Pastoral Message of Archbishop John of 17 September 2019
Protocol number: 19.047
Dear beloved in Christ Fathers, Brothers and Sisters,
Some members of the Council of the Archdiocese, without informing others, and me in particular, have taken the initiative to write to you, allegedly in the name of the Council as a whole, to inform you that they have solicited the Patriarch of Constantinople to whom our Archdiocese is no longer attached, the appointment of a locum tenens. To do this, they rely on a literal reading of our statutes, which say that the Archbishop who chairs the Diocesan Union is part of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. As this is no longer the case they deduce that, there would be no more Archbishop (!), and therefore claim, in his place, to be able to issue canonical leaves. However, as far as these clerics are concerned, they have asked for their own canonical attachment to Greek dioceses or to the Romanian church. Last but not least, they invite clerics to approach one of these entities.
Thus, under the guise of wanting to “protect” and “continue” our Archdiocese, what they are calling is actually, by a succession of nonsense, the dismantling of our Archdiocese.
It is true that our statutes mention the canonical attachment to the Patriarchate of Constantinople. However, we broke with this patriarchate. In assembly. We broke the first time on February 23, 2019 when, against the Act of Canonical Submission of January 12, 2019, 93% voted against the dissolution of our Archdiocese. Finally, we broke with the Ecumenical Patriarchate on the 7th of September when a large majority voted in favour of joining the Moscow Patriarchate. I would add that many among those who voted against the project of attachment to the Moscow Patriarchate did not want to maintain a canonical attachment with the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
Dear Fathers, beloved Brothers and Sisters, your clergy celebrate the Eucharist every Sunday. To do this, and because we are and want to remain a canonical church, this fundamental and founding celebration of our life as Orthodox Christians must be part of a clear, frank, canonical bond, without there being any ambiguity before the chalice. How can you imagine that your Archbishop can commemorate Patriarch Bartholomew in these conditions after the decision of the Extraordinary General Assembly on September 7th?
As I have written to you, I am the guarantor of the pastoral ministry. It is in our statutes. The decision of the assembly imposed itself on me. It confirmed the break with the Ecumenical Patriarchate. It imposed on me a pastoral decision, which I took in my soul and conscience, in order to restore this link of frankness and clarity.
Our Extraordinary General Assemblies of February 23 and September 7, 2019 have thus rendered obsolete the references to the Ecumenical Patriarchate in our statutes. Our Assemblies, our decisions in conciliarity, have changed our statutes, which will have to be amended accordingly.
Our statutes today contain many other articles that have not been applied for years, starting with the election of our vicar bishops, or the functioning of the Episcopal Council. This does not mean that the Archdiocese would have ceased to function or exist.
As you can see, (I remind here that our statutes organize the pastoral, they are not its foundation) to stick to a literal and meaningless reading of our statutes – allows all possible deviations, and leads us to nothingness.
It is by this literal reading that a fiction is created, which would allow priests and laypeople, who have every right to desire to be placed under the canonical attachment of the Patriarchate of Constantinople through its Greek metropolises in Europe, may pretend to represent our Archdiocese, to be its “continuators”! While our assemblies, and therefore our Archdiocese, have clearly broken with this same Patriarchate, by a vast majority.
This way of thinking is anti-conciliar. It is absurd. How can these few clerics and lay people claim that they could request the appointment of a locum tenens for our Archdiocese to the Patriarch of Constantinople, when the assemblies have clearly rejected this canonical bond, while also relating themselves … to the Romanian metropolis, pretending that they would be canonically entitled to propose to issue canonical leaves in the place of the Archbishop?
The respect of our statutes (I will add our canons) is linked to the respect of their spirit and their principles, the first of which is the conciliarity. I convened our Pastoral and General Assemblies, and I had to do so despite the opposition of those who wrote to you at the last General Assembly. I heard the strong message that these assemblies delivered. I took my responsibilities, being the guarantor of our statutes and pastoral ministry.
I would have liked those who claim to respect our statutes to having been cautious when they circumvent the statutory rules of convocation of the Council of the Archdiocese and its operation. When they claimed to act and communicate widely on behalf of the same council as a whole, while prominent members of the same council, the President, the Vice-President and the Secretary, were deliberately dismissed and kept in the dark about all their initiatives. They did not even send me this release…
Dear Fathers, Beloved Brothers and Sisters, I am particularly speaking to those of you who are living with difficulty the present situation and the rifts of recent weeks.
I think deep down in my soul and my heart that there was and there is no other solution but the one, which I opted as your pastor, after the decisions of our assemblies.
I urge you to measure the canonical and juridical emptiness and moral fear that constitutes what is presented to you as an alleged alternative to the choice for which I assume responsibility, and that I assume for and with you, because, I did not leave you.
We must have the strength to overcome past wounds and hardships in recent months, and build our future together.
I am going to call a pastoral assembly shortly, so that our clergy can, together and with me, in conciliarity, confirm the canonical attachment that we have obtained, which will allow our Archdiocese to join the Moscow Patriarchate, with our autonomy, according to the negotiated and defined modalities in the Project of attachment on which we have agreed this summer with the Patriarchate of Moscow. Then we can amend our statutes.
In the meantime, now that the choices are clear, as well as their implications, I invite each of us to calm, to reflection and to pray. The choices are often painful, but we must not lose sight our love and our respect for others.
JEAN, Archbishop of the Union Diocesan
of Russian Orthodox Associations
in Western Europe
Paris, September 17, 2019