by Ines Angeli Murzaku
The death of Patriarch Alexei II marked the end of the “cold era” contacts between Moscow and Constantinople and started a new epoch in inter-Orthodox relations. Kirill’s first foreign visit since his January 2009 election as Patriarch of Moscow was to Constantinople and the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. Unity and ecumenism were priorities for Patriarch Kirill, and the 2009 visit and his address prove it. He even attempted to put pressure on the Turkish government to reopen the Orthodox Theological School of Halki. But this was then. Now, the relations between Moscow and Constantinople have drastically changed over Ukraine.
In preparation for the independence celebrations, on April 10, 2018, the Ukrainian President Petro Porošenko made a request to the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew to create a new Ukrainian Orthodox Church and grant autocephaly to end the abnormity of three Orthodox jurisdictions in Ukraine. There are three Orthodox jurisdictions in Ukraine: 1) the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (under the jurisdiction of the Russian Orthodox Church), 2) the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kiev Patriarchate (established in 1992, headed by Filaret Denisenko) and 3) the Ukrainian autocephalous Orthodox Church (with the smallest number of faithful and parishes). Out of the three Orthodox jurisdictions, only the first is considered canonical, while the remaining two jurisdictions are considered “schismatic” and unrecognized by the Orthodox sister churches. Read More…
by George Demacopoulos | ελληνικά | 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…
by Evangelos Razis
The Kremlin has a long history of interfering in the life of the Orthodox Church. Tsars, General Secretaries, and Presidents have seen in the Church a partner, a source of legitimacy, and a threat to their authority. We learned last week that Vladimir Putin has brought this Russian tradition into the digital age: Russian military intelligence has sought to hack and surveil His All Holiness Bartholomew, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople. This news underscores the Church’s vulnerability to the Kremlin when her affairs intersect with its worldly interests. It should caution those in the Church who see a close relationship with the Kremlin as desirable or benign.
The news of the attempted hacking was broken by the Associated Press, which discovered the names of high-ranking advisors to His All Holiness on a “hit list” of emails targeted by Fancy Bear. For about a decade, Fancy Bear has infiltrated organizations inside and outside of Russia, including the Democratic National Committee prior to the 2016 United States Presidential Election. A recent indictment by U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller confirms long-held suspicions that Fancy Bear is, in fact, part of the Russian military intelligence directorate. How long the EP has been under surveillance by the Russian government and what, if anything of value the Kremlin was able to learn is unknown. The attempted hacking is likely related to the current state of the Church in Ukraine. Continue Reading…
by Fr. Bohdan Hladio
The historical path of the Church in Ukraine is controverted and complex: both Moscow and Constantinople claim Ukraine as their canonical territory. As a result, one of the largest Orthodox Churches in the world has experienced schism for over twenty-five years.
In April 2018 the Government of Ukraine officially requested a Tomos of Autocephaly for the Orthodox Church in Ukraine from the Ecumenical Patriarchate. This news brought joy to some, and caused anxiety for others.
In response, the Synod of Bishops of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) (UOC-MP) published an “Appeal to the Faithful of the UOC” on May 25 2018 (English translation). Sadly, this document contributes little towards the normalization of the ecclesial scene in Ukraine.
The Appeal refers to a “schism in Ukrainian Orthodoxy,” implicitly recognizing that the Orthodox Church in Ukraine extends beyond the borders of the canonically recognized Moscow Patriarchate jurisdiction, which is useful. Other statements, however, portray the struggle for Church unity somewhat disingenuously. Continue Reading…