The emergence of the Russian Church in Africa – a historic event
At a meeting of the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church on December 29, it was decided to establish a Patriarchal Exarchate in Africa under the leadership of Archbishop Leonid (Gorbachev) of Yerevan and Armenia. The newly formed exarchate consists of the North African and South African dioceses. The spiritual center will be the temple complex of the parish of St. Sergius of Radonezh in Johannesburg. The Holy Synod decided to accept in the ROC more than one hundred clergymen of the Alexandrian Patriarchate from eight African countries.
Meeting of the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church
These decisions were the response of the Russian Church to the recognition by Patriarch Theodore of Alexandria of Ukrainian schismatics from the OCU. African priests opposed the anti-canonical sole decision of Patriarch Theodore almost immediately after its adoption in 2019. And they immediately asked to be admitted to the ROC.
In the fall of 2020, a delegation of priests from the Alexandria Patriarchate arrived in Moscow to discuss the possibility of their transfer to the Moscow Patriarchate. According to the chairman of the DECR, Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeev), it was about mass appeals of clerics from different African countries who do not agree with the recognition of the OCU as their patriarch. “We have a sincere desire to provide them with all possible support. However, we have so far refrained from the decision to accept them under the jurisdiction of the Russian Church. We still do not lose hope that Patriarch Theodore will abandon his decision “, – said Metropolitan Hilarion. However, “abstinence” did not help and did not change anything.
Archpriest Nikolai Danilevich, speaker of the UOC-MP, noted: “This is yet another confirmation that in those Local Churches, whose heads recognized Epiphanius without conciliar consent, internal problems begin … This is not a dispute between the Greek and Slavic worlds, this is a dispute between supporters of the canonical truth of the Church and those who neglect this truth … priests from Africa, whom the Greek missionaries themselves taught the correct canonical principles, oppose the violation of the canons when the Greeks themselves violate them “…
An event that showed the futility of hopes for the return of Patriarch Theodore to the canonical channel was his concelebration with Epiphany Dumenko on August 13, 2021 on the Turkish island of Imvros. The Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church at a meeting in September stated that the concelebration of Patriarch Theodore II with the head of the schismatic structure further deepens the split between the Russian and Alexandrian churches. And on December 29, it was decided to create the African Patriarchal Exarchate. According to the representative of the Russian Orthodox Church Vladimir Legoyda, “The Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church stated the impossibility of further refusal to the clergy of the Alexandrian Orthodox Church, who submitted the appropriate petitions, to accept them under the omophorion of the Moscow Patriarchate. And he decided to admit 102 clerics into the jurisdiction of the Russian Orthodox Church, in accordance with the petitions submitted. “…
These priests are courageous people who have undergone threats and persecution from their hierarchy. Thus, the vicar of the Alexandrian Tanzanian Diocese, the Greek Bishop Agathonikos, summoned several African priests to his office, when they only intended to pass under the omophorion of the Moscow Patriarch, and threatened them with murder. Prior to this, the priests were deprived of their monetary allowance. And after threats, Bishop Agathonikos expelled six African abbots from their parishes.
Father Avmrosy Chavala
In particular, on December 10, Father Ambrose Chavala was removed from the post of abbot, he was obliged to move out with his family from the temple room. Moreover, at the direction of Bishop Agathonikos on Fr. Ambrose filed a statement with the police. From the walls of the temple in which Fr. Ambrose, they tore off the icons donated by the Russian missionary society and threw them under the door of the abbot. This shocked many Orthodox priests in Tanzania: even the pagans did not allow themselves this. Anti-canonical evil is contagious if you do not put a limit on it.
There is no doubt that in the near future the number of clerics of the African Exarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church will increase. Perhaps there will be hierarchs who will decide to leave the schismatic Patriarch Theodore in the Russian Orthodox Church. “We do not rule out expanding the structure of the Exarchate, if necessary. The question of the possibility of forming other dioceses and appointing bishops to the cathedra from both Russian and African clergy may be submitted to the Holy Synod for consideration. We also do not exclude that some of the bishops of the Alexandrian Patriarchate will declare their desire to join the bosom of the Russian Orthodox Church., – these are the words of the Patriarchal Exarch Archbishop Leonid. – The ROC will not leave the African continent anywhere. I do not know what to compare this epoch-making step with. I want you to understand – this is not bravado, we did not want that. We pulled it to the last. But we must not let the schismatics triumph. We had to stop this orgy. Will it get better further? Will Patriarch Theodore repent? Then we’ll talk. But I will repeat once again – we will talk from the standpoint of what we have. Nobody will give anything away. It must be understood that history never gives anyone a second chance. In five years, no one knows what will happen. Now the Russian Orthodox Church can lead the entire Orthodox world with its labors and concerns. “… And when asked whether any opposition from the Alexandrian Patriarchate in Africa should be feared, Vladyka Leonidas replied that for the Russian Church “Now this question is not relevant”…
Patriarchal Exarch of Africa Archbishop Leonid (Gorbachev)
The decision of the Holy Synod opens a new page in the history of the Russian Church, which, expanding its presence in Africa, is moving from national to world status. A humanitarian mission has been sent to Africa. First of all, this is everything necessary for the performance of divine services: utensils, vestments, vessels, literature in the native language of believers.
Emphasizing the new status of the Russian Church, Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev) said: “In the same way, we cannot deny the Orthodox believers in Turkey in pastoral care in the conditions when the Patriarch of Constantinople took the side of the schism.”…
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