Patriarch Theodore of Alexandria sent a circular message to the bishops of the Patriarchate of Alexandria, instructing him on how to approach the problems posed by the “illegal and vindictive invasion of the Russian Church into the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Alexandria” after the latter recognized the autocephaly of the Ukrainian Church. It is clear from the message that the tactics of the “Russian Exarchate” on the African continent envisage first financial enticement of local clergy, and then seizure of the temples of the parish communities and their other property.
“We learn with pain from our fellow hierarchs to our patriarchal cathedral, who describe the tragic events that befell them after the anti-canonical and inadmissible attempt to invade the Russian Church on the African continent, which has undoubtedly been in the canonical jurisdiction of our ancient patriarchy for centuries. This came after our recognition of the canonical autocephaly granted by the Ecumenical Patriarchate to the local Church of Ukraine.
The main goal of the non-fraternal Russian actions is the theft of the parish communities of local Orthodox Christians, which is done first by financially luring parish priests, and then separating parishes with their temples, buildings and others from our ancient patriarchate, which laid the foundations of Orthodoxy in the long-suffering African land and works around the clock with great efforts to enlighten all of us in Christ and other brothers and who, in addition to charities, is constantly building new structures to improve the quality of life of people here.
The Patriarch of Alexandria then told the bishops that the “robbery and disrespectful conduct of the Russian Church” must be addressed with clear action to protect movable and immovable parish property, to be organized by the diocesan legal advisers in accordance with local law. Relevant procedures must also be initiated for the immediate restoration of ownership of any property (temples, buildings, etc.) seized by an offender. To this end, the dioceses must speed up the process of documenting the ownership of all temples in order to limit the possibility of abuse.
With regard to the seceding African clergy, the patriarch ordered the bishops to impose a ban on the conduct of priesthood in the hope that they would repent until the competent ecclesiastical court of the Patriarchate of Alexandria ruled.
The patriarch called on the bishops to show courage to preserve the integrity of the verbal flock entrusted to them by their predecessors and acquired through the martyrdom of many hierarchs and priests, and not to be afraid to stand up for justice, following the canonical tradition of the Orthodox Church.
Finally Patriarch Theodore prays to “the Risen Lord, Who builds His Church, to purify the minds and hearts of the local clergy and our indigenous flock from the treacherous conduct of spiritual apostasy for thirty pieces of silver.”