Orthodoxy in France: what does the new agreement consist of?

► Who carried this new memorandum of understanding, and why?

The objective of this protocol is to find a “Peaceful outcome” at “The conflictual situation” which has been testing, for nearly two years, the relations between the main structures of French orthodoxy. Friday, December 4, Metropolitans Emmanuel Adamakis – of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in France, and president of the Assembly of Orthodox Bishops of France – and Jean de Doubna – leading the archbishopric of Western European parishes of Russian tradition – signed a protocol agree to pacify relations between their communities.

A joint statement, issued the same day, establishes that the initiative was “Carried unanimously” by both parties, as well as by the parishes meeting in a general assembly under the presidency of Bishop Emmanuel. “This is already a big step forward. It is an important step in the rapprochement, even if this agreement does not resolve everything, and will not all at once extinguish resentments ”, explains the orthodox priest Yannick Provost, officiating in particular in Quimper (Finistère) and Rennes (Ille-et-Vilaine).

And if the document specifies that this rapprochement process was undertaken before the Covid-19 pandemic, the two metropolitan residents still ensure that they share “The conviction that this ordeal can and must contribute to the ecclesial pacification desired by all and call (…) everyone to refocus on the essential: love of neighbor and example of forgiveness”.

► Why were these structures in conflict in France?

On November 27, 2018, the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople announced, to everyone’s surprise, its decision to revoke a patriarchal charter (Tomos) dating from 1999, by which he granted “ the pastoral care and administration of Orthodox parishes of Russian tradition in Western Europe to its archbishop-exarch “. In this way, Patriarch Bartholomeos signed the disappearance of this archdiocese born of white Russian emigration in the 1920s, and the attachment of these parishes to the metropolises of the Patriarchate of Constantinople in the countries where they are located.

→ READ. Orthodoxy, Bartholomeos reaffirms the primacy of the Patriarchate of Constantinople

This decision then had “Generated during two years, within the parishes which were members of the Union guideline at European level, of intense debates during which all the opinions could be expressed, revealing a great diversity of positions”, retrace the press release. “Between November 2018 and September 2019, the parishes chose their camp: around two thirds of them decided to follow Moscow, and a third remained faithful to Constantinople”, traces Father Yannick Provost.

“It opened up many tensions, parishes were torn apart, priests began not to speak to their neighbors. There were also, behind that, ideological quarrels ”, he continues. Crystallized in the Orthodox landscape around the virulent debate on the recognition of the Church of Kiev in January 2019, the Ukrainian crisis also had heavy repercussions in Western Europe.

► Concretely, what does this new agreement recommend?

Through this new protocol, religious representatives have specified that they want to give “A strong signal of exemplarity”, around three main axes. “By calling for mutual recognition, the former urges no longer to fight to change the minds of the communities that are members of the diocesan union who have decided in particular to stay or not in the Union (which came under the authority of the Patriarchate from Moscow) “, says Father Provost.

→ READ. The Orthodox Church at the time of rupture

By strengthening pastoral cooperation, the second wants “Organize and to guarantee fraternal and ecclesial coexistence between communities ”, further specifies the press release. Finally, the third axis aspires to allow access, for all, “To the rich common spiritual and cultural heritage, which will be preserved and digitized by the Diocesan Steering Union of Russian Orthodox Associations in Western Europe for generations to come”.


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