Information operations · Information Warfare · Russia · Ukraine

Russia Loses the War of the Churches (15)


Anonymous expert compilation, analysis, and reporting.

Excerpts from  a two-part discussion follow: 

I’m painfully aware that the Sviatohirsk Lavra is “officially” part of the UOC – Moscow Patriarch (MP). But that looks like a part of the old naming nomenclature.  I’m wondering if parts of the UOC are going to have to make an allegiance call now…  Are you a part of the ROC or the UOC? Since the Sviatohirsk Lavra is in the Donbas they may be forced to make that call and it would be touted as a propaganda coup for Russia. 

I wonder how Ukraine is going to make that call. Do they ask individual churches for a formal affiliation?  

Response:

The latter was my point in recent days. There will be a mass defection from the MP to the new Church, but there will be ethnic Russians, and people ideologically wedded to Russia, who will choose to remain in the MP AKA ROC, and effectively end up under the self-anathema the Russians declared, and thus a schism with the rest of the Eastern Orthodox Church.

Notably, a large proportion of the clerics in the UOC(MP) are ethnic Russians born in Russia, appointed by Moscow into their parishes in Ukraine. 

The ROC has claimed the Autocephaly for the UOC will result in a schism within the UOC. The opposite is also true.  Parts of the ROC may split and side with the UOC. 

Interesting background reading here.  1030 years of Christianity in Ukraine

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The argument over Russia’s impending self-induced schism with the Eastern Orthodox Church remains a major topic in the media.

By far the most interesting report is Col. Girkin’s public comment on the involvement of the clergy at the Russian controlled Sviatohirsk Lavra monastery in supporting Russia’s covert invasion force in 2014 (Harding cites a number of period reports on this sorry episode). Effectively, Girkin has validated numerous complaints by Ukrainians that the Russian church actively supported the Russian invasion, violating the accepted convention that churches do not participate in military operations.

In Russia, the Security Council of the Russian Federation met to consider the departure of the Ukrainian church. Russian church makes more threats against Constantinople.

In the West, some decent op-eds on the topic, the best by Bershidsky in Bloomberg, who aptly compares Putin to Henry VIII, the very same who separated from Rome for reasons essentially political. Putin will no differently separate the Russian Orthodox Church from Constantinople for political reasons – a very Russian display of pique. Likely the Russian church will then end up being number two ranked in size after the Ukrainian church, so this is a self-defeating game.


Former DPR Igor “Strelkov” Girkin Claims His Bodyguards Were Monks – To Inform is to Influence

Igor Ivanovich Strelkov, born Igor Vsevolodovich Girkin, made a statement yesterday which is dubious and reflects poor judgment if true. Girkin, as you may recall, was the self-proclaimed leader of the Donetsk Peoples Republic, which is located in Donbas, Ukraine. Girkin was later proven to be an FSB Colonel. Girkin also claimed to have shot down MH17 and later the same day deleted the statement from his VKontakte account and claimed the account was never his. A logical extrapolation of these facts is that the FSB put Strelkov in place with a pseudonym of Girking, shot down MH17, and supported terrorist operations in Donbas. Now he is claiming his personal bodyguards were comprised of monks from the Sviatohirsk Lavra, part of the Ukraine Orthodox Church. This is interesting for a few reasons. First, some of the monks may have had military experience with the Ukrainian Army as conscripts prior to the Russian invasion but had no special training. Therefore Girkin’s personal bodyguards were not up to the standards that an FSB Colonel should have had in a combat zone. Second, the timing of this announcement teases the tenuous relationship between the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which is being granted autocephaly from the Russian Orthodox Church, and the Sviatohirsk Lavra. Is this statement designed to create a rumor designed to exploit a perceived but not yet real division within the Ukraine Orthodox Church, a la Russian Orthodox Church predictions? It makes sense, but let’s not make any conclusions just yet. At the risk of the monks within the Sviatohirsk Lavra, Girkin’s statement could be a source of pressure for them to break away from the Ukraine Orthodox Church. The flag of the Russian Orthodox Army; a paramilitary group in Ukraine. A third interesting thing to consider is the possible presence of the Russian Orthodox Army, ROA, a militant group formed, again, after the Russian invasion of Donbas. It makes sense that his bodyguards came from the ROA. Interestingly, an official US State Department report notes that, “the ROA has been noted of “kidnapp[ing], beat[ing], and threaten[ing] Protestants, Catholics, and members of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church… as well as participat[ing] in anti-Semitic acts.” – source: International Religious Freedom Report for 2014 Another interesting thing to consider, in light of this behavior, is ‘How is this different from radical Islamist clerics recruiting for ISIS?’ The operations in Donbas have long been considered terrorist activities by the Ukrainian government. Is the Sviatohirsk Lavra de facto recruiting on behalf of the terrorists supported by the Russian government in Donbas?

UAWire – Former DPR leader Girkin claims his personal security was made up of monks from 

The former leader of the Donetsk People’s Republic, separatist Igor “Strelkov” Girkin stated that the monks of the Holy Dormition Sviatohirsk Lavra actively participated in the conflict in the Donbas. He admitted that his personal security was fully made up of spiritual servants, monks and hieromonks of the Sviatohirsk Lavra. “It [the security team] was not very big but anyway they were there. A novice of the Sviatohirsk Lavra commanded one of the units in the Slavic brigade. And this novice has a serious but household status in Lavra,” Girkin said. He also said that Orthodox people in so-called Novorossiya (New Russia) were convinced that they were doing the duty for their faith when they followed the Donbas militants.

Sviatohirsk Lavra – Wikipedia

The Holy Mountains Lavra (Ukrainian: Свято-Успенська Святогірська Лавра, Sviatohirsk Lavra or the Sviatohirsk Cave Monastery; Russian: Свято-Успенская Святогорская лавра, Sviatogorskaya Lavra or the Sviatogorsky Cave Monastery) is a major Orthodox Christian monastery on the steep right bank of the Seversky Donets River near the city of Sviatohirsk in Donetsk Oblast (province) of eastern Ukraine. The name comes from the surrounding Holy Mountains. Today, the monastery forms the centrepiece of the Sviatohori National Nature Park. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate [i.e. Russian Orthodix Church controlled]) proclaimed it a lavra in 2004. The first written mention of the monastery dates from 1627, although Sigismund von Herberstein had alluded to the “Holy Mountains” area as early as 1526. It is likely that the first monks settled the area in the 15th century. At the time it was a minor monastic establishment in the Wild Fields regularly ravaged by the Crimean Tatars. In 1787, Catherine II had it shut down. The monastery’s lands were secularized and donated to Prince Grigory Potemkin, the Viceroy of New Russia. One of his heirs, Aleksander Mikhailovich Potemkin, and his wife Tatiana, née Princess Galitzine, financed the monastery’s revival and rebuilding, starting in 1844.

The situation around the Russian Orthodox Church in Ukraine was discussed by Russian President Vladimir Putin and the permanent members of the Security Council of the Russian Federation – 112.international

The situation around the Russian Orthodox Church in Ukraine was discussed by Russian President Vladimir Putin and the permanent members of the Security Council of the Russian Federation. This is reported by the press service of the Kremlin. “The meeting participants exchanged views on the situation of the Russian Orthodox Church in Ukraine after the decision of the Synod of Constantinople Patriarchate to proceed with the provision of autocephaly to the Church of Ukraine, the abolition of the certificate of 1686 to transfer the Kyiv metropolis under the jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate,” said in the press service of the President of the Russian Federation. The meeting was attended by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, speakers of both houses of parliament Valentina Matvienko and Vyacheslav Volodin, head of the Kremlin administration Anton Vaino, secretary of the Security Council Nikolai Patrushev, interior ministers Vladimir Kolokoltsev, foreign affairs minister Sergey Lavrov, defense minister Sergey Shoigu, director of the Feeral Security Service Alexander Bortnikov, special representative of the president for environmental protection, ecology and transport Sergey Ivanov. The details of the meeting are not known, however, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation Sergey Lavrov commented on church affairs in Ukraine. “This provocation was conceived in order to use two non-canonical schismatic churches in Ukraine (the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Church), which have never been recognized by any Orthodox Church, but convened the Holy Synod. Patriarch Bartholomew recognized canonical and removed the anathema from the two hierarchs who lead these schismatic churches.” We remind you that on October 11, the Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate supported the extension of the granting of autocephaly to Ukraine, and also officially approved that the mother church of Ukraine is Constantinople. The Synod also removed the anathema from the head of the UOC-KP Filaret and the head of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church, Macarius. The head of the UOC-Kyiv Patriarchate, Filaret, said that in the near future a unifying Bishops’ Council would be held to create a single Ukrainian local church.

TASS: Society & Culture – Russian Orthodox Church to respond toughly to Constantinople over Ukraine

«In any case, the response will be appropriate and tough,» Reverend Alexander Volkov, press secretary of Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia said. MINSK, October 13. /TASS/. The response of the Russian Orthodox Church’s Synod to the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople over Ukraine will be appropriate and tough, Reverend Alexander Volkov, press secretary of Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia, told reporters on Saturday during Patriarch Kirill’s visit to Belarus. “The Holy Synod, which is to be convened in Minsk on Monday, will give an assessment to everything the Patriarchate of Constantinople has done,” he said. “In any case, the response will be appropriate and tough. The Synod will take an unambiguous stance on the decisions taken in Istanbul.”.

Russian Orthodox Church Threatens Tough Response Over Istanbul Backing of Ukraine Split

The Russian Orthodox Church said on Saturday it would respond “in kind and toughly” to the Istanbul-based Ecumenical Patriarchate over Moscow’s row with Ukraine’s Orthodox Church. On Thursday a Synod meeting in Istanbul backed Ukraine’s request for “autocephalous” — or self-governing — status and reversed the excommunication of Patriarch Filaret, who hopes to lead the newly independent church based in Kiev.

Russian Church Vows Tough Response to Constantinople Over Split Ukraine Church – Sputnik International

MINSK (Sputnik) – The Russian Orthodox Church will give a tough response to the decision of the Synod of the Constantinople Patriarchate to process with granting independence to the Ukrainian Church, the spokesman for Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill said on Saturday.

Russian Church Official Says ‘Impossible’ To Remain United With Ecumenical Patriarchate

The Russian Orthodox Church says a decision about the Ukrainian Orthodox Church made by the synod of the Constantinople Patriarchate has forced the Moscow Patriarchate to end its unity with the spiritual leader of the world’s Orthodox Christians.

TASS: Society & Culture – Russian Orthodox Church’s head visits Belarus

During the visit, he will consecrate the Church of All Saints and will chair a meeting of the Holy Synod

Poroshenko calls Ukrainians to pray for autocephaly at Sofiivska Square – 112.international

President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko called the Ukrainians to pray for autocephaly on Sunday, October 14. The head of state appealed to people on his Facebook page. “I was approached by a group of respected community leaders, including Yuri Shcherbak, Dmytro Pavlychko, Mykhailo Slaboshpytsky. They offer Ukrainian society to pray together for Ukraine, its army and the united church that we are creating together on October 14. I urge all those who are not indifferent: to come out with a prayer for the autocephaly of our Church. I propose to gather at the historic Sofiivska square on October 14 at 9.30 a.m. God and Ukraine unites us! “, wrote the president. We remind you that on October 11, the Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate supported the extension of the granting of autocephaly to Ukraine, and also officially approved that the mother church of Ukraine is Constantinople. The Synod also removed the anathema from the head of the UOC-KP Filaret and the head of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church, Macarius. The head of the UOC-Kyiv Patriarchate, Filaret, said that in the near future a unifying Bishops’ Council would be held to create a single Ukrainian local church. Orthodox Christians in Ukraine are currently divided between a semi-autonomous branch loyal to Moscow and Kirill, the one lead by the Filaret, and third church which emerged in the 1920s as a response to Soviet repression. With Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 and the fighting in the east, the Ukrainian government and lawmakers joined the calls for ecclesial independence from Moscow. Praising the Thursday ruling, President Petro Poroshenko said it “dispelled the imperial illusions and chauvinistic fantasies of Moscow.” “This is a victory of good over evil, light over darkness,” he said in televised remarks. The victory for Kyiv could boost Poroshenko’s reelection bid ahead of March 2019 elections. Russian church prepares ‘decisive and harsh’ response While there is no equivalent of the Catholic pope among Orthodox Christians, the Constantinople patriarch is often regarded as “first among equals” and wields a measure of traditional authority among other patriarchs. This position has often put the Istanbul-based religious leader at odds with the patriarch of Russia, who has direct control of the biggest patriarchate in the Orthodox world. Currently, Russia’s Orthodox Church boasts some 150 million believers, or roughly one half of all Orthodox Christians. During the independence row, representatives of Moscow Patriarchate warned the resulting conflict could be comparable with the Great Schism from 1054, which split the Christian church into Catholics in the West and Orthodox Christians in the East. Speaking to Rossiya-24 TV channel, senior Moscow Patriarchate official Igor Yakmichuk said the Moscow-based church will decide on its countermeasures after a Synod meeting set for next Monday. “The response will be very decisive and harsh, it will be adequate to the situation that had developed,” he said.

Poroshenko announces massive thanksgiving prayer for Oct 14

President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko has supported the idea to hold a prayer of thanks for granting autocephaly to the Ukrainian church, Poroshenko said on Facebook. “I was addressed by a group of respected public leaders, including Yuriy Shcherbak, Dmytro Pavlychko, Mykhailo Slaboshpytsky. They offer Ukrainian society to pray together for Ukraine, its army and the united church that we are creating together on October 14. I urge all those who are not indifferent: let’s start a prayer of thanks for autocephaly of our Church by the whole world. I suggest gathering at the historic Sofia Square at 9:30 in the morning on October 14,” he said.

Head of State: Church autocephaly is the most important event similar to the Ukrainian aspiration to join the European Union and NATO — Official website of the President of Ukraine

President Petro Poroshenko emphasizes that the issue of the Tomos and autocephaly of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church goes far beyond the bounds of church life – it is a matter of Ukrainian national security and statehood. “No one will stop the Ukrainian people. And we will ask no permission from anyone, because Ukraine and its people, fighting for freedom and the future, shall decide. Autocephaly is the most important event of the same series as our aspiration for joining the European Union and NATO, the Association Agreement, visa-free regime with the European Union, withdrawal from the CIS, rejection of the deceptive Treaty on Friendship with Russia,” the President said during the prayer for Ukraine. He stressed that all that was the basis of Ukrainian own path of development. “This is an issue of global geopolitics. And if this is not the case, then explain me why the decision of the Ecumenical Patriarch the day before yesterday was discussed on the Security Council of the Russian Federation under the chairmanship of Putin?” the Head of State noted. “Moscow’s reaction to the actions of Kyiv and Fener demonstrates that we are on the right way,” Petro Poroshenko said. The Head of State stresses that autocephaly is part of the state’s pro-European and pro-Ukrainian strategy, which the authorities have consistently implemented over the last 4.5 years and will continue to do so in the future.

Poroshenko: Church autocephaly matter of Ukrainian national security, statehood | UNIAN

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko emphasizes that the issue of the tomos and autocephaly of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church goes far beyond the bounds of church life and it is a matter of Ukrainian national security and statehood. “No one will stop the Ukrainian people. And we will ask no permission from anyone, because Ukraine and its people, fighting for freedom and the future, shall decide. Autocephaly is the most important event of the same series as our aspiration for joining the European Union and NATO, the Association Agreement, visa-free regime with the European Union, withdrawal from the CIS, rejection of the deceptive Treaty on Friendship with Russia,” Poroshenko said during the prayer for Ukraine, the president’s press service said. Read more on UNIAN: https://www.unian.info/politics/10298148-poroshenko-church-autocephaly-matter-of-ukrainian-national-security-statehood.html

Poroshenko: Ukraine never had and will never have an established church – 112.international

Ukraine never had and will never have an established church. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko claimed this on Sofiyivska Square during the prayer, 112 Ukraine was broadcasting the event. ‘We never had and will never have an established church. And no one will forcibly invite anyone to the Orthodox church blessed by Tomos. I emphasize again – this is a matter of free choice for every believer. I ensure that the government will respect the choice of those who decide to stay in that church structure that maintains unity with the Russian Orthodox Church,’ Poroshenko noted. The President also noted that the state will protect the rights of priests and laity of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) of the Moscow Patriarchate who will create together with other Orthodox unified Ukrainian local church. Poroshenko hopes that the Bishops’ Council will be held without any conflicts, contrary to the Ukrainian national proverb that along with two Ukrainians, there are three hetmans.

Leonid Bershidsky | Putin Is the Biggest Loser of Orthodox Schism – Bloomberg

As Ukraine’s church moves toward independence, the Russian president could lose his role of defender of the faith. The Eastern Orthodox Church is closer than ever to a schism that would cast Russian President Vladimir Putin in a role similar to that of King Henry VIII when he split the Church of England from Rome in the 16th century. Russia’s ambition to be the center of the Orthodox world threatens to end in isolation. But holding back from splitting the church will mean humiliation by the Ukrainians, who have been ruthlessly terrorized by the Russian leader.

James Rodgers | Ukraine Church Ruling Challenges Putin’s Newly Religious Russia

The Soviet government spent decades trying to stamp out religion, especially Orthodox Christianity. Since the Soviet Union’s collapse, religion has been reborn: but now a dispute over faith threatens to raise still further tensions between two predominantly Orthodox nations: Russia and Ukraine. Religion has become an extremely important part of identity in the former Soviet Union, and an integral part of the way President Putin presents himself has a leader. It is no wonder, therefore, that President Poroshenko sees this week’s decision as an end to what he called ‘imperial illusions.’ In that sense, the announcement represents a win for Ukraine, and a loss for Russia – which has responded by stating its opposition to any steps, ‘that lead to a deep split in the Orthodox world.’ The decision also threatens to formalize a further division between the governments of two countries who have been allies for so much of their shared history.

Simon Tisdall | Archbishop’s defiance threatens Putin’s vision of Russian greatness | World news | The Guardian

The archbishop of Constantinople has granted Ukraine’s wish for a church independent of Moscow. Bartholomew’s act of defiance is a serious blow for Putin, who has used the Moscow branch’s dominance – it oversees about half of the 300 million-strong Orthodox communion – to bolster his regime’s claim to be the heir to the tsarist imperium. A Kremlin spokesman said Putin was “extremely concerned”, and warned that Russia would “defend the interests of Orthodox believers” in Ukraine in case of “illegal actions”. Analysts were quick to point out that “defending” Russian-speakers was used to justify the invasion of Crimea. While religion was broadly discouraged in the Soviet era, Putin has promoted the Moscow patriarchate as the global capital of Orthodox Christians and the religious manifestation of Russia’s return to global greatness. This idea of a “Russian world” with one church and culture, endorsed by Patriarch Kirill, head of the Russian Orthodox church, is now in jeopardy. Kirill has threatened to break off relations with Bartholomew if the separation goes ahead. This is the rough equivalent, in Anglican terms, of a rupture between the archbishoprics of York and Canterbury. In recent months Russia’s church has likened Ukraine’s move to the “Great Schism” of 1054, when Christianity split into rival camps in Rome and Constantinople. It said Bartholomew had exceeded his powers and his decision could encourage Orthodox branches in other countries to follow suit. Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev of Moscow’s Holy Synod said on state television: “We the Russian church will not recognise this autocephaly, and we will have no choice but to sever ties with Constantinople. The patriarch of Constantinople will no longer have any right to be styled as he is now, the leader of the 300 million Orthodox population of the planet. At least half the population will not recognise him at all.” Time will tell whether Putin and his clerics make good on this public threat. It also remains to be seen whether rival Ukrainian churches will unite now that all are free of Moscow’s embrace. Hilarion claimed the whole affair was the result of an American plot – an interpretation many in Russia may share. Sporadic fighting in eastern Ukraine between Russia-backed separatists and government forces is continuing, with lethal clashes reported in August. More than 10,300 people have died since 2014.

Paul Goble | Constantinople decision on Ukrainian Church truly has global consequences | Euromaidan Press |

Although the Universal Patriarch in Constantinople has not yet given the tomos of autocephaly to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Bartholomew’s decision to reclaim Ukraine as dominion, thus depriving the Moscow Patriarchate of its claims in Ukraine, and his acceptance of Ukrainian church leaders as his priests, clearly points in that direction. As many commentators are already pointing out, the consequences of this shift are truly “global” for Ukraine, for the Russian Federation and the Moscow Patriarchate, for the Orthodox world, and for ecumenism and international relations more generally, even though it is certain that Moscow will still try to block or at least slow the process. The Russian authorities religious and civil have the means to cause enormous trouble in this transition. They can provoke actions against their own churches in Ukraine and blame them on the Ukrainians, costing the latter support around the world. They can invoke such conflicts to expand military action in Ukraine. They can continue to mobilize those smaller Orthodox patriarchates they have been able to influence or buy off to speak against the granting of the tomos of autocephaly to Ukraine. And they can seek to interfere in the Orthodox conclave in Ukraine that Constantinople says is necessary as a step toward autocephaly for the Ukrainian church.

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