Communiqué No. 04-11 of the Council of the Archdiocese

Meeting of September 28, 2011

The Council of the Archdiocese met September 28, 2011, under the chairmanship of His Eminence Archbishop Gabriel. Among the issues discussed :

1. Jubilee of the Cathedral of St. Alexander Nevsky in Paris

The 150th anniversary of the founding of the Cathedral of St. Alexander Nevsky, the seat of the Archdiocese, in Paris, was commemorated by a series of liturgical celebrations and official events. These various events were organized by the parish of the cathedral by the Jubilee committee chaired by Archbishop Gabriel in his capacity as rector of the parish.

On Monday, September 12, on the feast of St. Alexander Nevsky and day of the dedication of the church 150 years ago , the Divine Liturgy was celebrated in the cathedral in the presence of civil and religious figures, including a delegation led by Metropolitan Chrysostom of Myra of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, with a message from His Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew I, and the majority of members of the Assembly of Orthodox Bishops of France, and Bishop Irenaeus of Ottawa (Orthodox Church in America), a total of thirteen bishops. A light meal was provided at the end of the celebration. On Sunday, September 18, the Sunday Divine Liturgy was followed by the traditional procession around the church and a feast organized by the parish in the gardens of the Cathedral.

The commemoration was followed by an exhibition on "150 years of Russian Orthodox presence in Paris" on the 8th arrondissement City Hall, three concerts of liturgical music given by the choir of the cathedral at St-Philippe du Roule in the Basilica of Santa Clotilde and the City Council of the 8th arrondissement, a symposium at the Institute of Slavic Studies in Paris and publication of a beautiful book, richly illustrated on the history and artistic heritage of the Cathedral.

The Council of the Archdiocese welcomed the satisfactory outcome of all these celebrations and events and expressed their thanks to those responsible in the parish of St. Alexander Nevsky, the various event organizers and those who by their presence dignified this significant moment in the history of the diocese and its cathedral.

The Council of the Archdiocese was also grateful for the message delivered on the occasion of the Jubilee by His Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew I, reaffirming the concern of the Ecumenical Throne to preserve the identity of the Archdiocese and its status within the Patriarchate of Constantinople and thus facilitate the building of bridges and deepen brotherly relations with the Church of Russia.

2. Pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

Archbishop Gabriel will lead the diocesan pilgrimage to the Holy Land, which runs from October 21 to 31, 2011. Fifty people have registered, including four priests and a deacon. The program of the pilgrimage includes visits to the hierarchy of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem and visits to the main Orthodox shrines and monasteries in Palestine (Jerusalem and its environs, Bethlehem, Nazareth and Galilee, Mount Tabor, the monasteries of St. Sava , Eleon, Gethsemane ...).

3. Pastoral Assembly.

As previously announced, the annual pastoral meeting of the clergy of the Archdiocese will be held November 11 this year at the Saint Sergius Institute in Paris. It will provide an opportunity to address a number of pastoral issues and to share ideas on the situation and the future of the archdiocese.

4. Life of parishes and clergy

Deacon Julian Sadowsky was ordained to the priesthood by Archbishop Gabriel during the Divine Liturgy celebrated on the 14th Sunday after Pentecost, September 18, in the Cathedral of St. Alexander Nevsky in Paris. He was appointed assistant priest in the parish of St. John the Theologian, Norwich.

At his request, as of September 28, Archpriest Alexis Struve was relieved of his duties as rector of the parish of St. Alexander Nevsky and the Protection of the Mother of God in Biarritz . Archpriest Serge Sollogoub, rector of the parish of St. John the Theologian in Meudon, is appointed as a temporary administrator in charge of organizing the life of the parish until the appointment of a new rector.

Archbishop Gabriel gave his blessing to the organization of liturgical celebrations for the Russian-speaking Orthodox faithful coming to Lourdes. Pastoral work in this city is entrusted to Archpriest Georges Ashkoff who continues to serve in the parish of Biarritz.

The Hieromonk Andrew (Berega) is relieved of his duties as a priest serving the parish of Holy Trinity in Montargis and is removed from the lists of the clergy of the diocese, at his request, to be assigned to the city of Iasi and Moldova (Patriarchate of Romania). He will be replaced in the parish of Montargis by the Archpriest Basil Cevciuk .

Priest Pascal Otabela Ngono was assigned as priest serving the parish of Christ the Savior in Orleans, to help Father René Boulet . He will also continue to serve the parish of St. Martin the Merciful, Tours.

5. Cathedral of St. Nicolas in Nice

The Council of the Archdiocese took note of developments of the situation affecting the Cathedral of St. Nicolas in Nice. The religious association has appealed against the decision of the Court of Appeal of Aix-en-Provence which attributed ownership of the land on which the cathedral is built to the Russian Federation. The court the case is ongoing and the Council expressed the hope that justice could continue to work calmly and without political or any other interference whether internal or external.

During the summer, leadership of the Russian Federation, wishing to exercise the right of ownership that has been recognized by the courts in the first two hearings, stated that they have passed the cathedral of Nice to the Moscow Patriarchate for the organization of services and they have made three demands with regard to the parish of Saint-Nicolas, first orally and then by a bailiff : to give up the keys of the building, to transfer all the archives and to stop the collection of entrance fees for sightseers. For its part, the religious association which is the legal civil representative of the parish of Saint Nicolas believes that the decision of the Court of Appeal does not deprive it of its right to lawful occupancy of the cathedral and of their right to continue to worship in accordance with Russian Orthodox tradition as it has done for 80 years.

The religious association does not intend to abandon the cathedral, but it nevertheless has had to stop demanding entrance fees for visitors, which has obliged them to lay off reception and maintenance staff of the cathedral, in the absence of resources to pay them. Consequently the cathedral is closed for visits outside of services. At the same time, the Russian authorities, through their official representative in the South of France, the Russian Consul General in Marseilles, have announced their desire to impose a "new rector" and clergy, appointed by the bishop of Diocese of Chersonese (Moscow Patriarchate) in place of the Archdiocesan clergy.

Since then, the "new rector" conspicuous by his presence in the liturgical celebrations, is sowing confusion in the life of the parish and is maintaining a state of tension by thinly veiled threats made against the rector, Father Jean Gueit and through misleading or exaggerated public statements. Individuals have also appeared for several weeks in front of the cathedral, creating a decidedly oppressively unbearable atmosphere not hesitating to uttering physical threats, contrary to all church life and liturgy.

The Council expresses its indignation at the methods of intimidation from any quarter. Interference by representatives of any state in church life and parish organization is absolutely unacceptable. It contradicts the principles of separation of church and state as guaranteed by the Constitution of the French Republic as well as that of the Russian Federation. The interference by a bishop of the Moscow Patriarchate in the life of the parish of Nice, the action of the clergy sent there, as well as the constantly repeated commitment to take over the cathedral in compliance with instructions from powers outside the Church all go against the canonical norms of the Orthodox Church. That is also unacceptable.

The Council expresses its full support to Archbishop Gabriel for his rights and prerogatives of diocesan bishop on which the altar of the Cathedral of St. Nicolas are respected in accordance with ecclesiology and canonical norms of the Orthodox Church.

The Council also expresses its full support to the clergy of the Cathedral of St. Nicolas, the rector Father Jean Gueit, the warden Alexis Obolensky, their families and other members of the parish who are victims of attacks and threats, and calls on the entire diocese to keep them in their prayers.

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