ARCHDIOCESE OF RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCHES IN WESTERN EUROPE
EXARCHATE OF THE ECUMENICAL PATRIARCHATE
Communiqué No 12-6 of the Council of the Archdiocese, meeting on 9 June 2006
The Council of the Archdiocese met in an extraordinary and enlarged session on 9 June 2006, under the presidency of his Eminence, Archbishop Gabriel, in order to take cognizance of the decisions of the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of 8 June 2006 concerning the integration of his Excellency Bishop Basil of Amphipolis into the Exarchate, and to examine how to apply the decisions. After the reunion, the Council issued the following declaration:
Declaration of the Council of the Archdiocese
Confronted with grave unrest in the midst of his diocese and disciplinary sanctions in his own regard which he considered 'anti-canonical and invalid', His Eminence Bishop Basil of Sergievo, formally Administrator of the Diocese of Sourouzh, whose See is centred in London, addressed an appeal to his Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew 1st on 16 May, in accordance with Canons 9 and 17 of the 4th Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon, which recognises the Archbishop of Constantinople's prerogative to 'bring justice' to 'any bishop or cleric' having a difference with the authority of his regional Church.
During its session of 8 June 2006, the Holy and Sacred Synod of the Great Church of Constantinople accepted the request formulated by his Eminence Bishop Basil to Patriarch Bartholomew 1st to be received into the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Throne with those ecclesial communities that desired to follow him, so that these communities and their pastor might not be deprived of the bond of unity with the Holy Church. By Patriarchal and Synodal decision, Bishop Basil has been received under the omophorion of the Ecumenical Patriarch and has been designated Bishop of Amphipolis, to exercise as auxiliary bishop the responsibility for the parishes of Russian tradition in the territory of the British Isles, in the canonical context of the Patriarchal Exarchate of Parishes of Russian Tradition in Western Europe.
The Council of the Archdiocese, meeting in an extraordinary session on 9 June 2006, under the presidency of his Eminence Archbishop Gabriel, learned of these decisions and the considerations which led the Ecumenical Patriarch to turn to his Exarchate of Parishes of Russian Tradition in Western Europe in order to integrate his Excellency Bishop Basil and the communities which desire to follow him. His Eminence Archbishop Gabriel announced that for reasons of pastoral solicitude and in order to permit them a normal liturgical and spiritual life, he was receiving Bishop Basil and the communities of the British Isles which ask to be received, into the Exarchate.
The Council of the Archdiocese considers that the integration of these parishes constitutes an important stage both in the life of the Exarchate, and in the evolution of Orthodoxy as a whole in Western Europe. This decision is firstly a continuity with history, since until the end of the Second World War, the Russian parish of the Dormition in London was under the pastoral authority of Metropolitan Eulogii.
Secondly, the Council takes note of the fact that many communities founded afterwards by Metropolitan Anthony, of blessed memory, in a spirit of living witness to the Truth of Christ and using both Russian and the local languages, share with our Archdiocese the same ecclesiological vision, the same objective of rooting Orthodoxy in the countries where we are living, the same liturgical and pastoral life according to the Russian Orthodox tradition, the same attachment to the principles of the Council of Moscow of 1917-18, and the same practice in canonical, administrative and ways of running the Church (both at diocesan and parish level and in parish-diocese relations). It is therefore clear that his Eminence Bishop Basil and these communities naturally find their place in the Exarchate, in order to continue to lead their liturgical and spiritual life in peace, piety and the integrity of faith.
In these circumstances, and in accordance with the Patriarchal and Synodal decision, the parishes and communities of the British Isles will be organised in a special vicariate within the Exarchate, responsibility for which belongs to his Eminence Bishop Basil of Amphipolis, as auxiliary bishop with extended prerogatives, following the decrees of the Council of Moscow of 1917-18, which give the possibility of creating vicariates having a 'semi-independent' status (polu-samostoiatel’nost’) within an already existing diocese (cf. Decrees of 26 July/ 8th August 1918, 'On the Creation of New Dioceses and Vicariates', art. 6, and of 2/15 April 1918, 'On Vicar Bishops', art. 1 and 2). Such an organisation allows us to take up again the practice which existed under the Metropolitans Eulogii and Vladimir of blessed memory, who granted to certain of their auxiliary bishops wide pastoral authority in precise geographical territories, without dividing our ecclesial reality, which must keep intact its unity and its internal bonds of love and fraternal communion, under the protection of the Ecumenical Throne.
The modalities according to which the vicariate for the British Isles will function will be laid out in a separate document, which will be drawn up by the Council of the Archdiocese. All these decisions will be presented to the next General Assembly of the Archdiocese, to be held in May 2007. From today, His Eminence, Bishop Basil has full right to participate in the meetings of the Council of the Archdiocese.
It goes without saying that this new form of organisation within our ecclesial reality is only a provisional stage – albeit an important one - on the road which must lead towards the creation of a unified Local Church, regrouping all the Orthodox faithful living in the countries of Western Europe. The proposal to establish such a Local Church, formulated by the Clergy-laity Assembly of the Exarchate in 1949, under the presidency of Metropolitan Vladimir, of blessed memory, remains a fundamental objective for the Exarchate, one which it will not be possible to bring to fruition except in the context of a Pan-Orthodox conciliar process, engaged in under the responsibility of his Holiness, the Ecumenical Patriarch by all the Orthodox Churches of the region, and with the participation of all the Orthodox ecclesial communities present in our lands, for 'all are called to share at the Table of the Lord'.
Fundamentally, the Archdiocese is itself already a Local Church, as is every diocese in each place, where the fullness of the Church manifests itself in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, offered by the bishop, surrounded by the college of presbyters and all the People of God. With all the dioceses of the other patriarchates, with which it is already in communion, it constitutes the first fruits of a Local Church on the territory of Western Europe, where the Lord has called us to live. It is in this perspective, which is in conformity with Orthodox ecclesiology, that the Archdiocese intends to move forward with all those who wish to contribute 'here and now' to the construction of the Church of Christ, beyond differences of language, nationality and ethnic origin, yet without abandoning the practices and usages of the rich and precious ecclesial Tradition received from our Fathers in the Faith. In accordance with their teaching, we must seek, through humble prayer and participation in the holy and life-giving divine Mysteries, the grace and light of the Lord Jesus, so as to be judged worthy to live in the fullness of 'the bond of love' which unites his disciples.
Paris, 9 June 2006