Our old hierarchs
- Métropolitan Euloge (Guéorguievski)
- Métropolitan Vladimir (Tikhonicky)
- Archbishop Georges (Tarassov)
- Archbishop Georges (Wagner)
- Archbishop Serge (Konovalov)
- Archbishop Gabriel (de Vylder)
Metropolitan Euloge (Guéorguievski)
After completing his secondary studies at the ecclesiastical school in Blev and at the seminary in Tula (180 km south of Moscow), Basil Guéorguievski entered the Moscow Theological Academy. Having completed the Academy in 1892, Basil was employed as a tutor in the Lopukhin family in Moscow. Six months later, in 1893, he obtained the post of deputy inspector of the diocesan school of Efrémov (120 km south of Tula).
On February 3, 1895, at the age of 27, he received the monastic tonsure under the name of Euloge. On February 12 he was ordained hieromonk, then appointed professor of Greek at the seminary of Tula. The following year he was appointed inspector at the Vladimir Seminary. Two years later, in 1897, he was appointed rector of the seminary of Kholm (Poland under Russian domination). Finally, on January 12, 1903, Hieromonk Euloge was consecrated bishop of Lublin, vicar of the diocese of Kholm-Warsaw. In 1905, the vicariates of Lublin and Sedlets merged into a single diocese, with episcopal seat in Kholm and with Bishop Euloge at its head.
In 1907, Bishop Euloge was elected deputy of the province of Kholm to the second Duma of the Empire, then re-elected to the third Duma. Bishop Euloge’s main task was to obtain administrative status for the province of Kholm, as well as its integration into Russia. This task having been successfully accomplished, Bishop Euloge was elevated to the dignity of Archbishop in 1912.
n 1914, just before the outbreak of World War I, Archbishop Euloge was appointed to the siege of Volyn, and when the Russian armies occupied Galicia, he was appointed to administer the Orthodox parishes in the territories occupied by the Russian army. , with center Lvov. Many Uniate parishes decided to return to Orthodoxy of their own volition. In July 1917, Archbishop Euloge was called to sit at the pre-conciliar conference, and when the Council of the Russian Church was opened on August 15, 1917, he was elected chairman of the “Celebration, preaching and liturgical art” commission. After the election of Patriarch Tikhon, Archbishop Euloge was elected a member of the Patriarchal Synod.
Finding himself in Kiev at the Council of the Church of Ukraine on December 4, 1918, Archbishop Euloge was arrested with Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky) by the Petliura separatists, and after the victory of the Poles, the two hierarchs met again prisoners of the new masters. It was only nine months later that they were released on the intervention of Clémenceau. In August 1919, they reached the Kuban region, with General Denikin, passing through Bessarabia and Constantinople.
Unable to return to Volynia, Archbishop Euloge accepted the invitation to visit Serbia, and he left Novorossijsk on January 16, 1920. In Serbia, Archbishop Euloge met the Patriarch of the Serbian Church, many others. hierarchs, as well as King Alexander. At the start of the school year in September 1920, after spending the summer at the Grguétek monastery, Archbishop Euloge taught at the Institute for Young Girls in Don, evacuated to Béla Crekva.
At the beginning of 1921, Archbishop Euloge received from the Provisional Directorate of Russian Churches Abroad, chaired by Metropolitan Antoine (who had left Crimea and was temporarily in Constantinople) his appointment as Administrator of the parishes. Russian Orthodox in Western Europe. Via Vienna and Prague, he arrives in Berlin, for Holy Week, accompanied by Archimandrite Tikhon (Liatchenko).
It was in 1921 that Bishop Euloge received from Patriarch Tikhon a decree, dated April 8, appointing him to head Russian Orthodox parishes in Western Europe with the rights and prerogatives of a diocesan bishop. He also receives a letter from Metropolitan Benjamin of Petrograd, confirming to him that he is transmitting to him his jurisdiction over these parishes which until now depended on the Metropolitan of Saint Petersburg (later became Petrograd). These acts of the holy Patriarch Tikhon and of the holy Metropolitan Benjamin founded the canonicity of the ecclesial work of Metropolitan Euloge in Western Europe. In January 1922, by patriarchal decree, Mgr Euloge was elevated to the dignity of metropolitan.
During the summer of 1921, Bishop Euloge visited Russian parishes in Paris, London, Cannes, Nice and Menton. In the fall of 1921, at the ecclesial congress of Russian emigration in Karlovcy (Serbia), Bishop Euloge and other delegates did not approve the official declaration of the congress in favor of the restoration of the Romanovs to the imperial throne of Russia. He sees it as a use of the Church for political ends. In June 1922, he received from Moscow a patriarchal decree, dated May 5, 1922, which ordered the dissolution of the Provisional Directorate of Russian Churches Abroad sitting in Karlovcy, following the taking of political positions on the part of this direction, and which confirms Bishop Euloge in his responsibility as head of Russian Orthodox parishes abroad. Nevertheless, it was felt in Karlovtsy that there was no need to take the patriarchal decree into consideration. Metropolitan Euloge, out of respect for Metropolitan Antony and other hierarchs with him, yielded to them and did not arrogate to himself the fullness of the power which Patriarch Tikhon had conferred on him.
In the fall of 1922, Metropolitan Euloge moved to Paris and began to organize the diocesan administration. He left Archimandrite Tikhon in Germany and consecrated him auxiliary bishop in the spring of 1924. Soon, in 1926, this bishop was at the origin of a conflict with the synod of Karlovcy, thanks to which he succeeded in being raised to the rank of diocesan bishop for Germany without the agreement of Metropolitan Euloge, which caused the rupture between the latter and the synod beyond borders which, since 1922, over the course of its meetings, had not ceased to fight against Metropolitan Euloge. The conflict degenerated into a rupture. Most of the parishes in Germany nevertheless remained faithful to Bishop Euloge, it was not until the second half of the 1930s, under pressure from the Nazi regime, that several of them ended up coming under the jurisdiction of the bishop of Synod of Karlovcy.
To train the priests that the Russian emigration needed, was founded, in 1925, at the initiative of Metropolitan Euloge, an Institute of Orthodox Theology (Institut Saint-Serge), in Paris, where eminent scholars were invited to teach of Russian emigration, theologians, historians, philosophers. Metropolitan Euloge was its first rector. In 1943 he received an honorary doctorate. Very quickly in all the countries of Europe, but especially in France, new parishes were founded. According to diocesan administration sources dating from 1928-1938, Metropolitan Euloge then managed more than 110 parishes or communities or communities which stretched from Finland (2 parishes) to Morocco (3 parishes), from London to Florence. , Holland (2 parishes), Czechoslovakia (4 parishes), Germany (7 parishes) and via France (more than 70 parishes). He was assisted by several auxiliary bishops: Archbishop Vladimir in Nice (1925-1946), Archbishop Alexander in Brussels (1929-1940), Archbishop Séraphim in London (1926-1927), Bishop Serge in Prague (1024-1946), Bishop Benjamin (1927-1930), then Bishop Jean (1932-1946), in Paris.
In 1927, Metropolitan Euloge faced a new conflict, this time with the Moscow Patriarchate. Metropolitan Sergius of Nizhny Novgorod, at the time replacing the locum tenens of the patriarchal throne, accused the emigrant clergy of taking counter-revolutionary positions and demanded a pledge of loyalty to the Soviet regime. Metropolitan Euloge assured of his total apolitism, while stressing that the members of his clergy could not be linked to the government of a state of which they were not the citizens.
In 1930, this conflict also degenerated into a rupture, after Metropolitan Euloge was criticized by Metropolitan Serge for his participation in ecumenical celebrations of prayers for the persecuted Russian Church. Summoned by Moscow to resign, Metropolitan Euloge appealed to the Ecumenical Patriarch and went to Constantinople. Patriarch Photius II gave him his support from all points of view and took him under his obedience with the title of exarch within the framework of a “Provisional Exarchate for Russian parishes in Western Europe”. Gradually the new canonical situation was admitted and confirmed, even if some clerics left the diocese to remain in the jurisdiction of Moscow.
In 1934, Metropolitan Euloge went to Serbia to the bedside of the faltering Metropolitan Antoine, in the hope of a reconciliation. This reconciliation did take place, but did not interrupt the intrigues of the Synod of Karlovcy, especially in Germany.
From 1939, Metropolitan Euloge saw his strength decline. Above all, he suffered from progressive deafness. During the war, which he spent in Paris, cut off from more than half of the parishes of his diocese, Bishop Euloge followed events with attention and was passionate about the successes and failures of the Soviet army. Like many Russian emigrants at the time, he was irresistibly drawn to his home country after the war. this led him to enter into negotiations with the newly elected Patriarch of Moscow, Alexis I. A delegation from the Moscow Patriarchate came to Paris, led by Metropolitan Nicolas de Kroutitsy. On September 2, 1945, Metropolitan Euloge concelebrated with Metropolitans Nicolas and Séraphim (Loukianov), the former representative of the Synod of Karlovcy in France, in the Saint-Alexandre-Nevsky Cathedral, in Paris.
However, most of the clergy and laity did not share this penchant for the return to the Moscow Patriarchate of their aging Primate, starting with Archbishop Vladimir, auxiliary bishop in Nice since 1925, only at the end of the war Metropolitan Euloge had brought to Paris to assist him and direct the diocese during his illness. They expressed it publicly at the pastoral assembly, which met on August 29, 1945, in Paris. In the months that followed, Metropolitan Euloge openly questioned himself on the merits of his approach, especially since the Moscow Patriarchate was taking decisions without consulting him and the Patriarch of Constantinople was slow to agree to the return to the jurisdiction of Moscow.
Metropolitan Euloge died on August 8, 1946, in his small apartment on rue Daru, near his cathedral. His funeral took place on August 12, under the presidency of Metropolitan Gregory of Leningrad. Two days earlier Metropolitan Gregory of Thyatira, exarch of the Ecumenical Patriarch in Western Europe, had come to pray in front of his coffin. Metropolitan Euloge was buried in the crypt of the Church of the Dormition, near the cemetery of Sainte-Geneviève-des-Bois (Essonne), the church of which he had presided over the consecration, a few years earlier, in 1939.
(text drawn up from the brief bibliography of Metropolitan Euloge, in Messager Diocésain, n ° 8, December 1997, pp. 15-16).
Metropolitan Vladimir (Tikhonicky)
Metropolitan Vladimir (Tikhonicky) left the memory of a very holy hierarch, full of simplicity and gentleness (like his surname, in Russian “тихо” means gentle, calm), a man of prayer, faithful in all things to the Word of God. For thirteen years he directed the Exarchate of the Ecumenical Patriarchate for Russian Parishes in Western Europe with great self-sacrifice, continuing the work begun by his predecessor, Metropolitan Euloge, in fidelity to the Russian Orthodox tradition, which he embodied himself fully, but at the same time with a sure and firm awareness of the need to organize a true local Church and to celebrate, where the need arises, in Western languages.
Metropolitan Vladimir was born on March 22, 1873, in the small town of Orlov, Vyatka Province, Russia. At his baptism he was given the first name Vyacheslav. He belonged to an old clergy family: his father, Archpriest Michael Tikhonicky was assassinated in 1918 by the Bolsheviks (he was canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church in 2002); one of his brothers would later also become bishop in Russia and died archbishop of Kirov (Viatka) in 1957.
After his studies at the diocesan seminary in Vyatka, Vyacheslav entered the Kazan Theological Academy (1893-1998), which specialized in missionary work. During these years of study, under the influence of the strong personality of the rector of the Academy at the time, Bishop Antoine (Khrapovitskiï), he pronounced his monastic vows and received the name of Vladimir (1897). The following year, he was ordained hieromonk (priest-monk) and was sent as a missionary to Kyrgyzstan. In 1901, he was appointed by the Holy Synod of the Russian Church director of the Orthodox Mission of Kyrgyzstan and elevated to the rank of Archimandrite.
Then moved to the diocese of Omsk (Siberia), then to the monastery of Souprasl, on the border between Belarus and Poland, which at the time were part of the Russian Empire, he was elected in par the Holy Synod bishop of Bialystok, auxiliary of the diocese of Grodno. His episcopal ordination took place on June 3, 1907, at Saint-Alexandre-Nevsky Lavra, in Saint Petersburg, under the presidency of Metropolitan Antoine (Vadkovskiï). During the years 1910-1913, he frequently replaced Archbishop Euloge de Chelm in his diocese, who was retained in Saint Petersburg where he sat as deputy of the Duma. After the evacuation of the diocese of Grodno during the German military offensive of 1914, Bishop Vladimir was housed in Moscow, at the Monastery of the Miracle of St. Michael, in the heart of the Kremlin. At the beginning of March 1917, the day after the abdication of Tsar Nicholas II, he accompanied Archbishop (future Patriarch) Tikhon (Biellavine) to Kolomenskoyé, the former residence of the tsars near Moscow, where it has just appeared , significantly, the miraculous icon of Our Lady Sovereign and he participates in the first liturgical office celebrated in front of this precious relic.
Member of the Council of the Russian Church from 1917-1918 in Moscow, as representative of the diocese of Grodno, he participated in the work of the three sessions of the council, before returning, in the fall of 1918, to Bialystok, which is now party of the Republic of Poland, proclaimed after the end of the First World War. There he was commissioned by Patriarch Tikhon of Moscow to lead, with the prerogatives of diocesan bishop, the parishes of the Bialystok region, which are now separated by the border from the rest of the diocese of Grodno. In 1923, he was elevated to the rank of archbishop by the patriarch. In the same year, having expressed his disagreement with the actions of Metropolitan Denis of Warsaw aimed at obtaining the proclamation of autocephaly by the Orthodox Church in Poland, Archbishop Vladimir was arrested by Polish civil authorities and placed under house arrest. in a monastery for a year, before being deported to Czechoslovakia. In Prague, he meets Bishop Euloge, who has been leading Russian Orthodox churches in Western Europe for three years now, and who offers him to be his auxiliary in France, for the parishes of the Côte d’Azur (Nice, Menton, Cannes, Toulon).
Archbishop Vladimir moved to Nice in February 1925 where he became rector of Saint-Nicolas cathedral and the churches attached to him. For twenty years, he led the life of recollection and prayer to which he had always aspired. In 1930, Archbishop Vladimir supported Metropolitan Euloge’s position vis-à-vis the Moscow Patriarchate, which wished to dismiss Mgr Euloge from his functions, on the grounds that he would have taken a political position, by participating in ecumenical prayer meetings for persecuted Christians in Russia, while Metropolitan Serge of Nizhny Novgorod, who acted as the locum tenens replacement for the patriarchal throne of Moscow, publicly denied the existence of such persecutions. Bishop Vladimir refuses to apply Metropolitan Serge’s decree entrusting him with the administration of the diocese in place of Bishop Euloge. He again renewed his support for the latter the following year, when Metropolitan Euloge went to Constantinople to appeal against the decision of the Moscow Patriarchate to the Ecumenical Patriarch, who received him with his diocese and parishes under his jurisdiction. During the Second World War, communications with Bishop Euloge and the diocesan administration being cut off by the demarcation line, Bishop Vladimir received the right to administer, with the prerogatives of diocesan bishop, the parishes of the Exarchate in the South from France, Italy and North Africa.
Towards the end of the war, when France was liberated, Metropolitan Euloge, whose physical strength was declining, urgently called him to Paris at the beginning of 1945, and entrusted him with the administration of the diocese during his illness. On September 2, 1945, Archbishop Vladimir concelebrates alongside the old Metropolitan Euloge with the delegation sent to Paris by the Patriarch of Moscow Alexis I to seal the reunification with the Patriarchate of Moscow. On the death of Metropolitan Euloge (August 8, 1946), Archbishop Vladimir assumed the functions of locum tenens at the head of the Exarchate.
Antoine Kartachov would later write of these dramatic moments “Before his death, Metropolitan Euloge himself placed his exarchate on the blade of the sword and an ineluctable schism, which in any case would have taken place. Metropolitan Euloge, in a non-conciliar manner (безсоборно), without listening to the voice of conscience of the overwhelming majority of clerics and laity, decided to submit the Diaspora Church to the official ecclesial government in Moscow. Everything was done in the most secret way possible: all were placed in front of the fait accompli, in spite of the contacts necessary for the form with the legal canonical authority of the Patriarchate of Constantinople. The affair was engaged so far that it seemed impossible to go back. By dying, Metropolitan Euloge placed on the shoulders and on the conscience of his fellow-bishops and in particular of the one in whom he saw his successor, Archbishop Vladimir, an almost inhuman weight: to engage in the opposite direction all this noisy agitation of demonstrative and, we can say, demagogic manifestations, and subject it to reconsideration in the light of conciliarity ”(Жизненный путь митрополита-экзарха Владимира. П., 1957).
In fact, Bishop Vladimir then shows great strength of character, firmness of conviction and correctness of view, by refusing the diktat that the Moscow Patriarchate wants to impose on the Exarchate, which has already decided, by a decree dated the following day. even from the death of Bishop Euloge, that “the provisional jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate over Russian parishes in Western Europe, established in 1931, formally and de facto ceased to exist, and that these parishes are once again placed in indivisible jurisdiction. of the Moscow Patriarchate, which the Ecumenical Patriarch Maximos will be informed about ”(Журнал Московской Патриархи, M., 1946, n ° 9, p. 7). The same decree also named as successor to Metropolitan Euloge the former bishop of the Russian Church outside Borders in Paris, Metropolitan Seraphim (Loukianov), who after compromising with the Germans during the war returned to the fold. of the Church of Moscow and took Soviet citizenship. “I take note of it for information, but not for execution,” Monsignor Vladimir replied to Metropolitan Gregory of Leningrad who had summoned him to the Soviet embassy in Paris on August 14 to give him the decree of the Moscow synod.
“Metropolitan Seraphim was appointed head of the diocese of the deceased Metropolitan Euloge […] It was impossible to believe: the sworn enemy of Metropolitan Euloge, the man who had behaved like a true Hitler during the war, became the successor of the founder of our diocese […] Another detail, also astonishing: this appointment took place the very day after the death of the Metropolitan, whereas a very pious custom, very respected in the Russian Church, demanded that appointment to a chair which has become vacant by death does not take place until the 40th day after the death of its holder. Even more astonishing detail: this appointment had taken place when the dimissorial letters of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople had not yet been received by Metropolitan Euloge. […] This appointment revealed the usual way of doing things in the Soviets, and which consisted in placing ‘wet’ men in the post of responsibility, which allowed them to hold them in their hands and, thus, to be the masters. of the situation ”, wrote on this subject, in his memoirs, the protopresbyter Alexis Kniazev.
An Extraordinary General Assembly of the Exarchate, held on October 16, 1946, at the Institut Saint-Serge in Paris, confirmed the courageous decision of Metropolitan Vladimir and elected him as successor to Metropolitan Euloge at the head of the Exarchate. The Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate ratified shortly after this election, on March 6, 1947, and Bishop Vladimir was elevated on July 8 of the same year to the rank of Metropolitan. The following year, Metropolitan Vladimir personally welcomed the Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras, who during a brief stopover in Paris visited the Saint-Alexandre-Nevsky cathedral and the Saint-Serge Institute. Bishop Vladimir once again testifies to his fidelity to the Ecumenical Patriarchate, when in 1950 he made a gesture in the direction of the Russian Church abroad, proposing to his primate, Metropolitan Anastase (Gribanovskiï), a project of reunification of the parishes. of the two jurisdictions under the authority of Bishop Anastase, but in the obedience of the Patriarchate of Constantinople.
During the Diocesan Assembly of 1949, Bishop Vladimir launched a prophetic appeal for the unity of all the Orthodox settled in Western Europe, without distinction of ethnic or national origins, within the framework of a local Church: “Let us unite all in one Church in the countries where God has led us and our Orthodox brethren. Let us make all our efforts to build a unified Orthodox Church in Western Europe ”. As a direct extension of this appeal, over the following years, Metropolitan Vladimir, who shows great concern for the future of the children of the Russian emigration in the process of assimilation in their host countries as well as of the to become Westerners who enter into the communion of the Orthodox Church, gives its blessing to the various initiatives that appear here and there in certain parishes of the Exarchate, in Paris, in Nice, in Belgium, in Germany and in Denmark, to celebrate the liturgy in local languages.
In 1957, Metropolitan Vladimir modestly celebrated a rather rare jubilee: his fiftieth anniversary of episcopal ordination. Greetings are sent to him from all Russian emigration organizations. After a long illness, Metropolitan Vladimir passed away peacefully at the age of 86, on December 18, 1959, the eve of the feast of Saint Nicholas (according to the Julian calendar), in his small apartment, near the Saint-Alexandre-Nevsky cathedral, rue Daru, in Paris, with his last words: “Glory to You, who made us see the light”. He is buried in the crypt of the Church of the Dormition, near the cemetery of Sainte-Geneviève-des-Bois.
Devoid of all ambition, Metropolitan Vladimir never sought power. He was brought there by circumstances. He did not hide that the power weighed on him, that he did not feel made for him. His extreme simplicity, his benevolence towards all, his ascetic life in continual prayer, but also his total fidelity to the canons of the Church, earned him general esteem in the Orthodox world. “He was one of the meek to whom the Kingdom belongs. His gentleness was his weapon, it was through her that he dominated, ”Archimandrite Lev Gillet wrote about him (Messager Orthodoxe, 1959, n ° 8).
Archbishop Georges (Tarassov)
Archbishop George (Tarassov) was for more than twenty years, between 1960 and 1981, at the head of the Archdiocese of Russian Orthodox churches in Western Europe. During more than fifty years of priesthood, he was linked to the evolution of this archdiocese. Everything in the life of this prelate was unusual.
Georges Tarassov was born in Voronège (Russia) on April 14, 1893. He studied at the technical high school in this city, then at the Higher Technical School in Moscow, from which he graduated as a chemical engineer. He later took aeronautics lessons and volunteered in the Imperial Army, where he served in the air force. In 1916, the Ministry of War sent him to France to learn about the operation of French military aviation. After the 1917 revolution, he remained on the Western Front and enlisted as a pilot in the Belgian army with the rank of major. Demobilized in 1919, he moved to Belgium, where he worked from 1921 to 1934, as a chemical engineer, in various companies. In 1922, he married Eugenie Freshkop, who was to be remembered as a fervent Christian.
On March 25, 1928, Georges Tarassov was ordained deacon by Metropolitan Euloge. He wanted to serve the Church in this state for the rest of his life. However, on February 3, 1930, unforeseen circumstances led Deacon George to receive the priesthood, out of obedience to his bishop. He was appointed rector of the student parishes in Ghent and Louvain, parishes which had found themselves without a priest overnight. In 1932, Father Georges suffered a hard ordeal, the death of his wife. A year later, he received the monastic tonsure. In 1940, he was appointed rector of the parish of Saint-Pantéléïmon in Brussels (rue de la Tourelle), which did not prevent him from continuing to serve other parishes in Belgium. Among his parishioners, he developed an exceptional zeal and became a living image of pastoral love. During the German occupation he was arrested at least twice. Once his interrogation lasted ten consecutive hours. At the same time, Archbishop Alexander (Némélovskiï), auxiliary of Metropolitan Euloge in Belgium, was deported to Berlin, Father Georges also provided pastoral work at Saint-Nicolas church (rue des Chevaliers).
When Archbishop Alexander returned after the end of the war he chose to place himself in the jurisdiction of Moscow, while Father George Tarassov remained faithful to the Exarchate of the Patriarchate of Constantinople and to its new ruling bishop, Metropolitan Vladimir ( Tikhonicky). The latter raised him to the rank of Archimandrite in 1948. Elected auxiliary bishop for the Benelux and Federal Germany, with residence in his former parish of Brussels, Father Georges was ordained bishop on October 4, 1953, in Paris, by Metropolitan Vladimir, with the blessing of Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras and of the Holy Synod of Constantinople, who give him the title of Bishop of Syracuse.
After the death of Metropolitan Vladimir, the General Assembly of the Exarchate, meeting on June 12, 1960 to designate the successor of the deceased Metropolitan, elects Monsignor Georges. This election was confirmed by the Ecumenical Patriarchate on October 10, 1960. Having become Archbishop and Rector of Saint-Alexandre-Nevsky Cathedral in Paris, Monsignor Georges continued the pastoral activity he loved and never ceased to visit cities and countries of his followers. But in 1965, he was struck by a new ordeal: the ecclesial organism for which he was responsible had since 1931 constituted a “provisional exarchate” from the ecumenical throne; however, a letter from Patriarch Athenagoras, on November 22, put an end to this external administrative status of the diocese. Monsignor Georges will then be responsible for the heavy task of safeguarding the existence of the diocese entrusted to him and of preserving his parishes from rifts and possible non-ecclesial interference. In these circumstances, he had the courage to proclaim the independence of the Archdiocese on December 29, which was confirmed by the Clerical-Lay General Assembly in February 1966.
Archbishop George then had to face another necessity: to consolidate and regularize the canonical links which still existed between the Archdiocese and the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. To carry out this task, he found in the person of his diocesan secretary, Cyrille Kniazeff, a collaborator full of zeal. It was given to Archbishop George to see the fulfillment of his wish: in a patriarchal and synodal letter of January 22, 1971, Patriarch Athenagoras again confirmed the membership of the Archdiocese to the Ecumenical Patriarchate. This act also confirmed the existence of this diocese in its integrity as well as in its internal autonomy.
Archbishop George was deeply imbued with Russian Orthodox tradition and piety, but at the same time his heart was wide open to anyone who shared with him the love of Christian truth. The emergence, during the last years of his life, of new French and Dutch-speaking Orthodox communities in the regions where he had begun his pastoral ministry, in Brussels, Ghent and the Netherlands, was a great joy to him.
Monsignor Georges died on March 22, 1981 after a long illness, after a long illness. His last message to his clergy and, through them, to the faithful, was: “Tell them that I love them all” – words characteristic of this humble and courageous pastor. His body rests in the crypt of the Church of the Dormition, in the cemetery of Sainte-Geneviève-des-Bois, in the same tomb as Metropolitan Euloge, the founder of the diocese, who had ordained it to the diaconate and to the priesthood.
Archbishop Georges (Wagner)
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Bishop Georges d’Eudociade, in the world Georges Wagner, was born in Berlin on March 10, 1930, of German and Protestant parents. His paternal grandfather was a reformed pastor and, before the First World War, he held the office of preacher at the imperial court in Berlin for several years. His mother, Marthe Wagner, discovered Orthodoxy during the 1930s at St. Vladimir’s Church on Nachodstrasse, whose rector was Archimandrite John (Schakhowskoy) at the time. It was she who introduced her son to Russian parishes in Berlin at the end of World War II. These parishes were then directed by Archbishop Alexander (Nemelovsky), who had been for many years the auxiliary of Metropolitan Euloge for Belgium, then had been placed under house arrest by the Nazis in Berlin. In 1948, while the Soviet blockade kept the Berlin population in extremely precarious living conditions, Georges Wagner was received into Orthodoxy. Bishop Alexandre had already left for Belgium, but the majority of the Berlin clergy still consisted of priests from the Saint Sergius Institute, in particular Archpriest Serge Polozhenskiï († 1992) who played an important role in the young person’s spiritual development.
In 1949, his secondary studies completed, Georges Wagner left for the Institut de théologie Saint-Serge, in Paris, where he was remembered as a conscientious and reserved student. In 1953, he completed his studies by presenting a master’s thesis devoted to The Teaching of the Fathers of the Church of the 2nd and 3rd Centuries on the Mother of God which had been prepared under the direction of Archimandrite Cyprian (Kern). The other spiritual father of the young student was then the Methodist bishop who resided in Asnières. In May of the following year, at the invitation of the Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras I, Georges Wagner stayed at the Institute of Patriarchal Theology of Halki, in Istanbul, in the company of professors from the Institut Saint-Serge Antoine Kartachev and Leon Zander. His thesis defended, Georges Wagner is invited by the Council of professors of the Institute to pursue a year of specialization studies. It was planned at the time to entrust him with part of the teaching of New Testament exegesis in order to alleviate the task of Bishop Cassian who, in addition to his educational and scientific activities, held the office of the rector of the Institute. However, this project did not succeed.
On May 29, 1955, Georges Wagner was ordained deacon, in the church of the Trois-Saints-Docteurs, rue Pétel in Paris, and, on June 6 of the same year, priest, by Metropolitan Nicolas (Eremin), exarch of the patriarch from Moscow to Western Europe. For several years, he carried out his pastoral ministry in Berlin, in the diocese of the Moscow Patriarchate, and founded the parish of St. John Chrysostom, of which he became the rector and where the celebrations were held in Slavic and German. In 1962, he enrolled at the Faculty of Philology in West Berlin and began preparing a doctoral thesis on the Byzantine liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom. The consequences of the Cold War as well as the changes of officials at the head of the Exarchate of the Moscow Patriarchate in Berlin are all reasons which lead Father Georges Wagner to distance himself from the Moscow Patriarchate. Soviet agents contact him and try to convince him to make public statements denouncing US imperialism in Germany. Father Georges Wagner courageously refuses despite very strong pressure. This was an episode in his life that he did not talk about willingly, probably because of threats he had received after his refusal to collaborate on Soviet propaganda. Within the Exarchate of the Moscow Patriarchate in Berlin, the situation has also evolved. The direction is ensured by Archbishop Boris (Vik) who is illustrated by shattering declarations in favor of Soviet policy. We are witnessing a takeover of the parishes of Berlin. The former priests are sidelined and replaced by priests sent from Moscow. Among these newcomers, Father Wagner will only maintain close relations with the Higoumene Juvenal Poliarkov who was to later become Metropolitan of Kroutitsy with whom he was to keep episodic contacts until his death.
After a few months of hesitation, during which he mainly attended the small Greek church in Berlin, Father Georges Wagner decided to turn to the Exarchate of Russian parishes in Western Europe dependent on the Ecumenical Patriarchate and which, since 1961, had been headed by Archbishop George (Tarassov). His arrival in 1964 raised some suspicion on the part of some officials of the Exarchate who feared a maneuver by the Moscow Patriarchate to infiltrate the Exarchate, but ultimately, thanks to the moral backing of Father Nicolas Afanasieff, his former teacher, and the Father Georges Drobot, one of his former fellow students at the Institut Saint-Serge, Father Georges Wagner was admitted to the clergy of the diocese. In 1965, he was elevated to the rank of Archpriest and, the following year, he was appointed dean of the parishes of the Archdiocese in the Federal Republic of Germany.
In 1967, after the death of Father Nicolas Afanasieff, the Council of Professors of the Institut Saint-Serge entrusted Father Georges Wagner with the chair of canon law. In 1969, he was also responsible for teaching liturgical theology in place of Theodosius Spasskiï. During this period, Father Georges Wagner regularly provided liturgical celebrations at the monastery of Notre-Dame de la All-Protection in Bussy-en-Othe (Yonne) and established close links with the community, in particular with Mother Théodosie, who would deeply mark her spiritual journey. In 1970, he finished his doctoral thesis on “The sources of the liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom” which he successfully defended the following year at the University of Berlin. This thesis in which he demonstrates the attribution of the liturgy to Saint John Chrysostom from an in-depth textological analysis was to be subsequently published, in Münster, under the title Der Urprung des Chrysostomusliturgie in the collection Liturgiewissenschaftliche Quellen und Forshungen (1973). On March 12, 1971, Father Georges Wagner made his profession of riasophore, the first degree of monastic life, and he was elevated to the rank of Archimandrite the following Sunday, in the church of Chaville.
On June 30 of the same year, he was one of the five auxiliary bishops elected for the Archbishopric by the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Throne and he became titular bishop of the former see of Eudociade (in Asia Minor). The episcopal ordination of Bishop Georges (Wagner) is celebrated in our cathedral on Sunday October 3, 1971, under the presidency of Archbishop Georges (Tarassov), surrounded by Metropolitan Mélétios, bishop of the Greek diocese of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in France, of his auxiliary, Bishop Jérémie (now Metropolitan), and auxiliary bishops of the Archdiocese, Bishop Method (Kuhlman) and Bishop Alexandre (Semenoff-Tian-Chansky). In 1973, Bishop Georges gave up his teaching duties at the Institut Saint-Serge and, after the death of Bishop Method, in April 1974, he devoted himself to the pastoral direction of the parish of Christ the Savior, in Asnières, where he moved. At the same time as this parish ministry, carried out jointly with Archpriest Alexandre Rehbinder, he was entrusted by Archbishop George I with parishes in Germany and, after the death of Bishop Stéphane in 1979, with Scandinavia. During all these years and, until last year, Bishop Georges actively participated in the Liturgical Weeks of the Saint Sergius Institute, presenting papers there on several occasions. He also publishes a few articles in the ACER Messenger (in Russian).
On several occasions, Bishop George will assume certain responsibilities at the request of the Ecumenical Patriarchate: it is in particular he who translated into Russian the report on The Sources of Divine Revelation according to the teaching of the Orthodox Church, presented by the Patriarchate. ecumenical at the Preparatory Commission of the future Pan-Orthodox Council which took place in Chambésy (Switzerland), in 1976. He also published an article in the theological and historical work published by the Ecumenical Patriarchate, in 1981, on the occasion of the 1600th anniversary of the 2nd Ecumenical Council (Council of Constantinople in 381). Later, he was entrusted by the Ecumenical Patriarchate with the preparation of a dossier on the very complex history, he told us, of the autocephaly of the Church of Georgia, which was to lead, in 1991, to the recognition of this Church as such.
After the disappearance of Archbishop George I (March 22, 1981), Mgr Georges (Wagner) takes over the interim until the meeting of the diocesan assembly. He succeeded in the tour de force of very quickly reorganizing the canonical structures of the diocese which had hardly existed for several years already. On May 1, 1981, the 11th diocesan assembly chaired by Metropolitan Mélétios, exarch extraordinary of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, elected him at the head of our diocese. After confirmation of the election by the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, Mgr Georges was elevated to the rank of Archbishop of Eudociade and, on July 5, he was solemnly enthroned in our cathedral, in the presence of Metropolitan Meletios, Bishops Jeremiah and Roman (Ecumenical Patriarchate), Gabriel (Patriarchate of Antioch) and Adrien (Patriarchate of Romania) as well as about forty priests. Bishop Georges also became the rector of the Saint-Alexandre-Nevsky cathedral, rue Daru.
During the twelve years he spent at the head of the Archdiocese, Bishop Georges had to strive to bring together regular diocesan (1982, 1986, 1990) and pastoral (1984, 1989, 1992) assemblies, allowing clerics and lay people, coming from France, Belgium, Italy or even Sweden to meet, to pray together, to debate certain problems of a pastoral and liturgical order. A specialist in the liturgy, he sought to give the cathedral the solemnity it deserves in pontifical celebrations, while constantly recalling in his sermons the meaning of the Church’s prayer and of the sacramental mysteries. Finally, one of his main merits consisted in strengthening the links uniting the Archdiocese with the Ecumenical Patriarchate, in particular during the various visits he made to the Phanar with Patriarch Dimitrios I with the Rector of the Saint Sergius Institute, the protopresbyter Alexis Kniazeff (1981), Serge Obolensky (1983, 1986), the father Eugène Czapiuk (1988). He made his last trip to the Phanar on the occasion of the 1st Synaxis of the Diocesan Bishops of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, reunited by the new Patriarch, Bartholomew I, from August 30 to September 1, 1992.
Depuis 1989, Mgr Georges avait repris son enseignement à l’Institut Saint-Serge, assurant une partie des cours de théologie liturgique ainsi que l’ensemble du droit canonique. Après la mort du père Alexis Kniazeff, Mgr Georges avait été élu recteur de l’Institut, le 12 février 1991, charge qu’il exerçait en même temps que celle de recteur de la paroisse Saint-Serge. Toutefois, la douloureuse maladie qui s’était déclarée au cours de l’été 1992, une varice du talon, ne devait pas lui permettre de reprendre ses cours à la dernière rentrée académique. Ne pouvant plus tenir debout, Mgr Georges traversa alors la plus dure des épreuves pour l’évêque, le théologien et le liturgiste qu’il était, car il ne pouvait plus célébrer la liturgie. Surmontant la douleur, dont il ne se plaignait jamais, il devait une dernière fois présider la liturgie eucharistique dans la cathédrale, le jour de la fête de la Sainte Rencontre, le 15 février 1993.
Bishop Georges died of a pulmonary embolism resulting from his illness, on April 6, 1993 (the eve of the feast of the Annunciation of the Mother of God, according to the Julian calendar), in his episcopal residence of Asnières, at 10 hours of the morning. He died without a word in the arms of Hieromonk Nicolas (Moulinier), who celebrated that day the offices of Great Lent and the pre-feast of the Annunciation in the church of Asnières and who could give him the last discharge. Shortly after, the dressing and the first pannykhide were to be performed by Bishop Paul of Tracheia, called by telephone, as well as by Fathers Boris Bobrinskoy, Nicolas Cernokrak, Nicolas Moulinier and the hierodeaster Nicodemus. The funeral was celebrated on Saturday April 10, Lazarus Saturday, in the cathedral by Metropolitan Jeremiah (Ecumenical Patriarchate) and Bishop Paul surrounded by thirty-eight priests and six deacons, in the presence of the Bishops Romain, Stéphane (Ecumenical Patriarchate ) and Goury (Moscow Patriarchate). Interment took place in the crypt of the Church of the Dormition, in the Sainte-Geneviève-des-Bois cemetery. Bishop Georges was buried in the same tomb as Bishop Cassien. One cannot help noticing that his funeral was celebrated on the day when the Church celebrates the Resurrection of Lazarus, the “friend of Jesus”, to whom Bishop George showed particular veneration, since he commemorated him during the holiday. of celebration at each service for the deceased.
Bishop Georges left his successors, the clergy and the lay members of the Archdiocese two lessons. He tirelessly taught fidelity, first of all, to the Orthodox tradition, especially in its form of Russian expression, without this being incompatible with the universal vision of the Church, which he always kept in mind. : “We want to live a life imbued with the ever-living spiritual and liturgical tradition that we have received from the Christian East and from ancient Orthodox Russia”, he declared in his inauguration speech in 1981. He insisted everything particularly on the importance of the liturgical and sacramental life which is built around the bishop and his representative, the priest, in the parish. Hence the importance he gave to the parish, to the diocese, and the mistrust he felt towards para-ecclesial organizations and movements. Faithful in everything to Tradition, he knew that Tradition was the living expression of the life of the Church and that it had to be adapted wisely to the conditions of local existence. We must “remain faithful to the spiritual heritage received and at the same time work to update our Orthodox witness in the countries where we live”, he repeated.
Loyalty also to the Patriarchate of Constantinople, which he described as “the great canonical and historical center of the conciliar unity of the Orthodox world”. It is symptomatic that he had dedicated his doctoral thesis on Saint John Chrysostom “to the great Church of Christ which is in Constantinople”. Concretely, he insisted on the absolute necessity for the Archdiocese to “keep our link with the fullness of the Orthodox Church through our presence in the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate”. This jurisdiction had been established in a provisional form in 1931, because existence then seemed temporary and transitory. In 1971, it had received a new form, “valid until the question of the diaspora is settled in accordance with the requirements of the canonical order by the Holy and Great Pan-Orthodox Council”, he explained in his speech to the pastoral assembly of February 1981.
From this arose his second great teaching, which consisted in knowing how to carefully guard the gift of freedom in the face of interference and pressures outside the Church, whether political, national or ideological. “God has given our ecclesial organism a great and precious grace, which we all use, but of which we are not always sufficiently aware: he has given us to live our ecclesial life in full freedom from foreign influences. to the Church and external pressures from the powerful of this world. This precious gift, we must absolutely keep it ”, he said to the general assembly of the archdiocese in 1982 (Diocesan Messenger, n ° 1-2, p. 22).
An important collection of articles on liturgical theology by Bishop Georges was published in 2003 in French by the presses of the Institut Saint-Serge, under the title La liturgie, experience de l’Eglise. Liturgical studies. A translation of his doctoral thesis as well as a collection of sermons were also published in Russian, in Paris, by the Liturgica editions.
A. Nivière (© Paris, 2004)
Archbishop Serge (Konovalov)
Archbishop Serge Konovalov was head of the Archdiocese of Russian Parishes in Western Europe between 1993 and 2003. He was also a member of the Assembly of Orthodox Bishops of France; he sat on the Council of Christian Churches in France. In addition, he was rector of the Institut de theologie Saint-Serge in Paris.
Eldest of three children, Vladyka Serge was born in Louvain (Belgium) on July 8, 1941; his mother was Dutch, his father Russian. He will have a brother Alexandre, who will be a diplomat, and a sister Nadia, who for many years will work for the blind. The family was bilingual: from their father and an uncle, the children learned Russian, they spoke French with their mother. The whole family was Orthodox. Vladyka will say about it later: “We were brought up Orthodox, but without particular piety. But the ecclesiastical aspect has always attracted me, I was an altar boy; later in Leuven I sang and read in the parish ”.
Since the 1920s, there had been in Louvain (Belgium) a parish dedicated to Saints George and Tatiana, founded by the priest Georges Tarassov, the future Archbishop George of Syracuse († 1981). This pious servant of God had a very great influence on the spiritual life of young Sergius, and even later, in his walk to the altar, there was always a great bond between the old archbishop and his spiritual child. The oldest parishioners remember this time, and with what attention Vladyka as a child followed the holy offices. At the University of Louvain, he studied Germanic languages and he became a teacher at the Saint-Joseph college in Woluwé-Saint-Pierre (Brussels). For his students, he was more than just a teacher. Each year, he organized retreat days where he himself gave lectures. As soon as the changes in Russia made them possible, he organized school trips to Russia. For many alumni, he will remain an advisor.
After his marriage to Lydia Pétrovna Tchernenko, he was ordained deacon in 1968 for the parish of Louvain. But the decrease in the number of Russian students at the university and the fact that there was no longer a priest in Leuven led to the closure of the church in 1975. Various liturgical objects were transferred to the parish of Maastricht from our Archdiocese; the chalice and the paten are still used in our parish of Deventer (Netherlands).
After the closure of the Louvain church, he was appointed to the parish of Saints-Pantéléïmon-et-Nicolas, in Brussels (rue Demot). He was an inexhaustible source of knowledge. He was happy to translate entire chapters of the Typikon into Dutch, and he answered practical questions carefully and at length.
After the death in 1979 of Archbishop Paul of Novosibirsk, who lived in Brussels, the parish was briefly served by the priest Nicolas Soldatenkoff, but when he returned to France, it was essential that this important parish of rue Demot should have his own priest. Thus in 1980, the protodeacon Serge was ordained a priest. From that moment there was again a regular liturgical life. Father Serge loved the services and he celebrated them entirely: every Saturday evening, every Sunday, the eve of the great feasts and during Great Lent, twice a week, the liturgy of Presanctified Gifts. During Holy Week, Father Serge celebrated the prescribed services morning and evening; in addition, he also celebrated in the parish of Charleroi and during the holidays, at the summer camp of Vitiaz, a Russian youth movement, of which he had been a member in his childhood.
After the death of his wife Lydia, who died in 1984 at the age of 48, Father Serge had to take care alone of the education of his three children. In 1990, he was tonsured monk by Bishop Georges (Wagner); shortly thereafter he was appointed Archimandrite. Of that step, he himself said in an interview: “So I became a monk. It means that I wanted to devote myself to a greater spiritual life ”. He became a much sought-after and appreciated confessor father. The late Archbishop Basil (Krivochéine), himself a man of great spirituality, often gave the advice to turn to Father Serge for the spiritual life.
After the death of Archbishop George (Wagner), the Council of the Archdiocese appointed him among the candidates for succession. His response to the question whether he accepted this candidacy was typical: “If it is necessary”.
After his election as head of the Archdiocese in May 1993, he left for Paris. It was not until much later that many people realized the enormous consequences this had: he was forced to leave his children alone. Of course, by then they had grown into young adults, but they were suddenly forced to find their own way and live on their own. As for Vladyka, he settled in Paris, next to the cathedral on rue Daru.
It would not be an exaggeration to say that he was a traveling archbishop. He began by visiting the parishes: one of the first was Antwerp, but also Deventer, Kollumerpomp, Maastricht and Düsseldorf were able to rejoice in his visit. He also went to Italy, Scandinavia and Spain where four new parishes were founded.
Within the Archdiocese, there was a wish for greater (ecclesiastical) autonomy. Prior to 1966, the Archdiocese had had the status of Exarchate of the Ecumenical Throne, a status which, for various reasons, had been lost in December 1965. Under the energetic leadership of Vladyka and with unprecedented openness to the parishes that had a voice in the preparation of new statutes, the Diocesan Council meets every month and finalizes the draft of these new statutes. Then they were presented to the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and, after some modifications, they were approved by him. A General Assembly of the Archdiocese was called to ratify them. The adoption of these new statutes made it possible, after a fruitful joint work with the members of the synodal commission for the eparchies, to determine what our autonomy was by the promulgation of the patriarchal Tomos on June 20, 1999 restoring our Exarchate.
Vladyka was entirely Russian, but that did not blind him to “western” parishes, on the contrary.
Naturally, the developments in Russia during his episcopate did not go unnoticed. In 1995, shortly after his episcopal consecration and enthronement, Vladyka, with the blessing of Patriarch Bartholomew, went to Moscow where he was received by Patriarch Alexy; the concelebration with the Patriarch was the sign of the reestablishment of full communion with the Church of Moscow. Vladyka made a few pilgrimages to Russia again, and in August 2000 he attended the canonization of the New Martyrs and Confessors of the 20th Century. It is with good reason that, in his condolences, the Patriarch of Moscow testified to the part played by Vladyka Serge in restoring the spiritual unity of the Russian people. Regarding the difficult question of jurisdictions, he chose the path of the happy medium, because maintaining and strengthening unity in the diocese was his first and greatest concern. It is not surprising that after almost ten years of episcopate he is exhausted. He had time to say goodbye to several people, but no one suspected that the end would come so quickly. On Wednesday January 22, 2003 we received the sad news of the unexpected death the same morning of Archbishop Serge. He died of a heart attack, alone, like a monk, in his cell.
On January 25, 2003, after the liturgy and the funeral service, the body of Archbishop Serge was transferred to the Russian cemetery of Sainte-Geneviève-des-Bois, where it rests in the crypt, next to his predecessors.
(taken from the Diocesan Messenger, n ° 16, June 2003, pp. 11-13)
Archbishop Gabriel (de Vylder)
Archbishop Gabriel de Comane (in the world Guido de Vylder) was born on June 13, 1946, in Lokeren, near Ghent, (Belgium), in a Flemish family of Roman Catholic faith. After secondary studies at the Lycée Saint-Nicolas, he received technical training, being called upon to succeed his father at the head of the family business. After completing his military service in 1966, he entered the Institute for Late Vocations in Kortrijk where he studied until 1970. From 1970 to 1974 he studied philosophy and theology at the Ghent seminary. During this same period he became acquainted with Orthodoxy in Russian Orthodox parishes in Belgium and the Netherlands, and this research led him to refuse ordination to minor orders in the Catholic Church. In January 1974, he was received into the communion of the Orthodox Church in the parish of Saint Andrew in Ghent, which at the time came under the jurisdiction of the Archdiocese. Until 1976, he continued his training in the section of moral and religious studies at the University of Louvain.
On October 5, 1975, after having been elevated to readership and sub-diaconate, Guido de Vylder was ordained deacon by Archbishop George of Syracuse in the parish of the crypt of Sainte-Trinité, in Paris. On June 27, 1976, he was ordained a priest by Archbishop George in Saint-Alexandre-Nevsky Cathedral, in Paris. The following year, on May 18, 1977, he was appointed rector of the parish of Saint-Jean-Chrysostome in Maastricht (Netherlands), a parish founded in 1972 and of which he will take care until 2003, while working as a teacher. history of religions, in Dutch secondary education, from 1976 to 1997. In the years that followed, he actively participated in the creation of other parishes in Deventer, Breda and Antwerp, and provided pastoral work there, until then they became independent parishes with their own priests. He also founded a chapel in Kollumerpomp, in Friesland, in the far north of the Netherlands. On March 9, 1985, Father Guido was elevated to the dignity of Archbishop by Archbishop Georges d’Eudociade. He was then appointed rector of the Russian parish of Saint-Alexandre-Nevsky, in Liège., From January 1, 1993. Thanks to his efforts, this parish is now officially recognized by the Belgian state.
In 1993, the new archbishop, Mgr Serge d’Eukarpie, appointed Father Guido to head the deanery of the parishes of the archdiocese in Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany. In this capacity, from 1995 to 2003, he represented Orthodoxy in the Council of Churches in the Netherlands. On May 11, 1994, Father Guido pronounced his monastic vows with Archbishop Serge, in the Saint-Serge-de-Radonège church, in Paris, and received the name of Gabriel in honor of the holy archangel Gabriel (feast July 11). The following Sunday, he was elevated to the dignity of igumen. On May 21, 1998, he was made Archimandrite. Elected by the general assembly of the archdiocese in 1994 as a member of the diocesan council, he sat there until 2002 as a representative of the clergy, then, from 2002 to 2003, ex officio as auxiliary bishop. From 2000 to 2003, he was also a member of the official body (disciplinary committee). He participated in particular, in October 1998, in the delegation of the archbishopric led by Archbishop Serge to the Phanar, seat of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, to discuss the status of the archbishopric within the Ecumenical Patriarchate, a discussion which will culminate in the granting of the Tomos of June 1999.
Also at the end of the 1990s, Archimandrite Gabriel also took part in a diocesan pilgrimage to the Holy Land and another to the monasteries of Russia. Elected bishop of Comane and auxiliary to Archbishop Serge by the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate on January 1, 2001, he was ordained to the episcopate on June 24, 2001, in Saint-Alexandre-Nevsky Cathedral, in Paris. Following the death of Archbishop Serge, which occurred on January 22, 2003, he provisionally took over the interim at the head of the archbishopric as locum tenens. He was then confronted with violent attacks involving both his person and the canonical status of the archdiocese within the Patriarchate of Constantinople. The distribution of a letter addressed by the Patriarch of Moscow Alexis II, on April 1, 2003, to “parishes of Russian tradition in Western Europe” proposing a new structure of ecclesial organization within the jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate aroused strong tensions he had to face.
Elected at the head of the archbishopric by the assembly of cleric and lay delegates on May 1, 2003, in the second ballot, with a large majority (134 votes out of 168 voters), Mgr Gabriel was elevated to the dignity of archbishop by the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Throne, May 3, and appointed by Patriarch Bartholomew I patriarchal exarch. His solemn enthronement took place on June 24 in Saint-Alexandre-Nevsky Cathedral. From that date he presided over the destinies of the Archdiocese, exercising the presidency of the Diocesan Council, of four clerical-lay General Assemblies (2004, 2007, 2008, 2010), of several pastoral assemblies as well as of the diocesan conferences, put in place. up to his initiative. In addition to his office at the head of the archbishopric, Bishop Gabriel held the functions of rector of the Saint Sergius Theological Institute, from 2003 to 2013, of rector of the parish of Christ the Savior in Asnières, from 2003 to 2011, and rector of the parish of Saint-Alexandre-Nevsky Cathedral, from 2009 to 2013.
Bishop Gabriel sought to demonstrate the presence of the Archdiocese on the inter-Orthodox scene. He thus made several visits to the headquarters of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. He participated in official delegations alongside Patriarch Bartholomew I to the Church of Georgia, in Tbilisi, in 2004 and 2006, and to the Russian Orthodox Church, in Kiev, in July 2008. He visited on official visits to the Churches of Poland, in May 2008, and of Finland, in February 2005. He received and met in Paris Patriarch Bartholomew I, on three occasions (February 2007, April 2009 and April 2011), but also the Patriarch of Moscow Alexis II, in October 2008, Metropolitan Sawa of Warsaw, in September 2004, Metropolitan Leo of Finland, in August 2004. He had presided over a diocesan pilgrimage to the Holy Land in October 2011, during which he was decorated by Patriarch Theophilus III of Jerusalem of the Knight’s Cross of the Holy Sepulcher.
Saint- Nicolas de Nice attributed by decision of the civil courts to the Russian state), and it is, without question, too early to make a definitive assessment of this entire period. The acceptance into the jurisdiction of Constantinople of several Orthodox parishes in Great Britain, led by their bishop at the time, Monsignor Basil (Osborn), and their integration into the Archdiocese constituted on the part of Bishop Gabriel a courageous act which aimed to allow these communities to continue to lead their liturgical and pastoral life in peace and in conformity with the spiritual heritage of their founder, Metropolitan Antoine de Souroge, which they no longer considered possible to achieve within the framework of their previous canonical attachment. The solemn proclamation of the glorification of Father Alexis Medvedkov, as well as Father Dimitri Klepinin, Mother Marie (Skobtsov) and their companions Élie Fondaminsky and Yuri (George) Skobtsov, canonized by the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate at the request of Bishop Gabriel, on January 16, 2004, was undoubtedly a defining moment, with particular significance for the Orthodox Church in the West as well as for the universal Church. It was the first canonization of saints of the Orthodox Church who lived in Western Europe in modern times. Bishop Gabriel presided over the solemn liturgy of glorification on May 1 and 2, 2004, in Saint-Alexandre-Nevsky Cathedral.
The health of Archbishop Gabriel, who had been treated for a cancerous tumor in the lungs in early 2011, deteriorated rapidly in the second half of 2012 due to the effects of chemotherapy treatment. Since his retirement in January this year, Bishop Gabriel had moved into his house near the church in Maastricht and continued to undergo very heavy medical treatment. A few days before his death he had to be placed in the “De Keerderberg” reception and care home. After a sudden deterioration in his condition, he was transferred again on October 24 to the Maastricht Academic Hospital (AZM). It was there that he passed away on the night of October 25-26. Upon the announcement of his death, Metropolitan Emmanuel broadcast the following message: “I have just heard painful news and wanted to share it immediately with you. Archbishop Gabriel has passed away. Let us pray for the rest of his soul and that his memory will be eternal. “
The body of the late archbishop was placed in the church in Maastricht on the evening of October 26 and is due to be transferred to Paris mid-week. Bishop Gabriel’s funeral will be celebrated in Saint-Alexandre-Nevsky Cathedral, under the presidency of Metropolitan Emmanuel, who temporarily administers the Archdiocese. Interment should then take place in the crypt of the church in the cemetery of Sainte-Geneviève-des-Bois.
“So now is the time to separate myself from you. […] Beyond tribulations of all kinds, always have confidence and hope in the Word of God which is the pledge of our salvation and the strengthening of our Church. The freedom of the Church and the universality of the Orthodox faith are the two treasures that I have sought to preserve, following the example of my predecessors at the head of this Archdiocese. And this, to allow us to concentrate on what, in the eyes of the disciples of Christ, must constitute the “only necessary”: “Seek the Kingdom of God and His righteousness”, as the Lord himself commands us ( Mat 6.33). My last word will be to ask you to keep your love and your unity. This is the most precious treasure of our Church. Deign the Lord “to give you a spirit of wisdom” and “to illuminate the eyes of your heart so that you can see what hope his call opens to you” (Eph 1, 17-18) “(pastoral letter from Bishop Gabriel, dated January 8 2013).
Here is an excerpt from a pastoral letter from Monsignor published for Easter 2012:
“… When we look at our lives, the life of all men on earth, we are tempted by sadness and we could say like Ecclesiastes:” All is vanity and pursuit of the wind “(Ec II, 17) . What misfortunes, how many broken loves! Serious illness, unexpected accident, old age where everything is declining are so many subjects of depression. Many young people doubt their future and are overcome by anguish, sometimes looking for substitutes without a future.
Faced with these fears, faced with these anxieties, we must remember that before Easter there is Passion Friday! We need to think back to Gethsemane – “My soul is sorrowful even to death” – and the crucifixion – “My God why have you forsaken me? “. Then we will understand that the Resurrection is not a simple and pleasant family celebration that we forget the next day, but a real springing up, a hymn to life and to love! If Christ accepted the suffering, the abasement (the “kenosis”), the exclusion, the rejection, the terrible loneliness, the abandonment of these apostles and, in the end, death on the Cross, it is for that through the mystery of the Resurrection that followed we are no longer afraid! … “