Tag Archives: western Europe

What Can Each Western European Land and People Bring to the Church?

In Central and Eastern Europe, each land and people can learn of Orthodoxy from both its history and its present neighbours, so bringing its particular genius to the Church of God. Thus, from north to south:

Finland learns Orthodoxy from neighbouring Russian Karelia and its saints like St Tryphon of Pechenga, Enlightener of Lappland (+ 1583).

Poland learns its Orthodoxy from Mieszko I, baptized from Moravia in 966, and today learns from Belarus, the Ukraine and its native Lemko Carpatho-Russians.

Slovakia learns its Orthodoxy from Sts Cyril and St Methodius, as well as from the Carpatho-Russians, both native and in neighbouring Transcarpathia.

The Czech Lands learn from the glorious heritage of St Rastislav and Sts Cyril and Methodius in Moravia, St Ludmila and St Viacheslav in Prague, and learn from the struggles of Jan Hus in Bohemia.

Hungary learns from the ancient heritage of its first Christians, come from New Rome with Bishop Hierotheos in c. 950, as well as from its Orthodox neighbours.

Slovenia and Croatia learn from the first Slav missions of Sts Cyril and Methodius and their disciples.

But what of the Western European lands, which, although they have a glorious but distant Orthodox past, have no Orthodox neighbours and so have to learn from new immigrant populations? What can they bring?

The German Lands, Germany, Austria and most of Switzerland, can bring order and discipline. It is no coincidence that the first liturgical book translated into German was the Typicon.

The French Lands, France, southern Belgium and eastern Switzerland, can bring the contemplation of God, the philosophy of faith.

England and the Celtic Lands, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, can bring asceticism. It is no coincidence that the first liturgical book translated into English was the Lenten Triodion.

Italy, that storehouse of Church relics, can bring the sense of Church history as the historic centre of Orthodoxy in the West.

Spain and Portugal can bring their sense of beauty, ritual and vestments.

The Dutch Lands, the Netherlands, Flanders and Luxembourg, can bring co-operation and co-ordination.

Scandinavia, Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Iceland, can bring efficiency and practical effectiveness.

If a Russian Orthodox Metropolia is to come into existence in Western Europe, we can then suggest how each of its lands and peoples can contribute their history from the first millennium and also their qualities as they developed in the second millennium.

The Stumbling-Block and the Foolishness of Millennial Western Cultural Prejudice

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
(Matt 5, 8)

But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness.
(I Cor I, 23)

The culture of Western Europe began as Orthodox Christian. The history of the first millennium AD confirms this bold but factual statement. Thus, the Apostles Peter and Paul were martyred in Rome, an event followed by the martyrdom of thousands of others in Rome and all over Western Europe, veneration of whom is fundamental to the Orthodox Church. Thus, there are great Orthodox Church Fathers in the West, such as St Irinaeus of Lyons, St Cyprian of Carthage, St Hilary of Poitiers, St Ambrose of Milan, St Vincent of Lerins, St Leo of Rome and St Gregory the Dialogist. Thus, Orthodox monasticism from Egypt and Palestine entered into European life through those like St Martin of Tours, St John Cassian, St Benedict of Nursia and St Columba of Iona. Thus, the whole territory of Western Europe, Portugal and Spain, Italy and France, Switzerland and Austria, Germany and the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg, Britain and Ireland, Denmark and Sweden, Norway and Iceland, became patterned by monasteries and churches and their Orthodox Christian life and the place names they left behind them.

Of course, there was another element in Western culture – the paganism of the pagan Rome Empire and of the pagan Celtic, Latin and Germanic peoples. This element always existed in the first millennium, alongside the Orthodox Christian one. However, this does not explain the reasons why the descendants of the once Christianised peoples of Western Europe are so little drawn to the Orthodox Church of today.

For this we can identify three reasons. The first is that many Western people may not live anywhere near an Orthodox church. Until very recently, there were very few Orthodox churches in Western Europe outside the capitals and major cities. The second reason is that even when such churches do exist, they may cater only for foreign-language immigrant communities, who consider that their task is precisely to conserve their foreign language and customs, which are not to be watered down with a local language. It must be said, however, that, whatever the excuses of the past, both these factors are much less relevant today than twenty-five or fifty or seventy-five years ago. Indeed, it is now obvious that there is a third reason – ultimately a factor which is far more important than the first two, because it is a spiritual reason. What is this?

This is that any who have been subject to Western culture, by birth or by assimilation, must first divest themselves of anything in that culture which cannot be baptised into the Church of God. This means ten layers of anti-Christian cultural prejudice, ten centuries of a false messiah, which have, like a parasite inside the body, become attached to the original Western Christian culture. What are they?

1. 11th century: This is the fundamental layer, which asserts that Western man can replace the Holy Spirit, that fallen and mortal man, whose immortal destiny by throwing off the Fall is heaven, is already a god on earth.

2. 12th century: This is the layer of the arrogant mind, the layer of the proud and aggressive and unrepentant individual human reason, which asserts that it knows all mysteries, that it knows better than the Church.

3. 13th century: This is the layer of false spiritualism, of the emotional pietism of the soul, of the self-exalted psyche, which imagines in its illusion that it sees God, when in reality it sees only its own fallen reflection.

4. 14th century: This is the layer of violence, of war and plague, which brings the spirit of morbidity into the Western soul, which fears death because it does not know of the Resurrection and even denies it.

5. 15th century: This is the layer of clerical corruption, which brings hatred and mistrust, the misperception that a mere human institution is the Body of Christ and that therefore it cannot exist anywhere else on earth.

6. 16th century: This is the layer of protest and revolt of the individual, the individualism which is in fact the egoism that lies at the root of the self-loving bubble of consumerism, which it claims as its ‘human right’.

7. 17th century: This is the layer of the puritanical witch-hunt, of the rejection of superstition, but which also rejects all that is beyond the narrow and limited understanding of the fallen mind as politically incorrect.

8. 18th century: This is the layer of irrational reason which claims enlightenment, but which in its darkness justifies its arrogant and imperialist desire to enslave others in its all-conquering quest for power, land and gold.

9. 19th century: This is the layer of delusional triumphalism, which asserts that the idolatrous Western domination of the whole world, through arms and industry and science, is messianic and will bring paradise on earth.

10. 20th century: This is the layer of the abandonment of God and His replacement by technology, which asserts the primitive superstition that, despite now recognised weaknesses, human knowledge is all-saving.

Thus, the first five centuries of the second millennium saw Orthodoxy as a stumbling block in the process of reducing the Faith to a mere human institution. That is why it sent out its troops to destroy the Church, which remained as a living reproach to the imperialist Western substitute for it. The second five centuries of the second millennium saw Orthodoxy as foolishness before the so-called triumph of the individual human mind divorced from God. That is why it despised as superstition and idolatry the Church, which remained as a living reproach to the rationalist Western substitute for it.

What then can we say of the 21st century?

We consider that it is too early to speak of this unfinished layer. However, we predict that in this century so-called human freedom will be proved to be enslavement. Therefore, this is the century when millennial Western cultural prejudice will evaporate, as it is seen that in truth the only real stumbling block has been the reduction of the Church of God to a human institution and that the only real foolishness has been that of the individual human mind divorced from God. This is the century when the spiritually sensitive in search of spiritual purity will find the Church, but the spiritually insensitive in search of spiritual impurity will find Hell.

The New World Disorder Goes On

Statistics from the 2011 UK census, just released, show that 59% of the population of England and Wales still calls itself Christian. This figure is down from 72% in 2001. Clearly, the fall is because the older generation, who are nearly wholly nominal Christians, is dying out. It is surprising that this figure for even nominal Christianity is still so high. We would have thought less than 50%. (The figure for practising Christians is probably about 3%). At the same time, this census has not surprisingly revealed that over a quarter, 25%, of the population has no religion at all.

Clearly, the figure of 59% who call themselves Christians has been boosted by the massive immigration to the UK since 2001. Immigrants have been admitted by governments greedy to exploit the hard work of Christians from Eastern Europe, especially Poland, and Africa. (True, governments have also been greedy to exploit the masses of poor Muslim immigrants allowed into the country in recent years – but with cultural consequences which they will live to regret. See: http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2012/dec/11/census-2011-religion-race-education).

Other Western European countries report figures very similar to Britain for apostasy and mass atheism. It is clear that practising Christians today are a very small minority in all Western European countries. Moreover, it is a minority that is already undergoing indirect persecution. Unless there is an as yet unforeseeable movement of repentance, this persecution will become direct. By 2021, the figure for nominal Christians could easily be as low as 40%, perhaps less. Even in the USA, the number of ‘Christians’ is falling fast. (And most of these seem to be sectarians, compromised by poor education, US nationalism and happy-clappy fundamentalism, which trends have supported the extremes of the Republican Party).

All this comes against a background of direct worldwide persecution of Christianity in Africa and Asia. Nigeria, Mali, the Sudan, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Indonesia are only some of the countries concerned. Millions of Christians there have been massacred in recent decades. Today, the Copts of Egypt are being severely persecuted, thanks to the seizure of power by the Western-backed Muslim Brotherhood. However, the most serious situation of all is in Syria. Here the Orthodox Patriarch has just died. His flock, once concentrated in western Syrian centres like Damascus, Aleppo and Homs, is being scattered and murdered. We cannot help thinking that Patriarch Ignatius, who always supported Pan-Arab nationalism, must have died of a broken heart at seeing his country and people being torn to pieces, victims of geopolitics and greed.

The latest anti-Syrian fantasy accusation is that the Syrian government is set to use chemical weapons against its own people. This is nonsense. Its stocks of chemical weapons only exist out of fear that Western-armed and financed, nuclear Israel, whose stockpiles of chemical weapons are 180 time superior to that of Syria, may use its chemical weapons against Syria. This fantastic accusation is an excuse, as were the invented, non-existent ‘weapons of mass destruction’ in Iraq an excuse; international rumour has it that Western nations together with Islamists are planning an attack on Syria at the end of December and the assassination of the Syrian President.

The curious thing about the whole anti-Christian Arab winter is that the aggressive, secularist and anti-religious West has allied itself with Muslim fanatics against Christianity. Of course, we should not find this curious. The West already did this in Afghanistan in the 1980s, arming to the hilt those it now calls ‘Taliban insurgents’, but then ‘heroic freedom-fighters’. And the British did the same in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, freely allowing the Ottomans to persecute and massacre the Christians of the Balkans. And when Turkey, taking advantage of the Western-organised revolution in Russia in 1917 to massacre one million Armenians, the West was also silent. Today the US and the UK continue to allow Turkey to occupy 40% of Cyprus and massacre the Kurds and persecute Greeks and Armenians. But then of course the UK itself gassed the Iraqi Kurds in the 1930s and the Western Powers supplied Iraq with poison gas to massacre its Kurds in the 1980s.

The meeting of diametrically opposed extremes is nothing new. Did not the Romans and the Jews connive to crucify Christ? Did not Roman Catholic Crusaders and Muslim Turks connive to destroy the Capital of Christendom and the millennium-old Roman Christian Empire? Did not the Mongols and the Teutonic Knights attempt to destroy Russia under St Alexander Nevsky? Did not German generals and American capitalists connive to finance the Russian Revolution? Did not NATO and Albanian Muslim terrorists connive to steal the most ancient part of Serbia?

Today, Syria is the target of the extremists. Islamist mercenaries, especially from Libya, Qatar, the Caucasus and Central Asia, are being shipped in and armed by the US. Qatar wants to put a gas pipeline through Syria to supply Western Europe with natural gas. Turkey wants the same pipeline to go through its territory too. The stakes are all the higher, for it is now known that Syria too has huge reserves of natural gas, which have not yet been exploited by Western companies – as they are now doing with impunity in Libya. And if Syria falls back into the Middle Ages because of Islamic fundamentalism, the West will rejoice; such backwardness will allow it to exploit the country at will.

The massacre and exile of a million or two Syrian Christians is not going to stop this. However, although the West was left free to take over Libya, it is not being left free to seize power in Syria. Syria has friends, first of all, in China. And the West fears China’s economic power. Secondly, there is Russia, which hopes to extend the already-existent Eurasian Union to the whole Orthodox Christian and Central Asian world. And thirdly, there is Islamist Iran, which is hostile to atheism. If the new atheist West really wants to spark a Third World War, it really is doing its best. We live in dangerous times. The 17 US Navy ships, the 5 British ships, the French aircraft carrier and those of other nations at present gathered off Syrian coasts, and the forces at the US bases in Turkey, Kuwait and in the Gulf, spell danger.

St James the Great-Martyr of Persia / Iran
27 November/10 December 2012

On the Future Multinational Russian Orthodox Metropolia in Western Europe

2002: A Premature Plan for Local Autonomy

It was in 2003 that His Holiness Patriarch Alexis made the long-awaited announcement about setting up an Autonomous Russian Orthodox Metropolia for Western Europe (1). Nearly ten years on nothing has happened. To understand why, we must first realise that the situation of the Russian Orthodox Church in the Diaspora at that time was very different from that of today.

The concept of an Autonomous Western European Metropolia was in reality a direct response to the desire of Archbishop Sergiy of the Paris Exarchate (’Rue Daru’) to return directly to the Mother-Church, only gaining Autonomy. In this way, Archbishop Sergiy would bypass the intermediary Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, or ROCOR, the Church authority for the Russian Diaspora, founded by the Russian Orthodox Patriarch Tikhon in 1920. It was from ROCOR that the Rue Daru splinter had broken off for political reasons after that saintly Patriarch’s death (probably martyrdom) in 1925.

Thus, seeing that the three generations of paralysis and subservience of the Church inside Russia to atheist government were over in 2000, Archbishop Sergiy of the Exarchate wanted his Rue Daru group to return to the Russian Church. He clearly saw, as we personally had already seen by 1988 (2), that Rue Daru had no future under the Greek Patriarchate of Constantinople in Turkey, and even less of a future as a tiny uncanonical group attached to no Local Church, as it had already been for nearly six years, from late 1965 to early 1971 (3).

In his desire for Autonomy, Archbishop Sergiy was influenced by the ‘Orthodox Church in America’ or ‘OCA’. This was, and still is for the moment, a small American group, which had also left the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia in 1925 (later returning to it for over a decade but, tormented by politics, leaving it again). In 1970, at the height of the Cold War, this group had received still much-disputed, full independence, or Autocephaly, from the Church inside Russia. Having seen this thirty years before, Archbishop Sergiy wanted something similar for his Paris-based group. However, much smaller still than the OCA, his group could not, he knew as a realist, receive a premature or dubiously canonical Autocephaly, but it could receive limited internal independence, or Autonomy.

Therefore, after the turning-point of the Jubilee Council of the Church inside Russia in 2000, which at last showed it to be free of the Russian State by meeting the demands of ROCOR (4), Patriarch Alexis and Archbishop Sergiy conducted negotiations to ease Rue Daru’s way back into the Russian Church. We shall never know whether return this would have been possible, because too early, in 2003, Archbishop Sergiy suddenly died. After this, although Patriarch Alexis made the historic announcement, Archbishop Sergiy’s successors fell into the sort of Russophobic politics, to which many Rue Daru members have always been prone.

Moreover, in 2002, the idea had been to appoint the controversial and divisive personality of Metropolitan Antony Bloom as head of the Metropolia (3), but in 2003 he also died. Given the 2006 modernist schism (5) within Metr Antony’s former Diocese on the part of a small group that left for Rue Daru, claiming to be following the ‘legacy’ of Metr Antony Bloom, we shall never know whether this appointment would have been successful or catastrophic. We shall never know either, whether the Patriarchate of Constantinople, in whose jurisdiction Rue Daru then was, as still today, would even have released Rue Daru to return to its Mother-Church. However, all these considerations are purely academic, because they were overtaken by other much more important events.

2012: A Mature Plan for Worldwide Autonomy

These events were the reconciliation between the Church inside Russia and the vast majority of the Russian emigration, who belonged to the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, or ROCOR. This took place in 2007, after protracted and detailed negotiations which had effectively begun in 2003 and the All-Diaspora San Francisco Council of ROCOR in 2006. Thus the Russian Orthodox Church, the ROC, was reunited. Outside Russia, where the reunited Church is largely represented by the Autonomous ROCOR, there are many bishops, clergy and laypeople in some forty countries, including in Australasia, Indonesia, Thailand, Pakistan, Jerusalem, the Americas, North, Central and South, and all over Western Europe. This is a multinational and multilingual Church.

In October 2012 all bishops of the Russian Orthodox Diaspora met in London and celebrated the fifth anniversary of the reconciliation between the Church inside Russia and ROCOR. Here, for the first time, we began to see the structures of the future ROCOR. As is natural, the still remaining historic fragments of the Church inside Russia in the Americas and Western Europe are to be gradually absorbed into the new ROCOR. Its administrative centre will probably remain in New York, as now. However, initially, it will probably have three Metropolitan Areas: one for the Americas, with its senior Metropolitan and main seminary; one for Western Europe, with its Paris seminary and new Cathedral, which is about to be built; and one for the vast and numerous Australasian Diocese. Each Metropolitan Area will be built on dioceses and deaneries with their own bishops and deans.

Whether fragments of the OCA or Rue Daru will want to participate in the new ROCOR, we cannot say. It is entirely up to them. As regards the OCA, it now has no fewer than four Metropolitans, three of whom are ‘retired’, one of whom wishes to leave it; it also faces possible bankruptcy and has many scandals and internal divisions from its tragic past to deal with. As regards Rue Daru, having missed the boat, with its last, lone bishop now so tragically ill – our prayers are with him, since we well remember him when he was a young priest – lay factions are jostling for power and it faces ghettoisation as a result of its chosen path of isolationism.

It may well be that the more Orthodox parts of both jurisdictions will return to ROCOR in its new and united form. Perhaps, since Rue Daru, like the OCA, is increasingly dependent on newly-emigrated Russians for clergy, singers, finance and the living Tradition, few will wish to remain outside the reunited Russian Orthodox Church. However, some, who have lost the Tradition and so their identity, will probably accept the same fate as the Carpatho-Russian Diocese in North America. Dying out, this has recently had to accept the humiliation of a Greek Bishop, meaning that its traditions will be swallowed up, disappearing into the Church of Constantinople.

Some in Rue Daru will certainly prefer to stay under the Greek Metropolitan in Paris. There they are free to ‘innovate’ within the Westernised and US-financed, new-calendarist Patriarchate of Constantinople, without the discipline of the authentic Russian Church Tradition. This suited (and suits) uprooted the dissident Parisian dreamers and philosophers of Rue Daru. They are, after all, descendants of pre-Revolutionary dissidents and freemasons (‘intelligenty’), who actually supported the genocidal anti-Russian Revolution. They want not ‘Western Orthodoxy’, that is Russian Orthodoxy in its missionary integrity in Western languages, venerating the local saints of the West, but a ‘Westernised Orthodoxy’. That is an unrepentant and self-justifying, self-exalted semi-Orthodoxy, protestantised, uniatised, sanitised, sterilised, salt without its savour, so that it is spiritually nearly dead.

This latter never suited the many, more solid and down-to-earth Non-Parisians, among them Archbishop Sergiy, who was from Brussels, and the many others who, seeing the writing on the wall, began to quit Rue Daru from the 1980s on. As regards when this will come to pass, all remains uncertain – except for one thing. This is that the multinational and multilingual Autonomous Russian Orthodox Metropolia of Western Europe, part of the Autonomous Worldwide ROCOR, will be built on the canonical foundations of the catholicity of the Church, and not on local French masonic philosophy, disincarnate Origenistic intellectualism, or any other type of modernistic thinking. Anything premature or partial, as in the project of 2002, will not survive. As it is said: Man proposes, but God disposes.

Archpriest Andrew Phillips,
Colchester, England

7/20 December 2012
St Ambrose of Milan

Notes:

1. http://orthodoxengland.org.uk/lawaited.htm
2. http://orthodoxengland.org.uk/oewesteu.htm. At the time this visionary document, requested by Archbishop George, was entirely rejected by the then Rue Daru Archbishop George (Wagner). He did not want to know anything of any multinational and multilingual Diocese, even though that is what he already had. His personal tragedy was that in principle he wanted to be faithful to the Russian Church, but he only understood this as a narrow faithfulness to a language, Church Slavonic. Thus, in reality, he allowed modernist, Non-Russian customs to take over his Diocese, while remaining ferociously opposed to the use of local languages – those very languages which his flock used and understood. Obviously, feeling rejected by him as human-beings, many left his diocese as a result. Long before Archbishop Sergiy’s belated attempts to save the day, this suicidal policy was already the beginning of the end for Rue Daru.
3. http://www.orthodoxie.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/Conf_P_Nicolas.pdf?75c1d8
4. These were: a) The condemnation and rejection of erastian subservience to the militant atheist Soviet State, known as ‘Sergianism’; b) The subsequent and long overdue canonisation of the New Martyrs and Confessors, who had suffered under the atheists; c) The rejection of religious syncretism or so-called ‘Ecumenism’.
5. ‘Schism’ is the precise term used by Patriarch Alexis at the time. (I was the official translator of the documents).