Moscow, December 29, Interfax - The Russian exarchate abolished by Constantinople in November should decide on its future itself, but the Russian Orthodox Church is ready to support it if it seeks support, Metropolitan Hilarion, the head of the Synodal Department for External Church Relations, said.
"They should decide on their fate themselves. The Constantinople Patriarchate has suggested that they close as a structure, as an archidiocese, so that these parishes join the local dioceses of the Constantinople Patriarchate. Whether or not they will want to join the local dioceses of the Constantinople Patriarchate is a big question, but it's a question that they need to answer themselves," the metropolitan said in an extraordinary program Church and the Word aired on Rossiya-24 television.
"Of course, if they turn to us, we will help them," he said.
Very many parishes of this structure want to return to the Moscow Patriarchate because it was initially part of the Russian Orthodox Church and it only joined the Constantinople Patriarchate on a temporary basis in the 1930s, the metropolitan said.
The archidiocese of the Russian Orthodox churches in Western Europe (Russian exarchate) with a center in Paris was created on the basis of Russian emigrants' parishes after the 1917 revolution. Until that moment, the Western European Russian churches had been run by Archbishop Eulogius (Georgiyevsky), but the Russian Orthodox Church suspended him from that post in 1930. Nevertheless, most parishes stayed loyal to Archbishop Eulogius, who turned to the Constantinople patriarch and received the title of the patriarch's exarch from him.
In 1944, Eulogius made an attempt to return to the jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate. The status of the archdiocese has remained uncertain ever since.
In 1999, Patriarch Bartholomew confirmed that the archidiocese was run by Constantinople.
The exarchate has 65 parishes, 11 active churches, two monasteries and seven sketes in France, Belgium, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Germany, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Italy and Spain. Its clergy consists of over 100 priests and 30 deacons.