RUSSIAN ORTHODOX NEEDS IN WESTERN EUROPE
With these recent events in mind, we cannot help but think of the foundation of a Russian Orthodox Metropolia in Europe. Since the historic April 2003 announcement of His Holiness Patriarch Alexis regarding such a Metropolia, similar to the Metropolias of other Russian Orthodox territories, notably the Ukraine and Belarus, much has been written on this subject. The forthcoming visit of Patriarch Alexis to Paris next month may make clear some of the realities of this concept.
On the one hand, the Russian Orthodox Church does not wish to upset Roman Catholic and other Non-Orthodox religious authorities in Western Europe. In today’s almost wholly deChristianized Western Europe, we respect those Non-Orthodox, who are struggling against the common enemy of secularism. For they are struggling to keep alive any remains of the precious Orthodoxy of the First Millennium, the smallest vestiges of the so-called ‘Undivided Church’. (Although in our view this term should be avoided, because the Church can never be divided, the term does have a meaning as another way of saying ‘The Orthodox Church’).
On the other hand, we all know that the chances that remains of the original Local Church in Western Europe, whether Roman Catholic or other, returning en masse to the fold after 1,000 years are nil. Only the naïvest can still be thinking of establishing temporary Orthodox ‘structures of waiting’ (‘structures d’attente’) in view of an eventual return of Roman Catholicism to the Church. (These were the words that scandalized the Orthodox faithful in a naive ecumenist speech made by a well-known priest of the Paris Exarchate some thirty years ago).
Practically, there is no doubt now that Russian Orthodox in Western Europe need access to a seminary where the authentic Russian Orthodox Tradition (and not an imaginary, intellectual concoction) is wholeheartedly taught and maintained by members of the Russian Orthodox Church. We must admit that at the present time this will have to be in Moscow, which is, after all, in Europe and not so far from the other capitals of Europe. In the Patriarchal Capital, there are already some 700 parishes, several monasteries, several seminaries and many faithful, where seminarians can be instructed in the Faith and receive practical liturgical and theological training.
One member of the German Diocese of ROCOR, just ordained deacon, has even completed the Theological Academy in Moscow. In the Capital of our Mother-Church, those who come from the new ‘Western European Metropolitan province’ of the Russian Orthodox world, who are able to and wish to, could have a unique opportunity to study the Orthodox Faith in its integrity, without compromise. Clearly, such a seminary would have to provide motivated seminarians from Western Europe with adequate Russian language skills.
It is now desirable that a library of books on Orthodoxy in Western European languages be gathered. In particular, there should in Moscow be a facility to hold the translations of all the liturgical books in all the relevant Western European languages. Although five languages, German, French, English, Italian and Spanish, are spoken by some 320 million in Western Europe, there are another fifteen national and minority languages spoken by perhaps another 70 million.
Most of these languages, even those like Breton and Welsh, are regularly used by Orthodox. These fifteen languages are: Basque, Breton, Catalan, Danish, Dutch/Flemish, Hungarian, Icelandic, Irish Gaelic, Letzburgisch, Maltese, Norwegian, Portuguese, Scots Gaelic, Swedish, Welsh. (We exclude Albanian, since the Church of Greece looks after Orthodox there, just as the Church of Serbia looks after Orthodox in Macedonia, Montenegro, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia and Slovenia and the tiny Finnish Church looks after Orthodox in Finland).
Usefully, the four main languages of Western Europe also cover much of the rest of the world. Thus, the Continents of North and South America and Australia speak mainly English, Spanish, Portuguese and French. Moreover, much of Africa can understand three of these: English, French and Portuguese. The accessibility of English liturgical translations is very important, because, given worldwide knowledge of English, translations can be made from them locally into a host of native languages in Africa, India and the Philippines in particular. These translations, set to music, could all be stocked in Moscow and perhaps eventually, with permission, be made available online.
The Russian Church is at last free to gather together those faithful to the Tradition, fulfilling her destiny. This could not take place before, on account of the tragic divisions, scandals and persecutions caused by the illegal usurpations of power in Russia in 1917, first by freemasons and other secularists, then by Bolsheviks. Today, the Russian Church has no political pretensions, whatever some of the more unrealistic and aggressive anti-Russian, and in fact anti-Orthodox, elements in various places claim. We would suggest that their fear is often a fear of canonicity, discipline, Church order and above all, sad to say, a fear and rejection of Church unity.
Obviously, those Orthodox in Western Europe who wish to remain outside the Russian Church are free to do so. In no way should any of our foresight of decades ago, hopes for the future, or increasing efforts to unite the scattered, trouble those Orthodox who wish to continue outside the Russian Church for reasons of ethnic identity. However, for our part, we will continue to remain open to those of goodwill, whatever their background, as long as they wish to keep the Tradition, continuing to gather the scattered. The Serbian, Georgian, Polish and Czechoslovak Churches might already wish to co-operate in some way with a future such Metropolia.
Possibly the Bulgarian Church would also co-operate, although, like the Greek, Romanian and other smaller Churches, the latter is handicapped by the calendar problem. It is to be hoped that the foundation of a Russian Orthodox Metropolia in Western Europe might be the catalyst for these Churches to return to the use of the Orthodox calendar for the fixed feasts. So far, the introduction of the Roman Catholic calendar, so bitterly regretted, for example, by successive Archbishops of Athens, has caused pain and division within all these Churches. At the same time it has damaged the catholicity of the whole Church, to the delight of secularists, whose aim it is to destroy the Orthodox Churches altogether. Wherever new calendarism has been enforced, ecumenism has appeared, and so old calendarism has appeared alongside it. One extreme breeds another and secular modernism engenders pharisean sectarianism.
May the future events of the Russian Orthodox world in Western Europe help bring all back to the royal way, the moderation of the Tradition and, most especially, to Church unity.
August/2 September 2007