by Sotiris Mitralexis | ελληνικά
Most observers are growing increasingly more worried about the drifting apart of Constantinople and Moscow on the basis of Ukraine’s imminent autocephaly. I would like to make a case to the contrary. There are indications that the possibility of a full-blown schism between two halves of the Orthodox world (rather than between two patriarchates) has lessened recently due to Moscow’s problematic handling of the crisis during the last few weeks.
A necessary disclaimer: this essay is not about theology, but about (ecclesiastical) politics. And it is not about the Ukraine (ecclesiastical) crisis in general, or its geopolitical context, but specifically about Moscow’s recent handling of the crisis. It is most unfortunate that it has become necessary to treat seminal patriarchates as if these were political parties/players engaging in positioning and information warfare, but this does not make the current lamentable situation less of a reality.
The up-until-recently-justified fear of many is that, following the granting of a Tomos of autocephaly from the Ecumenical Patriarchate to Kiev/Ukraine (and not to one of the currently non-canonical churches), Moscow would not recognize the new church and its primate and would break its communion with Constantinople, leading a number of autocephalous churches under its influence to do the same. This would lead the Orthodox world to a “new great schism,” a fragmented state between two “halves” (with varying estimates as to which church would go to which direction, etc.) without communion with one another. Thankfully, however, the overabundant trigger-happiness of the Moscow Patriarchate seems to have undermined this possibility in the following four ways: Continue Reading…
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…
by Alexander B. Miller
History exists as much in our imaginations as in the archeology of the past, and the potency of the imaginative depends upon our ability to recreate sensory or visceral experiences. The doctrinal exchanges between the Russian Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches in recent years are unlikely to make history, but accompanying cultic exchanges may make a lasting impression and lend significance to the work of theological commissions.
Communion and relationship
The July week in 1054 that witnessed the mutual excommunications of Humbert of Silva Candida and Michael Keroularios is rich with drama and outrage for Orthodox and Catholic Christians. This narrative is deeply satisfying for our imaginations, affirming a sense of historical offense as a foundation of our ecclesial identities. However, historians tell us that this was not the earth-shattering event that we make it out to be. In reality, few Christians felt this division in 1054—if they were even aware that it had taken place—because ordinary Christians in East and West had no substantial relationship with each other. Greek had long ceased to be understood in the West, even among the educated, and the East never considered Latin to be an adequate language for the finer points of theology. Politically, the coronation of a Germanic Holy Roman Emperor undermined the Byzantine Emperor in the West. To the extent that Eastern or Western Christians thought of each other, it was conditioned by centuries of polemic that hardly afforded the other the dignity of the Christian name. 1054 merely set a seal upon the creeping de-Christianization and dehumanization of the Other. When crusaders sacked Constantinople, did they really think that such atrocities were committed against fellow Christians, or could they excuse themselves knowing that their victims were heretics? When politicians and churchmen brokered reunion councils, could Eastern Christians really be expected to accept communion with the heretical Other? Continue Reading…