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

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Protopresbyter Boris Bobrinskoy

Protopresbyter Boris Bobrinskoy

Photo capture d'écran, émission orthodoxie du 01.07.1990 (license INA)

Born in the Russian aristocracy, Boris Bobrinskoy was born in Paris on February 25, 1925. In his own words, his childhood was “both a test and a great blessing”. He first lived with his mother and, at the age of 7, was placed in a Russian children's home in the Pyrenees. The Orthodox priest from Biarritz who came to visit this house made a big impression on the child Boris and he remembers that, from the age of 8, he wanted to be a priest. “This deep desire, inspired by the Holy Spirit, has guided my whole life,” he later declared. His mother died when he was 10 years old, and two years later, young Boris was sent to Belgium, to the St-Georges boarding school, run by Jesuits who looked after the children of Russian emigrants.

When war broke out, the students were sent to Paris and Boris continued his studies at the Jesuit College St-Louis-de-Gonzague. The call to the priesthood was still present and in 1944, having received his diploma, Boris decided to enroll at the Institute of Orthodox Theology of Saint Sergius. He remained all his life grateful to the Jesuit Fathers who accompanied his adolescence and supported his spiritual desire. Therefore he would keep all his life a remarkable spirit of openness. Studies at the Institut Saint-Serge played a fundamental role in the life of Fr. Boris. His teachers were those who would later be called the theologians of the "School of Paris": Fr. Serge Bulgakov, Fr.. Basil Zenkovsky, Fr. Georges Florovsky, Lev Zander and the one who will be his confessor and spiritual father, Father Cyprian (Kern).

The particularity of the “Colline Saint-Serge” is that, in addition to the theoretical training provided in the courses, the students benefit from the daily services, celebrated morning and evening in the church. Boris assiduously participates in the celebrations. He sings, reads, assimilates the whole liturgical tradition, the ordo, in this way receiving a direct learning in the field. There is a deep link between liturgical life and theological teaching. This is not for him purely theoretical and formal, but in direct relation to current affairs in the Church.

Having completed his studies at St. Sergius Theological Institute, Boris went to Greece for two years as a scholarship holder at the Athens Faculty of Theology. He learned Greek and carried out research at the National Library on the manuscripts of the Fathers of the Church, in particular Saint Gregory Palamas. There, he was offered to be ordained an unmarried priest. On the advice of his spiritual father, he returned to Paris where he was entrusted with the post of inspector of studies at Saint Sergius.

In 1954, he was hired as a teacher at Saint Sergius. He was given the course in Dogmatic Theology, which would allow him to deepen his reflection on the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, Creation, anthropology, salvation, grace. Fr. Boris has held the chair of Dogmatic Theology from 1954 to 2006. He has been Dean of the Saint Sergius Institute from 1993 to 2005. In 1957, he married Hélène Disterlohe and in 1959 he was ordained a priest. The couple has 3 children.

From 1965 to 1967, p. Boris studied at the Faculty of Protestant Theology in Neuchâtel. In 1987, he obtained his doctorate from the Institut Saint-Sergius with a thesis on “the repose of the Spirit in Christ”.

After the accidental death of Father Pierre Struve, on December 3, 1968, Father Boris was appointed rector of the French-speaking parish of the Holy Trinity (the Crypt of rue Daru). Upon his arrival, he found a community shaken by the sudden disappearance of its pastor. Fr. Boris resumed the work begun by Father Pierre. From the outset he brought his qualities of liturgy to the community. Through his preaching, his exhortations, his adult catecheses, he gave the parish, of which he was rector until 2009, a rich spiritual teaching as well as a solid pastoral accompaniment to all those who came to him.

Interview with Father Boris Bobrinskoy on the situation of French-speaking parishes in 1990

Very engaged in ecumenical dialogue, Fr. Boris was for a long time a member of the “Faith and Order” commission of the Ecumenical Council of Churches (WCC) and a member of the Catholic-Orthodox dialogue commission. He used to say that "Eucharistic communion is not the starting point but the end point of the meeting between the Churches." From the 1970s he chaired the association "The Voice of Orthodoxy", which broadcast religious broadcasts to Russia then under Soviet rule. P. Boris was also one of the founders of the Orthodox Fraternity in Western Europe, whose aim is to bring together Orthodox of various origins, overcoming national divisions, to serve the Church and bear witness to her unity. P. Boris has an honorary doctorate from the University of Fribourg (Switzerland) and the St.Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary in New York. He is the author of several works dealing mainly with the theology of the Trinity and the Holy Spirit, the Church and the liturgy.

P. Boris passed in Bussy-en-Othe on August 7, 2020.


  • Communion du Saint Esprit. Abbaye de Bellefontaine, 1992
  • Le Mystère de la Trinité. Cerf,1996
  • La Compassion du Père. Cerf, 2000
  • La Vie liturgique. Cerf, 2000
  • Le Mystère de l’Église. Cours de théologie dogmatique. Cerf, 2003
  • "Je suis venu jeter le Feu sur la terre". Recueil d’homélies, Éditions du Désert, 2003