Culture January 6, 2022

Russian Orthodox Church resolves to form a Patriarchal Exarchate of Africa

The Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) at its meeting held on December 29, 2021 resolved to form the Patriarchal Exarchate of Africa. It will be consisting of the Diocese of North Africa and South Africa and the head of the Patriarchal Exarchate of Africa has been given the title “of Klin” (by the Russian city of Klin).

The head of the Synodal Department for the Church’s Relations with Society and Mass Media, Vladimir Legoida, stated that the Synod resolved that 102 clergy of the Patriarchate of Alexandria from eight countries in Africa, in compliance with their petitions, will be accepted in the jurisdiction of the Russian Orthodox Church. They wished so after the head of  the Patriarchate of Alexandria Theodore II recognized the Ukrainian schismatics.

It is worth mentioning, that Exarchate is being formed at the canonical territory of the Patriarchate of Alexandria and all Africa, which has already expressed its sorrow at the decision of the Russian Patriarchate. Relations between the ROC and the Patriarchate of Alexandria are in decline after the patriarch of the latter, Theodore II, recognized the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU) as autocephalous in 2019, meaning it is independent from the Russian Orthodox Church. The Synod of the ROC declared the unification council of the OCU as «uncanonical». On 26 December 2019, the ROC broke eucharistic communion with the patriarch of Alexandria, Theodore II, and ceased commemorating him.

Vladimir Legoida also reported that the Holy Synod resolved that the Diocese of North Africa should include the Patriarchal parishes of the Moscow Patriarchate in Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco and the ruling bishop of the Diocese of North Africa has the title “of Cairo and North Africa”. According to the website of the ROC the Diocese includes North and West Africa as well as African Horn. The Diocese of South Africa should include the parish of the Moscow Patriarchate in the Republic of South Africa, Mr. Legoida reported.

The Russian Orthodox Church of Saint Sergius of Radonezh in Midrand, South Africa. Source: The Church of Saint Sergius of Radonezh

According to Mr. Legoida, the Synod appointed Archbishop Leonid of Yerevan and Armenia as Patriarchal Exarch for Africa, Metropolitan of Klin, with instruction to rule the Diocese of North Africa and to be the temporary administrator of the Diocese of South Africa. 

In an interview with Russian news agency RIA-Novosti, metropolitan of Klin Leonid spoke of the plans of the Church in Africa, telling that the nucleus of the exarchate will be formed in Moscow. He added that 102 priests «have gone over with their parishes and flock. As we (i.e. ROC) foreseen, this is only the beginning». Currently the question of allotting land in Cairo for the construction there of a cathedral church is being discussed, afterwards, churches of the Russian Orthodox Church will be built in other African countries.

Andrey Maslov, the director of HSE Centre of African Studies, noted that «the great mobility of the African flock between churches and even between confessions, especially considering the the growing value of Russia as a brand in Africa, may lead to an unprecedented increase in the number of Orthodox Christians in the parishes of the ROC. The example of Nigeria shows that 100 thousand Africans can be converted to Orthodoxy by literally one bishop. What is more important: the financial and political capabilities of the Moscow Patriarchate, specifically potential ability to facilitate permissions for building new churches, will be its most important advantages over the Alexandrian Patriarchate, which operates in Africa with the support of the Church of Greece and institutions from the U.S., for instance, Orthodox Christian Mission Center». «The church has a reason to invest a lot in capacity building, construction and human capital , i.e. in education of Africans, not only clerics» – he added.