Paris, October 19, Interfax – The Patriarchal Exarchate for Orthodox Parishes of Russian Tradition in Western Europe (the Constantinople Patriarchate) continues to consider itself a legal owner of St.Nicholas Cathedral in Nice.
“The religious association (of the parish – IF) has appealed against the decision of the Court of Appeal of Aix-en-Provence which attributed ownership of the land on which the cathedral is built to the Russian Federation,” the Exarchate says in its statement posted on its website summing up the results of its recent session.
The document notes that the religious association “which is the legal civil representative of the parish of Saint Nicolas believes that the decision of the Court of Appeal does not deprive it of its right to lawful occupancy of the cathedral and of their right to continue to worship in accordance with Russian Orthodox tradition as it has done for 80 years”.
“The religious association does not intend to abandon the cathedral, but it nevertheless has had to stop demanding entrance fees for visitors, which has obliged them to lay off reception and maintenance staff of the cathedral, in the absence of resources to pay them. Consequently the cathedral is closed for visits outside of services,” the statement says.
The Exarchate also blamed the new rector of the cathedral appointed by the Corsun Diocese of the Moscow Patriarchate in “sowing confusion in the life of the parish and is maintaining a state of tension by thinly veiled threats made against the rector, Father Jean Gueit and through misleading or exaggerated public statements.”
“The interference by a bishop of the Moscow Patriarchate in the life of the parish of Nice, the action of the clergy sent there, as well as the constantly repeated commitment to take over the cathedral in compliance with instructions from powers outside the Church all go against the canonical norms of the Orthodox Church. That is also unacceptable,” the statements reads.
According to earlier reports, a French court on May 19 confirmed Russia’s right of property to the cathedral. The Russian Orthodox association of Nice (ACOR), which had conducted litigation with Russia, lost the suit. The Russian state, in turn, decided to hand the church over to the Moscow Patriarchate.
ACOR reports to the Exarchate of Russian Parishes in Western Europe, which is part of the Constantinople Patriarchate. There are two parallel church organizations in Western Europe: the Constantinople Patriarchate and the Moscow Patriarchate, which is represented by the Corsun Diocese.
Despite the court ruling, Archbishop Gabriel, the head of the Exarchate of Russian Parishes, made it clear in a meeting with Bishop Nestor of Corsun in late August that issues relating to the transfer of the keys to the Nice cathedral should be resolved by the Moscow Patriarchate directly with ACOR, i.e., Archbishop Gabriel in effect disassociated himself from the issue.
Thus the meeting did not bring any results. The next extended meeting between representatives of the Constantinople Patriarchate and the Moscow Patriarchate is being arranged.