Homily by Metropolitan Emmanuel of France

On Sunday 13 March, His Eminence of the Locum tenens of the Archiepiscopal throne, Metropolitan Emmanuel celebrated the Divine Liturgy at the St Alexander Nevsky cathedral in Paris.  This is his homily.In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

We are now at the gates of Great Lent. The holy forty days appear before us. It is therefore time for repentance, listening, prayer, fasting and forgiveness. The last few Sundays all had a dimension of preparation which does not stop when we enter Great Lent, but which invites us to walk towards the risen Christ, with the risen Christ who is "the Way, the Truth and Life”. We commonly call the Sunday before entering Great Lent "Sunday of Forgiveness”. In the spiritual consciousness of the whole of the Orthodox Church, Lent, as a period of time, but also as a practice of fasting, prayer is inseparable from forgiveness. By asking forgiveness to one another, it is of Christ we ask forgiveness for our sins and for our lack of love. For Saint John of Kronstadt: "Not to wish to ask forgiveness shows our little faith, self-sufficiency, resentment, rebelliousness to the Gospel, resistance to God, complicity with the Devil."

The purpose of my presence among you today is to bring peace and to reassure. The history of the Exarchate is as rich as it is complex. It came about from an effort to resist totalitarianism and safeguard a spiritual tradition made of faith, piety and intelligence. Therefore, I perfectly understand your concerns when, from the communiqué of the meeting of the Council of the Archdiocese of 6 March 2013, you learned that the next extraordinary general meeting will no longer focus on the election of your new Archbishop. In order to restore a semblance of truth among the hubbub, especially on the Internet, caused by such a decision, it behoves me to explain the reasons. During the meeting of the Council of the Archdiocese of 13 February 2013, a list of three candidates was indeed established without perfect consensus among Council members. In my conscience, and respectful of the current statutes of the Exarchate, I could not sign the list of candidates as it stood.

In my role as locum tenens, which consists above all in the organization of elections of the new Archbishop, I am required to ensure that these elections are perfectly transparent and unassailable from a legal and canonical point of view in order to maintain as well as possible the integrity of your archdiocese. In my view, the conditions for such integrity were not met. Thus, during an audience with His Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, the latter, noting the lack of consensus around the candidates, submitted a proposal to allow on a temporary basis the development of conditions favourable to the election of a legitimate archbishop following due process. Therefore, the proposal of His Holiness the Patriarch is first and foremost an expression of pastoral care towards one of its ecclesial entities. The Ecumenical Patriarchate is in its role by guaranteeing the bond of ecclesial communion, in order to better safeguard the specificities of the Exarchate.

Yes, elections for a new Archbishop will take place in the near future. I cannot tell you when exactly, since the decision will be taken in consultation with the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Council of the Archdiocese. However, the invitation made to you to choose a vicar bishop, who will be my assistant until the election of the new Archbishop, will ensure continuity in the management of worship. As we have always done, we will continue to respect the liturgical and spiritual tradition that you represent. We will continue to respect the Patriarchal Tomos of 1999, as well as the statutes of the Exarchate.

Your tradition is Russian through its roots. It is a fact which we are aware of and rejoice about. But your tradition goes beyond the limits of the Slavic world, since it is embodied as a model capable of bringing together in a single parish faithful from very diverse backgrounds. Your liturgical tradition makes it possible to integrate the multi-ethnic reality of Orthodoxy in France. Moreover, even within our Metropolia, we have parishes which use the Slavic typikon, for the reasons I have just mentioned, because it facilitates the coexistence of Orthodox from diverse backgrounds. I dare to think that this tradition, particularly as far as our diaspora communities are concerned, is not the privilege of a few but the heritage of all the faithful.

Finally, I would like to assure you that I am not here to change the nature the Exarchate, even less so to annex it. Believe me, my various activities are sufficient for me. Nevertheless, you expressed your confidence in me when you proposed that I be appointed locum tenens and I do not want to disappoint you by not fulfilling my mission fully.

I have already said in January and I repeat today: "the Exarchate has a very special position within the Ecumenical Patriarchate and Orthodoxy. Be aware and proud of it. You are the custodians of a spiritual heritage which has to continue to develop, as in the parable of the talents”.

I call on your trust and courage whilst meditating these words of Saint Ignatius Brianchaninov as we are about to ask for forgiveness and enter into the great and holy Lent of Easter: "Let us forgive our fathers and brothers, near or far, alive or dead, for all offences and insults committed against us, as if they were not painful to bear”.

Amen and God bless you!