Source: Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
The Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate held a meeting at the Phanar on August 29 and 30. The press release concerning the results of the meeting was posted today (Saturday). https://www.facebook.com/ecumenicalpatriarchate/?__tn__=kCH-R&eid=ARCT1A3O6dAskvFf0ErJbFzhmpS-zkbxs6v_KkfWrsdlDqjDVGWmFku5vJ8J-roM5_ttDWTqYUX0B0vx&hc_ref=ARTsNzwPjolkEHRPNLm-QSwZq98tdu4TmBYM4oj2fjRpMI6kD44dNy3HoJI9gFhBMMM&fref=nf An English-language summary can be read at https://www.romfea.news/the-decisions-of-the-holy-synod-of-ecumenical-patriarchate/. The latter states:
During the meeting, it was decided to discharge Archbishop Ioannis [John] of Harioupolis from the Apostolic and Patriarchal Ecumenical Throne, personally and only to him, thereby relieving him of the responsibility of the Patriarchal Exarchate for Orthodox parishes of the Russian Tradition in Western Europe. As a consequence, Metropolitan Emmanuel of France is now responsible for parishes of the former Exarchate. The same is true of the rest of the former Exarchate parishes in other Western European countries, which fall under the responsibility of the respective Hierarchs of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in these areas. Furthermore, the Ecumenical Patriarchate has decided to appoint Archpriest Alexis Struve, University Professor, to replace the Head of St. Alexander Nevsky Holy Church in Paris.
This discharge occurs approximately a week before the scheduled extraordinary assembly of the communities within the Archdiocese of the Russian Orthodox Church in Western Europe. The assembly had been called by Archbishop John and is to be held in Paris on September 7. It is reported that Archbishop John, who plans to chair the meeting, is strongly in favor of accepting the proposal of the Moscow Patriarchate in which certain concessions are promised if the Archdiocese comes under Moscow’s jurisdiction.
The Office of the Archbishop (John) released today the following communique: http://www.exarchat.eu/spip.php?article2393 (official English translation). This communique may have been drafted before the discharge of the Archbishop had been communicated. The communique contains links to all of the documents that the Archbishop believes should be communicated to the assembly delegates. The communique also describes a meeting between the Archbishop and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew at Chambesy on August 17. My reading of the Archbishop’s communique is that the Ecumenical Patriarch showed little flexibility in retreating from the prior decision to dissolve the exarchate. On the other hand, a different version of the meeting has been posted at https://credo.press/226327/. The latter article contends: “Patriarch Bartholomew proposed returning under the omophorion of Constantinople. Moreover, he promised to maintain the status of a special independent structure for the archdiocese as part of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. According to this proposal, the archbishopric will continue to be directly subordinate to the Phanar, bypassing the French Metropolis. Patriarch Bartholomew assured Archbishop John that the process of creating a new charter of the archbishopric is now underway – with broad rights, as they were before.” Although the author of this article is very opposed to Archbishop John, some credence may be given to the part quoted above as the Archbishop’s communique states that one of three options is “to set up a bilateral dialogue [with the Ecumenical Patriarchate]to re-examine the possibility of a new ecclesial structure for our Archdiocese.”
The Archbishop’s communique makes it clear that the Ecumenical Patriarch asked that the assembly on September 7 be postponed. The apparent refusal of Archbishop John to postpone the assembly may be the reason for his discharge. The next week and a half should be very interesting. [Unfortunately, I will be on a short vacation beginning September 5 and will not be able to report on the events in an immediate fashion.]
The Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate met on Friday, August 30. The following are the minutes of the meeting. http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/5492005.html One of the most interesting items is that Archbishop Amvrosij (Ermakov) has been appointed rector of the Sretensky Theological Seminary. Archbishop Amvrosij was rector of the St. Petersburg Theological Academy from 2008 to July 2018, at which time he was appointed rector of the Moscow Theological Schools. On July 9, 2019, the Holy Synod appointed him acting rector of the Sretensky Theological Seminary, while retaining his position as rector of the Moscow Theological Academy. http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/118363.html (summary of Amvrosij’s prior positions and responsibilities) Now, the Holy Synod has relieved Archbishop Amvrosij of his responsibilities as rector of the Moscow Theological Academy and made him rector (now longer “acting”) of the Sretensky Theological Seminary. (Journal Entry 104) The Holy Synod has now also made Archbishop Amvrosij the “Namestnik” (Наместник – the governor of an stauropegial monastery) of the Sretensky Stauropegial (one under the direct supervision of the Patriarch) Monastery. (Journal Entry 105) Thus, Archbishop Amvrosij now heads both the Sretensky Monastery and its Seminary – the same positions that Metropolitan Tikhon (Shevkunov) held prior to May 19, 2018. http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/60784.html (summary of Tikhon’s prior positions and responsibilities).
Metropolitan Tikhon (Shevkunov) is, of course, the very popular bishop whom some believe might be the next Patriarch. He is also alleged to be the confessor of President Putin. Before he was transferred to Pskov by the Holy Synod, Sretensky was the base of operations of Tikhon and source of his influence. Now Sretensky will be headed by Archbishop Amvrosij. In my opinion, Archbishop Amvosij is a “star” in the education system of the Moscow Patriarchate. He was highly regarded as rector of the St. Petersburg Theological Academy and was very popular with his students. He is a strong and dynamic leader. It is very likely that his influence will be strongly felt at Sretensky.
You may also recall that the Holy Synod on July 9 established a commission, headed by Archbishop Amvrosij, “to study the possibility of optimizing the educational process in these religious schools [the Moscow Academy and the Sretensky Seminary]and increasing the level of coordination of their scientific and pedagogical activities.” https://mospat.ru/ru/2019/07/09/news176092/ (Journal Entry 75) This resulted in protests in the media that Patriarch Kirill was engaging in a political move to eliminate the Sretensky Seminary. On July 23, Patriarch Kirill issued a document that simply specifies the specializations that each school will have. http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/5476288.html This seemed to allay the fears about the elimination of the Sretnesky Seminary. The appointment of Archbishop Amvrosij as rector of the Sretensky Seminary is further evidence that the Seminary will not disappear. In addition, Archbishop Amvrosij has a personal interest in preserving Sretensky as he was a monk there beginning in 2000 and was director of its famous choir. However, with a strong leader such as Archbishop Amvrosij, changes may occur, and Sretensky may be less identified with Metropolitan Tikhon in the future.
In other news, Metropolitan Sergiy of Singapore (Moscow Patriarchate), head of the newly established Exarchate of Southeast Asia, has written a sharp “open letter” to Metropolitan Ambrosios of Korea (Ecumenical Patriarchate) concerning an interview given by the latter criticizing the Moscow Patriarchate. See https://theorthodoxworld.com/exclusive-open-letter-of-metropolitan-sergiy-of-singapore-to-metropolitan-ambrosios-of-korea/ (the open letter in English); https://theorthodoxworld.com/exclusive-how-the-moscow-patriarchate-tramples-on-church-canons-and-undermines-orthodox-unity-in-korea/ (the original interview in English). The Catholic delegation from Rome, headed by Father Hyacinthe Destivelle O.P., met with both Patriarch Kirill and Metropolitan Hilarion. The delegation is part of the annual exchange between the Moscow Patriarchate and the Vatican. https://mospat.ru/en/2019/08/30/news176954/ (meeting with Patriarch); https://mospat.ru/en/2019/08/29/news176947/ (meeting with Metropolitan Hilarion). The very important Serbian hierarch, Bishop Irinej of Backa, is visiting Russia with a group of pilgrims. On August 28, he, Metropolitan Hilarion, and Metropolitan Tikhon celebrated the Liturgy together at Pskov. https://mospat.ru/en/2019/08/29/news176934/ At that time, Metropolitan Hilarion delivered another strong attack against the Ecumenical Patriarchate. On August 29, the first meeting of the newly elected Ukrainian parliament was held. Metropolitan Onufry, Metropolitan Epifany, and other church leaders were present in the first row of the balcony. https://news.church.ua/2019/08/29/predstoyatel-vzyav-uchast-v-urochistomu-zasidanni-verxovnoji-radi/ The following shows the number of delegates that each faction has in the new parliament. https://rada.gov.ua/en/news/News/179734.html (English). Zelensky’s faction, the People’s Servant Party, has approximately 60 percent of the delegates. The Opposition Platform–For Life faction, sympathetic to Moscow, has approximately 10 percent of the delegates. Rumors continue that Pope Francis may accept the invitation of operatic soprano Svetlana Kasyan (her husband is Leonid Leonid Sevastianov, the head of a charitable fund established by Metropolitan Hilarion) to visit her family’s apartment in Moscow. The latest rumor relates to repairs being suddenly made by the city to the facade of the building in which the apartment is located. https://credo.press/226306/ With respect to these rumors, I remain a skeptic.