As soon as the tiny Rue Daru Exarchate in Paris under the ex-Patriarchate of Constantinople was closed down just a few weeks ago on account of its Phanariot Russophobia, so the Russian Orthodox Church opened its own Exarchate of Paris and Western Europe, centred in the new Cathedral there. It is led by Metr John of Western Europe, whose patron saint is our very own St John of Shanghai. This, my vision of thirty years ago in 1988, which was almost immediately dismissed as a dream and contemptuously thrown away by a German Archbishop into the waste paper basket of his study in Asnieres sur Seine came true in 2018.
Indeed, the reality thirty years on is even better than my vision of a Western European Metropolia, because we now have an Exarchate, a step above a Metropolia, just a step beneath an Autonomous Orthodox Church of Western Europe. Time and time again we see that those who have no vision die. And that is the way it is. They have all died out, the opportunities missed. Here is simply the greatest example. In one sense now, my hopes have been realized. I can now rest and disappear, all my hopes which seemed impossible even 15 years ago, let alone 30 years ago, let alone 45 years ago when they were first born, have been achieved.
However, many unresolved problems remain. For instance, the Iberian Peninsula today has its own Orthodox Archbishop Nestor of Madrid, and celebrates its own saints. It follows the list that I drew up 25 years ago when I was the rector of the first ever Russian Orthodox parish in Portugal. On the other hand, the Exarchate includes only thirteen countries. Austria and Hungary and the Nordic countries (Scandinavia) are not yet included in the Exarchate and the Nordics still do not have their own bishop. Then France and Italy (with San Marino and Malta, we presume) must share Metropolitan John. And there are local problems in Benelux and especially in the British Isles and Ireland, which have to share their bishop with parishes in North America.
Then there is the problem that Germany is not included in the Exarchate either. No doubt this is connected with the problem that the 70 or so ROCOR parishes in Western Europe are not part of the Exarchate. And many of these parishes are bigger than the Exarchate parishes. For example at the Paris Cathedral with its three priests there were only 170 communions at Orthodox Christmas, not much different from 7 January in provincial Colchester (the 500th largest town in Western Europe) with its three priests. There is much to do! Above all we need hundreds more priests, hundreds more parishes, hundreds more church buildings of our own.
We need far better pastoral care and internal mission. Thirty years ago my vision did not exist. Today it does. In thirty years time we should be aiming at another vision – at least 1,500 parishes in a united Exarchate of 23 countries, with their own buildings, one Metropolitan and at least eight dioceses (Germany, German Switzerland and Liechtenstein; France, French Belgium, Monaco, French Switzerland and Luxembourg; Italy, Italian Switzerland, San Marino and Malta; the Isles; Iberia with Andorra; Scandinavia; Austria-Hungary; the Netherlands; with at least fifteen diocesan archbishops and bishops, 1750 priests, 250 deacons and numerous monasteries and convents, Orthodox parishes accessible to the whole population of Western and Central Europe.
And we need an Exarchate which, though faithful to Orthodoxy and our calendar, is truly multinational and multilingual, and where Non-Russians (priests and people) are not treated as second-class citizens by phyletist bishops and their favourites, who continually persecute and abuse them, sacking them for no reason, never giving justice. Give us Christians and Christian attitudes! Here is a vision and here is a challenge for you, the coming generation. We have exhausted ourselves, having done our part without the slightest support and against all the odds in constant battle. Now it is your turn. Do not be disheartened. God is with us!