Los Angeles, February 6, 2023
Abp. Elpidophoros (left), Pat. Bartholomew (center), Monk Alexander Belya (right). Photo: slavonic.org
The scandal surrounding Alexander Belya, a defrocked former ROCOR archimandrite whom Archbishop Elpidophoros of Constantinople’s Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America hopes to turn into a bishop, seriously escalated last month.
Over the summer, GOARCH was forced to GOARCH postpones plans to make defrocked Belya a bishopIn response to the repeated protest of leading hierarchs of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America, the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese announced the postponement of its plan to consecrate a defrocked former priest to the episcopate.
“>postpone its plans to consecrate Belya to the episcopate after the hierarchs of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of America threatened to quit the Assembly if he became a bishop. The hierarchs affirmed that they recognize his suspension and subsequent defrocking by the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, and also pointed to issues with the former cleric’s moral fiber.
Most recently, on January 11, Belya sent a letter through his attorney Oleg Rivkin to the heads of the Orthodox jurisdictions in America, threatening legal action against them for their stance against him. Copies of the letters were also sent to the primates of the Local Churches represented in America.
As soon as he learned of Belya’s actions, Abp. Elpidophoros directed him to withdraw the letters, reports the National Herald.
The litigious Belya is also currently Defrocked Belya’s case against ROCOR can proceed, federal court rulesAlexander Belya, a defrocked former archimandrite, can move ahead with his libel suit against the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia and several of its prominent figures, a federal appeals court ruled on Wednesday.
“>suing ROCOR and several of its prominent figures after they refused to make him a bishop and canonically defrocked him.
A week after the original letters, Belya wrote to the hierarchs again, informing him that he was withdrawing the threat “at the direction of His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros.”
“I further humbly request that you please disregard it and sincerely ask that you accept my apologies for the inconvenience it might have caused,” Belya adds.
In the meantime, the hierarchs had retained their own lawyer, and on January 19, they wrote to Abp. Elpidophoros:
We have received letters from Alexander Belya, who is under your authority, and who, at your direction, has apologized for the letters we received from Mr. Oleg Rivkin, his legal counsel, on January 11, which appeared to presage a legal action against us. Similar letters of apology should be sent to the Patriarchs who received copies of Mr. Rivkin’s letters. On the advice of our legal counsel, we also await a formal letter from Mr. Rivkin to the same effect, as we have engaged our own legal counsel as a group.
They also noted that the whole episode only reaffirms and highlights their serious opposition to Belya ever becoming a hierarch:
Your Eminence, while we appreciate your admonition to Alexander Belya that he send a retraction and apology, this episode only re-confirms the concerns that we have repeatedly expressed to you, both in fraternal letters and conversations with you, regarding the proposed consecration of this man to the Holy Episcopacy, going all the way back to the establishment the “Slavic Vicariate” for him and his associates under your omophorion. Alexander Belya has, by his recent actions via his attorney, escalated the situation (even beyond the United States, to the point of sending letters to Patriarchs). It is unheard of that a faithful Orthodox Christian would take such an action against hierarchs of the Church. Equally astonishing is the fact that a man held to be a clergyman of the Ecumenical Patriarchate would be so insubordinate as to not only threaten the hierarchs of other jurisdictions, but to send letters to the Patriarchs of other Autocephalous Churches.
They also write:
Therefore, for the sake of the unity of our Holy Church, we reiterate our request that the Holy and Sacred Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate find a suitable and final resolution to this problem, and we reaffirm the position expressed in our letters dated Jurisdictions unite against GOARCH plans to make defrocked archimandrite a bishopThe hierarchs warn that they will quit the Assembly of Canonical Bishops if Belya becomes a member.
“>June 27 and BREAKING: Bishops again implore Elpidophoros: don’t make Belya a bishop, our broken culture needs a unified ChurchGiven that Abp. Elpidophoros simply dismissed the hierarchs’ concerns about Belya as hearsay, this second letter goes into more detail. First, the hierarchs note that Belya was received into GOARCH after he had already been suspended by his former jurisdiction, the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia.”>July 12, 2022.
The Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops met just a week and a half later in Los Angeles, and presumably the Belya scandal was among the issues addressed.
Abp. Elpidophoros to Assembly of Bishops: We have conflicts because you don’t recognize Constantinople’s Ukrainian churchRecall that the majority of Local Churches reject the creation and recognition of the so-called “Orthodox Church of Ukraine” precisely because it was done unilaterally by Constantinople. Hierarchs and Local Synods have been calling for a pan-Orthodox synaxis since 2018 to deal with the issue, but Pat. Bartholomew has routinely refused to gather with his brother hierarchs.
“>In his opening address to the Assembly, Abp. Elpidophoros pointed to the issue of the “Orthodox Church of Ukraine,” which is recognized as schismatic by the majority of the Orthodox world, as the biggest threat to Church unity.
But in the American context, the Belya issue has caused more vehement protest from the hierarchs.
As a cleric of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, Belya was known to dodge diocesan dues and bring clergy to America without the proper paperwork.
Little Philaret: ROCOR archimandrite leaves for Constantinople after being passed over for bishopThe open letter notes that Belya was suspended from his priestly duties but refused to submit to his ruling hierarch and that he and his younger brother Ivan Belya, who is forbidden to commune, have ignored summons to be questioned by a diocesan investigative committee.
“>In the summer of 2019, Belya forged a letter supposedly from His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion (Kapral), then the First Hierarch of ROCOR, to the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate, requesting that Belya be confirmed to become a bishop. However, the ROCOR Synod hadn’t actually nominated Belya, and he was subsequently suspended from priestly duties.
Refusing to abide by his suspension, he instead fled to GOARCH without a canonical release from ROCOR. He was defrocked by ROCOR in ROCOR Holy Synod laicizes archimandrite who joined Constantinople after not being chosen as bishopMeeting at the Synodal Headquarters in New York on February 5/18, the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia came to a decision in the case of Alexander (Belya), the archimandrite who left the jurisdiction without a canonical release after failing to get himself elected as a bishop.
“>February 2020, and thus is canonically only a lay monk.
Greek Archdiocese creates Slavic vicariate with multiple defrocked and suspended clericsAll of the Vicariate clergy are either canonically defrocked or suspended or associated with the defrocked or suspended clergy.
“>GOARCH created a “Slavic Vicariate” and placed Belya at its head. The Vicariate is largely made up of defrocked and suspended clerics.
Follow OrthoChristian on Twitter, Vkontakte, Telegram, WhatsApp, MeWe, and Gab!