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

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Bishop Alexander (Semenoff-Tian-Chansky)

Bishop Alexander (Semenoff Tian Chansky)

Photo Studio Martin Paris XVIème

Theologian by training (Bishop Alexander Semenoff-Tian-Chansky was a graduate of the Institut Saint-Serge), priest of high spiritual stature (he was the author of numerous articles and works on spirituality and hagiology, including a book fundamental on Saint John of Kronstadt and an Orthodox catechism, several times reissued), Mgr Alexander (Semenoff-Tian-Chansky) (1890-1979) was for many years rector of the parish of Notre-Dame-du-Signe, in Paris and , from 1971 to his death on May 16, 1979, auxiliary bishop to Archbishop Georges (Tarassoff).

We reproduce here the text of a reflection on the ecclesial organization of the Russian diaspora written by Bishop Alexander (Semenoff-Tian-Chansky) in response to the Message sent by the Third Council of the Russian Church Abroad to responsible for the Archdiocese, in 1974 (translated from the original Russian text, published in Vestnik RKhD. Paris-New York, Moscow, 1974, n ° 114).

“Our bishops, clerics and laity have received a Message from the“ Church Beyond Borders ”. We welcome this attempt to establish friendly relations with us. We are ready to forget the clashes of the past and want to establish Christian coexistence and, where possible, cooperation with the Russian Church Abroad. But we must immediately state frankly that our understanding of the very basics of church organization, that is, Orthodox teaching about the Church (ecclesiology), is different from yours. Firstly, we firmly confess that each Territorial Church must strive to be recognized by other Territorial Churches, and secondly, we declare ourselves deeply convinced that all Orthodox Churches must be local, i.e. raised on a precise territory, and that the existence of a trans-fontal Church, that is to say without geographical borders, is not canonical.

We have already argued a lot in the past, both with the representatives of the Moscow Patriarchate and with those of the Church Outside Borders, on the unconditional character of the territorial principle of the organization of the Church, and it must be said that the arguments of our adversaries have not convinced us. The national principle which they put forward as the main criterion for organizing the Church is of secondary importance to us. Every Church is supranational, even if the national traditions have all the rights of existence and can serve as a basis for the constitution of a particular ecclesial entity, even of a large one. None of us can doubt your love and also our love for the suffering Russian Church and for Russia itself [...]. Nonetheless, our Archdiocese, together with the Greek Diaspora, is increasingly becoming the seed or the premise of a multi-ethnic Orthodox Church in Western Europe. We believe in the providential significance of our diaspora in Western Europe, which leads to Western Orthodoxy, without any propaganda on our part and without the slightest spirit of proselytizing, which is quite alien to Orthodoxy. Even if, by the desired action of divine mercy by all, the Church in Russia were ever to be freed from its current satanic imprisonment, the Orthodox Church in Western Europe would remain here and continue to develop. It is under the omophora of the Ecumenical Patriarch, recognized by us as a supranational patriarch and as the first in honor, having a right of protection over the Orthodox diaspora. The Orthodox Church in the West, after the liberation of the Church in Russia, will of course live with the latter in unity, but it will not necessarily become a diocese of the Russian Church. We can assume that many clerics and laity will choose to return to free Russia, where an immense field will open up for pastoral action, but it is undeniable that many grandchildren, great grandchildren and great great-grandchildren of Russian emigres would prefer to stay in the West, without betraying Orthodoxy. As a result of what has just been said, we see two tasks for us: 1. to safeguard the Russian Orthodox ecclesial tradition and heritage and to prepare servants of the Church for future Russia; 2. protect and help the emerging local Orthodox Church and, when appropriate, seek its recognition by other Orthodox Churches. [...] Regarding the fears of the Church Beyond Borders about unforeseen events that can happen to us in the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, we respond that we know that the world is full of unforeseen events and surprises. unexpected events, but those who humbly turn to God for help are always given the necessary guidance on what to do. Despite the differences that we have just indicated with the leaders of your Church, we consider, like you, that there has not been a complete break with your Church, but we believe that we merge into a single ecclesial entity with is still impossible for you. We also disagree with the historical arguments put forward to found your canonicity. Patriarch Tikhon's decree of 1920 concerned bishops in the territory of Russia. To administer the Russian churches in Western Europe the Patriarch appointed Metropolitan Euloge, while he suppressed the Out-of-Borders Synod. All that has just been said should not prevent us from seeking to draw closer to you in the service of Christ and of his Church. But, of course, it is essential that the Church Beyond Borders permanently stop trying to take our parishes (Copenhagen, Bad Ems, etc.), as well as launching threats and prohibitions against us. If that worked out, then we could jointly resolve a number of issues in a friendly spirit for the good of the Orthodox Church. Bishop Alexander of Zilon.