Anonymous expert compilation, analysis, and reporting.
Russia’s schism with global Orthodoxy is by far the dominant theme in Russia related media overnight, which should not come as a surprise since it is, as the Russians correctly pointed out, the single biggest schism in Christianity for a millennium.
The Russian propaganda play has been to enlist the small number of allies Russia has in the global Orthodox community. It does not appear to be selling well. What is interesting is that reports are emerging across the media of past disagreements between the ROC and Constantinople, the recurring theme being Russian attempts to displace, marginalize or challenge Constantinople. This not only includes disputes over Ukraine, but also over multiple smaller churches in former Soviet republics, and attempts to monopolize access to the monastery complex at Mount Athos in Greece. Moreover, the Russians tried very hard, and unsuccessfully, to sink the first global council (conclave) of Orthodox churches held since 787AD (1229 years ago). Notably, the Russian complaint is centered on Constantinople’s “encroachment on the Russian Orthodox Church’s canonical territory” – a clear indication that the Russians see religion as the same zero-sum game they see politics and international relations to be.
Most interesting in the Western media is the op-ed by Rogan in the WashEx – he cut to the core of the matter. The Kyiv Post and other Ukrainian media label the Russian schism for what it is – Russia departing the global Orthodox community in exactly the same manner they departed the global political community, to become a rogue state in almost every possible way.
An excellent analysis and backgrounder by Shandra at Euromaidan that exposes many interesting details from the history of the two churches, the Muscovian Patriarchate being the offspring of the Kyiv Patriarchate, just as the Muscovian state is the offspring of Kyiv. In Kyiv, Pres Poroshenko meets with the two Exarchs (emissaries) from Constantinople, a most enlightening read that shows how deeply religious the Ukrainians are. Ukrainian media also cite the UOC (KP), and multiple Ukrainian politicians and analysts. An excellent analysis by Kuzio showing the collapse of Russian soft power in Ukraine, an irreversible consequence of the failed 2014 invasion. CNN comment on the schism, but also on the US relationship with Ukraine, and the Clear Sky 2018 EX.
A number of authors compare the schism between the ROC and global Orthodoxy to the Muscovian regime’s political schism with the West, a futile and self-destructive path.
In the biggest rift in modern Orthodox history, the Russian Orthodox Church has cut all ties with the Constantinople Patriarchate, after it accepted a breakaway division of Ukrainian Orthodox Church as independent.
Earlier, the spokesman for Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill said that the Russian Orthodox Church will issue a tough response to the decision of the Synod of the Constantinople Patriarchate to grant independence to the Ukrainian Church.
MOSCOW (Sputnik) – Patriarch of the Serbian Orthodox Church Irinej called the Constantinople Patriarchate’s decision to grant independence to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church as a catastrophic move.
BEIRUT (Sputnik) – The Russian Orthodox Church has made the right decision to sever ties with the Patriarchate of Constantinople after the latter launched preparations for granting independence to the non-canonical Orthodox Church in Ukraine, the leader of the Lebanese Orthodox (Al Mashriq) party told Sputnik on Monday.
The Russian Orthodox Church has suspended Eucharistic communion with the Patriarchate of Constantinople. The decision was made at a meeting of the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church on October 15 in Minsk. The stated reason for the suspension is the “anti-canonical actions of the Constantinople Patriarchate, which opened communication channels to schismatics in Ukraine and thereby encroached on the Russian Orthodox Church’s canonical territory.”
After 55 years of planning, the historic holy and great council of 14 Orthodox churches in Crete may collapse over power struggle
The Russian Christian Orthodox church just chose told the head of the Eastern Orthodox faith to buzz off, in a move that will delight Vladimir Putin.
“Moscow is behaving in a way that is imposing sanctions upon itself by self-isolating itself as it has done politically ever since it annexed (the Ukrainian territory of) Crimea in 2014,” Yevstratiy (Ivan) Zorya, spokesperson for the Ukraine Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate, told the Kyiv Post at Mykhailivsky Cathedral in Kyiv on Oct. 15. He said that up to a 10 Moscow Patriarchate parishes in Ukraine have switched over to the Kyiv Patriarchate since 2014 when Moscow invaded the easternmost regions of Luhansk and Donetsk after taking over the Crimea in a war that has killed more than 10,400 people and displace an additional 1.6 million. Some two-thirds of Ukrainians identify with the Orthodox faith and nearly half of those as parishioners of the Kyiv Patriarchate, according to a nationwide poll conducted on Aug. 30-Sept. 9 jointly by the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology, the Razumkov Center and the SOCIS Center for Social and Marketing Research; 17 percent said they identify with the Moscow Patriarchate in Ukraine.
In an extraordinary move, the Russian Orthodox Church has decided to cut all ties with the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. The decision was
The Russian Orthodox Church said Monday it is breaking ties with the Constantinople Patriarchate over its decision to grant independence to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which Moscow does not recognise.
The Constantinople Patriarchate’s recognition of Ukraine’s Orthodox Church as independent leads to Russia cutting ties.
The move stands to become the gravest split among Christians in nearly a millennium.
The Russian Orthodox Church decided Monday to sever ties with the leader of the worldwide Orthodox community after his decision to grant Ukrainian clerics independence from the Moscow Patriarchate.
The Russian Orthodox Church rejects the recognition of the Ukrainian branch’s independence.
The Russian Orthodox Church said on Monday it had decided to sever all relations with the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople in protest over its endorsement of Ukraine’s request for an “autocephalous”, or independent, church.
The Russian Orthodox Church moved to sever ties with the Constantinople Patriarchate to protest moves to form an independent church in Ukraine.
Religious schism driven by political friction after Ukraine church granted independence
The Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church, which gathered in Minsk, Belarus, on Oct. 15, decided to break the eucharistic communication with the Ecumenical Patriarchate. “At the meeting of the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church, held in Minsk on October 15, 2018, the Statement of the Holy Synod was adopted in connection with the encroachment of the Constantinople Patriarchate on the canonical territory of the Russian Orthodox Church,” says a statement on the website of the Russian Orthodox Church, Censor.NET reports citing UNIAN. “Members of the Holy Synod found it impossible to continue the eucharistic communication with the Patriarchate of Constantinople,” the statement reads.
On 11 October, a three-day meeting of the Synod, or church council, of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, finished in Istanbul. It gave further confirmation that Ukraine is on the path to receiving church independence from Moscow – and healing its schism, which has for nearly thirty years divided the world’s second largest Orthodox nation. Although President Poroshenko triumphantly announced that in result of the meeting Ukraine had received the long-awaited Tomos, or decree of Church independence – a claim circulated in Ukraine with great enthusiasm, this is not true. Indeed, now Orthodox Church independence for Ukraine is indeed now a question of “when,” not “if,” and many were anticipating that the Tomos would be granted at this Synod. However, the recent decisions made in Istanbul, the residence of the Ecumenical Patriarch, are much more nuanced. Euromaidan Press explains how we got to this point and what’s next for the Orthodox Church in Ukraine. What happened? The Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, who also carries the title of Patriarch of Constantinople, a tribute to the city’s role as a center of Christianity during the days of the Byzantine empire, is working on making the Ukrainian Church independent from Moscow, or autocephalous. This has been going on since 2016, when the Ukrainian parliament appealed to Patriarch Bartholomew to grant this autocephaly. This appeal was precipitated by Russia’s undeclared war against Ukraine. One of Ukraine’s three Orthodox Churches, and the only one recognized as legitimate by the rest of the world Orthodoxy – the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC MP) is subjugated to Moscow. It is extensively used as an instrument of Russia’s geopolitical influence over Ukraine and is one of the pillars of the “Russian world,” a neoimperial concept Russia uses to expand its influence and oppose the West. At the same time, Ukraine has two other Churches, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate (UOC KP) and Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC), regarded by the 15 autocephalous churches of the world as schismatic. This is now all changing. The announcement issued by the Synod on 11 October brings Ukraine one more step closer to having a legitimate independent Orthodox Church, as well as ending the religious isolation of millions of Orthodox faithful in Ukraine. Wait, are there so many Orthodox Churches in Ukraine, what’s the difference between them? Click to enlarge It all goes back to 1240, when the Tatar-Mongol invasion devastated the central part of the medieval kingdom of Kyivan Rus and divided its heritage between two emerging principalities – Moscow and Lithuania-Poland. The Church of the Kyivan Rus, which was an integral part of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, was divided as well. The Moscow part split off and became the Moscow Patriarchate. In 1686, the Ecumenical Patriarchate agreed to give its Lithuania-Poland part, the Kyiv Metropoly, to be managed by the Moscow Church, under certain conditions. This part of the church is today the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate. Is now headed by Metropolitan Onufriy and is subordinated to the Russian Orthodox Church, although claiming to enjoy autonomy. After the Russian empire started disintegrating in 1917, the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC), headed by Vasyl Lypkivskyi, was proclaimed in Kyiv in 1921. It is crushed by Ukraine’s new Bolshevik government. In 1990, the UAOC was renewed in Ukraine. It is since 2015 headed by Metropolitan Makariy. In 1991, after the proclamation of the independence of Ukraine, Metropolitan Filaret who headed the UOC MP proclaims autocephaly from the Moscow Patriarchate – a move which was not supported by everyone in UOC MP and the Moscow Patriarchate, i.e. the Russian Orthodox Church, itself. In 1992, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate (UOC KP) was formed. It is still led by Filaret, now a Patriarch. Makariy and Filaret had been anathematized, or excommunicated, by the Russian Orthodox Church, meaning that they and the churches they lead were not recognized by the rest of the world Orthodoxy. Only the UOC MP was in communion with the rest of the world Orthodox Churches. Up till now, that is. These three churches follow the same doctrine but are separate administrative entities. Although the UOC MP boasts the largest number of parishes and dioceses (12,064 parishes vs 4,807 of the UOC KP and 1,048 of the UAOC), its number of faithful has been dropping rapidly. According to the latest Razukov poll in 2018, 28.7% Ukrainians said they belonged to UOC KP (8.7 mn people in absolute numbers), 12.8% – to UOC MP (3.8 mn people). A significant number of people – 23.4% – said they were “just orthodox” (7.5 mn people), without identifying with a concrete confession.
Patriarch Bartholomew thanked the President for his efforts in uniting Ukrainian Orthodox Christians in Ukraine – meeting of the Head of State with the exarchs of the Ecumenical Patriarch — Official website of the President of Ukraine
The exarchs of the Ecumenical Patriarch in Ukraine noted the leading role of President Petro Poroshenko in the process of uniting Orthodox Christians and the creation of the Autocephalous Orthodox Church. Archbishop Daniel of Pamphylia and the Western Eparchy of the UOC in the United States of America thanked the President for his leadership and willingness to see the unity in the people of Ukraine. “I hope that we will serve together and celebrate this great union of our Ukrainian people soon,” the Archbishop stressed. Archbishop Daniel of Pamphylia and the Western Eparchy of the UOC in the United States of America also informed that he and Bishop Ilarion returned to Ukraine “to continue work on the last stage, which will bring us to the unifying Council and then to the presentation of the final document to the new primate – the Tomos of independence, autocephaly of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church”. “As before, we will communicate, ready to communicate, we hope to cooperate with all the leaders of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Kyiv Patriarchate, the UAOC, the hierarchs, clergy and believers of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the fold of the Russian Orthodox Church,” Archbishop Daniel especially emphasized. Archbishop Daniel noted that the exarchs came back from Constantinople “with good news, with a historic event in the life of the Ukrainian nation”. “I would like to immediately convey the words of congratulations of His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. We had a conversation with him immediately after the end of the Holy Synod. And he asked to convey personal congratulations to you, as well as gratitude for all the efforts that you have made as President of Ukraine, taking care of the whole process of uniting Ukrainian Orthodox Christians in the territory of Ukraine,” the Archbishop said. “I think I’m not mistaken if I say that it was a historic decision of the Constantinople Mother Church concerning Ukraine, because the intention to provide autocephaly to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church was once again confirmed,” he said. Archbishop Daniel reminded that the Synod also considered appeals of the leaders of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Kyiv Patriarchate and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church and abolished “various church sanctions” against these spiritual leaders. They were returned to their spiritual rank. As well as the clergy that cares for the people of Ukraine in these churches. “Therefore, if there are any talks about the inappropriateness or non-canonicity of the sacraments performed by these clerics, the Holy Mother Church gave the answer – these sacraments, the actions of the clergy are canonical. We are grateful to God and the Church of Constantinople, which cares for our Ukrainian people,” he said. In turn, Bishop Ilarion of Edmonton and the Western Eparchy of the UOC in Canada emphasized: “October 11, 2018 – this historic day became the day of proclamation, declaration of spiritual sovereignty of the Ukrainian people. Just like July 16, 1990 – Declaration on the State Sovereignty of Ukraine”. “Your name is inscribed in the history of Ukraine with gold letters along with the names of the rulers of Kyivan Rus’, Kyivan state, your predecessors – Holy Equal of the Apostles Great Prince Volodymyr, Yaroslav the Wise, who did a lot for the spiritual prosperity of their people,” Bishop Ilarion said. He added: “As a good shepherd, the Ecumenical Patriarchate left 99 sheep and led this one sheep to unity with this decision of October 11 – millions of Orthodox Christians, carrying out its Calvary self-sacrificial mission, which it continues to carry out contrary to its own interests and acting as the Mother Church for the sake of the future of its children, giving autocephaly from the Moscow church to the recently granted autocephaly of the Czech Republic and Slovakia. And now it’s time for the Orthodox Church in Ukraine”. The President thanked the exarchs. “I am convinced that this service to the Ukrainian people is a great unifying effort that the Mother Church makes contrary to the efforts of those who impede our unity – this is the great merit of the Ecumenical Patriarch, the great merit of the Mother Church. I am very grateful to the Synod,” Petro Poroshenko noted. He also stressed that the comparison of declarations of state sovereignty and church sovereignty “is very accurate in order for the majority of Ukrainians to understand the importance of this event”. “I am convinced that this date will be inscribed in the history of Ukraine as the most important. As one of the important stages of our state-building,” Petro Poroshenko said. According to the President, the meeting with the exarchs takes place today for the first time after the historic decision was made by the Synod, the decision of the Ecumenical Patriarch to grant the autocephaly to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church “I am grateful, because this decision was made due to the prayers of the Ukrainian people, prayers of the Ecumenical Patriarch, His All-Holiness Bartholomew. And this decision is a long-awaited one in Ukraine … I am convinced that today, as President of Ukraine, on behalf of the Ukrainian people, I must express my sincere gratitude to the Mother Church, His All-Holiness, the Synod, to all the faithful and to you personally for the enormous work that has been done for that to become possible, for the Lord to hear our prayers,” Petro Poroshenko emphasized.
President on the decision of the Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church: The reaction of Russian spiritual and secular authorities shows that Ukraine is on the right track — Official website of the President of Ukraine
In a meeting with the Exarchs of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Ukraine – Bishop Ilarion of Edmonton and the Western Eparchy of the UOC in Canada and Archbishop Daniel of Pamphylia and the Western Eparchy of the UOC in the United States of America, President Petro Poroshenko once again thanked for the decision of the Holy Synod to provide autocephaly to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. “At the same time, at the behest of the Kremlin, the leadership of the aggressor country, the Russian completely dependent church authorities declared they will break off the Eucharistic communion with the Constantinople Mother Church. I am sure that such a reaction of the spiritual and secular Russian authorities, as well as of the church leadership completely dependent on the Russian authorities only confirms that we are on the right track,” the Head of State emphasized. The President added: “Just as Russia has now opposed itself to the whole world in the issues of Russian aggression in the east of our state, illegal annexation of Crimea, position on Abkhazia and South Ossetia, position on Transnistria and the rest, unfortunately, the Russian Church has also set itself on the path of self-isolation and conflict with the whole world Orthodoxy”. “I hoped this would not happen, but we should have been prepared for this process,” he said. The President recalled that almost simultaneously with the meeting of the Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church, on October 14, more than 30,000 Ukrainians took part in a grateful prayer on St. Sophia’s Square for the fact that the Lord provided autocephaly with the hands of His All-Holiness. “I think it’s like two worlds: one for peace, with prayer to God, and another for conflict, for confrontation. I firmly believe that our efforts are grateful, needed by my country and my people, because an attempt to close the doors of the temples to the faithful Ukrainians or even to Orthodox all over the world is definitely ungrateful and wrong thing, which the Russian Orthodox Church is now trying to offer,” the Head of State stressed. He added: “Maybe I should not say that, but I was very disappointed by the vote of two Ukrainian representatives. I am sure that we must search for peace and exactly the way October 14th passed – the Day of the Defender of Ukraine, the Day of Pokrova, when the Ukrainian political forces and the entire Ukrainian people, on the contrary, united and did not fall for Moscow’s provocation. For they were so impatient waiting for someone to storm the temples, that there would be fights somewhere. They even prepared their “titushky”, which were supposed to play this role”. According to the President, the Lord ensured that everything happened, happens and will happen in a completely peaceful way. “For our part, we will do everything we can so that the efforts aimed to create the Autocephalous Orthodox Church in accordance with the decisions of the Synod, the Mother Church and the Ecumenical Patriarch are made in due time, peacefully and in line with the expectations of the Ukrainian people,” the Head of State summed up.
President Petro Poroshenko stressed that there was not, is not and will not be a state church in Ukraine. “No one will be forced to visit the church consecrated by the Tomos. Once again I emphasize that this is a free choice for every believer. I guarantee that the authorities will respect the choice of those who decide to stay in the church structure, which preserves unity with the Russian Orthodox Church. This is their choice and we must respect it,” the President said during a prayer meeting for Ukraine. At the same time, the Head of State guarantees that the state will protect the rights of those priests and believers of the UOC of Moscow Patriarchate who voluntarily decide to leave Moscow in order to create, together with other Orthodox, a unified Ukrainian Orthodox Autocephalous Church. “In general, the state has its mission in the religious issue. And this mission has already been fulfilled. We received good news from Constantinople. Now, there are internal questions that the secular authorities cannot intervene in,” the President stressed. The Head of State stressed that the Ecumenical Patriarchate made a decision on autocephaly and Tomos will be handed over to a primate of the church – a worthy, authoritative, experienced leader who will be chosen by the united Bishops’ Council. According to him, with the blessing of the Patriarch of Constantinople and the Mother Church, the Council will convene all bishops of the UOC of Kyiv Patriarchate, the UAOC, as well as several bishops of the UOC of Moscow Patriarchate, “who have chosen the cross between the Kremlin star and the Orthodox cross, have chosen Ukraine between Ukraine and Russia”. “The responsibility, which will lie on the participants of the unifying council, is historic without exaggeration,” Petro Poroshenko said. He recalled that in 988 the Ukrainian state was baptized. Until the middle of the XVII century, before the Moscow’s captivity, Kyiv metropolia enjoyed broad rights in the structure of the Mother Church. “I emphasize that this is not the recovery of autocephaly. The Ukrainian church never had an autocephaly recognized by the Ecumenical Orthodoxy,” the President emphasized. “Just imagine, this is the first time in more than a thousand-year history of our church. Thanks to God, all Orthodox states that have gained their independence set up their own Autocephalous Churches: Bulgaria, Greece, Georgia, Russia, Romania, Serbia and others. It is very important that Ukraine will now be added to this list,” the Head of State said. The President thanked His All-Holiness Bartholomew for his care for Ukraine. “He made an extremely wise, bold, decisive and responsible decision … Ukraine is looking forward to his pastoral visit,” the President noted.
“By severing relations with Constantinople, Russian Orthodox Church placed itself on path of self-isolation”
By breaking off eucharistic communion with the Patriarchate of Constantinople, the Russian Orthodox Church has placed itself on the path of self-isolation and conflict with the entire Orthodox world. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said at a meeting with Exarchs of the Constantinople Patriarchate in Kyiv on Tuesday, Censor.NET reports citing Interfax-Ukraine news agency. “With the obvious order of the Kremlin, the leadership of the aggressor country, the Russian church authorities fully dependent on it declared a breakup of Christian communion with the Mother Church of Constantinople. I am convinced that such a reaction from the spiritual and secular Russian authorities and the church leadership, fully dependent on the Russian authorities, confirms that we are on the right track. Just as Russia opposed itself to the whole world in matters of Russian aggression in the east of our state, the illegal annexation of Crimea, its position on Abkhazia, on Ossetia, on Transdniestria, now, unfortunately, the Russian Church has also put itself on the path of self-isolation and conflict with the whole world Orthodoxy,” the president said. Source:https://en.censor.net.ua/n3091541
The Russian Orthodox Church, by breaking off Eucharistic communion with the Patriarchate of Constantinople, has put itself on the road of self-isolation with the entire Orthodox world, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has said.
A statement by Russia on the severance of Eucharistic communion with the Ecumenical Patriarchate suggests that Ukraine is on the right path to obtaining autocephaly.
The president’s representative in the Verkhovna Rada, Iryna Lutsenko, announced this at a meeting of the parliament’s conciliation council on Tuesday, according to an Ukrinform correspondent. “The president supports the desire to obtain a tomos as soon as possible and, as a sign of solidarity with this process, makes a symbolic gesture. A bill will soon be registered with which President Poroshenko proposes transferring St. Andrew’s Church to permanent use by the Ecumenical Patriarch, as a symbolic gesture that St. Andrew baptized Ukraine at one time,” Lutsenko said. According to her, the adoption of this bill will also symbolize “unity with the mother church.” Poroshenko calls on the parliament and all factions to support this bill, she added. Lutsenko also said that the president is grateful to the Ecumenical Patriarch “for his strength and courage in the confrontation with the Kremlin.” “We understand perfectly well that after the Synod held in Minsk, they [the Russian Orthodox Church] separate from communion with the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople – Moscow has actually driven itself into isolation,” she said.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko will in the next few days put forward an initiative on the transfer of St. Andrew’s Church to permanent use by the Ecumenical Patriarch, the head of state’s representative in the Verkhovna Rada, Bloc of Petro Poroshenko MP Iryna Lutsenko, has said.
As Moscow warns of repercussions, Kyiv finally rejoices with the good tidings from a tense synod.
A representative of the Kyiv Patriarchate, Yevstratiy Zorya, responded to the decision of the Russian Orthodox Church to sever ties with Constantinople. In his opinion, the Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church repeats the policy of the Kremlin and follows the path of self-isolation in response to the legitimate decisions of the international community. “Since 1991, [Russian] Patriarch Kirill has personally been the architect of the division of the Ukrainian Church. Therefore, it is difficult for him to plead guilty of 27 years of false activities, which have dragged the entire Orthodoxy into the conflict,” he wrote on Facebook October 15. The Kyiv Patriarchate spokesman says the situation “will be fixed sooner or later, and the ROC will return to communication.” “Now, before everyone worshiping in the Moscow Patriarchate in Ukraine, the question arises: whether they should move toward separation along with the Russian Orthodox Church or remain in unity with the Universal Orthodoxy via the Local Ukrainian Church,” Zorya notes. As UNIAN reported earlier, on October 15, the Russian Orthodox Church issued a statement announcing a break-up in ties with the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. The move follows the statement by the Ecumenical Patriarchate to proceed to granting autocephaly to the Church of Ukraine, reinstate heads of the UOC-KP and UAOC – Filaret and Makariy – in their canonical status, as well as abolish the legal binding of the Synod’s Letter of 1686, thus taking the Kyiv Metropolis from under Moscow’s canonical jurisdiction.
The Holy Synod of Russian Orthodox Church repeats Kremlin’s policy, which is self-isolation as a reaction to the decisions of the international community, as Yevstratiy Zorya, the Spokesperson of Ukraine’s Orthodox Church of Kyiv Patriarchate, wrote on Facebook. “Since 1991, Patriarch Kirill has been an architect of the split of Ukraine’s church. That is why it’s hard for him to admit guilt for 27 years of vicious activities, which brought the orthodoxy to a conflict. However, sooner or later, the situation will be solved and Russia’s Orthodox Church will return to communication. And everyone who belongs to Moscow Patriarchate confronts a problem: follow the Russian Orthodox church to the split or stay in unity with the ecumenical orthodoxy – through the local Ukrainian church?” he noted.
Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, Andriy Parubiy notes that the Kremlin is in fact “unleashing an international religious conflict between Orthodox churches,” an UNIAN correspondent reported from the Conciliation Council in Kyiv. Saying that the state should not interfere in church affairs, Parubiy stressed: “A special meeting of the Security Council was convened in Russia to discuss the decision made by Constantinople and the Ecumenical Patriarch. And yesterday came the news that the Russian Orthodox Church severes communication with the Ecumenical Patriarchate. In fact, the Kremlin, via a religious organization under its control, is launching an international religious conflict between Orthodox churches.”
Pavlo Klimkin on Twitter: The Russian Orthodox Church Council decided to break the Eucharistic communion with the Ecumenical Patriarchate, which, on the basis of true historical and canonical documents, proved that Ukraine is its canonical territory. Someone still has doubts who is the schismatic in world Orthodoxy?
Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin called Russian Orthodox church a “dissident” because it ceased eucharistic relations with the Constantinople Patriarchate. “Russian Orthodox church decided to terminate its eucharistic relations with the Ecumenical Patriarchate, which, by authentic historical and canonical documents proved that Ukraine is its canonical territory. Anyone doubts who is a dissident in world Orthodoxy?” he wrote on Twitter. Reportedly, the Russian Orthodox Church decided to completely cease the Eucharistic relations with the Patriarchate of Constantinople.
The historic decision in Constantinople (Istanbul) at the synod of the Orthodox Church to grant Ukraine autocephaly (independence) from the Russian Orthodox church has geopolitical ramifications for Europe. Russia’s control over religious life was the last vestige of soft power Russian president Vladimir Putin exercised over Ukraine. Putin’s annexation of the Crimea and military aggression against eastern Ukraine, where his occupation forces remain ensconced, produced the opposite to his intention of clawing back what he considers to be a rebellious ‘Russian’ province that belongs in the ‘Russian world’. Instead, over the last four years, Russian soft power has disintegrated in five areas under the impact of Ukrainian public opinion turning radically against Russia, the collapse of economic, trade and family ties, and the determination of president Petro Poroshenko to make this process irreversible. Five impacts The first is the collapse of pro-Russian forces and unavailability of pro-Russian voters. The Party of Regions, Ukraine’s only political machine, disintegrated in early 2014 while the Communist Party was banned a year later under Ukraine’s de-communisation laws. Meanwhile, 16 percent of traditionally pro-Russian voters, and 27 election districts, are in Russian-occupied territories and cannot participate in elections. Pro-Russian forces are therefore discredited and weak and unable to come to power. The second area is the direct impact of the war on identity and increasing Ukrainian patriotism. Over three-quarters of Ukrainians believe Russian objectives are to destroy the Ukrainian state. The same number hold negative views of Putin and do not believe normalisation of Ukrainian-Russian relations are possible while he is in power but only when Russia returns the Crimea, ends military aggression in eastern Ukraine, pays compensation and ends interference in Ukrainian affairs. Russia is associated in the eyes of Ukrainians with “aggression” (66 percent), “cruelty” (57 percent), and “dictatorship” (57 percent). The biggest impact of the war has been on Russian-speaking Ukrainians – the very people Putin claimed to be defending – compromise the bulk of the 1.7 million internally displaced people, and 10,000 civilian deaths. With 60 percent of Ukrainian troops Russian speakers, it is not surprising they have borne the brunt of military casualties. Dnipro (formerly Dnipropetrovsk), neighbouring the Donbas, has four times the number of military casualties of any Ukrainian region. In 2014, Ukraine had a non-bloc status which failed to prevent Russian aggression. Little wonder backing for Nato has tripled and for EU membership solidified as opposition in eastern Ukraine disintegrated while support for Eurasian integration collapsed. The third area is economic and trade ties and their links to corruption. Russia launched a trade blockade against Ukraine in summer 2013 to pressure then president Viktor Yanukovych to dump the EU Association Agreement in favour of Eurasian integration. Russia’s continued trade restrictions and economic collapse in war-torn Donbas has led to a collapse in trade and made Ukraine’s biggest trading partner the EU. A major soft power hold Russia had over Ukraine was in corruption in the energy sector which has evaporated due to energy independence from Russia (Ukraine does not import Russian gas since 2016) and importantly, extensive energy reforms have turned around Naftohaz Ukrayiny state gas company from a corrupt cash cow for presidents into the biggest taxpayer into the state budget. Ukraine’s once powerful ‘gas lobby’, which backed Yanukovych, is no longer influential and gas mogul Dmytro Firtash is fighting US and Spanish extradition charges holed up in Vienna’s Ritz Hotel. Fourth, Russian soft power – in terms of broadcasts of Russian television channels, social media, and books – is no longer available. As recorded by the EU’s Disinformation Review, Ukraine has borne the brunt of aggressive Russian information warfare over the last five years giving the Ukrainian authorities little choice but to ban them. A recent poll showed Ukraine second only to the US as a threat to Russia, with 78 percent of Russians viewing the US as hostile towards Russia, 49 percent viewing Ukraine in this manner and 38 percent the UK. Fifth, with the loss of half of its parishes to an independent Ukrainian Orthodox Church, the power and influence of the Russian Orthodox church, and thereby Russian influence, is significantly eroded in the Orthodox world. Church cut to size Henceforth, the Russian Orthodox church will be similar in size to the Romanian and Ukrainian Orthodox Churches. As important to Russian leaders is the loss of the heritage of Kiev after centuries of corporate raiding Ukrainian history claiming the ‘Russian’ people began their life in Kiev. Two years ago, in Moscow Putin unveiled a monument to grand prince Volodymyr who brought Christianity to Kiev in 988AD, in just the latest example of ‘fake history’ complimenting Russia’s ‘fake news’; Moscow was founded nearly two centuries after his rule. Putin’s annexation and military aggression doomed Russian soft power in Ukraine, providing President Poroshenko with the window of opportunity to ensure the irreversibility of Ukraine’s integration into Europe and withdrawal from the Russian World.
Trump administration officials have been maintaining a harder line on Russia’s role in Ukraine as the hot war continues in the eastern Donbas region.
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. The last is the most likely, and the Moscow Patriarchate is certain to signal its intention of trying to block this move from the inside as it were when Patriarch Kirill hosts a meeting of the Holy Synod in Minsk on Monday. But it is almost certain that Moscow can only delay and not derail the train of autocephaly and thus Ukraine’s separation from Russia after 300 years. The consequences of such an enormous tectonic shift are so enormous that it is as yet difficult to say what they will all be and how they will play out in the coming days, months, years, and decades. But below are some of the most obvious and important for each of places in which they will be playing out. For Ukraine, this decision gives new content to its national independence, separating it from Russia in a fundamental way, and giving it the largest Orthodox church in the world, thus making Kyiv a player in international religious life far larger than it has ever been in the past. More than any decision on language or the Russian invasion, this makes Ukraine truly Ukrainian. For Russia, it is an enormous loss not only to the pretensions of some broader “Russian world” or to the leadership of the Orthodox world – it is likely to lead to more autocephalies in the former Soviet space and will certainly reduce Moscow’s influence in all of them – but undermines whatever chance for the modernization of Russian Orthodoxy there may have been. Patriarch Kirill will certainly see his influence at home decline and may even lose his job to Putin’s reputed favorite, Metropolitan Tikhon (Shevkunov) of Pskov, who favors a far more isolationist and anti-Catholic policy than Kirill. There may even be pressure to move the Moscow Patriarchate in the direction of the Old Believers vis-à-vis the West. There is another reason to believe that Kirill is in trouble: Since becoming patriarch, he has created dozens of bishoprics in Ukraine in order to install his supporters there and ensure that he controls the direction of the church and the election of the next patriarch. With their loss, he will control far less – and others like Tikhon will exploit that fact. The Russian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate will no longer be the largest Orthodox denomination, although it will still at least for a time be the wealthiest and the most heavily supported by the government. It may try to transform itself into what some call “an Orthodox Vatican,” but it almost certainly will fail. For Orthodoxy, this will provoke a reordering and a split; but despite heavy breathing in Moscow about this, such splits in the Orthodox world are nothing new. There is no Orthodox pope, and even the Universal Patriarch is at most “first among equals.” And despite its hopes, Moscow is not going to displace Constantinople in that regard whatever it does. The number of autocephalous churches will rise, and that will make the Orthodox world more, not less complicated. The level of cooperation among some of its churches will likely fall, especially as the Russian church loses some of its income because of the loss of parishes and bishoprics in Ukraine. For ecumenism, the grant of autocephaly to the Ukrainian Orthodoxy will simultaneously both reduce and expand the possibilities for improving relations among the various Christian churches of the World. It will reduce them in the short term because Moscow will become even less a participant than it has been. But it will expand them, at least potentially, because Ukraine includes within it both Orthodox and Uniate believers, and the allegiance of the latter to Rome will open new possibilities for conversations, although it is certain that Moscow’s agents will try to play the Uniates and Ukrainian Orthodox off against each other to slow that process. And for international relations, this development will also have mixed consequences: a wounded Russia perhaps even more ready to strike out against others than it has been, a newly confident Ukraine whose people can claim real progress in nation building separate from the Russian world, and multiple players around the world who will be watching to see how this affects them. At the very least, it is a great day for Ukraine, a huge loss for Russia, and an occasion for all who reject imperialism of any kind to celebrate.