Archdiocese of Orthodox Churches of Russian Tradition in Western Europe

Moscow Patriarchate

Brief history

The Archdiocese is a direct and legal successor of the ‘Provisional administration of the Russian parishes in Western Europe’ founded by Saint Patriarch Tikhon of Moscow and passed on to the Archbishop Evlogii (by Decrees 423 and 424 of 8 April 1921) with the consent of Saint Metropolitan Benjamin of Petrograd, who until then was the head of the jurisdiction of religious institutions of the Russian Orthodox Church in Western Europe (letter dated 21 June 1921), later replaced by the ‘Temporary Russian Orthodox Exarchate of the Holy Apostolic and Patriarchal Throne of Constantinople in Western Europe’, which was founded by the Ecumenical Patriarch Photios II (Charter of 17 February 1931) at the request of Metropolitan Evlogii.

Since Metropolitan Evlogii could not have regular and normal relations with his historical Motherland (which was under the anti-religious and atheistic powers who launched a bloody persecution of the Church and the faithful), he chose this way, trying to preserve unity of the communities under his care and maintaining their communion with all the Orthodox Church under the protection of the Ecumenical Patriarch, primus inter pares in the Orthodox Episcopate (this decision was approved by the Patriarch Benjamin, see letters of 23 January 1937 and 22 December 1939), as well as Patriarch Maxim (letter of 6 March 1947). The Exarchate was closed by the Patriarch Athenagoras I (letter of 22 November 1965); the General Extraordinary Assembly on 16-18 February 1966 stated that until then ”provisional” character of the Church structures had no longer any grounds since those structures united members of the 3rd (and today 4th) generation of Russian and other émigrés, who by then had firmly rooted themselves in the countries which had receved them, as well as more and more western converts to Orthodoxy.

Following a short period after the closure of the Exarchate, the Archdiocese was reinstated under the omophor of the Ecumenical Patriarch as a united organisation with a special status of internal autonomy (Order of the Patriarch Athenagoras I of 22 January 1971). Later this status was ascertained and developed into a new agreement with the benediction of the Patriarch Bartholomeos I, who restaured the title of Exarchat in 1999 and recognised the full autonomy of the Archidiocese in administrative, pastoral and material terms (lettre of 21 june 1999).