Russian Orthodox parish in Amsterdam feels threatened by Moscow


Western Europe


The online celebration of the Theophany in the Russian Orthodox Church in Amsterdam. Photo ANP, Koen van Weel

The Russian Orthodox Church in Amsterdam leaves the Moscow Patriarchate. The parish’s move follows a visit from Archbishop Elisey, which they perceived as intimidating. The clergy of the parish reported this in a press release on Saturday.

The four priests and a deacon have applied to the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople to be included. They write that they took this “very difficult step” “with a heavy heart.”

Last week, the parish decided to no longer commemorate Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow, in the liturgy. This is because of Kirill’s support for the Russian invasion of Ukraine. In a sermon, the patriarch sided with Putin’s policies and addressed the West with accusatory words. Many churches and even dioceses from the Moscow Patriarchate have decided not to mention Kirill any longer in the liturgy.


However, the decision of the Amsterdam parish did not go down well with Elisey, Archbishop of The Hague and the Netherlands. The bishop arrived unannounced in his diplomatic car on Sunday, March 6th, at St Nicholas’ Church in Amsterdam and called on the clergy in the sermon he then delivered to apologise to Patriarch Kirill.

When a bishop arrives in an Orthodox Church, he, as the highest-ranking clergy member present, delivers the sermon. When the clergy does not include the name of the patriarch in the presence of a bishop, there is an immediate schism. However, the clergy of the Amsterdam parish continued to refuse to mention Kirill’s name. In the end, a deacon who was not part of the Amsterdam parish mentioned the name of the patriarch. This writes Dutch daily Nederlands Dagblad.

After the service, the archbishop informed the priests that both the patriarchate and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Moscow “are currently paying attention” to the Amsterdam church. This reports Dutch daily Reformatorisch Dagblad. The following week, Elisey informed the rector of the church that he hoped not to have to issue an ultimatum to recant the clergy’s statements about Kirill.

On Sunday, Kirill again accused the Ukrainian government of oppressing believers in his church. Cyril also regretted that today, even some “out of fear” no longer wanted to commemorate the Moscow Patriarch in services. He does not judge anyone but wants to understand such people. “At the same time, I am aware that someone unfaithful on a small scale can also be unfaithful on a large scale,” he added. This reports the Catholic Austrian press agency Kathpress.


These actions make the clergy feel “pressured by both the bishop and the Russian state” to reverse their position. “This pressure threatens the spiritual security of the church community and its members.” A source from the parish speaks to the Nederlands Dagblad about the visit as “a tank, a spiritual tank, which was sent to our parish.”

The online celebration of the Theophany in the Russian Orthodox Church in Amsterdam. Photo ANP, Koen van Weel

The priests and deacon write that in their conscience, they cannot justify going back on their decision to distance themselves from the Moscow patriarch. Therefore, the clergy are forced to leave the patriarchate and seek affiliation with Constantinople. They write that they see in ‘Moscow’ no longer see a “persecuted church”, “but a church that supports persecution.”

Gay parades

The Amsterdam parish is not the first church to leave the Moscow patriarchate. As CNE reported earlier, several priests from the Ukrainian Orthodox Church under the Moscow patriarchate expressed their wish to leave ‘Moscow’ as well. The Ukrainian Metropolitan Onufry, who works with the Moscow Patriarchate, expresses himself very critical about the war. And his churches are openly supporting the Ukrainian army.

Over a week ago, the World Council of Churches (WCC) appealed to Kirill to raise his voice to stop the war. The patriarch responded on Thursday, speaking of a “large-scale geopolitical strategy” from the Western world to weaken Russia – and “Russophobia”. In a sermon last Sunday, Kirill referred to the liberal values of the West –with gay parades– as another of the reasons behind the war.

Kirill further states that the ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew, is partly responsible for the current crisis since he recognised the autonomy of the Orthodox Church in Ukraine. This reports the Christian German news agency Idea.


In the Netherlands, there are over 35 Orthodox parishes and monasteries. According to the Dutch Orthodox information platform Orthodox.net, there are currently six parishes and two monasteries who are under the Moscow patriarchate. In the exarchate of Western Europe, there are four Dutch parishes. An exarchate is ruled by an Exarch, usually a deputy of a Patriarch. In many cases, he rules a church outside the canonical territory of the patriarchate.

The Moscow Times reports that the head of the Western European exarchate, the Paris-based Metropolitan Jean de Doubna, who heads up some 60 parishes following the Russian tradition across western Europe, expressed his support for Ukraine in an open letter published on Wednesday.



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