Protopriest Serafim Gan:
The Parish in San Remo Was Forced to Decide Its Way Forward
Protopriest Serafim Gan, Chancellor of the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, Secretary of the First Hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad, comments on the departure of the Russian Church in San Remo, Italy, from the jurisdiction of the Constantinople Patriarchate.
The parish in San Remo, Italy, headed by its rector, was received under the omophorion of His Grace Bishop Irenei of Richmond and Western Europe, Ruling Bishop of the regional parishes and monasteries of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia.
Both the rector and parishioners of this church humbly and with reliance on the will of God anticipated a broad assembly of clergymen and laity which on February 23, 2019, which was scheduled to decide the matter of the future path of the Archdiocese of the Russian Orthodox Churches in Western Europe. However, the head of the Italian Metropoliate of the Constantinople Patriarchate began to pressure the Orthodox Christians of San Remo, demanding that they cease commemorating their own Archbishop John of Charioupolis and accept the decision of the Phanar of the dissolution of the Archdiocese and enter into his diocese. Priest Dionysy Baikov, Rector of the parish, was also suspended by him from clerical service. So when the rector and parishioners appealed to His Grace Bishop Irenei, who, having heard their complaint, was moved to sympathy and received them into his diocese, so that the ecclesiastical life of the oppressed would not be disrupted.
We understand that the Archdiocese faces difficult questions: to accept the decisions of the Holy Synod in Istanbul on the dissolution of the Russian Archdiocese? Should it merge with the dioceses of the Constantinople Patriarchate or other jurisdictions in Western Europe, or preserve its unity, its persona and its traditions, and jointly seek out a safe haven in another Orthodox Church? Naturally, no one wishes to meddle in the peaceful resolution of these questions and we pray for the fulfillment of Divine Will, yet the parish in San Remo was persecuted not within the Archdiocese, but by the local representatives of the Constantinople Patriarchate. That is why the parish was forced to expeditiously take a decision on its future.
The Archdiocese of Russian Orthodox Churches in Western Europe came into existence in 1931 as a result of differences between Metropolitan Evlogy (Georgievsky) and the hierarchs of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia headed by Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky) of Kiev and Galicia, who had exerted every effort to preserve the unity of the Russian Church in the diaspora.
Upon its establishment, the provisional nature of these parishes being part of the Constantinople Patriarchate was emphasized, which was reflected in its name: “The Temporary Exarchate of the Holy, Apostolic and Patriarchal Throne of Constantinople in Western Europe.”
In the mid-1940’s, before the repose of Metropolitan Evlogy, the Exarchate transferred to the Moscow Patriarchate, but under Metropolitan Vladimir, the successor to Metropolitan Evlogy, it returned to Constantinople’s jurisdiction.
In 1965, the Phanar abandoned the Exarchate, instructing it to return to the Moscow Patriarchate, but then restored its jurisdiction over it in 1971, restructuring it into an archdiocese and subjecting it to its Metropoliate of Gaul. In 1999, by ukase of Patriarch Bartholomew, the status of Exarchate was reestablished, yet in 2018 it was once again dissolved.