Haralambos accounts 1

The report had been written first in 2004, i.e. before the deposing of former Patriarch Irenaios of Jerusalem, who at the present is a monk and still resides within the compound of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem. There was a switch one year before the election of new Patriarch Theophilos of Jerusalem who just commemorated the tenth anniversary of his enthronment at the Holy Sepulcher which I had attended.

This new putting online introduces further data to be shared that will slowly lead to an in-depth analyzis of the way things happened in May 2014 for the visit of Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomaios of Constantinople and New Rome, hosted by His Beatitude Theophilos of Jerusalem and All Palestine.

The present development of the situation of the patriarchate of Jerusalem in the countries of Israel, the Palestinian Territories and the Kingdom of Jordan in 2017-19 and the attitude of the Greek Orthodox religious Authorities allow republishing as each year this “diyun/”judgment”, though all accusations fell tacitly down or remained silent, a sign of “special courage or absence of courage” from within the Church at all levels.

Do not think that this passed and that years canceled this. My continuous service of the Church of Jerusalem is developing on other bases that show that there is strong resistance to make any remark on my constant faithfulness to the patriarch and the Holy Synod of Jerusalem. Indeed, I remain in contact with multi-faceted Israeli, Arab, Jordanian and many local jurisdictions. Interestingly, my publications are among the few that support the patriarch of Jerusalem and the Holy and Sacred Synod. A local Church who is the Mother of All the Churches indeed has been maintaining throughout the pathetic tragedies of history. It means that it can overcome all evil and good, just and uncanonical fake and real situations and has to take into account the newness of the local changes in the region and in the world. Jerusalem is also the only patriarch to be in conformity with the traditional canonical requirements of the Local Orthodox Churches. (Updated 19.10.25)


Report written by Archpriest Alexander Winogradsky
Following the protest of Archmandrite Nektarios after Easter 2004
And led to a “Synodal approved” Committee that met only once, on April 29/16th, 2004.
The Committee included : Metropolitan Kornelios of Petra, President of the Ecclesiastical Court, Metropolitan Ambrosios of Neapolis, Archbishop Aristarchos of Constantine, Acting Secretary of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem, Archimandrite Theophilaktos,
In the presence of Archimandrite Nektarios, Archpriest Alexander.

The present document is Fr. Alexander Winogradsky’s response to the specific issues mentioned at the Committee Meeting as well as his response to the on-going situation in general. It is his hope that this will be transmitted to the members of the Committee. It additionally could be handed over “To Whom It may Concerns” as the facts do relate to Church issues with eventual legal ramifications.


After Easter 2004 [April 11th/March 29th, 2004] around 200 faithful came to the Matins and Divine Liturgy celebrated at the Church of Hieromartyr Haralambos, located at the 8th Station of the Way of the Cross, on Hanqa St. in the Old City of Jerusalem. It was the 4th year in a row that the Great Feast of the Resurrection was celebrated there by the Slavic-Hebrew speaking Community headed by Fr. Alexander Winogradsky.

We did not anticipate such a large number of faithful because of the dire situation in the country. The Service and Liturgy are celebrated during the night and most of the faithful come not from Jerusalem [some are based there] but mostly from the Centre and the South of the country. Moreover, it should be noted that Easter Sunday is a working day in the State of Israel and that local Christian Orthodox Israelis or mixed couples were going to their professional activities early on Sunday morning.

The celebration was conducted in many tongues as is usual in this community, i.e.: Slavonic, Hebrew, Russian, Ukrainian, Romanian, Serbian, Arabic, Greek, English. N.B. : a rather big group of Greek tourists participated in the Liturgy and Fr. Alexander read the Holy Gospel in Greek, many prayers were chanted in that tongue as well. Some litanies were also chanted in Yiddish as it is the mother tongue of many believers.

At the end of the celebration, we went to bless the food [Kulich and Passkha’s and other products such as wine, eggs, etc.] on a side table located at the entrance of the Church. Then the Ukrainian faithful who are numerous on high Feasts and attend the Services on a very regular basis joined and sang many Easter songs in Ukrainian as it is usual in our Community.

Then, we packed up very quickly for the following reasons:
A] The faithful had normally a long way back to their home and all of them were working on that Sunday, with some exceptions who could get a day-off.
B] It was late and Fr. Alexander had to be present at the Holy Sepulchre for the Reading of the Holy Gospel in Hebrew at Noon / 1p.m.] on Sunday.
As we left, we left the regular NIS 50 Shekels, which is the usual offering to Fr. Nektarios as Higumen of the Church. This is the amount that had been discussed for over 2 years and is given for each celebration performed in the Church.


Fr. Alexander and the members of the Community learned rather recently that Fr. Nektarios had strongly protested against them and made some specific declarations accusing them and especially Fr. Alexander directly to Patriarch Ireneos. To be honest, these accusations have been basically the same that have been made over the past 3 years, since the appointment of Fr. Nektarios as Higumen of Saint Haralambos Church and Monastery.

Therefore, we expected to celebrate as normal on Saturday, April 17th, 2004.

Thereafter, Fr. Alexander was told by Archbishop Aristarchos, Secretary-General of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem, that Fr. Nektarios would not tolerate that Fr. Alexander would serve in “his” Church anymore. He also told that to the Patriarch. Patriarch Ireneos seemingly accepted the protest made by Fr. Nektarios and issued an order which Archbishop Aristarchos was empowered to tell Fr. Alexander :

A] After one week of “tolerance and patience”, Fr. Nektarios had received the agreement of Patriarch Ireneos to remove all the books, liturgical vestments, and other affairs belonging to Fr. Alexander and the Community. Fr. Alexander should, from then onwards, serve the Services and Divine Liturgies either in the Church of Saint Theodoros headed by Fr. Theophilaktos or in the Church of Saint Nikolaos headed by Fr. Evsebios.

B] Fr. Alexander explained to Archbishop Aristarchos that this project to remove us from the Church of Saint Haralambos was an old one tracing back to the assignment of Fr. Nektarios to this Church. That both Fr. Theophilaktos and Fr. Evsebios claim to be obliged to celebrate the Divine Liturgy on Saturday morning, which evidently would prevent any possibility for our Community to continue to celebrate on a regular and normal basis.

C] That representatives of these faithful had met Patriarch Ireneos who had welcomed them and had understood that Israeli citizen of Christian Orthodox Faith come from various areas of the country, especially youngsters, students, intellectuals, soldiers, mixed couples, Hebrew-speakers and other Jewish tongue speakers [mainly Yiddish]. That the Divine Liturgy is conducted in Hebrew but basically that the most important point is that they comprehend the language and understand what the celebrations mean. Therefore, living tongues are used, taking into consideration who is attending the Liturgy on that particular day. That this multilingual aspect is important for the universality of the Message of Salvation within the framework of the Church of Jerusalem.

D] That the Community, having to face permanent hostility from Fr. Nektarios, has requested to be given an autonomous Church with free access to the Church and to the “restrooms”. The request to have free access to restrooms is made becauses Fr. Nektarios had locked the toilets with chains and would not give access to the Faithful to use them. The Faithful had to then go to the nearby coffee-shops and/or the far located Patriarchate…













The details of why this decision has been made follows:

A] Patriarch Ireneos did not contact Fr. Alexander in order to confirm this order to him personally . Moreover, it was totally impossible for Fr. Alexander to get any appointment with the Patriarch who, by that time, was either absent or busy.

B] That according to the Canonical Laws of the Holy Church, Fr. Alexander, was assigned to the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate by a decision taken by the Holy Synod in 1998. This decision has not been altered or revoked and, therefore, he is at present a full member of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem.

C] That Fr. Alexander has been and continues to develop – without any financial support – a number of spiritual and charity pastoral efforts to Christian Orthodox Believers within Israeli Society that includes visiting the sick, injured, students, mixed families inter alia, and therefore he needs a permanent church. That the Faithful are Israeli citizens. By virtue of his Jewish background and involvement within Israeli society, he would only remove his belongings from the Saint Haralambos Church if Patriarch Ireneos, newly recognised by the State of Israel, orally and personally gives him the order to move to another Church where he could be assured his personal protection to be able to serve the Faithful with decency, honor and without further harassment.


Fr. Nektarios has accused Fr. Alexander of the following:

A] That, at the end of the Easter 2004 Celebration at about 3:00 a.m., the faithfuls present in the Church ate inside the Church and left the Church in full disorder, with crumbs and food lying on the floor and carpets. That the chairs also were left scattered.

B] That the Antimension [Piece of linen showing the burial of Jesus Christ used for the validity of any Divine Liturgy in the Orthodox Churches of Byzantine rite] was full of crumbs and particles of the Holy Body of Jesus Christ. Some early reports about these facts this year seem to point out that, according to Fr. Nektarios, Fr. Alexander was “throwing away these particles into the trash”. That Fr. Alexander was pouring the remains of the Holy Gifts either to the trash and/or the sink located next to the table of Preparation of the Holy Gifts, at the end of the Divine Liturgy.

C] That Fr. Alexander was using the same spoon both for putting the incense into incenser and for the Holy Communion.

D] That Fr. Alexander is “too Jewish” and using Jewish prayers during the Services. That he encourages the Faithful to learn Jewish Traditions rather than the Tradition of the Holy Fathers.

E] That Fr. Alexander was allowing the Faithful who had eaten or women on their period to receive the Holy Communion.

F] That Fr. Alexander allowed people to videotape on a camera the Services of Holy Baptism and even the Divine Liturgy.

G] That Fr. Alexander was evidently a Jew since he was personally wearing a “kippah” [skullcap] as well as his parishioners. That he was going to the Western Wall on a regular basis.

H] That Fr. Alexander was using a “Jewish menorah” on the altar [or somewhere!] during the Divine Liturgy, which is not Orthodox but Jewish according to Fr. Nektarios.

I] That Fr. Alexander should have left Saint Haralambos a long time ago and now has to be removed. That the Church was always dirty.


As Fr. Alexander came early in the morning on Saturday 24th of April 2004 to the Church of Saint Haralambos, he found the access doors to the Church locked with chains [picture available]. Interestingly, no member of the compound showed that morning. Most appartments are rented to non-Orthodox families. The first server and the arriving Faithful then made a very strong protest to Archbishop Aristarchos whom they visited with Fr. Alexander. Archbishop Aristarchos confirmed that Patriarch Ireneos had given the order to remove us from Saint Haralambos and to move to either Saint Theodoros or Saint Nikolaos Churches. The Divine Liturgy had already been celebrated that day at Saint Theodoros Church which prevented Fr. Alexander from celebrating there.

The server and believers immediately tried to get into contact with the Patriarch. Fr. Martinianos, Patriarch Ireneos’ Secretary, answered that the Patriarch was busy and could not receive anyone. Then he told us that the Patriarch was absent and would not be seen in the coming days because of his many activities.

The Faithful came back to Saint Haralambos with Fr. Alexander. Fr. Nektarios adamantly refused to talk to the server. Then the server told Fr. Nektarios that he will personally, as well as the other Faithful who are Israeli citizens, call the “Mishtarah” [Police] in order to make a written declaration about Fr. Nektarios’ behavior. Fr. Nektarios immediately ran into his house and called somebody. In the course of five [5] minutes, Fr. Alexander received a call from Archbishop Aristarchos asking him to remain quiet, patient and wise and that a solution should be found with the Patriarch.

About 15 minutes later, Fr. Khrisanthos, Acting Dragomanos [Rosh HaMinzarim] arrived with a young monk and asked Fr. Alexander what was going on. He said that the Patriarch had given an order for Fr. Alexander to leave Saint Haralambos and move to another Church. Fr. Alexander explained to Fr. Khrisanthos that he is most respectful of any order given to him by Patriarch Ireneos. But he pointed out that he personally could not get any audience, appointment or either written or oral confirmation of the order. That upon arriving that morning he found not only no official proof of the order given by the Patriarch, but also chains hanging on the doors. Since Fr. Nektarios seems to constantly complain about him, Fr. Alexander should be entitled to get such a serious and grave order issued by the Head of the Church of Jerusalem, in person, and not from Fr. Nektaros (or any other representative).

Fr. Khrisanthos insisted that Fr. Alexander had to leave for another Church and immediately remove his belongings and liturgical items. But to which Church could they go? No solution seemed to exist. Fr. Khrisanthos called Fr. Evsebios (head of Saint Nikolaos Church) and was told that he definitely will not allow Fr. Alexander to celebrate in “his” Church. After about 15 more minutes, Archbishop Aristarchos called Fr. Alexander and Fr. Khrisanthos to confirm that Fr. Evsebios would make an exception by permitting Fr. Alexander to celebrate that Saturday at Saint Nikolaos.

Fr. Alexander refused to remove his belongings and liturgical items from Saint Haralambos Church. It should be noted that these belongings are still retained by Fr. Nektarios who had already tried to remove them from the Church to its vestibule two years ago. Fr. Khrisanthos then accompanied Fr. Alexander to Saint Nikolaos Church where they were welcomed by “howling”. Fr. Evsebios who insulted Fr. Khrisanthos and told Fr. Alexander not to dare to switch on any electric lamps or take any candles. He reluctantly permitted his liturgical vestments to be used. He clearly said to Fr. Khrisanthos that he would only tolerate this Liturgy once because it was being imposed on him by force. Fr. Khrisanthos responded that it was an order being given by the Patriarch. Fr. Evsebios replied that Fr. Khrisanthos was not the Patriarch.

Fr. Alexander celebrated this Divine Liturgy in order to comply with the ordinance given by the Patriarch but he said to Archbishop Aristarchos that it is not canonical to celebrate under such inhuman and non-spiritual conditions and in the absence of any decency.

Fr. Evsebios had evidently canceled a Liturgy he intended to celebrate. Some monks from some Eastern country arrived but they left immediately as they heard prayers being prayed in Hebrew . Fr. Evsebios monitored every single gesture of Fr. Alexander. At the end of the Liturgy, he urged the faithful to leave quickly and added: “lehitra’ot!” [good bye, see you in Hebrew].


The Community of Fr. Alexander was very upset by the general attitude towards Fr. Alexander and the Christian Orthodox Faithful who are “at home” and are citizens of the State of Israel. They made a clear protest to Archbishop Aristarchos in his official office as Secretary-General of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem because it was totally impossible to contact Patriarch Ireneos or even to arrange an appointment with him.

Fr. Alexander made it clear to Archbishop Aristarchos that he would not leave Jerusalem or the State of Israel which is his home country due to historical and personal family circumstances. It is his country in which he has lived many years. That he has been pursuing his mission with many difficulties while at the same time living in a spirit of full communion and obedience to the local Hierarchy. He also reminded Archbishop Aristarchos that Patriarch Ireneos had confirmed all the blessings that he was given when he was appointed to the Patriarchate of Jerusalem. That Patriarch Ireneos had been recently recognized by the Israeli Government. Therefore, it was incumbent for believers who are Israeli citizens to appeal to the State of Israel and explain how this Community has been handled over the years. The concerned Faithful are not restricted to a few small groups that come to the Old City or seem to be Russian. That they are of Former Soviet origin, speak different tongues, work, study, serve in the Army [as Orthodox people] and speak Hebrew. The Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem has a great challenge and task to achieve in the recognition of the Israeli multiconfessional society that includes Orthodox Christianity and Judaism. Finally, Fr. Alexander would be obediently respectful of any decision taken by the Holy Synod and His Beatitude Patriarch Ireneos.

The problem was brought to the attention of the Holy Synod who decided that a “Special Committee” should meet with Fr. Nektarios and Fr. Alexander and clearly state the issues and report thereafter to the Synod who would make a decision. As mentioned above, the Members of the said Committee are: Metropolitan Kornelios of Petra, former Locum Tenens, President of the Ecclesiastical Church; Metropolitan Ambrosios of Neapolis; Archbishop Aristarchos of Constantine, Secretary-General and Archimandrite Theophilaktos.


The “Committee” met thus on Thursday the 28th of April at 9:30 a.m. at the Chief Secretary’s Office. The Archives of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem were brought in order to consult the records of the Synodal meeting which had previously decided the meeting of such a Committee.

Those present were: Metropolitan Kornelios, President of the Ecclesiastical Court; Archbishop Aristarchos, Secretary-General, Archimandrite Theophilaktos, Archimandrite Nektarios, Archpriest Alexander.

It was noted that Metropolitan Ambrosios was absent. Some members suggested waiting for him. Then Metropolitan Kornelios asked Fr. Nektarios to say what he had to declare. Fr. Alexander was told that he understands enough Greek and that anyway, at the end of the meeting, a translation or additional explanation will be provided him, if necessary.

Fr. Nektarios took a sheet of paper and read the accusations formulated against Fr. Alexander as they are stated above in paragraph 2.1.A to 2.1.I. He was not accurate on certain points and, in particular, he said on various occasions “den xero” [I don’t know] as concerned the throwing of the Holy Gifts into the trash or into the sink. He focused again on the spoon used for the incense and the Holy Communion and the fact that the Faithful were bringing food and eating in the Church, that the Church is dirty and not cleaned after the celebration; he also mentioned the videotape recording of Liturgical Services. He was rather hesitant. Then suddenly, Metropolitan Ambrosios came in and sat down. He turned to Fr. Alexander and asked “How long have you been here [at the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate”]? Fr. Alexander answered : “Six years”. Then he said: “Who are your Faithful?”. Fr. Alexander answered “Israeli citizens”. Then, all of a sudden, as Fr. Nektarios was about to add some more things, Metropolitan Kornelios said he had to leave and he left with Metropolitan Ambrosios for Jericho. Fr. Nektarios asked: “What should be next?” Metropolitan Kornelios replied: “The Patriarch will decide”. Archbishop Aristarchos intervened to say that Fr. Alexander had not been given the opportunity to make any declaration. Metropolitan Kornelios answered that this could happen at the second meeting of the Committee.

During the meeting, Archbishop Aristarchos had been writing what was said. At the end of the Committee, which had been abruptly interrupted, he told Fr. Alexander that he will translate for him exactly what had been said, later.

Fr. Alexander had not uttered a word during the Committee’s session.


No decision had been taken during the Committee. Fr. Alexander was told that the Members of the Committee mainly rejected the accusations made by Fr. Nektarios. This had been readily expressed during the Committee itself.

Still, Fr. Alexander and the Community had no permanent and stable church. It should be noted that all the “liturgical items” are still at Saint Haralambos Church.

After Saturday’s 04/04/24 celebration at Saint Nikolaos, Fr. Evsebios wrote a series of letters to the Patriarch, violently protesting against Fr. Alexander’s celebrations at Saint Nikolaos Church and stating that he would resign if the Patriarch gives his blessing for Fr. Alexander to serve the Liturgy anew in his Church.

On Saturday 1st of May, 2004, Fr. Alexander still did not know the day before where he was supposed to celebrate. Fr. Evsebios rejected the order of the Patriarch permitting Fr. Alexander to serve in his Church. He then changed his mind several times and finally agreed to open the Church. He said that Fr. Alexander should bring his vestments because he would not provide any. Moreover, he could not use electricity or candles. He checked Fr. Alexander’s every gesture. At the end of the Liturgy, as he had misunderstood, after having shouted at Fr. Alexander that “he was dirty”, he suddenly cheerfully said “Shalom, shalom!”


After all these events, the pressure was brought by Fr. Alexander’s Community at different official entities and at the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in the person of Archbishop Aristarchos who insisted that there be a peaceful resolution to the pending issue.

Archbishop Aristarchos was very willing to have a second meeting of the Committee in order to hear what Fr. Alexander would say to Fr. Nektarios’ accusations. There was a basic agreement about that; it is in fact a simple matter of justice.

Archbishop Aristarchos called Fr. Alexander on May 5th to tell him that the meeting should take place at about 11 a.m. in his Office. Fr. Alexander passed by Metropolitan Kornelios’ office in order to ask when the Committee should meet. Fr. Nektarios was present at his side in his capacity as assistant to the Ecclesiastical Court. Metropolitan Kornelios said it should meet after the Court will finish its audiences.

Archbishop Aristarchos called Fr. Alexander at 12:30 to tell that the Committee should meet at 1p.m. In fact, as Fr. Nektarios and Fr. Alexander were waiting in the vestibule, Metropolitan Kornelios arrived and had a very long, one hour, talk with the Archbishop. Thereafter he left. Archbishop Aristarchos came out and told the priests they could leave and that there would not be any more Committee session

It should be noted that Metropolitan Ambrosios and Archimandrite Theophilaktos had not been present at the Meeting.


In such a serious spiritual and ecclesiastical context, Fr. Alexander Winogradsky considers it his duty to respond adequately to the grave accusations stated by Fr. Nektarios against him. These accusations have been a long-developing process over the past two and a half years.
He will recount the basic accusations as stated in Paragraph 2.1.a to 2.1.I. then review the facts for more clarity.

Some relevant background information follows: When he was assigned to Saint Haralambos Church some 2 and a half years ago, Fr. Nektarios had on a Saturday once placed the chains to bar the access of Fr. Alexander and the Community to the Church of Saint Haralambos. The Faithful strongly protested his personal hostility. At that time, the Patriarch gave the order to Fr. Nektarios to immediately open the Church, which he did reluctantly. He then required money for the payment of his electricity expenses [NIS 900!]. A few months later, Fr. Nektarios, suffering from a strong crisis of asthma left for Greece and was replaced incidentally by Fr. Evsebios who likewise wanted to cancel any celebration by Fr. Alexander. He also left for Greece after he failed in his projects, taking with him the access keys. All the keys had then to be changed.

Thus, in the present situation, it should be considered why Fr. Nektarios who has always contested Fr. Alexander’s legitimacy and the Community dared put anew the chains on the doors of Saint Haralambos Church. He seemingly got the assurance that Fr. Alexander had to leave for a new Church. Though he had pressed for months, no one would believe that the chains put on the doors are part of the “order given by Patriarch Ireneos”. On the other hand, for a member of the Ecclesiastical Court of the Church of Jerusalem, this action constitutes a grave infringement to clerical and simple Christian rules of decency.

As concerns the Points of his accusations against Fr. Alexander:

A] That, at the end of the Easter 2004 Celebration at about 3:00 a.m., the Faithful present in the Church began eating inside the Church and left the Church in full disorder, with crumbs and food lying on the floor and carpets. That the chairs were also left scattered.

This is inexact and moreover basically impossible. As mentioned the Faithful came from different regions of Israel, especially the Centre and the South and some outskirts of Jerusalem. Their present-day life is difficult. They have little spare time and most of them had to go to work early in the morning as it was a normal workday in the State of Israel where they had just had days-off for the Jewish Feast of Passover [Pessah].

They brought food into the Church because this is a current and obvious tradition in the Slavic Orthodox Church, especially on Easter Eve when different cakes and eggs and other products are blessed by the priest at the end of the Liturgy.

The Greek believers who were present could have witnessed that all this was done accordingly and with decency. Reader Alik, who protested openly many times against Fr.
Nektarios’ attitudes, came this Easter 2004 to the Feast from Haifa and was the last person to leave the Church with Fr. Alexander and his sister. They can witness that there was no food left in the Church and that the chairs had been put into good order.

Now, it should be noted that in the past 5 years, food has always been brought into the Church on various liturgical occasions. This is a normal Moldavian tradition to wave a table covered with plenty of fruit, wine, loaves of bread, eggs, oil, and other products and to sing “Eternal Memory” at the same time. It does not mean that people are “eating” in the Church.

There has always been a “trapeza” after the Divine Liturgy at Saint Haralambos. It should be noted that from the very beginning, Fr. Nektarios has decided not to give to Fr. Alexander access to the Church, but only to the “vestibule”, which is dark, dirty, not convenient and without heating. Fr. Alexander had once even celebrated a Memorial Service [Pannikhida] for a newly departed (as the son had come to have the Service). Fr. Nektarios had refused to give them access to the Church and, subsequently, the Memorial Service was conducted without incense, not inside the Church, i.e. not according to the Church Canons. This person wrote a protest and lives in the South where there is no Orthodox Church.

B] That the Antimension [Piece of linen showing the burial of Jesus Christ used for the validity of any Divine Liturgy in the Orthodox Churches of Byzantine rite] was full of crumbs or particles of the Holy Body of Jesus Christ. Some early reports about these facts this year seem to point out that, according to Fr. Nektarios, Fr. Alexander was “throwing away these particles into the trash”. That Fr. Alexander was pouring the remnants of the Holy Gifts either into the trash and/or the sink located next to the table of the Preparation of the Holy Gifts, at the end of the Divine Liturgy.

As the Members of the Committee stated, it may happen in any Church that the priest leaves some small crumbs of the Holy Gifts on the Antimension. It is at times difficult to check and remove them all. But in that particular case, there are different implications and problems raised by such an accusation:

A] Fr. Alexander is always assisted by at least 2 servers who help him. This is also for the servers an educational training to get deeper into the Mystery of the Divine Liturgy. They do assist to the moment when Fr. Alexander puts the Holy Particles into the Cup just after the celebration.

As a matter of fact, Fr. Alexander has duly noticed the presence of the Particles in the Antimension but also on the diskos [patena] and often on the Table of the Preparation of the Holy Gifts. He served at Saint Haralambos only on Saturdays and had noticed that other priests [does not know who] had served during the week. Why only accuse him and not others?

Fr. Alexander was not given the right to respond orally to the accusations pronounced against him by Fr. Nektarios. He would have said that the accusation of leaving the Holy Gifts on the earth and throwing them into the trash is a gravest accusation that should really be proven and not declared quietly by a Member of the Ecclesiastical Court of the Mother of All the Churches. It attacks the essence of Fr. Alexander’s Holy Priesthood [as well as his integrity as a professor of Comparative Liturgies!].

Moreover, as Fr. Nektarios’ constant accusation is that Fr. Alexander is a Jew [and maybe not even a canonical priest…], this accusation constitutes a very serious infringement of the Canonical and Israeli Laws.

Regarding Canonical Laws: The assumption is that Fr. Alexander would profane the Holy Body and Most Precious Blood of The Risen Lord Jesus Christ and therefore be “only” a Jew.
Regarding Israeli Laws: The Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem is located at present in different countries, but the most holy sites are since 1967 located in the State of Israel. This primarily concerns the Holy Sepulchre where the Patriarch is elected and whose election is confirmed by the Israeli Government. It is evident that such accusations would have been handled in another way in Jordan or the Emirates. But we are in the State of Israel where the problem of “Antisemitism” has been much discussed regarding the Churches. In Fr. Nektarios saying that Fr. Alexander would throw the Holy Gifts into the sink because he is not a Christian but a Jew, Fr. Nektarios thereby shows strong antisemitic feelings towards Jews that are very strictly condemned by the Israeli Law. Why does he assume that a Jew would want to desecrate such a central element of the Christian Faith unless he was vehemently an antisemite?

Therefore, Fr. Alexander would rather consider than he has not heard this type of recurrent accusations in Fr. Nektarios’ mouth. An accusation that would affect the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate and its Head. Fr. Alexander would furthermore consider that as the Canons state: “There is no sin as long as the person is not conscious of having committed a sin”. Therefore, it would be more useful to show compassion and forgiveness than to quarrel. Nonetheless, the Community as Israeli citizens is totally entitled to carry forward whatever legal actions are in accordance with the Israeli Laws and Regulations.

C] That Fr. Alexander was using the same spoon both for putting the incense into censer and for the Holy Communion.

Fr. Alexander always used his own vessels for the Divine Liturgy. It seems that Fr. Nektarios would have rejected the idea of using them as he stated many times, in the presence of the Faithful, that “all that [Fr. Alexander’s Liturgy] – is not canonical”. Therefore Fr. Alexander had brought a lot of his own vessels. He used many spoons. It should be noted that the first part of this accusation is not new in Fr. Nektarios’ accusations. He had declared the same to the Patriarch two years ago. I had at that time responded that I use different spoons for the Communion and had one spoon, very similar to those used for the Communion in order to collect the incense and put it into the censer. Now, this was in reference to the Book of Leviticus 16:12-13 about the Sacrifice of Incense. The same in Isaiah 6:7. Following the previous incident which happened 2 years ago, Fr. Alexander only uses simple spoons for the incense as Fr. Nektarios knows perfectly well since he provided the spoons! Fr. Alexander and the Community wonder, on the other hand, if he has ever read the Old Testament and the sources of the Orthodox Divine Liturgy.

As concerns whether Fr. Alexander would communicate with a censer spoon, this deals with the above statement about “antisemitism” and pre-supposed profanation of the Holy Gifts.

D] That Fr. Alexander is “too Jewish” and using Jewish prayers during the Services and encourages the learning of the Jewish Traditions rather than the Tradition of the Holy Fathers.

This accusation is also “ancient”. Fr. Nektarios told it to Patriarch Ireneos two years ago. At that time, the Patriarch’s answer was that many Jewish prayers, especially the Psalms but also the canticles are common to Christianity and Judaism.

As to being a Jew, it is a fact that Fr. Alexander is a Jew and remains a Jew within the Church which ingathers in Christ, One Body [the Jews and the Gentiles as stated in the Epistle to the Ephesians 2:14-16]. There is more. Fr. Alexander has served in various countries where he had no reason to ever mention his Jewish background. But in our situation, the Christian Orthodox who have come to Israel and are Israeli citizens are totally assimilated into the Jewish Society. They speak Hebrew at work and their children are totally Israeli and certainly know more about Judaism through school and their commitments than about Orthodox Christianity. And the link between Judaism and Orthodoxy is evident. What does it mean to be “too Jewish” if it can only help people to connect various traditions and to pave the way to mutual acceptance and recognition.

Fr. Nektarios could also be accused of “antisemitism” in this case.

E] That Fr. Alexander was allowing the Faithful who had eaten or women on their period to receive the Holy Communion

There is a canonical rule which should be respected – respected as well by Fr. Nektarios -who does not speak Russian nor proper Hebrew. What a person says during their confession remains a secret in the same way as the priest is not entitled to say anything about what a person has confessed. Secret remains secret. Therefore, the only comment Fr. Alexander can make is that it is not healthy for the Former Soviet Union Faithful living in a non-Orthodox society and who suffered a lot of persecution from the communist system to be denounced and even betrayed by a priest who knows nothing about Soviet culture and Jewish Israeli absorption problems.

F] That Fr. Alexander allowed people to videotape on a camera the Services of Holy Baptism and even the Divine Liturgy.

This accusation is interesting. Everywhere, especially at the Holy Sepulchre, people go and make use of their cameras and video cameras. In that particular case, when people record a baptism or even a part of the Divine Liturgy in Hebrew, for example, they do ask for Fr. Alexander’s permission. Fr. Alexander usually asks that not much be recorded. But it is very important to record in this country because most churches are always closed. They do not live in an Orthodox Christian context and society. They do know that they are recording unique events in the life of their families. They can share that with their relatives who live in other conditions. These techniques provide a spiritually educational system of great importance.

G] That Fr. Alexander was evidently a Jew since he was personally wearing a “kippah” [skullcap] as well as his parishioners. That he was going to the Western Wall on a regular basis.
This is a long-term still developing idea or even “fancy”. It is meaningful and shows that Fr. Nektarios considers Fr. Alexander not to be a true Christian Orthodox priest but “only a Jew” and therefore a potential “traitor to Jesus Christ”. Patriarch Ireneos had answered him two years ago that it is normal for Jews to enter a church with a skullcap. But, what is really interesting, from a psychological point of view, is that it never happened! And Fr. Alexander does not wear any “kippah” as he rather wears the “skufia” or the “Greek kamilavka”.

As concerns the Western Wall, Fr. Alexander goes to the Jewish Quarter where there are many Christian Orthodox among different groups. He never goes to the Western Wall for a simple reason ignored by Fr. Nektarios: he has too many things in his pockets to pass the checkpoints and it would last too long! On the other hand, the first Christians were “going to the Temple daily”. This Wall is a memorial of what Christian should confess: That Jesus and the Disciples were going there and it is a place where the Mystery of Redemption should be seriously considered.

Fr. Alexander has also noticed that he was usually denounced about his presence there “by very pious Orthodox Christian Faithful” who were themselves in that place!

The same accusation of “Antisemitism” would be applicable.

H] That Fr. Alexander was using a “Jewish menorah” on the altar [or somewhere!] during the Divine Liturgy, which is not Orthodox but Jewish according to Fr. Nektarios.

Two years ago, Patriarch Ireneos had replied to Fr. Nektarios that the Candelabra or in Hebrew Menorah was normally present in every Orthodox Christian Church and “trapeza”. This shows that Fr. Nektarios has certainly not read the Bible and the fundamentals of the Orthodox Divine Liturgy, deeply rooted in the Biblical and Jewish Tradition. The presence of the Candelabra on the altar is traditionally linked to the Book of Apocalypsis [1:12-20]. Curiously enough, after having heard the Patriarch’s explanation, Fr. Nektarios brought a big candelabra into the altar that he showed each time the Patriarch came! Yet he denied Fr. Alexander’s right to use it!

I] That Fr. Alexander should have left Saint Haralambos for quite a long time ago and that now, he had to be removed. That the Church was always dirty.

Dirt is another issue that should be linked to the “Antisemitic” issue. Before the assignment of Fr. Nektarios to Saint Haralambos, the Faithful used to sit and women cleaned with much care all the vessels. Also, some men cleaned the altar. Since his appointment onwards, the Faithful have felt that they were not welcomed “passers-by” and not “at home”.
This is a very important problem that should be taken into consideration. If people are considered as foreigners in their own place, they will not help. They will then consider that the higumen has the task to clean and maintain order. Or on the other hand, they will be given their church, to which they can have access, feel entrusted and take great care of.

For months, Fr. Nektarios has neglected to clean the church and the altar. The Community can show evidence of the fact that Fr. Nektarios has in 2004 removed the dirty covers and carpets from the altar before the celebration with Patriarch Ireneos and then put them back WITH THE SAME DIRT! after the celebration! [2 pictures with dates].

Moreover, since “dirt” has been a permanent “antisemitic accusation” this can also indicate some potential problems with Fr. Nektarios’ attitude.


This report aims at giving a balanced, non-judgemental response to Fr. Nektarios’ accusations against Fr. Alexander.

It should be regretted that Fr. Alexander was not given his right to respond orally. But, on the other hand, as mentioned in this report, this allows him to pave the way with more equanimity and understanding than to develop any spirit of quarrelsomeness or judgement.

The accusations are very grave. Fr. Alexander has sought to act with his mission at the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in a spirit of forgiveness, tolerance and patience.

It should be considered that his Community may be entitled to react in a different way. It is certain that the presence of Israeli Hebrew Christians Orthodox constitutes an “hapax” and also a positive challenge for all the Churches and also the Church of Jerusalem, beyond any political views or commitments. There are many challenges dealing with issues of IDENTITY, and PERSONAL SPIRITUAL RESEARCH and it is high time to pay serious attention to these Faithful who are no longer Russian or Soviet. They are Israelis and are a part of the Jewish Israeli Society and State.

Some would continue to encourage the older generation to consider themselves as “Russians and Orthodox Christians”. But we press for the emergence of a new entity that has been recognized by many other denominations and should also be taken into account by the Church of Jerusalem as the Mother of All Churches.

The Community is also entitled to appeal to the Laws in force in the State of Israel which recognized Patriarch Ireneos. They will not harm the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate as well as Fr. Alexander never did. But they will require righteousness. It would have been so simple to entrust a church permanently to Fr. Alexander and to his Community and avoid any kind of unnecessary tribulations.

The spiritual benefit of the Faithful living in such difficult conditions is of greater significance than any false accusations.

Christ is in our midst, He is and will be. Amen!

Protopresbyter Alexander Winogradsky
June 3th/May 21th, 2004, Feast of Saints Constantine and Helena Equal to the Apostles

911: The Beheading Of The Last Prophet (Saint John the Baptist)

September 11/August 29: the commemoration of the beheading of Saint John the Baptist. A full fast. Note the date according to the Julian calendar: it falls on 911. Is it somehow a sign? Or should we refrain from all sorts of interpretations? Nonetheless, it is quite noticeable and as years pass that the date is so special for the Americans and the Western world. It becomes more significant, it swings along the years and almost two decades.

The terrorists who flew into the Twin Towers were definitely not Christian. On the other hand, they did come from the East. East is not West as we all recall and, at times, people do not care or listen. We, Orthodox, in particular in Jerusalem do know by in-born nature that there is a terrific Western-style sort of “arrogance”, esp. from the part of the Church, not that I intend to be judgmental – I know them quite well – but there is a sort of “cover”, a kind of “head cover”, far more dangerous than any “burqa” that blinds and blurs the way Western Christianity rushes along to reaching goals that they do not cope with from inside.

One thing is peculiar: 911 terror attack took place on the memorial day of the most hideous act committed against the forerunner and baptist of Jesus of Nazareth. Saint John the Baptist is positively mentioned in the Talmud as a saint man (Tractate Gittin). He is not “denied”. Past Sunday, The Eastern Orthodox Church of Jerusalem proposed the reading of the Gospel of the vinedressers who killed these and those and even the son… Two years ago, we heard of beheadings in the Middle-East committed by people who pretend to act according to their way of being true faithful. Lots of individuals have been beheaded throughout history in many places: as if the head could symbolize the “location” of intelligence, human being, mind, understanding thus placed at the top of the body.

Saint John the Baptist was beheaded for a dance. Some spiritual fathers and directors opined that this si why dance is a sin. This swayed around at different periods of the Church history. Salome got the head of the saint man because of a full twisted situation at all levels of the then-reigning authorities. Corruption and betrayal. Beheadings have been performed in the Christian world: during the French Revolution but also by the days of the Russian Revolution in 1917. The French “guillotine” was still in use in France some two decades ago.

At the present, we see how daily beheadings with a sabre (curved sword) are performed in the Middle-East (e.g. Saudi Arabia) and the world is in shock.

As I was heading home in the bus, from Ramot to Jaffa Gate (Old City of Jerusalem) on that September 11, 2001, we all were listening to the news. The reporter was explaining on the Israeli radio what was going on in the morning in New York. We were at the end of the day in Israel. People were staring, in shock, no words and things got clear to me when I arrived at Jaffa Gate. There was a TV at the coffee-shop and we could see, scrolling up and down and up and down again the falling towers, also a sort of “beheading” of the two buildings. In the bus, there were a lot of American born Israelis. At Jaffa Gate, there were mainly the local Arabs and they looked, stared, fascinated by the “absolutely unexpected TV live vision of some unbelievable scenery”.

In the East, all the local traditions do know of the crude way, harsh capacities of the human beings to face life and/or death. In the West, “beheading” is a murder that “cuts, stops” i.e. kills and removes life. This is why the lives of the Saints are so important: Saint Denis of Paris, the founder of the Church and first bishop of Lutèce (Paris) was also beheaded but the account of his death reports that, though beheaded close to the present Montmartre, he took his head and carried it till the place called nowadays Saint-Denis.

In Hebrew, “cherev/חרב ” is the sword or sabre that causes a full ruine. The sword intends to ruine, devastate, exterminate. It is the same root as “churban/חורבן that is “chirb’n” in Yiddish, total eradication.

We continue to live under the rule of eradication, beheading. It is so strange that a human body, a corpse, should face the East and the Rising Sun of Glory, expected redemption, first the feet and then the head. That the head can be full of forces, mindful, energetic, creative or slew, rude, smashing wild thoughts or projects. The skull rolls i a move in the Semitic languages as “Golgotha”, the Aramaic word that defines “revolving actions, transmutations”. The head is also the “roof” of the home where the soul should conceive good deeds and not drift aside from sanity.

We should know that this very date, maybe by some unexplained fate or hazard, became the date that so deeply impacted the United States and the Western world in 2001 and continues to interrogate us, because Christians and “other minorities” are still tortured that way in countries that have first received the message of redemption for all mankind.

Commemoration of the Beheading of the Holy and Glorious Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist John

August 29

Life of the Saint

<img>The divine Baptist, the Prophet born of a Prophet, the seal of all the Prophets and beginning of the Apostles, the mediator between the Old and New Covenants, the voice of one crying in the wilderness, the God-sent Messenger of the incarnate Messiah, the forerunner of Christ’s coming into the world (Isaiah 40:3; Mal. 3: 1); who by many miracles was both conceived and born; who was filled with the Holy Spirit while yet in his mother’s womb; who came forth like another Elias the Zealot, whose life in the wilderness and divine zeal for God’s Law he imitated: this divine Prophet, after he had preached the baptism of repentance according to God’s command; had taught men of low rank and high how they must order their lives; had admonished those whom he baptized and had filled them with the fear of God, teaching them that no one is able to escape the wrath to come if he do not works worthy of repentance; had, through such preaching, prepared their hearts to receive the evangelical teachings of the Savior; and finally, after he had pointed out to the people the very Savior, and said, “Behold the Lamb of God, Which taketh away the sin of the world” (Luke 3:2-18; John 1: 29-36), after all this, John sealed with his own blood the truth of his words and was made a sacred victim for the divine Law at the hands of a transgressor.

This was Herod Antipas, the Tetrarch of Galilee, the son of Herod the Great. This man had a lawful wife, the daughter of Arethas (or Aretas), the King of Arabia (that is, Arabia Petraea, which had the famous Nabatean stone city of Petra as its capital. This is the Aretas mentioned by Saint Paul in II Cor. 11:32). Without any cause, and against every commandment of the Law, he put her away and took to himself Herodias, the wife of his deceased brother Philip, to whom Herodias had borne a daughter, Salome. He would not desist from this unlawful union even when John, the preacher of repentance, the bold and austere accuser of the lawless, censured him and told him, “It is not lawful for thee to have thy brother’s wife” (Mark 6: 18). Thus Herod, besides his other unholy acts, added yet this, that he apprehended John and shut him in prison; and perhaps he would have killed him straightway, had he not feared the people, who had extreme reverence for John. Certainly, in the beginning, he himself had great reverence for this just and holy man. But finally, being pierced with the sting of a mad lust for the woman Herodias, he laid his defiled hands on the teacher of purity on the very day he was celebrating his birthday. When Salome, Herodias’ daughter, had danced in order to please him and those who were supping with him, he promised her — with an oath more foolish than any foolishness — that he would give her anything she asked, even unto the half of his kingdom. And she, consulting with her mother, straightway asked for the head of John the Baptist in a charger. Hence this transgressor of the Law, preferring his lawless oath above the precepts of the Law, fulfilled this godless promise and filled his loathsome banquet with the blood of the Prophet. So it was that that all-venerable head, revered by the Angels, was given as a prize for an abominable dance, and became the plaything of the dissolute daughter of a debauched mother. As for the body of the divine Baptist, it was taken up by his disciples and placed in a tomb (Mark 6: 21 – 29). The findings of his holy head are commemorated on February 24 and May 25.

Orthodox Christian Commemoration of the Beheading of John the Baptist

The commemoration of the beheading of John the Baptist is observed with the Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom which is conducted in the morning and preceded by a Matins (Orthros) service.

Scripture readings for the commemoration are the following: At the Matins: <a>Matthew 14:1-13</a>.  At the Divine Liturgy:  <a>Acts 13:25-33</a>; <a>Mark 6:14-30</a>. (If the feast falls on a Sunday the Gospel readings may vary.)

The day is also commemorated with a strict fast no matter what day of the week it may be.

<a></a>Hymns of the Saint

Apolytikion (Second Tone)

The memory of the just is celebrated with hymns of praise, but the Lord’s testimony is sufficient for you, O Forerunner; for you have proved to be truly even more venerable than the Prophets, since you were granted to baptize in the running waters Him Whom they proclaimed. Wherefore, having contested for the truth, you rejoiced to announce the good tidings even to those in Hades: that God has appeared in the flesh, taking away the sin of the world and granting us great mercy.

Kontakion (Plagal of the First Tone)

The glorious beheading of the Forerunner was a certain divine dispensation, that the coming of the Savior might also be preached to those in Hades.  Let Herodias lament, then, that she demanded a wicked murder; for she loved not the Law of God, nor eternal life, but one false and fleeting.


Quo Vadis, Despota?

Things may seem special at a first glance. Why in the world the Ecumenical Patriarch officially issued as a canonical decision of the Holy Synod of the Phanar that Archbishop Jean (Renneteau) of Charioupolis, head of the dissolved Exarchate and Archdiocese of the Parishes (Churches) of Russian Tradition in Western Europe, is unloaded of his and any responsibility of the communities of France (thus) “handed over to the local archpastor”, Metropolitan Emmanuel (Adamakis) of Gauls.

This was published and it is official, at least it came out from the Patriarchate of Constantinople. Ever since, Metropolitan Emmanuel of Gauls who is quite active in all the recent activities of the Phanar, whose See is in Paris and who is the only “canonically recognized” head of the Conference of the Orthodox Bishops in France, did not show anywhere and did not say a word, safe error or omission.

The canonical status of the “primus inter pares” among the episcopal and/or metropolitan-ranking heads of the French capital and suburb is not clear as for nowadays. Especially since the Patriarchate of Moscow, following the creation of the “Orthodox Patriarchate in Ukraine”, appointed a new hierarch in Paris, first Mgr Jean (Roschine),and then Mgr Antonyi (Sevryuk) of Korsun (Chersonèse) who were given the rank of Metropolitans of the newly created Exarchate of the Patriarchate of Moscow in Western Europe. At this point, this means that Metropolitan Emmanuel of Gauls has non-recognized and subsequently non-canonically accepted colleagues due to the hapax of the presence of a canonical metropolitan assigned by the Orthodox Church of Moscow. Not to mention that there is a third hierarch appointed in Paris with the same title of “Metropolitan” of Korsun, Mgr Michel Laroche who was appointed as such by the new Holy Synod of the brand new Orthodox Patriarchate in Ukraine.

This is the first embattled aspect of the situation. Who’s who?

The second appointment mentioned by the communiqué of the Phanar (1) is that they chose to appoint Archpriest Alexis Struve as the Dean of the “church” of Saint Alexander Nevsky, the renowned cathedral located in Paris at the Rue Daru.

As for now, it seems that the “chosen” archpriest did not utter a word either. For sure, things go on. It is evident, but no buzz and this is quite understandable. Father Alexis is the son of Father Pierre Struve who served in French at the Crypte, down the Saint Alexander Nevsky cathedral. a man and a priest who was and remains very appreciated. His son served at the Crypte before he left for Ukraine and he just came back to France after a leave of five years. In the past two years, he used to serve once a month – officially – at the cathedral and in Slavonic.

His wife, Anne Struve, recently wrote a moving letter that she shared with the concerned groups that work on the future of the Archdiocese. She explained what their family experienced in Kyev for five year. Her husband served in the framework of the patriarchate of Moscow. Father Alexis had also written that he spent all his life within the Patriarchate of Constantinople as his family and relatives did and that he wants to stay in the jurisdictional structure of the Phanar.

Silence can also be raised by some unclear aspects of the appointment of Fr. Alexis Struve as the Dean of the cathedral. He is not a University professor. His cousin, a layman, deeply involved in the knowledge of the Russian Orthodox Church, Daniel Struve, is the Director of the “Les Editeurs Réunis Editions” and book store, the son of the renowned late professor of Russian and Slavistics, Nikita Struve, who passed away three years ago.

Daniel Struve has written very insightful notes on the development of the Russian Orthodox Churches and, although he was not in favor of joining the Patriarchate of Moscow – he fought this alternative for years – he explained that there is no other way at the present.  Moreover, he developed the related arguments that this direction is the only eventuality to keep the identity of the reality of the former Archdiocese.

This is the second embattled aspect of the situation. Who did the Holy Synod of Constantinople assign to be the Dean of the cathedral? Is there a mistake? Possibly yes.

At first glance indeed, it seems a bit difficult to understand what the Phanar decided and how it can be real, substantial. It sounds a bit out of the green cheese at the present. Is it a fancy that people can deny and mock? Are the members of the Holy Synod of the Phanar “ignoramus”? It sounds bizarre.

On Saturday last (08/31,2019), it appears that I went to the Rue Daru cathedral. There were two people at the French-speaking Crypte, but I was told that the Vigils were not really scheduled. In fact, I sat on the edge of some plants, opposite the main entrance of the cathedral and waited. Abp Jean of Charioupolis came at 6 pm. He did not ask me anything and started explaining that “they” (the Greeks) want to erase the Archdiocese. He told me about his encounter with HH. Bartholomaios in Geneva. He spoke and spoke and in fact, it was quite interesting. He told me then: “They gave me a leave that I never have asked to them!”

I looked at him into the eyes and said: “They just saved you!” Abp Jean stared at me for a few seconds and I told him that it is a real blessing if he really was granted a canonical leave after he had met with the Ecumenical Patriarch, in the presence of  Metropolitan of Switzerland Maxim. In terms of “ecclesiastical and patriarchal practice”, Mgr Jean could have been suspended a divinis or so… dismissed quite a long time ago. After more than one hour of discussion with the Ecumenical Patriarch, they could speak of different aspects of the life of the Archdiocese. Abp Jean explained it has been and remains very difficult for him to convey the task. HH. Bartholomaios answered that there will be no way back to an independent Archdiocese of the Russian parishes. Abp Jean and all the parishes of the archdiocese have to submit to the Greek metropolia in all the countries where they are present. It should not mean the disappareance of the Russian traditions so far or supposedly.

By granting a personal and unique “canonical leave” to Abp Jean of Charioupolis, the Phanar expressed something special. We are right now in the course of the week that leads to September 7th next. On that Saturday, the clergy and the elected laypeople -representatives of the parishes will meet to normally decide and elect what the future of the Archdiocese should be. There are other points.

At the very beginning, in February and in May, Abp Jean explained that if the Phanar depose him, he would go the Patriarchate of Moscow. In terms of historicity, this would pre-suppose that the Archdiocese could be accepted, under some conditions into the Patriarchate of Moscow who made true propositions that have been discussed between Abp Jean and some representatives of the Archdiocese. In view to integrate the structure into the Church of Moscow and allow it to continue to act as their rites and ustav have developed for decades.

It makes no sense to discuss the viability of the project. Just there is the project of such a “return” to Moscow and the Mother Church – some people would consider that Moscow is no more the Mother Church and they speak, ask and require “local Churches and parishes”, which hardly can be evident at the present.

Still, he point is interesting even if it sounds a bit “new, brand new”. Indeed, Mgr Jean has the possibility to turn to the Russian Orthodox Church of Moscow and prove that he is free to join the Patriarchate of Moscow canonically. Moscow could say that the leave is given in a period when the Communion between Constantinople and Moscow are on hold. Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk and declared that all the members (clergy) of the Archdiocese are welcome into the Patriarchate of Moscow, without letters of dismissal (leave). Mgr Jean, at least, would be canonical to look to be accepted by another patriarchate, namely the Church of Moscow.

His “leave” is unique and personal. It does not concern anybody else. These are the words of the decision. Now, he can take the liberty – the liberty because the present situation of the Archdiocese is no more canonical since November 18, 2018, and his own situation is no more canonical for the Patriarchate of Constantinople since August 31, last.

Frankly, what does it mean?

The decision of the Phanar dated August 31, 2019 mentions Abp Jean of Charioupolis alone and as head of the parishes in France. For the Greek metropolia in Western Europe, things are on the move and some parishes did join their local Greek metropolia, placing their faithful and clergy and properties in the hands of the representatives of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Some parishes are playing a double-sided game, pretending to”clutch” to the Archdiocese though it is evident that they have passed to the Greek metropolia for reasons of sustain.

The Ecumenical Patriarch and Metropolitan Maxim of Switzerland insisted, during the meeting with Abp Jean, that the Extraordinary General Assembly does not exist anymore and should not take place on Saturday, 7th of September 2019 at the Convent of the Dominicans.

To begin with, the “leave” granted by HH. Bartholomaios of Constantinople (could, would, will) save the archbishop because he can quit the Phanar where he has served with full confidence and dedication for forty years.

On the other hand, it gives him – now to what extent and how far the Greeks can give their consent – the opportunity to switch canonically to Mosco and the canonical members of the clergy, with the consent of their parishioners can also vote to join the Patriarchate of Moscow. It depends how many are ready to leave their “stand-by and often too free position” to reunite with the Patriarchate of Moscow. But while Abp Jean can make use of his canonical leave, the clergy and laity can follow and go to Moscow where they should be accepted.

This is not basically negative from the part of Constantinople as for now. Their position may evolve.

According to the Statutes of the Archdiocese, there is more and this is also one of the “embattled” aspects of the situation. As a consequence of the history of the Archdiocese, in particular, when, after the Revolution, the Patriarchate of Moscow tried to get back the premises and church-parishes, most of them had adopted the system in use in France and other countries. The associations that are recognized by the French Republic and the Church were declared as legally in charge of the management of the official possessions of each “association cultuelle”.

What can be next? Abp Jean of Charioupolis declared that he does not recognize the leave and dismissal of his responsability as the head of the Archdiocese. He immediately came to serve at the cathedral. He explained to his clergy that he should be remembered in the dyptiques and that life goes on, the meeting of the EGA will take place. Equanimity and serenity.

When Abp Job of Telmessos was the head of the Exarchate from December 5, 2013, till November 28, 2015.

When I started posting about the evolution of the Archdiocese, I had been told that parishes and/or rectors (Strasbourg is an example) had decided to leave the Archdiocese and that they then had been accepted in the Patriarchate of Moscow. With or without “leaves” sounds quite uncertain at the present as if the Canon Laws would not play their traditional role entrusted to the correct management of Church life.

In fact, Abp Job sent a note to me, when he heard of my posts, asking for the names of the clergy and parishes who had left. I contacted three well-informed Russian Orthodox persons who ascertained that no list or statistics of such “leaves” are available.

At present, the Orthodox clergy and parishes come and go. There is indeed the question of how this functions, to begin with, in France.  The Patriarchate of Constantinople seems to consider that pastoral activities and buildings, ownerships are in the same bunch.

At present, Abp Jean of Charioupolis should no more be considered as in charge of the parishes of the Archdiocese. And Metropolitan Emmanuel should replace him. It is definitely a question of being recognized or not by the clergy and the laity. In France, the parishes “should” now depend upon the representatives of the Greek Phanar. Those who do not agree can leave, either by receiving a real “leave”, but no more granted by Abp. Jean. He is off. At least canonically after the canons in use by the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

According to the Canons of the Orthodox Church and the rules in force in the Patriarchate of Constantinople, volens nolens, Metropolitan Emmanuel of Gauls is indeed the true head of the “ancient” Archdiocese and he stressed today, (09/03, 2019) that he becomes the Locum Tenens of this structure in France,whilst other hierarchs of the Phanar are in charge (according to the Canons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and thus of the Orthodox tradition) of the churches and monastaries that depend(ded) upon the Archdiocese in the other European countries (Netherlands, Great-Britain, Italy, Germany and Denmark). In Italy, the “clarification” toward a switch to the Greek Orthodox Diocese of Italy and Malta led some parishes to join it while others chose the Church Abroad (Rocor).

Indeed, and this is the very intriguing point: Metropolitan Emmanuel of Gauls and the Synod of the Patriarchate of Constantinople took a-typical and contradictory decisions without any contact with the concerned flock exactly in a very similar way as they intervened in Ukraine with the creation of the new Orthodox Church in Ukraine.

One priest, Fr. Vladimir Zelinsky, expressed this clearly: he wants to keep the structure and tradition of the Archdiocese. Born in Soviet Union, a renown author and thinker – a former dissident – he is definitely Russian and wrote that his flock disappeared when Moscow broke the Eucharistic Communion with Constantinople. There is a large neighboring Ukrainian Greek Catholic parish in the vicinity of his own church. As for now, many expats from the Federation of Russia or Ukraine dare not communicate in his parish that is not in communion with the Patriarchate of Moscow.

When they met in Geneva, Patriarch Bartholomaios told the Archbishop that he got his rank from his hands and should remember that. This can show some instillation of new actions that may come up in the coming hours or days. By the way, on Tuesday 3rd of September 2019, Patriarch Bartholomaios issued a special letter addressed to Abp Jean of Charioupolis blessing him on his way and thanking him for the work that he achieved in the Archdiocese. It would be wise to consider such a leave (not that frequent in the Church) as a positive act. One can say whatsoever about the twisted and twisting decisions and attitudes of the Phanar staff, the leave for the former Ecumenical Patriarchate hierarch and creator of the French-speaking parish in Geneva allows the man of God to act and continue his route. In that specific situation, it allows him to call the rectors and higumens of his (now former) flock to join the Patriarchate of Moscow.

I repeat: I immediately told this to the archbishop whom I met incidentally at the Rue Daru last Saturday night.

Who is the First? How far hierarchs, clergy and laity are entitled – for what reasons – to act by trespassing the Canon Laws that allowed them to live within the substantial reality of the Orthodox Body? When Abp. Jean went out to smear the foreheads of the faithful during the Vigils, he made an act that he normally is no more canonically “entitled” to perform in the parishes where he still acts as the head of the structure. Of course, Metropolitan Emmanuel did not show. Nor the “new Dean”. But, according to the rules, he should no more serve and be present as a serving hierarch without the blessing of the local metropolitan, i.e. Emmanuel of Gauls.

On Tuesday, Metropolitan Emmanuel wrote a circular to the faithful (and the clergy…?) of the former Archdiocese as it was under the omophoron of the Phanar, asking to keep calm and explaining that he intended to meet with all in due time. On Wednesday the 4th of September, HH. Bartholomaios assigned him as official Locum Tenens.

With or without his consent, Abp Jean (Renneteau) has to accept the decision, even if he can consider that it is not valid and that he refuses the decision. In case of a refusal, he would have to defend his case at the Ecclesiastical Court of the Patriarchate of Constantinople. In the case of transgression, the “leave” he was granted for positive reasons can turn to some embattled position.

In the meanwhile, the Patriarchate of Moscow keeps silent. Posts and comments are only a sort of online and ongoing nice sharing of some ideas if any.

Strangely enough, the French Republic rules governing the structure of religious associations (associations cultuelles – cult associations) may induce into error. The president of a Church association, dismissed from his status of archbishop should be replaced and stop his activities in the concerned association.

At the moment – but for how long ? – the EGA can take place and will because of the many pending questions. Metropolitan Emmanuel underscores that the date is too close by now to stop the Assembly. He wrote that, after the Canons of the Church, the assembly is not entitled to take any canonically valid decision. Good enough, but in terms of respect of the Laws and Regulations of the French Republic, decisions can be taken in the name of the freedom shared to all parties by the State. a real question of “laïcité”.

Where to go? With whom? How each parish, monastery, Skit, nuns, priests, hegumens can reach an agreement that could be legal in terms of the French Laws with regards to the cult associations, but not according to the canonical decisions taken by the Phanar toward Abp Jean of Charioupolis?

Then, a large part of the Archdiocesan Council includes people from Belgium, for instance. This means that, since the Phanar decision dated August 31, 2019, they are no more under the omophorion of Abp Jean of Charioupolis, neither are they under the authority of Metropolitan Emmanuel of Gauls. They should act under the blessing and omophorion of Metropolitan Athenagoras (Peckstadt) of Belgium, Patriarchate of Constantinople and Head of the Conference of the Bishops. For some priestly personalities, this could open up again some recent wounds. It could also mean that the positive letter of leave granted to Abp Jean of Charioupolis personally turns to draw the attention of many in Belgium that they are duly under the authority of their local Church of Belgium, headed by Metropolitan Athenagoras.

The British clergy and laity are also a full part of the Archdiocese, though located beyond the Channel and having experienced hardships in their obedience – from the Moscow eparchy led by Metropolitan Anthony (Bloom) of Surozh till they chose to join the Archdiocese – then under the omophorion of late Archbishop Gabriel (de Vylder) of Comane.

I had directly followed this case of the Heilige Nikolai Menighet in Norway that developed throughout the country. They could not reach to an agreement with Abp Jean of Charioupolis. They voted, according to the Statutes provided by the Norwegian Law. The monastery and those linked to it decided to leave the Archdiocese. They did not receive any “leave” from the Archdiocese nor accepted to get one. They passed to the Serbian patriarchate, maybe temporarily. The same is developing in Denmark. In Sweden, Finland the Greek metropolia took in the Russian tradition congregations. The situation can be difficult in the Netherlands.

In my opinion, Moscow had anticipated the present development since they appointed Abp Elisey Ganaba in the Netherlands after he had served for some years in the Diocese of Surozh . Incidentally he had been the rector of the Russian Ecclesiastical Mission in Jerusalem just as Abp Tikhon of Berlin and Germany. Both switched to the “other part” of Western and Central Europe before the revamping of the Russian Orthodox structures in Europe.

The “embattled aspect of the situation” is also shown by the fact that when speaking of the Patriarchate of Moscow, some faithful and priests say that there is full collusion between Church – Orthodox Patriarchate of Moscow and the government of the Federation of Russia. They consider that the Church is protected and depends on the decisions of the Russian Federation administration that controls and/or impose the decision to the Church leaders and people.

It is thus amusing to note that in the case of the Archdiocese, French Laws seemingly protect the belongings, properties, buildings, houses, churches, cemeteries because they are under the ownership of cult associations that should be considered as distinct from the Church jurisdictions.

A last point: there is no evidence that all of the 93 priests and lay representatives will accept to vote to join the Patriarchate of Moscow. Frankly, this is just a native move, normal historic reunification that has been discussed for almost a century. Constantinople has called to such a decision on several occasions over almost one full century.

The Archdiocese is rooted in the Slavic and Russian Traditions of the Christian Revelation. One cannot twist with history and basic identity. As Metropolitan Evlogyi had felt, it is a commandment to be gathered with the Mother Church, in dire times of apostasy of faith, wars and underground survival. The Church wakes up and faces the hardships of renewed capacities. It redeploys unexpectedly throughout the world. It faces new patterns in order to proclaim the Mystery of redemption.

The whole Church walks in new ways.  The heirs of the Archdiocese have the task to courageously face the newness of Orthodoxy… and continue to share the spiritual and theological wealth that they could develop in the name of the Lord, in Western Europe.


(1) “Communiqué of the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Constantinople on the future of the Archdiocese of Orthodox Churches in Western Europe

The Holy Synod met, under the presidency of His All-Holiness, in an ordinary meeting on Thursday, 29th, at the Monastery of the Holy Trinity of Halki, and on Friday, August 30th, 2019, at the Patriarchate. At these meetings, all the items on the agenda, on which the appropriate decisions were taken, were examined. During the work it was decided to grant a canonical leave from the jurisdiction of the Most Holy Ecumenical, Apostolic and Patriarchal Throne to the Archbishop of Charioupolis Mgr Jean, in his personal capacity and solely for him, as a consequence of which this it is finally unloaded from the care of the parishes of Russian tradition in Western Europe, the responsibility of the communities of France of the former exarchate being handed over to the local archipastor, the Metropolitan Mgr. Emmanuel, who with pastoral sensitivity will take care of the follow-up of these. In addition, the Holy Synod appointed as superior of the Church of St. Alexander Nevsky in Paris the reverend archpriest Alexis Struve, a university professor. With regard to the communities in the other Western European countries of the former Exarchate, these come under the canonical protection and pastoral responsibility of the respective hierarchs of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, who have the pastoral charge of the dioceses of the in these countries.”


Congé canonique pour l’Archevêque Jean de Charioupolis


À Son Excellence, l’Archevêque Jean de Charioupolis, à Paris,


Par cette lettre patriarcale, en reconnaissance de votre profond désir de vous placer sous l’homophore de sa Béatitude le Patriarche de Moscou et de toute la Russie, comme vous l’avez exprimé à plusieurs reprises en paroles et en actes, nous vous libérons, à titre uniquement personnel, de notre très saint trône œcuménique, apostolique et patriarcal, et nous vous souhaitons paternellement d’être conduit par les bénédictions et la grâce de notre Seigneur et Dieu et Sauveur Jésus-Christ et que son infinie miséricorde soit toujours avec vous.

Cela signifie qu’à présent votre Excellence n’est plus responsable de quelque manière que ce soit des affaires des paroisses de tradition russe en Europe occidentale.

30 août 2019

+ Le Patriarche œcuménique Bartholomée

Frère bien-aimé en Christ


Lettre circulaire de Mgr Emmanuel, métropolite de France (Patriarcat oecuménique)

Suite à la publication de la lettre patriarcale concernant le congé canonique pour l’archevêque Jean de Charioupolis, Mgr Emmanuel, a envoyé une lettre circulaire que nous publions ci-dessous :

« Chers frères et sœurs dans le Seigneur,
Le 30 août 2019, le Saint Synode du Patriarcat œcuménique a pris la décision, en conformité avec celle prise en novembre 2018, concernant l’ancien Exarchat des paroisses de tradition russe en Europe occidentale, d’octroyer à son Excellence, l’archevêque Jean de Charioupolis, un congé canonique. Ce congé canonique souligne le fait que dorénavant l’archevêque Jean n’a aucune relation avec le Patriarcat œcuménique et avec les communautés de l’ancien Exarchat.

Aussi, à ce jour, son Excellence, l’archevêque Jean ne possède plus aucune autorité spirituelle ni administrative, sur les communautés dont il avait précédemment la charge. L’administration de ces communautés en France est transférée à la Métropole orthodoxe de France du Patriarcat œcuménique. Sa Sainteté le Patriarche m’a désigné pour assurer la fonction de locum tenens durant cette période de transition.

Par conséquent, à ce jour et en conformité avec les décisions prises par le Saint Synode du Patriarcat œcuménique, je vous demande de commémorer mon nom en tant que votre hiérarque au cours des offices liturgiques.

Concernant l’Assemblée Générale Extraordinaire du 7 septembre, je suis conscient que nombre de délégués se sont déjà organisés pour venir à Paris pour cette réunion. Au cas où cette assemblée se tiendrait, sachez qu’elle ne pourra avoir aucun pouvoir décisionnel.

Je compte réunir très prochainement le conseil diocésain pour échanger et faire un point sur la situation.

Par ailleurs, je réitère la proposition que j’ai rendue publique le 7 février dernier à savoir :

  • d’assurer, dans le cadre d’un vicariat, le maintien de l’association existante qui continuera à gérer les biens qui lui appartiennent et à fonctionner selon ses propres statuts qu’il faudra probablement adapter,
  • de garantir la préservation de votre tradition liturgique et spirituelle russe ainsi que de votre œuvre de témoignage orthodoxe dans les sociétés occidentales.

Tout en comprenant le désarroi de certains, j’aurais à cœur dans les jours, les semaines qui viennent, à vous redire tout mon attachement pour vos communautés, en vous bénissant de tout cœur et en priant notre Seigneur Dieu qu’Il vous comble de sa grâce et ayant toujours en mémoire ces mots du Saint Apôtre Paul : « Nous vous avons exhortés, encouragés, adjurés de mener une vie digne de Dieu qui vous appelle à son Royaume et à sa gloire. » (1 Th 2, 11-12)

+ Le Métropolite Emmanuel, de France »


Le métropolite Emmanuel est nommé locum tenens avec pour mission d’administrer « l’Union diocésaine »

La métropole grecque-orthodoxe de France a mis en ligne le communiqué suivant :

Protocole n° 641

À Son Éminence, le métropolite Emmanuel de France, exarque pour l’Europe, frère bien-aimé dans l’Esprit-Saint et notre concélébrant, que la grâce et la paix venant de Dieu soient avec vous.

Faisant suite à la décision synodale concernant la remise du congé canonique de notre saint trône apostolique du Patriarcat œcuménique à son Excellence l’archevêque Jean de Charioupolis et à la vacance qui en résulte en France quant à l’association légale de l’« Union directrice des associations orthodoxes russes » dépendant de notre ancien exarchat, nous avons chargé votre Éminence de la fonction de locum tenens en son remplacement, afin d’administrer en accord avec le droit, les affaires de l’association en tant qu’entité soumise à la loi française de 1905.

Entre autres, nous vous avons demandé synodalement d’assumer la responsabilité pastorale des communautés de l’ancien exarchat se trouvant désormais dans votre éparchie. Ayant la certitude  que votre Éminence répondra aux attentes du Patriarcat œcuménique, avec votre cohérence connue et votre dévotion.

Que la grâce et l’infinie miséricorde de Dieu soient toujours avec votre Éminence,

2 septembre 2019

+ Le patriarche œcuménique Bartholomée

Frère bien-aimé dans le Seigneur.

The Lady Fell Asleep In The Summer Pascha

In Hebrew, it is quite special to express the “mystery of the Dormition” of the Most Holy Virgin and Theotokos Mary. The word that is often used makes sense in many ways: “Dormitzion/דורמיציון “. of course, it sounds a bit too close to Latin “Dormitio”. But in Hebrew “hirdim/nirdem = הרדיםנרדם = to cause to fall asleep and to fall asleep”; in fact, the root is relating to “y-r-d/ירד = to fall” as in the name of the Jordan River, Yarden/ירדן . All creatures, except in case of illness, go through the process of falling asleep. Life is partly a sleep, not the kind of dreamy thing that at times make the human beings speculate on “day sleep” or “sleeping being awaken”.
There is a special move that is beyond human will and control and the living creatures that exist on earth fall asleep. Some tales insist on the possibility to wake up from a sleep after a long period. Usually we sleep some hours and get a refresh. Some people would claim that they do not need to sleep much as if it were a competition. But this has nothing to do with any competition and this is  one of the matters that escape to our own desires. Modern times have invented “non-sleeping pills”. Then, scientists or entrepreneurship champions involved in a rushing and crushing race over time and space would think they save or gain time.
God does not count our minutes and days the way we may do. Time and duration vary from countries to cultures and educational systems. The Sumerian civilization has introduced the continental nations to the value of life schedules based on Lunar calendars as the Jews and the Muslims continue to measure the months.
There are very strict lunar calculations because the Moon births, is born, grows, comes to fulfillment and then decreases and disappears each month according to the same process. This is considered as a miracle – seemingly a simple one – but still something exceptional that shows evidence to God’s trsutworthiness and faithfulness. History, life and sleep, brightness and “shinelessness” does not contradict the reality of a time and a space that expands. We hardly feel this.
Then, “Dormitzion/דורמיציון ” sounds like a tricky way to geet to some christened form. In the old Indo-European languages “drem-” “to sleep” (cf. Old Slavic “dremati” “to sleep, doze, stumble around” Greek edrathon/εδραθον “I slept,” and Sanskrit “drati” = “he sleeps”.
The English word “sleep” is connected with Indo-European “slebs-“ that developed in many tongues before it reached the British Isles… German Schlafen, Dutch slaap/slapen, Lithuanian “silpnas = to be weak” and quite close to Slavic and Russian “slabyi/slabu = weakened, weak”. It is the same move that is to be found in the Semitic tongues as mentioned before: to fall, lose power and energy. In that sense, Latin “somnus” comparable to Greek “Hypnos/υπνος” tends to indicate that “Assumption” may not be an ascending move, to begin with, but a repose, a fall and Old English has quite early shown that the word can be used for “killing animals”. The East and the West are thus on the same line and explain the same reality that sleeping in or sleeping is an action that “gives a break, a rest, “se reposer” in French. “Spat’/spati-спать” in Russian and the Slavic languages includes the same features.
Last but not least, contrary to Hebrew that considers that “sexual intercourse is an awakening activity”, Old English used the word for “having a sexual act” and the expression got into most of the languages of our cultures. It is a paradox.

“Dormitzion” also recalls the Jewish blessing that is at the root of the Orthodox Paschal troparion or chanting “and to those lying in the graves He gave life”. The Jewish blessing is “You/Who with confidence revives (resurrect) those who sleep in the dust (i.e. cf. of Hebron, the cave of the Patriarchs)/מקים באמונתו  לישני עפר “. The Hebrew word refers to a change (shana/שנה ), a portion (of life or destiny, being in such a shape or in another) and to sleep (sheina/שינה ). This is why it is so interesting and important that the Assyrian and Syrian Orthodox traditions have maintained the word “shunaya/shunoyo/שוניא – ܫܘܓܝܐ , i.e. the “in-sleeping to define what happened to Mary, Mother of Jesus and thus brought her not to die, but to a rest and the faith of the Church is that she resurrected as the cyclic process initiated by the birth of her Son and his resurrection. This is of course the meaning of the Slavic name of the feast “Uspenie/Успение”.

Adam had slept unwillingly because he had no companion; he woke to life with Eve, the woman. Here, in this Summer Resurrection/Pascha, Mary passed from life to rest and full rebirth in the arms of her Son. This sleep does not lead to corruption, but to a final revival. This is why, three days before the feast, in Jerusalem, the Orthodox clergy take the epitaphios/the linen on the grave with the image of the Lady and brings it in process to Gat Shemani, the Garden of Olives where she supposedly has reposed.

“Dormitzion” in Hebrew also has “Zion”, the place that is at the very heart of the history of redemption. There cannot be any kind of competition whether to know or determine who is the first or the last in such a place. Zion is at the core of the Jewish vocation that calls all to salvation. Of course the word is then a part of the usual Semitic ending of Hebrew words. it sounds like the Latin “Dormitio”, but this is just by some coincidence.

The Aramaic word “shunaya/shunoyo” is strong and meaningful. It also shows that the ancient tradition of the Church did relate the passing aways of the Virgin Mary with a “repose, a sleep, a sleeping-in” as it happened for those who still sleep in the dust (of Hebron, at the Cave of Machpelah). The sign shows no belonging, property; God gives and God takes and has taken to show that in the heat of Summer Easter is the sign of resurrection that transfigurates death and despair.

One thing should be taken into account. This history of redemption is a full part of a special civilization of salvation, geographically persistent and significant. The first man who walked on the Moon has just passed away. Neil Amstrong is the first man who could contemplate our planet and “common, basic, usual” world from “outside” and just for a few days. His co-astronaut Presbyterian faithful Buzz Aldrin had symbolically brought a chalice and “communicated” himself on the Moon. whatever split and theological problems involved by such an act that is not linked to real and canonically recognized celebration by the Orthodox Church – and the Catholic one as well – is gave a real spiritual touch to this first penetration of the human beings outside of our planet, with a “somehow sacramental” aspect that is very important to take into consideration.

The Universe, and the Lord Father is the King of the Universe, is immense. It gave the seeds of redemption in a special place on Earth; it is almost Spring time in the Southern Hemisphere and they did not directly “participate” in the most expanding destiny of human bringing-in the reality of such events. This should us to humble ourselves. Redemption and sleeping-in in the expectations of the (Second) Coming also deals with the whole of the universe as we still do not understand or know it. This concerns billions and billions of galaxies and planets. It is a huge Mystery of Faith, also a great sign of what we demand when we expect Love and hope.


Les inédits slaves de l’Eglise russe en Occident

Il y a quelque chose de pourri dans le domaine de la climatologie. Enfin, il est certain que ces canicules, ces incendies qui avalent les hectares à travers les continents, les îles grecques, la Sibérie, l’Europe continentale… Il y aurait comme un changement. Hier encore, la pluie était normale. Il pleuvait, oui, certes ,mais on connait bien le terrain. Le grand-père, les aïeux savaient quand il faut semer, récolter, engranger. Là, il y a comme un tournis à y perdre son latin. Enfin, c’est peut-être vrai pour un occidental du Sud. Mais allez reconnaître la géographie humaine ces temps derniers ! Non seulement, il n’y a plus de saison, mais, en plus, les gens migrent. Tout va si vite… trop vite sans doute.

Un feu s’empare des terres. Il court les forêts, détruit. Les tornades ,les bourrasques font voler des bâtiments que l’on croirait stable. Les glaces ont fondu au Groënland. Les inondations ont submergé le Néguev israélien et le désert d’Akaba, la mousson déracine les sols birmans et les typhons précipitent la disparition des îles du Pacifique.

Il y a de la fragilité dans l’air, les traditions s’affirment ou disparaissent. Sait-on seulement quel temps il fait et pourquoi ? C’est bien plus difficile à déterminer. Encore que Jésus de Nazareth ait bien parlé de la capacité humaine à anticiper les ouragans…

On cherche des signes. Mais est-ce que ces signes nous parlent ? Que faire dire aux signes ? Surtout quand on a la foi vissée au corps et à l’âme.

L’Eglise orthodoxe russe est apparu massivement en Europe occidentale et dans le monde à la suite de la Révolution bolchévique. Depuis 1917, un peu avant pour certains, le peuple russe s ‘est mis en marche. Il partit pour un exil intérieur car il est ardu, pour l’âme slave, de quitter une terre immense et si viscéralement attachée à un paysage, des sentiments humains.

Croyant parfois que la situation d’exil ne serait que temporaire, d’autres ont choisi de quitter le sol natal et d’immigrer, par vagues concentriques, vers les pays voisins (Finlande, Pologne) ou facilement accessibles (Turquie, Roumanie, Bulgarie) avant de pousser plus loin vers l’Allemagne, la Serbie, la France et le Bénélux, voire l’Angleterre ou les pays scandinaves. Ils atteindront aussi les Amériques, l’afrique du Sud et l’Australie, l’Asie du Sud-Est.

Une situation “hors frontières” qui n’était pas sensée pas durer. Elle s’est attardée, alanguie par nécessité économique, la douceur des populations locales, leur tolérance ou hospitalité assimilatrice, une sorte d’acédie migratoire. Il est si dur de quitter la mère-patrie qu’un havre de tranquilité incite à ne pas trop regarder ailleurs. Elle a passé le cap du siècle et de nouvelles générations arrivent aujourd’hui des vastes territoires russes ou anciennement soviétiques pour des raisons essentiellement économiques et transitionnelles. On ne peut parler d’une quadrature du cercle, mais les choses ont pris une tonalité à la mesure de l’internationalité contemporaine.

Oserait-on prétendre que ce qui devait rester temporaire est devenu définitif au bout d’un siècle ? La mémoire s’est estompée de bien des familles. Elle s’est aussi transmise dans des contextes parfois surprenants.

L’Eglise orthodoxe russe se trouva aussi à l’aube d’une reconstruction. Sortant des catacombes administratives et oppressives, le renouveau du patriarcat de Moscou suggérait des voies nouvelles sur le plan théologique et la participation des fidèles, de leur clergé. Le Concile de Moscou fut à peine initié en 1917-18, mais les propositions faites à l’époque s’annonçaient prophétique pour l’une des Eglises chrétiennes les plus importantes par la richesse de sa tradition et la fragilité de sa destinée historique.

Il faut surtout s’arrêter sur un trait singulier de ces mouvements inédits. L’Eglise orthodoxe russe s’est ouverte sur le monde par une évangélisation migratoire involontaire. Le kérygme de la foi chrétienne tel qu’il fut vécu dans la partie orientale de l’Europe allait entrer en contact avec le monde romain et latin, voire protestant d’un continent et d’une modalité religieuse qui s’était perçue comme toute-puissante sur une période bien trop longue.

Allons directement aux faits. La Russie pieuse est en ébullition. Cela fait un certain temps que cela dure, mais jusqu’à présent la partition se jouait en mineur et sotto voce. Autour de cette russité européenne s’active tous les anciens camarades, les prolétaires, les serviteurs déchus ou presque de l’empire soviétique. L’athéisme et la foi ? C’est comme un blanc bonnet qui est d’abord blanc puis postérieurement adjectivé à la mode du “renouveau”. Et il y a aussi la foule qui cherche, cherche, se cherche, recherche. On y trouve des convertis sincères, fantasques, rigoureux ou universalistes. On rencontre des anciens hérétiques accueillis avec miséricorde, des âmes en quête de Dieu, du Christ, du salut. En Occident chrétien, ils découvrirent, dans la tradition slave, un chemin vers la lumière de pureté qui luit dans les pauvres communautés de la grâce hiératique de l’Esprit de vérité.

De quoi parler ? Il y aurait trop de choses à dire. Les flots des paroles slaves s’évadent parfois dans un silence prudent ou propre à la méditation. Il arrive qu’elle ne puisse se passer de médisance, mais alors ! “Seigneur, aie pitié du péché que je suis !”. L’Orient chrétien est fils du pardon ardu, arraché à la pénitence comme pour jubiler d’avance à la joie de la résurrection.

Vous savez tout ce qui s’est passé dans les pays des Slaves depuis l’an 2013 et comment l’Archevêché des Paroisses de tradition russe en Europe occidentale, devenu “Exarchat” du patriarcat oecuménique de Constantinople fut brutalement déchu de cette qualité et même suspendu en tant qu'”Archevêché” le 27 novembre 2018. Une date importante : d’une part, le Phanar supprimait le prestigieux archevêché et instaurait, en Ukraine, un patriarcat phanariote qu’aucune Eglise canonique n’a accepté de reconnaître en cet automne 2019.

On se croirait à une réplique cléricalo-pieuse du Traité de Versailles dont les décideurs ecclésiastiques agiraient non plus depuis l’Occident romain, mais la Nouvelle Rome phanariote ou la Place moscovite qui aura bientôt son siège à la Laure Saint Serge – Possad, le Slavikan russe, espace immense d’où directions spirituelles et administratives s’épancheront vers tous les horizons d’un christianisme oriental en redéploiement.

L’histoire est connue, du moins de ceux qui s’y intéresse vraiment. Les péripéties actuelles sont tissées de vieilles querelles mises trop longtemps, trop souvent sous le boisseau. Pendant un siècle, des familles se sont échirpées sur leur héritage russe et la fidélité à quelle Eglise, quelle juridiction ? Et pourtant ! N’y a-t-il pas des zones qui restent tues pour le moment parce qu’il est plus facile de parler de décisions hardies et novatrices comme celles qui furent proposées au Concile de Moscou en 1917-18.

Pendant ce temps, le peuple fuyait vers des cieux nouveaux, réputés chaleureux et bienveillants. L’Europe en 1917 : c’était la liberté française, allemande, quasi européenne.

Il y avait une ville qui fasait alors partie de l’Empire tzariste, située plutôt à l’ouest. Elle devînt polonaise, certes, mais l’évêque orthodoxe en fut le métropolite Euloge (Georgievsky). La ville est importante. Il s’agit de Chelm, située dans la région de Lublin. En polonais elle est Chełm, Kulm en allemand, холм en ukrainien et… כעלם\Khelm en yiddish. Les langues, auxquelles ont pouvait ajouter les parlers russyn, roma et arménien illustraient l’aspect international, inter-confessionnel de la cité.

Notons en préambule que, dans la tradition juive, les habitants de cette ville – les Chelemers en yiddish – se sont forgés une solide réputation d’inconséquence mentale. Une sorte de mélange subtil entre de la naïveté authentique et des intuitions philosophiques à l’envers de la logique admise. Donc un monde particulier tissé d’humour et d’auto-dérision. Rien n’y fait, les récits que les juifs ont écrit en yiddish dans cette cité multi-culturelle et poly-confessionnelle sont imprégnés de réflexions paradoxales et de décisions prises en dépit du bon sens.

On ne connaît plus très bien l’histoire de ces villes qui rassemblaient des habitants si divers, souvent frontaliers de la Pologne, de l’empire austro-hongrois. C’est dans ce contexte multi-culturel qu’est né l’esperanto de Ludovic Zamenhof, natif de Białystok . Il se trouve qu’en 1907, l’archevêque orthodoxe était Vasili Semyonovitch [Georgievsky], né en 1868. Il avait été membre de la Douma dès 1907. Il fut nommé à Kholm de 1912 à 1914, puis il reçu le titre d’archevêque de Volhynie.

Lorsque les forces russes entrèrent en Galicie orientale en 1914, Mgr Euloge, archevêque de Volhynie et de Jitomir, fut chargé de l’Eglise orthodoxe russe dans un territoire qui lui revenait pastoralement. La politique fut alors de s’opposer à la hiérarchie et aux fidèles catholiques, principalement de rite ukrainien-byzantin. C’est ainsi que le métropolite André Sheptytsky, l’une des personnalités les plus marquantes du renouveau de la spiritualité gréco-catholique en Ukraine, fut fait prisonnier sous le contrôle de l’archevêque Euloge dans une prison pour le clergé à Souzdal (1917).

Lors de la révolution bolchévique, Mgr Euloge fut appelé par le patriarche Tikhon de Moscou afin d’assurer la pastorale des fidèles orthodoxes russes qui se rendaient en grand nombre en Europe occidentale. C’est ainsi qu’avec le soutien du nouveau patriarche de Moscou et du métropolite Benjamin de Pétrograd, l’archevêque Euloge reçut la mission de se rendre en Europe occidentale avec l’archevêque Vladimir. Il lança ainsi l’Archevêché le 8 avril 1921 à Paris.

Il fallait atteindre la capitale française. Alors que la situation était délicate en Ukraine, Mgr Euloge, passant par Lvov (L’viv en ukrainien, Lemberg en allemand et yiddish, Leopol en latin), songea à rendre visite au métropolite André Sheptytsky qui avait été dans ses geôles. Le secrétaire apercevant les deux hiérarques, s’empressa de les renvoyer. Ils n’avaient pas laissé de bons souvenirs. Or, le métropolite André sortit par hasard à ce moment précis et, voyant les deux ecclésiastiques, s’approcha de Mgr Euloge, le salua avec chaleur et invita d’emblée les deux réfugiés en route pour l’Occident à venir dans sa maison ! Les deux hiérarques furent interloqués et cela leur permis de faire connaissance : l’ancien prisonnier devenait l’hôte de deux fugitifs en herbe. Le métropolite Sheptytsky expliqua ses travaux sur l’enracinement slave de la Liturgie de Kiev et procura aux deux évêques les laisser-passer obtenus auprès de Georges Clémenceau qui les autorisa à se rendre en France.

Dans ses Mémoires, le métropolite Euloge insista de manière positive sur la personnalité d’André Sheptytsky, de sa bonté et grandeur d’âme ainsi que de ses intuitions liturgiques qui visaient à l’unité des chrétiens en terre d’Ukraine.

Pourtant, il faut souligner cette “providence” qui permit aux deux évêques envoyés pour lancer un projet pastoral peu évident dans ces périodes troublées. D’autant que, depuis Paris, le métropolite Euloge eut à couvrir un vaste territoire qui allait de Narvik à l’Espagne, l’Italie et incluait la Tchécoslovaquie, le Bénélux actuel, l’Allemagne et les Pays scandinaves. Un projet gigantesque alors que les réfugiés arrivaient, s’installaient à l’Ouest. Une période d’innovation, de créativité. Il fallait susciter les lieux de culte et d’accueil. Le métropolite choisit la voie prophétique. C’est la voie la plus féconde dans l’histoire de l’Eglise, car la plus authentiquement reliée aux paroles-mêmes d uSeigneur. Annoncer la Parole, annoncer la liberté et la prodigalité des dons divins. Un élan qu’on évoque sous le terme d’“évangélisation” à Rome mais qui, dans l’âme slave du patriarcat moscovite renaissant, correspond à un souffle “apostolique” (on dirait aussi “missionnaire”) fort, puissant, innovant. Ce souffle continue de se répandre à travers le redéploiement des juridictions de traditions slaves à travers le monde.

Ce fut une période de grande fécondité spirituelle, morale, mentale, religieuse et culturelle. Elle ouvrit sur des possibilités novatrices, en permettant notamment la rencontre inédite entre l’Orient chrétien et byzantin slave et le christianisme occidental, majoritairement romain et latin, parfois protestant – luthérien ou calviniste. La rencontre entre le catholicisme romain et ces réfugiés de tradition orientale constitua un véritable bouleversement entre des communautés théologiques aux liens distendus.

Il était temps d’aller à Constantinople, donc Istanbul où transitaient des foules de réfugiés fuyant diverses régions de l’empire russe (Russie, Ukraine, pays du Caucase, mais aussi la Roumanie, la Bulgarie).

Tout commença fortuitement à Constantinople en 1921. Une situation tout-à-fait accidentelle et porteuse d’un siècle ou presque d’initiatives lumineuses. Après la défaite du général Wrangel en Crimée (1920), de nombreux russes, civils et militaire trouvèrent refuge à Istanbul. La capitale turque était aussi le centre de l’orthodoxie byzantine. On a dénombré plus de cent cinquante mille personnes russes sans compter une forte présence géorgienne.

Grâce à la bienveillance du chef de la Mission Militaire française, un pensionnat pour garçons fut ouvert dans le collège des pères Lazaristes autrichiens et hongrois le 4 avril 1921. L’internat “Saint Georges” de Constantinople accueilla vite des dizaines d’enfants réfugiés russes.  D’emblée, ces familles en exil avaient demandé que leurs enfants puissent poursuivre des études. Ils trouvèrent un accueil dans ces institutions françaises, catholiques et des prêtres, dont certains russes devenus Jésuites (le père Stanislas Tyszkiewicz, originaire du Sud de la Russie).

Le point le plus remarquable de cette initiative fut que les enfants et leurs familles insistèrent pour que le pensionnat ait des classes de langue, de littérature et d’histoire russes, des cours de slavon d’Eglise.  Les enseignants, prêtres jésuites ou autres, s’étaient spontanément mis au service d’une cause qui s’était affirmé au tournant du 20-ème siècle : oeuvrer à l’unité de l’Eglise. Le propos était neuf, inédit. Ce qui le fut bien plus – nous ne pouvons le mentionner que brièvement – c’est que les enfants firent comprendre aux Jésuites qu’ils pouvaient enseigner en russe mais aussi de prier et de célébrer en langue slavonne selon le rite de l’Eglise orthodoxe russe, rite byzantin aussi reconnu par l’Eglise de Rome. Ce qui fut fait et, pour respecter la foi des pensionnaires, il fut décidé qu’un prêtre orthodoxe russe viendrait les confesser et célébrer la Divine Liturgie.

Ce contexte montre comment une intuition de rencontre spirituelle et humaine, culturelle reliait de manière inédite les diverses traditions de l’Europe face aux confessions issues de la révélation monothéiste.

En 1922, les troupes de Mustapha Kemal s’approchaient de Constantinople. Les nombreux russes souhaitèrent partir pour l’Occident. Les religieux choisirent de ne pas s’installer en France en raison des Lois de 1905. Ils s’installèrent à Namur le 3 mars 1923.

De 1921 à 1992, le Centre Saint-Georges de Meudon, tenu par les Jésuites a assuré la formation de nombreux enfants russes, dont la langue maternelle était le russe. Cette situation fut unique dans les innovations interreligieuses lancées par la Compagnie de Jésus et les diverses juridictions de la diaspora russe. En effet, si les Jésuites ont assuré la formation des adolescents, les jeunes appartenaient au patriarcat de Moscou, à l’entité eulogienne de l’Archevêché et l’Eglise catholique russe byzantine (Mgr Georges Rochcau et le Père Dimitri Kuzmine-Karavaïev). Au cours des ans, les relations entre ces différentes obédiences furent toujours cordiales et fructueuses sur le plan théologique. Chacun était conscient de la tâche pédagogique et confessionnelle de l’éducation à des rencontres entre la culture russe en exil et un Occcident qui se devait de redécouvrir des racines commune de la foi.

Les jeunes filles furent éduquées dans le cadre plus restreint dans le temps et l’espace de l’Institut Sainte-Olga (1944-1970). L’année 1946 avait marqué une étape dans la vie de l’Internat Saint-Georges qui s’installa à Meudon, près de Paris. En 1944, l’Institut Sainte-Olga répondait à un idéal dont le cheminement a duré vingt-quatre ans. Il y eut des heures difficiles, des rencontres très importante dans le dialogue à peine amorcé entre les confessions orthodoxes et catholique.

Il faut noter le travail qui a été mené pendant ces années pilotes de l’exil et de nouveauté inter-religieuse. A cette époque, les Soeurs de Sainte-Clothilde, le Père Pierre Struve (recteur de la communauté francophone de la crypte de la cathédrale Alexandre Nevsky), les Pères Elie Mélia et Georges Dobrot assumèrent la transmission fidèle de l’héritage gréco-russe et orthodoxe – également géorgien – dans des structures pédagogiques mises en place dans un véritable esprit d’amour, d’accueil de l’étranger et d’ouverture à l’universalité du Message christique.

Il est impossible ici de détailler les initiatives qui furent alors mises en place. Le Père Bernard Dupire créa le “Centre des Deux Ours” situé au Quartier Latin et il faisait le catéchisme oriental aux jeunes filles de Sainte-Olga, Rue de Reuilly. Il y avait des Russes qui venaient à cet internat juste pour parler de la Russie. Il n’est pas possible de mentionner les nombreuses personnalités religieuses qui ont marqué cette époque de réflexion fertile sur le devenir de la Russie et de l’Union Soviétique. Il y eu un prêtre jésuite, Sergey Obolensky, un être remarquable d’origine russe (Prince et petit-neveu de Léon Tolstoï, 1908-1992), héros de la Résistance. Il travaillait pour les services spéciaux du Vatican et fut l’un des soviétologues les plus écoutés.

Il faudra revenir sur ces années. Pourquoi ? Pendant un temps long et qu’il faut savoir apprécier, les Jésuites et les Soeurs catholiques ont su travaillé ensemble dans un esprit qui assurait la transmission d’un souffle spirituel alors enfermé – du moins persécuté au-delà de ce que l’on peut percevoir pour l’instant, dans un monde de goulags, d’anéantissement de la conscience et de la foi.

Au cours de ces années, certains des jeunes Russes formés dans ces centres catholiques de rite oriental choisirent de devenir prêtres orthodoxes. Il faut souligner cet aspect qui reste remarquable par le respect des âmes et de l’originalité de chacun, la fidélité à un être chrétien. La plupart des prêtres orthodoxes, né russes ou directement liés à l’exode provoqué par la révolution bolchévique ont servis leurs communautés, souvent pauvres et dépouillées, alors qu’ils auraient pu être happés par l’occident chrétien. Le respect de la foi fut plus fort que la tentation assimilatrice.

Il faut pourtant noter une date. Elle est peu connue. En 1992, les Jésuites fermèrent le Centre de Meudon. L’Internat avait fermé bien avant. Il restait le Centre des Etudes Slaves qui fut supprimé. J’ai assisté au 70-ème anniversaire de ce lieu et à sa fermeture. Il se produisit alors une sorte de contradiction qui n’a pris du sens qu’au cours des trente dernières années.

L’Internat Saint-Georges de Meudon fut un lieu de liberté et de tolérance. Les jeunes appartenaient à la noblesse libérale russe, à l’intelligentzia. Il y avait des russophones des Pas Baltes, de Géorgie, d’Arménie et des enfants juifs. Ce lieu a permis que s’expriment les valeurs de la société libérale des Russes de l’émigration.

Les jeunes appartenaient aux trois juridictions de l’Orthodoxie russe (Constantinople, Moscou, Eglise Hors-Frontière). Dans ce contexte, ont cohabité “une Eglise orthodoxe avec laquelle un catholique ne peut que se sentir en communion profonde et confiante ; mais en regard, une autre orthodoxie qui semble ne s’affirmer qu’en s’opposant au catholicisme comme Vladimir Soloviev l’a bien montré” [1].

Les éducateurs jésuites ont agi dans un climat de réaction catholique à la révolution de 1917. Ce fut une période de créations multiples comme le Centre Istina (les pères dominicains) et le Monastère de l’Unité d’Amay-Chevetogne. Ce dernier fut encouragé par le métropolite André Sheptytsky dont l’assistant, le Père Lev Gillet, devînt orthodoxe en rejoignant le métropolite Euloge, participant au développement des communautés orthodoxes d’expression française).

L’Internat Saint-Georges n’eut jamais la même notoriété. Il s’inscrivait dans les vues du Pape Pie XI face au hapax – la nouveauté historique et spirituelle de la révolution bolchévique. L’Eglise catholique fut alors persuadée qu’elle devait jouer un rôle dans les terres russes. Cette idée traversa tout le 20-ème siècle. Il n’est pas certain qu’elle n’ait pas vraiment su anticiper le réveil, la résurgence – inédite pour l’Occident – du patriarcat de Moscou et de toute la Rous. Le mythe de l’unité, de la communion rétablie en totalité entre l’Orient et l’Occident procède d’une longue tradition de primauté occidentale et romaine face à un Orient dont la survie chrétienne semblait aléatoire.

Il est trop tôt pour analyser finement les évolutions de chaque patriarcat. Rome et Constantinople semblent se rapprocher tandis que Moscou et les autres patriarcats historiques, sortant des ruines et de l’humiliation, considèrent l’annonce kérygmatique de manière inverse à celle d’un pouvoir européen de l’Ouest qui s’est engoncé dans un pouvoir excessif.

Il faut aussi souligner que l’Internat fut une initative française et franco-belge. Ceci peut expliquer certaines réactions dans le processus actuel de la réunification des différentes juridictions orthodoxes nées de l’humus chrétien, marqué par la tradition vivante de Russie.

L’Internat Saint-Georges permet de mesurer aujourd’hui combien cette initiative reposait sur des éléments d’incompréhension. Deux psychologies, deux pédagogies, deux traditions  ont essayé de fonctionner sans vraiment parvenir à un dialogue à parité. La liberté occidentale fut comprise comme une cause de désordre. Les réfugiés russes restaient dans une situation d’infériorité au plan social, souvent économique, plus subtilement au niveau de la véritable reconnaissance de la vitalité orthodoxe ou byzantine, orthodoxe.

Avant la révolution de 1917, l’orthodoxie chrétienne n’existait pratiquement pas en France ni en Europe occidentale. Ces réfugiés ne furent pas reçus comme des chrétiens, mais comme des étrangers auxquel il fallait porter secours. Les choses ont évolué de nos jours : quand les Chrétiens d’Orient arrivent en Occident, leur foi et leur pratique interrogent d’emblée les Européens sur leur propre identité chrétienne.

Dans la première décennie du vingtième-unième siècle, la rencontre entre les Chrétiens d’Orient – de toutes les traditions orientales, syro-orthodoxes, coptes, arménienne, éthiopienne, assyrienne, pré-chalcédoniennes et byzantines – et les fidèles de pays traditionnellement romain latin ou protestant calviniste, luthérien ou “évangélique” se joue davantage sur une rencontre plus fictive et compétitive. L’Orient continue d’interroger puissamment les Chrétiens d’Europe occidentale sur la vérité de l’engagement dans la foi.

On est passé de la période de “prosélytisme” chrétien occidental à la découverte, lente, progressive de relations que l’on a voulu définir comme “oecuméniques”. Mais mais les deux poumons de l’Eglise continuèrent de respirer dans un souffle apparemment inégal : l’un parlant de “plénitude” et l’autre de “Lumière plus pure”.

En cette fin d’année 2019, l’expérience inédite de l’Internat de Meudon peut permettre de mieux comprendre les évolutions qui ont marqué le siècle passé. Il n’est pas révolu. Les réticences intellectuelles, spirituelles, les raidissements ou les innovations libres sont le fruit d’un temps de révolution qui n’est pas achevé. Il faudra reconsidérer le sens de “l’Empire”, des valeurs de consécrations “tzaristes” qui affleurent à la conscience post-soviétique, provoquant des inquiétudes souvent légitimes sur le plan sociétal, politique et religieux. Le risque de l’intransigeance idéologique et théologique apparaît sous le boisseau de personnes qui ne savent s’affranchir vraiment d’une forme de soumission ancestrale à l’autorité religieuse.

Les éducateurs catholiques se sont rendus compte que la pédagogie de leur enseignement ne pourrait réussir que s’ils acceptaient d’enraciner les enfants qui leur étaient confiés dans une tradition qui n’étaient pas celle de l’Occident chrétien.

Il y a eu ainsi des prêtres et des diacres orthodoxes dont l’éducation à Saint-Georges (à Meudon, Namur, Paris) ont permis de dépasser les particularismes pour devenir plus authentiquement orthodoxes ou catholiques parce qu’ils regardaient la vraie richesse du Trésor qu’ils partageaient : la foi commune au Ressuscité.

“Que sera demain ?”, s’interrogeaient les Père jésuites de Meudon, Antoine Elens et François Rouleau, en 1992 lors du soixante-dixième anniversaire du site de l’Internat et du Centre d’Etudes Slaves. Ils ajoutaient : “… maintenant que la Russie religieuse retrouve toute sa liberté, comment croire que cette expérience ne portera pas demain d’autres fruits et là-bas et ici ?” [1]

1992 marque la fin d’une expérience extraordinairement féconde de la Compagnie de Jésus au service de la communauté russe, slave et orthodoxe, tant à Meudon qu’en Belgique.

L’Union Soviétique a cessé d’exister le 31 décembre 1991. Dès 1992, le patriarcat de Moscou se redéployait dans diffférentes parties du monde. Les choses furent ardues en Terre Sainte, en Israël et en Jordanie. De même dans les territoires qui sont sous l’Autorité Palestinienne.

Dès 1992, Youri Roubinsky, alors premier conseiller à l’ambassade de Russie à Paris évoquait la nomination d’un évêque orthodoxe russe du patriarcat de Moscou résidant à Paris et exerçant une autorité pastorale en Europe occidentale (Diocèse de Chersonèse-Korsun). Mgr Goury (Chalimov) arriva à Paris en janvier 1993.

Le 27 novembre 2018, le Patriarcat de Constantinople supprimait unilatéralement et irrémédiablement l’Exarchat et l’Archevêché des paroisses de tradition russes en Europe occidentale.

Le 14 septembre 2019, Mgr Jean (Renneteau) était accepté par le Saint Synode du Patriarcat de Moscou et nommé archevêque de Doubna. Pour le patriarche Cyrille et le Saint Synode russe, le passage de l’ancien archevêque de Charioupolis, ancien exarque du Trône Oecuménique (Constantinople) inclut le passage de la structure des fils et filles spirituels du métropolite Euloge. L’acte de cette réunification qui doit être confirmée par des décisions à venir cause une scission où l’Eglise orthodoxe poursuivra sa route selon ce qu’elle perçoit de sa mission au seuil du 21-ème siècle.

Un processus avait été lancé voici un siècle. Il ne s’agit pas d’un retour. Il est question d’une dynamique tout aussi inédite que celle qu’exprima l’expérience diasporique : où en est la véracité du dialogue intra-chrétien ? Voici cent ans, la dynamique de l’exil involontaire, souvetn considéré comme temporaire, a permis de renouveler le regard des chrétiens occidentaux sur les communautés orientales. Ce n’était qu’un prélude à une refonte générale de ce que le christianisme peut apporter au Coprs vivant du Ressuscité.

Aujourd’hui, la perspective est d’emblée placée au niveau planétaire, inter-continental. Il est question de la vitalité apostolique et de l’apport de chaque obédience après de longs temps d’hibernation ou de catacombes.

A Paris, la situation est originale, inédite : alors que Notre-Dame a brûlé dans un effroyable incendie, l’Eglise orthodoxe russe dispose actuellement d’une nouvelle cathédrale (Sainte-Trinité) sur le front de Seine, d’une cathédrale prestigieuse (Saint Alexandre Nevsky), de l’Institut Saint-Serge (lieu de formation d’une grande partie des évêques, prêtres et laïcs en responsabilité dans de nombreux pays). Quelles que soient les relations canoniques entre les différentes jurisdictions concernées, cela signifie une présence notoire. Il existe aussi le Séminaire Orthodoxe Russe en France, à Épinay-sous-Sénart, dont la tâche est d’ouvrir les cultures et traditions d’Europe occidentale au futur clergé venu du monde russophone.

Ce renouveau se poursuit à travers toute l’Europe mais aussi dans le monde, en particulier en Asie.

De fait, nous sommes à l’aube du christianisme dans ses multiples expressions en mouvement.

[1] Se référer à l’important recueil “Un Collège jésuite pour les russes, Saint-Georges, De Constantinople à Meudon 1921-1992, Bibliothèque Slave de Paris, Collection Simvol N° 4, 1992.




The Healthy Way

A new 2018-19 series of articles shared on the roots and the prospects that unite Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Traditions to the realm of Jewishness and Hassidism, Compared semantics and exegetical “paysages” by Archpriest Alexander A.Winogradsky Frenkel (Patriarchate of Jerusalem). Below the twenty-fourth article: “The Healthy Way”.

Archpriest Alexander A.Winogradsky Frenkel: “The Healthy Way” 

Strangely enough, the Bible does not prescribe to visit the sick. Weird! Really bizarre since the Bible is the document that should be aiming at living well, living together in a togetherness that is based on common good, common sense and common capacities to socialize. It is so, so much in vogue, rooted in the veracity of a life-giving set of Books interwoven with Divine Commandments. These should normally lead us to attain some spiritual and human heights and values.

The TaNaKH/תנ”ך (Books of the Torah, the Prophets and the Chronicles) assembles the oldest laws and codes of social and legal morality, law and justice.

However, it would be hard to clearly find a line prescribing each reader or believer that human persons have to really take care of the suffering, if any, of their fellow people. Strange indeed!

On the other hand, the Scripture and some specific texts (as Leviticus) tend to suggest that it would be safe to keep away from people whose defective health can harm the others (lepers are the persistent example of this supposed system).

The Bible focuses on the preservation of life in a context where nothing may ascertain that the survival of the human being is possible. The Bible consists in a very ancient heritage made of experience and precepts as how to overcome the power of death and eradication. It relies upon a very intimate and subtle analyze of the human propensity to constant and transgenerational fascination for destruction. In response to this in-born drifting tendency, struggle for life obliges to make considerable efforts. These can be defeated in uncertain circumstances and be wiped out by the hostility of devastating environments.

There may be another explanation. Needless to explain evident matters. The Torah describes creation as a finished work – though still on a permanent deployment – that goes through serious failing elements and occurrences.

As a rule, it is normal to face reality and to show some sort of humanness to the others. This is normal, so normal that it does not depend on the Written Law (the Torah and the written Commandments) only, but rather on the Oral Law (the Talmud and Mishnah) that verbally infuses the spirit of prophecy that aims at correcting the hardships of personal human life and the specific discomfort caused by nature; we love to discuss on ecological systems these days. It may evolve into such a paradox that some groups or individuals would be likely to save and help animals or fall in love in the techniques to sow bio-agricultural seeds of renewed purity for the soils. It does not mean that they would care for those who suffer.

The first Person Who visited a “sick person”, a suffering human being, was the Lord when He saw Abraham’s torment after the prescribed circumcision that he had performed on himself (Genesis 17, 23-18, 5).

The Talmud states that God visited him on the third day after this “self-operation” then unprecedented because, according to the tradition, it is always the third day that suffering is highly painful. Words of comfort and compassionate presence do accelerate the process of healing (Bava Metzia 86b).

Rabbi Akiva visited a sick and helpless student who was not cared for, because “He who does not practice the duty of visiting to the sick [bikur ‘holim/ ביקור חולים] is similar (to a murderer) who makes (human) blood flow” (Nedarim 40a).

Rabbi Akiva, having visited him, inquired about his state of health, but also about his needs: did the young man need money? or food? The Rabbi had even given a sweep in the student’s room. The student felt it was done with a real spirit of assistance and care and was really comforted.

All this seems picturesque and idealized, a sort of a too piety-by-example pattern. Charity is sometimes exercised with a spirit of some expectation of a return on investment “interests and principal”. It is more than a dernier cri à la mode – throughout all possible layers of Church principles – to show loving-kindness and care towards the poor and the needy. As if only the miserable and wretched people are in search of God’s helping hand and support… Good gracious!, the ill-fated and sick persons are to be found at all the levels of societies, penniless and over-pounded ones alike.

There is a special connection between the love shown to the sick by true acts of help and the way apprehend the ends of life. It corresponds to how we choose to follow the path to life or the path to death. “Whoever visits a sick person, reinvigorates in himself the forces of life – he who does not do so leads the one who suffers to death” (Nedarim 40a). We rarely reach to this degree of true consciousness and responsibility.

This is to say how much our ability to express the commandment “to love one’s neighbor as oneself / veahavta reakha kamokha-ואהבת לרעך כמוך (Leviticus 19:18) goes far beyond good intentions, good thoughts or faith, prayers uttered out of predetermined automatics. Acts are a part of the rules governing our sense of responsibility and have to be firm, concrete.

Rabbi Nahum Ish Gamzu is buried in Safed. He is known for his talents of a teacher. His words never stressed some fatalistic reflection on life. On the contrary, he concentrated on his personal trust in the Lord. Thus one interprets his answer to the announcement of any misfortune or harmful event, he said on every occasion: “Gam zu / גם זו – also so, (amen)”, while others read the word as “Gimzo”, a city from where he might have come from.

Rabbi Gamzu is a famous Tannai master of the first century. Rabbi Akiva was his disciple. When he grew old, Rabbi Nahum was lying on a mattress, his bones gnawed by bugs and he was happy to suffer such a fate.

To those disciples who were astonished by his reaction to such a condition, he used to answer this way:  “One day, I was going to visit my father-in-law and my horse was loaded with food and various objects.  I had passed a poor man who asked for food. As I was about to give him something, the man died”.

Rabbi Gamzu immediately asked God to become paralyzed, repelled by the sight of men because he had not come quickly enough to the assistance of this man in need who was so close to death. In short, when his disciples came to visit R. Nahum “Gamzu” they could be aware that loving our neighbor is directly connected to real assistance and basic help that we ought to provide to all creatures in need in order to save them. This allows to show the way to substantially embody the truth of the Commandments and the life of faith (Taanit 21a).

The question is not to lead others to some absurd suffering or, worse, to convince them that it is a blessing to suffer in order to achieve a spiritual fulfillment. This is sickening.

Just the opposite! The real matter is about how to choose kindness and true love towards every human being. This is definitely very difficult to understand and to explain positively in any society. In fact, R. Gamzu’s purpose was prophetic because he taught by his own frightful example that we are always in a state of emergency to act with authenticity whenever we pretend to live in a process of inclusive fellowship.

The Gospel offers a very parallel text with these words of Jesus of Nazareth: “If your right eye is for you an occasion of sin, tear it out and throw it away from you: for it is better for you than to perish one of your limbs and your body is not thrown into Gehenna … “(Matthew 5: 29-30).

Just read this again and again and carefully… because it has nothing to do with the power of imposing some threats or punishments upon the others. Jesus’ words are not morbid. They are not judgmental. In a similar way to R. Nahum’s testimony, it calls to be aware of real situations and be responsible for one’s life – the life of the person who accepts to become a witness to the truth of conscience and the life/lives of those whom we are connected with, beyond our personal choice or will.

Still, these words are somehow rough but Jesus applied the same Jewish tradition (he knew of no other) that can, by extreme comparisons, challenge human beings to be merciful to all. It is dramatic to see how fanaticism and ignorance have often led believers to use such words to cause suffering. Life or death? Pain or suffering? Healing or despising the others?

Basically, the account of the Good Samaritan is similar to that of Rabbi Nahum of Gamzu. Jesus of Nazareth discusses Tradition with a scribe who quotes him the Commandment “Hearken, Israel” and questions him: “Who is my neighbor? That is the question.

Jesus responded to the young man with a story very close to the Master of Rabbi Akiva (who died elsewhere by reciting the Shm’a Israel / שמע ישראל).  Almost in a caricatural mood, the kohen/priest, the Levite passed without seeing a wounded man while the Samaritan seized the man, made bandages, took him on his own horse, hired a place at the guesthouse and said to the keeper that he was ready to pay the fees and/or additional expenses… Definitely too true to be true, too much! Two professionals of religion versus a Samaritan said to be a stranger:  it depends how we consider alterity in a region where tribes and mini-ilks met and separated, dialogued or excluded each other for reasons of convenience, irrationality and supposed interpretations of Divine Sayings. Today’s Samaritans at the Mount Gerizim (West Bank) or in Holon (Israel) marry Ukrainian women who had immigrated in Israel because of some kind of a Jewish background or an in between unclear ethnic and religious status. Jesus had never met any Druze, Mennonite, Roman Latin Catholic, Finnish Orthodox or Lutheran or the Buddhist on a journey to the heights.

Truth was and remains the same as for the Tannaim of the first century, for Jesus of Nazareth known and confessed as the Resurrected and nowadays: “Show mercy” (Luke 10, 29-37), the same tempo as on the Day of atonement, subsequently in the fundamentals of the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Liturgies.

It is a pilpoul – a rabbinical system of discussing spiritual matters – made of paradoxes and counter-paradoxes. They allow to scan, survey, study, break, clip, crumble down each revealed or uttered divine word or expression in order to analyze with precision how human, mental attitudes may lead to acts of moral decency.

It is essential to overcome the contortions of history, its tragedies and ever-renewed crookedness. The Jewish tradition is based on a system of “repair, remedy” called a “Tiqqoun- תיקון “. The 20th century [= the 58th century after the Jewish comput (2019 = 5779)] has shown to be extremely violent despite the pretense to be faithful to existing Laws and Principals of morals and faith. It continues these days. Secular personalities call for a general repair of the “eco-system” and respect of the living. It seems to be methodically creeping, attracted by destruction while modern skills allow to heal or overcome some defects, abnormalities or wounds.

Whoever visits a patient without praying to ask that the Lord cover this patient with his mercy does not fulfill the duty of “visiting the sick” (Yoreh Deah 335, 4).

In this regard, the Talmud makes it clear that the sick, both Jewish and non-Jewish, must be visited indiscriminately (Gittin 61a, Yoreh Deah 335, 9).

It is not an act of charity. The word “bikkur/ ביקור = visit” means more: yes, to move and help – not just to express compassion. We know how many desperate people have called for help on the social networks and, thus, their “friends and contacts” disappeared, did not respond. It ended with suicides. We do live in a special generation because people can be saved over long distances, technical exploits. The Service of the Brother (and Sister) lauded by the Orthodox tradition has also to be reinforced. In many cases, groups select their “sick” and those they intend to help or to save and may ignore some others. A sick person requires assistance. it does not mean that support and relief is evident.

The word “bikkur” is also related to “examination, verification”: to see what are the particular needs of people and to help them in a concrete way (Nahmanide, Torat HaAdam).

Diseases are known or under survey. Some appear, disappear or show up again such as measles because human nature handles illnesses with much versatility or pride that some specialists will temporarily overcome. At times, instant moral behavors are more important than ignored suffering that may come up unexpectedly. Self-centeredness often crunches layers of societies and succeeds in bending moralities and conscience.

Jesus said: “They that are whole (sound, healthy, strong) have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance (eis metanoian/μεταωοιαν)”. Good enough! Who is the “whole”, the healthy person? A man or a woman who does not know that he might be sick? Sickness of the shape, the appearance or invisible disease of the soul? Maybe both? Aramaic “Chalimey/ܚܠܺܝܡܶܐ” suggests that is healthy the one who is sound and can make use of strength. Nonetheless, compared to Greek, “healthy” is similar to “to dream, be dreamy”. Thus, this means, on the one hand, that it corresponds to a state that refers to real or unreal desires and, on the other hand, to existing factors because the word also means “cement”. It is unbreakably safe and sound.

We hardly experience in the Churches the playful capacities of the words of the Gospels inherited from the rabbinic tradition – that continues its route along with the numerous ecclesial bodies. They work on ambiguous play on words or double-entendres. A dream may become true. A reality can be a part of a dreamy development… health can be confirmed, neglected, denied as diseases can also be hidden because they are cause too much anguish and unexplained pains continuously bringing new forms of damages. The same for the distinction, if any, between “righteous” and “transgressor, sinner”. We cannot say that all of us are “sinners” in an indistinct way. Yes, indeed, each human being is a transgressor by the very nature of human existence. This only becomes a matter of authentic theological and spiritual concern if conscience frontally faces the Presence of God, the Master of the universe and submits to His project.

We know and feel how deeply this affects the social and cultural diseases that endanger the vitality of human activities in insidious and subtle ways.

In this respect, Prof. Viktor Frankl and many others have detailed the morbid and sickening process of hatred that seems impossible to eradicate in societies that consider   themselves as intelligent and endowed with reason.

St. John Chrystosom said: “We should not dread any human ill, save sin alone; neither poverty, nor disease, nor insult, nor malicious treatment, nor humiliation, nor death”.  These “ills” are only words; they have – some would say “should have” no reality for those who are living for the Kingdom of Heaven. The only real “calamity” in this life is offending God.

At the present, we tend to consider violence and criminal attitudes of the humans against humans and being submitted to their judgment… and subsequently to the Lord’s Court under societal control. People would then call to the Living God in order to settle these systems of violence, crimes, irrationality, hatred. The paradox is that each group pretends that it will get the true answer from High, twisting on the notion of “righteous” or “transgressors”. These violation and abuse show in quivering theological interpretation, seizure and superseding of what God manages and cannot be mastered by any human soul.

The present danger is different: who would accept to say that they violate the living Word of the Lord? As said at the very beginning of the Psalm 102: “Prayer of the Poor (One)/תפילה לעני – tefilav le’Ani”. The Poor is God whose courts in heaven and in this world continues to feel lonely because the humans too often abandon Him, renouncing to the true privilege of being vigorous and stable.

Christ is risen. He is truly risen!

Nota: In the Semitic traditions, “bones” are the skeleton of our being human and correspond to the “consonants” while the vowels are added to dynamize this skeleton as the “anima – soul, spirit”. The picture had been published five years ago as the Christians of the East were wildly attacked by the Daesh. Think of the words of Saint Paul “The letter kills, but the spirit gives life” (2 Corinthians 2:6b).

The Slavic Dolls And The Christian East

The Slavic Dolls And The Christian East

  • Published on January 11, 2019



 “Do you know what happened in the whole country of Rus?” can we say paraphrasing Luke the Evangelist (Acts 10, 37)? In 2018, the Patriarchate of Constantinople imposed the emergence of a new “Orthodox Church in Ukraine” at the Moscow Patriarchate.

Things have evolved in conflicting ways between the heads of the Constantinople and Moscow Patriarchates since the refusal of the Russian Orthodox Church to participate in the Pan-Orthodox Council of Crete in 2016. Is this only a quarrel of power and primacy? Constantinople has repeatedly opposed the establishment of the Moscow Rus, particularly during the re-establishment of the Russian Orthodox Patriarchate by the Provisional Government.

Metropolitan Tikhon (Belavine), elected Patriarch on November 5, 1917, had declared: “the night will be dark and very long”. Little is known on the history of the Russian Orthodox Church: it was tragic, fraught with uncertainty, marked by an almost constant submission to the civil power, in particular the Tzarist system. The history of the Rus Church in Kiev and Moscow is the result of an extension in which the influences were contrasted and marked by important contributions of the Little-Russian theologians, who came from many regions now called “Ukrainian”.

Quibbles did not fail to show up among the actors of the matter. Occasionally, old grimoires dating back to the 17th century were brought out of ancient archives. The Patriarchate of Constantinople entrusted the spiritual care of the Kievan Rus to the Church of Moscow in 1686. Four hundred years later, at the request of a Ukrainian President whose country is at war with the Russian Federation, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew – “Primus inter pares “of the leaders of the Orthodox Churches – denounced the temporary agreement with the Russian Church of Moscow with the aim to unite the Orthodox faithful of the Republic of Ukraine into a new Church placed under its protection and authority.

On January 6, 2019, the Phanar confirmed by Decree / Tomos that this “Orthodox Church in Ukraine” can not extend her ruling authority outside the territory of the Republic of Ukraine. On the other hand, the Patriarch of Constantinople will exercise his canonical and spiritual authority over all the Ukrainian Orthodox who, throughout the world, recognize his jurisdiction.

Former “patriarch” Philaret of Kiev, excommunicated by the Russian Church of Moscow , was recently reinstated without any consultation with the Patriarchate of Moscow and all the other canonical Orthodox Churches. This paved the way to Metropolitan Epiphanyi, elected head of the new Ukrainian Church. This als ounderscores that only very few (two) canonical bishops of the the patriarchate of Moscow accetped to show at the geenral “unifying Ukrainian Synod” on December 15, 2018. Nonetheless the new Ukrainian hierarch refuses the conditions currently proposed by the Phanar. The negotiations will take time.

Indeed, things have not been clarified. Many wonder: why did the Ecumenical Patriarch take such a decision? Repeated requests of Orthodox Ukrainians were sent to the Phanar to be granted autonomy. Ukraine is the cradle of Eastern Slavic Christianity. The atmosphere of multi-faceted political distrust aggravates the relations while the war emphasizes the deep fracture that appeared after the fall of the Soviet Union.

Twenty-six years ago, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was severely impacted by continuous splitting processes. It encouraged the demand for more autonomy, even autocephaly, by the Ukrainian Church that was under the omophorion (spiritual and canonical authority) of the Patriarchate of Moscow. In fact, the Kyivan Rus obtained large autonomy whilst remaining in the body of the Church of Moscow. Thirty years have passed but it is too short in terms of history.

The Patriarchate of Moscow went through the period of the collapse of communism and the disappearance of the Soviet Union by maintaining an effective canonical link with various local entities present in the immense territory of the Tsarist Empire. In 2007, the union with the Church Abroad confirmed that the 21st century opened up with negotiated forms of reconciliation and unity while preserving particular liturgical and community specificities.

Geopolitical strategies are mentioned; the American support enjoyed by the Phanar and the Republic of Ukraine. Others speak of a need for freedom and trust … Theological reasons have all too often been missing in the course of the discussion that turned into a real political dispute. There was more talks on power, domination than sincere concern for announcing or celebrating the Mysteries of the Church and Jesus of Nazareth.

2018 was marked by the 170th anniversary of the presence of the Ecclesiastical Mission of the Russian Orthodox Church of Moscow in the Holy Land. This event went unnoticed in Western circles. Thus, numerous conferences and celebrations have been organized by the Moscow Patriarchate in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Tiberias and Hebron. The prestigious monasteries built in the region over time (the Gornensky Women’s Monastery at Ein Karem) has been widely celebrated.

Other sites belong to the Russian Church Abroad like the Monastery of St. Mary Magdalene at the Mount of Olives. The British princes Charles and Andrew visited it twice, emphasizing the historical and pan-European character of the Eastern Christian faith of Russian tradition rooted in the Greek Byzantine tradition.

Other historical possessions are disputed by various jurisdictions and this remains a problem because of existing claims against the Israeli authorities. This is the case of the Mary Magdalene Monastery of Tiberias. The metochion (monastery) Alexander Nevsky, located in the prolongation of the Holy Sepulcher, was resolved after many difficult negotiations with both the Israelis and the Greeks. It is today a very visited place because of the archeology and the historicity of the Russian presence in Jerusalem.

Pilgrims from the Russian Federation and countries that are linked to the Patriarchate of Moscow (Moldavia, Belarus, Ukraine to date, the faithful of Central Asia) are developing quite significantly. Thousands of visitors arrive everyday in the Holy Land, in Israel, the West Bank and Jordan. The old imperial organizations are re-deploying in each of these traditional ecclesiastical regions. The King of Jordan – who sometimes opposes the Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem that is under his custody – has promoted the establishment of touristic and cultural centers that are under the spiritual and administrative care of the Russian Orthodox Church, in particular on the Jordan River.

Israel is sometimes considered as the second Russian country in the world. The country has absorbed more than one million people from the former USSR. Yet Ukrainians say they are the largest group in the country versus the Russians. The immigrants came mainly from Ukraine or Byelorussia, Moldavia-Bessarabia. These “Ukrainians” remain rather unable to get organized in Israel whilst pretending to maintain a special link with Ukraine. Others were from Ukraine but had been deported to Siberia during the Second World War. Some had settled in Russia after the Bolshevik Revolution which legally abolished the existence of areas of residence where the Jews had to dwell under discriminating Tsarist rules.

The revival of the so-called “Russian Palestine / Русская Палестина”, initiated by the Orthodox Synod of Moscow in the 19 th century, surfaced and showed evident hardships to carry out a positive dialogue of the Russian Church with the Israeli authorities. The Israeli athorities are more likely to favor the Greek-Orthodox patriarchate, while the Russian Church has long had important contacts in all Arab countries and the Patriarchate of Antioch.

The Patriarchate of Constantinople has no representation in Jerusalem and the Holy Land.

In 2005, Patriarch Bartholomaios solved canonically the election of the current patriarch Theophilos of Jerusalem following the testimony of the former patriarch Irenaeus, allegedly accused of being involved in illegal sales of land and properties in the Holy Land. This was possible thanks to an exceptional synod which obtained the assent of the Patriarchate of Moscow and all the canonically autocephalous Orthodox Churches.

The creation of a Ukrainian metropolis can be part of a larger project. The decision to organize a “Synod of Unification” in Kiev was held on December 15, 2018. This undoubtedly precipitated the implementing of projects that had been planned for years. For the Church of Constantinople, it is a matter of rationalizing the diasporic Church bodies who want to get more autonomy from the Phanar. It must also ensure the authenticity of the Orthodox message as it is announced and transmitted in various continents.

This is the very same concern of the patriarchate of Moscow. On December 28, 2018, the Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church of Moscow decided to create two new structures. Following the events of the Ukraine, the Russian patriarchate created the “Exarchate of Chersonese (Korsun) and Western Europe” which includes all European countries formerly entrusted to Metropolitan Eulogyi (Georgievsky). However, it should be noted that the Scandinavian countries are not included in the new entity, although the Moscow Patriarchate and the Church Abroad have parishes in Northern Europe… along with the Patriarchate of Moscow.

A second Exarchate was created in South-East Asia with the See of the city of Singapore. It includes all the countries of these Far-Eastern regions (Republic of Singapore, Cambodia, South Korea, Laos, Malaysia, Myamar, Philippines, Thailand) .

This pre-supposes a more subtle positioning for the two patriarchates of Constantinople and Moscow, whichtends to exercise or impose their authority and traditional religious influences in specific regions of the world. It is possible to define a move toward significant territorial redistribution, secured bybrand new canonical statutes that can be rejected or denied by other Orthodox jurisdictions.

Europeans will be astonished to see the emergence of Muscovite Exarchate in Western Europe. It will definitely take over the spiritual actions conveyed by the structure created in 1931 by Metropolitan Euloge. The current Archdiocese of Russian Churches in Western Europe is facing a very difficult choice with regards to its survival. It should be resolved in February 2019.

The Exarchate of Southeast Asia seems a bit away from Europe. Yet, it directly concerns Israel. The Hebrew State includes a very large number of expatriate workers from all these Asian countries. Filipino communities have been present for decades in the country, as a lot of Thais, Tamil people. Pilgrims from Indonesia, South Korea come en masse to Jerusalem.

They are not only Catholic; many are Orthodox and those who join the Eastern Christian communities (strong presence of the Church Abroad). Shortly after the creation of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (Constantinople), Patriarch Bartholomew went to South Korea where the Greek diocese under the spiritual care of the Phanar was quite renown till the Patriarchate of Moscow created a new parish after the recent clash with Constantinople.

Patriarch Bartholomew requires the right or canonical privilege to control all the Ukrainian churches linked to the former schismatic Patriarchate of Kiev, restricting the authority of the young Metropolitan Epiphanyi, elected at the Unification Synod (December 15, 2018), to the territory of the Republic of Ukraine only. It is not accepted yet by the new hierarchy. They first have to exercise within the framework of the Tmos the received on January 5th, 2018, on the eve of the feast of the Theophny (Greek new comput).

This territorial claim is due to the importance of the Ukrainian diaspora in the world, especially in North and South America. By taking the canonical and spiritual control of this international portion of Ukraine, the Ecumenical Patriarch could also overlook the Ukrainian faithful who live in Israel or in the Palestinian Territories. A lot of Ukrainians also work as expatriates in the Gulf Emirates. In Jerusalem, hundreds of Orthodox Ukrainians arrive everyday to visit the Holy Places.

It is too early to describe with precision what this could mean for the territory of the Jerusalem Patriarchate. The Patriarchate of Jerusalem has an important moral debt towards the Phanar. It faces growing difficulties with the local communities: the Arabs of Israel and Palestine, the native clergy of Jordan. The maintenance of a Hellenic Orthodox clergy, traditionally composed of descendants of the Greeks of the Pont-Euxin, exterminated during the 1915 genocide led by the Young Turks is not an easy affair. Patriarchal bodies struggle to maintain direct contacts with the local inhabitants, with is not evident just for high defects in the linguistic level of their clergy and monks in common use of Hebrew, Arabic and other European languages.

The representatives of the Republic of Ukraine in Israel supported the creation of the “unified” Orthodox Church. They did this in a trans-jurisdictional way: in the Holy Land, all Churches are normally under the authority of the Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem. Thus, the whole affair deals with Israeli parliamentary and legal projects: verification of land property, territories. Jewish and / or Israeli groups have secretly acquired – sometimes with the help of Orthodox Arab worshipers or some embezzlement from Greece or Cyprus – land or properties. The press and the local people hardly know that some of these properties once belonged to the Jews during the British Mandate (the two hotels of the Jaffa Gate, for example).

There is a permanent face-to-face process between Israelis and the Christian religious bodies should normally be intensified because of the projects of the Israeli authorities to rationalize their relations with all the denominational structures mainly run by authorities outside of Israel. The question of the participation of the churches – laity, clergy and hierarchy – in the “civic” life of Israeli society is still a dream. It remains that the CHurch simply have to settle their operating costs and expenses accordingly, pay the income-taxes since the Church debts accumulated over several decades, more than 70 years to be exact.

King Abdullah II of Jordan has often questioned the actions of the Patriarch of Jerusalem. On the other hand, he allowed the Ecclesiastical Mission of the Moscow Patriarchate in Jerusalem and to the representatives of the Imperial Orthodox Society of Palestine (Императорское православное палестинское общество) – created in 1882 – to open cultural centers for pilgrims of the Moscow Patriarchate and the Church Aboard.

The Patriarchate of Moscow therefore has serious plans for the renovation and re-deployment of its spiritual, theological and strategic activities in Jerusalem and the Holy Land. This is rooted in the old traditions of the Slavic Churches: the Russian Orthodox believers in-depth adopted the Christian message when it was accepted by the Kievan Rus before it extended to Moscow: “They did not resign themselves to Germanic, Latin or Greek mythologies. They really coped with the Biblical accounts that definitely impacted their culture and ways of living.

The Moscow Patriarchate is the heir of privileged times in the history of the Holy Places of Christianity. The Russian Orthodox Church backed the Greek Orthodox Church of Jerusalem that also got the support that the Sublime Porte. The Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem remains the first Church or “Mother of all the Churches of God” as affirmed by the inscription of the Katholikon , the nave of the Holy Sepulcher entrusted to the Hagiotaphite Brotherhood. Relationships have not always been easy. Things get better, only apparently and for ambiguous tactics developed for the contradictory benefits of each jurisdiction present in the Holy Sepulcher.

In a more confessional prospect, the Russian Church considers that she plays a significant role in the Holy Land and subsequently should be granted more power and rights in managing the local Church. Recently, the Patriarchate of Moscow intervened to settle the water debt of the Holy Sepulcher that had to be paid by the Hellenic Orthodox Patriarchate on behalf of the Christian communities. Patriarch Kyrill personally traveled to Jerusalem on this occasion, which he had refuse to do since he became a patriarch…

A large number of Orthodox faithful have arrived in Israel since the time of the refuzniki came in the country in the 1970s, thus a million and a half between 1991 and today. Many Russian or Ukrainian citizens may consider theyare entitled to migrate because of their right of return under Israeli law. Others arrived as spouses of a person who could benefit.

In the South Negev, there are about 150,000 baptized people. The Orthodox Church of Jerusalem has little developed assistance to these faithful, often hesitantly. I created groups that use Hebrew, the Slavic or other languages (including Ukrainian and Belarussian, Moldavian). Cultural nostalgia and some sort of unsettled Orthodox Christian identity often continue to develop into conflictual situations toward strong Jewish identities. It results in oppositing and political clashes. I therefore chose to set up parallel structures, especially thanks to digital and new techniques, always referring to Canon Law.

The Moscow Patriarchate did little either to promote Hebrew inculturation. Still, I celebrated in Hebrew and Slavonic at the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in Jerusalem (Kikar Safra). It did not last, not that it was not possible per se. But this was possible because the texts had been published by the Moscow Synod in 1841. The Patriarch of Jerusalem and the Russian Orthodox authorities had given their agreement. Some security administrative rules defined by the Federation of Russia unfortunately complicated a movement that needs to be revived. It will pass.

Historically, the Russian Church has been helping Orthodox Arabic Christians since the establishment of the Ecclesiastical Mission in Jerusalem. Some Arab priests studied in the Soviet Union, perfectly speak Russian and have often married a Russian or Ukrainian woman. There is a flow of exchanges of dense people between Israeli society and families in the Palestinian territories.

Mixed marriages must be taken into account, often between Jews who have become Christians and Christian Arabs who are seeking newcomer women/men to marry. This is a usual situation in the region. Innovation is everywhere: the Samaritans, alerted by their demographic decline and consanguineous problems, have integrated a significant number of Ukrainian women admitted to their community without any conversion rite. This does not mean that these wives renounced Christianity. Things are very subtle in the country.

Israel does not accept the – sometimes legitimate – demands of the Moscow Patriarchate though some of these requests are duly legitimate. The Russian Church affirms the regeneration of “Palestinian Russia” created in the 19 th century. Patriarch Kyrill readily experienced this in 1967 when he made his first trip to Jerusalem while he was in charge of the Moscow Patriarchate’s External Affairs.

Israel also leaves “vagabonds / vagantes” and invertebrate groups of Orthodox priests ordained in the non-canonical and minority jurisdictions of Ukraine, Moldova, Belarus, Bulgaria or Greece (Old-calendarists). This situation is little known, rarely mentioned in the current period of “unification” in vogue in Ukraine. On the side of Kiev and Odessa as in the Israeli countryside (!), One can find a whole indeterminate constellation of “sectarians / сектанты” of Slavic expression. In Palestine, some priests have left the patriarchate of Jerusalem for Russian jurisdictions parallel to the official structures.

The ability to appeal to a Ukrainian Orthodox jurisdiction is therefore important for Phanar. If the Ecumenical Patriarch, in addition to the quality of “Primus inter pares” which he invokes in the sister churches, could enjoy a secured authority over the Ukrainian diaspora, he would be able to find more direct ways of intervention, in similar ways in the Holy Land. This would only be possible if, in a still unexpected movement, the Republic of Ukraine demanded, in the name of its new unified Orthodox Church, goods, land and properties that had been acquired since the installation of the Russian missions in the Holy Land.

The political future of the Republic of Ukraine is uncertain, but the creation of the new independent Church on the national territory opens up on seemingly inedicted and new perspectives. These would be based on the “myth” of a powerful Ukrainian Orthodox identity, parallel to the Byzantine, and certainly international, success story. This identity is regularly expressed in the Ukrainian media and in Israel. It could act through political and religious connivance.

This is also confirmed by the attempts of the Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch to intervene in Jordan. The patriarchate of Jerusalem must redouble its vigilance. He initiated important actions (education, religious life) at the request of King Abdullah. At present, without the centuries-old know-how of the Hellenic Orthodox community, it would not be unthinkable for a fracture to occur in the patriarchate of Jerusalem: a jurisdiction close to Antioch and Moscow in Jordan and the strengthening of Greeks in Israel – West Bank – Gaza.

The “Ukrainian” hypothesis is less illusory than it seems. One would be happy to talk about “plans on the comet” or utopias improbable at the evocation of such perspectives. This would be to ignore the deep jolts that wave in repetitive waves, more and more frequent, the evolution of traditional churches in the Middle East, Jerusalem (Israel, West Bank, Gaza, Jordan). This would be to ignore the fights of targeted influences which occur discreetly between most of the present-day diplomatic superpowers, the States and, subsequently, the churches which are redeploying whereas the region is on fire.

The fact remains that the Patriarchate of Moscow acts most often by conforming to the rules of the canon law of different Orthodox traditions. This might be a surprise. This is what happened in Jerusalem when the candidate for the patriarchal election who was supported by the Russian Church was defeated (Met. Timotheos of Vostra, former Secretary General of the Jerusalem Patriarchate, a son of a communist activist).

Moscow turned his back … and nodded. Similarly, in the unanimous election of Patriarch Theophilos in 2005, the Synod of Moscow acquiesced. In the present vicissitudes, the Moscow Patriarchate does not rebuff, takes disputed decisions (suspension of the Eucharistic Communion with Constantinople).

It must be emphasized that it is acting, most often, by canonical ways such as the constitution of new ecclesiastical structures in Europe and Asia. It must also be borne in mind that the Russian Church has frequently been injured, sometimes severely, during the past century and wants to consolidate its possessions through the Russian Federation. This is not often understood when most churches have state structures that secure their goods and activities (Vatican, European states).

Most Orthodox Churches – including the Greek Orthodox Church – have expressed their disagreement with the initiatives taken by the Phanar to grant unilateral autocephaly to a new Orthodox Church in Ukraine … They said so and wrote …

These are the facts or events of this early 21st century. The real question is the authenticity of the Christ message, the truth of His testimony. There can be no question of competition. It would be childish, even if the tensions went through centuries of antagonism. Finally, the Church has to remain open to all nations, all cultures, all languages without exception.

This faculty to be open to all an reach out to all in the Lord relies upon firm roots in the faith, living faith that is a source of renewed authenticity.

N.B. Translated, adapted and updated from the original published in French on the “Times of Israel Français”, direct link: “http://frblogs.timesofisrael.com/les-poupees-gigognes-de-lorient-chretien/&#8221;.

Les poupées gigognes de l’Orient chrétien

Les poupées gigognes de l’Orient chrétien

Publié dans le Times of Israel français le 1 janvier 2019

« Savez-vous ce qui s’est passé dans tout le pays de Rus ? » Peut-on dire en paraphrasant l’évangéliste Luc (Actes des Apôtres 10, 37) ? En 2018, le patriarcat de Constantinople a imposé l’émergence d’une nouvelle Eglise « orthodoxe en Ukraine » au patriarcat de Moscou.

Les choses ont évolué de manières conflictuelles entre les chefs des patriarcats de Constantinople et de Moscou depuis le refus de l’Eglise orthodoxe russe de participer au Concile pan-orthodoxe de Crète en 2016. Serait-ce seulement une querelle de pouvoir et de primauté ? Constantinople s’est maintes fois opposée à la constitution de la Rus de Moscou, en particulier lors du rétablissement du patriarcat orthodoxe russe par le gouvernement provisoire.

Comme le disait le Métropolite Tikhon (Belavine), élu patriarche le 5 novembre 1917, « la nuit sera sombre et très longue ». On le sait peu : l’histoire de l’Eglise orthodoxe russe fut tragique, pavée d’incertitudes, marquée par une soumission pratiquement constante au pouvoir civile, en l’occurrence tzariste. L’histoire de l’Eglise de la Rus de Kiev et de Moscou procède d’une extension où les influences furent contrastées et marquées par des apports importants de théologiens petits-russiens, donc originaires de plusieurs régions aujourd’hui qualifiées d’ »ukrainiennes ».

Les arguties n’ont pas manqué. On a ressorti à l’occasion des vieux grimoires datant du 17-ème siècle. Le patriarcat de Constantinople confia la Rus de Kiev à celle de Moscou en 1686. Quatre-cents ans plus tard, à la requête d’un président ukrainien dont le pays est en guerre avec la Fédération de Russie, le patriarche oecuménique Bartholomée – « primus inter pares » des chefs des Eglises orthodoxes – a dénoncé la cession temporaire consentie à l’Eglise de Moscou, prétendant unir les fidèles orthodoxes de la république d’Ukraine en une nouvelle Eglise placée sous sa protection et son autorité.

Le 6 janvier 2019, le Phanar devrait confirmer par Décret/Tomos que cette « Eglise orthodoxe en Ukraine » ne pourra s’étendre en-dehors du territoire de la république d’Ukraine proprement dite. En revanche, le patriarche de Constantinople exercera son autorité canonique et spirituelle sur tous les orthodoxes ukrainiens qui, dans le monde, reconnaissent sa juridiction.

Le « patriarche » Philarète de Kiev, excommunié par l’Eglise de Moscou, rétabli récemment sans consultation du patriarcat de Moscou et de toutes les autres Eglises orthodoxes canoniques, a cédé le pas au Métropolite Epiphanyi élu à la tête de la nouvelle Eglise ukrainienne. Mais il refuse les conditions proposées actuellement par le Phanar. Les tractations prendront du temps.

En réalité, les choses ne sont pas clarifiées. Beaucoup s’interrogent : pourquoi le patriarche oecuménique a-t-il pris une telle décision ? On peut évoquer les demandes répétées des Ukrainiens de confession orthodoxe à disposer d’eux-mêmes. Le pays est le berceau du christianisme slave oriental. Le climat de multiples méfiances politiciennes envenime les relations alors que la guerre souligne la fracture profonde qu’a marqué la chute de l’Union soviétique.

Voici 26 ans, l’émiettement de l’Union des républiques socialistes soviétiques a favorisé la demande pour plus d’autonomie, voire l’autocéphalie de l’Eglise ukrainienne sous l’omophore (autorité spitituelle et canonique) du patriarcat de Moscou. De fait, la Rus de Kiev/Kyiv obtînt son autonomie tout en restant dans le corps de l’Eglise de Moscou. Trente ans ont passé mais c’est un temps trop court au regard de l’histoire.

Le patriarcat de Moscou a franchi la période de la chute du communisme et de la disparition de l’Union soviétique en maintenant un lien canonique avec diverses entités locales présentes dans l’immense territoire issu de l’Empire tzariste. En 2007, l’union avec l’Eglise Hors-Frontière vînt confirmer que le 21-ème siècle s’ouvrait sur des formes négociées de réconciliation et d’unité tout en préservant des spécificités liturgiques et communautaires particulières.

On évoque les stratégies géo-politiques; les soutiens américains dont jouissent le Phanar et la république d’Ukraine. D’autres parlent d’un besoin de liberté et confiance… Les raisons théologiques ont trop souvent fait défaut. Il a plus été question de pouvoir, de domination que de la manière d’annoncer ou de célébrer le Mystère de l’Eglise et de Jésus de Nazareth.

L’année 2018 aura été marquée par le 170-ème anniversaire de la présence de la Mission ecclésiastique de l’Eglise orthodoxe russe de Moscou en Terre Sainte. Cet événement est passé inaperçu dans les milieux occidentaux. Il a donné lieu, entre Jérusalem, Tel Aviv, Tibériade et Hébron, a de nombreuses conférences et célébrations organisées par le patriarcat de Moscou. On a largement fêté l’édification de monastères prestigieux (le monastère féminin de Gornensky à Ein Karem).

D’autres sites appartiennent à l’Eglise Russe Hors-Frontière, comme le monastère de Sainte Marie Madeleine au mont des Oliviers. Les princes britanniques Charles et Andrew s’y sont recueillis à deux reprises, soulignant le caractère historique et pan-européen de la foi chrétienne orientale de tradition russe enracinée dans la tradition byzantine grecque.

D’autres possessions historiques sont contestées par diverses juridictions et donnent lieu à des réclamations auprès des autorités israéliennes. C’est le cas du monastère Maria Magdalina de Tibériade. Le métochion (monastère) Alexandre Nevsky, situé dans le prolongement du Saint-Sépulcre, donna lieu à de nombreuses tractations tant avec les Israéliens qu’avec les Grecs. Il est aujourd’hui un lieu très visité en raison de l’archéologie et de l’historicité de la présence russe à Jérusalem.

Les pèlerinages se multiplient à partir de la Fédération de Russie et des pays qui dépendent du patriarcat de Moscou (Moldavie, Biélorussie, Ukraine jusqu’à présent, les fidèles d’Asie centrale). Des milliers de visiteurs arrivent chaque jour en Terre Sainte, donc en Israël, en Cisjordanie et en Jordanie. Les anciennes organisations impériales se développent dans chacune de ces régions ecclésiastiques traditionnelles. Le roi de Jordanie – qui s’oppose parfois au patriarcat orthodoxe de Jérusalem dont il est le gardien – a favorisé l’implantation de centres touristiques et culturels dépendant de l’Eglise orthodoxe russe sur les rives du Jourdain.

Israël est parfois considéré comme le deuxième pays russe au monde. Le pays a absorbé plus d’un million de personnes venues de l’ex-URSS. Pourtant, les Ukrainiens affirment qu’ils constituent le groupe majoritaire dans le pays et non les Russes. Les immigrants venaient essentiellement d’Ukraine ou de Biélorussie, Moldavie-Bessarabie. Peu organisés en Israël, ils revendiquent un lien particulier avec l’Ukraine. D’autres étaient originaires d’Ukraine mais avaient été déporté en Sibérie pendant la Seconde Guerre mondiale. Certains s’étaient installés en Russie après la Révolution bolchévique qui avait supprimé les zones de résidence discriminatioires envers les Juifs.

Le renouveau de la « Palestine russe/Русская Палестина », initialisée par le Saint-Synode orthodoxe de Moscou au 19-ème siècle, se heurte au dialogue malaisé de l’Eglise russe avec les autorités israéliennes. Celles-ci favoriseront plutôt le patriarcat grec-orthodoxe tandis que l’Eglise russe a, depuis longtemps, des contacts importants dans tous les pays arabes et le patriarcat d’Antioche.

Le patriarcat de Constantinople n’a aucune représentation à Jérusalem et en Terre Sainte.

En 2005, il a permis de résoudre de manière canonique, l’élection de l’actuel patriarche Théophilos de Jérusalem suite à la déposition de l’ancien patriarche Irénée, prétendument accusé d’avoir illégalement vendu certaines possessions foncières. Ceci fut possible grâce à un synode exceptionnel qui obtînt l’assentiment du patriarcat de Moscou et de toutes les Eglises orthodoxes autocéphales.

La création d’une métropole ukrainienne peut s’insérer dans un projet plus global. La décision d’organiser un « Synode d’unification » à Kiev s’est tenu le 15 décembre 2018 précipite sans doute des projets mûris depuis de nombreuses années. Pour l’Eglise de Constantinople, il s’agit de rationnaliser des diasporas qui souhaiteraient recevoir plus d’autonomie par rapport au Phanar. Celui-ci doit aussi veiller à l’authenticité du message orthodoxe tel qu’il est annoncé et transmis dans divers continents.

Le même souci anime le patriarcat de Moscou. Le 28 décembre 2018, le Synode de l’Eglise orthodoxe russe de Moscou a décidé de créer deux nouvelles structures. Suite aux péripéties ukraniennes, il crée un « Exarchat de Chersonèse (Korsun) et d’Europe Occidentale » qui comprend tous les pays d’Europe autrefois confiés au Métropolite Euloge. On remarquera pourtant l’absence des pays scandinaves qui ne sont pas inclus dans la nouvelle entité, bien que le patriarcat de Moscou et l’Eglise Hors-Frontière aient des paroisses en Europe du Nord.

Le deuxième Exarchat est créé dans le Sud-Est asiatique avec pour siège la ville de Singapour et comprend tous les pays de ces régions extrême-orientales (République de Singapour, Cambodge, Corée du Sud, Laos, Malaisie, Myamar, Philippines, Thailande).

On peut déceler un mouvement plus subtil de positionnement des deux patriarcats, Constantinople et Moscou, qui exercent ou veulent imposer leur autorité et influences religieuses traditionnelles dans des régions précises du monde. On pourrait parler d’un partage, voire d’une redistribution territoriale significative, sécurisée par des statuts canoniques novateurs ou inédits, voire contestables par certaines juridictions.

Les Européens seront étonnés de voir l’émergence de l’Exarchat moscovite en Europe occidentale. Celui-ci prend la suite de la structure créée en 1931 par le Métropolite Euloge. L’actuel Archidiocèse des Eglises russes en Europe occidentale est acculé à un choix de survie particulièrement difficile qui devrait être résolu en février 2019.

L’Exarchat du Sud-Est asiatique semblerait plus lointain. Pourtant, il concerne directement Israël. L’Etat hébreu comprend un nombre très important de travailleurs expatriés originaires de tous ces pays d’Asie. Des communautés philippines se sont installées depuis des décennies, de même que des thailandais. Les pèlerins originaires d’Indonésie, de Corée du Sud viennent à Jérusalem.

Ils ne sont pas uniquement de confession catholique; nombreux sont les orthodoxes et ceux qui rejoignent les communautés chrétiennes orientales (forte présence de l’Eglise Hors-Frontière). Peu de temps après la création de l’Eglise orthodoxe d’Ukraine (Constantinople), le Patriarche Bartholomée s’est rendu en Corée du Sud où le diocèse grec dépendant du Phanar connaît un rayonnement certain. Le patriarcat de Moscou vient de créer une nouvelle structure à Séoul

Le Patriarche Bartholomée exige le contrôle de tous les églises ukrainiennes liées à l’ancien patriarcat schismatique de Kiev, restreignant l’autorité du jeune métropolite Epiphani, élu lors du synode d’unification (15 décembre 2018) au seul territoire de la république d’Ukraine.

Cette prétention territoriale s’explique par l’importance de la diaspora ukrainienne dans le monde, notamment en Amérique du Nord et du Sud. Mais en prenant le contrôle canonique et spirituel de cette Ukraine internationale, le patriarche oecuménique pourrait aussi avoir un droit de regard sur les fidèles ukrainiens – ou se reconnaissant tels – qui habitent en Israël, résident dans les Territoires palestiniens ou travaillent comme expatriés dans les Emirats du Golfe. A Jérusalem, des centaines d’Ukrainiens orthodoxes arrivent chaque jour pour visiter les Lieux Saints.

Il est trop tôt pour faire une description précise de ce que cela pourrait signifier pour le territoire du patriarcat de Jérusalem. Le Patriarcat de Jérusalem a une importante dette morale envers le Phanar. Il doit faire face à des difficultés grandissantes avec les communautés locales : les arabes d’Israël et de Palestine, le clergé autochtone de Jordanie et le maintien d’un clergé helléno-orthodoxe, traditionnellement composé de descendants des  Grecs du Pont-Euxin, exterminés lors du génocide de 1915 mené par les Jeunes Turcs. Les instances patriarcales peinent à garder le contact direct avec les populations locales, y compris au niveau linguistique (hébreu et arabe, mais aussi les langues européennes).

Les représentants de la république d’Ukraine en Israël soutiennent la création de l’Eglise orthodoxe « unifiée ». Ils le font de manière trans-juridictionnelle : en Terre Sainte, toutes les Eglises se trouvent normalement sous l’autorité du patriarche orthodoxe de Jérusalem. Celui-ci doit faire face aux projets parlementaires et juridiques israéliens : vérification des propriétés foncières, des territoires. Des groupes juifs et/ou israéliens ont acquis en sous-main – parfois avec l’aide de fidèles orthodoxes arabes ou des malversations effectuées à partir de la Grèce ou de Chypre – des bâtiments ou des propriétés foncières. On ignore souvent que certaines de ces propriétés appartenaient autrefois à des colons juifs au temps du Mandat britannique (les deux hôtels de la Porte de Jaffa par exemple).

Le face-à-face entre Israéliens et les juridictions religieuses peu enclines à se soutenir sur la durée devrait normalement s’intensifier en raison du souhait des autorités israéliennes de rationnaliser leurs relations avec des structures confessionnelles essentiellement dirigées par des instances situées en-dehors de l’Etat hébreu. La question de la participation des Eglises – fidèles et hiéarchie – à la vie « citoyenne » au sein de la société israélienne reste encore du domaine de l’utopie. Il reste les frais de fonctionnement et les impôts, les dettes accumulées par les Eglises sur plusieurs décennies.

Le Roi Abdullah de Jordanie a souvent remis en question les actions menées par le patriarche de Jérusalem. Il a permis à la Mission ecclésiastique du patriarcat de Moscou à Jérusalem et aux représentants de la Société Impériale Orthodoxe de Palestine (Императорское православное палестинское общество) – créée en 1882 – d’ouvrir des centre culturels, des lieux d’accueil pour les pèlerins se réclamant du patriarcat de Moscou et de l’Eglise Hors-Frontière.

Le patriarcat de Moscou a donc des projets sérieux de rénovation et de déploiement de son action spirituelle, théologique mais aussi stratégique à Jérusalem et en Terre Sainte. Ceci s’explique par une tradition ancienne : les croyant orthodoxes russes ont adhéré en profondeur au message chrétien lors de la conversion de la Rus de Kiev et son extension vers Moscou : « Ils n’ont pas adhérés à des mythologies germaniques, latines ou grecques mais au récit biblique » dont ils sont imprégnés.

Le patriarcat de Moscou est l’héritier de temps privilégiés dans l’histoire des Lieux saints du christianisme. L’Eglise orthodoxe russe a appuyé, à l’époque ottomane, le soutien que la Sublime Porte a témoigné envers le patriarcat orthodoxe de Jérusalem, première Eglise ou « Mère de toutes les Eglises de Dieu » comme l’affirme l’inscription du Katholikon, la grande nef du Saint-Sépulcre confiée à la Fraternité Hagiotaphite (communauté gardienne de l’église de la Résurrection de Jérusalem). Les relations n’ont pas toujours été faciles.

Au fond, dans une dimension apparemment plus confessionnelle, l’Eglise russe considère que son importance devrait lui assurer un droit de regard plus substantiel sur la gestion de l’Eglise locale. Récemment, le patriarcat de Moscou est intervenu pour que la dette en eau du Saint-Sépulcre dont le patriarcat helléno-orthodoxe est responsable au nom des communautés  chrétiennes, soit apurée. Le patriarche Kyrill se déplaça personnellement à cette occasion.

Un grand nombre de fidèles orthodoxes sont arrivés en Israël depuis le temps des refuzniki arrivés dans le pays dès les années 1970, puis un million et demi entre 1991 et aujourd’hui. Certains peuvent se prévaloir d’un droit au retour selon la loi israélienne. D’autres sont arrivés comme conjoints d’une personne qui pouvait bénéficier du droit au retour. A certains moments, on a compté jusqu’à 400 000/300 000 personnes dites « autres/acherim – אחרים » baptisées en Union soviétique en raison d’un mouvement massif vers l’Eglise.

Dans le Sud du pays, le Neguev, on compte environ 150 000 personnes. L’Eglise orthodoxe de Jérusalem a peu développé l’assistance à ces fidèles, souvent de manière hésitante. J’ai monté des groupes de langues hébraïque et slave ou autre (dont l’ukrainien et le biélorusse, le moldave). La nostalgie culturelle et une identité chrétienne orthodoxe peu assuré dans un contexte judaïque fort incitent à trouver des voies plutôt parallèles, en particuliers grâce au digital.

Le patriarcat de Moscou a peu favorisé l’inculturation hébraïque. Certes, il m’est arrivé, à une époque trop courte, de célébrer en hébreu et en slavon à la cathédrale de la Sainte Trinité à Jérusalem (Kikar Safra). Ce fut possible car les textes avaient été édités par le Synode de Moscou en 1841. Le patriarche de Jérusalem et les autorité orthodoxes russes avaient donné leur accord. Les procédures administratives qui protègent souvent le renouveau de l’Eglise russe dans le monde a malheureusement compliqué un mouvement qu’il faut relancer.

Historiquement, l’Eglise russe a aidé les chrétiens orthodoxes arabophones depuis la création de la Mission ecclésiastique à Jérusalem. Certains prêtres arabes ont fait leurs études en Union soviétique, parlent parfaitement russe et ont souvent épousé une femme russe ou ukrainienne. On assiste à un flot d’échanges des personnes denses entre la société israélienne et les familles des Territoires palestiniens.

Il faut tenir compte des mariages mixtes, souvent entre juives devenues chrétiennes et des arabes chrétiens qui cherchent à se marier. Ceci est général dans la région. L’innovation est partout : on sait que les Samaritains, alertés par leur chute démographique et les problèmes consanguins, ont intégré un nombre appréciable de femmes ukrainiennes admises dans leur communauté sans rite de conversion. Cela ne veut pas dire que ces épouses aient renoncé au christianisme. Les choses sont très subtiles dans le pays.

Israël ne cède pas aux exigences – parfois légitimes – du patriarcat de Moscou qui affirme actuellement, avec l’Eglise Hors-Frontière – la régénérescence de la « Russie palestinienne » créée au 19-ème siècle. L’actuel Patriarche Kyrill en a fait l’expérience dès 1967 lorsqu’il fit son premier voyage à Jérusalem alors qu’il était en charge des Affaires extérieures du patriarcat de Moscou.

Israël laisse aussi des groupes « vagantes/vagabonds » et invertébrés de prêtres orthodoxes ordonnés dans les juridictions non-canoniques et minoritaires d’Ukraine, de Moldavie, de Belarus, de Bulgarie ou de Grèce (Vieux-calendaristes). Cette situation est peu connue, rarement évoquée dans la période actuelle d’ »unification » en vogue en Ukraine. Du côté de Kiev et d’Odessa comme dans la campagne israélienne (!), on peut trouver tout une constellation indéterminée de « sectaires/сектанты » d’expression slave. En Palestine, certains prêtres ont quitté le patriarcat de Jérusalem pour des juridictions russes parallèles aux structures officielles.

Le fait de disposer d’une juridiction orthodoxe ukrainienne est donc important pour le Phanar. Si le patriarche oecuménique, outre la qualité de « Primus inter pares » dont il se prévaut au sein des Eglises-soeurs, pouvait jouir d’une autorité assurée sur la diaspora ukrainienne, il serait en mesure de trouver des voies d’intervention plus directe en Terre Sainte. Ce ne serait envisageable que si, dans un mouvement encore inattendu, la république d’Ukraine réclamait, au nom de sa nouvelle Eglise orthodoxe unifiée, des biens qui auraient été acquis depuis l’installation des missions russes en Terre Sainte.

L’avenir politique de la république d’Ukraine est incertain, mais la création de la nouvelle Eglise indépendante sur le territoire national ouvre sur des perspectives apparemment inédites ou peu prise en considération. Celles-ci seraient fondées sur le « mythe » d’une identité orthodoxe ukrainienne puissante, parallèle à la russéité née de Byzance et assurément internationale. Cette identité s’exprime régulièrement dans les médias ukrainiens et en Israël.  Elle pourrait agir par le jeu de connivences tant politiques que religieuses.

Ceci s’affirme aussi par les tentatives d’intervention du patriarcat orthodoxe d’Antioche en Jordanie. Le patriarcat de Jérusalem doit redoubler de vigilance. Il a initié des actions importantes (éducation, vie religieuse) à la requête du Roi Abdullah. A l’heure actuelle, sans le savoir-faire séculaire de la communauté helléno-orthodoxe, il ne serait pas impensable qu’une fracture intervienne dans le patriarcat de Jérusalem : une juridiction proche d’Antioche et de Moscou en Jordanie et le renforcement des Grecs en Israël – Cisjordanie – Gaza.

L’hypothèse « ukrainienne » est moins illusoire qu’il ne paraît. On parlerait volontiers de « plans sur la comète » ou d’utopies invraisemblables à l’évocation de telles perspectives. Ce serait ignorer les soubresauts profonds qui agitent par vagues répétitives, de plus en plus fréquentes, l’évolution des Eglises traditionnelles au Proche-Orient, à Jérusalem (Israël, Cisjordanie, Gaza, Jordanie). Ce serait méconnaître les luttes d’influences ciblées qui se produisent discrètement entre les grandes puissances diplomatiques, les Etats et, en conséquence, les Eglises qui se redéploient alors que la région est en feu.

Il reste que le patriarcat de Moscou agit le plus souvent en se conformant aux règles du droit canonique des différentes traditions orthodoxes. Ceci pourrait étonner. C’est pourtant ce qui s’est passé à Jérusalem quand le candidat à l’élection patriarcale qui bénéficiait du soutien de l’Eglise russe fut battu. Moscou fit le dos rond… et acquiesca. De même, lors de l’élection à l’unanimité du Patriarche Théophilos en 2005, le Synode de Moscou acquiesca. Dans les péripéties actuelles, le patriarcat de Moscou ne se rebiffe pas, prend des décisions contestées (suspension de la Communion eucharistique avec Constantinople).

Il faut souligner qu’il veille à agir, le plus souvent,  par des voies canoniques telles que la constitution de nouvelles structure ecclésiastiques en Europe et en Asie. Il faut aussi tenir compte du fait que l’Eglise russe a fréquemment été blessée, gravement parfois, au cours du siècle passé et tient à consolider ses possessions grâce à la Fédération de Russie. Ce n’est pas souvent compris alors que la plupart des Eglises disposent de structures étatiques qui sécurisent leurs biens et activités (Vatican, Etats européens).

La plupart des Eglises orthodoxes – y compris celle de Grèce – ont exprimé leur désaccord face aux initiatives prises par le Phanar en vue d’accorder l’autocéphalie unilatérale à une nouvelle Eglise orthodoxe en Ukraine… Elles l’ont dit et écrit…

Tels sont les faits ou les événements de ce début du 21-ème siècle. La véritable question est celle de l’authenticité du message christique, de la véracité du témoignage. Il ne saurait être question de concurrence, de compétition. Ce serait puéril, même si les tensions ont traversé des siècles d’antagonismes. Il reste l’ouverture à toutes les nations, toutes les cultures, toutes les langues sans faire d’exception.

Cette faculté à s’ouvrir à tous repose d’abord sur un enracinement ferme dans la foi, foi vivante et vécue avec authenticité.

D’un Exarchat l’autre… From one to another Exarchate…

“D’un Exarchat l’autre” from one to another Exarchate, the French writer Louis-Ferndinand Céline would have said. Things slowly show up. On November 30 last, the Exarchate of the Russian Churches in Western Europe was abruptly dissolved by the Synod of the patriarchate of Constantinople. The Phanar was about to create the new “Orthodox Church of Ukraine”. The cancellation of the quality of an “Exarchate” for the reduced portion of heritage of Metropolitan Euloge created a lot of trouble in the concerned body, a historic part of the development of the Orthodox spirit and renewal in Western Europe following the Greek and Russian revolutions a century ago.

The Archdiocese was proposed to join the Greek existing metropoles that readily exist in Western Europe. This was decided quite quickly, on the spot. It was decided by HH. Bartholomaios without informing Abp Jean (Renneteau) of Charioupolis and his diocesan secretary who were at the Phanar for the Synod. They got in shock and returned to Paris to get more news and reflect on the situation.

It appears that the “right out of the blue” decision was somehow planned because the Phanar could not ignore that the patriarchate of Moscow would react quite swiftly to the creation of a new Church structure in Ukraine as Patriarch Bartholomaios carried things out, assisted by Metropolitan Emmanuel of Gauls (Paris and France).

In its winter session that was convened on December 28, 2018 in Moscow, the Synod of the patriarchate of Moscow decided to create a new structure covering the historic territories of late Metropolitan Euloge into an “Exarchate of Korsun and Western Europe”.

The news is too fresh. Still, this also shows that the patriarchate of Moscow establishes canonical and spiritual centers and builds up its ecclesiology throughout the world as he also decided on the same day to set up specific Church organizations in Asia.

Nonetheless, Paris and subsequently Western Europe switches from Moscow patriarchal dioceses (eparchies) to a real Exarchate with a large territory. Many bishops serve there. I already mentioned in many articles that the appointment of Abp Elisey (Ganaba) from London to the Netherlands [and Tikhon (Zaytsev) to Berlin and Germany whose eparchy is not included in the new Exarchate] was a first move that followed the visit of Patriarch Kyrill in Europe in 2016, when he consecrate the new cathedral at Paris and re-consecrated the cathedral in London. He thoroughly explained then the century of the history of the patriarchate of Moscow in Western Europe, also in Zürich when he visited a parish that formerly belonged to the Archdiocese of the Russian Churches in Western Europe. Both hierarchs have served in Jerusalem.

The assignment of Bishop John (Roshchin) of Bogorodsk as the first Exarch of the new Western European structure is also interesting. The hierarch went through the major major Russian monasteries (Pecherskaya Lavra and St Sergius Lavra), was a student at the Saint Vladimir Institute of theology (comp. with Saint Sergius Institute of Theology in Paris), was named “Ioann” in honor of Saint John of Shanghai and San Francisco, a Saint whose activities were significant among the Orthodox diaspora in France and Western Europe with a strong and charismatic sense of the Orthodox faith. He has been serving in Italy and will keep have the control of the Italian eparchy for the moment. He had also been in charge of inter-Church relationships.

Bishop Nestor (Sirotenko) of Korsun had studied at the Saint Sergius Institute of Theology in Paris and served within the framework of the then-Exarchate of the Russian parishes in Western Europe (now Archdiocese) when late Abp Sergey (Konovaloff) of Evkarpia was the head of the structure. He has a strong understanding of the situation in Paris and in the different parishes of the Diocese of Korsun (patriarchate of Moscow) in Western Europe. He is appointed to structure the Diocese of Spain and Portugal with its see in Madrid. It is the work of a “Church builder” in other lands and regions.

The Archdiocese will have to take a decision about its future with a new Exarch, a young bishop who did not serve in the French environment. Indeed, it should be noted that the new Exarch studied in the Orthodox Seminary of Saint Vladimir in the United States and also at a Catholic American University whilst Bishop Nestor participated in the cultural backgrounds of the Archdiocese. Thus both certainly got to the core of the Eulogian ways of thinking the Church and the spirit of the two Schools of Paris. This certainly can be shown in the various conferences organized by the Korsun diocese on many personalities and Russian theologians, thinkers, monks who were active in Western Europe.

(I postpone for the moment the publication of my article on the overview of the new structures in the Orthodox Churches).


The decision of the Synod of the patriarchate of Moscow, in Russian:

ЖУРНАЛ № 105

ИМЕЛИ СУЖДЕНИЕ о положении церковных дел в странах Западной Европы.


1. Образовать Патриарший Экзархат в Западной Европе с центром в Париже.

2. Включить в сферу пастырской ответственности указанного Экзархата следующие страны: Княжество Андорра, Королевство Бельгия, Соединенное Королевство Великобритании и Северной Ирландии, Ирландия, Королевство Испания, Итальянская Республика, Княжество Лихтенштейн, Великое Герцогство Люксембург, Княжество Монако, Королевство Нидерландов, Португальская Республика, Республика Франция, Швейцарская Конфедерация.

3. Главе Патриаршего Экзархата в Западной Европе иметь титул «Корсунский и Западноевропейский».

4. Главой Патриаршего Экзархата в Западной Европе назначить Преосвященного епископа Богородского Иоанна с указанным ранее титулом.

5. Преосвященному епископу Богородскому Иоанну быть правящим архиереем Корсунской епархии с сохранением временного управления Приходами Русской Православной Церкви в Италии.

6. Образовать епархию Русской Православной Церкви в Испании и Португалии с центром в Мадриде.

7. Епархиальному архиерею Испанско-Португальской епархии иметь титул «Мадридский и Лиссабонский».

8. Преосвященному епископу Корсунскому Нестору быть епископом Мадридскими Лиссабонским.

La loi du silence

Il y a des jours où les girouettes semblent s’accorder par-delà les siècles, les traditions et l’espace. Le 22 octobre retient l’attention. En soi , un jour ordinaire. Il faut un goût particulier pour repérer d’un coup d’oeil des points de convergence qui s’imbriquent naturellement. Est-ce- pourtant cohérent ?

Il reste que les fuseaux horaires permettent de mixer des nouvelles ou des faits qui, en ce moment, peuvent présenter un intérêt réel ou relatif. Un évêque grec-orthodoxe s’est empressé d’expliquer en anglais, en grec et en turc que, le 22 octobre marquait le 27-ième anniversaire de l’élection du Patriarche oecuménique Bartholomée de Constantinople et de la Nouvelle Rome. La presse ukrainienne souligna avec empressement que le prétendu “patriarche” Philarète de Kiev – redevenu archevêque et métropolite par décision personnelle – fêtait le même jour le vingt-troisième anniversaire de son statut patriarcal.

Une heure plus tard, le Saint-Siège célébrait le quarantième anniversaire de l’intronisation, le 22 octobre 1978, du Pape Jean-Paul II (Archevêque de Cracovie Karol Wojtyla)… Bref une journée marquée par le primat d’une slavité chrétienne marchant entre des faits inédits et une actualité brûlante. Le poumon chrétien d’Europe orientale tousse en ce moment et continue de gémir comme au long des quatre dernières décennies.

En France, la journée aurait plutôt commencé par le mémorial de Guy Môquet, exécuté avec 29 autres otages le 22 octobre 1941… Il faudra attendre ce même jour d’octobre 1999 pour que Maurice Papon soit emprisonné pour crimes contre l’humanité. Dans ce registre, la surprise du jour, en cette année 2018, viendra du décès inattendu du négationniste britannique (de mère écossaise et de père français) qui distilla ses fantasmes morbides sur l’Holocauste à l’Université de Lyon. De retour d’un congrès dans sa ville natale de Shepperton, Robert Faurisson était mort la veille, dans la nuit, à Vichy, la capitale de l’Etat Français. Humour ou dérision ?

Lyon ? C’est le siège d’une ville primatiale de la Gaule. Un haut-lieu de la Résistance, posée sur les rives du Rhône qui unit les Alpes du Valais suisse à la République de Genève et creuse un sillon fertile de la culture et des productions agricoles françaises. Lyon ? Une ville toujours d’actualité, faite de résistants, de recherches, de savoir, de politiques feutrées et d’une foi venue de l’Orient hellénistique.

Pourtant aujourd’hui, Lyon, c’est un ministre sur le retour et un cardinal sur le repli. Une faculté catholique en expansion, dynamisée par la capacité de la région à s’ouvrir sur les traditions nombreuses d’un christianisme qui s’y présenta sans frilosité, avec le courage des premiers martyrs morts dans les cirques.

Il y a des femmes en France : Blandine à Lyon, Geneviève à Paris, Clothilde pour Clovis…

Quel jour curieux ! L’Europe est traversée, par des niches socio-culturelles  scellées, des interrogations sur l’avenir spirituelle de certaines contrées. Le 22 octobre est un jour quelconque tout comme l’Evangile parle de “serviteurs quelconques” (Luc 17, 5-10). Est-ce si banal?

Un jeune prêtre, le père Pierre-Yves Fumery, vient de mettre fin à ses jours, dans le presbytère du Giénnois qui fait partie du diocèse d’Orléans. L’évêque Jacques Blaquart est un homme respecté, de grandes qualités humaines. La nouvelle monte comme une rumeur ombrageuse et disparaît. L’Eglise n’apprécie pas les scoops. Dans le cas, c’est un homme de 38 ans, ordonné en 2014. Comme le père Jean-Baptiste Sèbe qui avait mis fin à ses jours à Rouen voici deux mois, on peut visualiser ses vidéos. Il est de son temps. A-t-il eu des gestes déplacés envers des adolescentes ? L’évêque expliquera, dans une conférence, qu’il lui avait demandé de se reposer un temps, de consulter un psychologue. La police avait conclu, après une enquête d’un mois, que rien ne pouvait être retenu contre l’ecclésiastique. Deux jours après l’annonce, celui-ci mettait fin à ses jours laissant deux lettres de pardon.

Un deuxième prêtre catholique venait de se suicider en France. Le jeudi 20 septembre dernier, Mgr Dominique Lebrun, archevêque de Rouen, expliquait que le père Jean-Baptiste Sèbe, retrouvé mort dans les combles de son église, avait reconnu des gestes inappropriés à l’égard d’un jeune femme qui ne se manifesta pas.

Le 26 juillet 2016, dans l’église de Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray près de Rouen, le père Jacques Hamel était égorgé alors qu’il célébrait la messe. Il mourut en s’écriant “Arrière, Satan !”. Choquée, réclamant l’ouverture de la cause de canonisation de l’ecclésiastique, les catholiques s’interrogeaient sur le message de la foi dans un pays hanté par la laïcité héritée de l’affaire Dreyfus mais que l’on peut aussi faire remonter à Talleyrand-Périgord et sa gestion des biens de l’Eglise de France.

Oui, pourtant ce 22 octobre 2018 reste le jour de l’intronisation du Pape Jean-Paul II. Venu en France en 1981, il s’était écrié “France, qu’as-tu fait du don de ton baptême ?” Et l’Eglise se réveille avec un deuxième prêtre suicidaire.

Est-il déraisonnable ou malséant de noter que ces deux villes portent la marque de l’héroïne chrétienne la plus audacieuse du pays : Jeanne d’Arc, la Pucelle de Domrémy, fille de Lorraine à la destinée singulière ? La pucelle de dix-sept ans allait délivrer la France de l’occupation anglaise à l’appel de l’archange Michel, de Marguerite d’Antioche et de Catherine d’Alexandrie. L’Eglise répondait alors à des appels d’une chrétienté ancienne, ancrée au pourtour méditerranéen et aux premiers patriarcats enserrés dans l’empire d’Orient et d’Occident.

Lorsque Gilles de Retz, le compagnon de combat de la jeune sainte, fut condamné à mort pour le meurtre de centaines d’enfants victimes de mises en scènes obscènes, perverses et pédophiles, il traversa Paris, le 26 octobre 1440, appelant le peuple de Paris à prier pour son salut et la conversion de tous. Une telle procession expiatioire serait impensable aujourd’hui dans un pays d’Europe occidentale.  Gilles de Retz vivait à un moment où il était fréquent que les laïcs s’investissent jusqu’à la folie en Dieu dans le rachat de l’âme et la solidarité d’un corps souvent happé par les péchés. Ils se nourrissaient de la communion eucharistique, celle de la résurrection.

Aujourd’hui, deux jeunes prêtres de France ont mis fin à leurs jours. Anonymement, le malaise s’imprime sur le fardeau pesant d’agendas surchargés à l’extrême comme si la course christique devait concurrencer “un temps court” alors qu’il est question de vie éternelle et d’entrer dans la joie sur la route de l’amour véritable.

L’amour véritable ? Entre Jeanne d’Arc et Gilles de Retz, il y a la fragilité de destins qui ont été saisis par la foi  reçue comme une révélation en forme d’écriture automatique ou la folie assassine, imprégnée de sorcellerie païenne. On était alors en 1440… [nous sommes aujourd’hui en l’an 1440 de l’Hégire]. Oui, pas même au milieu du 15-ième siècle. D’un côté une foi ardente, intuitive, souvent illétrée mais emplie de pureté. De l’autre, la sauvagerie de débauches ésotériques frétillant aux sources d’une idolâtrie arrimée aux âmes atterrées par la précarité de la vie humaine.

A Lyon, un prêtre jeune et fringant, homme-orchestre et prédicateur à succès partait voici peu pour se marier tandis que le diocèse s’enlisait dans les affres d’exactions sexuelles qui se jouaient des règles de la République au nom de la séparation de l’Eglise et de l’Etat.

On est loin du “Défroqué” (1954), le film où Pierre Fresnay campait le prêtre Morand ayant quitté les ordres, contraint de se dévoiler et de donner l’absolution dans un stalag en Allemagne.  Il y suscita la vocation d’un jeune séminariste, Lacassagne. Une fois ordonné, celui-ci rendit visite à Morand. Ils se disputèrent et le “défroqué” tua accidentellement son jeune ami qui lui donna l’absolution avant de mourir.

L’Eglise catholique traverse une crise nouvelle, cinglante, mondiale. C’est d’autant plus violent que les faits conduisent à la révocation en chaîne de certains personnels épiscopaux, sacerdotaux. A un niveau désormais international, de nombreuses commissions et tribunaux nationaux révèlent l’inconduite du clergé envers des milliers d’enfants, garçons et filles. Les décisions de justice conduisent au discrédit du clergé et au réveil brutal de consciences volontiers opacifiées sur les turpitudes ecclésiastiques. La crise est profonde, historique et frappe, en fait, toutes les confessions.

En Orient chrétien, les choses sont encore plus feutrées ou floutées par le caractère étonnamment “exogène” des chrétiens dans le Croissant Fertile. C’est particulièrement perceptible dans l’historique du patriarcat grec-orthodoxe de Jérusalem. En 1996, le rapatriement à Jérusalem d’un prêtre sauvé de la prison  pour exactions sexuelles à Athènes provoqua l’exode volontaire de nombreux membres du clergé qui continuent d’agir en faveur du Saint-Sépulcre depuis l’étranger (Grèce, Athos ou les Etats-Unis). La même chose se reproduisit lorsqu’en 2001, le journal israélien “Kol Ha’ir/כל העיר” publia des clichés choquants qui furent ramassés sur la place de la Porte de Jaffa. L’affaire fut étouffée mais le gouvernement israélien interdit aux personnes incriminées de se porter candidats au rang de patriarche.

En 2013, l’ensemble des jeunes garçons qui faisaient leurs études au “séminaire, école patriarcale du Mont Sion” quittèrent précipitamment la Vieille Ville. Leurs mères grecques étaient venues les chercher discrètement.

Les femmes d’Orient adorent toucher de la main le “phélonion ou chasuble” que porte un prêtre byzantin. Une tradition tactile où s’exprime le besoin impérieux, sensuel et superstieux de toucher la “sainteté du vêtement liturgique” comme la personne christique du serviteur de Dieu. Il faut alors garder ses distances, d’autant que l’exaltation est multipliée lorsque l’on approche de Lieux aussi saints que l’Eglise de la Résurrection. Les tentations peuvent être violentes. J’ai toujours été étonné que de nombreux prêtres grecs me demandent de les confesser  et de les absoudre pour “un moment d’égarement charnel à la requête trop instante d’une femme en pèlerinage à Jérusalem” (sic).

La raison est simple : le célébrant byzantin sait qu’il entre dans l’espace sacré de l’altar’/aлтарь, le sanctuaire au tracé historiquement issu du Temple biblique. L’iconostase a servi de protection contre les barbares. Il indique que le ministre ordonné offre le Sacrifice en quittant la vie habituelle pour se tenir devant le Créateur et le Fils de l’Homme. Il sortira avec la Coupe du Salut où se trouvent le Corps et le Sang du Seigneur ressuscité, la coupe représentant le sein maternel reçu dans un “saint des saints” qui est aussi les entrailles de la transubstantiation.

Il y a la force vive, puissante, viscérable et presqu’assassine d’essayer de convaincre celui qui offre le Sacrifice qu’il est possible de le détourner de l’acte salvifique et eucharistique, quitte à s’égarer, pour de brefs instants, dans de prétendus plaisirs hors la loi et sans lendemain. Fascination mortelle et, il faut en convenir, de nature “dia-bolique”.

L’Orient reste dans une verticalité que d’aucuns voudraient “aplanir”. C’est la tendance la plus naturelle, grégaire. Combien de femmes très croyantes et des hommes nouvellement convertis en hommes d’affaires tentent d’extraire les prêtres pour se les approprier. Comme s’ils pouvaient alors s’emparer du sacré où l’acheter, en disposer à leur guise, les soumettre à leurs tentations. A cet égard, il y a des oligarques ou des nouveaux riches, des néo-fonctionnaires en vogue qui construisent leurs propres monastères ou églises et en arrivent à mensualiser les services d’un prêtre qui leur est tout dévoué, dépouillé de véritable autorité spirituelle. Ceci était fréquent en Occident, en particulier au Moyen-Age. Gilles de Retz fit des dépenses somptuaires pour sa “chapelle des Saints-Innocents”.

Les scandales sont imbriqués dans des malversations financières, autoritatistes (cléricalisme ou “pélagisme”, termes en vogue) dans de nombreux pays d’Europe (Irlande, Allemagne, Pays-Bas), des Amériques et d’Australie (l’Afrique est très pauvre).

Le précédent de l’Eglise nationale luthérienne islandaise, en 2012 et les années qui suivirent la débacle financière, s’est exprimé par des violations effroyables de la morale chrétienne : Deux évêques luthériens – Karl Sigurbjörnsson et Ólafur Skúlasson – furent accusé d’abus sexuels aggravés, dont le viol de la fille de Skúlasson par son père qui vivaient avec plusieurs femmes. Ceci conduisit à la démission de la haute hiérarchie de l’Eglise nationale islandaise et l’élection d’une femme-évêque (Agnes M. Sigurðardóttir) assistée de plusieurs femmes-pasteurs… De fait, ce furent les femmes qui sauvèrent l’Islande de la banque-route économique. Elles eurent moins de succès sur le plan pastoral.

La France reste sans voix devant les ondes de choc qui font surface en ce moment. La Fille aînée de l’Eglise semble tétanisée. L’ épiscopat bégaie entre un slam pieusard et des formules difficilement compréhensibles pour la société civile… Pourtant les chrétiens de France font montre d’une extraordinaire vitalité d’actions fortes auprès des plus démunis et des réfugiés.

Une situation délétère, en miroir de crimes moraux commis voici des décennies. L’Eglise aime le silence, la discrétion, le secret. Pourtant, la Loi du silence s’applique de manière stricte, dans le rite latin, en matière de confession. La hiérarchie vit de “choses sacrées” qui peuvent dériver et en venir à capter les âmes, affirmer être au-dessus de tout tribunal humain. La séparation de l’Eglise et de l’Etat combinée au caractère si particulier de la laïcité à la française tendent à souligner une distance – parfois hautaine ou douloureuse – envers les institutions nationales. A son coeur défendant, l’Eglise est soumise à la loi de la République.

Les récents suicides de deux jeunes prêtres de 38 ans, accusés de “gestes déplacés” envers des gamines ou une jeune femme restée anonyme s’apparentent-ils à la transgression, consciente ou irréfléchie, d’un tabou puissant au sein de l’Eglise ? En 2016, en Irlande, The National Catholic Reporter décrivait la situation du pays sinistré par les scandales pédophiles et financiers alors que le clergé local montrait des tendances au suicide : “La grande majorité des prêtres irlandais ont 70 ans et plus et vivent de plus en plus souvent de manière isolée, dans la solitude” ce qui leur fait dire : “Notre vie n’a plus vraiment de sens”. Un autre déclara : “Nous avons fait de notre mieux pour annoncer la Bonne Nouvelle mais, en ce moment, on nous décrit systématiquement comme porteurs de mauvaises nouvelles, des gens de pouvoir qui aiment contrôler, opprimer, limiter autrui et sont volontiers obsédés”. (Sarah Mac Donald, Dec. 2016). En Mars 1999, le prêtre catholique irlandais Seán Fortune se suicida à New Ross. Il fut accusé d’avoir abusé 29 garçons. En 2002, la BBC diffusa un documentaire sur ses activités intitulé “Suing the Pope”.

Il serait particulièrement long d’expliquer l’évolution interne aux patriarcats d’Orient et d’Occident où tant le suicide que les abus sexuels sont tenus en discrétion. C’est au Concile d’Orléans de Juin 533 que le suicide fut interdit pour la première fois (Article 15). Les Pères n’aprouvaient pas le suicide des prêtres mais acceptaient qu’on leur donne une sépulture chrétienne, surtout en Orient. En revanche, les vierges et les femmes consacrées ont souvent été célébrées si elles avaient mis fin à leurs jours afin de préserver leur virginité. Ceci reste une règle dans le judaïsme pieux (nombreux témoignages durant la Shoah).

Les premiers Pères de l’Eglise préfèrent ne pas s’attarder sur les abus sexuels (hétérosexualité, homosexualité ou pédophilie) commis par le clergé. Le silence sert toujours à préserver le rang ecclésiastique, bien que le principe de l’Ekonomia ne peut être utilisé pour acquitter les déviants (violeurs, sodomites) qui étaient nombreux dans l’Eglise primitive.

Il faut le remarquer : les réactions gênées, sinon ambigües, de la hiérarchie face au suicide et aux crimes sexuels ne donnent pas lieu à des analyses théologiques. Toutes les explications tournent à témoigner de l’amitié pour le clergé, le soutenir ou même le coucouner ; inviter des prêtres à dîner, au cinéma, à jouer au tarot (sic), à faire du hugs and kisses. Certes, cela ne peut pas faire de mal mais est-ce en phase avec l’appel vibrant de la liturgie “Sursum corda ! Elevons nos coeurs !” ?

Or, l’identité presbytérale (comme diaconale et épiscopale) s’enracine et trouve sa raison d’être dans la célébration eucharistique., et non dans une camaraderie de café du commerce, dans un entre-soi paroissial, horizontal à souhaits. A force de cogiter sur les rôles des laïcs et des non-laïcs, des ordonnés et et des simili-ordonnés où tout est égalitaire, les structures d’autorité ont sombré dans un saint frusquin ridicule et infantilisant.

On n’attaque pas l’Eglise, il est pratiquement impossible d’envoyer l’Eglise devant la justice. Les fidèles s’y opposent et, très souvent, les avocats chrétiens y sont hostiles. Est-il cependant crédible de fantasmer sur les jeux de rôles que l’analyse et peut-être la psychanalyse voudraient distinguer : le rôle du père, de la mère, de l’Eglise comme Mère et tout un attirail aguerri qui joue sur l’obéissance pratiquement absolue à la hiérarchie (alors que “ob-audire” veut dire “écouter par un accord commun”). Ou encore l’immaturité mentale, psychique, la crédulité face à la foi vive et authentique. La pédophilie – masculine comme féminine – est une perversion sexuelle qui s’affirme dans des pulsions irrépressibles de nature sadique.

On peut supposer que la tragédie pédophile et le suicide de prêtres s’inscrivent dans l’apostasie rampante et idolâtre qui – sous les oripeaux de la foi vraie – apparaît un peu partout dans le monde. Les perversions sexuelles sont parfaitement mentionnées dans la Bible (Sodome, Er, Onan, les enfants de Noé). Elles expliquent des pratiques qui ont perduré au cours de l’histoire, dans toutes les civilisations. Elles se distinguent du Don de la Loi Ecrite et Orale au Sinai qui permettent le discernement entre le bien et le mal, les commandements éthiques reçus du Créateur.

Les deux prêtres français qui se sont suicidés sont morts à 38 ans. Un âge sûrement significatif dans la maturation d’un parcours humain. C’est à peu près l’âge où, selon le Talmud, Isaac suivit son père Abraham avec obéissance jusqu’au mont Moriah et fut providentiellement sauvé du couteau sacrificiel “parce que Dieu a pourvu” (Genèse 22, 8.14)..

Le 17 Marcheshvan 5779 – à l’entrée du Shabbat “Vayera”, vendredi 26 octobre 2018 – marque le début du Déluge après que Noé et ses compagnons humains et animaux soient entrés dans l’arche. Le Déluge dura 365 jours (solaires) et 11 jours (lunaires).