The World Council of Churches (WCC) mourns the loss of Protopresbyter Boris Bobrinskoy, one of the best-known Orthodox theologians in France, and pays tribute to a highly appreciated ecumenical companion who deepened in his writings “the silence of the Father, whose mercy is the eternal source of authentic love and true unity."
Born in Paris in 1925, from Russian parents who migrated to France after the 1917 Revolution, Father Boris Bobrinskoy passed away in the night from 6 to 7 August at the age of 95.
Father Boris Bobrinskoy has been one of the great theologians of the Russian diaspora and probably one of the last links in the long chain formed by Georges Florovsky, Nicolas Afanassieff, Antoine Kartachev, Cyprien Kern, Léon Zander, Alexandre Schmemann and Vladimir Lossky. In addition, he worked extensively with Paul Evdokimov and Olivier Clément, also well known in the ecumenical movement.
Father Boris Bobrinskoy’s life could also be described as a long and impressive ecumenical pilgrimage, celebrated today with gratitude by the WCC. From 1954 and for over 50 years, he was professor of Dogmatic Theology at the St Sergius Orthodox Theological Institute in Paris. In the late 1950s he served as member of the WCC Commission on Faith and Order. For over 20 years he has been a member of the Commission for the Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church in France. From 1969 to 1990 he has been responsible for the Orthodox participation in the Institute for Ecumenical Studies, created by the Catholic Institute of Paris, at the aftermath of Vatican II. He taught at the Protestant University of Neuchâtel and the Catholic University of Paris.
Describing his long ecumenical pilgrimage, Father Boris Bobrinskoy emphasized that “he considered a blessing from God to have been able to participate in the ecumenical dialogue and to have been constantly urged to give an account of his faith to his non-Orthodox brothers and sisters in a spirit of fidelity and loyalty to the Orthodox tradition, but also of discretion and respect, attentive to the impulses of the Spirit in our divided Christendom.”
Bobrinskoy was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Fribourg, Switzerland, and by the St Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary in New York. He had a rich theological work, available mainly in French, with some of his studies being translated into other European languages. A few of his articles can be found, in English, in The Ecumenical Review.
Rev. Prof. Dr Ioan Sauca, WCC interim general secretary, expressed the condolences of the entire ecumenical family and added his personal gratitude: “For most of us, the late Father Boris has been a bright example of faithfulness to our own tradition and openness to sisters and brothers of other confessions; a living example of patience, humility, sincerity and genuine commitment in dialoguing with sisters and brothers; a teacher who could be called great because not only he taught but also practiced all what he taught.”
May our common Lord Jesus Christ, the God of life and resurrection, give him eternal rest and may his memory be eternal.