The Problem of Canonical Settlement of Church Administrative Disunity of the Orthodox Diaspora


  • Andrii Kobetiak Candidate of Philosophical Sciences, Associate Professor of the Department of Economic Security, Public Administration and Management (Zhytomyr Polytechnic State University, Zhytomyr, Ukraine)



The phenomenon of the Orthodox diaspora arises as a result of the powerful migration of the population in the late 19th – early 20th centuries. The carriers of the Orthodox faith did not want to assimilate among infidels. Religion, culture and language have played a powerful role in the self-identification of immigrants. Each of the Local Churches, considering it their duty to guardianship the believers,  even if they emigrated to non-Orthodox countries, have been establishing parishes in Western Europe, North and South America. The expansion of the diaspora has led to the appearance of a unique ecclesiological model in the church system, when the bishops of different Local Churches operate simultaneously in the same territory. This directly contradicts a number of canons and the very tradition of the Orthodox Church.

The lack of regulation of the church administration of the diaspora gave rise to problems in the subordination of these churches. This system does not correspond to the traditions of the church, but it was justified by the needs of the time and the special historical conditions caused by migration of the population. One of the most important factors hindering the solution of the diaspora problem is financial dependence on parishioners from rich countries of Western Europe and America.

Representatives of Local Churches demonstrate radically opposite approaches to the problem of resolving the canonical settlement of the administrative fragmentation of churches in the diaspora. Most of the hierarchs defend their own right to the spiritual care of their fellow citizens in exile. On the other hand, the ideas and interests of the emigrants themselves are twofold. Some of them seek to maintain cultural and religious ties with the Homeland, including through a single church. However, such church formations on the “new land” do not always have a recognized canonical status. Others fall within the jurisdiction of the Local Churches, which are generally recognized, mainly in the jurisdiction of Constantinople.  The Ecumenical Patriarchate today makes major claims to the sole custody of the Orthodox diaspora, relying on the canons that give him primacy in the missionary work on the "barbarian lands".

The Great All-Orthodox Council which took place in Crete in 2016, did not provide a clear answer to the question of the jurisdiction of the Orthodox diaspora. Despite the accepted document "Orthodox Diaspora", the diaspora issue remains relevant, as it directly violates a number of canons, the main one is the presence of several hierarchs with the same titles in the same territory.