Archdiocese of Orthodox Churches of Russian Tradition in Western Europe

Moscow Patriarchate

Communiqué on the situation of our Archdiocese

on the situation of our Archdiocese, from a legal approach. 25 September 2019

Several contributions, issued “privately”, are currently circulating aiming at discouraging the clergy of our Archdiocese from participating in the pastoral Assembly of September 28, on the basis that Archbishop Jean would no longer be able to chair the Archdiocese.

These interventions skilfully mix legal and ecclesial notions. They are full of approximations concerning the statutes, which they qualify as “fundamental law”, in an attempt to circumvent them.

1) The Council of the Archdiocese (CA) is not co-decision-maker with the Archbishop. According to the statutes it is “the Archbishop, assisted by the Council of the Bishops and by the Council of the Archdiocese, who has the full power in matters of doctrinal and moral teaching, of administration and management, liturgical life and pastoral ministry “(Article 39). There is therefore no “pastoral co-responsibility” of the CA in our statutes. Words have a meaning.

2) Only an Extraordinary General Assembly (EGA) can decide on a modification of the status. Thus, to introduce in the statutes a change of canonical obedience requires a two-thirds vote of an EGA. However, it is not written anywhere that the EGA should decide the very principle of such a change of canonical obedience, prior to a statutory change. The statutes are silent on this point. Article 34/3 mentions that the EGA must decide on a “rapprochement with any other association”, which does not constitute a change of canonical obedience. Therefore, it must be clear that the statutes do not specify that it would be up to the AGE to vote a change of canonical obedience, for a reason, which is ecclesiological: it is actually a pastoral decision. Archbishop Jean exercises the fullness of the pastoral ministry.

3) One should remember that it was the Council of the Archdiocese that proposed the statutory changes submitted to the vote of the EGA. But the Council, a few weeks ago, was against the proposal of a statutory amendment on the matter of change of canonical obedience. Therefore, the CA did not want to propose a change in the statutes, which only the EGA could have decided. The acts taken in the past by the Council are important: no statutory amendment was proposed on September 7, 2019.

4) Furthermore, the statutory changes are taken out of step with the life of our Association. The realisation of the statutes evolves over time, and by definition, is not immediately reflected in statutory modifications. For instance, we have no vicar bishops for years. An entire chapter of the statutes (Articles 61 to 65) is not enforced. There is no episcopal committee either (sections 56 to 60). The statutes have not lost their validity, and the question of whether the Archbishop could remain Head Archbishop and ex officio president of the Association, without an episcopal committee, has, rightly, never been questioned.

5) Our Assemblies often carried out these changes in the execution of the statutes, always under the validation of our Archbishop. One must specify here, that it is not foreseen that such changes should be made by a two-thirds majority. Indeed, there are several thresholds of majority according to our statutes: 35% for the election of the members of the Council of the Archdiocese, 50% + one vote for other decisions in Ordinary General Assembly, two thirds for resolutions under the jurisdiction of the Extraordinary General Assembly.

6) For example, in 2016 our Assembly has validated by a 35% vote, the election of a candidate for the Council  on a list of clerics, while this candidate was still under disciplinary sanction (suspension), threatened with a procedure to be defrocked. Therefore, he should not have been on the list of clerics in the strict sense of the statutes. The Assembly here anticipated the decision to repeal the disciplinary sanction, repeal subsequently taken by Archbishop Jean alone, in the exercise of the fullness of his power of administration and pastoral ministry. The election of this candidate has never been challenged as “anti-statutory”. It resulted from an evolution in the execution of our statutes intended by the Assembly and our Archbishop.

7) Having chosen with more than 58% of votes to join the Moscow Patriarchate, the delegates of the September 7, 2019 EGA, representing a large majority of our Archdiocese, clearly indicated their will to find a canonical link allowing our Archdiocese to remain in communion with canonical Orthodoxy. Once again, this decision did not concern the statutes, as the Council objected to any modification of the statutes. It did not require a two-third majority, because it is not within in the competence of the EGA. The EGA was convened in conciliarity following the discussions, which occurred around the EGA of 23 February 2019. Archbishop Jean heard, as pastor, the decision to establish a canonical link with the Moscow Patriarchate and applied it in the fullness of his pastoral ministry.

8) The decision of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to revoke the Tomos, and to cancel the status of exarchate of our Archdiocese, broke loosened the canonical link with it. This decision had immediate consequences for the execution of our statutes: it made impossible, and obsolete, the condition specified in article 11 of the statutes, according to which the Archbishop who presides over the Association, should be under the obedience of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. The majority vote of the assembly of September 7 on the canonical attachment with the Moscow Patriarchate not only allowed to recover the canonicity of our Archdiocese, but also has confirmed the break of the canonical link with the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

Our Archbishop, acting alone and legally in view of the statutes, as guarantor of the pastoral ministry, has fulfilled the wish of the Assembly. In both cases (election of the Board member and canonical attachment), the evolution in the execution of our statutes was well desired by the assembly, and then endorsed by our Archbishop.

9) In conclusion, it must be pointed out that the theory saying that Archbishop Jean excluded himself from the Archdiocese, because he “decided” to break “alone” the canonical link with the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and therefore could no longer lead the Archdiocese in literal application of Article 11 of the statutes, is absurd: Archbishop Jean took note of the revocation of the Tomos and of the decision of the assembly which had immediate pastoral implications, making obsolete, as impossible, the mention of the canonical attachment with the Ecumenical Patriarchate which is reflected in articles 7 and 11 of the statutes. He fulfilled the widely held wish of the assembly and thus of the Archdiocese as a whole and asked for the canonical attachment to the Moscow Patriarchate. He did not act alone. He did not exclude himself. On the contrary, he remained among his flock, pastorally and statutorily.

10) Archbishop Jean made sure to direct our Archdiocese to the only pastoral solution that would allow it to preserve its integrity and autonomy, which is his primary mission.

Indeed, any solution that ignores the will of 93% of the EGA February 23 to preserve our Archdiocese against any dilution, whether within the Greek or Romanian metropolis, would go against a statutory vote. In addition, any solution that would not respect the majority vote of our delegates to break with the Ecumenical Patriarchate and ask for attachment with the Moscow Patriarchate would go against the conciliarity and our canons.
Thus, those who today disregard the vote of the assembly of February 23 in order to annihilate the Archdiocese and break its integrity, those who oppose the wish of a clear majority of members of the Archdiocese to break the link with the Ecumenical Patriarchate, even claiming to dismiss their Archbishop, whose options were largely supported by the assembly, those ones should sincerely question their legitimacy and their motives, as well as their use of the concept of “putsch”.

11) Furthermore, the Council of the Archdiocese can formally deliberate only when it is validly convened and when it deliberates effectively. When several members of the Council meet, without notifying the organs of the Council (President, Vice-President, Secretary), they are not the Council. They are not “co-responsible”. They are irresponsible. They have no right to issue canonical leave. The clerical members concerned cannot claim to be in the Archdiocese, while having solicited and obtained a canonical leave for themselves. They deceive those who read them and listen to them about what they do and what they are.

12) Finally, there is no locum tenens of the Archdiocese because no one has asked for his designation. By statute, it must be requested by the Council. This is what the authors of the communiqué written in the night of September 14th, thought they ought to do in panic. However, they were not the Council. Therefore, there is no locum tenens.

Therefore, Archbishop Jean is and remains statutorily our Archbishop, President of the “Union Directrice Diocésaine des Associations Orthodoxes Russes en Europe Occidentale”. He has never ceased to be it since his election, and he cannot be dismissed by the Patriarchate of Constantinople (or that of Moscow for that matter), nor by the Council. Archbishop Jean, for his part, respected, in conciliarity, all the votes of the Assemblies, in accordance with the statutes and our canons.

Archbishop Jean today calls all the clergy of the Archdiocese to the pastoral assembly of September 28, 2019. This is a historic meeting because our Archdiocese is called to ask for his attachment to the Moscow Patriarchate in accordance with the agreement, which guarantees its integrity and its autonomy. There has been a lot of misunderstanding and misleading, insinuating that this agreement would no longer be valid, or that it would have been “forgotten”.

An attachment in the conditions of this agreement will be proposed pastorally to the clergy of the Archdiocese during the Pastoral Assembly of 28 September.