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CANNES: July 3, 2006

Bishop Varnava (Prokofiev) is Restored

By decision of the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, His Grace Varnava (Prokofiev), former Bishop of Cannes, was accepted and concurrently retired, but with the right to serve Divine Liturgy at the Russian Church of Archangel Michael in Cannes, where he had been Rector. On July 2, Bishop Varnava concelebrated Divine Liturgy at this church with His Grace Bishop Gabriel of Manhattan, which was attended by an enormous gathering of worshipers.

Bishop Varnava's matter was considered by the bishops of the Russian Church Abroad beginning in February of this year, when His Grace sent a letter in which he repented of his uncanonical actions: disobedience, performing unlawful episcopal consecrations and causing schism, and pleaded for acceptance into the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. By a decision of the Synod of Bishops, Bishop Varnava will have the right to conduct divine services in Cannes, but, being retired, he will not have the right to ordain clergymen, grant them awards, or participate in meetings of the Synod of Bishops or of the Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia.

Church of Archangel Michael, Cannes

The only satisfier of the spiritual needs of Russians on the Riviera, from the French city of San Raphael to the Italian city of Genoa, was for a long time the Russian Orthodox Church in Nice. This inconvenience, especially for the needy, inspired a resident of Cannes, the wife of a local landowner, Alexandra Feodorovna Trippe, nee Skripitsyna, to establish a small church at her villa in 1886, where occasional services were performed by clergymen of Nice.

Regular services began here in 1889 with the arrival in Cannes of Grand Duchess Anastasia Mikhailovna, whose Schwerin clergymen served. Mme Trippe-Kripitsyna lovingly offered her church to the local Russian population, but this small building proved too small to accommodate all who wished to attend services.

The need for a larger church grew more acute every year. The spiritual father of Grand Duchess Alexandra Mikhailovna, Protopriest Grigory Ostroumov, appealed in 1893 to Grand Duke Mikhail Mikhailovich, who had already spent several summers in Cannes, to help build a new, larger church here. The Grand Duke was very sympathetic to Fr Grigory's idea and with his typical energy provided a great deal of aid to the expedient and successful manifestation of this good deed. Under His Highness' direction, a building committee was quickly established, some members of which, in addition to their donations towards the building of the church, promised to contribute another 250 francs per year for 10 years to maintain the new church; Mme Trippe-Skripitsyna gave 1,750 square meters of land for the church in one of the finest neighborhoods of the city. This invaluable contribution by her and the ten-year pledge for the future church were the cornerstone of the manifestation of this holy act.

With the blessing of Metropolitan Pallady of St Petersburg and Ladoga, Fr Grigory began a collection among the Russian residents of Cannes in 1894 to build the church. This project succeeded in a most surprising way: in two months, the building committee already had 60,000 francs in hand, as a result of which it was decided to begin construction that same season. On April 23, 1894, the cornerstone was laid for the Church of Archangel Michael.

Donations in kind were also received as construction began. Grand Duke Mikhail Mikhailovich donated massive silver-plated liturgical vessels, a similar altar-table cross, a massive Gospel in the same style, a silver censer, another filigreed censer, a mother-of-pearl altar-table cross and many other items. Grand Duke Friedrich-Franz III of Mecklenburg-Schwerin donated valuable magenta, gold-embroidered velvet khorugvi [gonfalons]; seven icons, painted on cypress wood; silver-plated and enameled lanterns; and a gilded, filigreed set of royal doors to match. Grand Duke Sergei Mikhailovich donated a wrought-iron fence around the church grounds. Prince SM Golitzine donated a splendid filigreed cross to crown the church and two ancient Italian icons in magnificent frames depicting the Savior and the Mother of God. FB and LP Chikhacheff donated a marble iconostasis and two icons; a beautiful painted icon by the famous French artist LeMotte of the Mother of God with the Eternal Child in Her arms, with Holy Prince Vladimir, Equal-to-the-Apostles, shown beside in a prayerful position on the right with Holy Duchess Olga on the left, surrounded by a host of angels. This icon, hanging behind the altar-table, is the greatest decorative item of the church, drawing attention to itself with its splendor.

The church was designed by the French architect Nouveau under the direct, constant supervision of Fr Ostroumov. The work proceeded so smoothly that by mid-November of that year, 1894, the church was ready, holding up to 400 worshipers, and on November 22, the solemn consecration of the temple was performed by Fr Grigorii and the clergymen of Nice, Menton, and the Greek priests of Marseille. The Municipality of Cannes was present in its entirety at the consecration, and in honor of the event, announced its decree to rename the boulevard from Notre Dame des Pins to Boulevard Alexandre III.

The magnificent church even now adorns the city of Cannes and witnesses the great splendor of Imperial Russia.

Fr Igor Dulgov was the Rector for many years, later becoming Archbishop Seraphim of Brussels and Western Europe, who reposed in 2003. Protopriest V. Shustin and Priest A. Milovidov of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia also served at this church.