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Russia Loses the War of the Churches (22)

Anonymous expert compilation, analysis, and reporting.

Russian propaganda, overall, has fallen significantly. Somebody asked me if I felt that was a prelude to war. It is an indicator, as almost every significant Soviet and Russian move has been preceded by a significant pause followed by a cacophony of noise. The recent Autocephaly of the Ukraine Orthodox Church, shortly followed by the Russian Duma’s proclamation that Ukraine is a “terrorist state” followed by this pregnant silence indicates Russia is frantically preparing…  for something. 

Why put my analysis here, in the editorial about the War of the Churches?  Because I believe this is the final straw that broke Russia’s machismo. I also believe the UOC/ROC in Ukraine will play a major part in the next stage. 

Stand by.

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The topic remains remarkably active in the Western media, with a number of op-eds, commentaries, backgrounders, and analyses. The Russians continue with incendiary statements against Constantinople and Ukraine. Ukrainian clerics continue to comment. There is no evidence the Russian effort to expand the schism to other Orthodox churches is producing results. Excellent NatGeo photo essay from Kyiv Pechersk Lavra monastery. Interesting analysis.

A high-ranking Orthodox priest in Turkey landed a blow against Putin by invoking an obscure and ancient power from 451 AD | Business Insider

Vladimir Putin faced a major blow to his power when a powerful Orthodox priest used an ancient and obscure power to undermine Russia’s religious influence in Ukraine. A powerful Orthodox priest activated a 1,567-year-old power to elevate the status of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and make it on par with its Russian counterpart. Previously, Russia had power over the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, and the move damages its international prestige. The Russian Orthodox Church severed ties with the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople as a result. Bartholomew’s decision is likely a big blow to Vladimir Putin, who has close ties to the Russian Orthodox Church and has asserted Russia’s religious dominance over Ukraine. Vladimir Putin faced a major blow to his power when a powerful Orthodox priest used an ancient and obscure power to undermine Russia’s religious influence in Ukraine. On October 11 the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople – an Istanbul-based religious body that oversees Orthodoxy Christianity – recognised the independence of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which had previously been subservient to Russia. Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the head of the church, elevated the statuses of two bishops in Ukrainian churches and gave them power to set up an independent church on the same footing as their Russian counterpart. In doing so, Bartholomew relied on an authority granted to his office in the early days of Christianity, established at the Council of Chalcedon in 451 AD. The power has hardly ever been used, and took many be surprise. The Russian Orthodox Church – with whom Putin has warm relations – responded to the slight by cutting ties with the rest of the Orthodox church. The split has been described as the biggest schism in Orthodox Christianity since the Orthodox church became independent from the Roman Catholic Church in 1054, the BBC reported. The new religious order effectively undermines Russia’s religious power in Ukraine.

John L. Allen Jr. | Moscow’s veto on Catholic/Orthodox dialogue may be slipping away

If independence for the Orthodox church in Ukraine is followed by unification of its various branches, it could open the door for surprising ecumenical progress with the Vatican.

Geopolitics Driving Biggest Eastern Orthodox Schism in a Millennium

The Russian branch has broken with church leaders in Istanbul after the Ukrainian Orthodox Church was granted independence from the Moscow Patriarchate.

Russia-Constantinople Church Squabble Crosses the Atlantic – The Pappas Post

Orthodox Christians in the United States and Canada are now being directly impacted by the recent decision of the Russian Orthodox Church to cut

A Christian schism prompts historians to dig deep into the past – Orthodox Christian history

NEARLY three and a half centuries have passed since a prelate of the eastern Christian church, living under the Ottoman Muslims but still wielding considerable power over his co-religionists, penned these sonorous lines in Byzantine Greek: ……That the most holy Eparchy (province) of Kyiv should be subjected to the most holy patriarchal throne of the great and God-saved city of Muscovy, by which we mean that the Metropolitan (archbishop) of Kyiv should be ordained there….Nevertheless, whenever this Metropolitan of Kyiv celebrates the sacred, holy and bloodless sacrifice (of the Eucharist) in this diocese, he should commemorate among the first the venerable name of the Ecumenical Patriarch (of Constantinople) as his source and authority, and as superior to all dioceses and eparchies everywhere….. As we write here, the eastern Christian world is in shock as a bitter divide opens up between two poles of authority: the Istanbul-based Ecumenical Patriarchate, which enjoys “primacy of honour” in Orthodoxy, and the Patriarchate of Moscow, which is the largest of the 14 churches that have acknowledged one another as Orthodox. At issue is the former institution’s reassertion of authority over religious affairs in Ukraine, and its plan to bless the establishment of an independent church. On both sides, church historians are delving deep into dusty archives as well as combing the canon law by which the ancient centres of Christendom (Antioch, Alexandra and Jerusalem, as well as Constantinople and Rome) regulated their relations in the first Christian millennium.

Russian Orthodox Church recognizes Patriarch Bartholomew as schismatic – Russia’s media | UNIAN

The Russian Orthodox Church has recognized Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople as a schismatic based on the Orthodox Church canons, according to Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, head of the Russian church’s external relations. On October 15, the Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church made a decision to sever eucharistic communication with the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.

Autocephaly of Ukrainian Orthodox Church crosses out Kremlin’s neo-imperial project — Archbishop | UNIAN

The approval of the unified autocephalous local church in Ukraine puts an end to Russia’s prospects for the implementation of their neo-imperial project, just as the approval of an independent Ukrainian state does not allow reanimation of the Russian empire, says Yevstratiy (Zorya), the Archbishop of Chernihiv and Nizhyn and a press secretary of the Holy Synod of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate. In Russia, the state is not separated from the church as authorities issue instructions to the Moscow Patriarchate, the cleric stresses. The approval of the unified autocephalous local church in Ukraine puts an end to Russia’s prospects for the implementation of their neo-imperial project, just as the approval of an independent Ukrainian state does not allow reanimation of the Russian empire, says Yevstratiy (Zorya), the Archbishop of Chernihiv and Nizhyn and a press secretary of the Holy Synod of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate. However, the archbishop opines, Moscow still harbors hope of restoring the empire, while the time of the empires has long passed, according to Glavred. “The example where Putin convened a meeting of Russia’s Security Council on the issue of the autocephaly of the Ukrainian Church convincingly indicates that in Russia, the state is not separated from church issues – on the contrary, it is closely involved. Moreover, the state interferes with them and directs them, by issuing corresponding instructions to the Moscow Patriarchate,” said the archbishop. According to Yevstratiy, if no one in Ukraine no one gives the Kremlin a reason to “protect the Orthodox,” Moscow will have a plausible pretext for boosting their aggression against Ukraine. “Therefore, our common task is to resist provocations, not to allow violence in matters of faith, and to do everything necessary so that people have the opportunity to consciously and voluntarily make their choice in favor of the Ukrainian church or, who so desires, to remain with the Russian church,” he concluded. As UNIAN reported earlier, more than half of Ukrainians support the autocephalous Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

Ukrainian Church severs ties with Russia in historic decision | National Geographic

The split is being called the “worst crisis” for the Orthodox Church in centuries, but it’s more about politics than religion.

Ukrainian Church severs ties with Russia in historic decision [PHOTOESSAY]

Who owns the church? – news about social life | UNIAN

Throughout the years of Ukraine’s independence, hundreds of new temples were built across the country for the Orthodox, Jewish, Protestant, Catholic believers and representatives of other denominations. In fact, the construction and restoration of churches, synagogues, kirkhs, prayer houses, etc. had begun in the last years of the Soviet era. Many mistakenly believe that religious buildings belong to the clerics. They don’t. According to the law on freedom of conscience and religious organizations, the church is not a legal entity. Such entity can be a religious community, a brotherhood, a monastery, a mission, and so on. Correspondingly, religious buildings belong to religious communities, except for those that are of cultural value and host museums, such as the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra or the St Volodymyr’s Cathedral. The same law states that any religious community can freely change its affiliation from one church to another. However, the procedure is not laid down clearly. The legislation only says that the decision shall be made by community members. Ukraine has seen more than one precedent when the community of the Church of the UOC of Moscow Patriarchate made a decision on their transition to the Kyiv Patriarchate, while in western Ukraine there were cases of the return of the temples to Catholic and Greek Catholic religious communities. Actually, the first such transitions took place at the turn of the 1980-1980s, and re-emerged with the start of the Russian-Ukrainian war. Moscow has for the past 30 years branded such transitions as “seizure.” Today, when we see that Constantinople is set to recognize the independent Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Russia is predicting religious wars and battles for temples across Ukraine. So is it possible to divide churches? Perhaps, but not without some difficulties. The process will be simplest in communities where both the majority of its members and the priest, who is the head of the community, will have the same position – that is, they will stand for the transition from the Moscow church to the Ukrainian one. However, It is unlikely that Moscow will simply give up its position. Rather, on the contrary: the clergy of the UOC-MP will carry out, and is already doing it, active propaganda among the faithful against the transition to “schismatics.” It is also significant that the statutory documents of the community, the seal, the permit for the use of land, the papers for the church building itself, as a rule, are at a priest’s disposal. And having an instruction to resist to the end, he will not simply give away all those papers to the community. In a situation where the pries and community stand on opposite positions, there is another problem – no clear definition is provided for determining who are “community members.” The Church is not a state institution, it’s not a register of voters or taxpayers, therefore, the law does not provide for any paperwork that would certify a believer’s affiliation with a particular community. And if the problem is not too serious in a village where everyone knows each other, identifying and counting religious community members in big cities is a real challenge because often, those living in apartment blocks don’t even know their own neighbors. It is precisely in cities where there are far larger churches and richer parishioners, and where the political weight of the temples is much heavier, and there is room for manipulation. The technique has already been worked out in secular circles through public hearings, and even earlier – at national elections. The group of “Orthodox thugs” and “canonical grandmothers,” brought in by several buses from the nearest towns, could act as if they are local parishioners to hinder the holding of a community assembly to take a decision on moving from one church to another. And neither the police nor the court will be able to interfere simply because no kind of document could identify someone’s affiliation to a certain religious community. The Verkhovna Rada registered Bill No 4128 authored by an MP and religious scholar Viktor Yelensky to amend Art. 8 of the aforementioned law “On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organizations.” The draft states that any religious community’s decision to change the church shall be taken at a general meeting by a majority of votes. There is no clear definition of who is a community member, but there is a certain specificity: individuals must identify with the community and also participate in community life. The bill’s author, MP Yelensky, said that during the discussion of the document at the Rada’s profile committee with the participation of clerics, two clarifications were put forward that the committee approved: those community members who decide to move to another church, certify their intentions with the notary. The second clarification is that the community’s governing body must decide on the scope of authority of the community assembly. At the same time, Yelensky observes that the “governing body” is not necessarily a priest and parishioners from his closest entourage. It can also consist of regular people – the church committee of the faithful, and a parish assembly. However, this bill, even if adopted into law, will still be unable to block falsifications of community decisions on the transition from the Moscow church to the Ukrainian one. Therefore, pro-Ukrainian religious communities that are now part of the Moscow church will obviously have to bureaucratize their activities to some extent. For example, they should introduce a register of community members, at least to prevent “Orthodox thugs” from influencing their decisions, to work out the conditions for the admission of new members to their community – at least throughout the period when the united Ukrainian Orthodox Church is formed. In any case, regardless of whether the changes to the legislation are adopted, the process of the new Church formation will be neither easy nor quick. Dmytro Khyliuk The Russian Orthodox Church has recognized Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople as a schismatic based on the Orthodox Church canons, according to Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, head of the Russian church’s external relations. “The Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople has joined the schism himself by recognizing schismatic individuals. That is how the church canons work. Therefore, the Patriarch of Constantinople is a schismatic for us,” the Russian news agency TASS quoted Metropolitan Hilarion as saying on October 20. As UNIAN reported earlier, on October 11, following a meeting of the Holy Synod, a decision was announced, stating that the Ecumenical Patriarchate proceeds to granting autocephaly to the Church of Ukraine. In addition, the legal binding of the Synod’s letter of 1686 was abolished, thus taking the Kyiv Metropolis from under Moscow’s canonical jurisdiction. Also, head of the UOC of the Kyiv Patriarchate Filaret and head of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church Makariy were reinstated in their canonical status. The Kremlin vowed to protect the interests of Orthodox believers in Ukraine “politically and diplomatically,” claiming Moscow did not intend to interfere in the “interchurch dialogue.” On October 15, the Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church made a decision to sever eucharistic communication with the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.

Kyiv Patriarchate says Constantinople will never recognize Belarusian Autocephalous Church | UNIAN

Press secretary of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate (UOC-KP), Archbishop Yevstratiy (Zorya) says the Belarusian Autocephalous Church has announced it also seeks to fight for a real, confirmed autocephaly, but it is unlikely to see success in this endeavor. “The Belarusian Autocephalous Orthodox Church is small and actually remains underground in Belarus. Therefore, now it’s difficult to speak about any recognition of this church on the part of the state. And without recognition by the state, recognition by the Ecumenical Patriarch could hardly be expected,” the cleric said, according to the Ukrainian news outlet Glavred. “As we see on Ukraine’s example, it is important for the Ecumenical Patriarch to have a certified support for ideas of autocephaly not only from church hierarchs, but also from the state power,” he added. Read more on UNIAN:

Moscow-Constantinople split highlighting Estonia’s role in Orthodox church | Feature | ERR

Triggered by a dispute on religious authority over Ukraine, the Russian Orthodox Church broke off all ties with Constantinople on Monday, 15 October. This step potentially marks one of the biggest ruptures in Christian history.

Window on Eurasia — New Series: Does Estonia’s History with Two Orthodox Churches have Lessons for Ukraine?

Paul Goble Staunton, October 20 – Constantinople’s gift of autocephaly to Ukraine’s Orthodox church could have a very different outcome than the violent clashes the Moscow Patriarchate and the Russian government have predicted or the Russian military intervention that many Ukrainians – and others – fear. That possibility, which may be a slim one, is suggested by the experience of Estonia over the last 25 years where an Orthodox church subordinate to Constantinople and another Orthodox church subordinate to Moscow have coexisted despite the threat of problems when that situation was created. To be sure, Ukraine is not Estonia. Not only is it larger and more significant for its congregants and for Moscow, but the church issue there has become more intertwined with politics and the Ukrainian church is much closer now to the formation of a single national church than was the case in Estonia. Nonetheless, the possibility is worth exploring at a time when tensions are increasing, and Kristina Bondareva, a journalist for Yevropayskaya pravda, presents a useful outline of the Estonian case and its possible implications for Ukraine as it moves forward ( “The experience of Tallinn is useful as an example (or anti-example) for Kyiv’s further actions, she continues. As in Ukraine, the history of Orthodoxy in Estonia is complicated; and as in Ukraine, that history casts a shadow on today. After Estonia achieved independence in 1918, its Orthodox community wanted to have its own church. In 1920, Moscow Patriarch Tikhon recognized the church there as autonomous. But that wasn’t sufficient for the Estonian faithful, and in 1923, they successfully sought a tomos of autonomy (but not autocephaly) from the Universal Patriarch in Constantinople. The Orthodox church in Estonia became the Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church, but when the Soviets invaded and occupied Estonia, the Moscow Patriarchate on its restoration during World War II “annexed” the Estonian Orthodox. In 1944, some Estonian Orthodox went into emigration where they retained their autonomous status under Constantinople. After Estonia recovered its de facto independence in 1991, the EAOC was registered as the only Orthodox Church in the country, and the Moscow Patriarchate lost control of all the churches there it had used during the Soviet period because Estonians viewed it as part of the occupation. Moreover, Tallinn didn’t officially register the Moscow church until 2002. Moscow religious and civil was furious, routinely denouncing Tallinn for discriminating against Russians and Russian believers, condemning Constantinople for interference in what it claims as its canonical territory, seeking redress at the Council of Europe and even involving the US by asking President Clinton to put pressure on the Estonian government. The Estonian case was “especially sensitive” for the Moscow Patriarchate in the 1990s because then Moscow Patriarch Aleksii II had served as metropolitan of Tallinn and Estonia. But Moscow’s complaints did prove effective, and in February 1996, Constantinople declared its tomos of 1923 restored, infuriating Russians still more. But despite that, Bondareva continues, “the two opposing sides were able to find a compromise,” and “several months after the tomos, Moscow and Constantinople agreed that in Estonia would two churches would function simultaneously, and the parishes themselves would choose under whose jurisdiction they were” Moscow’s or Constantinople’s. As a result, the EAOC now has 72 parishes and three bishoprics, while the Estonian Orthodox church of the Moscow Patriarchate has 37 parishes and two bishoprics. The former thus has more churches but the latter has more faithful, “about 85 percent” or 150,000 believers in Estonia. The Russian church seeks to maintain control over the Russian-speaking population, EAOC experts say; “but in the final analysis, they understand that it is significantly better to be a European in Estonia and to have all rights and to speak Russian then to be part of something far from clear on the other side of the border.” One interesting detail, Bondareva says, is that because of problems with the recruitment of priests, “among the priests of the EAOC are ethnic Russians while among the priests of the Estonian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate are Estonians.” Today, the journalist continues, these two Orthodox communities “form the largest religious group in the country. If earlier Estonia was considered traditionally Lutheran, now this is not he case: ever more citizens consider themselves atheists.” But this is not the end of the story, Bondareva says. “Two years ago, the EAOC metropolitan began to speak about the possibility of establishing a single Orthodox Church of Estonia and proposed to the metropolitan of the Moscow church to unite with him under the aegis of Constantinople.” That move was the product of a decision at the All-Orthodox Assembly in Crete in June 2016 which held “the coexistence of two essentially similar churches in one country to be unethical.” But the Moscow Patriarchate did not attend that meeting, and its church in Estonia showed “no enthusiasm” for unity. Indeed, for such unification to happen, many issues would have to be addressed: who would lead the church, whom would it be subordinate to, and who would get church property. With the Moscow Patriarchate now having broken with Constantinople, the chances for any movement in this direction seem remote. Not surprisingly, the two Orthodox churches in Estonia take different positions on Ukrainian autocephaly: the EAOC supports it, while the EOC MP is totally opposed. Bondareva ends with the suggestion that the situation in Estonia is less a model for Ukraine than a lesson. The history of Orthodoxy in Estonia shows that “the peaceful coexistence of two churches is possible” in a single country; but it also shows how difficult that situation can prove for the faithful and for the countries involved.

Mike Pompeo backs independence of Ukraine’s Orthodox church

Ukrainian Orthodox churches have the right “to govern their religion according to their beliefs, free of outside interference,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Friday.

Orthodox Christianity faced with a political divide

Bitter political divisions in Ukraine have created a split in Orthodox Christianity.

Birth of a new Ukrainian church brings fears of violence | The Seattle Times

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — The rough-looking young men brought clubs and brass knuckles to the Pechersk Monastery in Kiev , one of Orthodox Christianity’s most important pilgrimage sites, apparently seeking…

Poroshenko congratulates Patriarch Filaret on 23rd anniversary of enthronement | UNIAN

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko met with the bishops of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Kyiv Patriarchate and congratulated Patriarch Filaret on the 23rd anniversary of his enthronement. The Head of State thanked Patriarch Filaret for his many years of service and efforts to create the Autocephalous Orthodox Church of Ukraine.

Patriarch Bartholomew meets with children of Ukrainian soldiers killed in Donbas – 22.10.2018 10:45 — Ukrinform News

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew has met with Ukrainian children whose parents died in Donbas, Ukraine's Consul General in Istanbul Oleksandr Gaman has reported on Twitter.

Manipulation: Tiny Turkish Orthodox Church Demands Legal Action against Constantinople Patriarch for Ukraine’s Autocephaly |

According to Turkish Orthodox Church spokesman Sevgi Erenerol, Patriarch Bartholomew violated Turkish law and is instigating a new conflict between Ukraine and Russia, actions which are punishable according to the Turkish Penal Code. “The status of the Constantinople Patriarch according to the Lausanne Peace Treaty of 1923 is limited to church services for the Greeks living in Turkey” Erenerol said. The Patriarch of Constantinople is not directly mentioned anywhere in the Lausanne Treaty. The Turkish Orthodox Church began its existence in 1922, a year before the signing of the Lausanne treaty. It is an unrecognized Orthodox denomination with strong influences from Turkish nationalist ideology. Its Wikipedia entry states that it has all of 400 members. The church that is suing the Ecumenical Orthodox Patriarch is a small fringe group that has no official recognition in the Orthodox world.

Pope Francis meets Russian Orthodox metropolitan days after split – YouTube

catholicnewsagency Published on Oct 19, 2018 Pope Francis met with Metropolitan Hilarion just days after the Russian Orthodox Patriarchate of Moscow cut ties with the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, claiming his recognition of an independent Orthodox Church in Ukraine departed from Orthodox Christian norms. Metropolitan Hilarion, who heads foreign relations for the Russian Orthodox Church, said Russian Orthodox leaders decided to “break the Eucharistic communion” in response to actions it called “lawless and canonically void.” “The Russian Orthodox Church doesn’t recognize those decisions and won’t fulfill them,” Hilarion said in Belarus after a meeting of the synod of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Orthodox Christianity: Civil War in the Church – Sputnik International

The Ukrainian Orthodox Church’s efforts to obtain autocephaly, or what can for all practical intents and purposes be regarded as independence, from the Moscow Patriarchate threatens to spark a spiritual civil war that could result in yet another schism within Christianity.

Freedom of worship? US encourages Ukraine to create independent Orthodox Church — RT World News

Washington has voiced “strong support” for an autocephalous Orthodox community in Ukraine, while the Russian Orthodox Church has accused the Constantinople Patriarchate of betraying its faith to cater to US political interests.

Here’s What’s Really Going on with the Orthodox Church in Ukraine and Russia | The National Interest

History, doctrine, and religious life all matter and cannot be ignored.