Archdiocese of Orthodox Churches of Russian Tradition in Western Europe

Moscow Patriarchate

Communiqué of the Archdiocese 20 February 2016

Beloved brothers and sisters,

I must inform you of the serious events that have taken place in Nice over the last two days . On Thursday, February 18 people in charge of the Russian Cemetery “Caucade” which, we must remember, is the private property of the ACOR -Nice religious association, discovered in the late afternoon that locks on the cemetery gate had been forced, a chain and padlock had been placed on the grid and a sign had been installed stating that the cemetery was jointly owned by the Russian Federation and the Russian Orthodox Church since 1867, and indicating the visiting hours and telephone contacts of those now in charge.

On Friday, February 19 the warden and some faithful returned to the scene accompanied by a locksmith and a bailiff. Surprise! Father André Eliseev had also arrived accompanied by a bailiff and a few people. There followed a dialogue of the deaf because obviously Father André Eliseev claimed to be mandated by the Russian Federation but could not show any legal act authorizing his right to act. Finally with the agreement of the two bailiffs a compromise was reached and the locksmith put a new lock and each party has received a key to the gate of the cemetery .

In the meantime Father André Eliseev also demanded the key of the Chapel and the house located at the entrance but this was refused by the head of ACOR -Nice . To avoid any future controversy an inventory of the furniture was done by the two ushers.

Having noted the disappearance of a cemetery register , Mr. Alexis Obolensky , Head of ACOR -Nice , filed a complaint with the police for vandalism , trespass on private property and theft of a register against Mr. Frizet responsible the Association of the Nice cathedral.

Also in a statement , ACOR -Nice , the rightful owners of the “Caucade” cemetery , strongly protest against this new aggression by the Russian Federation and the Moscow Patriarchate against its existence which had during the Soviet period faithfully looked after the cemetery and paid all charges related thereto. They therefore reiterate their call for justice and protection by the authorities of the French Republic.

Brothers and sisters, you should know that the judgment of the High Court of Nice of 20 January 2010 gave as property to the Russian Federation only the land on which the cathedral is built under a long lease . That judgment related only to that plot of land.

You should know that:

1 . In 2014 (on the 29/01 , 29/04 and 23/09 ) , the Ambassador of the Russian Federation deposited a copy in a usurpatory manner and without the knowledge of ACOR -Nice , of amendations with the Land registry services ( ” Mortgage “) claiming ownership of the ” Caucade Cemetery” site, three plots of land adjacent to the St. Nicolas Cathedral and the church of Saints Nicolas and Alexandra on rue Longchamp, owned and managed by ACOR-Nice from the beginning. 

2 . On 24/04/2015 ACOR -Nice, under French law, filed a suit contesting this action action against the Russian Ambassador and Me Hugounenc, the Nice notary who made the disputed claims on behalf of the Russian state The court case is still ongoing ; and it is worth noting that the Russian Federation has chosen not to respond to the court summons. I must also tell you that during a meeting I had with Bishop Nestor of Korsun on the 10th of this month, it was pointed out to me that the situation in Nice was going to move on the ‘Caucade’ cemetery and the Longchamp church and in the similar vein, other historic churches would be returned to the Russian Federation.

These actions , brothers and sisters, shock us and make us question the intentions of the Patriarchate of Moscow via the Russian Federation. It claims to be the successor of the Holy Synod of Imperial Russia . Those who manipulate history forget that the Soviet authorities who succeeded the Russian Empire had for 70 years destroyed churches on Russian soil, eliminated the clergy of the Russian Orthodox Church and savagely persecuted the Orthodox Christians in Russia and had no concern for the churches here in France.

History remains history and nobody can tamper with it at their will. Throughout this period of the agony of Russian Christianity , the faithful and the leaders of the Archdiocese of parishes of Russian tradition in Western Europe, under the canonical jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, have with great respect materially maintained all these places and piously kept the memory of those who rested there. So we do not understand the aggression of the state and of the Russian Church to forcibly evict those Russian and Orthodox fellow countrymen who kept these memorials alive, maintained them financially and whose ownership was recognized by French law on ownership of our legal code, demonstrated by the constancy and faithfulness shown by many generations of Orthodox faithful of Russian origin.

Beloved brothers and sisters , we will soon enter the time of Lent which prepares us to receive the Light of the Resurrection. I invite each and every parish community to pray and fast that the Lord may suport our church wardens and the leaders of our churches who are struggling to assert their rights belonging to the associations of cult according to the decisions of French Justice, and also to bear in your prayers and fasting your brothers and sisters who are in severe pain, faced with threats of expulsions from their places of worship. We shall always resort to the justice of men, but we ask God to do justice and to enlighten the civil and religious authorities so that peace may reign in the ” holy churches of God.”

+ John , Bishop of Charioupolis , Patriarchal Vicar and Locum tenens

( Translation from French-Protodiacre Peter Scorer)