Anonymous expert compilation, analysis, and reporting.
This debate continues with no abatement in sight – the Russian leadership continues to pour kerosene on the conflagration. Another example of Shevtsova’s “Russian bluffing game” becoming a “Russian Roulette game”. Specifically the ROC rejects any notion of obeying directives from Constantinople, making it a genuine schism.
The most interesting commentary is that by the editor-in-chief of Orthodoxia.info in Greece, Loudaros, who eviscerates the current ROC leadership over a persistent practice of treating the rest of the Orthodox world with contempt. This is yet another replay of Russia’s immense folly in foreign policy.
Multiple updates on Ukraine and Belarus. Titov argues Russia’s case.
Paul Goble Staunton, October 23 – Ten years after becoming Moscow patriarch, Kirill by actions that threaten to isolate the Russian church from all others risks not only losing his influence at home and abroad but even his job, according to Andreas D. Loudaros, the editor of the Greek Orthodoxia portal. According to the journalist who specializes on developments in the Orthodox world, Kirill today is “only one step from the greatest possible loss, that is, being stripped of his position as patriarch,” the result both of his response to Constantinople’s moves on Ukraine and earlier mistakes as well (orthodoxia.info/news/москва-хочет-изменения-de-facto-против-себя/). Kirill, who has “a deep knowledge of all church traditions as well as present-day realities,” might have been expected to avoid such a fate; but “instead of this, we over the last several years have observed how he has made one mistake after another and hasn’t learned from bitter experience or at least does not understand” where things are headed, Loudaros argues. Kirill’s problem and that of the church he heads is that neither understands that other Orthodox churches do not see the world the way they do, something that is clear if one looks at history but that for some reason the Moscow Patriarch doesn’t want to draw the obvious lessons, the journalist says. Moscow has extended the tomos of autocephaly itself to other churches in Eastern Europe and the US only to discover that the chief Orthodox churches have not followed its lead – and have only moved when the Universal Patriarch has been willing to confirm such Russian grants with his own recognition of the self-standing nature of this or that church. That history should have taught Moscow a lesson, that the grant of autocephaly is not by itself the key to universal recognition and that trying to insist that it is isolates Moscow and strengthens Constantinople rather than the other way around. Kirill as a diplomat of longstanding should have understood that. “Over the course of many decades,” Loudaros continues, Moscow has wanted the Orthodox world to be what it assumes it to be rather than what it is. As a result, it has “definite problems in finding solid arguments” for its positions and is rendering itself ridiculous in the eyes of its own flock and those of others. For example, Kirill refused to go the synod organized by Constantinople because his spokesman said he could not possibly attend a meeting in a church that did not have a cross on its cupola. And now Moscow says that Constantinople “does not have the right to decide for other Orthodox churches because it is located in a Muslim country.” The absurdity of that position is obvious if one considers that there are other Orthodox churches including Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem which are located not in Christian countries but in others. How can Moscow expect to lead the Orthodox world if it is so ignorant or uncaring about reality? If you are obsessed about your own self-importance, the commentator continues, “then you must be concerned that your arguments have a corresponding weight.” At least, they have to have some relationship to logic and the facts. It is already quite clear that Ukrainian autocephaly “not only is not weakening the position and authority of the Universal Patriarch but on the contrary is strengthening its ecumenical character,” while Moscow and Kirill are suffering real losses that may only grow if it continues its current course. “Of course,” Loudaros says, “it is difficult to predict the development of events to the end.” But one thing is clear: Only one player can now block autocephaly for Ukraine, and that is the Ukrainian church itself if it does not act with the seriousness that the current situation requires. Moscow can’t do so on its own and should recognize that reality.
Secretary of the Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate Igor Yakimchuk says that the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) is not obliged to obey the decisions of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. The Russian Orthodox Church insists that the Orthodox Ecumenical Council foresees no special privileges for the Patriarchate of Constantinople. Secretary of the Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate Igor Yakimchuk says that the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) is not obliged to obey the decisions of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. He did not agree with the position of Archbishop of Constantinople and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I that Constantinople has exclusive rights, the Russian media outlet RBC reported. “The Orthodox Ecumenical Council foresees no special privileges for the Patriarchate of Constantinople. Except for the privileges of honor, which do not give any authority beyond the limits of this church. Accordingly, neither the ROC nor any other church has any obligation to obey the decisions of Constantinople,” Yakimchuk said. He described the current line of Bartholomew’s behavior as “non-Orthodox Catholic,” when certain special powers are assigned to one of the primates. “The Russian Church disagrees with such an approach. It violates the purity of the Orthodox faith,” he said. As UNIAN reported earlier, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew on October 22 said the Russian side would have to accept the decision of Constantinople on the Ukrainian church issue. “Whether our Russian brothers like it or not, sooner or later they will follow the decisions that the Ecumenical Patriarch has made since they have no other choice,” he said.
The course of action of Constantinople Patriarchate was called “unorthodox Catholic”. The Russian Orthodox Church is not obliged to obey the decision made by Ecumenical Patriarchate. Igor Yakimchuk, the Secretary of Foreign Relations Department of Moscow Patriarchate claimed as RBK reported. “The Orthodox Universal cathedral does not provide special privileges for Constantinople Patriarchate. Despite the honor privileges, which do not provide any power authority outside this church. Consequently, neither the Russian Orthodox Church nor any other has a need to obey the decisions of Constantinople,” he claimed. Moreover, Yakimchuk emphasized that the current decision of Patriarch Bartholomew considered as “unorthodox Catholic” by the Russian Orthodox Church. “Russian Church does not agree with such approach. It violates the purity of the Orthodox faith,” he claimed.
Head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate (UOC-KP) Filaret has named criteria that will be taken into account when electing the head of an independent Orthodox Church that will be created in Ukraine. He stressed he was not ready to sacrifice personal ambitions in the issue of electing the head of the new church. Head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate (UOC-KP) Filaret has named criteria that will be taken into account when electing the head of an independent Orthodox Church that will be created in Ukraine. Speaking on the Ukrainian radio, he said that according to the terms of the Patriarch of Constantinople, the Ukrainian church should be headed by an archbishop who is a metropolitan rather than a patriarch, the Novoe Vremya weekly reported. In this regard, the head of the UOC-KP received the expanded (the archbishop and metropolitan of Kyiv and all Rus of Ukraine) and reduced titles (the patriarch of Kyiv and all Rus of Ukraine, for internal use). “It is necessary to have a degree in theological education, know the canon law, have experience in managing a diocese and a church. And if there is no experience, things won’t go well,” Filaret said. He stressed he was not ready to sacrifice personal ambitions in the issue of electing the head of the new church. “No! But not because I consider myself as such. But because Moscow will do everything to destroy the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. And therefore, to preserve the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and bring it to fruition, I have to work to the end,” Filaret said. As UNIAN reported earlier, on October 11, following a meeting of the 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 Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate (UOC-KP) Filaret and head of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC) Makariy were reinstated in their canonical status. On October 12, the UOC-KP urged the hierarchs of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP) to prepare for a special unification council.
The Head of Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Kyiv Patriarchate does not know who can compete with him at the election of the head of United Local Orthodox Church.
25.10.18 12:34 – Ecumenical Patriarch so far wants Ukrainian church to be headed by metropolitan rather than patriarch, – Filaret Head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate (UOC-KP) Filaret voiced criteria that will be taken into account when electing the head of an independent Orthodox Church that will be created in Ukraine. View news.
The Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate hopes to hold the Unification Council of Ukrainian Orthodox churches and elect the head of the local autocephalous Orthodox Church before the end of the year, according to spokesman Yevstratiy (Zorya). This is a multilateral process, therefore preparation for the Council requires coordination with all participants. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate hopes to hold the Unification Council of Ukrainian Orthodox churches and elect the head of the local autocephalous Orthodox Church before the end of the year, according to spokesman Yevstratiy (Zorya). “We are doing everything to ensure that this [Unification Council of the Ukrainian Orthodox Churches] is held this year, that’s what we want,” Yevstratiy told journalists Wednesday, according to an UNIAN correspondent. “Since this is a multilateral process, accordingly, we can neither comment on nor publicly discuss those working moments,” the archbishop said. “In any case, the consultation process is underway, and for our part, as the church of the Kyiv Patriarchate, we are doing everything so that this process could be completed in a few weeks instead of taking months.”
People talk that the last year, Metropolitan Tikhon tried to convince the Moscow Patriarchate that it was time to remove the anathema from Filaret, and somehow return his structure to the Church, gradually uniting it with the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate. He meant Russia should do it earlier than Constantinople. But Patriarch Kirill won. The Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church held on November 15 in Minsk decided to interrupt the Eucharistic communicaton with the Patriarchate of Constantinople. This means that the clergy of Patriarch Kirill cannot yet serve with the clergy of Patriarch Bartholomew, and the laity cannot be baptized or get married in Greek churches in the West, as well as in Northern Greece and Crete. The Athos, a monastic peninsula in northern Greece, also belonging to the Constantinople, or Ecumenical patriarchy, also got under the Minsk ban. In the future, this may also affect those parishes in Ukraine that are going to join the Church of Constantinople. There is no doubt that Ukraine is in the center of events and around it the relationships not only of Russia and the West, but also of local Orthodox churches are built (or, rather, collapse?). The scales of the Russian Orthodox Church and the Church of Constantinople, from which Kievan Rus adopted Christianity a thousand years ago, are not very comparable. The ROC is the largest Orthodox church in the world. However, the Patriarch of Constantinople since Byzantine times is revered in the Orthodox world first among the other patriarchs. And if today he does not have the levers of pressure that he had in the Byzantine or Ottoman empires, then still he is a kind of “focal point” of the Orthodox world. Athos as a multinational monastic community is also a vivid example of this universal service of the Church of Constantinople. Often, critics call Patriarch Bartholomew the “Istanbul Patriarch”. However, only his “office” remained in Turkish Istanbul: the Greek population of the once largest Greek city in the world was consistently driven out of it in the course of the 20th century. There is only one Greek region – Fanar, besides not very densely populated. However, the patriarchy includes the north of Greece, a number of Greek islands (Crete, for example) and, most importantly, the entire Greek diaspora in the West. Partially Russian and Ukrainian ones, too. In total, the congregation of the Ecumenical Patriarch today has about 5 million people. This is not the largest of the Orthodox churches, but not the smallest. And the combination of the ancient significance of Constantinople with the first of the Orthodox patriarchal departments with the political and economic opportunities of the Greek diaspora makes the role of the Ecumenical Patriarchate very significant. For long time, Ukrainian churches that are not in communication with either the Russian Orthodox Church or other Orthodox churches (primarily the so-called Kyiv Patriarchate of Filaret Denisenko) are trying to return to church communion through the Patriarchate of Constantinople. The Ukrainian Orthodox cannot reconcile with each other in any way, but the “schismatics” have been trying to get recognition from Constantinople for a long time. In September, personal ambassadors of Patriarch Bartholomew, or exarchs, were sent to Ukraine. They were two bishops of the Patriarch of Constantinople of Ukrainian origin, whose departments are located in North America. In Ukraine, they were supposed to negotiate with two unrecognized churches that expressed a desire to restore their communion with the fullness of the Orthodox Church. The reaction of the Moscow Patriarchate was harsh: the bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church were suspended from serving with Constantinople, and they left the Orthodox Episcopal conferences in Western countries, which are always headed and coordinated by the bishops of the Church of Constantinople. A turning point was the Synod of Constantinople on October 11, which acknowledged invalidating its long-standing decision of 1686 to transfer the Kyiv Metropolis under certain conditions (practically “on lease”) to the Moscow Patriarchate, and also removed the excommunication (anathema) imposed in the 90s by the Moscow Patriarchate on the head of the Kyiv Patriarchate Filaret Denysenko and Macarius Meletych, head of the unrecognized Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church. Also, they and their followers were restored in their priestly or episcopal dignity. Their future is still unclear, and the Constantinople church structure does not yet exist in Ukraine, but the possibility of the return of the “schismatics” to the Church is already opened. Let through the creation of a parallel jurisdiction, and then the autocephalous Ukrainian church. A quarter-century-long conflict between millions of Ukrainian believers and “world Orthodoxy” began to come to an end. Russian Orthodox Church decision The reaction of the Russian Church, formulated at the Synod in Minsk on October 15, turned out to be extremely tough: the rupture of Eucharistic communication with Constantinople, while the Ecumenical Patriarch did not withdraw his decision on Ukraine. Breaking relations with Constantinople, but not with the other local Orthodox churches. What was actually changed in the Church after these “Minsk agreements”? Yes, by and large, nothing. After Patriarch Kirill forbade his priests to serve on Athos, and Russian tourists to baptize their children in the Greek Church in Crete, neither the measure of spiritual experience of the Athos elders, nor the grace of Greek baptism has changed. This prohibition expresses an extreme degree of resentment towards the elder brother of Constantinople. From this decision, Russian people will have more disadvantages than the Greeks. In spite of Bartholomew, they deprive themselves of trips to Athos, and Russian priests in Germany are deprived of the opportunity to teach Russian children Orthodoxy in German schools, and in Belgium – to receive a salary from the state. After all, such system works there with the episcopal assemblies, in which Russians cannot participate now, since they are headed by the bishop of Constantinople. And Russian cannot serve at the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem: among the Greek pilgrim priests there is always the clergy of the Constantinople Patriarchate. Are the Russians going to interrogate the Greeks at the Holy Sepulcher on their nationality? Now the position of the ROC in the Orthodox world will be very similar to the position of Russia itself under sanctions. However, if the Russian state did not want these sanctions, then the ROC itself created difficulties for its believers with a statement about its semi-isolation. Most likely, the Ecumenical Patriarch will not even react to this at all, and other local churches, if they express support for Moscow on the Ukrainian question, will not interrupt their relations with Constantinople. However, they will not hurry to interrupt them with Moscow too. But in Ukraine, the Ecumenical Patriarch and his supporters will now do what they need to. If the clergy of the Moscow Patriarchate do not serve and do not cooperate with them, then the creation of a Constantinople church structure there may go much faster. The Synod of Minsk has already warned that “the transfer of bishops or clerics from the canonical Church to dissenters or entering into Eucharistic communion with the latter (probably through possible Constantinople structures in Ukraine) is a canonical crime and entails appropriate bans.” The threat is quite understandable. But when the Metropolitan of Constantinople or the whole autocephalous church appears in Ukraine, the transition from one jurisdiction to another will no longer cause concern. Ideas of Kirill vs ideas of Tikhon Patriarch Kirill and his entourage insist that there can be no “legalization of schism”, and independent churches should come and dissolve into the official structure. However, the ROC has a different experience of reunification with those who have not been in communion with it for decades: in 2007, the Russian Church Abroad was reunited with the Russian Church of the Moscow Patriarchate. At the same time, it was not required to repent or to merge its dioceses with the dioceses of the MP. One of the authors of the successful association was Tikhon (Shevkunov), currently being the Pskov metropolitan. His rival was Metropolitan Kirill, the current patriarch. It is said that in the last year, Metropolitan Tikhon tried to convince the Moscow Patriarchate that it was time to remove anathemas from Philaret, and somehow return his structure to the Church, gradually uniting it with the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate. He meant Russia should do it earlier than Constantinople. But Patriarch Kirill won. And this led not to the “elimination of the split”, but to even greater division. So, some of Russian clergy succeeded in 2007, while others, because of their rigidity, lose Ukraine for the Russian Church and block the way to Athos and to the Greek world for their own people. Both the Russian state and the Russian Church are still trying to build their relations with Ukraine according to the models of the Russian empire or the Soviet Union. Both models are obviously not working. But besides our own past, we can still look around where there are quite a few states which peoples have recently perceived them as a single nation. They dispersed and converged, but in a new way. UK and USA. Austria and Germany. Among them are the Orthodox countries of Greece and Cyprus, which cross-border unity is not hampered by the presence of either two governments or two independent autocephalous churches that have managed to build relations with each other on equal terms. However, the Greek population of Greece and Cyprus feels that they are one people, even though they live in different political nations, therefore the presence of different churches does not divide them. Between Ukraine and Russia, the situation is now reverse, and that is why the unity of faith is powerless. In ancient times, faith was greater than the state, now both parties to the conflict, including clerics, often willingly demonstrate the opposite: the state is more than faith for them.
Despite the fact that Ukraine’s Orthodox church is about to be granted autocephaly and ever more people in Belarus are expressing hope that their country will be the next to escape from under the yoke of the Moscow Patriarchate, few have paid attention to another Orthodox country where the subordination of Orthodoxy is very much in play. According to the 2004 census in Moldova, 93.3 percent of that country’s population are Orthodox. They are divided between the Moldovan Orthodox Church, which, although autonomous, is under the control of Moscow and the Orthodox Church of Bessarabia, also autonomous but under the Romanian Orthodox Church. Tensions between the two churches, always high because of the political orientations they embody, the first toward Moscow and the second toward the West, are rising, with Moldova’s pro-Russian president Igor Dodon saying that Romania has tried to block a visit by Moscow Patriarch Kirill. That visit albeit shortened to only two days will now begin five days from now. During the visit, Kirill is scheduled to visit the northern and southern regions of Moldova as well as meet with Dodon and other officials in Chisinau, Moscow’s Russian Orthodox Russkaya Liniya portal says. The Metropolitanate of Moldova, a self-administrating part of the Russian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate was founded in 1813 and currently has “more than 1200 parishes,” the Russian portal says. The Romanian church, it says, appeared on Moldovan territory only after 1991. (In fact, it has a much longer history.) In the 1990s, the Moldovan government, fearing a church schism, refused to register the latter church, but in 2001, the European Court for Human Rights insisted that it do so, and since that time, there have been two registered Orthodox hierarchies in Moldova, each very much hostile to the other. There are in fact rumors that people connected with the Bessarabian church plan to organize protests during Kirill’s visit. Those are especially likely because of an event now slated to take place on Thursday, the day before Kirill arrives in Moldova. On that date, Bartholomew, the Universal Patriarch, will be in Bucharest to dedicate a new Orthodox cathedral. Some expect he will also declare that only the Bessarabian church has the right to the canonical territory of Moldova. If that happens, such a declaration could lead to a religious and political explosion in Moldova with Moscow seeking to defend its position by relying on the Gagauz, a Turkic but Russian Orthodox nation, and on the hierarchy of the pro-Russian church there and Romania weighing in for the Universal Patriarch and Moldova autocephaly.
Belarusian-Russian relations were marked by two major events in recent weeks: the October 12 bilateral summit in the Belarusian city of Mogilev (see EDM, October 16) as well as the October 15 meeting of the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC), which was held in Minsk for the first time in history. At its meeting in the Belarusian capital, the ROC leadership decided to “break the Eucharistic communion” with the Istanbul-based Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople because the head of that worldwide Orthodox community decided to grant Ukrainian clerics independence (“autocephaly”) from the Moscow (see EDM, October 16). On the same day, Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka met with the members of the ROC Holy Synod (President.gov, October 15). Although not directly related, the latest Belarusian-Russian summit and the issue of Orthodox disunion together ended up spotlighting the further growth of Belarus’s geopolitical significance. The crisis and war in Ukraine had started that trend as early as 2014, leading to the promotion of Minsk as a venue for truce talks. At that time, Belarus’s significance rose in Russia’s eyes because, despite all the differences between it and Ukraine, their similarities were equally apparent: for one thing, both Belarus and Ukraine can assert their separate identity only by pursuing some level of detachment from Russia (Globalaffairs.ru, June 15, 2018). And today, Belarus’s significance, as far as Moscow is concerned, has grown even more because, in principle, the Belarusian Orthodox Church could seek to claim independence, too—with the Ukrainian Orthodox Church serving as a clear precedent. For the time being, a claim for the Belarusian Church’s separation from the Moscow Patriarchate is probably far-fetched. First, there does not appear to be any significant grassroots preference for that kind of development in Belarus. And second, the leading Orthodox clerics in Belarus, including Metropolitan Paul, the Patriarchal Exarch of All Belarus, are all ethnic Russians.
Senior officials in Pristina and Belgrade have strongly condemned an attack on buses carrying ethnic Serb pilgrims to a monastery in eastern Kosovo.
On October 22, 2018, Grand Elder of Athos Archimandrite Gregory (Zumis), hegumen of the monastery of Dokhiar Holy Mountain Athos, passed away in the age of 76.
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.
Ukrainian nationalism – and a president on the rocks – has sparked a religious crisis.