Does Phanar begin a hostile takeover of Church of Czech Lands and Slovakia?
Why Constantinople registered its organization of one person at the address of the Czech monastery.
It has become known from open sources that the Patriarchate of Constantinople began to create a parallel jurisdiction in the Czech Republic, in the canonical territory of the Orthodox Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia (OCCLS) and registered a “monastery” subordinate to Phanar. What are the Phanariots striving for and what may their plan of forcible takeover of this Local Church be?
Christianity was brought to Moravia by Sts. Equal-to-the-Apostles Cyril and Methodius, who are also called the Moravian brothers. In 869, Pope Adrian II ordained St. Methodius to the rank of Archbishop of Moravia. This was before the fall of the Roman Church, which happened almost 200 years later, in 1054. Thus, the first Mother Church for the OCCLS was precisely the Orthodox Sazavska Monastery, and Orthodoxy disappeared from these lands for almost 800 years. Only at the end of the 19th century Orthodox temples appeared in the Czech Republic, which the Russian Church built for vacationers from Russia in Czech resorts. There appeared a Czech Orthodox community in Prague, which was also led by a priest from the Russian Church.
However, amid political disagreements between Russia and Austria-Hungary, and then World War I, the Austrian authorities did not register this Orthodox community in Prague and it legally belonged to the community of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Vienna. The Serbian Church ordained the first bishop for the Czech and Slovak lands, Bishop Gorazd (Pavlik). Thus, the Serbian Church became the second Mother Church for the OCCLS.
Bishop Gorazd put a lot of efforts in the formation of the Church in Czechoslovakia, and in the interwar period it developed quite actively, while being in the jurisdiction of the Serbian Church. During the Second World War, Bishop Gorazd was tortured by the Nazis and became the first holy martyr of the Church of Czechoslovakia.
At the same time, instead of supporting the work of St. Gorazd, the Patriarchate of Constantinople tried to create a parallel jurisdiction and in 1923 established its Autonomous Orthodox Church in the Czech Republic and Moravia and ordained Bishop Sabbatius (Vrabets) to lead it. However, the believers rejected him and remained faithful to Bishop Gorazd. Bishop Sabbatius retired, while the autonomous Church from Constantinople remained on paper.
During World War II, the Czechoslovak Church was liquidated by the Nazis and revived after the victory but already in the jurisdiction of the Russian Orthodox Church. Unlike Phanar, the Russian Orthodox Church did not pretend to rule this Church and in 1951 granted it full autocephaly, thus becoming the third Mother Church for the OCCLS.
As far back as 1923, Phanar tried to create a parallel church jurisdiction in Czechoslovakia.
An act signed by Patriarch Alexy (Simansky) read as follows: “The Russian Orthodox Church, represented by Patriarch Alexy of Moscow and All Russia and the entire Holy Council of Bishops, in consideration of the petition of the Church Council of the Orthodox Church in Czechoslovakia, grants autocephaly to this Church, formerly the Exarchate of the Moscow Patriarchate. The Russian Orthodox Church with one heart prays to the Heavenly Shepherd, our Head the Lord Jesus Christ so that He sends His Divine blessing to the youngest sister in the family of Orthodox Autocephalous Churches, the Church of Czechoslovakia and crowns Her with eternal glory.”
It is noteworthy that this is the full text of the act.
Constantinople categorically did not recognize it arguing that Saints Cyril and Methodius came to Moravia from Constantinople, therefore this is its canonical territory. Phanar was not at all embarrassed by the fact that Methodius was ordained bishop of Moravia in Rome and that for almost 800 years there was no Orthodoxy in these lands at all,.
But even without the recognition of Constantinople, the OCCLS was developing quite successfully and by the end of the 20th century already numbered several hundred thousand parishioners.
In 1998, the current Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew, recognized the Orthodox Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia by publishing his Tomos on the autocephaly of OCCLS. This Tomos is strikingly different from the ROC act. Whereas the act does not contain any terms on limitations of autocephaly, the Phanar’s Tomos abounds with them. Like in the Tomos for the OCU, there is an obligation for the OCCLS to receive the myrrh from Constantinople, to appeal there, coordinate all important issues with Phanar and act strictly in line with the foreign policy pursued by the Patriarchate of Constantinople.
The OCCLS considered the Phanar-issued Tomos to be simply an internal document of the Patriarchate of Constantinople.
However, in 2013, the Primate of the OCCLS Metropolitan Christopher (Pulz) was forced to retire due to the appearance of publications casting a shadow on his moral character. The publications, as it was established later, turned out to be slanderous, but this enabled Phanar to intervene in the affairs of the OCCLS.
On October 19, 2013, at the diocesan meeting of the Prague diocese, which was supposed to choose a new Prague bishop, the well-known Metropolitan Emmanuel (Adamakis) of France turned up and said that Phanar would not recognize any of the candidates proposed at the meeting. This caused confusion and the congregation was not able to elect its bishop.
In December 2013, in Prague, a meeting of the Holy Synod of the OCCLS was held, to which the locum tenens of the head of this Church, Archbishop Simeon (Yakovlevic) had already invited two Metropolitans of Constantinople – Emmanuel (Adamakis) of France and Arseny (Kardamakis) of Vienna. It was announced to everyone that these hierarchs would participate in the meetings of the Synod of a foreign Church with a casting vote.
The rest of the Czechoslovak hierarchs resolutely opposed to this and asked the Russian Orthodox Church for protection from Phanar’s gross interference in the affairs of the Church OCCLS. Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev), the head of the Department for External Church Relations, arrived in Prague. He negotiated with the Phanariots and ensured that the Synod of the OCCLS would settle its own affairs without interference from other Churches.
The Synod of the OCCLS removed the locum tenens, Archbishop Simeon (Yakovlevic), from office and appointed Metropolitan Rostislav (Gont). And soon after the Local Council of the OCCLS elected Metropolitan Rostislav, who received 87% of the vote, as the Primate.
The Constantinople-issued Tomos for OCCLS is replete with terms and restrictions – like the Tomos for the OCU.
It is easy to guess that Phanar did not recognize such an election and continued to consider its protégé – Archbishop Simeon – as the locum tenens thus provoking a split in the OCCLS.
In February 2015, Constantinople further aggravated this schism, having ordained Bishop Isaiah (Slanink) for the OCCLS in order to create an “alternative Synod” of the OCCLS.
It is not known how the situation would develop further, but in 2016 Phanar urgently needed the support of the OCCLS in the run-up to the Cretan Council. This Council, as we recall, was supposed to affirm the primacy of Constantinople in the Orthodox world, securing it many exclusive powers, and also open the way to unification with the Latins, recognizing the Vatican as an Orthodox Church along with Orthodoxy.
Thanks to the Providence of God, Four Local Churches did not attend this Council and it did not become pan-Orthodox, in fact. But then, before this Council, Patriarch Bartholomew struggled to ensure the presence of the Primates of all Local Churches and he had no time to fight with Metropolitan Rostislav. As a result, Phanar recognized Metropolitan Rostislav as the head of the Church, while the OCCLS recognized the Tomos of Constantinople of 1998 on its own autocephaly, which puts the OCCLS in actual subordination to Phanar.
A new attack by Phanar on the OCCLS ensued already in 2019 due to the fact that the Czechoslovak Church did not recognize the OCU and declared support for the UOC and His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry. On the same day when Phanar made its lawless decisions on Ukraine, on October 11, 2018, Metropolitan Rostislav sent a letter to the Russian Orthodox Church condemning the gross interference of the Ukrainian government in the internal life of the OCCLS and also stated that the position of the Church on this issue remains unchanged.
“World Orthodoxy recognizes the only canonical head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and All Ukraine. This fact was repeatedly mentioned and reiterated on behalf of all those present by the Holy Primate of the Great Christ Church of Constantinople, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew at the Synaxis of the Primates of the Local Orthodox Churches, which took place in Chambesy (Switzerland) from January 21 to 27, 2016. Therefore, any attempt to legalize the Ukrainian schismatics by the state authorities should be strongly condemned by all the Primates of the Local Orthodox Churches,” the letter said.
And on February 3, 2019, on the day of “enthronement” of Epiphany Dumenko, Metropolitan Rostislav declared the following: “In fact, the Orthodox Church of Ukraine has existed for centuries – from the time of Equal-to-the-Apostles Vladimir and Princess Olga, from the day of the Baptism in the Dnieper, and it has its primate – this is His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and All Ukraine. <...> Among the high-ranking hierarchs there were those who decided to refute this, who considered for nothing what had been for centuries and proclaimed this impostor ‘a metropolitan of all Ukraine’ instead of the canonical metropolitan.”
Of course, this position aroused the indignation of Constantinople, which launched a new offensive on the OCCLS. In August 2019, Phanar initiated the creation of a parallel jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Constantinople in the Czech Republic. At the constituent assembly, the legal entity “Association: Holy Patriarchal Stavropegic Monastery of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (hereinafter referred to as the Association)” was created and the statute was adopted.
Only three people took part in the Constituent Assembly: Konstantinos Kardamakis, who is also Metropolitan Arseny of Austria (Constantinople Patriarchate), ThDr. Igor Slaninka, who is also Bishop Isaiah, and also a certain Roman Rugyko. These three established the Association and elected its chairman – “Dr. Konstantinos Kardamakis, born on October 31, 1973, residing at 13 Fleiskmarket, 1010 Vienna, Austria” and his deputy – “ThDr. (Doctor of Theology) Igor Isaiah Slaninka, born on June 25, 1980, living at the address: Jana Zizky, 1116/13, 434 01 Bridge.”
On October 1, 2019, the Association was registered by the regional court of Ostrava city.
What is noteworthy, in this extract in the column "number of members" there is a number 1. And the most interesting thing is that the monastery of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary at this address has already existed for a long while.
There is not much information about it on the Internet. There are some photos on the Czech site “Light of Orthodoxy” and a little information for the pilgrims on the website "Pilgrimage Alphabet":
“The Monastery of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary is located in the town of Vilemov, which is located in the Czech Republic. Over the long years of its existence, this convent became one of the main centers of Orthodoxy in the traditionally Catholic Czech Republic. Located in a quiet area, the monastery became a place of seclusion for a small Orthodox community. <...> Address: Czech Republic, Olomouc District, 783 22 Vilemov 159.”
What do we have? Phanar creates a monastery under the name "Association" at the same address, on the site of a female monastic community, which has existed for many years. Moreover, the Association formally establishes three people, none of whom has anything to do with this monastic community. The number of members of the Association, according to the extract from the register, is only one person. Furthermore, the Association is subordinate not to the OCCLS, i.e. the Local Church in whose canonical territory it is registered but directly to the Patriarchate of Constantinople.
Here is a paragraph of the Association’s statute on its goals: “The Association is a voluntary, non-governmental, non-profit association of Orthodox believers under the spiritual leadership of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, which united the advocates of the spiritual development of Orthodox citizens living in the Czech Republic and other Orthodox believers to satisfy their spiritual needs, for vigorous activity in this development, to popularize this goal and ensure charitable activities in the field of this missionary work. The task is also to lead a spiritual and liturgical life, to be engaged in charity work, to help those in need, and at the same time to create contact spiritual centers (dependencies) to fulfill this goal. For this purpose, the chairman of the association (abbot) appoints the clergy who received the canonical mission. At the same time, it has to pay attention and help protect the rights of citizens and Orthodox believers, defend their interests in accordance with the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedom and to make sure that no one incites hatred, intolerance, supports violence or violates the Constitution and laws.”
- The Association is subordinate to Constantinople;
- The Association extends its activities to all Orthodox citizens living in the Czech Republic;
- in the list of tasks of the established monastery (Association) there is not a word about monastic life.
This means that under the guise of a monastery, a parallel jurisdiction will be established, which will expand throughout the Czech Republic, and then, possibly, will spread to Slovakia.
The fact that the Association is supervised by the bishop, who lives in Austria, speaks of two things. First, the Association will not attract “seekers of the monastic life” but entire parishes with the clergy, laity, churches and church property. As the recent developments show, Phanar has perfectly mastered the art of “head-hunting” clerics into its jurisdiction using blackmail, threats, financial incentives, political and other pressures, etc. Secondly, if there are not so many people who want to move from the OCCLS to the jurisdiction of Phanar, not only Czech or Slovak priests will be attracted but also Phanar-loyal clergy from other countries.
When the members of the Association are significantly more than one person, Phanar will be able to either carry out a coup in the OCCLS, bringing its people to power (the same Igor-Isaiah Slaninka), or even transfer the OCCLS to its jurisdiction having eliminated autocephaly. Such a renewed (or abolished) OCCLS will definitely recognize the OCU.
Time will tell whether these plans are destined to come true, yet we have no choice but to pray for the Primate of the Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia, Metropolitan Rostislav, and the faithful hierarchs of his Church wishing them to have the same stamina and courage as His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and All Ukraine.