Information operations · Information Warfare · Russia · Russian Orthodox Church · Ukraine · Ukraine Orthodox Church

Russia Loses the War of the Churches (46)

Anonymous expert compilation, analysis, and reporting.

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The Ukrainian government investigation of the ROC Abbot of the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra, and the potential loss of religious artifacts, has produced some coverage in the Western media. The KP backgrounder is very good, reporting that the Abbot was famous for a very lavish lifestyle and unusual personal wealth not expected of clerics. Synod meeting in Constantinople further progresses Ukraine’s church autonomy.

Three reports on religious intolerance and fusion of church and state inside Russia.

Ukraine’s security service raids home of Russian-backed monastery head | Reuters

Ukraine’s state security service said it raided the residence of a senior Russian-backed Orthodox priest on Friday, who heads one of the country’s holiest sites, citing a clause in the criminal code relating to whipping up religious hatred.

Authorities search Kyiv’s main monastery, investigate its bishop | KyivPost

Ukraine’s SBU security service on Nov. 30 searched Kyiv Pechersk Lavra, a nearly 1,000-year old monastery and one of the main shrines of the Eastern Orthodox believers in the world. The authorities suspect Metropolitan Pavlo, the head of Lavra, of inciting religious hatred. The Metropolitan’s residence in the village of Voronkino in Kyiv Oblast was also searched on the same day. Metropolitan Pavlo denied the accusations to the Kyiv Post on Nov.30. SBU spokesperson Olena Hytlyanska refused to give any further details of the searches or charges against the high-ranking bishop. The Lavra monastery belongs to the Ukrainian Church of the Moscow Patriarchate. The church that subordinates to Moscow has been in confrontation with the other Ukrainian church, an independent church of Kyiv Patriarchate. The tensions between them intensified in the past months as the top ruling body of the world orthodoxy, the Patriarchate in Istanbul, has been preparing to grant independence to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church from Russian Orthodox Church that ruled in Ukraine since the 17th century. In April, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko asked Istanbul-based Patriarch Bartholomew to grant autocephaly to Ukraine’s Orthodox Church –to make it independent from Moscow in the Orthodox hierarchy. In Ukraine, a country of 42 million people, some 35 million people identify as Eastern Orthodox believers, according to the Pew Research Center. Until recently, most of them have been parishioners of the Ukrainian church of the Moscow Patriarchate, which had more parishes that their rival church of Kyiv Patriarchate, and has been the only church recognized by the other branches of Eastern Orthodoxy. Now that is about to change. Both the Ukrainian church of the Moscow Patriarchate and the Russian church have opposed the approaching independence of the Ukrainian Orthodox church from Russia. For more than 100 years Ukrainian Orthodox clergy have been trying to break free of the Moscow rule. But Russian Orthodox Church refuses to recognize its legitimacy. After Istanbul Patriarchate in September sent its representative bishops to Ukraine, as a sign of the approaching change of its status in the world Orthodox hierarchy, the Russian Church has decided to break its ties with the Istanbul Patriarchate. So did its branch in Ukraine. Metropolitan Pavlo was among the first Ukrainian bishops of Moscow Patriarchate Church, who stood against the Istanbul’s decision to recognize Kyiv Orthodox Church and called it an interference into Russia’s canonical “spiritual” territory. Metropolitan Pavlo is a bishop with a controversial reputation. Ukrainian media reported many times about his lavish lifestyle: the priest lives in a luxurious mansion and drives an S-class Mercedes car he said he received as a gift from the church sponsors. Metropolitan Pavlo is well-connected to the Ukrainian political and business elites. Top politicians are known to be among his church’s sponsors. When Mykola Azarov became the prime minister under then-President Viktor Yanukovych in 2010, he said he called up Metropolitan Pavlo to bless his office in the Cabinet of Ministers headquarters. Both Azarov and Yanukovych now live in Russia, ousted by the EuroMaidan Revolution in 2014. Metropolitan Pavlo said he was confused by the authorities’ accusations as they showed up at his mansion on Nov. 30. “They accuse me of violating the rights of believers, of hate mongering. I’ve never hated anyone and never agitated for hate,” the church leader told the Kyiv Post on Nov.30. In fact, the priest has a reputation for harsh statements. Often they were directed at journalists. Back in 2012, he assaulted a journalist who asked him about his lifestyle, tearing the mobile phone she used for recording from her hands. During a briefing on Nov. 29, Metropolitan Pavlo said that the authorities wanted to punish him for allegedly besmirching his opponents: Ukrainian Patriarch Filaret, the head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate, and Patriarch Bartholomew I of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, based in Istanbul. “That is not true. I really respect Patriarch Bartholomew,” Metropolitan Pavlo said. “But I don’t accept the fact that now they want to create a nonexistent church,” he added, referring to the unified Ukrainian Orthodox church that will be created after the Istanbul Patriarchate finalizes Ukrainian church’s independence from Russia. The SBU search took place a day after the Ministry of Culture of Ukraine on Nov. 29 ordered a review of all precious relics the state had passed to the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra Monastery back in 1988, the first such review in 30 years. Metropolitan Pavlo said ministry officials had been satisfied with the result of the review. The same day, the Holy Synod of Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, the highest Orthodox ruling body, approved the text of the decree that grants autocephaly or independence to Ukraine’s church. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church now has to undergo the process of unification to become officially independent – a move firmly opposed by the Russian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate. Moscow Patriarchate bishops have refused to take part in unification. President Petro Poroshenko has made the promise of an independent Orthodox Church in Ukraine one of the main points of his campaigning ahead of the presidential election, which is set for March 2019.

Ukraine’s Security Service Raids Home of Moscow-Backed Monastery Head

Ukrainian leaders accuse the Moscow-backed church, widely known as the Moscow Patriarchate, of promoting the Kremlin’s interests and spreading propaganda as relations between the countries plummet. The raid is even more sensitive since the cleric in question, Metropolitan Pavel, heads the Kiev Pechersk Lavra, one of Ukraine’s most famous monasteries and a tourist site where mummified monks rest in labyrinthine underground caves. The state security service was investigating him under an article in the criminal code covering “violations of citizens’ equality depending on racial ethnicity, religious convictions, incitement of inter-confessional hostility,” SBU official Ihor Huskov said. The Moscow Patriarchate confirmed the investigation. It has consistently denied acting on behalf of Russian interests against Ukraine. “Today there are many questions about whether the actions of our state authority in relation to the church are legitimate. To a certain extent they are illegal,” Pavel said in a statement. “There is a pressure on me personally, threats are being heard, all sorts of attacks not only on me, but also on other bishops and priests. For what reason I do not know.”

SBU accuses Kyiv Pechersk Lavra archpriest of ‘inciting hatred’, raids his home « Incidents | Censor.NET

The intelligence agency of Ukraine’s SBU Security Service said its officers had searched the home of Father Pavel, the father superior of Kyiv’s biggest and oldest monastery, which is part of the Russian Orthodox Church. Ihor Huskov, chief of staff of the SBU intelligence agency, told reporters on Nov. 30 that Father Pavel, who leads the Pechersk Monastery, was suspected of “inciting hatred,” Censor.NET reports citing RFE/RL via UNIAN. On Nov. 13, Poroshenko was to meet with the episcopate of the UOC-MP at the “Ukrainian House” downtown Kyiv. At the same time, the episcopate of the UOC-MP on this day held in the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra an emergency meeting of the synod, which decided to convene a council, where all bishops’ attendance is obligatory. Following the meeting, the council of bishops of the UOC-MP confirmed its readiness to meet with Poroshenko, but on the church territory. On Nov. 13, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP) announced it did not recognize a decision by the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople to continue the process of granting autocephaly to the church in Ukraine and is going to sever Eucharistic communion with Constantinople. The Moscow Patriarchate also said they would not take part in the creation of a new, autocephalous church in Ukraine, as their Council of bishops considers that granting the tomos of autocephaly is “artificial” and “forced from outside.” Source:

The Latest: Russian cleric: Ukraine raid on home ‘political’ | The Kansas City Star

A senior Russian Orthodox Church cleric says the raid at his home was meant to put the “political” pressure on his church.

Patriarch defends decision for Ukrainian church independence | News |

Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomaios has defended the decision to grant independence to the Orthodox Church of Ukraine from the Russian Church, which has upset relations with the Moscow Patriarchate. Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomaios has defended the decision to grant independence to the Orthodox Church of Ukraine from the Russian Church, which has upset relations with the Moscow Patriarchate. “We as the Ecumenical Patriarchate believe we have done the right thing. It’s a right of the Ukrainian Orthodox to also have their own independent church as all other peoples in the Balkans,” he told guests at an event at the Phanar in Istanbul on Thursday night. Referring to the reaction of the Russian Church, which threatened a schism, Vartholomaios – the first among equals in the Orthodox Church – said, “We knew that the sister Church of Russia would be upset with this but we could do no different.”

Ecumenical Patriarchate Synod drafts Ukrainian Church’s Constitutional Charter – news portal

Ecumenical Patriarchate Synod drafts Ukrainian Church’s Constitutional Charter. A unification assembly is to be held in December. Political – news portal. Latest from Ukraine and the world today

Synod of Constantinople approves the draft Charter of the Orthodox Church in Ukraine

A press release on the decision of the Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate has just been issued in Istanbul.

Ukraine’s Orthodox Church given decree of independence from Russian Orthodox Church | 1 NEWS NOW | TVNZ

Russian authorities oppose the move and have warned Ukraine not to do it.

Ukraine-Russia tensions spark historic religious rift | World news | The Guardian

Ukrainian Orthodox church granted independence in significant blow to Moscow

Pope Francis Calls for Unity with Orthodox Churches

Vatican City — On the feast of St. Andrew the Apostle, Pope Francis told the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople that while the Holy Spirit has in recent years prompted a “fraternal dialogue” between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches, both Churches should work to achieve full communion with one another. “While centuries of mutual misunderstanding, differences and silence may seem to have compromised [the relationship between the Catholic and Orthodox Church], the Holy Spirit, Spirit of unity, has enabled us to recommence a fraternal dialogue,” the pope wrote. “This was definitively resumed by our venerable predecessors, Patriarch Athenagoras and Pope Saint Paul VI, and has enabled us to rediscover those bonds of communion that have always existed between us.” “The search for the re-establishment of full communion is above all a response to the will of our Lord Jesus Christ, who on the eve of his Passion prayed that his disciples ‘may all be one,’” the pope added. The Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, the de facto leader of Orthodox Christianity, is believed to be the successor of St. Andrew. While the various Orthodox Churches around the world are not subject to his administrative authority, he is generally regarded as primus inter pares, or “first among equals” in relationship to the patriarchs of other Orthodox Churches. The current patriarch is Bartholomew I, who has held the position since 1991, and is widely seen to have fostered collaborative dialogue with Pope Francis and his predecessors, Pope Benedict XVI and Pope St. John Paul II. The pope’s greetings come amid a difficult year for Orthodoxy. In October, the Russian Orthodox Church, the largest of the Eastern Orthodox Churches, broke communion with the Patriarch of Constantinople, after a disagreement about the state of the Orthodox Church in Ukraine. While the Patriarch of Constantinople made moves to recognize the autonomy of the Orthodox Church in Ukraine, the Patriarchate of Moscow insisted that Ukrainian Orthodox Christians remain subject to its jurisdiction. Russian Orthodox Christians constitute the largest plurality of Orthodox Christians around the world, according to the Pew Research Center. While Pope Francis did not specifically address the Orthodox rift, he did write that “in a world wounded by conflict, the unity of Christians is a sign of hope that must radiate ever more visibly.” Pope Francis also wrote that, despite theological differences, “both Churches, with a sense of responsibility towards the world, have sensed that urgent call, which involves each of us who have been baptized, to proclaim the Gospel to all men and women. For this reason, we can work together today in the search for peace among peoples, for the abolition of all forms of slavery, for the respect and dignity of every human being and for the care of creation.”

Russia’s New Military Cathedral Will Train War Priests — Reports

A Russian Orthodox cathedral set to be built for the country’s armed forces will reportedly train military priests, the head of a foundation in charge of collecting donations for its construction has said. Blueprints for the Armed Forces cathedral were reportedly unveiled at the Venice Bienalle on Thursday, two months after the Russian Defense Ministry began collecting donations to build the megastructure. Reports this year disclosed plans to train priests embedded with the Airborne Troops to drive combat vehicles and operate communication equipment. “A school for military priests is being built and the institute of Sisters of Charity [nurses] will be revived at the main church of the Russian Armed Forces,” Vladimir Bogatyryov, the head of the Voskreseniye foundation, which is collecting donations for the war church, told the state-run RIA Novosti news agency on Thursday. Bogatyryov said the priests will present the military cathedral as “a symbol of people’s diplomacy in Europe” in light of geopolitical strain between Russia and the West. “It’s very important for us in light of global military, political and social tensions, when military and political provocations are becoming the norm, and information warfare is governing rules of conduct, not only for politicians but also for states,” he said. The foundation has gathered 1.6 billion rubles ($25 million) from more than 37,000 donors as of Friday, according to its website.

Window on Eurasia — New Series: Moscow Patriarchate, Kremlin Increasingly at Odds on Response to Ukrainian Autocephaly, Lunkin Says

Paul Goble Staunton, December 1 – As the process of autocephaly for a unified Ukrainian Orthodox Church has proceeded, Roman Lunkin says, it is becoming ever more obvious that the interests of the Moscow Patriarchate and those of the Kremlin as far as Ukraine is concerned are diverging, although the church has not felt free to express this openly. That is because the situation of Orthodox faith in Ukraine is very different from the situation of the Orthodox church in Russia, although on some issues, the head of the Center for the Study of Problems of Religion and Society of the Moscow Institute of Europe, the hierarchs and the politicians are fellow travelers ( In Ukraine, the religious specialist says, Orthodoxy is a mass phenomenon and “people go to various churches without making distinctions about jurisdictions,” all the more so because “there are no visible distinctions in religious services and behavior in the Moscow Patriarchate as opposed to the Kyiv Patriarchate. Despite occasional clashes, “people in Ukraine have become accustomed to the existence of several jurisdictions which have been arguing among themselves since the start of the 1990s,” Lunkin continues. Most view these debates and even the shift of priests or hierarchs from one jurisdiction to another as distant from the life of faith. But in Russia, the situation is quite different. There, “the Church is viewed as a structure closely connected with the government and its ideology and to a lesser extent with genuinely religious issues. The involvement of the ROC in political conflict in the eyes of society shows that this is a political structure, which has little relationship to Christianity.” “This alienates from the Church people who do not know the Christian life,” Lunkin continues. “This is the task for the ROC: to be less involved in politics and to show more humanity and openness to people.” And that in turn raises the question: Is the ROC independent? Or if not, can it be? The Ukrainian crisis has forced more and more Russians to ask that question because “objectively the interests of the ROC and the Russian foreign ministry are ever less the same.” To protect its bureaucratic interests, the ROC MP “supports good relations with any government beyond the borders of Russia. Patriarch Kirill to the maximum extent possible has tried to hold on to the status quo in that regard. After 2014, Lunkin says, “he simply did not have any other option.” The increasing divide in worldwide Orthodoxy over the Ukrainian question of autocephaly gives the ROC MP in general and Patriarch Kirill in particular “the chance to show the position of the Church? Will it do so or not?” That may be more important for the ROC MP not only in Ukraine but in the Russian Federation as well than many now think. The ROC MP could live with a situation in Ukraine where there were multiple Orthodox jurisdictions, especially if by trying to prevent the formation of a national church, Moscow would lose many hierarchs and parishes. But it seems clear that the Kremlin isn’t prepared for that and plans to go for broke to block autocephaly even at the risk of losses for the ROC MP.

Window on Eurasia — New Series: Baptists Say Russia’s ‘Operation Intimidation’ Will Spread to Other Faiths

Paul Goble Staunton, November 30 – Even those who accept that unjust laws must be observed until they are repealed say that the actions of Russian officials in Naberezhny Chelny against a Baptist minister are intended not to enforce the law but to intimidate Evangelical Baptists and ultimately the faithful in all but the four officially backed “traditional” religions of Russia. A week ago, police in that Middle Volga city arrested Baptist minister Leonid Povorov for baptizing believers in public without securing advanced permission from officials even though they had not given him notice, brought the pastor in shackles to the courtroom, and imposed a 20,000-ruble (330 US dollar) fine. Both locally and at the national level, Baptists have protested these actions. Lawyers for Povorov say they will appeal. But both Baptists and others are now calling this “Operation Intimidation,” a police measure designed not to enforce the law as such but rather to frighten non-Orthodox believers. They warn that unless such actions are protested and contested, such official overreach could easily spread to other Protestant groups as well ( and Mikhail Tyutnikov, a pastor of Kazan’s Faith and Life church, says that the authorities have the right to insist on registration; but they should not treat religious people as if they were common criminals by bringing them to court in shackles. That represents a dangerous act of “intimidation” against all Protestants. Rais Suleymanov, a specialist on Islam and someone known for his criticism of what Russians call “sects,” agrees, noting that “the police allowed themselves excessive crudeness” in this case. They shouldn’t have shackled the minister and thus “created a scandal out of nothing.” In his words, the whole thing is “a very unwelcome story.” And Rustam Batrov, the former deputy chairman of Tatarstan’s Muslim Spiritual Directorate (MSD), says that while laws must be observed “even if they are unjust,” Moscow has given “the green light” to the traditional faiths while “suppressing all the rest.” He called for a combination of obedience to the law and a struggle in the courts against it.

Window on Eurasia — New Series: Constantinople’s Disbanding of Orthodox Archbishopric in Europe Not ‘Slap in [Moscow’s] Face’ Ukrainians Imagine, Portnikov Says

Paul Goble Staunton, November 30 – Given the importance of moves toward autocephaly for the Ukrainian Orthodox, many commentators with little expertise are weighing in on what is going on, often drawing conclusions that are not unjustified by the facts, according to Ukrainian commentator Vitaly Portnikov. These commentators have assumed that the decision of the Universal Patriarchate to disband the Archbishopric of Russian Orthodox Churches in Western Europe represents yet another “slap in the face” of the Moscow Patriarchate, but, Portnikov says, Constantinople’s action has a very different meaning ( The Orthodox Archbishopric in Western Europe arose after 1917 among Russian emigres who wanted Constantinople to take over their supervision given that the Bolsheviks had destroyed the Russian Orthodox Church as an organization in the USSR and who viewed this émigré church as the only legitimate one even after Stalin restored the Moscow Patriarchate. “The existence within the Constantinople Patriarchate of a ‘separate’ Russain church, even in the form of an archbishopric always sparked tensions with the Russian Orthodox Church” of the Moscow Patriarchate, including serious fights over church property as in the case of the Nice church buildings. Consequently, Portnikov says, the liquidation of the Archbishopric of Orthodox Russian churches in Western Europe is not simply a serious step toward meeting the ROC MP half way.” It shows Constantinople doesn’t want to encroach on the “’legitimate’” flock of the ROC MP and wants the latter “not to interfere in Constantinople’s canonical territory – including Kyiv.” It seems clear, the Ukrainian commentator says, that “no one in the ROC has received this signal, one completely logical in advance of offering the tomos of autocephaly to the Ukrainian church. But this is no defeat of the ROC and no slap in the face,” however much some Ukrainians want to view it as such and however much it may work to their advantage to do so.