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Russia Lost the War of the Churches (70)

Anonymous expert compilation, analysis, and reporting.

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Church matters remain the leading topic in Ukrainian media, and the leading Ukraine topic in global mass media. Interesting statements by Pres Poroshenko and leader of the Crimean Tartars Dzhemilev. Honorary Patriarch of the OCU Filaret observes that the OCU will be the world’s second largest Orthodox church, second to the ROC – notably with the likely future departure of many of the former colonial branches of the ROC in former Soviet republics, the ROC could eventually contract to an equal or smaller size to the OCU. RFE/RL survey shows most parishes defecting from the ROC to the OCU are in Western and Central Ukraine – this comes as no surprise and was predicted many times. A dozen Western mass media reports on the events of the weekend.

UK media put the focus on some of the more bizarre statements by the ROC leadership. Belkovsky predicts a coming decline of the ROC, as its Soviet-like attachment to the state becomes more widely known. In Russia, Panchenko predicts the Chekist regime will persecute all churches in Russia that have links to the US, in the mirroring-driven belief that US-based churches are like the ROC proxies for government agencies. ROC in Belarus fear-mongering over the possibility of autonomy for this church, which prior to Russia’s usurpation of the Ukrainian church, was part of the latter.

It appears the “Russian World” is unraveling almost as fast as the “Third Rome”.

Metropolitan Epifaniy calls on all Orthodox Christians of Ukraine to unite around Kyiv throne | UNIAN

Leader of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU), Metropolitan of Kyiv and All Ukraine Epifaniy has called on all Orthodox Christians of Ukraine to unite around the Kyiv throne of a single local OCU. We pray in our native Ukrainian language, Epifaniy said. Leader of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU), Metropolitan of Kyiv and All Ukraine Epifaniy has called on all Orthodox Christians of Ukraine to unite around the Kyiv throne of a single local OCU. “We have our own independent Orthodox Church of Ukraine, we pray in our native and understandable Ukrainian language. This is a useful thing on our way to the salvation,” he said at the Christmas liturgy in St. Sophia Cathedral in Kyiv on January 7, which was the first service after providing a tomos of autocephaly of the OCU. “On this magnificent Christmas Day, I wish that the Lord continue to help, assist, and do good to all of us. We’ll continue to pray that the Lord give us unity, and that all Orthodox Christians of Ukraine unite around the throne of Kyiv into a single local autocephalous Orthodox Church of Ukraine,” he said, as reported by an UNIAN correspondent. Read alsoHistory is made: Bartholomew signs tomos of autocephaly for Orthodox Church of Ukraine

President: Ukraine’s new church throws off Russia’s chains |

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko says the establishment of an Orthodox Church independent of the Russian church is a major step toward moving out of Russia’s shadow.

President: Ukraine’s new church throws off Russia’s chains

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko says the establishment of an Orthodox Church independent of the Russian church is a major step toward moving out of Russia’s shadow.

“Broken fetters”: Crimean Tatar leader comments on significance of church autocephaly | UNIAN

The leader of the Crimean Tatar people, MP Mustafa Dzhemilev believes that granting of autocephaly to the local Orthodox Church of Ukraine by the Ecumenical Patriarchate is “an act that strengthens Ukraine’s independence.” The MP told how Ukrainians rose the “tomos question” in discussions with Bartholomew back in 1990s. The leader of the Crimean Tatar people, MP Mustafa Dzhemilev believes that granting of autocephaly to the local Orthodox Church of Ukraine by the Ecumenical Patriarchate is “an act that strengthens Ukraine’s independence.” Speaking with RFE/RL’s Krym.Realii project, Dzhemilev said the event was a landmark not only for Orthodox Christians, but for the entire people of Ukraine. “Fetters are broken that were imposed on Ukraine by the Russian Empire more than 400 years ago. Centuries will pass, but this day and this event will be in textbooks. This is a huge victory and the fruit of the efforts of so many people,” he stressed. According to Dzhemilev, efforts to obtain independence for the Ukrainian church had been carried out from the first days of the country’s independence, but only after the start of the war and the occupation of part of the Ukrainian territories by Russia did the need for autocephaly finally become obvious. “We touched on the issue in our conversations with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew as far back as the 1990s, but at that time, Constantinople had not yet decided to spoil relations with Moscow. At the same time, Russia fiercely resisted the granting of autocephaly, resorting to bribery attempts and other tricks,” said the Crimean Tatar leader.

Ukraine’s church will be second largest among all Orthodox churches – Filaret

The Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU) will be the second largest Orthodox church in the world in the future, Honorary Patriarch of the OCU Filaret has said. “After the unification of all Orthodox Ukrainians, the Ukrainian Church will be the second largest after the Russian Church. […] This means that it will play a respective role in world Orthodoxy, because it is big, just like Ukraine. Ukraine will get strengthened through the church, and the church must influence our society morally – eradicate falsehood, injustice, corruption, and build a just life based on state laws,” Ukraine’s Channel 5 quoted Filaret as saying. He expressed confidence that the unification of all Orthodox Ukrainians will definitely take place and there is no other way. “If we have a state, if we have our own Ukrainian church, Orthodox believers must belong to this church. Many Ukrainians now belong to the Russian Orthodox Church under the guise of a Ukrainian church. Now that we have received a tomos and a single Orthodox Church has been proclaimed in Ukraine, Ukrainian believers will be joining the Orthodox Church of Ukraine,” Filaret said. At the same time, he added that such unification could be delayed. “But we need to work much, because force, as well as hostility and accusations, cannot lead to unity. This should not happen, because love unites people, and sin separates them. If we want to unite, we should love each other and not remember the past,” Filaret said. Therefore, he urged the clergy, bishops, and faithful of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine to treat the faithful of the Russian Orthodox Church in Ukraine with love. On January 5, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew signed a tomos of autocephaly (a decree of ecclesial independence) of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine. On January 6, the Patriarchal Church of St. George in Istanbul hosted a tomos handover ceremony and a Divine Liturgy that was concelebrated by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Head of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, Metropolitan of Kyiv and All Ukraine Epiphanius.

Orthodox Church of Ukraine to be recognized as patriarchate, no dissent in Orthodox Christianity to follow — Filaret

Leader of the Kyiv diocese, a member of the Synod and Honorary Patriarch of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine Filaret (born Denysenko) has said he believes that the newly established autocephalous Orthodox Church of Ukraine will be recognized as a patriarchate in the future. “Thus far we have been recognized as a metropolitan archdiocese, we agree with this. Even though we have been a patriarchate for 25 years, now we have agreed that we are a metropolitan archdiocese, but a metropolitan archdiocese for the entire Orthodox Christian world… Why do we aspire to become a patriarchate? Because we are a large Church. We have a hope that with the course of time the Ukrainian Church will be recognized as a patriarchate as well. We believed that we would get an autocephalous status. Now we believe that we will be recognized as a patriarchate. This is the future but it will definitely come,” Honorary Patriarch Filaret said an interview with the Pryamiy TV channel. Also, he said that the fact that some local churches have not yet recognized the Ukrainian autocephaly is a temporary issue. “With the Ukrainian Church receiving the Tomos of Autocephaly, a significant part, the major part, of Orthodox churches will establish communication with the Ukrainian Church. Part of local churches, first of all, the Russian Church, the Orthodox Church of Antioch, and some other Slavonic Churches will not be in contact with the Ukrainian Church, but this is a temporary issue. With the course of time, all of them will come into a prayer union with both the Ecumenical Patriarch and the Ukrainian Church. Including the Russian one because there is no other way. Since we are Orthodox Christians, then we must stay united,” the former head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate, Honorary Patriarch Filaret said.

Window on Eurasia — New Series: Moscow Patriarchate Churches in Western Ukraine Shifting to OCU But Those in East Aren’t

Paul Goble Staunton, January 6 – More than 40 parishes which had been subordinate to the Moscow Patriarchate’s church in Ukraine have chosen to change their affiliation to the autocephalous Orthodox Church of Ukraine, but so far all of those have been in the west or central regions of the country rather than in the historically ethnically Russian regions in the east, Radio Liberty reports. Four Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate congregations have made the change in affiliation in Lviv, four in Khelmnitsky, three in Chernovitsy, two in Ternopol, and two in Volhynia, all in the west. Twenty in Vinnnitsa oblast have done so as well ( In addition, four communities in central Ukraine have made the shift: two in Cherkassk, one in Kyiv, and one in Dneprpetrovsk. But in the eastern portion of Ukraine, RFE/RL reports, “not a single community of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate has declared its desire to shift to the Orthodox Church of Ukraine. This pattern is not unexpected: parishioners in the western and central portions of Ukraine are more likely to be nationalistically inclined and thus respond to the autocephaly declaration by making a change, while those in the east are less nationalist historically and thus less likely to take the lead in this regard. In the short term, that may exacerbate ethnic tensions and make the two churches more “nationalist” than would otherwise be the case, something that both the religious and secular authorities will have to watch out for lest the Russian side exploit this division to trigger ethno-religious conflicts as many in Moscow have threatened to do.

Number of UOC (MP) [AKA ROC] parishes that have transferred to the OCU.

From Russia, Without Love: Ukraine Marks Orthodox Christmas with Biggest Schism Since 1054 | News & Reporting | Christianity Today

Eastern Orthodox experts and Protestant neighbors explain impact of Constantinople freeing Kiev from Moscow.

Ukraine Orthodox Church marks first Christmas free of Russian ‘fetters’ | Reuters

Ukraine’s Orthodox Christian Church celebrated its first Christmas on Monday outside Russian control and President Petro Poroshenko said the document enshrining its newly gained independence had broken “the last fetters tying us to Moscow”.

Ukraine Orthodox Church Marks First Christmas Free of Russian ‘Fetters’

Ukraine’s Orthodox Christian Church celebrated its first Christmas on Monday outside Russian control and President Petro Poroshenko said the document enshrining its newly gained independence had broken “the last fetters tying us to Moscow”. Hundreds of Ukrainians queued in the snow after the lavish two-hour liturgy at Kiev’s St Sophia Cathedral to view the document, known as a “Tomos”, which was only handed to the head of the new Church Metropolitan Epifaniy on Sunday. Many Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas on Jan. 7, not Dec. 25, as they follow a different calendar. Accompanied by Poroshenko, Epifaniy processed into the cathedral on Monday carrying the decree, a scrolled white parchment. White-robed clergy then unfurled it and placed it in front of the iconostasis, a richly decorated screen that separates the sanctuary from the nave in Orthodox churches. “For the first time, we celebrate Christmas with an independent autocephalous church,” said Poroshenko after the service. “It is the basis of our spiritual freedom, we broke the last fetters tying us to Moscow,” said the president, who faces a tough re-election battle this year. Russia bitterly opposes the move to grant the Ukrainian Church autocephalous, or self-governing, status, comparing it to the Great Schism of 1054 that divided western and eastern Christianity. The Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow has called the leaders of the Ukrainian Church charlatans and schismatics, and President Vladimir Putin has warned of possible bloodshed.

Ukrainian Christians celebrate their first Christmas under an independent church – Orthodox schism

IN BOTH Ukraine and Russia, where most Christians follow the old calendar and therefore celebrate the Nativity of Christ on January 7th, this was a Christmas like no other, whether for ordinary folk or for the high and mighty.

Orthodox and Greek Catholic Ukrainians celebrate Christmas on Jan. 7 | KyivPost

Ukrainians following both the Orthodox or the Greek Catholic faith celebrate Christmas on Jan. 7 with services all over the country. The decision to celebrate the Nativity of Christ on Dec. 25 was taken at the Council of Ephesus in 431. The Roman Catholic Church and most Protestant churches celebrate Christmas on Dec. 25, according to the modern Gregorian calendar. A number of Orthodox and Greek Catholic churches celebrate Christmas on Jan. 7, according to the modern Gregorian calendar, which corresponds to Dec. 25 on the ancient and mostly discarded Julian calendar. Among Christians that celebrate Christmas according to the Julian calendar are the followers of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, Jerusalem, Russia, Serbia, Georgia, Orthodox Church of the Czech lands and Slovakia, Athos monasteries, Metropolis of Bessarabia of the Romanian Orthodox Church, Armenian Apostolic Church, the Coptic Orthodox Church, as well as most Greek Catholic churches including the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.

New Church Move Makes For Tense Orthodox Christmas Between Russia And Ukraine

The creation of the independent Ukrainian Church seems like a spiritual matter. It also has very grave political implications. The move threatens to inflame still further tension between Russia and Ukraine: two countries whose post-Communist eras have involved religious revival–and armed conflict.

For Orthodox churches in Ukraine and Russia, a politically charged Christmas – CNN

Monday marks an important day for many Orthodox Christians: The Orthodox and Eastern Rite churches that follow the old Julian calendar celebrate Christmas on January 7.

Patriarch grants Ukrainian Church independence at Istanbul mass

The spiritual leader of the world’s Orthodox faithful recognized a new national church of Ukraine, marking a historic split with Moscow amid a broader geopolitical dispute.

New Ukrainian Church Officially Recognized, Gains Independence From Russia – WSJ

Orthodox Christianity’s foremost leader presented Ukraine’s new church with a decree of independence, ignoring Russian claims that its church has sole authority there and handing Ukraine a victory in its attempts to diminish Russia’s influence.

Why has Ukraine’s Orthodox church split from Russia? | Russia | Al Jazeera

After centuries of close ties, Orthodox churches in Ukraine have cut links with Russia.

🇺🇦 🇷🇺 Why has Ulraine’s Orthodox church split from Russia? l Inside Story – YouTube

Al Jazeera English Published on Jan 7, 2019 The eastern Orthodox church has over 250 million members around the world. Its spiritual leader is based in Istanbul. But for followers in Ukraine, there’s a new found independence.

The Antichrist will control mankind through gadgets and the Internet as people ‘fall into slavery’ to smartphones, warns leader of Russian Orthodox Church | Daily Mail Online

Patriarch Kirill, 72, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church warned that mankind’s dependency on smartphones will ‘result in the coming of the Antichrist’.

Creation of New Church in Ukraine ‘Political Put-Up Job’ – Russian Patriarch – Sputnik International

MOSCOW (Sputnik) – The absence of any reaction from the West to Ukrainian authorities’ unprecedented interference in church’s affairs indicates obvious political motives behind the creation of a new religious structure in Ukraine, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill said.

Window on Eurasia — New Series: Ukrainian Autocephaly ‘Beginning of the End’ for Moscow Patriarchate, Belkovsky Says

Paul Goble Staunton, January 6 – There is no question, Russian commentator Stanislav Belkovsky says, that the grant of the tomos of autocephaly to the Orthodox Church of Ukraine is “the beginning of the end” of the Russian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, something all the more likely because Moscow didn’t think Ukrainian autocephaly would happen. That is just one sign of how out of touch the church hierarchy is and how it failed to make an argument with the Universal Patriarch in religious terms but limited itself to politics alone, an approach, Belkovsky says, which almost certainly guaranteed its loss on Ukraine and more besides ( The hierarchy of the ROC MP around Patriarch Kirill thus has shown itself to be more an arm of the secular authorities than a religious organization, perhaps not surprising, the commentator says, because “faith in God is not an obligatory condition for membership in the Orthodox Church in present-day Russia.” The ROC MP was set up “as is well known by Joseph Stalin in September 1943 as atype of ministry which should fulfill specific subfunctions in the general system of state power” in the USSR. Only at the end of the 1980s and beginning of the 1990s did it separate in fact from the state. But very rapidly, the ROC MP returned to being what it had been, an arm of the state. That origin and that return, Belkovsky says, has played “a bad joke” on the ROC MP: its subordination to the Kremlin in all things including in particular the 2014 invasion of Ukraine has led “the inevitable recognition of Ukrainian autocephaly” first by the Universal Patriarch in Constantinople and soon by Orthodox churches throughout the world. Before 2014, few considered Ukrainian autocephaly possible, “but everything changed after 2014 precisely because the ROC MP not only did not distance itself from the Putin state but demonstrably deepened its dependence on it.” The ROC MP has no right to complain about the OCU’s ties with Kyiv given that its own with the Kremlin are far tighter. Now, if Putin wants to replace Kirill with Tikhon as patriarch, there is nothing standing in his way; and that shows to all the world that the ROC MP has lost the right to present itself as a religious organization. It is that only for some of its hierarchs, some of its priests and some of its laity. For most of all three, it is something else, a political body. That condemns it to lose status at home and abroad and means that when the current Russian government passes from the scene, so too will the ROC MP. It has no basis for an existence independent of the state and so will live and die with it, Belkovsky suggests. Many commentators in Ukraine and even in Russia have adopted an even more negative line about the ROC MP. Perhaps the most damning are those who suggest that while the OCU received its tomos from the Universal Patriarch, the ROC MP received it not from a church official but from Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin (e.g., Such observations will do little to keep the ROC MP alive as a church, although they may lead the Kremlin and its security services to double down on their defense of their own ideological branch.

Window on Eurasia — New Series: Moscow to Follow Attack on Jehovah’s Witnesses with Others on ‘Sects’ Linked to US, Panchenko Says

Paul Goble Staunton, January 6 – Aleksandr Panchenko, a specialist on religious minorities in Russia who lost his job at St. Petersburg State University when he failed to find the texts of Pentecostals extremist, says that Moscow’s massive attack on the Jehovah’s Witnesses will be followed by attacks on other groups that the authorities consider unacceptable “sects.” There is no legal definition of “sect” in Russia or anywhere else, largely because the authorities want to define it as fits their needs, including some groups while excluding others that are very similar. But for 20 years, the scholar continues, the Russian government and the ROC MP have promoted “an anti-sectarian mythology” ( As a result, many Russians are inclined to believe about groups like the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Pentecostals and Scientologists many things that simply are not true, and that makes the job of the police and prosecutors easier because they can often count on the population to approve what they do to these groups. The Russian authorities’ “first mass campaign” against what it calls a sect has been directed against the Jehovah’s Witnesses, an effort that Panchenko suggests reflects the Russian authorities’ opposition to any highly structured group with headquarters abroad and especially if those are in the United States. It seems likely, he continues, that the Jehovah’s Witnesses were singled out as the first target for this reason more than for any other because those in the Russian force structures “also think like corporations” and therefore they view anyone else similarly organized as “their enemy.” On ideological and counter-missionary grounds, Panchenko says, the Pentecostals might have been expected to be the next target. But he says that it is his impression that Moscow will instead move next against the Scientologists because they are also organized “like a corporation in distinction from the Pentecostals” and have their headquarters abroad in the US. “If we in paranoid fashion suspect the United States of attempts to influence Russia, beginning with spying and ending with the imaginary Dulles Plan, then of course, when we see a well-organized religious corporation with its HQ in the US,” as many FSB officers do, such links of a religious group become the basis for serious moves against it.

TASS: Society & Culture – Patriarch Kirill calls for kindness on Orthodox Christmas

The patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church reiterated that society was always built on the principles of division and called for the fight against these sinful aspects

WATCH: Russian Orthodox Celebrate Christmas at Midnight Mass – Sputnik International

On 7 January, Christmas is celebrated by the Russian Orthodox Church, the Georgian, Jerusalem, Serbian churches, Athos monasteries, as well as the Eastern Catholic Church and Old Believers.

Orthodox Priests Perform Memorial Service To Victims Of Russian Building Collapse

Orthodox priests have performed a memorial service for the victims of the collapse of a residential building in the Russian city of Magnitogorsk.

Window on Eurasia — New Series: Autocephaly for Belarusian Orthodox would Condemn Church There to ‘Death,’ Moscow’s Churchman in Minsk Says

Paul Goble Staunton, January 6 – Now that Ukraine has achieved autocephaly, in the course of which the Universal Patriarch declared that Belarus and Moldova are not within the Moscow Patriarchate’s canonical territory, some Orthodox in both are thinking about autocephaly for themselves and Moscow is worried. Just how worried is reflected the hyperbolic comments of Metropolitan Pavel, the head of the Belarusian Exarchate of the Moscow Patriarchate. He says that “One must say completely sincerely and openly the following” about autocephaly in Ukraine and potential autocephaly in Belarus ( “If for Ukraine, this attempt to impose autocephaly is a terrible tragedy, then if this would happen in Bealrus, it would be death for the Belarusian Orthodox Church. It would condemn the Belarusian Orthodox Church to destruction. Thank God, today, the episcopate of the Belarusian church and the priests and practically all believers are not thinking about this.” But in fact, many in Belarus are thinking about it. Autocephaly for Ukraine is “very important for Belarus, Archipriest Leonid Akalovich of the Belarusian Autocephalous Orthodox Church says. Now, “Belarus like Moldova is standing in line to receive the tomos of autocephaly ( Belarusian theologian Yuliya Nagornova says that “theoretically, if there is a change of power in Belarus, the question could perhaps become as sharp as it is in Ukraine.” And Belarusian historian Anatoly Sidorevich adds that if Belarus becomes truly independent of Russia, its church should become truly independent of Moscow as well. At present, the Belarusian exarchate has far less autonomy than did Russian Orthodoxy in Ukraine prior to autocephaly and is totally opposed to the Belarusian Autocephalous Orthodox Church, which is dominated by parishes and bishoprics in the emigration. But their conflict might become less severe if autocephaly for a single Belarusian Orthodox church were on offer. Moscow both patriarch and president are clearly worried about that, and the possibility of autocephaly for Belarus may be on its way to becoming a major argument in favor of some kind of Russian Anschluss. Indeed, only a Russian occupation and absorption of Belarus may be able to prevent the Belarusian church from following the lead of its Ukrainian counterpart.

Faithful Celebrate Orthodox Christmas In Former Soviet Republics

Christians in Russia’s Republic of Tatarstan have celebrated Orthodox Christmas in a church once used to execute prisoners during the Soviet era, the Chuvash St. Paraskeva Church in Kazan, the capital of the mainly Muslim republic. Orthodox Christian Kryashen-Tatars gathered separately in the Tikhvin Church in Kazan, where services are held in a distinct dialect of the Tatar language. Ceremonies were also held in at the Holy Resurrection Cathedral in Kyrgyzstan’s capital, Bishkek, the largest Orthodox church in Central Asia. In the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, Orthodox Christians marched in their annual “Alilo” Christmas procession.

Trump praises ‘inclusive’ Egyptian president for cathedral opening | TheHill

President Trump on Sunday praised Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi for “moving his country to a more inclusive future” as Egypt opened the largest church in the Middle East.

Egypt opens Middle East’s biggest cathedral near Cairo – BBC News

President Sisi inaugurated the massive Coptic cathedral, a day after a bomb blast near a church.