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ReligionChristianityAfter a protest by the Orthodox bishops in the USA, Archbishop Elpidophore...

After a protest by the Orthodox bishops in the USA, Archbishop Elpidophore canceled a planned ordination

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An unprecedented protest by the Orthodox bishops in the USA against the decision of Archbishop Elpidophorus (Ecumenical Patriarchate) led to the suspension of the episcopal ordination of archimandrite Alexander (Bèlya) of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad. He was to head the newly created “Slavic Orthodox Vicariate”. This vicariate was established as a bishopric (but without precise territorial boundaries within the United States) headed by a bishop – vicar of the archbishop. It will unite under the authority of the American Archdiocese (KP) some Orthodox Slavs who are not under the jurisdiction of the Orthodox Church in America (a former Russian metropolis that received autocephaly from Moscow in 1970, but is not recognized by most local Orthodox churches), nor of any of the national diasporas in the USA from canonical Slavic churches – Russian, Serbian, Bulgarian, etc. The term “Slavic” first appears in the official names of canonical Orthodox entities (bishoprics, dioceses, etc.) and is probably intended to avoid a possible conflict between Russians, Ukrainians, Carpathians, etc. in a similar church formation.

In the last two months, there has been an active correspondence between the archbishop. Elpidofor and the other members of the Assembly of Orthodox Canonical Bishops in the USA, where the Bulgarian Metropolitan of the USA, Canada and Australia Joseph is also a member. The very creation of the “Slavic Vicariate” only prepared the ground for opposition, but the cup overflowed with the election by the Fener Synod (which elects the bishops of the Ecumenical Patriarchate everywhere in the world) of Archimandrite Alexander (Bèlja) for Bishop of Nikopol on the proposal of the Archbishop Elpidophore. This happened on June 16 of this year, and his ordination as a bishop was scheduled for July 30 in Florida.

In their letters, the Orthodox American bishops from the non-Greek jurisdictions point to the fact of the overthrow of Archim. Alexander from the synod of the RPZC, which took place on February 18, 2020, as well as a number of canonical and moral violations. They threaten to interrupt the Eucharistic communion with the archbishop. Elpidophorus and the dissolution of the Assembly of Orthodox Canonical Bishops in the USA, which otherwise works successfully and is a form not only of cooperation, but also of Orthodox unity in the difficult times experienced by world Orthodoxy in recent years.

Initially, Archbishop Elpidophorus responded by saying that these were “unconfirmed allegations”, but after tensions between the American Orthodox Episcopate grew significantly, it was announced that the Alexander’s ordination for bishop was being postponed for the time being.

Background: Alexander Belya was born in 1981 in Western Ukraine. His father (with same names) was a priest and secretary of the Hust Diocese of the UOC-MP. Alexander Jr. graduated from the Faculty of Theology at the University of Presov in Slovakia in 2003 and then completed his doctorate in Olomouc, Czech Republic. There he became an associate of the local Orthodox bishop Simeon, who in February 2011 ordained him as a celibate (celibate) deacon and presbyter for one week, and gave him the distinction of abbot. At the end of the month Alexander is already in the USA, where he accompanies the archbishop. Christopher, then head of the Orthodox Church of the Czech Republic and Slovakia. There he met the head of the RPZC Mitr. Hilarion (Corporal), and after his return to the Czech Republic he was also promoted to Archimandrite (that is why in the photo he is wearing a crown without a cross, which is the Russian practice, note ed.). By the end of 2011, however, he was already a cleric of the RPZC, starting to serve in a new ecclesiastical community in Florida, named “St. Matrona of Moscow”. He made a good impression on the superiors, and in December 2018 the synod of the RPZC decided to ordain him as bishop of Miami, vicar of miter. Hilarion (Corporal). The decision was also approved by the synod in Moscow in August 2019, but dissatisfaction among the local clergy thwarted the ordination and only two weeks later the cleric was placed under interdict, and in the church entrusted to him “St. Matrona” begin inspections.

It was then, in September 2019, archimandrite Alexander moved with the parish he led, which is the largest Russian parish in Florida, to the Greek American Archdiocese, and this caused sharp dissatisfaction of the RPZC. He was banned from worshiping and was released from his posts, and the procedure for his episcopal ordination was suspended. In February 2020, he was deposed, but immediately in March of this year, Archbishop Elpidophorus appointed him vicar of the newly created Slavic Vicariate (which includes two church communities and one monastery, headed by the Bèlia family – Alexander Bèlia-son in Florida and of Fr. Alexander Bèlia-father in Brooklyn, who had emigrated to the USA in the meantime). During these months of 2022, the promotion of the overthrown archim was also set in motion. Alexander in the episcopal degree, but it met with the opposition of the Orthodox episcopate in the USA and his episcopal ordination was stopped for the second time.

Photo: Archimandrite Alexander (Belya)

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