“D’un Exarchat l’autre” from one to another Exarchate, the French writer Louis-Ferndinand Céline would have said. Things slowly show up. On November 30 last, the Exarchate of the Russian Churches in Western Europe was abruptly dissolved by the Synod of the patriarchate of Constantinople. The Phanar was about to create the new “Orthodox Church of Ukraine”. The cancellation of the quality of an “Exarchate” for the reduced portion of heritage of Metropolitan Euloge created a lot of trouble in the concerned body, a historic part of the development of the Orthodox spirit and renewal in Western Europe following the Greek and Russian revolutions a century ago.
The Archdiocese was proposed to join the Greek existing metropoles that readily exist in Western Europe. This was decided quite quickly, on the spot. It was decided by HH. Bartholomaios without informing Abp Jean (Renneteau) of Charioupolis and his diocesan secretary who were at the Phanar for the Synod. They got in shock and returned to Paris to get more news and reflect on the situation.
It appears that the “right out of the blue” decision was somehow planned because the Phanar could not ignore that the patriarchate of Moscow would react quite swiftly to the creation of a new Church structure in Ukraine as Patriarch Bartholomaios carried things out, assisted by Metropolitan Emmanuel of Gauls (Paris and France).
In its winter session that was convened on December 28, 2018 in Moscow, the Synod of the patriarchate of Moscow decided to create a new structure covering the historic territories of late Metropolitan Euloge into an “Exarchate of Korsun and Western Europe”.
The news is too fresh. Still, this also shows that the patriarchate of Moscow establishes canonical and spiritual centers and builds up its ecclesiology throughout the world as he also decided on the same day to set up specific Church organizations in Asia.
Nonetheless, Paris and subsequently Western Europe switches from Moscow patriarchal dioceses (eparchies) to a real Exarchate with a large territory. Many bishops serve there. I already mentioned in many articles that the appointment of Abp Elisey (Ganaba) from London to the Netherlands [and Tikhon (Zaytsev) to Berlin and Germany whose eparchy is not included in the new Exarchate] was a first move that followed the visit of Patriarch Kyrill in Europe in 2016, when he consecrate the new cathedral at Paris and re-consecrated the cathedral in London. He thoroughly explained then the century of the history of the patriarchate of Moscow in Western Europe, also in Zürich when he visited a parish that formerly belonged to the Archdiocese of the Russian Churches in Western Europe. Both hierarchs have served in Jerusalem.
The assignment of Bishop John (Roshchin) of Bogorodsk as the first Exarch of the new Western European structure is also interesting. The hierarch went through the major major Russian monasteries (Pecherskaya Lavra and St Sergius Lavra), was a student at the Saint Vladimir Institute of theology (comp. with Saint Sergius Institute of Theology in Paris), was named “Ioann” in honor of Saint John of Shanghai and San Francisco, a Saint whose activities were significant among the Orthodox diaspora in France and Western Europe with a strong and charismatic sense of the Orthodox faith. He has been serving in Italy and will keep have the control of the Italian eparchy for the moment. He had also been in charge of inter-Church relationships.
Bishop Nestor (Sirotenko) of Korsun had studied at the Saint Sergius Institute of Theology in Paris and served within the framework of the then-Exarchate of the Russian parishes in Western Europe (now Archdiocese) when late Abp Sergey (Konovaloff) of Evkarpia was the head of the structure. He has a strong understanding of the situation in Paris and in the different parishes of the Diocese of Korsun (patriarchate of Moscow) in Western Europe. He is appointed to structure the Diocese of Spain and Portugal with its see in Madrid. It is the work of a “Church builder” in other lands and regions.
The Archdiocese will have to take a decision about its future with a new Exarch, a young bishop who did not serve in the French environment. Indeed, it should be noted that the new Exarch studied in the Orthodox Seminary of Saint Vladimir in the United States and also at a Catholic American University whilst Bishop Nestor participated in the cultural backgrounds of the Archdiocese. Thus both certainly got to the core of the Eulogian ways of thinking the Church and the spirit of the two Schools of Paris. This certainly can be shown in the various conferences organized by the Korsun diocese on many personalities and Russian theologians, thinkers, monks who were active in Western Europe.
(I postpone for the moment the publication of my article on the overview of the new structures in the Orthodox Churches).
The decision of the Synod of the patriarchate of Moscow, in Russian:
ЖУРНАЛ № 105
ИМЕЛИ СУЖДЕНИЕ о положении церковных дел в странах Западной Европы.
1. Образовать Патриарший Экзархат в Западной Европе с центром в Париже.
2. Включить в сферу пастырской ответственности указанного Экзархата следующие страны: Княжество Андорра, Королевство Бельгия, Соединенное Королевство Великобритании и Северной Ирландии, Ирландия, Королевство Испания, Итальянская Республика, Княжество Лихтенштейн, Великое Герцогство Люксембург, Княжество Монако, Королевство Нидерландов, Португальская Республика, Республика Франция, Швейцарская Конфедерация.
3. Главе Патриаршего Экзархата в Западной Европе иметь титул «Корсунский и Западноевропейский».
4. Главой Патриаршего Экзархата в Западной Европе назначить Преосвященного епископа Богородского Иоанна с указанным ранее титулом.
5. Преосвященному епископу Богородскому Иоанну быть правящим архиереем Корсунской епархии с сохранением временного управления Приходами Русской Православной Церкви в Италии.
6. Образовать епархию Русской Православной Церкви в Испании и Португалии с центром в Мадриде.
7. Епархиальному архиерею Испанско-Португальской епархии иметь титул «Мадридский и Лиссабонский».
8. Преосвященному епископу Корсунскому Нестору быть епископом Мадридскими Лиссабонским.