Centenary of the Archdiocese of Orthodox Churches of Russian Tradition in Western Europe

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Parish of the Resurrection of Christ in Belfort

The history of the Orthodox Resurrection of Christ parish in Belfort begins with the arrival of Russian emigrants fleeing the Bolshevik revolution. Coming to France, they settled in areas where there was work. These were often metallurgical or industrial sites like Belfort. The Russian communities gradually organized themselves and created Orthodox parishes. The beginnings of the parish of Belfort were difficult, as Metropolitan Euloge recounts in his memoirs. The first priests arrived in 1925 and only stayed a few months. Services were held in Sochaux in a room loaned by the Peugeot friendly. The religious association was declared to the prefecture in March 1927.

Archimandrite Andronique (Elpidinsky) remained five years in Belfort and served several parishes in eastern France, from Dijon to Strasbourg. When he left to take care of the Russian communities in India in 1930, he was replaced by Father Stéphane (Timtchenko) who later became bishop of Stockholm. Father Jacques Protopopov, from the Russian community of Vichy, succeeded him two years later until 1938. Then came Father Sylvestre (Haruns), future Archbishop of Montreal. At that time, the parish was also served by the future bishop Paul and Father Elie Mélia, of Georgian origin. During World War II many Russians left the region.

The second period in the history of the parish begins after World War II with the arrival in Belfort of Father Eugène Popoff. He remained there until his death in 1983. In 1949, the Orthodox community bought the house and land at 15, rue du Berger and built a church in the old garage. The material situation was secure, but the Orthodox community was in decline. The elders were aging and dying, the young were gradually integrating into the world and no longer coming to services. On the 50th anniversary of Father Eugene's ordination in 1981, the local press reported on the decline of the community, speaking of a "meager assembly" and a "ghost community".

After the death of Father Eugene on August 7, 1983, the parish no longer had a priest there. His future was uncertain. The possibility of closure has been considered by the diocesan administration. But for the priests who came to celebrate in Belfort once a month, there was still a hope of survival. There are two reasons for this: on the one hand, the existence of a large Serbian community that arrived in the region in the late 1970s; on the other hand, the assiduous presence of French and native Alsatians who have found or rediscovered the Christian faith through the Orthodox Church.

The renewal will be under the leadership of Father Nicolas Rehbinder from 1986, with the support of the diocesan administration and the help of God. In 1990, the dwelling house was renovated and converted into three apartments, one for the priest, another as a parish hall. Two years later, the parish began building a new church. The first stone was laid in May 1992. Thanks to the know-how of the Serbian parishioners and the participation of all, it was completed in less than two years. At the same time, the Orthodox chapel located in the Château de Montbéliard was closed by the municipality and the iconostasis, painted by Princess Lwoff, was moved to the new church in Belfort. This was consecrated on March 6, 1994 by Monsignor Serge, Monsignor Paul and Monsignor Dositej of the Serbian Church.

This new start was accompanied by the return of a permanent priest to Belfort. First there was Father Emmanuel Babus from 1994 to 1997, followed by Father André Wade from 1997 to 2003 and Father Igor Koritsky from 2003 to 2009. These years were also marked by the arrival of newcomers from the countries of ballast. This revival, after an announced death, other Orthodox parishes knew it or know it. He shows us that a parish is not just a church with a roof, walls and icons. It cannot be reduced to offices, however beautiful they may be. For a parish to live, the parishioners must participate in the life of the Church, not as a member of an institution but as a member of the Body of Christ and with the help of the Spirit. Holy. Between 2011 and 2013, the church was decorated with frescoes by the Russian iconographer Yaroslav Dobrynin, who also decorated the churches of the monasteries of Saint-Antoine in the Vercors and the Protection of the Mother of God in Bussy-en-Othe. Since 2011, the parish has been served by Father Alexis Meistermann.