Orthodox Believers In France On The Path To Unity Within The Metropolis Of The Ecumenical Patriarchate



Mihaela Radu – OCP News Service – 28/9/19

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Orthodoxy Cognate PAGE or OCP Media Network. 

Soon, on October 11, 2019, it will be a year since the Holy Synod reinstated the hierarchs and clergy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate (UOC-KP) and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church in their bishopric and priestly ranks. The Orthodox Church of Ukraine has existed for almost 10 months now, nine of them having the status of an autocephalous local church.

Along with the creation of the OCU, the issue of Orthodox communities in the diaspora was put on the agenda. In Europe, it was Metropolitan Emanuel of France who was to deal with this. According to the decision of the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, aimed at restoring the ecclesiastical order and unity, Russian Orthodox parishes in Western Europe for almost 11 months have been canonically already under the tutelage of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of France.

Reportedly, it was Metropolitan Emmanuel who was behind the canonical release of Archbishop John Renneteau, the supporter of Moscow and persuaded Patriarch Bartholomew to sign the document. Thus, Metropolitan Emmanuel managed to get rid of the most “toxic” parishes of the Russian rite, which could complicate the further unification of French Orthodoxy of all rites.

The other day, Metropolitan Emanuel met with the head of the OCU Metropolitan Epiphanius in Kyiv. According to assistants of the Constantinople hierarch, in addition to discussing plans on recognizing the new Ukrainian autocephaly by the local churches, one of the goals of the meeting was to encourage the OCU to speed up the transfer of its communities in the diaspora.

Despite the resistance of the honorary patriarch of Kyiv and all Ukraine Filaret and the parishes of the Kyiv Patriarchate sympathizing with him in Germany, there is sufficient progress with Ukrainian parishes in France. It was decided that the first step should be the reassignment of Metropolitan Michel Laroche of Korsun, who in the UOC-KP was called Metropolitan of Paris, and his communities directly to Metropolitan Emmanuel. Metropolitan Michel himself, who confirmed his transition back in May, accepted the plan. Currently, the future status of his parishes and other modalities are under discussion.

It is noteworthy that from 1953 to 1956, being a member of the Catholic-Orthodox Church of France, Metropolitan Michel was already under the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Constantinople – namely, in the Exarchate of Orthodox parishes of the Russian tradition in Western Europe. And now, with the bestowal of autocephaly to the OCU, he returned under the omophorion of the Ecumenical Patriarch again.

At the same time, there is stepping-up of contacts with other jurisdictions whose believers are not in communion with the Ecumenical Church, for example, with the Catholic-Orthodox Church of France (COCF, of the Gallican rite), to which Metropolitan Michel belonged in his younger days. Besides, the old-calendarist French Orthodox Church (FOC) led by Archbishop Vigile of Paris is also associated with both the UOC-KP, which became the linchpin of the OCU and the COCF. In 1989, the latter was accepted into communion by Archbishop Mstislav Skrypnik, the first Patriarch of Kyiv and all Ukraine, as well as the long-standing Primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA, which has been a Metropolis under the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate for more than 24 years.
Hierarchs, clergy, and believers of the Catholic-Orthodox Church of France, as well as the French Orthodox Church and other structures of the Association of Western Orthodox Churches (orthodoxie-occidentale.org),  have been praying and negotiating for many years to establish communion, both among themselves and with the local Orthodox churches. For example, in 2002-2003, the FOC negotiated with the COCF and the breakaway parishes of the Union of Religious Orthodox Associations of the Western Rite (Union des Associations Cultuelles Orthodoxes de Rite Occidental, UACORO), many of which later came under the jurisdiction of the Serbian Patriarchate, as well as the Celtic Orthodox Church. Since December 2007, the FOC through the Association of Western Orthodox Churches has been in communion with the Orthodox Church of the Gauls, which also consists of parishes that separated from the COCF in 2006 due to internal differences.

As we can see, both the FOC and the COCF are closely related to each other, and, like in the case of Ukraine, French Orthodoxy also needs unity. Moreover, they have much in common with the UOC-KP – the ancestor of the united OCU. Hence, in particular, it follows that with the restoration of Patriarch Filaret’s hierarchical dignity, the Ecumenical Patriarchate gave hope for recognition of the FOC hierarchy canonical status, including that of its current Primate, Archbishop Martin. In addition, the unification of the former UOC-KP parishes in France, regardless of the rite, will be another step to the unification of all communities in Western Europe and the New World under the relevant local bishops of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in France, Germany, Argentina, Brazil, USA, Haiti or the Caribbean.

The transfer of Metropolitan Michel Laroche to the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of France will be a good sign for further unification of believers from needlessly divided French jurisdictions behind Metropolitan Emmanuel. And this is exactly what Patriarch Bartholomew wants.

As we see, the Phanar welcomes all nationalities, traditions, and rites, wishing external formal differences not to put obstacles for salvation. First, Metropolitan Anthony Shcherba opened the door to the Ecumenical Patriarchate and gave hope, and now Metropolitan Michel paves the path for the FOC and COCF to join the Ecumenical Church.

So, one can hope to hear good news soon.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Orthodoxy Cognate PAGE or OCP Media Network. 

Mihaela Radu