At the latest in 2018 the meeting of the Synod of the Russian Church decided to establish a Patriarchal exarchates in Western Europe and Southeast Asia, as well as the diocese of Spain and Portugal. We asked the priests serving in the territories of new exarchates, to tell about the prerequisites of this decision, its importance to the Orthodox world and the prospects it brings.
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Archpriest Andrew Kordochkin, rector of the Church of St Mary Magdalene in Madrid
For us servants here, the selection of the parishes of Spain and Portugal into a separate diocese is not something unexpected. In 2007, out of the Korsun diocese was selected parishes in Italy. It’s our turn.
When in Spain the diocese was established by the Patriarchate of Constantinople, it was clear that the Greeks in Spain is so small that it creates a structure “for growth” at the expense of Ukrainians – first of the priests ‘Patriarchate of Kiev’, and then – at the expense of anybody.
In this sense, we have a different situation. Spain live 73 thousand Russian citizens and 106 thousand Ukrainian citizens. Currently in this country serve 17 priests and 25 parishes. Another 11 parishes and communities act in Portugal.
You should also understand that Spain is not the Netherlands. Parishes are often several hundred kilometers from each other, coordinate their service from France is hardly possible. The creation of a new diocese is to overcome this isolation, to strengthen the unity among the priests who serve away from each other.
In addition, there are a number of issues related to the legal existence of parishes, and which can be solved only in the case that their administration will be in the capital.
I heartily wish Lord Nestor God’s help in his new service.
Archpriest Dionisy Pozdnyaev, rector of the Church of the Holy apostles Peter and Paul in Hong Kong
I see much self-important Bishop in the solution of local problems, first of all, the ordination of clergy for the communities in South-East Asia. The need for the presence of a Bishop in the region has matured – there are a lot of communities, they are in different countries, require attention and care, especially due to the nature of each of them. In East Asia missionary service should be a priority of our activity, it requires work and effort.
Here still there were no dioceses of the Russian Orthodox Church, this created some kind of imbalance, contributed to the erroneous opinion that the Patriarchate of Constantinople has some exclusive privileges in missionary service in Asia. I think that with a successful and active missionary activities of Bishop of the Russian Orthodox Church in Southeast Asia, this prejudice may be rebutted.
Conflict with Constantinople for a long time. The reason – the claim Fanara on the exclusivity of their rights. This attitude ignores reality and, in some cases, historical context. I would say that in Asia it is hard to imagine that relations could get any worse than they already were before this moment. I think we have reached a “bottom,” and the common approaches on the basis of mutual respect, we can talk about the prospects of improving relations. However, if Fanar is not will to cooperate, it will not prevent the Russian Orthodox Church to develop its missionary activity in the region, there is a real need.
Summing up the past 15 years, the mission of the Russian Church in South East Asia, we can talk about “explosive dynamics” of its development. In several countries of the region established community without the historical background. Much has been done in Thailand, a significant activity in the Philippines and Indonesia. The statistics would be fairly complex, but in General we can speak about the new direction of the Ministry of the Church in Asia. In this is seen an important support of Russia – not only by the clergy but by Church people.
The Russian Orthodox Church has potential for development beyond the borders of the Russian Federation – I take it as a blessing from God, predestination, calling, given to us as a possibility. Everything will depend on how significant resources will attract from Russia.
However, I would not link the issues of the Orthodox mission in Asia with the theme of “Russian presence” – the Church is not engaged in geopolitics, in this regard, for the Church is not so important, or not growing political presence of Russia in the region. I would formulate the question: what can the Russian Orthodox Church to give the peoples of South-East Asia? It is a difficult task, especially given the long and glorious history of the missions of Catholics and Protestants here.
Recorded Rowena Daria and Olga Lunina