Chronology of the evolution of the canonical situation for the Archdiocese of the Russian Orthodox Churches in Western Europe
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Nicolas Ross established this chronology for a presentation given at the Paris Saint-Serge Institute on February 1, 2004. It has been slightly modified and updated.

Until 1917

In the 19th century, Russian Churches in Western Europe were depending on three bodies: the Metropolitan of St. Petersburg (ecclesiastical subordination), the Holy Synod (appointments, control), and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (appointments, control, payment of the clergy).

1907-1911: these Churches came under the jurisdiction of Bishop Vladimir of Kronstadt, the auxiliary of the Metropolitan of St. Petersburg. Nominations were made on his proposal, after consultation with the other bodies. Bishop Vladimir performed the ordinations. He was residing in Rome.

In 1911, the old order was restored.


March 1922: Archbishop Evlogy of Volhynia was appointed by Metropolitan Benjamin of Petrogradto be the temporary administrator of Russian parishes in Western Europe (as vicar of the Metropolitan of Petrograd). He approached the Provisional Supreme Ecclesial Administration to obtain confirmation of his powers. With Patriarch Tikhon’s agreement, this organization started in 1919 in South Russia.

May 5, 1922: Patriarch Tikhon dissolved the Ecclesial Administration, installed in Karlovtsy, Yugoslavia. However, it remains in office. He appointed Bishop Evlogy, raised to the dignity of Metropolitan, at the head of all Russian parishes in Europe.
But Bishop Evlogy refused this responsibility and remained subject to the Ecclesial Administration as its vice-president. He only accepted the leadership of the Russian Churches in Western Europe.

1923: Bishop Evlogy addressed the Council of the Russian Church outside of Russia, and proposed the creation of an autonomous metropolis in Europe under the jurisdiction of the Patriarch of Moscow. It was refused by Karlovtsy.
In the same year, the Ecclesiastical Administration for parishes outside of Russia, presided by Bishop Antony of Kyiv, proclaimed that it (provisionally) constituted the supreme power in the entire Russian Church.

1925: The Ecclesial Administration became the Bishops Synod, while retaining the same powers.
In November  of the same year, the Synod recognized the authority of Metropolitan Peter, who was heading the Russian Church on a provisional basis.

1926: Bishop Evlogy split with the Synod of Karlovtsy, which removed his German parishes from his jurisdiction.

Bishop Evlogy recognized the authority of Bishop Sergius, locum tenens of the Russian Patriarchate. The latter required the Russian clergy abroad to declare their loyalty to Soviet power.
Bishop Evlogy accepted, but in the form of a renunciation any anti-Soviet political action. He was supported by his diocesan assembly by a very large majority.
A few priests then left his jurisdiction.

The Synod of Karlovtsy refused the declaration of loyalty and split with Metropolitan Sergius.

1927: Bishop Evlogy  was removed from office by the Synod. He addressed the Patriarch of Constantinople, who assured him of his support, and claimed to recognize neither the decision of the Synod of Karlovtsy, nor the Synod itself.

Metropolitan Sergius, for his part, considered the statement proposed by Bishop Evlogy  as insufficient and put pressure to return to the original text.

1930: Bishop Evlogy  participated in an ecumenical meeting in England to support the persecuted Russian Church. Metropolitan Sergius asked for explanations. Bishop Evlogy  expressed no regret. He was then dismissed and replaced by Bishop Vladimir of Nice, who refused the position.
The diocesan assembly asked Bishop Evlogy to remain. The latter tried to obtain from Metropolitan Sergius the authorization to head a “temporarily autonomous” diocese, grouping together the Russian parishes of Western Europe.
His proposition was refused by Metropolitan Sergius, he was suspended a divinis, and his parishes were transferred to Metropolitan Eleutherius (Bogoyavlenky) of Lithuania.

1931: Bishop Evlogy then addressed Patriarch Photius of Constantinople, who provisionally accepted his parishes under his jurisdiction in the form of an Exarchate, with the maintenance of internal autonomy and its own statutes, inspired by the resolutions of the Moscow Council (1917-1918).
Bishop Benjamin and a few priests remained faithful to Moscow.
The parish of Three Holy Hierarchs was founded on rue Pétel, Paris.

1935: Bishop Evlogy had kept in touch with Bishop Antony. In 1935, Bishop Evlogy went to the Council of the Synodal Church in Karlovtsy and signed an agreement with the Synod.

1936: This agreement, which greatly reduced the autonomy of Bishop Evlogy’s jurisdiction, was rejected by his diocesan assembly. It marked the definite split with the synodal church.


1940-44: A painful period, marked by difficult relations with the occupying authorities. Parishes on the territory of the Reich were transferred to the Russian Orthodox Church outside of Russia (ROCOR).
Metropolitan Seraphim, who represented this Church in Paris, tried in vain to ask the Germans the authorization to dissolve Bishop Evlogy’s Exarchate.

1944: On November 20, 1944, Bishop Evlogy secretly visited the USSR Embassy. Ambassador Bogomolov promised him an invitation to the Council of the Russian Church, which was to elect the new Patriarch (January-February 1945).

1945: The invitation arrived once the Council was over. Patriarch Alexy I wrote to Bishop Evlogy and offered him to return to the bosom of the Russian Church without obligation of repentance.

In August 1945, Metropolitan Nicholas of Krutitsy received Bishop Evlogy in the Patriarchal Russian Church, and concelebrated with him and many members of his clergy on rue Daru.

Bishop Nicolas then addressed the diocesan assembly and painted an idyllic picture of the situation of the Church in the USSR. A majority of delegates, led by Professor Kartachev and Father Vasily Zenkovski among others, remained skeptical. The Assembly demanded guarantees concerning the autonomy of the diocese, and considered it essential to have official leave from Constantinople.
Bishop Nicolas promised autonomy and said that Constantinople had already agreed. While waiting for the green light from Constantinople (which never came), Bishop Evlogy considered himself the exarch of both patriarchs.

1946: Bishop Evlogy reposed on August 8th.
On August 14, Bishop Vladimir was officially informed of Metropolitan Seraphim’s appointment (who was at the Moscow Patriarchate).

1946 – 1971

1946: Bishop Vladimir (Tikhonitsky), supported by his diocesan assembly, refused to leave the jurisdiction of Constantinople without leave from the patriarch. He was elected head of the Exarchate and led it until his death in 1959.

In the post-war years, Bishop Vladimir attempted a rapprochement with Metropolitan Anastasius (ROCOR). It failed.

1960: Election of Bishop Georges (Tarassoff), our last archbishop born and educated in Russia (1960-1981).

The idea of ​​the need for the creation of a local Orthodox Church began to find more and more supporters in the 1960s, especially among young people, but they were still largely in the minority.

1966: On December 26, 1965, Patriarch Athenagoras informed Bishop Georges that he was “entrusting his clergy and faithful to the Patriarch of Moscow’s care and paternal love”, and that he “had no doubt that Archbishop George would connect with Patriarch Alexy in due time to get his affairs in order”.
In February 1966, the Diocesan Assembly decided to create an independent diocese. They continued to hope for an accommodation with the Patriarchate of Constantinople. Intercommunion had not been broken.

1971 – 2018

1971: Return to Constantinople jurisdiction, but as a simple diocese of Russian Churches in Western Europe, attached to the Constantinople Patriarchate, “through the [Greek] Metropolitan of France”.
The latter then had to chair the Extraordinary Assemblies of the Archdiocese.

More and more voices stressed the need for the progressive establishment of a local Orthodox Church in Western Europe, with full control of its affairs.

1974: Motivated by a letter from Alexander Solzhenitsyn calling for the reconciliation and restoration of unity between the three branches of the Russian Church, the Third ROCOR Council addressed the Archdiocese and proposed them to meet, in order to begin a dialogue “at all time, in all places, at all levels.”
The Archdiocese refused, considering that a dialogue is possible only with a Church in communion with the entire Orthodox world. According to the Archdiocese, communion can only happen through the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

1981: Bishop Georges (Tarassoff)’s repose and Bishop Georges (Wagner)’s election.

1988: In cooperation with ROCOR, celebration in Paris and elsewhere of the millennium of the baptism of Russia. Beginning of friendly contacts with the Russian Church.
Bishop George declared (May 29, 1992 speech), “We are convinced that fidelity to our historical sources and the reality of rootedness should not exclude each another”.

1993: Bishop Georges (Wagner)’s repose and Bishop Sergius (Konovaloff)’s election.

1999: Tomos of Patriarch Bartholomew I, elevating the archdiocese to the rank of Exarchate of the Constantinople Patriarchate.

2013: Archbishop Gabriel’s repose and Archimandrite Job (Getcha)’s election.

2016: Bishop John (Renneteau)’s election.

2018: In November, the Holy Synod of the Constantinople Patriarchate announced the dissolution of the Archdiocese-Exarchate and repealed the Patriarchal Tomos of 1999.

2019: On February 23, the assembly of the Archdiocese refused its dissolution and started to look for ways of resolving its canonical situation.

To date, from 1922 to 2018, the Metropolis, then the Archdiocese of the Russian Orthodox Churches in Western Europe have changed 13 times of canonical status. It is high time to find a satisfactory and definitive solution.

Source in French

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About the Author

Emma Cazabonne

Emma Cazabonne

Emma Cazabonne was born and raised in France. She taught English before entering the Cistercian Order. She translated and published articles relevant to her interest in Cistercian spirituality, the Middle Ages, and Orthodoxy. She moved to the United States in 2001, converted to Orthodoxy in 2008, and married. Her husband is an Orthodox priest. She continued to publish articles, a Cistercian texts anthology, then finally launched her career in literary translation, while teaching French. If you are interested in having your book translated into French, she can be contacted here Newsletter

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