Following upon sorrowful events of rebellion that have taken place over the past week amongst certain clergymen in Colchester, England, and misinformation subsequently circulated, including by a cleric of the Archdiocese of Parishes of Russian Tradition in Western Europe’s Deanery in the UK who is illegitimately interfering in the affairs of another Diocese and persecuting the peace of the Church, we clarify the following:
- A personal rebellion by the former Rector of the parish in Colchester, Archpriest Andrew Phillips, has taken place, to which he has joined other clergymen attached to his influence in that parish, by which they have contrived to depart the Church of their canonical obedience and flee, against the Holy Canons, to another jurisdiction. Despite claims of multiple parishes being involved, this matter affects the parish in Colchester alone, and only clergy directly associated with its former Rector.
- Following the canonical practices of the Church, which prohibit clergymen from departing their Church or being received into another without receiving a letter of canonical release from their Hierarch, which in this matter was neither requested of their Bishop by any of the indicated clerics, nor given, the indicated clergymen have been temporarily suspended from their clerical rank and service, following the clear guidance of the Canons of our Holy Fathers in such circumstances. They are prohibited from serving in any liturgical or pastoral capacity while their situation is examined by the appropriate spiritual authorities of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia. The clergymen thus affected are Archpriest Andrew Phillips, Priest George Petrovsky, Deacon Timothy Phillips, Deacon Sergiu Smantana, and Reader Phillip Hicks. Any additional clergyman who joins in such uncanonical actions will face similar consequences.
- Despite whatever claims may be made either by these individuals or by any cleric from any other jurisdiction, including the Paris Archdiocese’s representatives in the UK or elsewhere, these clerics have not been released by the Church Abroad and therefore have not been, and cannot be, canonically received by anyone else; and similarly, no parish has been released to the Paris Archdiocese, nor has any been canonically received by them, whatever claims may be erroneously made. Statements implying that their ‘reception’ into the Paris Archdiocese is valid or accepted by other parts of the Russian Orthodox Church is directly refuted by statements received from the local Diocese of the Moscow Patriarchate as well as the office of His Holiness the Patriarch this week, both of which categorically reject the anti-canonical actions undertaken and recognise that the clergymen and parish involved remain under the sole canonical jurisdiction of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, that these men remain clerics of the ROCOR, under whatever appropriate canonical suspensions or other responses it may issue. As currently-suspended clergymen of the ROCOR, these individuals are not permitted to serve in any parish, including those of the Moscow Patriarchate, nor is any concelebration permitted with them; this, too, has been confirmed by the MP’s local hierarchy and the office of the Patriarchate. Clergy who serve in any liturgical capacity while under suspension sin greatly, and become subject to yet firmer responses by a Spiritual Court for ongoing violations of the Church Canons and teachings of the Holy Fathers. (UPDATE 11 FEBRUARY 2022: The former claims of the Paris Archdiocese to have ‘received’ these clergymen and any parishes have now been renounced by the Archdiocese and the documents promulgating those claims formally annulled by Archdiocesan Decree DEC2022-008.)
- Claims made by Archpriest Andrew in circulated correspondence, that his attempted departure from the Church of his obedience to another hierarch was done ‘with a Patriarchal blessing’, has been denied directly by the Patriarch’s office in written correspondence of this week, in which it is confirmed that His Holiness not only gave no such blessing, but knew nothing of Fr Andrew’s actions or intentions. The same correspondence reiterates that the position of the Moscow Patriarchate, with which we in the ROCOR and this Diocese are in the closest relationship and constant co-labours, is entirely in support of the canonical position of the Church Abroad in this matter. Efforts to portray this act of personal rebellion as if it were done in support of unity, or in the name of faithfulness to the Patriarch or Patriarchate, are entirely disingenuous and rejected by the Patriarchate directly.
We therefore implore the faithful to remain in tranquility of spirit during this difficult period for those in Colchester, and continue to pray for the repentance of the clergymen involved in this anti-canonical and anti-Church action. Further responses to their individual situations will be addressed within the normal structures of the Church Abroad; and matters relating to grave questions about the actions of the local cleric of the Paris Archdiocese of the UK, as well as the Archdiocese itself, in this matter, shall now be examined at appropriate levels. (UPDATE 11 FEBRUARY 2022: The former claims of the Paris Archdiocese to have ‘received’ these clergymen and any parishes have now been renounced by the Archdiocese and the documents promulgating those claims formally annulled by Archdiocesan Decree DEC2022-008.) During this period, we encourage all our pious faithful to ignore the propaganda and misinformation in circulation on the Internet about this matter; if any questions arise, all are welcomed to contact the Chancellery or Diocesan Bishop directly for clarification.
We know that these entirely unwanted trials most directly affect the faithful in Colchester itself and we are already taking steps to ensure you are pastorally cared for. Those individuals and families concerned by how the present circumstances directly affect their Church life, since reception of any sacraments by suspended clergymen is completely impossible, are encouraged to join those already contacting the Chancellery and/or the Diocesan Bishop directly, so that the measures to care for you can be explained. Be faithful and be strong, and the Lord God will bless you!