecumenism and modernism apparently ingrained in the Paris air and the Russophobic policies of the present US-controlled French government. Today France is in a state of social chaos and disintegration. It may therefore be that we should think more radically. Indeed, two other possible centres for a Russian Orthodox Metropolia in Europe exist: they are Berlin (there are large numbers of Russian Orthodox in Germany) and Rome (where there is the large Russian church of St Catherine’s and above all which is the historical centre of the Western Patriarchate. After all, the initials of the English words ‘Russian Orthodox Metropolia in Europe’ spell R.O.M.E.).

It now seems to me that there should initially be seven dioceses in such a Metropolia. These are: Germania (Germany, German-speaking Switzerland and the Netherlands, including Flemish-speaking Belgium); Gallia (France, French-speaking Belgium, French-speaking Switzerland, Luxembourg and Monaco); Iberia (Spain, Gibraltar, Portugal and Andorra); the Isles (the British Isles and Ireland); Italia (Italy, San Marino, Italian-speaking Switzerland and Malta); Scandinavia (Iceland, the Faeroes, Norway, Denmark, Sweden and Finland); Austria-Hungaria (Austria and Hungary). With time two or three bishops could be appointed to such large dioceses, under an archbishop. For example, Germania could have an archbishop in Berlin, a bishop for western Germany, a bishop for the Dutch-speaking areas and a fourth for Switzerland. Scandinavia could have an archbishop in Stockholm who would also look after Denmark, a bishop in Helsinki and another for Norway and Iceland. These are mere possible examples for two dioceses or future archdioceses. Who knows the future?

At present the episcopate of the Russian Orthodox Church in Western Europe is not organized as one and some members are elderly. ROCOR is concentrated in Western Germany and Switzerland, though with several parishes in France, Belgium, Denmark and England, but it has virtually no existence in Italy, Spain and Portugal or in the rest of Scandinavia, in which countries the Church Inside Russia has over 100 parishes. ROCOR has three bishops, the youngest of whom is aged about sixty. ROCOR certainly has experience, but it will need new bishops. Some of the dioceses in Europe, which are still for the moment dependent on the Church Inside Russia, will also need new bishops in the future. Episcopal candidates must speak languages apart from Russian, know the cultures and cultural references of the countries where they will live and have a dynamic and missionary view of their episcopate. In other words, they must realize that their task is not just to look after immigrants from the ex-Soviet Union. They must be able to communicate with the children and grandchildren of such immigrants, as well as with the descendants of the centennial emigration, now in its fifth generation, and the native people of European countries, both Orthodox and Non-Orthodox.

For example, we know of one episcopal appointee whose first act was to buy an expensive black car. On that day he lost the confidence of his diocese. He did not understand that being a Russian Orthodox bishop in Europe is not at all the same as being a Russian Orthodox bishop in the former Soviet Union. Secondly, any diocesan bishop must also be a uniter – in Europe we still have bad memories of the late Metropolitan Nikodim (Rotov) who was an ecumenist and intercommunionist (in Rome) and did not want to do missionary work among native Europeans. Such figures were ultimately partly responsible for the Sourozh schism and the lack of trust among European Orthodox in bishops who were visiting them from the Soviet Union. On the other hand, we have an excellent memory of Archbishop Basil (Krivoshein) who warned Metr Nikodim precisely against his political policies. Who then could be the Metropolitan of the Russian Orthodox Metropolia in Europe? We believe that there is already at least one suitable candidate, at present an Archbishop.

It is now becoming urgent to establish such a Metropolitan structure. Millions of Orthodox have had to flee Orthodox Eastern Europe in the last 25 years for economic reasons. Since the fall of Communism, Eastern Europe has been seized by a wave of post-Communist corruption. Combined with the deindustrialization forced onto Eastern European countries when they joined the EU, millions of young people have been forced to leave their homes and families to take on mainly menial jobs in the building sites, factories and offices of Western Europe. There are now more Orthodox in Western Europe, the territory of the future Metropolia, than there are in the four ancient Patriarchates of Constantinople, Antioch, Alexandria and Jerusalem, combined. How then can this Metropolia be organized?

b. Organization

Before such a Metropolia could come into existence, all kinds of groundwork have to be laid. First of all, who should be the patron saint of such a Metropolia? To our mind, there can only be one candidate, the only saint of the Russian Orthodox Church who in the twentieth century lived for well over a decade in Western Europe – St John of Shanghai. He is the only canonized member of the Russian Orthodox Church in Western Europe. He stands head and shoulders above all the personalities, intellectuals, artists, writers and philosophers of the emigration, for he was a saint and a universal saint at that. Strictly faithful to the Russian Orthodox Tradition, for which he was much despised by modernists, he was also open to the pastoral needs of local people, encouraged the veneration of the historical saints of Europe and was the inspiration for Fr Seraphim of Platina, for which he was much despised by nationalists. In my view, St John has no rivals. However, the appointment of such a patron saint must be made by the Russian Orthodox bishops in Europe. We are not an anti-episcopal organization like the ‘Fraternite Orthodoxe’ in Paris, so we can only suggest to our bishops.

Secondly, we need a Metropolia website, run by people who have the skills and time to devote to this. Their skills must not only be technological but also linguistic. The website should, we believe, be in Russian, Romanian for our many Moldovan parishioners, English (as the international language) and, in the appropriate sections, in one of the other thirteen local languages of the Metropolia (German, French, Italian, Spanish, Dutch, Hungarian, Portuguese, Swedish, Danish, Norwegian, Finnish, Maltese and Icelandic). Perhaps, eventually, as pastoral need dictates, there could be pages in minority languages like Basque, Gaelic, Sorbian, Breton, Welsh etc. Who are the Russian Orthodox bishops in Europe? Such a website could present them with their photos. How many Russian Orthodox priests are there in Europe today? 200? That is only our guess; we do not have the information. The website could provide it.

Such a website could provide a calendar including the local saints of Europe, for example, Clotilde, Alban, Agnes, Ursula, Eulalia, Senhorina, Leander, Columba, Blandine, Olaf, Maurice, Kevin, Willibrord, Anschar, Sigfrid, Audrey, Corbinian, Illtyd, Odile, Devota, Publius, Gertrude, little known outside their own countries and regions, whose prayers can bind us together. There is a practical and a mystical necessity to link ourselves to them for it is ultimately on their noble Orthodoxy that European culture was built. The fact that modern Europe in its ignoble rush for self-destruction has turned its back on them only means that we should venerate them all the more. The website could present such information along with parish profiles, the addresses and phone numbers of individual parishes, their websites, histories, pictures of their church buildings, their clergy and parishioners, details of languages used in services, timetables and other activities and publications. And all our vital monasteries must have their place there too. There should also be some kind of resource of services in the many languages of the Metropolia and a simple vocabulary in the sixteen languages. How do you say ‘Orthodox Church’ in Hungarian, ‘priest’ in Finnish, ‘confession’ in Maltese or ‘candle’ in Norwegian? The website could tell us. Again, all this can only be done with the blessing of the Russian Orthodox bishops in Europe.

Thirdly, we need to hold a conference of Russian Orthodox clergy in Europe. We do not know each other. Initially, there could be a small conference with, say, two representatives from each country. One priest from Italy has already suggested the excellent idea of twinning parishes. Knowledge of one another could also be obtained from pilgrimages to local saints or relics or on the basis of visits to priests or laypeople who are already linked. Europe is rich in shrines, in Bari, in Rome, in Turin, in Milan, in Compostella, in Cologne, in Paris, in Lyons: Why not organize Europe-wide Russian Orthodox pilgrimages to such shrines? Alternatively, there could be pilgrimages to some of our wonderful churches in Europe, built under Tsar Nicholas II, in Wiesbaden, Geneva, Nice etc., or others built more recently in Brussels, Rome and Madrid. In such a way, by meeting, we can begin the most important task of praying for one another. Again, all this can only be done with the blessing of the Russian Orthodox bishops in Europe.

Two years ago I was contacted by a Russian woman in a province of France. She was in tears, very upset. She had been to a so-called monastery of the Paris Exarchate, where she had been refused confession because ‘she had not murdered anyone’. This meant that she had also been deprived of communion. She had found me on the internet, not knowing any priest in France. She told me her story on the telephone, how she and her son had been abandoned by her French husband and how she desperately needed a priest to talk to. Now, such things are happening all over Europe. The duty of care of the Russian Orthodox Church in Europe is to its faithful of all nationalities, to people like her. Let us begin by appointing a priest or priests whose duty it will be to look after the Russian Orthodox flock in any particular region of Europe. Since the above 25 European countries are divided into some eighty regions and there are a lot more than 80 Russian Orthodox priests in Europe, this can be done and the sort of incident that I have related above can be avoided. Everyone must have a priest to go to.

Some, reading the above, might ask about the role of Non-Orthodox in this. We believe in good-neighbourly relations with those who do not belong to the Orthodox Church. After a thousand years outside the Orthodox Church, many of them still believe in the Holy Trinity and the Divinity of Christ. Some, especially Catholics, go further than this and believe in the Virgin Birth, the Mother of God, the saints and the sacraments. Some share our moral views on such issues as abortion and euthanasia. The fact that the faith they have inherited is deficient in the understanding of the Holy Spirit, and therefore lacks an authentic spiritual and ascetic life, only means that it is remarkable how close some of them are to us. We have no reason not to be on good terms with them. However, this does not mean that we do not freely practise our Faith without compromise. Most Europeans have in the last generation or so decided to be atheists or at least agnostics, Europe today is a mission territory open to all. Conversely, most in the Russian Lands have in the last generation or so chosen to be baptized Orthodox. We should respect each other’s differences. We may be Europeans, but we are also firmly Christian and follow the Russian Orthodox Church in full.

Some, reading the above, might ask about the role of other jurisdictions in the shared territory of Europe, such as Constantinople’s Greeks and its political dissidents. In our view, the establishment of a Russian Metropolia in no way means that they cannot continue just as now. They could even establish their own international structures if they wish. The difference will always be that the Russian Orthodox Metropolia will alone be Europe-wide and multinational, not mononational, and therefore with the potential of growing into a new Local Church, as Patriarch Alexis II hoped. In the long term, as we know from experience, the jurisdiction that will survive in Europe will be the spiritually serious one, not the ones that wave nationalistic or ideological flags and so automatically alienate others and lose the second and following generations, who find such nationalism and ideologism foreign and irrelevant. Just as the fringes attract the fringes, vagantes attract vagantes, sectarians attract sectarians, personality cults attract personality cultists, so serious jurisdictions will attract serious people.


In recent years I have visited Russian Orthodox in Austria, Hungary, Germany, Switzerland, the Czech Lands, Slovakia, Belgium, Portugal, the Netherlands, France, Sweden and Finland, as well as receiving visits from Russian Orthodox from many of these countries and from Norway, Ireland, Spain and Italy. In all of them I have noticed the consistent ability of many Russian Orthodox to keep the best of Russian culture and to absorb the best of Western culture at the same time. This is because of our ability to see and live European life and culture through the correcting prism and filter of Orthodox Christianity. It is the pastoral duty of the Russian Orthodox Church to its own flock and to all European Orthodox to live like this, keeping faith and yet being European, not repeating the errors of either sectarian nationalists or of the equally sectarian modernists of the Paris Jurisdiction and the old Sourozh Diocese.

We European Orthodox have four layers of identity: local, national and continental (= cultural) and spiritual. In my own case, this means the East of England, England, Europe and Russian Orthodoxy (= Rus). All of these layers of identity can be combined by saying that I belong to the East of England Rus (Vostochnoangliyskaya Rus’), to the Russian Orthodox world that is planted in the East of England. Others can say the same thing, that in Sweden they belong to Scanian Rus, in Spain to Catalan Rus or Galician Rus, in Italy to Sub-alpine Rus or Sardinian Rus, in the Netherlands to Frisian Rus, in Scotland to Hebridean Rus, in Germany to Bavarian Rus or Saxon Rus, in France to Breton Rus or Occitan Rus, in Austria to Carinthian Rus or Tyrolean Rus etc. This is the unity on which our future Russian Orthodox Metropolia in Europe (R.O.M.E.) can be built, from Iceland to the plains of Hungary, from Lapland to the islands of Malta, in the local regions of the 25 nations of the continent of Europe where we live, and on our complete faithfulness to the integral Russian Orthodox Faith and Tradition.

Archpriest Andrew Phillips
ROCOR Missionary Representative for Western Europe

Brittany, 24 July 2015

A Convent Conversation

From ‘The Herald of R.O.M.E’.
(The Herald of the Russian Orthodox Metropolia in Europe, No 8, 2026)

On 7 August 2026 we visited Sts Peter and Paul Convent just outside Rome and interviewed Archimandrite Pavel (Kirillov), the spiritual father, and some of the nuns.

Interviewer: Fr Pavel, you are an archimandrite and the senior priest and confessor here. Can you tell us something about yourself and the Convent?

Fr Pavel: I am Russian, but as a young man I worked as a cook in restaurants for many years in Ticino, the Italian part of Switzerland, before going back to study at seminary in Moscow. I became a hieromonk in Moscow in 2004 and, as I spoke Italian, I was sent straightaway to serve in Italy, where there was then a great shortage of Russian priests.

I am helped here by a young Italian priest Fr Ambroggio, who is married and lives near the Convent, and a Moldovan hieromonk, Fr Tarasy. Fr Tarasy serves a lot. Fr Ambroggio serves one week a month and the rest of the time looks after the main Italian-language parish in Rome as well as visiting many of the local families who come here for services. With the help of some laymen, he even set up a football team for the boys of the families who attend the Convent. The local boast is that we are the only convent in Italy with its own football team. And last year we even won our league!

I: What language do you use here?

FP: We use Italian as our main liturgical language, with Slavonic and Romanian as what I would call reserve languages. Most sisters speak at least one other language apart from Italian. At present we have 39 nuns of sixteen different nationalities, with twelve Moldovans and eight Italians. Moldovans have played a great role in Italy, helping to set an example and convert Italians. I think this is because the cultures and languages are so similar, but the Moldovans have Christ, whereas the Italians had lost Him.

I: Tell us something of the history of the Convent.

FP: Originally, there was a need for a Convent somewhere in Italy, but we did not know where to start and whom to dedicate it to. Once we had the buildings, the Abbess, Mother Paraskeva as she now is, had thought of dedicating the Convent to the Resurrection – Mother Paraskeva would dedicate everything to the Resurrection, if she could, since she says that Italians don’t know what the Resurrection is. That’s why there is always one Sister called Anastasia. In any case you can imagine what joyful Easter services we have here! However, when these buildings outside Rome came up for sale and we asked Metropolitan Nicholas in Paris about them, he decided that the dedication of the Convent should be to the great apostles and martyrs of Rome, Sts Peter and Paul. This year he came to our patronal feast together with Bishop Gregory, our diocesan bishop in Italy, and preached a sermon where he spoke of how very different Sts Peter and Paul are and yet how they complement each other. He said that this is what we have to do in our Convent. With so many nationalities, we have to complement one another. He told us that whenever we have an argument, we should look at the icon of Sts Peter and Paul embracing and pray to them to guide us.

I: What is the main problem for Italians in integrating the Orthodox Church?

FP: The same as for all people of a Western background. It is one thing to join the Orthodox Church and another to become Orthodox. And yet if you do not first become Orthodox, then you cannot remain Orthodox. That is why Metropolitan Nicholas and all the diocesan bishops of the Metropolia instruct their priests to prepare catechumens very carefully. The knowledge of facts that occurs in the head is of secondary importance. But Western culture puts knowledge first. What is in reality of primary importance is the understanding of facts. That is Orthodox culture. And since understanding is located in the heart, and not in the head, understanding therefore depends on the purity – or lack of purity – of the heart.

The greatest problem for Western people is to come to the understanding that Western culture must be subordinated to Orthodox culture. Culture is the world, not all culture can be absorbed into the Church. Whatever cannot be baptised into the Church, must leave – just as a catechumen leaves the Liturgy. If Western people do not do this, but idolise their Western culture instead and are offended when parts of that are rejected, they will never become Orthodox, for they are unworthy. The Gospel is what we always put first.

I: How do you maintain your own inner life?

FP: Every year I go to Optina in Russia for six weeks and there I am free to talk to my spiritual father. For me it’s very important to keep contacts with the Motherland.

I: I turn now to the Abbess of the Convent, Mother Paraskeva. Could you tell us something about yourself, Mother?

Mother Paraskeva: Like many in the convent, I am Moldovan, but I came to Italy in the early 2000s, seeking work, sending money home to help my family. I was already at that time a Churchgoer and was thinking of monastic life, but could not find the right place. It was only after several years of searching that I found a convent in Moldova in 2012. It was a huge relief to me. I felt as though I had come home. Then I was sent here as an obedience when this Convent opened in 2019. I had no idea that after only one year I would be made Abbess – if I had known, I don’t think I would have come! When Bp Gregory made me Abbess, instead of congratulating me, Fr Pavel said to me: ‘My condolences’. He was right!

I: What Italian people come to services at the Convent?

MP: We have a whole group of Italian men who were in the Italian Army, sent as peacekeepers in Kosovo for NATO. When they saw the injustices that were happening there and the anti-Serb persecutions, many of them became Orthodox, some of them even married Serbian women. They have remained faithful even though all the north of Kosovo long ago returned to Serbia. But apart from these families, we have families from Romania, Moldova, Russia and the Ukraine in particular. But Italian is our common language.

I: What does the Convent live off?

MP: We sew vestments, bake prosphora, make candles and, above all, make soap. Soap-making is our most financially profitable activity. Thanks to it we have been able to restore all the buildings in the complex that we have and we can now take another twenty nuns, if there are suitable candidates.

I: I will now turn to some of the nuns who are here with us. Sister Clotilde, what about you? Where are you from?

Sister Clotilde: I am French, a Parisian, where I was born in 1996. I joined the Russian Orthodox Church in Paris in 2015 after realising that atheism brought no answers and is even irrational – for nobody can prove that God does not exist. Since I studied Italian and Russian, an unusual combination, and I felt that my future was in a convent, I came here after I had finished my studies in 2019.

I: And you, Sister Odile?

Sister Odile: I am from Germany, but my mother was Italian. I come from just near Alsace, across the French border. So I would say that I am Alsatian, which is why I have a French name. I have been here for four years. My background is in history and I worked for eight years as a history teacher at a university in Germany.

I: How did you come to the Church?

Sister Odile: As a historian I had a great interest in Napoleon, who was the first to try and unite Germany. Through him I became interested in Tsar Alexander I, the mystical Tsar who defeated Napoleon. My other great interest was in the Crusades. My conversion came about when I started reading about the Fourth Crusade and the sack of Constantinople in 1204, even though many ordinary people in the West opposed the Crusades. Then I read on the internet an Orthodox writer who said simply: 1204 = 1453 = 1812 = 1917. In other words, he was saying that the sack of Constantinople by the West led to its occupation by the Muslims in 1453 and that 1812, the occupation of Moscow by Napoleon and his 12 tribes, led to 1917, the sack of Moscow by the West through their Provisional and then Bolshevik agents. These historical connections and their injustices, 1204 = 1453 = 1812 = 1917, and their implications converted me. I ended up coming here four years ago, together with Sister Mauricia, who is Swiss and was also a history teacher.

I: Mother Thecla: I believe you are Russian?

Mother Thecla: Yes, there are four Russian nuns here. Myself, Sister Matrona from Moscow, Sister Lydia the choir director and Sister Marina, but she has gone on a pilgrimage to her patron in San Marino with the parish there. However, most of the Moldovan sisters speak good Russian and several others, like Sister Gabriela from Poland and Sister Maria from Austria, understand it. I was born in Ryazan but came to Italy in 2007. I became a spiritual daughter of Fr Pavel when he was parish priest in Turin and then followed him when he was appointed here.

I: Sister Lydia, how do you find the adaptation to Italian life?

Sister Lydia: That is something of the past for me. Today this is my place, my home. Sometimes I even find myself forgetting Russian words. I can only think of the Italian ones. I love singing in Italian. It is just as musical as Slavonic.

I: And you, Sister Agatha? You’re Italian, aren’t you?

Sister Agatha: I’d like to say not Italian, but Sicilian. We have another Sicilian sister here, Sister Pancratia from Taormina, as well as a Corsican sister, Sister Giulia, and we all feel the same, not really Italian. We’re pleased to be from the islands and to have this identity. But, of course, our real nationality is Orthodox.

I: How did you come to the Church?

Sister Agatha: I’m a cradle Orthodox, my parents converted. They were Catholics but were so disgusted by various compromises that they became Orthodox in Palermo. That’s where my brother is an Orthodox priest. However, we realised that we must have Orthodox origins. My father’s mother, Sicilian born and bred, spoke a dialect of Greek. Once all Sicily was Orthodox, it’s in our folklore. Catholicism was imposed on us, it’s superficial. So Orthodoxy is like a liberation for us, it is what is underneath us all, our buried identity.

I: And you, Sister Theodora? Are you Italian?

Sister Theodora: I’m Greek, but was born in Italy, actually in Venice, where my parents studied, met and then stayed on to work. So actually I speak better Italian than Greek. I feel at home here. So to be an Orthodox nun in Italy is the best of both worlds.

I: What about your, Sister Tatiana, Are you from Moldova too?

Sister Tatiana: Not at all. I am Italian, a pure Roman, like St Tatiana herself. Mother Paraskeva likes to give us the names of the saints who lived in the places where we lived before we came here. She says that the saints are our spiritual identity, so we must carry that identity in our names. So we have Sister Sofia, Sister Lorenza and Sister Alexia, who are all from Rome like me and Sister Januaria, who is from Naples. Then many of the Moldovan sisters, Sisters Anastasia, Sabina and Melania, also from Rome, Sister Agnes the Hungarian, from Rome too, Sister Paula who is Maltese, and other Moldovans, Sister Ambrosia from Milan, Sister Nicola from Bari and Sister Apollinaria from Ravenna.

I: And what about you, Mother Eulalia?

Mother Eulalia: I am Catalan from Barcelona, but I have been living in the Convent since the beginning. Because I spoke Italian, Mother Sebastiana sent me from the Convent in Madrid right at the beginning in 2019 to help. I look after novices and guests.

I: Mother Paraskeva, if I can return to you, what are your relations with local Roman Catholic convents like?

MP: We don’t really have any relations. That does not mean that they are bad, it’s just that there are so few Catholic convents left nowadays and most of the nuns in them are in their eighties. It’s like two parallel worlds, we just do not have much to talk about. Their life is totally different from ours, for us they are like retired social workers, devout laywomen who live in retirement homes. Our nuns are young. We only have three mothers, the other 36 are still sisters, riasophore nuns, and then there are seven novices at the moment.

On the other hand, we have a lot of contact, and not only by e-mail, with other Orthodox convents in the Metropolia, in Spain, Portugal, Ireland, Austria, England, Germany, the two in France, the Netherlands and also the new convent in Copenhagen, where we have just sent our Danish sister, Sister Anna, and our Swedish sister, Sister Olga. We also have a lot of contact with other ROCOR convents in the USA and Australia, not to mention with two convents in Moldova and one in the Ukraine. Metr Nicholas is very keen for us to have these contracts. He says it is especially important for us in our Metropolia, so that our different countries are bound together by bonds of spiritual love. This is why we have a meeting of all the abbesses of the Metropolia once every two years, in a different convent each time. The abbots from the Metropolia monasteries do the same. Metr Nicholas says the Church is a family and we must keep together and see each other, like a family.

Last year we had our meeting in Paris, during which Vladyka’s namesday fell, on 17 July. Thanks to the meetings we realise how different our situations are. For example, here we are very multinational, but the Convent in Germany is nearly all Russians and Ukrainians. In Portugal, they have three Brazilians and two Angolans, in Spain they helped set up the Convent in Peru and train a lot of Peruvian and Bolivian nuns. In England the Convent was founded from the USA and they have two Australian nuns. One of the Convents in France is half-Romanian, whereas we only have one Romanian, Sister Paisia. The new Convent in Denmark has two Norwegian novices and one Icelandic novice. And so the differences are enormous.

Sometimes we also have visits from hieromonks and monastic fathers. For example, last December Fr Columba came to us from his hermitage on Iona in Scotland. He is a fascinating man, a real ascetic, but also well-read. He knows the Psalter by heart – but more than that, he understands it and can interpret it too. He has read the Fathers.

He spoke to us in English, but our English sister translated into Italian. He said that for our Metropolia of Europe to be successful, we must, ‘Take the Napoleon out of the French, the Prussian out of the German and the British out of the English’. We all laughed when he said that last part because he is Irish and so he would say that! But Sister Elizabeth, who was interpreting and is English, reminded us how in the life of her patron, the martyred Grand Duchess, her parents were very upset when the Prussians forced unification on her native Hesse. Sister Ursula, who is German from Cologne, agreed and said that the Prussianisation of Germany was its downfall. With Prussianisation German people went from music and opera and culture and dancing to warfare in less than two generations.

I: Mother, could you leave us with a parting word, something edifying?

MP: Well, I think I would end with Fr Columba’s words, which echo the words of the Gospel. In other words, in order to live an Orthodox life, especially nowadays, when the masses are atheists, we have to take out the old man out of our old identities and know that, whatever our native language and whatever our origin and background, our unity is in the New Man, in Christ. While we are in the world, we are all a little spiritual Prussians and spiritual Napoleons and spiritual British, but we all have to get rid of that and become true Orthodox Christians. Only so can we live in Christ, and not live in the world.

I: Thank you, Mother Paraskeva.

On the Reconversion of Europe

The peoples of Western Europe were betrayed by their elites and the elites of Western Europe were betrayed by their love of power and money.

Introduction: The Church of God in Western Europe

Why, when there is already a network of tens of thousands Roman Catholic churches all over Western Europe, is there a need for a smaller network of Orthodox churches covering the same territory? Roman Catholicism already has bishops, priests, sacraments and belief in saints. Why do Orthodox need their own structure? It is because the Roman Catholic structure is a post-Orthodox Christian structure of the second millennium and not one of the first millennium. This simple fact has many and complex ramifications, from the centralisation, clericalism, Inquisition and Jesuitry of the past to the scandals of Fascist Croatia and Kosovo, the Vatican Bank, the homosexualisation and pedophilia of the present.

Roman Catholic bishops and clergy, bachelors, often isolated and little known to the faithful, Roman Catholic ‘theology’ and ‘sacraments’, changed beyond recognition by dried out scholasticism, its ‘saints’, so often psychics or else inquisitors of a second millennium divorced from the Church, are not the same as those of the Orthodox. If it were otherwise, then the hopelessly old-fashioned ecumenical movement would have been successful, instead of being the failed, abstract project of elitist syncretists. Churched and even unChurched Orthodox of all nationalities who live in Western Europe simply do not feel at home in Roman Catholic churches. Why?

Free Grace, Acquired by Asceticism, not Moralising Law, Imposed by Guilt

To this question many would answer ‘because it does not feel right’, ‘there is something wrong in the atmosphere’, ‘it does not ‘smell’ Orthodox’. Certainly architecturally, it is uncommon to find a Catholic church that can be converted into an Orthodox church. They are often Gothic and colourless and feel empty, they are mournful, Crucifixion-, and not Resurrection-, focused, guilt-ridden and desacralised, not devoted to beauty; liturgies seem to be without spiritual food, not watering the spiritual desert. However, all these differences, obvious even to the least educated, ultimately go back to something profound, to the deformation of Orthodox teachings, the deformation of the heritage of the first millennium.

Firstly, outwardly, for Orthodox the Church means local authority and unity. It does not mean abstract authority and unity in a distant bureaucracy of eunuchs in the neo-pagan Renaissance Vatican Palace, built by lucre won from indulgences. The leader of a Local Orthodox Church, Archbishop, Metropolitan or Patriarch, is only the chief of a Synod – and it is the Synod that is the administrative guarantee of authority and unity. The chief of the Synod is not an imposer of dogmas who meddles in local affairs, sometimes by military force and bloodshed. It is the local diocesan bishop, one among many but still able even to canonise local saints, who is important above all, and the local married priest is simply one of us.

Secondly, inwardly, in the Church we live off the Holy Trinity, and therefore theology and sacramental life, as in the first millennium, are part of the continuous inspiration of the Holy Spirit, called the Tradition. Therefore, the immediacy and presence of the Spirit proceeding directly from the Father, is felt in the theology, practices and life of the Church. The Spirit is freely accessible to all, both in the sacraments of the Body of Christ, but also in personal and collective prayer, fasting and ascetic life, and revealed in the ‘coincidences’ that pattern Orthodox life, that is, in Providence, which witnesses to the fact that ‘the Spirit blows where it wishes’ – without moralising obligations and guilt.

Thirdly, the saints, like the Mother of God, are part of a living and continuing communion. There is no difference between the Apostles, the Fathers, the Martyrs, the Confessors of the first millennium and those of the second millennium. For there are new Apostles, new Fathers, new Martyrs and new Confessors, being canonised now or still alive today. And all of us belong to one continuous family, reigned over through the millennia by Christ, His Holy Mother, the Mother of the Church, the Mother of our whole Church family, and His multitude of saints, whose immediate presence and free grace are visible and tangible in the chain of miracles of daily Orthodox life, which is called Providence.


As we have predicted many times over the last four decades, with Western Europe in a state of apostasy, the hysterical rejection of its spiritual roots, as witnessed to by its very place-names referring to its founding saints, responsibility for the future spiritual destiny of its faithful will fall to the Russian Church. This means to a Russian Orthodox Metropolia in Europe (R.O.M.E.), part of the larger Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR). No other Local Church can do this, for other Local Churches are either not politically free (the Patriarchates of Constantinople and Antioch), or else too small, too provincial, too mononational (the three Balkan Churches and the Church of Georgia).

Here it must be understood that ‘Russian Orthodox’ does not necessarily mean ethnically ‘Russian’. This fact may seem obvious to us inside the multinational Russian Orthodox Church, but to our astonishment, phyletist members, including clergy, of the Patriarchate of Antioch and of the OCA (see below) have often told the author that they do not understand the words ‘Russian Orthodox’. Let it be said clearly now: ‘Russian Orthodox’ already includes over sixty nationalities, it means multilingual and multinational, Russian Orthodox simply means the Orthodox Tradition, free and uncompromised by outside political meddling from Western or other Powers.

Of course, representatives and parishes or even dioceses of other Local Churches could take part in such a united Metropolia, if they wished, but on a voluntary and flexible basis, under the authority of the Russian Church, just as other Local Churches took part in the united ‘Russian’ (i.e. not necessarily ethnically Russian) Orthodox Church in North America until some ninety years ago. Such participation would depend on episcopal blessing and local consciousness. The territory to be covered by such a Metropolia means the whole of Western Europe, which can be divided into six parts, ethnic, historic, linguistic and geographical. These are:

Francia, the French-speaking Lands (France, Monaco, the southern part of Belgium (Wallonia) and Switzerland).
Germania, the German-speaking Lands (Germany, Austria, most of Switzerland, Liechtenstein, the Netherlands, Flanders (northern Belgium) and Luxembourg).
Italia, the Italian-speaking Lands (Italy, Sicily, Sardinia, Ticino, San Marino).
Iberia (Spain, Portugal, the Azores, the Canaries, the Balearics and Andorra).
Britannia and Hibernia, The Isles (The British Isles and Ireland).
Scandinavia, The Nordic Lands, (Iceland, Norway, Sweden and Denmark).


Many years ago a former Roman Catholic asked me the following: What would happen in the theoretical situation that all or most Roman Catholic believers in a particular Western European nation rejected the errors imposed on them by their elites and proclaimed that they wished to return to freedom and Orthodoxy after a thousand years? Thinking of the infrastructure problems of such a change, my first and humorous answer was, ‘I think there would be panic’. However, in reality, as I told her, there are people who would not panic and who could take control, accepting such a movement of grace and foreseeing what is necessary. It is a question of foresight and organisation.

First of all, we would earn from the two major mistakes of the small Cold War North American group known as the ‘Orthodox Church in America’, the ‘OCA’, which daydreamed of setting up a united Metropolia in North America. These mistakes were, firstly, its nationalistic (phyletist) demand for complete independence, that is, ‘autocephaly’ – which automatically meant that it would never win the canonical recognition of most Orthodox; secondly, there was its imposition of schismatic and divisive renovationism, including the secular calendar, made by clericalist pseudo-intellectuals, some of them ungrounded converts, from on high. These are two things not to be repeated.

As regards the chronic shortage of Russian Orthodox bishops who speak local languages, and even more importantly, know local mentalities, it is clear that present experienced and educated Orthodoxy clergy would have to be appointed ‘rural deans’, that is, deans over regions. These deans would have to be responsible for the reception of local people. Probably, as with the millions received back into the Church in freed Belarus in the 1830, or Carpatho-Russia in the 1920s, Roman Catholics would be received by chrismation or even communion. From them married men could be trained and ordained; it would be best not to ordain ex-clergy because of their alienating indoctrination in Roman Catholic ‘seminaries’.

As regards infrastructure, it would be most important to have suitable premises, premises where cradle Orthodox would feel at home, perhaps allowing a few chairs for the weak and using at first printed icons and frescoes. Initially, premises might be modest, former huts, wooden buildings and shops, even small factories – as we noted above, there are few Roman Catholic churches that can be converted. Generally, the simpler the premises, the more easily they can be made Orthodox. Although iconostases might at first be home-made and vestments home-sewn, clearly the Russian liturgical factory of Sofrino, which at present employs 3,000, would have to expand to cope with the demand.

Conclusion: When?

Many have asked when such a Metropolia will be formed. The answer to this is that no-one knows, for it will happen in God’s own time. However, people must be ready for it and there are signs that this future is being prepared, however slowly. The foundation of a seminary in Paris, albeit still in its early days and with a teething problem, is a sign. The building of a Cathedral and spiritual centre in Paris, its design thankfully now being revised, will be another step forward. After this there will be the appointment of a Metropolitan, someone who speaks local languages and knows local mentalities and cultures, but is also utterly faithful to the Russian Orthodox Tradition, like our great patron St John of Shanghai.

There have already been setbacks on the path to the formation of the long-awaited Metropolia. In 2003 the refusal of the Rue Daru group to leave freemasonry behind it and to take part in the Metropolia proposed by the Patriarch was a loss to everyone, but above all to itself. That was a suicidal path for it. However, the reuniting of both parts of the Russian Orthodox Church in 2007 was a huge and indispensable step forward, for the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) is the basic building block of all Metropolias in the Western world. In 1986 we first put forward this vision of such a Metropolia with no hope of its realisation. Today, it is no longer a vision. Today the question is no longer if, but when.