Archdiocese of Orthodox Churches of Russian Tradition in Western Europe

Moscow Patriarchate

Communiqué No. 03-09 of the Council of the Archdiocese

Meeting of 29 April 2009

The Council of the Archdiocese met on 29 April 2009, with His Eminence Archbishop Gabriel in the chair. Among the topics discussed were:

1. Visit of His All Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I.
Archbishop Gabriel met with His All Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew during his visit to Paris on 10 April 2009 on the occasion of the opening of the exhibition ‘Mount Athos and the Byzantine Empire’. With other members of the AEOF (Assembly of Orthodox Bishops in France), he accompanied the Patriarch in the morning to the Ministry of the Interior for a meeting with Madame Michèle Alliot-Marie, Minister of the Interior with responsibility for Religious Organisations. Then, at the end of the afternoon, he went with His All Holiness to the Petit Palais Museum for the private view of the exhibition of treasures from Mount Athos, in the presence of the Greek Prime Minister and the Mayor of Paris.

2. Episcopal Vicariate of Great Britain and Ireland.
The second court hearing in the case brought by the Moscow Patriarchate against the Episcopal Vicariate took place from 23 to 27 April. In accordance with the recommendation of the Attorney General, the judge ruled that the trust funds should be held for the benefit of the Moscow Patriarchate London Cathedral Parish and the Diocese of Sourozh. In due course he will provide his written judgement and reasons for it, together with comments on wider issues to do with the case.

3. Barcelona. Archbishop Gabriel made a pastoral visit to Barcelona from 27 to 29 April, accompanied by M. Alexander Victoroff, member of the Council of the Archdiocese. During his stay, Archbishop Gabriel met with Metropolitan Polycarp, bishop of the Diocese of the Ecumenical Patriarchate on the Iberian Peninsula. On 28 April he presided at the Divine Liturgy in the Serbian Orthodox church in Barcelona, in the presence of representatives of various Orthodox jurisdictions in Spain. Finally, on 29 April, he visited the church of the Archdiocese in Barcelona, and met with parish officers responsible for the life and organisation of that community.

4. Nice.
The filing of new submissions to the court has led to a further adjournment of the proceedings. Although the case is still sub judice, the pressure exerted by the Russian Federation and its representatives become ever stronger, at both the local and national politic levels, with the view to extracting a so-called ‘amicable settlement’ on conditions which could prove prejudicial to the parish (i.e. would concede ownership of the cathedral to the Russian Federation in exchange for a promise to renew the lease to the parish, but without any guarantees).

5. Rome. In response to a request presented to him by numerous Orthodox living in Rome, Archbishop Gabriel has given his blessing to the organisation of a liturgical services there and to the establishment of a church community, which will be dedicated to St Nicholas the Wonderworker.

Historical background: Until October 2000 there was a parish of the Archdiocese in Rome. On 26 October 2000, during an extraordinary parish meeting called by the previous rector of the parish (in spite of the fact that he had previously received express instructions from Archbishop Serge, then head of the Exarchate, to postpone the holding of such a meeting, and had been relieved of his functions, still by Archbishop Serge), decided to rejoin the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Moscow by a unanimous vote of those present (some of the parishioners who wished to stay with the Archdiocese were prevented from taking their seats, while others were prevented from speaking during the meeting). Archbishop Serge deplored this act of force and protested strongly against its illegal and uncanonical nature in a correspondence with officials of the Patriarchate of Moscow, while nevertheless choosing not to contest the decisions of the parish meeting before the courts, even though they were made in a way that did not conform to the parish statutes, always in the hope that relations with the Patriarchate of Moscow would not deteriorate (cf. the account presented by the late Archbishop Serge to the General Assembly of the Archdiocese, 1 May 2001, in Messager Ecclésial, No. 14, January 2002, pp. 7-8).

6. Clergy.
– Deacon Jean Sonnier was ordained priest by Archbishop Gabriel on Wednesday, 25 March, the Feast of the Annunciation, during the Divine Liturgy celebrated at the monastery church of St Silouan at Saint-Mars-du-Loquenay. He will be responsible for liturgical celebrations for the community of Saint-Brieuc (Côtes d’Armor).
– Reader Serge Boutenko, having been raised to the subdiaconate, was ordained deacon by Archbishop Gabriel on 4 April, the Saturday of the Akathist to the Mother of God, in the St Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Paris, and priest in the same church on 5 April, the fifth Sunday of the Great Fast. He will carry out his pastoral ministry in a community that is being formed in northern Lombardy (Italy).
– Subdeacon Alexis Meistermann was ordained deacon by Archbishop Gabriel on 26 April, Thomas Sunday, during the Divine Liturgy celebrated at the Church of the Resurrection in Belfort. He will be assigned to that parish.

4. Choral and Liturgical Formation. With the blessing of Archbishop Gabriel, a course in the liturgical chant of the Russian tradition, organised under the leadership of Archpriest Michael Fortounatto, will take place in the last week of August 2009 at the Centre for Spirituality at Loisy (Oise). At the same time, and again with the blessing of Archbishop Gabriel, there will be a course on liturgical services and the ordo for members of the clergy in the same place, led by Archpriest Serge Sollogoub.