WESTERN EUROPEAN DIOCESE: March 8, 2019
Bishop Irenei of Richmond and Western Europe makes his first archapastoral visit to the Church of Christ the Savior and St Seraphim of Sarov in Sanremo, Italy
On March 5-6 2019, His Grace Bishop Irenei of Richmond and Western Europe made his first archpastoral visit to the Parish of Christ the Saviour and St Seraphim of Sarov in Sanremo, Italy, marking the first hierarchical visit since the parish’s return to the Western European Diocese of the ROCOR in January of this year.
The history of the Sanremo church dates to the time of Tsarina Maria Alexandrovna, who loved to spend time in the city and after whom one of its popular streets is named (Passeggiata Imperatrice, “Empress Walk”), who herself declared a church should be built here — though it would not be completed until three decades after her repose. In 1890, the Grand Duke Sergei Mikhailovich, who also lived in Sanremo, initiated his support of the cause, and in 1910 he instituted the church’s construction committee under an authorizing decree from Tsar St Nicholas II. The Emperor not only authorized collections to be taken for the construction of the church, but was personally one of its main benefactors. The building was designed by architects AV Shchusev and P Agosti in the style of 17th-century Moscow temples, and the church was consecrated on December 10, 1913, dedicated to Christ the Savior, with an additional dedication to the Venerable St Seraphim of Sarov.
For the first years of its existence, there was no permanent clergy nor an organized parish community at the church. A parish committee was formed in 1922 and continued to receive visiting clergy from the exarchal community in Europe; and in 1929 the community passed to the jurisdiction of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, from which time it began to be served by permanent priests: Archpriest Vladimir Polyakov (1929–1935) and Hieromonk (and future Archimandrite) Kallist (Podzolov). After a bomb damaged the church in 1940, services were transferred to a 1908 cemetery chapel dedicated to St Nicholas, also in the city, until the church was eventually repaired in 1946-47. The parish preserves a letter from St John the Wonderworker, then Archbishop of the Western European Diocese, addressing its life during this period. From 1952 the parish passed to the omophorion of the Exarchate of Parishes of Russian Tradition in Western Europe, under the Patriarchate of Constantinople; and following the dissolution of that Exarchate by Constantinople in November 2018 together with the canonical turmoil of the period, it was received back into the Western European Diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia in January 2019 upon the request of its clergy and parishioners, confirmed by a formal decision of its parish council and assembly.
During his brief visit, Bishop Irenei was welcomed by the parish rector, Priest Dionysius Baykov, a cleric of the Western European Diocese, and met with the parish council to discuss its life and pastoral works within the diocese. In the evening, parishioners gathered together with the Bishop in the church to pray a moleben with akathist to St Seraphim before his precious icon. The service was concelebrated by His Grace, Priest Dionysius, along with Archpriest Georgiy Blatinskiy of the diocesan parish in Florence, and Priest Evgeny Nikitin of the parish in Menton, France. Following the service, Bishop Irenei met with parishioners for a discussion in the church, addressing many matters of the life of faith, spiritual works, and the parish’s place in the diocese. A reception was then held in a nearby restaurant, providing the parishioners the occasion to converse with their bishop and celebrate the progress of their spiritual life.