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Russian Orthodox Church
(Moscow Patriarchate)


1. Russian orthodox parishes outside Russia, and in Europe.

The Russian Orthodox Church takes care of a number of congregations in various countriesof the world. These congregations form numerous Russian Orthodox parishes abroad, which are grouped, according to different local conditions, into Exarchates (Exarchate of Western Europe, Exarchate of North and South America), dioceses (in Belgium for instance) or church districts (in Austria, in Hungary). Besides, the Russian Orthodox Church has church missions in some countries (like the Russian Church Mission in Jerusalem, Beirut, Belgrade, Sofia).


1. Since XII century...

In times gone by, Russian pilgrims visiting the Holy Land, Mount Athos and other famous sanctuaries of the Orthodox world became monks there and built monasteries and churches. It is mentioned in the life of Saint Euphrosinia of Polotsk that while in Jerusalem in the seventies of the 12th century she lived "in the house of Our Lady - a Russian convent." The fate of this cloister is unknown. Thc Acts of Mount Athos for the middle of the l2th century testify to thc existence of a Russian monastery of Our Lady of Xylurgu on Mount Athos. In 1169 Russian monks received the monastery of St.Panteleimonos to which was later annexed the small monastery of Katsari. In 1849 the Russian community of St. Andrew was opened on Mount Athos, and at the beginning of the present century there were up to four thousand monks in the Russian monasteries there. But during the First World War some of the monks were forced to leave Mount Athos and return to their country.

Russian churches appeared in Europe in the 17th century and since then their number has continually increased owing to the extension of diplomatic, trade and cultural relations between Russia and West-European countries. Orthodoxy began to spread to China at the end of the 17th century.

The first Russian church in Constantinople was built in the beginning of the 18th century and later five Russian Orthodox churches were erected in the city and its suburbs. At the end of the 18th century Orthodoxy was introduced to North America and a century later to South America. A Russian private chapel was opened in Athens in 1833, and in 1852 the Russian Orthodox Church acquired the ancient Church of the Holy Trinity there. The Russian Church Mission in Jerusalem was instituted in 1847. Russian Orthodox missionary activity began in Japan in 1870 and twenty seven years later Orthodoxy appeared in Korea. 1898 saw the institution of a Russian Church Mission in Urmia, (Persia) for the confirmation in Orthodoxy of the Syro-Chaldean Chrlstian-Nestorians who had joined the Russian Orthodox Church. Before 1919 there was a Russian Orthodox Diocese in Finland, but when Finland received its independence the Finnish Orthodox Church passed to the jurisdiction of the Constantinople Patriarchate and in 1957 this jurisdiction was recognized by the Russian Orthodox Church.

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In 1920 an obstacle arose to the canonical organization of Russian Church life abroad in the form of the so-called "Supreme Russian Church Administration Abroad," founded by a group of emigrant bishops on their own authority; it adopted a hostile attitude towards the Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian people. The Russian Orthodox Church represented by His Holiness Patriarch Tichon, condemned the activity of this "Administration." However the latter would not submit to the decision of the supreme church authority and created a schism known as "Karlovci," from the Yugoslav town of Srijemski Karlovci, where a "Council" of schismatic Russian clergy took place from October to December 1921.

Although the self-appointed church administration succeeded in disorganizing the canonical structure of some of the Russian Church parishes abroad, many of them remained faithful to their Mother Church. As a result of the efforts made by the Russian Orthodox Church for reunification, a large number of russian orthodox clergy and laity living in Exile reconciled with the Russian Orthodox Church after Second World War.

Thus, at present the Russian Orthodox Church has a number of parishes abroad. As time passed some of these parishes transferred to the jurisdiction of other local Orthodox churches, some received an independent administration, most of them flourish under the Russian Orthodox Church; but a certain number are still not in communion with their Mother Church.


2. Russian orthodox parishes in Europe.

The first Russian Orthodox Church in Europe was consecrated in the Russian House of Trade in Stockholm in 1640. As a result of the livening of Russia's trade and diplomatic relations with West European countries under Peter I, temporary and later permanent Russian Orthodox Churches began to appear in many European capitals- Divine services began to be held in the Russian church attached to the Russian Embassy in Stockholm in i716 and in Berlin in 1718; and in Paris 1720.

The building of Russian Orthodox churches in Europe was particularly intensified, in the second half of the 19th century. Churches were built with the blessing of the diocesan bishop of St.Petersburg, who directed Russian Churches life in the Western Europe. Thus, in 1855 the Church of St. Elizabeth was consecrated in Wiesbaden, in 1861 the Church of the Holy Trinity and St.Alexander Nevsky in Paris, in 1866 the Church of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross in Geneva, in 1874 the Church of St Simeon the Stylite in Dresden, in 1876 the Church of St. Alexandra the Martyr in Ems, in 1882 the Church of the Transfiguration in Baden-Baden, in 1883 the Church of St.Alexander Nevsky in Copenhagen, in 1892 the Church of the Protection of the Blessed Virgin and of St.Alexander Nevsky in Biarritz, in 1899 the Church of St. Nicholas in Vienna, in 1902-1903 the Church of the Nativity and St Nicholas in Florence, and in 1912 the Church of St Nicholas and St. Alexandra in Nice. All these Churches were built to satisfy the spiritual needs of Russian Orthodox people living in the respective West European countries.

Among Russian Church institutions in Europe the Orthodox Brotherhood of St.Wladimir deserves special mention for its activity. It was founded in 1890 by Archpriest Alexis Maltsev, dean of the Church of St.Wladimir in Berlin, in order to assist the Russian subjects and Orthodox believers living in Berlin and other places in Germany in need of help without discrimination nationality. From 1890 to 1914 the Building Committee of the Brotherhood erected seven churches: St.Constantine and Helena in Tegel (consecrated in 1894), of All Saints at Bad Homburg (1899), of St. Sergius at Bad Kissingen (1901), of St Michael the Archangel at Herbersdorf (1901), of St.Nicholas in Hamburg (1901). of St. Innocent of lrkutsk and St. Seraphim of Sarov at Bad Nauheim (1908), and of St Mary Magdalene at Bad Brükenau (1908). By 1910 there were as many as 70 Russian Orthodox Churches in Western Europe, not counting private chapels.

First World War and the Civil War in Russia caused a temporary weakening of relations between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian parishes in Western Europe, but as early as March 1921 His Holiness Patriarch Tichon appointed Archbishop Eulogy (Georgiyevsky) of Volynia as a temporary administrator of the Russian Orthodox parishes in Western Europe.

After the First World War the number of Russian Orthodox Churches in Western Europe grew considerably. The necessity to appoint priests for these churches compelled Metropolitan Euiogius to open a Russian Orthodox Theological Institute in Paris in 1925. The activity of the Brotherhood of St.Wladimir interrupted by the war, was resumed. The number of bishops governing parishes of the Russian Orthodox Church increased. But there were vacillations in Metropolitan Euiogius' attitude to the supreme church authority and in 1931 he transferred to the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Constantinople. The direction of the West-European parishes remained faithful to the Russian Mother Church was confided by Metropolitan Sergius, locum tenens, to Metropolitan Eleutherius (Bogoyavlenky) of Lithuania and Vilnius. Bishop Benjamin (Fedchenkov) in France remained true to the Russian Church with a number of priests and a large group of laity; so did Archpriest G.Prosorov, dean of the church of St.Wladimir in Berlin and his parishioners

Since then, church life in the West European parishes which remained loyal to the Russian Mother Church has become gradually more vigorous. In March 1931 the high altar of the daughter church of The Three Bishops in Paris was consecrated in June 1936, with the blessing of Metropolitan Eleutherius. Father Michael Belsky founded the Franco Russian Orthodox parish of Our Lady "Consolation of the Afflicted" and St. Genevieve in Paris, which was joined by a large section of the French community of the Exarchate of Metropolitan Eulogius. In 1936 the ex-Roman Catholic priest Father L. Vinart, head of so called Catholic Evangelical Church (Old Catholic) was received into the Orthodox Church, and in 1937 his community was also united to the Church and formed the parish of the Ascension of Occidental rite in Paris, now headed by Archimandrite Denis Chambault.

In 1937 the church district of the western Orthodox parishes was formed and Father M.Belsky was placed at its head, and in March 1939 the united Church District of the West-European parishes of the Russian Orthodox Church was instituted and headed by Abbot Stephan (Svetozarov). In 1944 Father Luc Chambault, in religion Denis, founded the first French Orthodox monastic community under the rules of St. Benedict of Nurcia.

During the Second World War Metropolitan Eulogius adopted a patriotic attitude and decided to return to the Russian Mother Church. In August 1945 a delegation of the Russian Orthodox Church led by Metropolitan Nicholas visited Paris and received into canonical and spiritual communion Metropolitan Eulogius, Vladimir and Bishop John. After several meetings and talks with Metropolitan Nicholas, Metropolitan Seraphim (Lukianow) leader of the West-European diocese of the Karlovci schism, and his parishes also joined the Mother Church.

Subsequently the Holy Synod of the Russian Church confirmed Metropolitan Eulogius in the dignity of Exarch of the Moscow Patriarchate in Western Europe. In August 1946 Metropolitan Eulogius died and His Holiness Patriarch Alexis appointed Metropolitan Seraphim to succeed him.

However, in the same year some members of the clergy of the Exarchate headed by Archbishop Wladimir broke away from their Mother Church, and subordinated their parishes to the Patriarchate of Constantinople. In November 1949 Metropolitan Seraphim was succeeded as Exarch by Archbishop Photius of Lithuania and Vilnius; and two years later Archbishop Boris (Wick) of Berlin and Germany was appointed substitute of the Exarch of Western Europe. Since 1954 the West-European Exarchate of the Moscow Patriarchate was governed by Archbishop Nicholas (Yeremin). Some years later Mitropolit Antony (Blum) of London and England was appointed substitute of the Exarch of Western Europe.

Russian orthodox parishes in Europe include parishes in Algeria, Austria, Belgium, England, France, Italy, Switzerland, Morocco, Germany, Hungary and Holland. The divine services in some of the parishes of France are performed in French, in Germany in German and in Holland in Dutch. Since 1950 the Exarchate of Russian orthodox parishes in Paris has published in Russian and French a quarterly journal called "Messenger of the Russian Patriarchal Exarchate in Western Europe," which, besides news, official information, contained articles on theology. Moreover, an information bulletin called "Voice of the Orthodoxy" is published in Russian Orthodox Diocese of Berlin and Germany. Besides normal diocesanal and parishinal activities, the russian orthodox parishes give special attention to the education of children of Orthodox parents and organize summer camps and youth activities for them every year.

The direction of Russian Orthodox Church institutions abroad is carried out by Metropolitan Kirill, chairman of the Department of the Foreign Church Relations. Its task is to care of the church life of Russian church and parishes abroad. Metropolitan Kirill at the same time performs episcopal duties in respect of church bodies which do not have their own bishop.

Besides Europe, at present the jurisdiction of the Russian Orthodox Church includes a number of parishes abroad - in Australia, Africa, Near East, Canada, USA, and other countries.

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