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CANNES: September 3, 2013
The Status of Cannes’ Archangel Michael Parish Community of the Russian Church Abroad

Archangel Michael Church of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia in Cannes, France, following seven years of litigation, was handed over to an uncanonical group not recognized by the Assembly of Orthodox Bishops of France (aeof), and is closed at the present time.

Some seven years ago, a group of laypersons was expelled from the parish association without the convening of a general meeting of the assembly, and the short list of members were augmented by approximately 90 new members devoted to its rector, Bishop Varnava (Prokofiev), and his assistant, Hieromonk Seraphim (Baranchikov). Bishop Varnava sent the new list of members of the parish association to his Hierarchy in New York from his home fax machine. But this broad expansion of new members could not but raise doubts of the propriety of the association’s composition. The group of expelled members, headed by Mr Jancen and Mr Popov, filed a claim in court against Bishop Varnava and Hieromonk Seraphim.

On June 6, 2013, the court reached a final decision in favor of the Jancen-Popov group, confirming a list of association members who hold an irreconcilable, hostile position with regard to Bishop Varnava and Hieromonk Seraphim.

On July 14 , at the bidding of the Synod of Bishops, His Grace Bishop Agapit of Stuttgart traveled to Cannes to clarify matters in Archangel Michael Parish. Over the course of three days, Bishop Varnava and Hieromonk Seraphim did not choose to satisfy numerous requests by Bishop Agapit to meet, referring to ill health and a busy schedule. On July 16 , Bishop Agapit departed for Germany, and on the following day, Bishop Varnava and Hieromonk Seraphim celebrated their final Divine Liturgy in Archangel Michael Church, as they reported to their hierarchy.

That day, July 17, 2013, under the observation of local authorities and with the protection of the police, a general meeting of the parish association was held, with the participation of the members on the list submitted by Mr Jancen and Mr Popov and approved by the court, which elected a new parish administration, and also made the decision to change all the locks in the parish property. The Jancen-Popov group chose as their jurisdictional authority a schismatic entity headed by the defrocked Agathangel (Pashkovsky). Several dozen Orthodox Christians devoted to the canonical Church held a demonstration outside the meeting place, impressing the security forces with their calm and peaceful behavior.

On August 20, 2013, His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion of Eastern America and New York, First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, issued Ukase No. 04/08/01, according to which “Priest Anthony Odaysky, a clergyman of Archangel Michael Church in Cannes, is appointed the Rector of Archangel Michael Parish, and the representative of the President of the Synod of Bishops in all matters pertaining to the presence of the Russian Church Abroad in the city.”

The following day, the First Hierarch sent instructions to Bishop Varnava, stating that: “The Synod of Bishops, having studied all the [relevant] materials, decided to release you and Hieromonk Seraphim (Baranchikov) from all administrative and pastoral duties.” Further, after informing Bishop Varnava and Hieromonk Seraphim of Priest Anthony’s new position, allowed the following: “Within this community, you and Hieromonk Seraphim (Baranchikov) have the right, without performing [divine] services and without participating in its operations, to pray during divine services and partaking of the Holy Mysteries of Christ.” Ordinations performed by Bishop Varnava are also addressed in particular: “All ordinations and awards performed by you without the knowledge and blessing of the Hierarchy will be examined separately, and in case of approval by the Synod of Bishops, corrected.” The former rector, Bishop Varnava, not being a ruling bishop and being in retirement, had no right to perform ordinations and grant awards, as Metropolitan Hilarion of Eastern America and New York declared on February 22, 2012: “Bishop Varnava (Prokofiev), restored in July 2006 in his episcopal dignity through repentance for his wreaking a schism in the Russian Orthodox Church, is deemed a retired bishop, having no right to rule any diocese, to perform ordinations or award clergymen.” (http://www.pravmir.ru/predstoyatel-rpcz-podtverdil-nekanonicheskij-status-svyashhennika-osvyativshego-chasovnyu-vo-imya-ivana-groznogo/).

At the present time, Priest Anthony Odaysky is seeking out a Catholic church building in Cannes and is organizing divine services for the parish community. Changes in the Russian Orthodox community in Cannes were reported on to His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia, the Diocese of Korsun of the Moscow Patriarchate, the diplomatic corps of the Russian Federation in Paris and Marseilles, and the Roman Catholic clergymen of Cannes.