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The Struggle of ‘Second’ and ‘Third’ Rome: Is There an Option, Except for a Schism?

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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.

Ambiguous patriarchs

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.

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Patriarch Theophilus to decide whether to concelebrate Liturgy with the new Ukrainian Church hierarchs

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Patriarch Theophilus III of Jerusalem

On the Orthodox Christian feast of Theophany, the 19th of January, President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko will visit Jerusalem. As part of this trip, a meeting with his Holiness Patriarch Theophilus III of Jerusalem is planned.

The Ukrainian leader will be accompanied by several bishops of the newly established Orthodox Church of Ukraine, who are expected to serve with the hierarchs of the Greek Orthodox Church of Jerusalem. At least this scenario is persistently promoted by the Ukrainian side with the support of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, Israeli authorities and American diplomats.

The Orthodox Church of Ukraine was established as the merge of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Kyivan Patriarchate (UOC-KP) and the Ukrainian autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC) at the Unification Council on the 15th of December, 2018, and received a Tomos of autocephaly on the 6th of January this year. Currently, the new Ukrainian religious entity is in communion only with the Ecumenical Patriarchate and is still to be recognized by other Autocephalous Churches.

As a source in the Jerusalem Patriarchate is quoted by the Orthochristian.com website, one of the two former hierarchs of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in unity with the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP) who joined the OCU at the Unification Council, Metropolitan Alexander Drabinko, is among Ukrainian bishops who may concelebrate with Theophilus III.

At the same time, the Patriarchate of Jerusalem has not yet agreed to receive the OCU representatives and concelebrate with them: due to the unresolved status of the OCU, joint prayer with its hierarchs can seriously affect the reputation of Theophilus III. First of all, there is still no official decision by the Holy Synod of the Jerusalem Patriarchate on the new Ukrainian Church. Other Local Orthodox Christian Churches also consider it necessary to investigate the Apostolic succession of the OCU bishops thoroughly first, as well as to find a solution to the problem of the former UOC-KP parishes in the canonical territories of the four Autocephalous Churches.

Although Alexander Drabinko is portrayed as the most preferable representative of the OCU for the hierarchs of the Local Churches to meet with, questionable reputation of this defrocked UOC-MP bishop also plays an important role here.

Will Patriarch Theophilus III agree to take the risks entailed by the concelebration with the OCU hierarchs, including Metropolitan Drabinko? Will the external pressure prevail over the opinion of the hierarchs of the Jerusalem Patriarchate? Now it’s up to His Holiness Theophilus to decide.

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The Evolving Orthodox Triangle Constantinople – Kiev – Moscow

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Churches think in centuries and are not bound to short-term political mandates. On January 5, 2018 the Patriarch of Constantinople implemented his decision to grant independence to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, a move that upset Moscow. To understand the current developments, it is worth looking back at this centuries-long history of fluid relationship between Constantinople, Kiev and Moscow.

Constantinople-Kiev: Christianization

In 882, Oleg of Novgorod moved his capital to Kiev and continued the work of Rurik to unite Slavic tribes, setting the stage for the history of Kievan Rus. The prediction of Saint Andrew was unfolding. It is said that during the first century, when Andrew the Apostle traveled to what is now Kyiv, he climbed onto a hilltop overseeing the Dnepr River. There he planted a cross, prophesizing the future of the great Christian city and the role it would play.

The Slavs were a loose union of tribes, whilst Constantinople was flourishing. In 980, Vladimir the Great ruled in Kiev and endeavored to consolidate and expand further his territories. In 988, he conquered the city of Kherson, in Crimea, where a bishop see had been established since the fourth century. Although accounts vary on the conversion of Vladimir, what is clear is that the Byzantine emperor sent his sister Anna to marry Vladimir, uniting Kiev and Constantinople. When Anna arrived, Vladimir converted to Christianity, restored Kherson to Constantinople, and returned to Kiev with Crimean ecclesiastics. It is undeniable that economic and political reasons influenced his choice to convert as his agenda leaned toward the Christian world.

Although the Byzantine emperor appointed the head of the clergy in Kiev, he faced opposition from the Kievan princes who did not endorse a filiation of churches from Constantinople, nor did they submit to the emperor’s authority to make Kievan Rus a colony of the Byzantine Empire. Relations with the empire were complicated: Constantinople did not mingle directly in Kiev’s internal affairs but would not let the princes interfere in religious matters. In other words, the authority of Constantinople over Kiev was exerted through the clergy, who enjoyed considerable powers in Kievan Rus. As a consequence, the first inclination toward creating an independent church appeared. Yaroslav the Wise proclaimed Hilarion of Kiev the first non-Greek metropolitan in 1049. Nonetheless, Constantinople regained control over the appointment of the head of the church in Kiev. Constantinople never bestowed upon Kiev the right to appoint its own Slavic metropolitan, establishing a red line that would trigger immediate action from Constantinople. For centuries to come, the position would mostly be held by Greeks, who remained outside of internal Kievan politics. As Kiev had grown to be a major economic center, it was in Constantinople’s interest to stay on good terms with its Slavic neighbor, gaining importance on the international scene.

Yaroslav the Wise passed away in 1054, a key date as it is the year of the schism between Rome and Constantinople.

Kiev choses Constantinople over Rome

Opinions on rites and theological elements diverged over time between Rome and Constantinople, in part because of linguistic differences. Latin became dominant in the West while Greek was the language of choice in the East. Because of the status of language as a major cultural vehicle, the use of different languages impacted religious rites. Gradually, Rome imposed the closure of churches following the rites as practiced in Constantinople and Constantinople did the same to churches following the practices of the Western Church. Eventually, the Roman pope Leo IX and Michael Cerularius of Constantinople excommunicated each other in 1054.

Humbert of Silva Candida, the papal legate who delivered the excommunication to Patriarch Michael Cerularius, decided to stop by in Kiev on his way back to Rome from Constantinople. The newly converted Kievan Rus represented an attractive potential ally for Rome, especially given that the young federation of Slavs was expanding in size and importance on the international scene. Since integrating with this new community of Christians would strengthen their hand against Byzantium, Rome’s envoy visited the Grand Prince of Kiev with the aim of convincing him to join Rome. Yet Yazislav, the new Grand Prince of Kiev, refused any allegiance to Rome. The clergy in Kiev would remain on the Orthodox side with Constantinople in the great East-West schism.

But rivalries amongst Slavs were fierce. In 1169, the pious Grand Prince of Vladimir-Suzdal Andrey Bogolyubsky sacked Kiev and took many religious pieces, including a highly revered Byzantine icon of the Mother of God of Odigitriya, one of the holiest in Russian Orthodoxy. He initiated the construction of many churches in Vladimir-Suzdal, near today’s Moscow and converted more Slavic tribes. He is also renowned for having made the first attempt to set up a new eparchy to compete with Kiev. Around the year 1170, he bypassed the Kiev Patriarchate and directly requested of the Patriarch of Constantinople, Luka Khrizovergus, that he established an eparchy in Vladimir. He also asked for the new metropolitan to have the same rank as the one in Kiev. The patriarch declined his request, but the competition with Kiev had begun.

Moscow enters the scene

The Mongol invasion spread quickly from east to west and reached Kiev in 1240. The city was destroyed and almost its entire population was dispersed. Kiev, the beautiful jewel of a city was shattered. Some sixty years after the destruction of Kiev, the city was still not recovering. So, the metropolitan Maksim moved his residence from Kiev further east to Vladimirin 1299. Nonetheless, he kept his title of Metropolitan of Kiev and All Rus. The transfer of the religious center from Kiev was a major move, the consequences of which greatly affected the future of Orthodoxy and lay power as well. At that time, the Mongol dominated the region. The first union of Slavs, the Kievan Rus had disappeared and new states had not formed yet.

In a short span of three decades, major events shaped the face of the new power that emerged in Moscow, the capital of the Grand Duchy of Moscovy.

Under the relative religious tolerance of the Mongols, the church consolidated its power and the metropolitan Piotr moved to Moscow in 1325, giving the sign that the city was one of the leading politico-religious centers.

In the meantime, Constantinople was mired in its own problems and the Eastern Roman Empire was suffering through its last days. As the Vatican was entering the Renaissance era, it was eager to end the 1054 schism, especially to its own advantage. Thus the Catholic pope was well inclined to help Constantinople, which had asked for help and unity in resisting the Ottoman threat. At the Council of Florence in 1439, the Catholic Church and the Patriarch of Constantinople signed an agreement that should have put an end to the schism. At that time, Constantinople was still appointing the Metropolitan of Kiev and All Rus, and it counted on the support of Moscow to endorse the agreement. But reality dictated otherwise as Russia had gained much distance from Constantinople and its issues. The Patriarch of Constantinople died soon afterward, and it was decided that his signature was nonbinding for the Orthodox churches. Only Constantinople still hoped that the union with Rome would save them from the Ottomans. But a decade later, in 1453, Constantinople fell under the control of the Ottomans.

Moscow-based bishops decided to emancipate themselves from Constantinople, which had compromised with the Catholics to save itself, yet was now under Muslim rule. For the first time, Moscow elected its own head of the church, independently from Constantinople. Although the autocephaly of the Russian Orthodox Church was recognized only in 1589, the church became de facto independent in 1448, with Jonah as its first metropolitan. One of his first objectives was to maintain religious unity in territories over which his predecessors had authority. Eventually, in 1458, the canonical territories over which the metropolitan professed corresponded to those over which the Grand Prince of Moscow ruled. This transition was reflected in his title, which changed in 1461 to Metropolitan of Moscow and All Rus. The Russian Church was now an actor of importance that saw itself as the guardian of Orthodoxy, the Third Rome.

The new Autocephalous Church asserts itself

The remaining element was the recognition of autocephaly by Constantinople. Without the approval of its peers, the self-proclaimed autocephaly has no validity in the Orthodox world.

The Ottomans imposed heavy tributes on patriarchates that fell under their territorial control. Economically weakened, the patriarchates lost considerable weight, especially Antioch, which had been weakened and forced into exile several times due to centuries under the dominion of Arabs and crusaders. In 1586–1587, the patriarch of Antioch, Joachim V, engaged in a journey to collect donations from other Orthodox churches. In Moscow, the future tsar Boris Godunov offered his support and seized this political moment to stir ambitions of an official autocephaly. Two years later, the patriarch of Constantinople, Jeremias II, traveled to Moscow with the same objective of collecting money. During his stay, he would have discussed with Boris Godunov the possibility of remaining the Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch but being based in Russia. Finally, after lengthy negotiations, Jeremias II decided to give autocephaly to the Russian Orthodox Church and returned home. The recognition was made official in 1589 with the concurrence of the other three original patriarchates of Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem.

In 1589, the Russian Orthodox Church for the first time had a patriarch at its head, Job of Moscow. There were now five patriarchs: Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem, and Moscow. And the tsar was the guardian of Orthodoxy.

Kiev, the Tsarist Empire and the church

Peter the Great launched many reforms to modernize Russia, following European model. He replaced the patriarchate with a committee termed the Holy Synod, placing a bureaucrat, the Chief Procurator, as its de facto head and the tsar’s eyes and ears in the church. With authority over religious matters and control over the appointment of bishops, Peter succeeded in relegating the church to the status of a ministry or state department, with clerics placed in charge of spiritual matters.

Catherine the Great continued the policies of Peter the Great. She entertained the Austro-Russian idea of dissolving the Ottoman Empire. As part of this scheme, she nurtured plans to embark on a “Greek Project”: re-establishing a Greek Byzantine empire to replace the Muslim Ottoman Empire, which had gained ground in continental Europe. For instance, she supported the Daskalogiannis Rebellion in Crete in 1770, in which Cretans rose up against the Turks. In reality, she was rather indifferent to religion: she embraced the project, promoted by Prince Potemkin, for geopolitical rather than religious reasons. Yet it did not materialize, and no alliance with Austria came into being. In 1783, Catherine decided to annex Crimea, putting an end to the revolts occurring there and, most importantly, pushing the Ottoman Empire back across the Black Sea. Crimea became a Russian province and part of Novorossiya or “New Russia” in 1784.

Religion politics in Russo-Turkish Wars

Eventually, tensions between the Russian and Ottoman empires had reached a climax, and war broke out in 1787. The conflict lasted for five years but was decided to Russia’s advantage. Russia was therefore able to consolidate its positions around the Black Sea but never captured Constantinople, the gateway to the Mediterranean’s warm waters and an Achilles heel for Moscow to this day. Even though the Treaty of Jassy, signed at the end of the war on January 9, 1792, recognized the Russian territorial gains, relations with the Ottoman Empire remained tense. Russian expansion benefited from momentum on the world scene shaken by the French and American revolutions. Consequently, nobody really reacted to Russian expansion until the situation in France had stabilized. But Napoleon reaction was short-lived.

Alexander’s victory over Napoleon gave him a new sense of divine mission, and by 1814, the tsar had grown more religious and prone to messianism. His religious awakening triggered his initiation of the Holy Alliance between Prussia, Austria, and Russia. Signed in Paris in 1815, this alliance aimed to promote Christianity but was also a reaction to the Napoleonic Wars. The Great Powers wanted to ensure a balance of power in Europe and avoid revolutions. During the two hectic decades that followed, the Catholic Church remained strong and Napoleon III pursued a pro-Catholic agenda, as proven by his 1849 expedition to restore the pope. He posed as the champion of Catholicism in Europe, which in part explained his decision to engage in the Crimean War against Russia.

With its territorial gains and advances well into the Black Sea region, Russia represented a growing threat for the Ottoman Empire and its French and British allies. Paris, together with London, backed the Ottoman Empire, whose western territories in the Balkans saw many uprisings, such as those of the Orthodox Serbs and Orthodox Greeks.

The trigger of the Crimean War of 1853–1856 was religious, but the roots were indisputably linked to the fear of Russia’s growing influence in the weakened Ottoman Empire. At the beginning, quarrels between Catholic and Orthodox monks arose in Palestine about their prerogatives. As the matter had reached serious levels, Tsar Nicholas I intervened and asked the Sultan to recognize the right of Russia to protect the Christians of the Ottoman Empire according to the Treaty of Küçük Kaynarca, signed after the war of 1774. This right gave the Russian Orthodox Church further predominance over the Patriarchate of Constantinople. The document also gave Russia access through the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles. This privilege was certainly not pleasing to France or England.

Catholic France declared that it wanted to have authority over the Eastern Christians, a decision contradicting a previous agreement that gave Russia the right to protect Christians. The French Catholic Emperor Napoleon III promised support to the Sultan if he were to resist this Russian “aggression.” Stung by the humiliating conditions of the treaty following the Ottoman defeat, the Sultan agreed. Consequently, a new war erupted between the Ottoman Empire and Russia. As promised, France, joined by England, intervened in support of the Sultan to preserve the territorial integrity of his empire.

The protection of holy places and Christians became the source of an international war with several fronts around the Black Sea, including in the Caucasus. The war was eventually lost by Russia, which was then forced to hand over several territories around the Black Sea. As a result, France gained influence in the Holy Lands.

Moscow – Constantinople Competition

World War 1 put an end to both Russian and Ottoman empires. Under the Soviet, religion was undermined, priests were killed and churches destroyed. So, the Russian church found itself in a state of confusion when the Soviet government collapsed. The church was divided and weak. During the final years of the twentieth century, the ROC stabilized and consolidated its power over its canonical territory thanks to the support of the Russian authorities. It also reasserted its stance within the Orthodox Church worldwide. By far the largest in terms of parishioners and with growing wealth, the Russian Orthodox Church overshadowed the patriarch of Constantinople.

The later did not enjoy much freedom under the new Turkish rule. In addition, it had lost jurisdiction in the Balkans in the nineteenth century. Turkish authorities imposed that the Patriarch should be a Turkish citizen, usually of Greek origin, and such candidates are rare. All in all, the Patriarch of Constantinople has been in an increasing difficult position for centuries, and Moscow has proved to be a strong challenger. In 2016, the ROC asked to convene the Pan-Orthodox Council in Crete and not in Istanbul as Turkish authorities had downed a Russian jetfighter deployed for operations in Syria. Based on this security argument, the Council agreed to change location. Nonetheless, local Orthodox churches, namely the Bulgarian Church, the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch, and the Serbian and Georgian Orthodox churches refused to participate because of disagreements over the agenda. The ROC suggested solving those issues to guarantee full attendance, even if it meant postponing the Council. Eventually, the disputes were not resolved and the ROC decided to cancel its participation. By so doing, the ROC expressed a defiant message about the role and authority of the Constantinople Patriarchate. Tensions never resolved and the situation in Ukraine added insult to injury in the relation between Constantinople and Moscow.

Moscow – Kiev: rivals once more

Since the mid seventeenth century, Kiev remained largely under the rule of the Tsar and then Soviet Moscow. Ties binding Ukraine and Russia were strong especially in the field of alimentation, industry and energy.

After the end of the Soviet Union, the Western European World and Russia have tried to attract Kyiv into their respective spheres of influence, a game from which Kiyv benefitted. In 2014, the tables turned drastically with the Euromaidan revolution that toppled President Yanukovych.  Incapable of averting Ukraine’s choice of the EU, Moscow was concerned that Ukraine might ally with NATO. Russian authorities treated the situation as a security matter and actively supported the separation of the autonomous region of Crimea and its attachment/annexation to Russia. The situation spiraled out of control and a kinetic conflict erupted in the Donbas, leading to serious readjustments in international affairs.

Against the backdrop of the complex international relations prevailing in the early twenty-first century, interests of the Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian state have overlapped in Ukraine. The question of religion and allegiance to the Kyiv or Moscow patriarchate has become a matter of identity and call for resistance among some Ukrainians against Russia in 2014. This unfortunate confusion resulted in intra-Orthodox confrontation with the killing of orthodox priests and the destruction of orthodox churches. In a vicious circle, religious and political differences fueled each other.

Many critics have interpreted the positions of the Russian church and the Russian authorities as two sides of the same coin. Consequently, the Russian church became synonymous with Russian interference in Ukraine, and as such the separation as we see it unfolding was almost a fait accompli.

The creation of an autocephalous Ukrainian Orthodox Church is another turn in this fluid relationship between the three historic cities of Constantinople, Kyiv and Moscow. And it is hardly to be the last move…

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Rabbi Arthur Schneier and anti-Semitism

Giancarlo Elia Valori

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Prof. Giancarlo Elia Valori and Rabbi Arthur Schneier

A few days ago, Rabbi Arthur Schneier -the Vienna-born Holocaust survivor, who has been leaving and operating for many years in New York -gave the keynote address to the Austrian Parliament on the 80th Anniversary of Kristallnacht, the terrible “Night of Broken Glass” when the shards of broken glass littered the streets after the windows of Jewish-owned stores, buildings and synagogues were smashed.

It is also referred to as Reichs pogrom and November pogrome, two terms that always use the word “pogrom” (meaning “devastation” or “riot” in Russian) to indicate the attack of small well-manipulated groups against Jews and their property.

Many pogroms were carried out in Russia, a country of ancient and profound anti-Semitism.

What are its roots? The traditional anti-Semitism of the Orthodox Church, as well as the easy manipulation of the apparata, and the obsession with identity, spurred on by the Tsarist regime.

The Nazis, in particular, imitated this terrible political practice, as early as the Kristallnacht of November 1938, to actually start the Jews’ physical elimination until the “Final Solution”, which began in 1940-1941.

During that night over 1,400 synagogues were destroyed and 1,500 people were killed in Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia.

At that time, as many as 30,000 Jews were deported to the concentration camps of Dachau, Buchenwald and Sachsenhausen.

Before the Kristallnacht, in 1933 there had been a call – or, indeed, an obligation -for a boycott of Jewish shops, businesses and professionals and later, in 1935, the Nuremberg Laws were promulgated.

Rabbi Schneier thought that, after the Holocaust, there would be no resurgence of anti-Semitism – a virus that has characterized modern history from late antiquity until today.

As a Kantian rationalist, Rabbi Schneier thought that – after the evidence of facts – there would be no persecution against Jews in the bright enlightened future of the twentieth century.

Instead monsters remain alive, after visible history putting them temporarily to rest.

But, as Rabbi Schneier said, now – in 2018 – the cancer of anti-Semitism is back and has metastasized in Europe and in the United States.

Ii should be recalled that anti-Semitism has always been present in North America.

Suffice it to recall Leo Frank’s affair of 1915. That American Jewish citizen was at first sentenced to death, but later his sentence was commuted from capital punishment to life imprisonment. Two years later, in response to the commutation of his sentence, he was taken from prison by a band of vigilantes, lynched by an angry mob and hanged from a tree. Today the consensus of researchers on the subject holds that Frank was wrongly convicted.

In 1958, even after the Shoah and the Nazi atrocities against the Jews becoming publicly known, the oldest synagogue in Atlanta was blown up and damaged extensively by a dynamite-fuelled explosion.

Myths and preconceived ideas, especially those based on hatred, do not need confirmation or denial. They exist and that is just the way it is.

Two years later, there was also the shooting attack by a “white supremacist” against a synagogue in St. Louis, with the killing of some Jews leaving that place of worship.

Alan Berg, an anti-racist intellectual, was killed in 1984, because in some of his radio talk shows he had defended black people and Jews.

There is no rational argument that can defeat anti-Semitism, racism, ethnic or even personal hatred.

Over seven major cases of violent anti-Semitism were reported in in the USA between 1990 and 2010, but there were countless actions on a smaller scale.

Anti-Semitism is still alive and is even increasing in terms of quantity and virulence. Just think of the attack against the Pittsburgh synagogue last October.

As Rabbi Schneier maintains, certainly the periods of social, cultural and economic turbulence are always fatal for the Jews – as the whole Western history demonstrates. Hence, unfortunately, with the crisis of Europe and the different, but concurrent crisis of the USA, the increase in anti-Semitism is predictable.

Shortly after the end of the Holocaust, Hanna Arendt rejected the theory of anti-Semitism as the development of the Jewish “scapegoat” theory and she often elaborated on the Rathenau case. Rathenau was the great Jewish industrialist and diplomat, who was Foreign Minister in Germany’s Weimar Republic and was murdered by right-wing extremists.

Elias Canetti reminded us that the idea for his extraordinary “Crowds and Power” sprang to his mind while seeing the many Social-Democratic workers following Rathenau’s coffin during the mourning service.

What is the essence of Arendt’s thesis on the Foreign Minister of Germany’s Weimar Republic?

The essence is that – by traditional position and role – the Jews were the “avant-garde of modernity” – hence all those who hate the values of Modernity are, ipso facto, anti-Semitic.

It is partly true, but Arendt forgets to say that anti-Semitism is widespread even in ancient societies (or in archaic societies, such as the Tsarist Russia of pogroms) and that many critics of the eighteenth-century revolutions are far from being anti-Semitic.

As noted by both Leo Strauss and the Marxist philosopher Lukacs, the modern world is also the symbolic and social organization that has been most opposed during its development, which has probably not ended yet.

The West of technology and of the calculating mind is not yet over, but its death depends on its excess of current and probably future anti-Semitism, which is incredible after the Shoah.

That is an excess of memory of its archaic and anti-modern past, even though modernity itself was somehow anti-Semitic.

Here Rabbi Schneieris very clear: the future of Europe is directly linked to the end of anti-Semitism and of today’s particular hatred against the Jews, i.e. that of anti-Zionism.

The future of Europe, but not only of the European Jews or of the complex world of North American Judaism.

We can certainly criticize Israel and its government – as we can   disagree with the government of Turkey or Finland – but it is certainly nothing new that the polemic against the Jewish State is linked more to the adjective “Jewish” than to the noun “State”.

In the crowds’ minds, the history of Israel is now linked to the assumption – completely ungrounded – that it took away from the Palestinians the lands that originally belonged to them.

Zionism was linked – quite rationally – to the reaction of the French people to the Dreyfus trial that divided French society between those who supported Dreyfus, the so-called “Dreyfusards”, and those who condemned him, namely the “anti-Dreyfusards”. That year also marked the beginning of the unfortunate caste of intellectuals, that is fortunately irrelevant today.

In Theodor Herzl’s mind, the end of the rational and civil relationship between Europe and the Jewish world was evident.

Everything could collapse in an instant for European Judaism. The combined forces of the reaction to 1789 and of the worst 1789 had come together.

Living without history and in the here and now – like the animals described by Nietzsche in his second essay of the Untimely Meditations- is currently the form and the way in which the West thinks of itself. The history of our civilization seems to have finished and, hence, it is no longer necessary to know history, which is the basis of endless manipulations that today still float in the crowds’ minds. This is the worst forgetfulness and neglect of ourselves.

Furthermore, Rabbi Schneier focuses his attention on a fact that few people – who are not tunnel-visioned and narrow-minded as a result of apolitically correct approach or mere interest in the number of votes gained in elections – currently consider: immigration, especially from the Middle East or Africa, where there is a strong presence of Islam, will certainly increase the insecurity of European Jews and, in many respects, of all EU citizens.

In the European and American liberal culture, integration implies acceptance of the other and the kind request that the other adapts to our laws, regulations, customs, habits and practices.

However, there are not only explicit and written rules, at least for us who are the heirs of Roman law.

Hence the other needs to accept the substratum of our civilization, which is not only the trite, idle, frivolous and enlightened “tolerance” – the mechanism in which, as Adorno and Horkheimer maintained, everything is false.

Something more profound is here needed, which can never be written and regulated.

Politics is a metaphysics where the unspeakable is what matters and shapes all the rest.

Obviously this also applies to the citizens of the host countries, who must understand the alterity of the other, in the profound meaning of this concept, and hence respect him / her in his / her becoming other – just to use philosophical jargon.

Hence, although a share of immigrants is – to some extents – inevitable and, however, this has already materialized, we should recall that anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism are not the enemies of Jews alone, but of our civilization as a whole.

This held true also for Nazism: it was in fact a political theory – but we should rather say a mere practice – linked to caste ideas typical of Asia where, indeed, the Third Reich also found military, economic and ideological support.

From Tibet to Indian Hinduism, from the Islamic sects of Central Asia to the peripheral Russian cultures of anti-Semitism, such as the Cossacks, while developing the aforementioned myths, Nazism aimed at the annihilation of Europe and hence at its “Asianization”.

Hence Nazi anti-Semitism as a struggle against Europe and its millennia-old civilizations, not less ancient than Asia’s.

Also the economy should be considered: as demonstrated by the most recent historians studying the Third Reich, the Nazi leaders thought to solve their economic and financial crisis with the “Jewish gold”.

Still today, whoever fights against anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism is like one of the 300 Spartans holding the line in Thermopylae, who rescued the unique Greek knowledge and wisdom from a great Asian Empire that would have equated the maritime civilization of the Mediterranean to the steppes of the Persian Empire, without any culture other than the exaltation of the God-Emperor – or the sad repetition of the “ancients”.

An imperial wisdom that was also typical of the Roman Empire, but with the plurality of gods that already foreshadowed the Weberian “polytheism of values”.

Certainly, as Rabbi Schneier maintained, European leaders are very careful about the resurgence of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism, but the issue does not lie in leaders, but rather in crowds, who seem to be ever more seduced by hatred, which is more complex than love but – like the devil -is a very powerful seducer.

But what is really anti-Semitism today?

A mass phenomenon, of course. And this is worrying because preconceived ideas are harder to eradicate than rational beliefs.

In the United States currently the Jews account for 5.5%.

Needless to say, it is not a race, but a set of different ethnic groups, united by the same creed.

Furthermore, between 11% and 20% of North American Jews are “coloured people” – hence not only blacks.

The Jews, however, live in 70% of current nations, ranging from the Jewish communities of Kaifeng in China to the Indian Jews of various Middle East origins, up to the Jewish majority areas in various parts of Latin America.

Nor should we accept the anti-Semitic myth whereby Jews are the “rich” who dominate the world.

According to the most reliable statistics, currently over 50% of the richest people in the world are of Christian faith, while there is a higher number of rich Hindus and Muslims than Jews.

The 2015 data shows that out of the 13.1 million people defined as “rich” globally, 56.2% are Christians, 6.5% Muslims, 3.9% Hindus and 1.7% Jews.

Certainly pathological thinking – a real mental illness, which currently defines anti-Semitism as a “conspiracy theory” – could maintain that this data is “rigged”.

This is not true. Indeed, it is real data taken from the tax returns of the countries recording significant GDP rates in the world.

In the United States, however, Jews are the ethnic-religious group that earns higher wages than any other similar group.

And there are still many poor people – poor like the Jews who arrived in New York two or three generations ago.

Currently 45% of New York’s Jewish children live just below the poverty line, while in the United States the poor Jews account for 26.4% as against an absolute average of 30.8%.

Between 1991 and 2011 the number of poor Jews in the United States increased by 22%.

Hence, as we already knew, the myth of the rich Jews who secretly organize economic crises or the spoliation and dispossession of the goyim peoples is completely unfounded.

But where did anti-Semitism historically originate? Probably in Europe and, above all, in the area of popular Christianity.

There is no difference here between Protestant and Catholic anti-Jewish hatred.

In his treatise On the Jews and Their Lies Luther used terminology and arguments that seemed to be copied from one of Goebbels’ leaflets.

Probably everything began formally with the Spanish laws on limpieza de sangre(blood purity) in the seventieth century and beyond, also after the great pogrom of the Reconquista, which occurred at the same time as the discovery of America.

At that time the Jews escaped –  along with the Muslims – from the “purified” Spain of Isabella of Castile heading to the East, especially to the Ottoman Empire.

The sultan of the time wrote an ironic letter to the Spanish Catholic Kings: “I thank you for bringing me here all these doctors, merchants, scholars and mathematicians, whom I needed”.

Furthermore, in addition to the specific Catholic anti-Semitism –  from which the Pope, St. Paul VI, but above all another Pope, St. John Paul II, definitively freed us – there was a secularist anti-Semitism linked to the scientist, positivist and rationalist ideologies developed as from the French Revolution of 1789.

A revolution which soon led to a resurgence of irrationalist and antiscientific attitudes: just think of Gracchus Babeuf’s Arcadian refusal of technology and factory work and his “Conspiracy of the Equals” or o fRobespierrism, when Lavoisier, the founder of modern chemistry, was guillotined by the revolutionaries under the slogan: “The Republic has no need of scientists or chemists; the course of justice cannot be delayed!”

Here other myths – apparently more “rational” – are already at work.

Darwinian racism, eugenics, the American anti-Communism – where Communism is basically the practice of fraternal help – as well as phrenology or physical anthropology.

This was the “scientific” basis of Hitler’s anti-Semitism and, from the beginning, the “Führer” was a loyal subscriber to the publications of New York’s “Observatory on Race and Eugenics”, which also set the yearly quotas of immigrants accepted by the US government.

Certainly confining the Jews to ghettos is also an excellent practice to eliminate dangerous competitors in trade, business or professions.

This is just what happened in Italy after the racial laws of 1938.

When the West thrived, Jews’ freedom was revived. Just think of the Florentine Republic of the Medici, as well as the Renaissance, the Italian Risorgimento, in which many Jews participated, and finally the German unification.

It should also be noted that, before the Western colonization, the Jews of the Middle East lived without particular restrictions or threats.

However, the number of the sporadic anti-Jewish actions were more or less the same as in Europe.

It is therefore appropriate to say that it was precisely the European anti-Semitism, imported into the French or British colonies, to stimulate the latent and silent anti-Semitism of the local population.

Currently, throughout the Middle East, the avowed anti-Semitism account for 98% on average.

A major cultural and political problem.

In fact, if a powerful Islamic militant group like Hamas, that is currently considered “terrorist” by both the EU and the USA – a group which is also an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood -states in its founding Charter it believes in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, this means that there is a problem of communication between the worst Europe and the most fanatical Middle East, which concerns both us and the Islamists of the Gaza Strip.

The “Protocols” are, in fact, a key example of the new and old anti-Semitism.

From 1880 to 1921, the anti-Semitic pressure in Russia was one of the major mechanisms that favoured the Jewish migration to the United States.

Moreover, the early twentieth century was a phase of extreme weakness for the Russian tsarist system, that the anti-Semitic myth greatly contributed to blocking and stabilizing, until the German operation that favoured the peace treaty of Brest-Litovsk and hence Germany’s initial support for Bolshevik Russia.

On the one hand, the tsarist regime accused the Jews of plotting against the Russian Empire, on the other, the Jews were accused not only of the severe economic crisis, but also of the anti-tsarist propaganda, both the revolutionary and the bourgeois and pro-Western one.

Hence the anti-Semitic and the anti-Zionist propaganda are closely interwoven. They develop the same traditional style features and turn them into new slogans. They create the same mechanism of fallacious identity inside and of exclusion outside for Jews and Zionists, but today they are targeted above all against the policies of the State of Israel that we must defend.

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