2018-12-29 17:43:00

Russian Orthodox Church Synod forms patriarch's exarchates in Europe, Asia in response to Constantinople's actions

Moscow, December 29, Interfax - The Holy synod of the Russian Orthodox Church has responded to the actions by the Constantinople Patriarchate in Ukraine by deciding to form the patriarch's exarchates in Western Europe and Southeast Asia.

"The Synod has decided to form the patriarch's exarchate in Western Europe with a center in Paris, including in the sphere of the ministerial responsibility of this exarchate the following countries: Andorra, Belgium, the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, Ireland, Spain, Italy, Lichtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, the Netherlands, France, and Switzerland," priest Alexander Volkov, press secretary of Patriarch Kirill, told reporters in Moscow on Friday after the meeting.

This decision is the Russian Orthodox Church's response to Constantinople's actions in Ukraine, he said.

"These are actions taken by the Holy Synod in response to the anti-canonical decisions made by the Constantinople Patriarchate. No doubt, they can be interpreted this way," the priest said.

"We have always respected the Constantinople Patriarchate and we have turned a blind eye to the Constantinople Patriarchate's ambitions to care for all Orthodox Christians in the diaspora, but, of course, this approach has little to do with reality because there is no reason for the Constantinople Patriarchate to believe that it has the right to take under its spiritual ministry the entire diaspora in Western Europe and in other parts of the world," Patriarch Kirill's press secretary said.

In this context, a decision was made to form the patriarch's exarchate in Asia, he said.

"In regard of the considerable successes of the Russian Orthodox Church's mission in Asia, which are expressed in the increase of the number of churches and communities, the appearance of the clergy composed of local residents, the increase of interest in Russian Orthodoxy, and also in connection with the increase of the Russian-language population living in these countries and regions on a permanent or temporary basis, the patriarch's exarchate was formed in Southeast Asia with a center in Singapore," the priest said, citing the Russian Orthodox Church's Synod's decision.

The following countries are in the sphere of the ministerial responsibility of the Asian exarchate: Singapore, Vietnam, Cambodia, North Korea, South Korea, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines and Thailand.

The Western European exarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church will be led by Bishop Ioann (Roshchin), who has for a long time headed the patriarch's parishes in Italy. The exarchate in Southeast Asia will be led by Archbishop of Solnechnogorsk Sergiy (Chashin), the head of the administrative secretariat of the Moscow Patriarchate.

On October 11, the Synod in Istanbul abolished its 1686 decree handing the Kiev Metropolitanate over to Moscow, announced the creation of a mission in Kiev, and rehabilitated the leaders of the non-canonical Orthodox churches in Ukraine. The Moscow Patriarchate's Synod did not recognize those decisions and responded by fully severing ties with Constantinople.

Metropolitan Hilarion, the head of the Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate, said in mid November that the Russian Church in a situation of severance "will not have any other choice than to send priests [...] for ministerial care for our flock, and that will continue for as long as the Constantinople Patriarch remains in the schism."