Tag Archives: Vision

7 July 2030: Historic Autonomy for the Ionan Orthodox Church

The Address of Metropolitan John of London and All Iona in the Church of the Four Saints on the Snowy Mountain, Isle of Man, Feast of All the Saints of the Isles, 7 July 2030.


‘It was in 1970 that our sister, the Japanese Orthodox Church, received its autonomy from our Russian Orthodox Mother Church. Its Metropolitan Nicholas of Tokyo stands here beside me today as an honoured guest. Now, sixty years later, our island archipelago, on the other side of the Eurasian continent from Japan, has in its turn received its autonomy from the Mother-Church. Today, our Church of the Isles of the North Atlantic – I.O.N.A. – has received autonomy from Patriarch Tikhon II and the Holy Synod in Moscow. The Patriarchal representative, our dear friend Metropolitan Seraphim of Volokolamsk, stands here beside me, together with the personal representative of Tsar Nicholas III, the servant of God Gregory Efimov. This is a most solemn day of victory, for which so many of us have waited and worked for so long.

From this place, the highest point on the Isle of Man, this isolated and yet central point, are visible the four nations that make up our Ionan Confederation. From here we can see England, for which I bear pastoral responsibility, and Ireland, Scotland and Wales, for which my dear friends and colleagues, Archbishop Patrick of Dublin, Bishop Andrew of Edinburgh and Bishop David of Cardiff, bear responsibility. Today we gather on this feast day of All the Saints of the Isles, who are present here with us spiritually, and we recall our long struggles. After and despite many false starts and many errors and many divisive events, our Church began to develop only over the last generation, when She at last started to obtain and build so many of her own churches and give financial help to our priests, thus rapidly expanding all through our lands.

Within a generation we have built a network of over 120 of our own churches and their full-time priests, one each in most counties and several in each capital city. We have even been able to build churches in Iceland and the Faeroes, also isles of the North Atlantic. From our pilgrimage centres in St Albans, on Lindisfarne, Skellig Michael, Iona and at St Davids, our first martyr, St Alban, the Wonderworker of Britain, St Cuthbert, the monks inspired by Egypt on Skellig Michael, the Irish monks of Iona, St David, consecrated, some say, in Jerusalem and now those from the Russian Church join with us. With autonomy, we have the best of both worlds, an ideal and balanced situation. On the one hand, no-one can suggest that we are a foreign colony, but on the one hand we receive vital spiritual support from our Mother-Church, for which we are so very grateful’.


After this address ‘Many Years’ was sung to His Holiness Patriarch Tikhon II and the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church, heartily thanking them all for all their assistance and generosity.


The Future for Europe


Just as long ago predicted, the EU is collapsing. It has never recovered from the Unionist, Fourth Reich project of Empire, finally unveiled in full in the 1990s by those who had long before foreseen it and prepared it, like the Americanophile Jean Monnet. The grotesque euro that came into being with the hubris of over-reach after a decade of integrationism in 2002 was the symbol of such centralized Unionism. Today, after its failure, instead of absurdly remaining in denial in the dying past and arrogantly and patronizingly berating the free choice of the peoples of Europe, as the EU Establishment does, it is time to be forward-thinking and consider what will replace the EU. Here are three principles which we believe should underpin the future, post-EU Europe.

Inclusive of All Europe

Firstly, the future, post-EU Europe must not repeat the suicidal mistakes of the First European (so-called First World) War of 100 years ago. That was an attempt on the part of the nations of the Germanic-Latin Western corner of Europe not only to dominate each other through bloody rivalry, but also through an elitist Russian conspiracy to smash once and for all Russian Europe. This covered the vast majority of European territory, which was then, as it still is, in a Russian Empire, albeit today much reduced through the incompetence of the atheist Soviet regime. Any future Europe cannot be an isolated corner of Europe, either the post-Hitlerian Western corner, or the post-Stalinist Eastern corner. It must be inclusive of all Europe.

Therefore, it must, as many of its keenest though rejected thinkers and leaders like De Gaulle, ousted in the 1968 American coup, have long recognized, include all Eurasia, from Reykjavik to Vladivostok. Europe must recognize that it is only the artificially separated and self-isolated corner of Northern Asia. For this is precisely the territory populated by Europeans. These are Slavs (360 million – by far the largest European ethnic group), Latins (213 million), and Germanics (208 million), as well as small ethnic groups, like the Celts, the Hungarians, the Greeks, the Finns, the Albanians, the Baltic peoples, the Georgians, the Armenians, the Basques and small groups in the Caucasus and Siberia, as well as new immigrant groups in Western Europe.

Neither Unionist, Nor Nationalist

Secondly, the future Europe must avoid extremes. This means it must avoid the Nationalism that was inherent in Western Europe so often during the 900 years until 1945 and cost Europe so much blood in what were in reality civil wars between Europeans. But it must also avoid the other extreme, the reaction of Unionism that interrupted Nationalist Western European history and created tyranny in it. Centralizing Unionism began in the incredibly cruel and barbaric Roman Empire, but spread its ideology to such tyrants as Charlemagne, who wanted to revive pagan Rome, and those who followed him and who were also consciously or unconsciously neo-pagans, like Medieval and Renaissance Popes, or Napoleon and Hitler.

The future Europe must therefore be Confederal, a Company of Sovereign Nations freely co-operating with one another. Such was the vision of perhaps the greatest European in the second millennium of its history, Tsar Nicholas II, when he established the Hague Peace Conventions of 1899 and 1907. Understanding the aggressive evil intentions and bloody rivalries of the Western corner of Northern Eurasia, of Germany, Austria-Hungary, France and Great Britain, he wished to put an end to them. Speaking fluent Russian, English, French, German and Danish, he married a grand-daughter of Queen Victoria, who was born to the sovereign Grand Duke of Hesse, he accurately foresaw the potential True Europe, a Europe of sovereignty and peace.


Thirdly, the future Europe must refer to its roots, which are not just vaguely Christian, that is semi-Christian, let alone atheist, but refer to the full Christianity of the first millennium, of which the Orthodox Church is the heir today. This does not necessarily mean that the future of Europe is racially white, it is a Europe populated by those who accept, if only nominally, the full Christian roots of all Europe. Those who refuse to accept this reality and only live in Europe for economic reasons or as a result of the injustices of Western European exploitation of their homelands in Asia and Africa should be helped to return, if they wish to, to their countries of origin, which must be restored by Western Europe in repentance for its exploitation.


The future Europe will not be defined by the professional career politicians of the elite, who have so utterly failed ordinary Europeans over the last 70 years and divided Europe. It will be defined by the peoples of Europe themselves, by the grassroots, and not imposed from on high. However, this can only happen if the peoples of Europe consciously repent for their past apostasy and irresponsibility, especially that of the last fifty years. It is this that has led to such catastrophic consequences, including all but destroying their sovereign identities under the hail of secularization come from North America, which Western Europe itself created in its bid for suicide. The United States of Europe, intended by Monnet and all the other Unionists is not the solution.

Unionism, like Nationalism, is only worldliness, attachment to this world, by definition denies the Christian roots of Europe. In so doing, it destroys European culture. This was precisely the experience of the Soviet Union, which attempted to build a new man and a new culture, promising paradise on earth. However, because it explicitly denied Christ, it brought hell on earth instead of paradise on earth. If the Western corner of Northern Eurasia can learn from the Soviet experience, there is still hope. However, if it refuses to learn from this, it too will create a Soviet-style hell on earth. Some will say that it is all too late for any of this, that hell on the Western European earth is inevitable. However, we say that it is never too late to repent.

About Ionan Orthodoxy: An Interview with Archbishop George of London

12 May 2041

Q: What is the territory of your Archdiocese?

AG: As you know, our Archdiocese is part of the Russian Orthodox Metropolia in Europe under Metropolitan John. This stretches from Ireland to Austria and Iceland to Sicily and includes the Latin, Germanic, Celtic and Basque peoples of Western Europe. Our Archdiocese includes the four now sovereign nations of England, Ireland (which was finally reunited five years ago, if you remember), Scotland and Wales. At present we have four bishops, myself, Bishop Patrick in Dublin, Bishop Andrew in Edinburgh and Bishop David in Cardiff. For our Local Synods we always use our premises on the Isle of Man, the only place from which all our four nations are visible.

Q: Why did you take the name Ionan for your Archdiocese?

AG: Originally, the name ‘Diocese of the Isles’ was suggested for the Archdiocese, but this was considered too vague, since there are isles all over the world. Then the name ‘Isles of the North Atlantic’ was suggested, so forming the acronym I.O.N.A. This conveniently refers to the Ionan Orthodox monasticism of St Columba, which originated in Egypt and came to Ireland via Gaul. Since St Columba’s monastery on Iona spread to England via Lindisfarne and from there Orthodoxy went south, converting much of England, and authentic monasticism had always been the one thing missing here, we felt that this was a good name.

Q: How did ‘Ionan Orthodoxy’ come into being?

AG: As you know even into the early 21st century there were two forms of Orthodoxy in Western countries. The first was that which looked back to the ethnic homeland, which meant that in each Western European country there was a multitude of dioceses, called jurisdictions, each living in a sort of divisive ethnic ghetto and using mainly a language other than English. This was all right for first-generation immigrants, but it did not work for second and subsequent generations, who were simply assimilated into the Non-Orthodox milieu. And after three generations, 75 years, abroad, the first generation always died out and so the Church with it. It happened to the Russians in England (arrived by 1920) who had died out by 1995 and to the Greek-Cypriots in England (arrived by 1960) who had died out by 2035.

Q: What was the second form of Orthodoxy in the West?

AG: Seeing the obvious short-sightedness and failure of the above form, there were second and third-generation Russian intellectuals who by reaction took the opposite stance. Their second form of Orthodoxy consisted of merging all Orthodox, whatever their background, into a melting pot. Their common point was the lowest common denominator, that is, the ethnic identity of the (Non-Orthodox) host country. Their policy was then to sell this as the new and substitute ethnic identity of a new Local Church. This second form only developed in full in North America, where immigrants had begun arriving much earlier than in Western Europe, at the end of the nineteenth century, and where people were far more cut off from the roots of Orthodoxy than in Europe. In Europe we did not want to repeat that mistake.

Q: What was that mistake?

AG: It was the attempt to create an ‘American Orthodoxy’. That was a mistake because it put a culture, Non-Orthodox at that, above the Church. This was not a theological movement, but merely a sociological movement of adaptation and conformism. For example, through the inferiority complex of immigrants, most Orthodox churches in the US adopted pews and many of them organs, one institution tried to use a guitar accompaniment to the Divine Liturgy and adapt the theme tune of the cowboy film ‘Shenandoah’ to it. In other places the Divine Liturgy would be stopped at Christmas in order to sing Protestant Christmas carols!

Someone at the time drew a cartoon of an ‘All-American Patriarch’, a clean-shaven man in a clerical collar with a foolish grin on his face and a glass of coca-cola in his hand, like an advert for toothpaste. Of course, this was only a carton, but it did sum up the situation. At that time when the USA still ruled the world, there were actually individuals in the US who arrogantly and blindly imagined that this second form of Orthodoxy there was the only true form of Orthodoxy, that it was at the centre of the world and that it was their duty to colonize the rest of the world with it! In reality, of course, it was a mere provincial backwater experiment, to be allowed to die out quietly because this experiment simply pandered to the weaknesses of the host country. It placed the Church of God below heretical culture. That was blasphemous, which is why it was racked with scandals.

Q: But did the same temptation not occur in Europe, even if it did not have time to develop to the same extent as in the USA?

AG: Yes, of course, it occurred; human nature is the same everywhere, it was just that it took on different forms according to the local heterodox culture. The same thing has happened among unChurched, semi-Orthodox people in Greece, Romania and Russia. It is simply the heresy of phyletism. And make no mistake, it is a heresy because you can lose your soul in it – that is what a heresy is.

For example, in France a whole jurisdiction catered for a kind of ‘philosophical and aesthetic Orthodoxy’, ‘l’Orthodoxie a la francaise’, as one might say. This theory of Orthodoxy, or theorizing about Orthodoxy, did not present the Church as the Christian way of life, but as a complex and highly intellectual philosophy, full of long words and isms, which no-one really understood. Of course, it could have been expressed in very simple language, which everyone knew already. But as long as it sounded theoretically and philosophically fine, ‘cosmique’ as they used to say, all was fine, but of course, it was not fine and that jurisdiction died out, as it was built on sand, not on the Rock of the Faith. This theorizing was about the god of the philosophers in the language of philosophers, not the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the language of the fishermen of Galilee. You simply cannot build a Local Church based on Non-Orthodox culture! That is common sense, but you could not say that out loud to those who were taken up by such delusions.

Q: What about in other countries in Europe?

AG: It happened everywhere, not just in France. For example, in Germany the first liturgical book to be translated was the Typikon. In other words, Orthodoxy there was confused with the Non-Orthodox German mindset and produced an Orthodoxy of rules, a stubborn, black and white system, without any flexibility, any understanding of the human component, which is what it is all about. They lost their way by confusing the means (the services) with the ends (the salvation of the soul). For instance, I remember one German priest refusing to give a woman communion because she was dressed in trousers. Well, she was of course wrong, but a few decades ago there was a fashion for women to dress in trousers (fortunately, long since over now). That was bad, but what right did the German priest have to excommunicate that woman? Suppose she had died in the night after she had been refused communion? That sin would have been on the conscience of that priest.

Q: And in England?

AG: It was the same thing again. The national weakness here was not theorizing or creating a book of rules, but it was to adapt Orthodoxy to the British Establishment, to create a compromised ‘Establishment Orthodoxy’, a ‘British Orthodoxy’. This State-controlled and State-worshipping Orthodoxy, that of converts from Anglicanism, was of course just a repeat of the Anglicanism that had long ago been invented by Henry VIII and Elizabeth I. There were even two whole but tiny jurisdictions dedicated to this State-approved pietism. It was all salt that had lost its savour. Some such people used the treacherous, half-Norman Edward the Confessor as the mascot of their ‘Establishment Orthodoxy’. Of course, it all came to nothing and has died out now, largely a fantasy of the late-twentieth century and the curious personalities who reigned supreme in the bad old days then. It was very oppressive because, as they were emperors in new clothes, you were not allowed to contradict them!

All these examples show the danger of compromising the Faith with local culture. And all those who did so have now died out, as withered branches. And that is the answer to your question, how did ‘Ionan Orthodoxy’ come into being. It came into being as the only living alternative to the two false alternatives – the ghetto or worldly compromise.

Q: So what do you base ‘Ionan Orthodoxy’ on?

AG: Simply, we put the Church and the Faith first. If we put the Kingdom of God, Orthodoxy, first, then all will fall into place, including the language that we use in services, which today is for about 90% in English, regardless of the ethnic origin of the parishioners, regardless of how well or how badly they speak another language. We are united by Orthodox Christianity, not by ethnic origins, and we are carried forward by the faithfulness to the Church and Her Tradition of the younger generations, who are all primarily English-speakers.

Q: You now have over 350 parishes in the British Isles and Ireland, all established quite solidly and with their own clergy and premises. Every city and town over 50,000 and the area around it is covered. This is quite unlike even 25 years ago, when the Russian Church, a small minority at that time, had mostly tiny communities with services once a month, borrowed premises and a suffered from a huge shortage of priests to go out and do vital missionary work in the area surrounding their churches. What about the other jurisdictions, which collectively still have over 50 parishes outside the Archdiocese?

AG: We live with them as good neighbours. People are free to join us and free to remain outside us. As you know, the parishes outside our jurisdiction are composed mainly of elderly people who settled here from various countries 50 years ago or more and they use very little English in their services. Virtually all the young people come to us. Time will show which way things will go. Live and let live.

Q: What is the future? Do you think of autocephaly?

AG: The Western European Metropolia, with just over 2,000 parishes now, is united, with six archdioceses, Iona, Scandinavia, Germania, Gallia, Italia and Hispania. True, the Metropolia has autonomy, but at the present time there is no desire at all for autocephaly. True, 2,000 parishes is more than in some other Local Churches, like the 700 parishes of the Hungarian Orthodox Church which recently became autocephalous, but a lot fewer than in others. Take China for example. That is still also an autonomous part of the Russian Church, even though it now has over 25,000 parishes. And the Russian Church Herself did not become autonomous for centuries, only after the Empire had fallen in New Rome. At present, I cannot see any reason to become autocephalous. That situation may of course change, especially in China, but not yet. It all takes time.

Q: Are you saying that autocephaly granted prematurely can be dangerous?

AG: Definitely. And especially in Western Europe.

Q: Why?

AG: Because Western Europe has for over a millennium veered between extremes which we do not want to repeat.

Q: Which extremes?

AG: The first is that of despotic centralism. This was the extreme of the pagan Roman Empire, which Charlemagne foolishly tried to revive and fortunately failed to, but it was indeed revived after 1050, causing Western Europe’s schism from the Church, and that lasted until the anti-Latin nationalist outburst of the Germanic Reformation. After that, despotic centralism was tried again by warmongers like Napoleon, the Kaiser and Hitler, and then by the EU Fourth Reich – and we all know how that ended.

Each time there was a reaction to this despotism – nationalism, and that led to terrible fratricidal wars in Europe, like the so-called ‘Wars of Religion’ in the 16th century, just as centralism created the World Wars. We do not want those extremes, we must follow the golden mean of unity in diversity, which is what we have in Ionan Orthodoxy and in the Russian Orthodox Metropolia in Europe in general. Europe has to be a Confederation of Nations, not a Union, a United States of Europe, but not a series of warring, nationalist states either.

In the same way, the Tsardom of Rus, as it is now called, successfully overcame provincial Ukrainian nationalism a generation ago and reunited huge territories, one sixth of the world. However, it only did this by rejecting the old centralism of the Soviet Union, which had done so much damage to its credibility. Once it had done that, again on the basis of unity in diversity, all of Eastern Europe joined in a free and mutually beneficial economic confederation with it, throwing off the shackles of the old European Union, which was in fact just a repeat of the Soviet Union.

Q: Will you drop the word ‘Russian’ from the name of the Russian Orthodox Metropolia in Europe? Most of your faithful are either not Russian or else do not speak it.

AG: In the bad old days of Western nationalism, for example in North America in the Cold War, they detested the word ‘Russian’ and dropped it. Now we are more enlightened and we all understand that ‘Russian’ does not mean nationalism and means uncompromised, unsecularized Orthodoxy. We exist because we have been helped to exist by the Russian Orthodox Church, the only multinational, Imperial Orthodox Church. I think we should keep it. Do you remember the old Roman Catholic Church, as it used to be called? Well, there were hardly any Romans in it!

Q: Why has the Western European Metropolia been so successful?

AG: Without doubt because of the sacrifices made to underpin it in the twentieth century and since. The Church is built on blood, sweat and tears. We should remember with gratitude the prayers and work of those who went before us. For example, I can remember decades ago, how people wanted more English in the services. So, one bishop said yes, do the service in English. What happened? The people who had been clamouring for more English could not even put a decent choir together to sing just the Liturgy! Some of them said that the singing was so bad that they preferred the Liturgy in a foreign language, in which it was properly sung. In other words, you have to make sacrifices in order to achieve anything. We owe a great deal to those who sang properly in English, showing others that the Liturgy in English could be just as beautiful as in Slavonic. Actions speak louder than words.

Yes, mistakes were made in the past, but we learned from those mistakes. Take for example our English translations which stretch back to the turn of the 20th century, nearly 150 years ago, those made in the USA with the blessing of the holy Patriarch Tikhon by an Episcopalian Isabel Hapgood and by Orlov in England. Those were foundation stones. Yes, those translations have been improved and on the way we have seen archaic translations in a Latinate, Victorian style like those of Hapgood or even with 16th century spelling, we have seen those made into street English as well as into soulless, jarring academic English, all sorts, but today we have definitive translations, avoiding all those extremes. It is easy to criticize, but the fact is that without those tireless efforts of the past, however mistaken they sometimes were, we would not be where we are now.

Let us first of all thank our recent fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters in Christ who went before us, who built our Church, our parishes and our souls. Our Metropolia, in effect, the Church of the Old and the New Europe, would not exist without them. But let us also thank the saints of the first millennium. Through venerating them, we have earned their prayers and because of their prayers we are here today. We are built not on dead souls, but on spiritually alive souls, whether of the distant past or of the recent past. Always on spiritually alive souls: Remember that.

The East of England Orthodox Church


The 500 million people and 28 nations of the European Union are divided into almost 100 regions, each representing an average population of five million. England is divided into nine such regions, the easternmost one of which is called the East of England. This is composed of six historic counties, three in the eastern half, Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex, and three in the western half: Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire.

The East of England Orthodox Church is simply the name of the local charitable trust of ROCOR which runs one large parish church in Colchester in Essex and soon, God willing, a small second one in Norwich in Norfolk. God willing, we hope one day to set up other churches to cover not just the official region, but others that are more generally in the eastern half of England, which includes such vital sites of English holiness and history as St Albans, Canterbury and York.

Our hope is to be able to open public-access churches in the major cities and towns which would serve all the many nationalities who adhere to the Russian Orthodox Faith. This means all those that use the Orthodox calendar, use various languages, though principally Slavonic and English, have an iconostasis, do not abbreviate or otherwise tamper with the services and have confession before communion. Our desire is to be a home for all Orthodox who follow the Tradition; we do not believe in some sort of ‘Anglicanism with icons’ or manmade ‘Halfodoxy’ or ‘Anglodoxy’, such as can sadly be found in certain parts of the Diaspora.

The Past and Present

Our priestly service started in Felixstowe in Suffolk eighteen years ago in 1997. We dedicated our efforts to the two local saints, to St Felix (+ 647), the Apostle of East Anglia and the founder of the town of Felixstowe, which is named after his monastery, and to St Edmund, the first Patron Saint of England (+ 869). Eleven years passed with nothing to show for our efforts except perseverance and patience amid complete lack of support. Instead of giving up the struggle, we survived. God was testing us.

Thanks to Divine Providence, in 2008 the parish moved to the much more suitable location and our own premises in Colchester. In fact we have been told that this is the largest Russian Orthodox church building in Western Europe. This is appropriately dedicated to St John of Shanghai, the Apostle of the Diaspora. If it is God’s Will, at the end of this year we hope to open a small parish in Norwich. This will be dedicated to St Alexander Nevsky, who represents both our links with the North (Norwich means the north market or north town) and also our spiritual resistance both to the Materialism of the West and to the Islamism of the East.

The Possible Future

As that community becomes a parish and stands on its own feet, it will become independent and have its own trust and look after itself. And the sooner the better. For the East of England Orthodox Church Trust is merely a channel, an instrument, a catalyst, a path, a means; not a possession or an empire or an end. Our hope is to make a small and modest contribution to our vision of thirty years – to be a small building block in the great hope, in the foundation of a multinational and multilingual Russian Orthodox Metropolia of Western Europe, for which we have worked and which we have urged for thirty years.

If it were possible, and, true, here we are in the realms of the humanly impossible, we would one day like to see Russian Orthodox parishes with our own buildings in:

Cambridgeshire (but covering part of Bedfordshire too): a church in Cambridge, dedicated as a seat of spiritual learning to The Three Holy Hierarchs; a church in Peterborough (where there is a large Eastern European population), dedicated to its patrons St Peter and St Paul.

Hertfordshire (but covering part of Bedfordshire too): a church in St Albans, dedicated to its patron St Alban. Or perhaps just outside this city there could be a Russian Orthodox monastery, which is so desperately needed in this country, and dedicated to the Holy Martyr Alban.

Then, outside the strict territory of the East of England region, but still in the eastern half of England, in:

East London, a church dedicated to St George, the second patron saint of England.

Kent: a church in Canterbury, dedicated to the Apostle of the English, St Gregory the Great (the Dialogist).

Lincolnshire: in Lincoln, a church dedicated (as there are so many saints there) to All Saints.

Yorkshire: in York, a church dedicated to St Constantine, who was proclaimed Emperor in York, and to his mother St Helen.

Conclusion: Dream or Vision?

How much would such a vision cost? Millions of pounds; perhaps anything between £1,000,000 and £5,000,000. Surely then, this is all just a dream? And a dream is merely human and we do not waste our time and energy on dreams. However, a vision, although also human, requires the grace of God to come true. May we unworthy become worthy of a small drop of grace so that our vision may come true and not be a mere vain human dream.

An Interview with the Most Reverend Metropolitan John, First Hierarch of R.O.M.E., the Russian Orthodox Metropolia in Europe

Q: Vladyko Metropolitan, this is the twentieth anniversary of the foundation of the Metropolia of Paris and Europe after the completion of the new Russian Cathedral in the centre of Paris. Can you say something about this moment?

A: Thank you. I have been asked to relate a few facts regarding our Metropolia in this interview. At this historic moment it is not only the twentieth anniversary of our Metropolia, but also 100 years since the Nazi-led European invasion of the Russian Lands – just as European and multinational an invasion as the 1812 invasion – on the feast of All the Russian Saints in 1941; 50 years since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991; and 25 years since the events in the then Ukraine and the 2016 Council – and we know how those ended.

And it is also 38 years since His Holiness Patriarch Alexei II announced – prophetically –remember this was before the 2007 reconciliation between the two parts of the Russian Church – the intention of establishing a Metropolia for Europe. This was to be built on the foundation laid by all those faithful to the Russian Church, then in three different jurisdictions, one completely outside the Russian Church, and as the foundation of a future new Local Church. As the now autonomous Metropolia, it is still towards this Local Church that we are working. It is not far away now – as the illusions and temptations of the past have fast receded.

Q: Which countries does the Metropolia cover?

A: Its territory covers all the European countries which are not already covered by a Local Church, such as the Serbian, Polish, Greek, Bulgarian, Romanian Churches and the Church of the Czechs and Slovaks. This means 20 mainly Western European countries which all have small Orthodox minorities, less than 5% of the total population, namely: Iceland, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Ireland, Wales, England, Scotland, the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Hungary, France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Portugal, Spain and Italy.

Q: What were the most difficult tasks in establishing the Metropolia?

A: The two most difficult tasks were undoubtedly the struggle against provincialism and parochialism on the one hand and against disincarnate, intellectualized Orthodoxism on the other hand.

Q: Can you explain these words?

A: Provincialism and parochialism were in the twentieth century the bane of all the Local Churches. I remember how back in the early 2000s, Metr Amfilochie of Montenegro told us how when he had first become a bishop, he had decided to visit one of his remote parishes. Up in the mountains, where priests visiting parishioners used to wear a rifle strapped across their shoulders against marauding bears and wolves, there was one parish, which had not seen a bishop in years. In fact, when he got there, the first things the priest asked him was: ‘Who are you?’ He answered, ‘I am your bishop’. The priest asked: ‘What is a bishop?’

It turned out that the ‘priest’ was not a priest at all, he had become a ‘priest’ because his family had from father to son all become priests. The man had never even been ordained. Of course, the incident says much about the failure of bishops to visit their parishes – a common failing in Europe before the Metropolia came into existence – but the story illustrates a real problem – provincialism, even parochialism.

And provincialism and parochialism were always the bane of the Russian diaspora, whether in Paris or New York, with their strange fantasies, theories and cultish and sectarian mentalities, based around strong personalities who lived in isolation from the catholicity and wholeness of the Church. It was only after the fall of the atheist regime in the Soviet Union in 1991 that all the different parts of the broken Russian ship could come together again in synthesis, and by blood, sweat and tears we could overcome such parochialism and provincialism with all its sects and personality cults. Viewed from the Centre, spiritually speaking Europe is only a Western province, even further westwards than provincial Little Russia or Slovakia, far beyond the Carpathians. However, even though we are a province, that does not mean that we have to be provincial, even less parochial. We must value our spiritual attachment to the Centre.

Q: So much for provincialism and parochialism. But what do you mean by ‘a disincarnate, intellectualized Orthodoxism’? What was the difficulty there?

A: At the one extreme stood the provincials and parochials, basically phyletists, bigots and racists. However, on the other side of the same anti-Orthodox coin stood the self-important intellectuals. Their mistake was to imagine that they were important! They misunderstood, they imagined that the Church was based on brains and not on saints, on academia, not on holiness. The two things are quite different. In their way the intellectuals of Paris, like those of ancient Athens and Alexandria, were just as provincial and parochial as the uneducated because they missed the main point. They talked and philosophized, but did not do. Just so much hot air: Orthodoxism.

The uneducated provincials and parochials never understood that the Church is about the Holy Spirit and the transfiguration of fallen humanity despite nationalism, the attachment to this world. Earth is not to take over Heaven. However, the intellectuals never understood that the Church is about the Incarnation, that our Faith is not some vain private fantasy, a mere set of ideas or piece of idealism, but it is about incorporating the Faith into public life. Faith has consequences, it is not some Protestant-style Sunday ‘God-slot’ religion, an intellectual plaything, a hobby or amusement for those with overdeveloped brains and underdeveloped hearts. Faith embraces the whole of our life in all its aspects and inevitably moulds and reshapes the State, including the Western establishments with their idolatrous religion of secularism. Heaven is to be brought to earth.

Q: Twenty years ago did you have grassroots support in establishing the Metropolia?

A: Yes, there was keen and long-standing support from a network of many clergy and laypeople scattered throughout Europe, in all the European capitals and cities from Helsinki to Dublin, from Stockholm to Geneva, from Vienna to Brussels, from Amsterdam to Madrid, from Paris to Munich, from Lisbon to Budapest, from Oslo to London, from Edinburgh to Rome, as well as in many regional centres. However, since they had always lacked a central Metropolitan authority and the corresponding infrastructure, it was difficult to co-ordinate all those who had always shared the same though often unspoken fundamental Russian Orthodox Metropolia values. Many had been waiting for decades, even generations, for such a Metropolia. This is why our annual Metropolitan conferences are so important: they bring people together.

Q: Why does the Metropolia cover Finland? Surely there are parishes of the so-called autonomous Finnish Orthodox?

A: They are not autonomous, but depend entirely on the political situation in Istanbul and Helsinki and for generations there have been other parishes in Finland which have nothing to do with that so-called Finnish Orthodox group. We hold the Orthodox calendar and avoid all manner of Halfodox modernism, such as intercommunion, semi-Uniatism, concelebration with Lutheran bishops and bishopesses or absence of iconostases, the sort of practices that were commonplace only a few years ago among some of the ethnic jurisdictions, whose policies, just like those of the Catholics and Protestants, used to be dictated to them by the US State Department, rather than by the consensus of the Church Fathers.

We have built our Metropolia on this basis, on faithfulness to Orthodoxy. In any of the twenty countries where we have our multi-ethnic jurisdiction, we attract Orthodox of all nationalities. Of course we already have the multinational base of the Russian Church, parishioners originally from the Baltics, Moldova, Central Asia, Poland and Slovakia, as well as from the three Russian Lands themselves, and above all their European-born descendants. Other parishes are in any case composed of local people who for generations have been Orthodox within the Russian Orthodox Churches.

Others come to us as whole communities and parishes because they feel that their identity is fully Orthodox but also European and no longer wish to be attached to their grandparents’ countries and their original ethnic jurisdiction. Others come to us as individuals because they feel that their ethnic jurisdiction, whether, say Greek, Roman Catholic or Protestant – and the two latter are also ethnic jurisdictions, make no mistake about it – has been spiritually corrupted.

Q: But surely the Metropolia is also attached to ‘the grandparents’ country’, to Russia?

A: Spiritually yes, but we have full autonomy, which will develop in time into autocephaly. Everyone knows that and knows also of our commitment to the use of European languages in our services and missionary work. None of the ethnic jurisdictions has such a commitment or such an infrastructure as the Metropolia. The fact is that we are the only multi-ethnic jurisdiction. This is the distinctive identity of the Metropolia.

Q: As we know, there are still parishes in the twenty countries of Europe which are outside the Metropolia. Do you not want to bring them into the Metropolia?

A: Why? Everyone is free. There is no question of coercion. For example, there are embassy churches which are attached to their homelands. They will never be part of the Metropolia as they are basically dependencies, metochia in Greek, of their home countries. Then there are the old, dying ethnic parishes, founded in the 20th century and now closing down one by one, having failed to keep the children and grandchildren. Then there are recent immigrants who speak the local European language poorly; they are hardly ready to integrate the Metropolia and often lack the broad catholic vision, they are still provincial, parochial, they tend to cluster together in small ethnic groups.

And then of course there is still a tiny hard core who for ideological and political reasons do not wish the Metropolia well. They are mainly Halfodox modernists and Russophobes who have hatred and jealousy in their hearts; frankly it would be more honest of them simply to join the dying remnants of Catholicism or Protestantism. They really are on the fringes and margins of the Church and would only bring strife and conflict into the Church if they were allowed to join the Metropolia.

Q: So what proportion of Orthodox in Europe do you actually represent today?

A: Over three-quarters. This means that those who choose to remain outside the Metropolia are outside the mainstream, in fact, to be brutal, they are increasingly irrelevant.

Q: How do you see future structures developing in the Metropolia?

A: As you know, we now have over twenty diocesan archbishops and bishops in the Metropolia and seminaries in Paris, Munich, Madrid and Rome. We expect further developments with time. Without doubt autocephaly, the foundation of a European Orthodox Church, both European and fully Orthodox, is the next step.

Q: As we come to the end of this interview, would you like to say anything to our podcast listeners?

A: Glory to God in the Highest and on earth peace, goodwill among men!

+ John, Metropolitan of Paris and Western Europe

Paris, 7 May 2041