Voices from Russia

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Orthodox France

A model of the proposed Russian Cultural and Spiritual Centre, which will be in Paris on the Quai Branly (7e arrondissement de Paris… I believe that the Underground stop is Alma-Marceau on Métro Line 9 and the RER stop is Gare de Pont de l’Alma (Line C) (both on either side of the Pont de l’Alma), or, the Underground stop is Invalides on Metro Lines 8/13 and the RER stop is Gare des Invalides (Line C)) 


The plan to construct an Orthodox church in Paris shall usher in a new era for the MP. In an international competition earlier this year, the unusual design for the project won a clear majority of votes…

Plans envisage that the new church on the picturesque banks of the Seine near the Pont Alexandre III won’t only be a cathedral, open for services, but it’ll also function as a Russian cultural and spiritual centre. Preparatory work will begin in the autumn, and the actual construction of the cathedral will start in January 2012. Today, the architects described their vision for the Russian Cultural and Spiritual Centre on Quai as a “church like an ocean wave”. According to current plans, the centre will have a five-domed white stone church; a “high-tech” wavy glass shelter will not only protect it and the centre’s other buildings from the elements, it’ll also cover an extensive attached park. Some of the money for the project comes from allocations from the RF state budget, whilst the rest came from private donations.

Patriarch Kirill Gundyaev of Moscow and all the Russias said, “The construction of such an unusual spiritual centre is symbolic and indicative of the closely-held and longstanding cultural ties between Russia and France. Because of these links, a large part of the emigration after the 1917 revolution ended up in France. Many of the émigrés made their lives here, of which a high proportion left Russia after the end of the Civil War, so, there’s an Orthodox diocese in France. At that time, the Russian Orthodox Cathedral in Paris was in a building that was a converted garage. In the ‘30s, it was difficult to build a church, and it wasn’t any easier in subsequent years, so, the centre of Russian Orthodoxy in Paris was a converted garage”.

This new church in Paris isn’t the only new one in France. A Russian church will soon appear in Strasbourg; the patriarch took a personal hand in this project, too. For the local Orthodox, this church’s advent is a great event. Igumen Filaret Bulekov, the former rector in Strasbourg, and, now, the Deputy Chairman of the MP DECR, said, “For quite some time, we’ve had to use premises at Catholic and Protestant churches. Our parish in Strasbourg is large compared to other overseas parishes of the MP, for it has 2,000 to 3,000 people. Of course, not all of them regularly attend services. However, the potential of this parish is very great. Most of the parishioners are people who came to work or to teach and study at the university. Some are simply those who chose to make this their home. It’s not just people from the Russian Federation, for there are many Ukrainians, Moldovans, and Georgians here”.

Not long ago, the RF took possession of another Orthodox church in France, St Nicholas Cathedral in Nice, the largest Orthodox church building in Western Europe. The battle for it, in both the literal and figurative sense, lasted several years. Archbishop Mark Golokov of Yegoryevsk said, “The matter even went to court. Well, the Russian state built the church; it belonged to the Imperial Household. Then, as it were, responsibility for the cathedral passed to the local church community in order to hold services. However, the lease expired, and the Russian embassy in France, on behalf of the RF state authorities, demanded a renegotiation of the occupancy contract. However, the church community refused to vacate the premises. A French court found in favour of the RF’s position on the matter”.

MP sources believe that the keen interest that some Frenchmen show to Russian Orthodoxy is largely due to the fact that Europe is at a crossroads in its history. The increase in ethnic minorities in Europe leads many to question what we might call the “Modern European” concept; they ponder the future of European civilisation… all this makes ordinary sorts in the EU attend to Russia and to the Orthodox Church, for they find in it a key defender of Christian tradition and European spiritual roots.

10 August 2011

Milena Faustova

Voice of Russia World Service


Editor’s Note:

Note who wasn’t invited to the love-feast and Dixie Fry… the EP Parisian Russians were left out in the cold… in Siberia, even! No mention of them whatsoever… in the section on St Nick’s in Nice, Bishop Mark spoke of a “church community” (церковная община) not a “parish” (приход), nor the Paris Exarchate by name. Nor was the Rue Daru cathedral or St Sergius Theological Institute even mentioned (does that mean that the MP wrote off the building and the institute?). In short, the MP didn’t even give the Rue Daru sorts the courtesy of being named as opponents. They’re simply irrelevant, pointless, and without a future. Don’t forget… SVS is Parisian to the core… ADS, von Meyendorff, and Behr came out of that milieu. Shall SVS “come home” after the OCA’s coming collapse, or, shall it go on a hegira to the EP? Perspirin’ minds wanna know…

Also, the ROCOR is MIA in the article… does this mean that the MP is getting ready to abolish the ROCOR as a discrete body and replace it with territorial Metropolitan Districts? The article doesn’t point us in any useful direction… but it COULD be there.



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