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Russia’s impending self-induced schism with the Eastern Orthodox Church continues to produce debate in the media. Possibly most interesting are comments by Eidman on the subversion of the ROC into an arm of the Russian state.
The FT raise the valid concern that Russia might use “religious war” as an excuse for another invasion, and Pres Poroshenko warned at an open air thanksgiving service “Let’s not allow the Kremlin to start a religious war inside Ukraine”.
ROC Synod meets in Minsk.
Paul Goble Staunton, October 14 – The Russian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate is “not so much a religious organization as a special service charged with conducting propaganda, intelligence operations and guard duty,” Igor Eidman says; and thus is no surprise that its problems have been discussed by the other special services in the Russian Security Council. But it may also not be a surprise to anyone, the Russian commentator suggests (facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=2069115226484779&id=100001589654713), that the ROC MP is proving to be as incompetent in carrying out its duties as the GRU has recently shown itself to the world to be. (On that, see svobodaradio.livejournal.com/3702852.html.) After all, it did not manage to block the decision of the Universal Patriarch to move toward autocephaly for Ukraine. Instead, it has acted in ways that not only unintentionally pushed Bartholemew in that direction but also alienated many in the Orthodox world the ROC MP was charged with managing. “In contrast to other special services,” Eidman continues, “the ROC has the opportunity to work completely freely and legally on the territories of other countries. More than that, in Ukraine, the leadership of the ROC through its local representatives can affect a large part of the population,” thus assisting Russian aggression and threatening Ukraine’s national security. “This is as if the FSB could have legal sections in any Ukrainian village,” the commentator suggests. According to Eidman, “the Russian military occupied Crimea and part of the Donbass, but the occupiers in priestly robes control religious life in a large part of Ukraine. The liberation of Ukraine from the spiritual occupation of the ROC is comparable in importance with the inevitable withdrawal from Ukrainian territories of the Russian armed forces.” As a result of the decisions of the Synod of the Constantinople Patriarch,” Eidman says, “the religious de-occupation of Ukraine has become inevitable, although of course are still long years of tense struggle. I hope,” he says, “that Russia sooner or later will also be freed from the spiritual oppression of the Kremlin special service known as’ the ROC.’” The Kremlin has promised a tough response to Constantinople’s decision and to Kyiv’s moves; but the ROC MP is unlikely to be capable to responding effectively in either case. Instead, the Russian government is likely to use its other special services in what is likely to be a failed effort to achieve its goals (thinktanks.by/publication/2018/10/14/predstavitel-rpts-otvet-budet-adekvatnym-i-zhestkim.html and vz.ru/politics/2018/10/13/945899.html).
After a three-day synod last week, the Istanbul-based spiritual leader of the Eastern Orthodox Church took a momentous step. Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople said he intended to grant a church in Ukraine full recognition, or autocephaly, removing it from control of the Russian Orthodox church in Moscow. Putin has co-opted the Moscow church in efforts to rebuild Russian statehood and restore the country to great power status, having using the church to project an image of Russia as a bulwark of “traditional” values. If Bartholomew grants autocephaly to the Kyiv church in November as expected, Ukrainian independence will receive a powerful boost. So, too, may the prospects in elections next May of president Petro Poroshenko, who has championed Kyiv’s religious freedom. The blow to his Russian counterpart is arguably even bigger. Putin has co-opted the Moscow church in efforts to rebuild Russian statehood and restore the country to great power status. In recent years, as nationalist populism has risen in Europe, he has used the church to project an image of Russia as a bulwark of “traditional” values. Losing the Ukrainian patriarchate will diminish Russia’s weight in eastern Orthodoxy, and hence Moscow’s 500-year-old claim to be the “Third Rome.” It will also demonstrate the extent to which Putin’s actions have backfired by driving a wedge between Ukrainians and Russians. What makes the moment particularly perilous is that it coincides with a steep fall in the Russian president’s approval rating after unpopular pensions reforms that raised the retirement age. Kyiv and western capitals fear Russia might again send special forces into Ukraine, to barricade churches loyal to Moscow and prevent them shifting to the Kyiv patriarchate, leading to potential bloodshed. Putin’s popularity at home soared after the Crimean annexation, the publication recalls. The weakness of the Russian economy might prompt Kremlin strategists to try a similar manoeuvre again. Given the longer-term harm it is now clear that the 2014 intervention did to Putin’s neo-imperial project, however, any attempt to impinge on Ukraine’s religious freedom would be even more misguided — and dangerous, The Financial Times editorial concludes.
Deliberating on the autonomy of churches is untimely at the moment since the Orthodox Church needs unity
Leonid Bershidsky October 14 2018 6:30 PM 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 centre 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 terrorised by the Russian leader. On October 11, the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople took a momentous action for the Orthodox faith in Ukraine. It reinstated two bishops leading Ukrainian splinter churches not recognised by the Moscow Patriarchate to their rank and allowed their followers to take communion with the church. Now, the clerics must unite their organisations to form an independent (or to use the religious term, autocephalous) Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which will be recognised by the Constantinople Patriarchate – disregarding the wishes of Russia, formerly responsible for appointing Ukraine’s church leaders. The Synod invalidated a document it issued in 1686, granting the Patriarch of Moscow the right to ordain the Metropolitan of Kiev. If this sounds arcane, it should. The Orthodox Church, with about 300m faithful worldwide, is steeped in tradition and ritual. The authority of Istanbul-based Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, who presided over the Synod meeting, rests on Canon 28 of the Council of Chalcedon, which took place in 451 AD, long before the split between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches; it granted the religious leader of “new Rome” – Constantinople – powers second to those of the Pope. It’s doubtful that Putin, who has co-opted the power of the Church to the service of his imperialist ideology, wants to play Henry VIII – who at first was a devout Catholic but then defied Rome’s spiritual authority.
00:00 / 00:00 The Istanbul-based leader of the Eastern Orthodox Church has granted independence to the church in Ukraine, distancing it from control of the Russian Orthodox church in Moscow. The split further undermines Russia’s attempts to keep close ties with the Ukraine. Updated
Leaders of the Russian Orthodox Church were meeting in the Belarusian capital on October 15 amid a dispute over moves toward independence for the Orthodox Church in Ukraine.
“Unfortunately, our Church frequently became a hostage of interstate relations, sometimes because of our wrong acts,” the Belarusian leader said.
Ukrainians gathered in Kyiv on Oct. 14 to hold a mass prayer celebrating the Ukrainian Orthodox Church’s recent steps toward independence from Moscow. Attendees, including President Petro Poroshenko, gathered on the city’s Sofiivska Square to thank the Istanbul-based Ecumenical Patriarchate for granting approval for Ukraine to establish an independent — or “autocephalous” — Orthodox church. After the Christianization of the Kyivan Rus in the year 988, the Metropolis of Kyiv was part of the Constantinople Patriarchate. Then, in 1686, Constantinople decided to allow the patriarch of Moscow to appoint metropolitans of Kyiv. Since then, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church has remained subordinate to the Moscow Patriarchate — making the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church unrecognized by the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Then, on Oct. 11, Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople recognized the legitimacy of the bishops Filaret and Makariy, the leaders of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church, respectively. The two Ukrainian churches spearheaded by Filaret and Makariy — both of whom were in attendance at the mass prayer — are now considered part of the Constantinople Church and not as part of the Russian Church anymore.
Two Ukrainian Orthodox churches will soon join to form a unified, independent Ukrainian Orthodox Church, and the Ukrainian church will no longer by subordinate to Moscow. But no Ukrainian will be forced to change his or her beliefs, according to President Petro Poroshenko. “We didn’t, don’t and won’t have a ‘national church,’” Poroshenko said during an Oct. 14 mass prayer on Sofiivska Square. In other words, there won’t be a mandatory, sole church for Ukrainians, and every citizen has the right to believe (or not believe) in any religion, including to be a parishioner of the Russian Orthodox Church subordinate in Ukraine to the Moscow Patriarchate. “There won’t be any pressure — every Ukrainian will have their own way to God,” he said. “And the government will respect the choice of those who decide to stay parishioners of the church structure that retains unity with the Russian Orthodox Church.” On the other hand, Poroshenko said that the government will protect those who “voluntarily decide to quit the Moscow church” and “choose Ukraine.” “The development of the independent Ukrainian church cannot be a basis for discord, confrontation, and violence,” he said. Anyone urging the “capture” of a church or a temple — or the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra, which is currently used by the Moscow Patriarchate — would likely be an “agent of Moscow,” he added. “Let’s not allow the Kremlin to start a religious war inside Ukraine,” Poroshenko said. “An independent church is one of the key elements, a guarantee of the country’s independence.”
Ukraine never was and never will be a canonical territory of the Russian Orthodox Church, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said on Sunday. “The Ecumenical Patriarchate has definitively outlawed the annexation of the Kyiv metropolia by Moscow that took place in late 17th century. It said clearly and unequivocally that the Russian Orthodox Church has no canonic title to the Orthodox Church in Ukraine… that our Orthodox Church is not subordinate to the Russian Orthodox Church. And Ukraine never was and never will be a canonic territory of the Russian church,” Poroshenko said when speaking on Kyiv’s Sophia Square, where the leader of the Kyiv Patriarchate Filaret was due to perform a thanksgiving mass on Sunday. “It’s very simple – the patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church at every service prays for the Russian authorities, the authorities that committed aggression against our state. Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church prays for the Russian army, which kills Ukrainian soldiers, kills Ukrainians. And in Ukraine, unfortunately, there are temples that still remind Patriarch Kirill who delivers these prayers. And can temples, which pray for the patriarch praying for the Russian army, be called Ukrainian?” the head of state said.
After the creation of a single local Orthodox church in Ukraine, the language of preaching will be mostly Ukrainian, according to Patriarch Filaret. In some cases, Filaret noted, clerics may use other languages, according to TV Channel 5. “The liturgical addresses should, in principle, be in Ukrainian. And sermons – in Ukrainian, as well. But we will allow sermons both in Church Slavonic and in Russian. That is, there will not be such thing, you know, as oppression with respect to the language of preaching,” Filaret said.
Thousands of supporters of Ukrainian nationalist groups have marched in downtown Kyiv to mark the 76th anniversary of the creation of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA).