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The Religious Heritage : the School of Paris
In March 1925, Metropolitan Eulogius opened a school of theology on Saint Sergius hill, making it possible to extend the teaching of Orthodox theology, henceforth forbidden in the Soviet Union, as well as to train future priests with a hope for return to Russia and , in the immediate future, for the needs of the emigration communities. The property on rue de Crimée appeared to be the ideal place to carry out his project. The Institute of Theology opened its doors thanks to the arrival in Paris of a host of Christian intellectuals expelled from the Soviet Union, including renowned theologians, philosophers and historians. The rooms on the ground floor, under the church, were used as classrooms (a function they still retain today) and as dormitories for the first students.
In the speech he delivered, Metropolitan Eulogius thus expressed his intention regarding the mission of this Institute: exhausted, at the end of their tether, as those who were bent under the Tatar yoke used to rush to the monastery of Saint-Sergius, to find consolation there and draw new spiritual strength from it! ".
For most of the 20th century, the Saint Sergius Orthodox Theological Institute was a breeding ground for priests from all continents. Theologians and thinkers of outstanding quality have greatly contributed to the contemporary momentum within Orthodoxy. We owe them much of the role assumed by Orthodoxy in the ecumenical movement of the Churches. The Institute, miraculously born in a land of exile, has never ceased to bring about the renewal of theological work in the service of the Russian religious renaissance. From the beginning, Metropolitan Eulogius ensured the collaboration of a team of renowned professors, theologians and religious thinkers. Among them, the archpriest Sergius Bulgakov (+1944), author of numerous theological works, the historians Antoine Kartachev (+1961) and Georges Fedotov (+1948), the philosophers Boris Vycheslavtsev (+1950) and the archpriest Basil Zenkovsky (+1962), Archpriest Georges Florovsky (+1979), pioneer of Orthodox neopatristics and the ecumenical movement, Archimandrite Cyprien Kern (+1960), pathologist and liturgist, Archpriest Nicolas Afanassieff, professor of canon law, New Testament exegete Mgr Cassien Bezobrazov (+1965) and Leon Zander (+1964), another pioneer of the ecumenical movement. All these names remain a living testimony to theological science and religious thought; their works have largely contributed to making Orthodoxy known to the Western world.
Shortly before the Second World War, the Saint-Sergius Institute received the right to confer the degrees of master and doctor of theology. From its beginnings, the Institute played a large part in the nascent ecumenical movement which culminated in the founding of the Ecumenical Council of Churches, with which it remains in constant collaboration in the various fields of its activities. Since 1953, the Institute has organized an annual “Week of Liturgical Studies” in which many specialists in liturgical science from various Christian denominations take part. After the Second Vatican Council, to which the Institute sent observers, the professors of Saint Sergius were invited to participate in the teaching of the Higher Institute of Ecumenical Studies of Paris (Institut Catholique de Paris). Initially intended to train Orthodox clerics for the Russian communities of the diaspora, Saint-Sergius became a religious and spiritual nursery from which emerged hundreds of priests, bishops and theologians, serving in most countries where Orthodoxy is present.