In the Moroccan city of Casablanca, the Russian Orthodox parish of the Assumption of the Mother of God is the centre of scandal. The church, built by First Wave Russian émigrés and their families in 1958, can fold at any time. Not only did the MP’s faithful and other Orthodox Christians in Morocco rally in defence of the cathedral, but the local Muslims did so as well. Assumption parish is one of the two Russian Orthodox parishes in Morocco. Archbishop Mark Golovkov, the head of the MP Secretariat for Foreign Institutions, said, “This scandal, which now threatens the very existence of the parish, began with the sudden sale of the church building. Recently, the parish was under the omofor of the ROCOR. Lately, it’s lacked a rector, as the ROCOR Holy Synod defrocked the priest who served there. He’s the leading light behind the sale of the church building to commercial interests. Unfortunately, the ROCOR wasn’t able to react in time”.
On 1 February 2012, some local residents broke into the church. They not only damaged valuables on the iconostas and threw down icons from the walls, but also tried to disturb some relics stored here. The new owner of the building said that since the parish complex is in a chi-chi area of the city, he will tear down the church and build a more cost-effective and showy building. However, since the sale was an illegal transaction, the Moroccan courts must annul it. Fr Maksim Massalitin, the rector of Holy Resurrection Russian Orthodox Church in Rabat told VOR, “Now, as the criminal investigation’s done, we look forward to see what happens as a result. They made out an inventory of what was sold with the church building, and they found that someone had to obtain specific permission to sell the land on which it stands. The notary who recorded the transaction said that they didn’t receive any special permits, so, we’re now contesting the act of selling the property. Any day now, we expect a judgement from the procuratorate of the kingdom”.
On 4 June, Russians living in Morocco took to the streets of Casablanca in a peaceful demonstration. It didn’t take long for Orthodox and Muslims in the city to join hands. Fr Maksim said, “Morocco’s a very tolerant country, and no there’s no animus against Christians here, and they don’t persecute Christians at all. Orthodox Christians who live here have always been grateful that the King grants them the opportunity worship in Morocco, which means that they can maintain their faith here. Despite the Islamisation process taking place throughout the Muslim world, which also affects the Kingdom of Morocco, Morocco has a well-valued tradition of religious tolerance”. Despite the fact that government officials in Casablanca had no immediate comment on the parish scandal, after the peaceful demonstration, they set a 24-hour-a-day round-the-clock guard over the building, not only to prevent the removal of relics and items, but also to prevent any unauthorized demolition of the church building before the court verdict.
6 June 2012
Voice of Russia World Service
Morocco has a “mixed” legal system; it uses the Code Napoléon in civil and criminal matters, but nearly all family and personal law is rooted in Sharia and Fiqh. Therefore, if the priest didn’t have the proper permits, or obtained them fraudulently, it’s no problem for the parish. It doesn’t hurt that the Russian government and the MP are exerting subtle pressure on the Moroccan authorities in favour of the parish, either.
This is why the present structure of the ROCOR has to go. The ROCOR, as constituted at present, lacks the means to correct miscreant and corrupt clergy. It simply lacks the money, full stop. It’s a powerless and bootless joke of an institution. That’s why some of the rebels didn’t want reconciliation in ’07 (others were Langley hirelings who saw the “writing on the wall”)… they saw that the Centre would take over (for the good) and enforce what it said. There’s no doubt that the MP can use the legal mechanism of the ROCOR in lands outside the CIS, and that the present ROCOR clergy have an experience in acting in (an often apathetic, if not hostile) Western environment. That being said, the present ROCOR is a relic of the Civil War, and it has to go. It’s much like the OCA, which is a beached relic of the Cold War.
Mind you, a structure known as the ROCOR will persist after the Centre remodels it. It will still have a First Hierarch (as do the UOC/MP, and the MP Churches in Latvia, Estonia, and Central Asia); it’ll still have a formal headquarters in New York City, but its real centre may become Jordanville… the Metropolitan of New York and Eastern America may live and rule from the monastery (just as the Patriarch of Antioch and all the East lives and rules from Damascus). Note well that the parish in Casablanca was a former ROCOR parish… the parishioners got tired of hearing, “Our hands are tied. We can’t do anything. You’ll just have to live with it. Concentrate on spiritual things and don’t poke about in church politics. They’re friends with the circle around the bishop”. That has to end… and it shall. Do note who’s involved… Mark Golovkov… not only a “name to know”, but also a “man to watch”.