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Orthodox priests from Western Europe get together in Moscow ahead of historic reunification with Russian Orthodox Church (VIDEO)

Over 100 clerics, led by French Archbishop John, have gathered in Moscow to partake in three-day festivities that mark the reunification of the majority of Russian-tradition parishes in Western Europe with their mother Church.

The archbishop arrived late on Friday, accompanied by other high-ranking priests. The upcoming reunification is expected to revitalize the religious life of the Orthodox faithful in Western Europe, he said, expressing great joy over the return.

“We want to tell the Russian people that we’re truly happy about this return, which closes the painful chapter in our history. But now it’s been overcome thanks to the Moscow Patriarchate and to the understanding and generosity of all our members,” Archbishop John (Renneteau)  said.

While the official confirmation of unity is expected to be announced on Sunday at the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow, the reunification is already agreed.

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Back in September, the majority of parishes, governed by Archbishop John, voted for joining the Moscow Patriarchate. On Friday, Russia’s Patriarch Kirill signed a charter on the reunification. One copy of the charter will be presented to Archbishop John, while the other scroll will be kept in Moscow.

The reunification festivities are expected to last for three days and feature quite an eventful program for the archbishop’s delegation. On Saturday, they visited the Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius outside Moscow – the major Russian male monastery and one of the key spiritual centers of the Russian Orthodox Church. On Monday, Patriarch Kirill and Archbishop John are expected to hold a mass together.

The historic reunification effectively brings to an end the 100-year schism within the Russian Orthodox Church that followed the 1917 Revolution and mass emigration of the priests and faithful. The reunification is also a result of the ongoing disorder in the Constantinople Patriarchate, triggered by its decision to recognize an “independent” – schismatic – Ukrainian Church.

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The now-defunct Archdiocese of Russian Orthodox churches in Western Europe, once led by Archbishop John, used to be subordinate to Constantinople. Late in 2018, however, Constantinople unilaterally disbanded this exarchate in an attempt to get a better grip on its parishes. The archdiocese rejected the dissolution order and ultimately decided to return to its mother Church.

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