Russia acquires land near Eiffel Tower, plans Orthodox center

The Russian Orthodox Church is on a roll!

Russia has defeated Canada and Saudi Arabia in a tender for a plot of land in downtown Paris and will build a spiritual and cultural center on the banks of the Seine River near the Eiffel Tower.

Eiffel Tower

France’s Budget Ministry said in a statement on Monday that Russia had offered the highest price for the land, but did not elaborate on the figure.

The plot of land on the Branly Quay is currently occupied by the French national meteorological service, Meteo France, which is expected to be relocated in 2011.

According to the Russian Newsweek magazine, Canada was seeking for the land for a new embassy, while Saudi Arabia wanted to build a diplomatic office and a mosque, intended only for Saudi citizens.

Russia reportedly plans to build an Orthodox church on the plot, and to relocate a divinity school currently located on the outskirts of Paris.

The magazine quoted experts as saying an average price of land in the area was about 7,000 euros (more than $9,500), which means Russia may have bid 50 million euros ($70 million) or more.

The purchase took place in the Year of Russia in France and France in Russia.

Konstantin Kosachyov, the head of Russian parliament’s International Affairs Committee, told the magazine that the Russian state would hand the piece of prime real estate over to the Russian Orthodox Church.

A group of private investors also reportedly took part in the tender, with plans to build a hotel on the Branly Quay.

The plot would be the second major French acquisition this year for the Russian Orthodox Church, after a court ruled in January that Russia was the rightful owner of St. Nicholas Orthodox Cathedral in Nice.

The church, originally the property of Tsar Nicholas II, had been given to the archbishop of St. Petersburg on a 99-year lease, which expired on December 31, 2007.

In 2007, the Cote d’Azur region, which includes Nice at its center, declared the contents of the church part of the national patrimony, which meant no part of it could be removed from France without the permission of the Culture Ministry.

The Patriarchate of Moscow claimed the church should be returned to the Russian state as the successor to the tsarist regime.

The Russian Orthodox Association of Nice (ACOR) said it would appeal the ruling, arguing the cathedral belongs to the Orthodox Church of Constantinople.


  1. George Michalopulos :

    Well, it appears that the MP is acting (rightly in my opinion) as the most dynamic primate in the Orthdodox world. If nothing else, this puts to rest the fabulous interpretation of canon 28, which supposedly arrogated to the EP the right to build and acquire land outside of existing Orthodox lands.

    • “Well, it appears that the MP is acting (rightly in my opinion) as the most dynamic primate in the Orthdodox world.”

      Sure does. More importantly, he appears to be acting aggressively in the service of pastoral goals. In the end, the authority of the Church is “moral” (or better: spiritual), not political. Which is to say, it’s authority is build on primarily pastoral foundations. Those who are following the same path in America are best serving the glory of God – or so it seems to me.

  2. George, here is a better perspective: The Church is Moscow just paid millions of dollars to better position itself to evangelize Europe while the Phanar is shaking the proverbial tin cup in America asking its people to give them properties for free. The contrast is in many ways both stunning and revealing.

  3. George Michalopulos :

    Andrew, when you put it like that, you’re absolutely right. The contrast is startling to say the least. Even though I didn’t see it that way at first, I’m sure your assessment will be the prevailing paradigm. which is all to the good as far as Orthodox evangelism is concerned.

    • I’ve wondering about the crisis in Greece, how the power of the purse string being taken from Athens and given to Brussels is going to affect how the CoG (on whom the Socialsit government might prey on for funds) and the Phanar are going to do the Church’s work.

      • I must say the prospect of the Phanar needing a bail-out to keep the lights on is an interesting one.

        Is there any historical precedent for one Orthodox Patriarchate bailing out another???

        • Sort of: Romans 15:56-27

          At present, however, I am going to Jerusalem bringing aid to the saints. For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make some contribution for the poor among the saints at Jerusalem. For they were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have come to share in their spiritual blessings, they ought also to be of service to them in material blessings.

      • Isa,

        For as much money as the GOA sends to C’nople, I’ve always been told that the Greek government is far and away the biggest source of funds for the Phanar.

        Just for what it’s worth.

        Any serious cutback in Athens, which one would certainly expect, would be expected to affect C’nople as well.

        We live in interesting times…for sure.

        Best Regards,

        • George Michalopulos :

          Dean, the news coming out of the Eurozone is terrible. The French and the German central bankers are balking at having to bail out Greece (then Portugal, Spain, Italy, and Ireland). Right now Greece is on the front-burner. I’m afraid that if they do bail out Greece, then the strings attached will be too horrible to contemplate. From a religious point of view, I’d say that the bankers would force Mt Athos to open up to tourism –and I mean open up to women as well. Either way, it’s not going to be a pretty sight.

          • Ah, the irony! The more aggessively secular France and Germany bailing out the more religious (and that’s a relative term) Greece, Portugal (I don’t think it even has abortion yet), Spain (though the socialists there are trying to catch up, e.g. gay marriage), Italy and Ireland. Though I’ve been both to France and Germany, and it seems a large part of their economy is being run by Greeks, Portuguese, and Italian (I didn’t personally observe any Irish in France or Germany) immigrants (and Poles, and of course the Arabs). These immigrant groups, being more family orientated (largely through religious influence) have the kids that the French and Germans don’t. Of course, if the Germans and French get to remake the religious Mediterranean (and Irealand) in their own image, Eurabia can be hastened all the more….then they will learn what problems are.

          • George Michalopulos :

            Isa, I guess we won’t hear any more talk from 79th St about Greece subsidizing Holy Cross. What was that all about?

  4. George Michalopulos :

    You know, another way of looking at this is by taking a step back and contemplating on all the events that were set in motion one year ago, beginning with +Philip’s clownishly unilateral demotion of the bishops to auxiliary status. Then what happened? The archimandrite’s unfortunate speech at Holy Cross, followed by a nonsensical essay put out by the faculty there, then Chambesy, then the Riverboat Express, now…what? All to what end? The consolidation of +Kirill’s authority in the very heart of Europe? What irony.

  5. Can someone help me understand what, from a polity standpoint, is going on with the MP creating an Orthodox Center in France?

    I thought that the standard for Orthodox polity is that there would only be one Orthodoxy church per country, or region. Thus, we have the Russian, Greek, Romanian, Polish, Finish, etc. Orthodox Church.

    According to the EP’s web site there is a “Holy Metropolis of France.” Shouldn’t this sort of endeavor, i.e., an Orthodox Center, come through this Metropolis? If the Metropolis already exists, why muddy the waters with the introduction of another Orthodox church?

    Thank you.

    (I’m not Orthodox, but I’m interested in the discussion.)

    • Scott Pennington :


      Once you look beyond traditionally Orthodox countries and examine the situation in the United States, Western Europe and elsewhere, you find many anomalies (actually, you find some anomalies in the Ukraine, but that’s a longer answer).

      It is true, as you suggest, that Orthodox ecclesiology and canon law indicate that there should be one bishop in a geographical diocese. The overlapping jurisdictions we have in the West are uncanonical. They are a result of disorganized expansion and conflicting views on the prerogatives of local churches (a local church being, for example, the Russian Orthodox Church or the Orthodox Church of Greece). If memory serves, canon law gives the responsiblity for missionary work to the nearest Orthodox church to the territory and also indicates that if there is inaction by that church that other churches may become involved.

      Often, Greeks, Russians, Syrians, Lebanese, etc. immigrated to America or Western Europe in search of a better life. When the communities got big enough, they sought an Orthodox priest from the old country. I do not want to reignite the debate over the proper jurisdiction status of the Orthodox churches in America, but it is my opinion (and an opinion widely shared) that before the Russian Revolution, the Russian Orthodox Church was the “Mother Church” of North American Orthodoxy. The Russians were the first Orthodox to reach North America and a core purpose of their sending clergy to Alaska, California, etc. was missionary work.

      The Patriarchate of Constantinople, since the 1920’s, has taken a different view of the situation. They have asserted that all territory (on Earth, supposedly) not within the established boundaries of another local Orthodox church is under the jurisdiction of Constantinople. No other Orthodox church (well, maybe the Church of Greece) accepts this theory.

      So, generally, the expansion of Orthodoxy in America and Western Europe has been irregular. The local churches are purportedly trying to normalize this situation. I wish them luck.

      • Scott Pennington :


        To specifically address the situation in France and Europe generally, I found this explanation/quote from Metropolitan Hilarion (then Bishop of Vienna and Austria) of the Russia Orthodox Church. It’s reference to the ROC and ROCOR being separate entities is now dated since they reconciled in 2007:

        “In Western Europe, as a result of the revolutionary upheavals of the 1920s, a no less confusing situation has arisen. A large number of Russian Orthodox faithful ended up in France, Germany and other Western European countries as well as outside of Europe, and began to create their own Church structures. The formation of metropolies and archdioceses of the Patriarchates of Constantinople and Antioch occurred simultaneously. After World War II the Serbian, Romanian and Bulgarian dia-sporas grew significantly and established their own church structures. These diasporas are continuing to grow to this very day. Finally, as a result of a mass exodus of Georgians from their country during the last few years, parishes of the Georgian Orthodox Church have also been created in Europe. As a result of these processes one can find several Orthodox bishops in the same European city, each one representing a different Orthodox Church.

        The situation of the Russian diaspora in Western Europe and America is made more complicated by the fact that not all faithful of the Russian Orthodox tradition belong to the same church jurisdiction. Alongside the Moscow Patriarchate in and outside of Europe, there has existed the “Russian Orthodox Church outside Russia” since the 1920s, which separated from the Mother Church for political reasons and is not recognized by any canonical Local Orthodox Church [This statement was inaccurate. Serbia and Jerusalem maintained communion with ROCOR for most of its separate existence – Scott]. From the 1930s there has existed a church structure in Europe which brings together Russian Orthodox parishes that entered the jurisdiction of the Constantinople Patriarchate. The Moscow Patriarchate has repeatedly made attempts at uniting the Russian Church diaspora under one jurisdictional “roof”. At present negotiations on the restoration of full Eucharistic communion between the Moscow Patriarchate and the Russian Orthodox Church outside Russia are taking place.”

        • Scott,

          Isn’t the MP contributing to this “confusing situation” by acting unilaterally, rather than through the Holy Metropolis of France?

          • Scott Pennington :


            You may be misunderstanding the nature of the Patriarchate of Constantinople. The other patriarchates do not have an obligation to work through Constantinople. The EP is not an Eastern Pope. He is first among equals — a type of chairman of the board at a round table.

            Since the early 1920’s, Constantinople has insisted, without any clear support, that America, Western Europe, etc. are under its jurisdiction since these territories are not the canonical territory of any other local church. There is no canon that states this. The EP also claims that it has the sole prerogative to declare a church to be autocephalous. There is no canon that states this either.

            Both the late Patriarch Alexi of Moscow and Metropolitan Phillip of the Antiochian Church in North America have taken it upon themselves to attempt to explain this to Constantinople. Unfortunately, the EP is not amenable to their point of view.

            Until that question is resolved or until some agreement is reached that sidesteps the actual question of Constantinople’s prerogatives, you can expect that each patriarchate will continue to focus on providing for the needs of their ethnic group, wherever they may be, as well as evangelizing (if they are so inclined). If evangelization is a serious priority, then at least that’s a silver lining.

    • Ask the EP: Moscow has been in Paris before.

      • Isa,

        If I’m going to go that route, I think my question should be addressed to the MP since they are the ones that took the action. Do they have an e-mail address? I looked on the site and did’t see one.

        • Perhaps you missed this in the article:

          “The plot would be the second major French acquisition this year for the Russian Orthodox Church, after a court ruled in January that Russia was the rightful owner of St. Nicholas Orthodox Cathedral in Nice.

          The church, originally the property of Tsar Nicholas II, had been given to the archbishop of St. Petersburg on a 99-year lease, which expired on December 31, 2007.”

          Asserting their rights is an action, I’ll grant. Is there a question why they did?

          Btw, the Russian Orthodox Church has had a Church in Paris from at least as early as 1861. The Greek Orthodox Metropolis of France wasn’t founded until almost a century later, in 1963.

  6. I tried posting this on the Transcription of Met. Jonah’s Speech on Orthodoxy Unity in America thread, in response (#7) by Fr. Andrew to George M.

    I hope it is not too out of place here:

    I originally came across this, looking for the speech Met. Jonah gave where he laid out that the OCA and Phanar visions are the only real ones out there, that the ethnarch models (now recently reiterated by the Holy Synod of Romania)are basically not viable. Does anyone recognize the speech/sermon I am speaking of, and can direct me to it?

    While I am here though, I’d like to refer to Fr. Andrew’s post, specifically on “there was a move to close down the Russian vicariate in America, according to a letter from St. Innocent, since in their opinion Alaska was no longer part of Russia’s canonical territory.” Such was not the case: the Alaska see had been abolished before, in 1811, at the same time that Russia was setting up its Fort Ross colony near San Francisco, the precursor of the Russian See there. It was, as always, a question of money, not canonicity (of which the Russians had no doubt). I have posted a number of links/reproduced a number of primary documents on the website Some hightlights:

    The Cession Treaty between Russian and Alaska: the explicit terms incorporates the Orthodox Church in Alaska with jurisdiction analogous to US control over Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. The Full Faith and Credit and Supremacy clauses takes care of that “jurisdiction all the way down to Florida, across the then territory of multiple colonial powers”: Under US law, the Alaskan Mission had legal standing all the way down to Florida. It also, btw, made Bishop Paul the first primate in the Americas to hold US citizenship (and natural at that: if he wanted, he could have run for president).

    A thourough study on Orthodox Jurisdictions 1st ed. 1865, 2nd 1904 (where the Russians are mentioned in San Francisco)Verfassung und gegenwärtiger Bestand sämmtlicher Kirchen des Orients Eine canonistisch-statistische Abhandlung (Constitution and Current Stock of all the Churches of the Orient. A canonist–statistical treatment) by Isodore Silbernagl. It doesn’t even hint at the EP’s present 28 canon claims. btw, I translated the section, so you don’t need to read German (or Fraktur!) to read it.

    The New York law of “Incorporation of Greek churches” of 1871, which states that “It shall be lawful for any church or congregation, of the ” Christian Orthodox Catholic Church of the Eastern Confession,” now or hereafter existing in this State, to be incorporated according to the provisions of this act…The Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary of Russia to the United States, and the Consul General of Russia to the United States, then acknowledged and received as such by the government of the United States, may sign a certificate in duplicates, showing the name or title by which they and their successors shall be known and distinguished as a body corporate by virtue of this act…The successors in office of such Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary and Consul General, for the time being acknowledged and received as aforesaid, shall by virtue of their office be the trustees of such church, in place of their predecessors….” This Act was incorporated into the RCL in 1899, with the change of “may” to “shall”:”Special Provisions for the Incorporation and Government of Roman Catholic and Greek Churches…A certificate of incorporation of an unincorporated Christian Orthodox Catholic church of the eastern confession shall be executed and acknowledged by the envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary, and by the consul-general of Russia to the United States, then acknowledged and received as such by the United States. On filing such certificate such church shall be a corporateion by the name stated in the certificate.” It seems that under New York law (where the GOANSA was chartered, see below) there was no jurisdictional disunity,as far back as 1871. Full Faith and Credit would be operative here as well.

    The letter of the “Tlingit (the “Klinkit” of the transcription above) Orthodox Chiefs” to the US President insisting on their rights from the Cession Treaty, sent decades after its ratification (the Tlingit coverted en masse AFTER the Russians left).

    The 1905 chartering of the first Greek churches in New York, the first Greek (in the phyletist sense) churches to be charted, the first charter being granted unconstitutionally (according to the New York constitution) by special legislation and whose explicit terms set Holy Trinity (the present Greek metropolis) in New York as NOT as of “the Greek Church of the Eastern Confession” but as “”The Hellenic Eastern Orthodox Church of New York,” and seperate not only from the Russian Church but from the Church of Greece as well.

    A 1908 article in Echoes d’Orient, which points out that “outside the Hellenic kingdom of the church, the four old patriarchs and the church of Cyprus, no constituted Greek Orthodox hierarchy” and “The Russians definitely have in North America the Diocese of the Aleutian Islands, whose primate lives in San Francisco and is also assisted by two Auxiliary Bishops….but while being brothers in religion, while having the same liturgical rite, the Greeks never opt to attend the Russian offices and especially to be dependent on a Muscovite bishop.” Anywhere else, that would be called uncanonical at best if not schismatic. And that’s not based on “sending Russian missionaries to Russian Alaska,” but the present of a full hierarchy exerted jurisdiction in an area and the presence of priests with no hierarchy refusing to recognize the established one. The article was on the discusions of the Holy Synod of Constantinople which resulted in the 1908 Tomos.

    Some of may comments can be found here:

    I’ve also a thread on the “Odd Canonical history of the 1922 GOANSA Charter” at That charter set up bishopricks in sees already occupied.

  7. George Michalopulos :

    Isa, your facts are impeccable. I’m glad you’re doing the research, I guess that’s not why I’m a laywer 🙂

  8. The SCOBA encyclical for Sunday of Orthodoxy sounds a little off base to me this year. Are we celebrating Chambesy and Canon 28 or are we celebrating Orthodoxy in it fullness. There are brighter minds than me on here but I am uncomfortable with my initial read of this.

  9. George Michalopulos :

    Andrew, if you ask me SCOBA’s statement is of delphic complexity. It can mean anything. Now that the Romanian patriarchate has played ethnic card, and the Antiochian patriarchate has spoken against Chambesy, my gut tells me that all bets are off. Or just more of the same old same old.

    • George, speaking of Sunday of Orthodoxy. Has the GOA/OCA rift been healed in Boston or is the +Methodios temper tantrum still on going?

    • Scott Pennington :


      ” . . . and the Antiochian patriarchate has spoken against Chambesy . . . ”

      I missed this one. Do you have a link? I don’t doubt your word at all but I’d like to read it. I can see what their motivation would be. I see two possible results for American Orthodoxy coming out of the Chambesy process, assuming it accomplishes anything – – one is the American Church would fall under Constantinople, the other is that it would become autocephalous. Neither prospect is probably particularly appetizing to Damascus.

      • George Michalopulos :

        Scott, I just got this from an internal source. I’ll see if I can find out more. Does anybody in the Antiochian jurisdiction know of a printed source?

      • George Michalopulos :

        Scott, re a united American church “coming under C’pole,” the whole purpose of Chambesy was to create new autocephalous churches wherever existing canonical jurisdictions already exist. So that whole thing was off the table from the get-go, all delusionary speeches delivered at seminaries to the contrary. (Unless of course the Russians take over the EP, then all bets are off the table. Who says God doesn’t have a sense of humor?)

        If I may be acerbic here: this is one of the reasons that I was against the Chambesy protocols as far as North America was concerned. Broken record alert: There already exists a canonical, local, autocphalous Orthodox Church in North America. Therefore the Chambesy protocols at best create nothing but a super-sized SCOBA (yawn), or at worst create a mechanism by which true canonical unity is never achieved (villainously twirl the moustache).

        What are we to make of the latest contretemps coming out of Romania and Antioch? They could be delaying tactics in order to get more concessions. or they could cause the wheels to come off the unity wagon. Unfortunately, what is obvious to me is that there is very little love between the various patriarchates. Nationalism uber alles. Either way, this is all so incredibly sad. Lord have mercy.

        • George Michalopulos :

          p.s. Scott, please understand that the lines in boldface were intended for general consumption, especially those that are unaware of canonical norms, not you personally. Please forgive me if they came out any other way.

          • Scott Pennington :


            No problem. Something in me is simply suspicious that Constantinople might try to hijack the process to get what Fr. Elpidophoros stated they wanted in his speech. Perhaps you’re right and that is not on the table anymore.

            As far as the OCA being the local autocephalous church in North America, I won’t disagree with you. However, regularizing the situation and obtaining universal recognition would be a good thing. Universal recognition presumes other primates would merge their jurisdictions with the OCA so as to reestablish canonical ecclesiology.

            Several things concern me about the Chambesy process.

            One, it ties the hands of universally recognized autocephalous churches to grant autocephaly to their daughter churches without Constantinople’s ratification. It is nice to be recognized by Constantinople, but that is too much power to give one see. Constantinople fell into h*r*sy during the Council of Florence period, Russia elected its own metropolitan and was, de facto, autocephalous. It reminds me of the language – – I believe it was at Ravenna – – where the definition of the Orthodox Church was stated to be those churches in communion with the EP. That definition is useless unless the EP happens to be a canonical Orthodox church at the time. And even then, it’s simply a truism.

            Two, it presumes (apparently because the Phanar would have a hissyfit otherwise) that the Episcopal Assemblies must be chaired by the local representative of the EP (or the highest ranking church in the diptychs if there is no EP church in the area). Both one and two seem to bow to “Greek mythology” [no offense] regarding the Phanar’s prerogatives.

            Three, it seems calculated to waste time (as you observed above). All that needs to be done to obtain a universally recognized OCA is for the “old world” patriarchates to bless it. You don’t need any of this Episcopal Assembly (EA) stuff. You could create a provisional synod to work out the question of who would be the diocesan bishops and primate. This provisional synod would also work out how the church’s finances would be integrated (and what the financial relationship would be with other autocephalous churches). I know I’m making it sound too easy by saying this. And some may accuse me of oversimplifying the situation and not taking into account the human realities involved. But the questions of bishop’s turf has to be addressed sooner or later and the longer it’s put off, the longer it will take to accomplish the purported purpose of the EA’s.

            I just don’t think there is anything near a critical mass in the GOA or AOCNA for this to actually happen. And you’re right, a bigger SCOBA doesn’t seem to facilitate anything. If I were going to think up a process designed to accomplish nothing while appearing to move toward meeting expectations, this is what I would come up with.

            Well, wake me when something interesting happens.

          • Scott, I agree. The Sunday of Orthodox SCOBA letter makes me uneasy. It also makes me wonder what type of Phanariot Shenanigans are afoot. I wonder sometimes if SCOBA does more to deter American Orthodoxy rather than promote it.

            However, there is the real possibility with all that is going on that we may see a unique “Black Swan” moment that allows American Orthodoxy to step forward.

  10. George Michalopulos :

    Isa, I do remember the speech by +Jonah that you are referring to. I believe you’ll find it on AFR maybe from last summer. I can’t quite remember.

  11. Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

    George, is this what you had in mind?

    Metropolitan Jonah – Unity in Our Time (38:10)
    OCA Primate Met Jonah gives the keynote address at the OCL Road to Unity conference.

    [audio src=]

  12. George Michalopulos :

    Scott, you’re right. It’s gonna be a snooze-fest.

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