Why the Crisis in the ROCOR Diocese of the British Isles and Ireland Should Matter to ROCOR

It is a sad fact that most members of ROCOR outside the British Isles and Ireland who read this will be bewildered at the mention of the word ‘crisis’. What crisis? Yet, those who follow Church life should know. After all, fifty years ago ROCOR was a global Church and even a few years ago it still had that potential. Today, for various reasons, this is no longer the case. ROCOR lost its outposts in Africa, then in 2007 to all intents and purposes it lost South America and in the last few years most of Western Europe, in particular Italy, Spain, Portugal, Scandinavia, the Netherlands and most of France and Austria. Moscow now dominates Western Europe, its Italian Diocese alone being bigger than all the remaining fragments of ROCOR in Western Europe, which are mainly in parts of western Germany and Switzerland, with a few isolated survivors in the British Isles and Ireland and elsewhere.

ROCOR is now de facto reduced to the English-speaking world (above all the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand) and countries politically dependent on the USA, for example, Israel, the Philippines, South Korea, Indonesia, Pakistan, Haiti, Costa Rica. The presence of Moscow in any of those countries seems absurd. Surely, it should simply hand over its parishes there to ROCOR. However, some would say that ROCOR’s presence in Western Europe is equally absurd – it should in turn hand over its presence here. However, an exception could be made for the UK and Ireland. After all, these countries are nowadays also largely dependent on the US. Moreover, just recently, the UK has taken a step away from Western Europe and closer to the USA with Brexit, and the US has taken a step closer to the UK with the election of Donald Trump, the only US politician who welcomed the popular decision in favour of Brexit.

It could also be argued that ROCOR should take care of the survivors in its Diocese in the British Isles and Ireland because these countries are the source of the English-speaking world. And yet, the ROCOR Diocese here has been much neglected, without a resident bishop of English culture for 30 (!) years, with an overworked bishop who was far too busy to give pastoral oversight to it. As a result, it has greatly contracted, with loss after loss. Today, the vultures are gathering, believing that ROCOR here, even with all its property, is only a corpse. The tiny Paris Exarchate, with very few Russian-speaking priests and even less property, is trying to poach. Then there is the vastly under-priested Sourozh Diocese of the Moscow Patriarchate. One or two individuals are interested in obtaining property, which it so sorely lacks through past errors, and one person in ROCOR has offered the Diocese to it.

For 30 years few in ROCOR outside the British Isles and Ireland have been interested in any of this or were aware of any of this. Some did not even know that our Diocese existed, most who knew that we existed did not even know the correct geographical name of our Diocese, even fewer know of the crisis that has been brewing for decades. Equally, internally, we have been deliberately kept in the dark about the most basic events in the wider ROCOR. This neglect has produced a crisis, a word which in Greek means ‘judgement’. Now is the time for judgement. Little time remains: the faithful are pleading with the Church authorities to save us. Who is the father who gives stones to his children who plead for bread? Treason is in the air. Offers are being made. If ROCOR is to keep our Diocese and not retreat even further into North America, it has to take urgent action. May God’s Will be done.