Over the past few weeks, the degree of tension between Constantinople and the Moscow Patriarchate has significantly grown. The meeting of the two patriarchs, not expected to be fruitful, took place on August 31 and on September 7, the Ecumenical Patriarchate announced the appointment of its exarchs (plenipotentiaries) in Ukraine.
The struggle for the Ukrainian Orthodox Church has become the main theme of the world Orthodoxy during the last six months. Many are inclined to see this as a confrontation between the two capitals of the Orthodox world – Constantinople and Moscow, the “second” and “third” Rome. Both Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia claim their canonical rights to the Ukrainian lands. For both, the battle for Kiev is of utmost importance: the winner will consolidate the title of the head of the Orthodox believers and severely undermine the opponent’s authority.
However, the triumph of one of them will be ruinous for the Orthodoxy as a whole – a painful Ukrainian question will likely cause another historical schism in Orthodox Christianity. Patriarch Kirill is already threatening to cut ties with Constantinople in case the latter provides the Tomos of autocephaly. It is not necessary to explain what consequences implies the withdrawal of more than 100 million of believers from the omophorion of the Ecumenical Patriarch. The Christian world would become truly multipolar: alongside with Catholic Rome we’ll witness two more – “Constantinople Rome” and “Moscow Rome” – all struggling to expand their influence.
Why is Constantinople against Moscow?
In the current situation, the “Doomsday Clock” of Orthodoxy is closer than ever to midnight. The meeting of the two patriarchs on the last day of summer was designed to defuse the situation, but, apparently, provoked Bartholomew to an even tougher anti-Moscow rhetoric than before. He once again designated the rights of Constantinople to Ukraine, declaring the illegitimacy of the letters on the transfer of the Kyiv Patriarchate to Moscow in the 17th century. In his speech (for some reason published not on the official portal of the Ecumenical Patriarchate but on the website of the UOC in the US), he also showed truly ecumenical ambitions, identifying the Patriarchate of Constantinople with the “leaven”, that is, with the quintessence of the Orthodox faith, and accused those who “do not respect the decisions of Fanar”, of disrespect to the Orthodoxy in general.
Nevertheless, on the eve of the meeting of the two patriarchs, the anti-Moscow sentiments in the Ecumenical Patriarchate were triggered from outside. So, on August 27, the Associated Press published an article in which Russian intelligence agents were accused of hacking the e-mail accounts of the Ecumenical Patriarchate hierarchs. In May, the Order of St. Andrew that represents the interests of the Fanar in the United States blamed Moscow for disseminating information about the ties between Constantinople and the Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen. One can also recall the events of 2016, when the ROC and several Orthodox Autocephalous Churches ignored the Council of Crete convened by Bartholomew. According to sources close to Bartholomew, he considered this a personal insult from Patriarch Kirill. Besides, the Patriarch of Constantinople intends to show Kirill once and for all who is the “boss” in the Orthodox world.
A possibility to avoid the split
But should the head of the Ecumenical Patriarchate be guided by personal motives in dealing with such complex issues as granting autocephaly to the Church in a country that is drawn into the war in its eastern regions, an economic crisis and internal disputes? According to the aforementioned sources, many of Fanar hierarchs clearly understand the consequences of the autocephaly, but this issue is supervised by Bartholomew personally and he is not ready to make concessions.
Unfortunately, in this situation, there is only one option that will more or less suit both sides and, most likely, will not lead to a split. This is an Exarchate of Constantinople in Ukraine. Bartholomew will receive his share of influence in this predominantly Orthodox country, and Kirill will preserve some of his positions. In the current situation, granting the Tomos to the pro-government Church will by default lead to a sharp increase in pressure on the part of believers and clergymen, who have at least some ties with Moscow. Given the number of believers of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (according to the most biased estimates – at least 20%) and their prevalence throughout the country, this can lead to a large-scale interfaith clashes. It is extremely important not to allow this to happen and create a single Autocephalous Church in Ukraine only after the conflict is resolved. At the same time, despite any objections from Moscow, this process should be implemented by Constantinople, and not by the ROC, whose image has been highly demonized by Kiev.
It would be great this is understood at the Fanar, and Archbishops Daniel of Pamphylia and Hilarion of Edmonton, appointed on September 7, would engage in “healing the schism”, that is organizing a “peacemaking exarchate” and setting up the process of reunion of the divided believers.
Another factor that complicates the autocephaly bestowal is the issue of choosing the new Church’s head. The Primate of the UOC of the Kyivan Patriarchate Filaret is considered to be the main contender for this post, but a great number of complexities are associated with his name. In 1997, for attempting to achieve independence of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, the Moscow Patriarchate anathematized Filaret, which was de facto recognized by all local Orthodox Churches. The “Kyivan Patriarchate”, created by Filaret, did not receive recognition in the Orthodox world and is still considered “uncanonical”. Alongside with the fact that Filaret himself carried out a rather aggressive policy outside of Ukraine, seizing parishes on the territories of other local Churches and supporting various non-canonical communities around the world, he earned an unsavory reputation in Orthodoxy.
The world of Orthodox Christianity is quiet and very conservative. Despite the changing political situation in Ukraine, no one has rehabilitated Filaret so far (therefore, even in the speech of Bartholomew his title “patriarch” stands in inverted commas), and the UOC-KP created by him remains unrecognized. Sudden abolition of the anathema and recognition of the head of the Kyiv Patriarchate is a troublesome task and will hardly have a positive impact on the reputation of the Fanar, especially considering that the Patriarch of Constantinople has recognized this anathema for 30 years, avoiding meetings and joint services with the “Kyivan Patriarch”. In addition, Bartholomew hardly forgot how Filaret denied Constantinople the autonomy of the UOC-KP and the UAOC as parts of the Ecumenical Patriarchate back in 2008. Now, the Fanar is rumored to avoid appointing Filaret Primate of the new Church, which makes him seek options to fortify his position.
However, whoever becomes the leader of the new Ukrainian Church, one thing is obvious: its creation at this point of time will have devastating consequences for the entire Christian world. Now everything depends on Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. He is already compared by many with the notorious Patriarch Melety IV, who managed to rule three local Churches, introduced the Gregorian calendar, incorporated into the Constantinople Patriarchate the Finnish and Estonian Archdioceses, which had belonged to the Russians, advocated unification with the Anglican Church, was a member of the Masonic Grand Lodge of Greece and even tried to implement the second marriage for the clergy, which is as unthinkable for the Orthodox Christians as the second marriage of laymen for the Roman Catholics.
By the way, incumbent Patriarch Bartholomew has already managed to “authorize” the second marriage for clergymen at a recent meeting of the Synod of the Constantinople Church. Now he faces a historic choice: to be remembered in the Christian chronicles as a peacemaker, a progressive fighter for the environment and equality, or as the initiator of the bloodiest religious division in Europe in the 21st century.
The question is whether he will take a decision that will move the “Doomsday Clock” to midnight, or whether the “judgment day” of Orthodoxy will be postponed.
Theology in post-apartheid South Africa and the prophets of the city
So, I think about the brave, and the thoughtful, and the supernatural, I think about divine intuition, our divine assignment, our divine meetings when it comes to the sensibility of persuasion. I fix my eyes upon the Cross, upon the crowds, upon the crossroads wherever I find myself. I think of the waiting game. Waiting for my prayers to be answered, waiting to be loved, waiting, waiting, always waiting. I am like a fugitive down here. Prayer explodes in my head and my neck, and something exquisite snaps back I to place as girl, as child, as adolescent, as woman. When I think of the revolution from within, how it comes with a price, how it comes with a breakthrough from memory and desire, a kind of spiritual persuasiveness, milk-fed, book thief, and I think of all the tragedies that this world of ours has seen. War, depression, global recession, climate change, global warming When I was at my most vulnerable I turned to theology. I turned to fasting, prayer, and meditation. I turned to the filmmaker Mikale Barry, Shakespeare, and to John Updike, Hemingway and Ghandi, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Oprah Winfrey, Maya Angelou, Trevor Noah, Macbeth.
I knew I was purposefully crafted in the image of Christ, but only came to that realisation late in life, and if I bloomed into piety, righteousness, and Christianity, if I bloomed at all into theology, a theology that conditioned me into thinking that the universe was/is somehow aligned with God and science, the psychological framework of philosophy and education about religion, for the omniscient being is both the alpha and omega, the unseen, quiet miracle-worker and guard of our mouth, the helmet of salvation, the breastplate armour is made of redemptive powers, and separation-anxiety, attachment to karma has marked humanity’s indifference, and great aloofness when it comes to evolutionary biology, detachment of history, and there have been times when I don’t feel good, and have turned to prayer in the centre of my winter, and it greatly helped the acute suffering of my heart. I think of love, not in the divine sense, but the love that carries with it shame, and guesswork, and all I want to say is that the wolf must not think of me. I am awake now only because of reconciliation, democratic values, the origin of the species, which is theology and not Darwinism.
It is God’s will be done. To my art, the contact I make with other artists, I only have this to say. To know when to say please and thank you. I’m the girl who knows not to make a scene in front of your beautiful wife, your children look like her, your children look like you. Nobody loves me. I try to ignore you, I try to ignore this. It is in theology that I find my identity now, that my psyche remains intact, that. I find confidence in winter, spring, summer, and autumn. I remember what I had as a child when I think of theology, I wait for the dust of the Colonial Masters to settle, eat the breadcrumbs off their table, congregate around their prophetic words, their prophetic visions, their divinity rules, the school of their thought, and law, and philosophy, and education rules. Tonight, it is theology that is holding me her arms like the scientist Niels Bohr, the writers John Eppel, Virginia Woolf, and my own father Dr Ambrose Cato George, the poets Brian Walter, William Blake, John Keats, the playwright Athol Fugard, the philosopher and educationalist Athol Williams, the journalist Lee Gary McCabe, and Ithink of our struggle heroes, Stephen Bantu Biko, Dulcie September, Rick Turner, and Chris Hani.
I think of political meetings held in secrecy on Table Mountain, and my mind keeps returning to the post-apartheid system of theology, the inaction of congregants from different beliefs, norms, values, faith-based systems incorporated into every sphere of modern-day life. I’ve been living life in a kind of theological bubble. To go to church, or not to go to church. To be hurt in church, or not to be hurt in church. To meet likeminded the individuals there. Or not to meet likeminded individuals there. I believe in God, but I don’t believe in people all that much. I think of my paternal grandparents. It didn’t ever matter to them if they were hurt by people in the church. And when I write, I commune with the angels, with an angelic realm, and the voice inside my head is not a pre-conditioned voice, it is Christ’s voice. And when I write I worship Elohim, and when I write I worship Yeshua. I think of Moses in the wilderness, I think of the burning bush, the multitudes, and how all of that is not part of an indoctrinated religion, but a part of me. I think of the oneness of Jesus Christ, I think of modern-day Christianity, and how it impacts both event and non-event in my theological discourse.
A voice inside my head says tells me what to do, what I’ve always been good at. I think of the Salvation Army’s hymns, and how I’ve devoted myself to something else now. How I’ve decided to devote myself to the church, to research, to writing, and to the writing-world of poetry. I regard God as nothing more than spiritual breakthrough. And I take cognizance of the fact that a prophet has an international vision, that prophecy is not worship, that we have to literally wakeup someone else to anointing and the supernatural. We must respect both the narrative and context of the Scriptures, because the word is truth, and light, and revelation. And I suppose we could look at theology as opinion-based rhetoric, or irrelevant for this day and age, but truths are truths, and semantics are semantics. Far from being commentary on social justice, an incomprehensible expression of dead scholars and prophets, far from departing from obscurity and complexity, theology is a part of us all. It is a part of humanity, a living thing of theatre, a book designed to be interpreted, read, and reread, assumed, branching out into theory and code and philosophy and religion and source and resource.
No one owes anyone anything?
Amazing things keep happening in Ukraine: what we (and many others) had been writing and talking about for almost a year was suddenly confirmed by the most unusual and unexpected source.
According to the Orthodox Journalists Union website, citing Ukrainian radio program “ Persona Grata,” Filaret Denisenko not only rejects the status of “former Metropolitan of Kiev” that Constantinople gave him, but also says that he has never recognized the anathema placed upon him in 1997 by the Russian Orthodox Church, of which he was once a canonical hierarch.
“Well, if the Ecumenical Patriarch removed the anathema from me in 2018, does it mean that I had been under the anathema until 2018?” Filaret wondered. “If I was under anathema, it means that all these bishops are invalid. As to Epiphany, he is not a Metropolitan; he is not even a priest. If the Ecumenical Patriarch lifted the anathema from me in 2018, then the entire episcopate is invalid!” he added. Thus, by dismissing the Constantinople Patriarch’s meddling in Ukrainian church affairs, Filaret is actually implying that either everyone (including the Ecumenical Patriarch, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and the UOC-KP) are schismatics and heretics, or no one owes anyone anything now. Then why are we talking about debts? Here is why.
On the surface of it, it might look as if the old intriguer and schismatic is right! The truth, however, lies with the Orthodox Church canons, not with what Filaret is saying. In our October article, titled “Legalizing the Schism – the Patriarchate of Constantinople crossed the red line”, we questioned the Ecumenical Patriarch’s decision to “lift” the anathema, both from Filaret himself and his structure and “clerics.” The article also wondered how come a schismatic under anathema could all of a sudden become “the former Metropolitan of Kiev,” and his associates “the former” metropolitans, bishops and priests. Our view was fully shared by the Russian Orthodox Church, and also by the Council of the Serbian Orthodox Church, whose position on the issue has been extremely consistent and unswerving: “The Council regrets the canonically ill-advised decision by the Patriarchate of Constantinople to exonerate and officially recognize two leaders of splinter groups in Ukraine as bishops Filaret Denisenko and Makariy Maletich, along with their episcopate and clergy.”
Moreover, Filaret went even further in his statements and exposés.
“Do not call the Ukrainian Orthodox Church the canonical Church, do not state untruths,” declared Filaret, who suddenly started espousing the truth. “It is not recognized by other Churches as canonical, it is recognized only by the Ecumenical Patriarch. It has the Tomos [of autocephaly], but essentially it is not autocephalous. It is not recognized as canonical by 13 Local Churches. So why does it call itself canonical, when no one serves with Metropolitan Epiphany, except the Ecumenical Patriarch?”
According to Filaret Denisenko, “no church, be it the ROC, or those of Hellas, Jerusalem, Alexandria, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Albania, Poland and Georgia, recognizes the so-called UOC, just like they didn’t the UOC-KP before. Therefore, we should not be bragging about having the Tomos of autocephaly. It has misled us,” Denisenko says, admitting the obvious fact that receiving the Tomos has not brought the Ukrainian schismatics anywhere closer to the single family of world Orthodoxy.
Obviously, the “honorable patriarch” has uttered nothing new and offered no maxims from the annals of canonic law. What conclusions can one make analyzing similar “revelations” being made by this Ukrainian heresyarch? Are they really signs of him suffering from senile dementia? Hardly so – although old and angry, Filaret is certainly not a fool and is just as perfectly versed in canonical matters as are the most diehard advocates of the Patriarchate of Constantinople.
In a thinly veiled threat, “Metropolitan” Epiphany has already hinted that if Filaret and his supporters persist in their efforts to undermine the autonomy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (a clear reference to the Church Council scheduled by Filaret for June 20) they could expect “…all canonical and legal consequences.”
Assuming that Epiphany is careful not to openly challenge his former benefactor, Filaret realizes that the only canonical backlash he may face will come from the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. To Denisenko all this looks very logical, reasonable and legitimate (something he is trying to get across to those who listen): Epiphany and others like him are duly recognized by Patriarch Bartholomew, and since they were all ordained by Filaret, it means that there was no anathema then, therefore Bartholomew never lifted it and so no one owes anyone anything!
Just how the current bickering by these clowns will end we’ll see very soon. And with a great deal of pleasure too since all this squabbling when schismatics keep dragging beards over autocephaly, accusing each other of being pro-Russian and anti-Ukrainian, this gives the canonical Church of Ukraine a much-needed breather. May God extend Filaret’s days, so that he comes up with something good or says something interesting…
From our partner International Affairs
Pressure on the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro
The Montenegrin Government adopted a draft law on May 16 that included a register of all religious objects, for which they claim that they were formerly owned by the independent kingdom of Montenegro before it become part of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes in 1918. The new law states that religious communities may only retain ownership of their property if they have clear evidence of ownership, triggering accusations from Serbian Orthodox Church that the Government plans to dispute the Church’s property.
”If there is no such evidence, it is a matter of property created and acquired by the state of Montenegro and represents the cultural heritage of all its citizens,” the draft says. Such property will be listed as a cultural treasure, that is, as state property of Montenegro.
On June 8 at the election conference of the Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) in Niksic, Party President Milo Djukanovic said that the Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC) is trying to protect the “big Serbia infrastructure“. Djukanovic also accused the Serbian Orthodox Church, whose members constitute the overwhelming majority of Christians in Montenegro, of hindering the European ambitions of society, and of trying to keep the religious monopoly in the country. Previously, Djukanovic had declared that like Ukraine, Montenego will ask for the autocephaly of the Montenegrin Orthodox Church, which is not recognized.
According to him, in the Balkans, as well as in Montenegro, there is still a difficult struggle between the two policies – one that the DPS and Montenegro lead, which is the Europeanization of this area, and the other that tries to conserve the state of the lagging behind of the Balkans. Although, as he pointed out, they did a lot on the building of Montenegrin identity, there was another important step, which is to “correct the serious injustice” done at the beginning of the 20th century and the abolition of the Montenegrin Orthodox Church. He suggested that he would work devotedly to the reconstruction of the Montenegrin Orthodox Church, whether somebody like it or not, as well as to guarantee a real but not formal freedom of religion.
„We will not formally ensure that people can pray to God but only in those churches that will be monopolized by them, in this case, the Serbian Orthodox Church. No, it’s not the freedom of religion. We will fight for the freedom of religion and the separation of the church from the state. We will not allow contemporary Montenegro to live under the dictation of a religious organization that represents the relic of the past and which can hardly understand that it has long since passed and that Montenegro, like Serbia and all the societies in the Western Balkans, have the right to its own consistent European future, “said Montenegrin president.
Metropolitan Amfilohije of Montenegro and the Littoral (Serbian Orthodox Church) was shocked by the statement of the Montenegrin president.
“I was stunned by what I heard from the President of Montenegro, the man who is the successor of the communist Government and who publicly declare himself as an atheist. On the other hand, he complains that the church should not interfere in politics, and he tries to be the head of the church, to create its own church. This is the first time in history that an atheist creates a church”.
In a previous interview with the news agency TASS, Metropolitan Amfilohije recalled that the project of the so-called “Montenegrin Church” emanated from the communist rule, already in the years 1970-1980. The Metropolitan mentioned that “the Montenegrin Church” is not recognized by anyone, except by the Ukrainian schismatics: “The only one who has recognized this “Church of Montenegro” is [Filaret] Denisenko. Now, they hope that Constantinople will recognize them, but this is absolutely impossible because Dedeic, who is at the head of the so-called Montenegrin Orthodox Church, was a priest of the Patriarchate of Constantinople in Rome, and was laicized because of his crimes. So there can be no such recognition”.
Serbian Orthodox Patriarch Irinej warned Montenegrin President Djukanovic that his actions might lead to a formal curse, or anathema, being declared.
“Let God give him the mind to think what he is doing, and not deserve the anathema of the whole Serbian people and the Serbian Orthodox Church,” Patriarch Irinej told a Church TV station Hram(Temple).
Serbian Orthodox Church is the largest denomination in multi-ethnic Montenegro, but its relations with the pro-Western Government have always been poor. The Government considers Serbian Orthodox Church hostile to the independence of the country, and generally as too pro-Serbian and pro-Russian. The story of the so-called Montenegrin Orthodox Church lasts for almost three decades and has had several development phases. In the first phase, at least officially, its initiators in the first half of the 90s of the 20th century were some separatist political parties and quasi-cultural and scientific organizations. However, when Djukanovic strengthened power in 1997, with the support of the West, it began with the change of the historical identity of Montenegro. Then, in the old capital of Cetinje, the clergy of the Serbian Orthodox Church were attacked. The Serbian Orthodox Church easy overcame that first extreme blow in the late 1990s and early 2000s, because, apart from the old capital of Cetinje, the Serbian Orthodox Church was the most important institution in all other cities in Montenegro. The same situation is today.
In line with that Montenegrin regime now started with another tactic. They realized that in spite of strong pressure, the people in Montenegro did not accept the Montenegrin Orthodox Church. That is why the Montenegrin Government decided to take away the temples from the Serbian Orthodox Church and register them as a state property. After that, Montenegrin Government will make appointments for service in the temples for Serbian and Montenegrin Orthodox Church. And then the ruling party will force their party membership to go to the service, when it serves Montenegrin Orthodox Church.
Western centers of power supported Milo Djukanovic in 1997 and 1999 against Slobodan Milosevic. He was allowed to win the presidential election with various non-democratic methods, and finally in 2006 to make a referendum for separation from Serbia. The referendum was held in a totally irregular atmosphere. Djukanovic is the wildcard of the West who has agreed, to keep Milo Djukanovic in power to change the traditional Serbian/Slavic – Orthodox identity into Montenegrin, Roman Catholic and Western identity. Serbian identity of Montenegro, has already been broken through decades of Yugoslav communist rule which made a strong promotion of Montenegrin nation. As a result, state with a completely new and artificial identity was created.
The only missing link is the Montenegrin church. This is where the global conflict of Roman Catholicism and Orthodoxy is happening. The so-called Montenegrin Orthodox Church openly expresses sympathy for the Catholic Church. If the project of the Government of Montenegro and the West were to pass, Serbian Orthodoxy would be pushed from the Adriatic. That would be the strongest blow to Serbia and Republic of Srpska. It is not pretentious to say that the Serbian people and the Serbian Orthodox Church, the historical nation and institution of Montenegro came to the red line of survival of their identity, beyond which there is no further withdrawal.
From our partner International Affairs
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