by Efi Efthimiou
The events after the decision of the Russian Orthodox Parish of St. Nicholas the Myra in Amsterdam, to cease the commemoration of the Patriarch of Moscow Kirill because of his stance on the Russian invasion of Ukraine, are taking a worrying turn.
In a statement, the parish council announced that both the parish and the clergy had received threats, for this reason, from a Russian Bishop who arrived in Amsterdam specifically for this reason, by car – most likely – of the Russian embassy.
They announce that they have decided unanimously that it is no longer possible for them to function within the Moscow Patriarchate and provide a spiritually safe environment for their faithful.
For this reason, they have asked the local bishop of the Russian Church, Archbishop Elisey, to grant them canonical dismissal.
At the same time, they have sent a request to the Metropolitan of Belgium Athenagoras (of the Ecumenical Patriarchate) to be received into his Diocese.
The Metropolitan Athenagoras, according to the announcement of the parish of St Nicholas, expressed his willingness to consider the request and will request a canonical release from Archbishop Elisey.
The parish council has decided to support this move of the clergy and proposes the parish follow the clergy in it. This proposal will be presented at the special general parish meeting on March 26.
It is also pointed out that until the general parish assembly takes place, there will be no services in the church.
“This is due, not only to safety concerns but also to pastoral reasons: in this extremely tense situation, it would be virtually impossible to achieve the atmosphere of prayer required during the services.”
Also, according to the Dutch website Nederlands Dagblad, this decision of this Russian parish in Amsterdam, came after the unannounced visit last Sunday, March 6, of Archbishop Elisey.
As it is characteristically emphasized, Elisey insisted on commemorating Patriarch Kirill during the service, mentioning to the clergy of the parish that the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs monitors the whole issue “with great interest”.
According to the Dutch website, on Sunday, March 6, Archbishop Elisey, who lives in The Hague, appeared unannounced shortly before the beginning of the divine service in the parish of St. Nicholas in Amsterdam.
“He arrived in a car,” parishioners said, while sources in the Nederlands Dagblad said the car probably belonged to the Russian embassy.
During the Divine Liturgy, in the presence of Archbishop Elisey, the name of Patriarch Moscow was commemorated by a deacon who does not belong to the parish, as its clergy continued to refuse.
After the service, according to the Dutch website, the Russian Bishop informed in private conversation the two clergymen of the parish that “the stance of the parish worries not only the Moscow Patriarchate but the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs as well.” “There is great interest in your church,” he said, with the clergy of Agios Nikolaos explicitly perceiving it as a threat, according to a source on the Dutch website.
After the visit of the Archbishop, “the pressure in our parish has increased further”, the clergy emphasized in their letter to the parishioners. They mentioned multiple threats to the parish and the clergy, while last Tuesday unknown people formed the pro-Russian symbol “Z” in the church.
The building can no longer be a safe place for the faithful, the clergy say, because the risk of violent incidents is very high, so the church will remain closed until further notice.
In a statement issued Saturday, the clerics said they felt under pressure but “we are not backing down from our decision to distance ourselves from Patriarch Kyril.” Our conscience does not allow it. That is why we are forced to seek transfer to the Ecumenical Patriarchate”.
It is worth noting that the parish is in contact with both the police authorities and the Judiciary, while the building is guarded by police forces.