It’s Time for an Independent Ukrainian Orthodox Church

by Evagelos Sotiropoulos

Ukraine achieved independence in 1991, and since then (and before, as well, dating back one hundred years) there have been efforts among the Orthodox faithful and their leaders—political and religious—to establish an independent (autocephalous) Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

And since 1991, the Moscow Patriarchate has been unable or unwilling to settle the schism in Ukraine that has left millions of Orthodox faithful there outside of the canonical Church. Now, after so many years, after so many studied requests, and after so many special appeals, the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople is responding—consistent with its ecclesiastical responsibility and canonical right—to heal the schism.

With great pastoral care and discernment, His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew recently stated that he “will not leave his Ukrainian sons unprotected and abandoned, [nor]…remain blind and deaf to the appeals that have been repeated for more than a quarter of a century.” Continue Reading…

The Heresy of Papism

by George Demacopoulos  |  ру́сский

Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev)

The three-way dispute between Ukrainians, Russians, and the Ecumenical Patriarchate over the possibility of Ukrainian ecclesiastical independence is shaping up to be the greatest challenge to Orthodox Christian unity of our generation. From a purely political perspective, Ukrainian autocephaly would represent an unmitigated disaster for the Russian Orthodox Church. Not only would it deprive the Russian Church of one third of its parishes and undermine its Russkiy Mir project, but it would dramatically belie the claim of the Moscow Patriarchate that it is the leader of the Orthodox Christian world.

In a desperate effort to thwart the independence movement, the Moscow Patriarchate and its surrogates are pushing a host of rhetorical and historical arguments but none is more belligerent or ridiculous than the accusation that the Ecumenical Patriarchate has succumbed to the “heresy of papism.” While this is not the first time that the charge of “papism” has been leveled in an inner-Orthodox dispute, the uncritical consumption of this charge reveals both a broad theological illiteracy and the potency of anti-Catholic rhetorical smears within inner-Orthodox polemic. Continue Reading…

Studying Byzantine Cappadocia

by Elizabeth Zanghi

This past June, I visited Cappadocia in central Turkey. It was my second trip to the region, and it certainly won’t be my last, as I have decided to focus on Cappadocian art history in graduate school.

“Why Cappadocia?” I am frequently asked. The best way to answer that question is to start at the beginning (well, at least from the beginning of Christianity).

I first heard the word “Cappadocia” years ago, during the Pentecost readings, where we’re told that men from every nation under heaven, including Cappadocia, were able to understand the words of the Apostles (Acts 2:9). Then, after Pentecost, Cappadocia is mentioned again when Paul visits Philip in Cappadocia during his final evangelizing mission (Acts 21:8-14). We also know that Saint Peter preached in Cappadocia (1 Peter 1:1). So it is clear that Cappadocia was one of the earliest centers of Christianity.

But Cappadocia’s real fame, at least for the majority of Orthodox Christians, comes in the 4th century with the Cappadocian Fathers: Basil of Caeserea, Gregory of Nyssa, and Gregory Nazianzen. The  theological writings of the Cappadocian Fathers greatly contributed in forming Christian culture and dogma throughout the empire. For example, they define the trinitarian vocabulary that we still used today (think ousia or hypostasis).

Learning about the Cappadocian Fathers impressed me and piqued my interest in Cappadocian studies, but the further I looked, the more I realized that the entire region of Cappadocia is filled with important history, art, architecture, theology, and anthropology that spans the entire late-Antique and Byzantine periods Continue Reading…

Non-Fundamentalist Monastic Spirituality of Mother Maria Skobtsova

by Kateřina Kočandrle Bauer

Since the beginning of modern times, monastic spirituality has had to face both extreme fundamentalism and extreme liberalism, or in postmodern times, relativism.  One reason is an incomplete or incorrect understanding of the human person and human identity. Mother Maria Skobtsova (1891-1945), an Orthodox nun who left Russia after the 1917 revolution and settled in Paris, represents a monastic spiritual journey that moderates both fundamentalism and extreme relativism. She was creative and innovative in her spiritual journey, but at the same time she held onto the spiritual values of the Christian tradition of the past that, in a new context of exile, did not lose meaning. We can find inspiration for a non-fundamentalist but rooted monastic spirituality not only in Mother Maria’s life and actions but also in her theoretical presuppositions for the monastic journey, especially her understanding of the human person as made according to God’s image and likeness and her notion of human identity.

The fundamentalist notion of the human self affirms a strong identity. Postmodern liberal identity, on the other hand, is fluid and often unstable. Fundamentalist religious identity plays strongly on collective identity and thus denies to a certain extent individuality and authenticity. Postmodern liberal consumerist identity, however, seeks only individualism and authentic experience but often without a profound understanding of the past. Here, Mother Maria offers a position that moderates the two extremes: first, she speaks of collective identity as sobornost, but only together with the authenticity of individual identity; and second, she affirms rootedness in the past, but combined with dynamicity and the possibility of adapting Christian identity to the contemporary context—bringing it into the present.  Continue Reading…