24 December 2022: Important events in Cyprus, Ukraine & Moscow
On December 24, the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church of Cyprus met and elected Metropolitan Georgios of Paphos as the new Archbishop of Nea Justiniana and All Cyprus. https://churchofcyprus.org.cy/83964 According to the official announcement, ”eleven hierarchs voted for Georgios of Paphos, four for the Metropolitan of Limassol, while there was also one blank ballot.” The announcement stated that the enthronement date will be set later. Although the election had originally been expected to occur sometime between Christmas and New Year’s Day, the Synod had met on December 22 and decided to hold the election on Christmas Eve – an indication that the individual bishops did not need much additional time to make their individual decisions.
Prior to the election, Metropolitan Georgios had stated eleven points as his vision for the Church of Cyprus. https://www.impaphou.org/news_article/615.aspx All of these points relate to domestic matters within Cyprus, and none of them relate to international matters. However, the Russian news agency RIA-Novosti reported the election of Georgios with the following headline: “The Metropolitan, who supported the OCU, became the head of the Cypriot Orthodox Church.” https://ria.ru/20221224/georgiy-1841058627.html
On December 22, Metropolitan Nikiforos of Kykkos had appealed to the clergy and the faithful to vote for Metropolitan Athanasios of Limassol. https://spzh.news/en/news/70279-isaiah-of-tamassos-confessor-metropolitan-athanasius-should-be-the-primate He noted that Athanasios had received 36% of the vote in the earlier election by the faithful and that this is “a clear and complete signal that the people are in favor of electing Metropolitan Athanasios as the new archbishop of Cyprus.” Previously, Nikiforos had stated his support for Metropolitan Isaias of Tamasos. Now, after the December 24 election, Metropolitan Isaias, who was one of the three finalists, has given a very interesting interview. https://www.alphanews.live/cyprus/tamasoy-isaias-giorti-gia-tin-ekklisia-kai-tin-kypro-i-eklogi-toy-arhiepiskopoy He indicated that he is very happy with the election of Georgios and voted for him. He stated: “As you understand, we who represent 65% have given our confidence to the elected Archbishop. We gave him a strong mandate to start his work with love, solidarity and cooperation.” Thus, he makes the argument that those hierarchs who received 65% of the vote of the faithful supported Georgios, while only 35% of the faithful supported Athanasios. Thus, all of the six candidates, except for Athanasios, on the ballot used by the faithful, voted in the end for Georgios. So far, I have not seen a post-election statement by Metropolitan Athanasios. http://www.imlemesou.org/ (his website)
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew called Metropolitan Georgios at noon on December 24 with “warm congratulatory wishes.” https://ec-patr.org/%cf%84%ce%b7%ce%bb%ce%b5%cf%86%cf%89%ce%bd%ce%b9%ce%ba%ce%ae-%ce%b5%cf%80%ce%b9%ce%ba%ce%bf%ce%b9%ce%bd%cf%89%ce%bd%ce%af%ce%b1-%cf%84%ce%bf%cf%85-%ce%bf%ce%b9%ce%ba%ce%bf%cf%85%ce%bc%ce%b5%ce%bd-9/?fbclid=IwAR0Tpc_uq2nj_UmTZIBsuSUVlM1mSvOSYGDAAMqZZFiiSRumFYO3wvb9TZA According to the communique, “the two Primates agreed to strengthen the cooperation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Church of Cyprus, particularly on issues of Orthodox and inter-Christian interest.”
On December 16 the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine appointed Viktor Yelensky as Head of the State Service of Ukraine for Ethnopolitics and Freedom of Conscience (“State Service”). https://www.kmu.gov.ua/npas/pro-pryznachennia-ielenskoho-v-ie-holovoiu-derzhavnoi-sluzhby-ukrainy-z-etnopolityky-ta-svobody-t161222 His appointment fills the vacancy resulting from the discharge of Olena Bogdan by the Cabinet on December 6. https://www.kmu.gov.ua/npas/pro-zvilnennia-bohdan-o-v-z-posady-holovy-derzhavnoi-sluzhby-ukrainy-z-etnopolityky-ta-svobody-sovisti-1092-061222 An English biography of Yelensky can be read at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Viktor_Yelensky . A detailed analysis of his background is found at https://glavcom.ua/country/politics/ministr-relihij-khto-takij-viktor-jelenskij-i-chomu-joho-tak-bojatsja-u-moskovskij-tserkvi-896476.html . With respect to the appointment of Yelensky, certain pro-UOC websites have sounded the alarm. For example, it is stated at https://raskolam.net/ru/61560-zelenskij-i-lavrski-pisni-pro-golovne : “This character has long been known to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church for his systematic aggression against her. And there is no doubt that the attitude of Zelensky and the state apparatus towards the UOC will change for the worse.” It is stated at https://spzh.news/en/news/70189-media-cabinet-appoints-an-active-enemy-of-uoc-head-of-state-ethnic-policy : “Yelensky is a well-known enemy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, “the father of the law on 'transfers' of communities,” and also one of the authors of anti-church laws adopted by Poroshenko’s government.” Yelensky definitely has a different perspective on the current church crisis in Ukraine than Bogdan, and this gives further support, in my opinion, to the belief that Bogdan was discharged for her views, especially as expressed in her interview on November 25.
The National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine in its decision of December 1 directed the State Service to conduct within two months in accordance with the Ukrainian law on freedom of conscience and religious organizations “a religious examination of the Charter on the administration of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church for the presence of a church-canonical connection with the Moscow Patriarchate, if necessary, to take measures provided for by law.” https://risu.ua/en/nsdc-an-expert-examination-of-the-charter-of-the-uoc-mp-will-be-conducted-and-the-legality-of-using-the-kyiv-pechersk-lavra-will-be-checked_n134538 (Dec. 1 decision in English). This examination will be one of Yelensky’s first assignments. Prior to accepting the new position, Yelensky gave a major interview. https://lb.ua/news/2022/12/23/540088_viktor_ielenskiy_strukturi.html In the interview, Yelensky acknowledged that the state cannot ban the UOC, in part because it is not a legal entity. He was then asked how this could be reconciled with the request that there be no structures of the Moscow Church in Ukraine. He answered:
This resolution largely depends on the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which announced in May that it was removing all references to the Moscow Patriarchate from its charter. But we have seen that in fact the connection with the Russian Church has not been interrupted. All the signs that the church which separates from that church should have [such as declaring autocephaly and sending letters to the primates of the Local Orthodox Churches] are missing. I think that the clergy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which removed the mention of the Moscow Patriarchate from its charter, but remains part of the Russian Church – and refers to the October 1990 letter of the deceased Patriarch Alexy II – understands this. But it cannot or does not want to break this connection, because it fears that it will find itself in the situation in which the Kyiv Patriarchate was from 1992 to 2018, that is, in a state of uncertainty….. But the situation in which the UOC MP may find itself is radically different from the one that existed with the Kyiv Patriarchate, at least because it can enter into a dialogue with the Orthodox Church of Ukraine - with the church that has the 15th place in the diptychs… and talk about possible models of its acquisition of canonical status. There are actually quite a few such models.
In the Russian media, a great amount of attention has been directed to the searches and others actions in Ukraine directed against the UOC. Perhaps the Moscow Patriarchate hopes that if it becomes the champion of the UOC in the “persecution” now being directed against it, it will win back the hearts of the UOC faithful who have been so alienated by the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the resulting destruction and suffering.
On December 22, Patriarch Kirill gave a major address at the annual meeting of clergy of the City of Moscow. http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/5985883.html It included a discussion of Ukraine. For example, the Patriarch stated:
Reflecting on the circumstances from which this conflict began, we can, among other things, notice in them an undeniable religious dimension: an irrational hatred of peoples professing Orthodoxy. And if we now turn our mind's eye to the past, then one cannot help but ask the question: isn't this hatred also the reason why the entire might of the Western military machine fell upon Yugoslavia in 1999? Isn't it the reason why, through economic or political blackmail, with the help of so-called color revolutions, a wedge is consistently driven between countries whose peoples are bearers of Orthodoxy? The manifestation of this hatred was the consistent persecution of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, the nurturing of schisms by the state authorities of Ukraine, later, unfortunately, supported by the Primates of some Local Churches, who carried out the will of international curators. The source of the internecine war in Ukraine was the evil will of people hostile to the Cross of Christ, Christian freedom, the common heritage of the Dnieper font. The evil will of people who for years and even decades have nurtured divisions, enmity and hatred in the united Orthodox people of Holy Rus' divided by political borders. How much hatred spilled out at this time on Internet pages, in the media, even in communication between relatives!
The Patriarch also cautioned the Moscow clergy: I ask you all in your public statements and assessments of what is happening now in Ukraine, as well as in your correspondence and conversations with the clergy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, not to go beyond the boundaries of what the Holy Synod has determined. So that someone’s imprudent and self-confident words do not further damage the unity of our Church, do not inflict new wounds on those who are already in pain, do not aggravate the suffering of our brothers and sisters in Christ. God willing, peace will come, the possibility of unhindered communion and free conciliar discussion will return, then the fullness of the Church will judge how and what happened in the difficult times we are going through, and how it is appropriate for archpastors to continue to act so that the word of Christ's truth may rule.
Again, my Christmas greetings to all who are celebrating Christmas on December 25!
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
21 December 2022: Who will the Cypriot bishops choose next week?
On Sunday, December 18, Orthodox Christian Cypriots, age 18 years and older, went to the polls to designate their favorite candidate to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Archbishop Chrysostomos II, primate of the Orthodox Church of Cyprus. There were six bishops who had declared their candidacy and who were on the ballot. The percent of eligible voters who actually went to the 942 polling stations on Sunday was a disappointing 30.2% (165,688 out of 548,793 eligible voters). Under the Church’s charter, the three candidates who receive the most votes in this election by the faithful become the finalists from which the Synod of Bishops (consisting of 16 bishops) select the new primate. The following article gives the final results of the election including the votes and voter turnout in each of the dioceses. https://cyprustimes.com/koinonia/oi-archiepiskopikes-ekloges-se-arithmous-me-ton-kalytero-kai-pio-adiavlito-tropo/ The three bishops who received the most votes are as follows:
Metropolitan Athanasios of Limassol (age 63) -- 35.68%
Metropolitan Georgios of Paphos (age 73) -- 18.39%
Metropolitan Isaias of Tamasos (age 51) --18.10%
Metropolitan Athanasios had been the leader in all of the opinion polls prior to the election, so it comes as no surprise that he received the most votes in Sunday's election. However, he did not receive an overall majority and only received over 50% in his own diocese. The support of Georgios had increased during the weeks prior to the election. This may be due in part to the fact that as the most senior member of the Holy Synod, he made the official announcements on behalf of the Church, and his media exposure was increased.
After the election, Metropolitan Athanasios stressed that the verdict of the people must be respected by the bishops. He stated: “If the opinion of the people is still not taken into account, no one will go to the next election, because there will be no reason.” https://www.orthodoxianewsagency.gr/aytokefales_ekklisies/ekklisia_kiprou/%ce%b9-%ce%bc-%ce%bb%ce%b5%ce%bc%ce%b5%cf%83%ce%bf%cf%8d/o-mitropolitis-lemesou-gia-to-apotelesma-ton-arxiepiskopikon-eklogon-vinteo/ However, it should be noted that the election clearly had a decisive effect on the three bishops who were eliminated as a result of the election. Not surprisingly, Georgios viewed the election results differently than Athanasios. Georgios stated that “there is no first or second, as the criteria of the people and the hierarchs are different.” https://www.orthodoxianewsagency.gr/aytokefales_ekklisies/ekklisia_kiprou/%ce%b9-%ce%bc-%cf%80%ce%ac%cf%86%ce%bf%cf%85/mitropolitis-pafou-o-laos-apofasizei-me-diaforetika-kritiria-apo-tous-ierarxes/
The last election for a new primate of the Church of Cyprus occurred in 2006. It proved that the person who wins the popular vote may not emerge as the new archbishop. In 2006 the Church’s charter provided for a very complex three stage procedure for electing a new archbishop. This procedure is described at https://www.capital.gr/epikairotita/160339/arxizei-stis-24-9-i-diadikasia-eklogis-neou-arxiepiskopou-stin-kupro . In the first stage, the faithful voted to select a total of 1400 “special representatives.” At the second stage, the 1400 special representatives selected 100 “general representatives.” The 100 general representatives then cast their ballots for the next primate at an “electoral assembly.” Also voting at the electoral assembly was a group of 31 consisting of members of the Holy Synod and certain clergy and monastery heads. To be elected primate, it was necessary to obtain a majority from the general representatives and also a separate majority from the group of 31. When the general representatives voted at the electoral assembly, they voted as follows: Bishop Nikiforos of Kykkos – 46 votes; Metropolitan Athanasios of Limassol – 45 votes; and Metropolitan Chrysostomos of Paphos – 9 votes. Yet, through an amazing series of events, described at https://www.tovima.gr/2008/11/25/archive/to-eklogiko-thayma-toy-k-xrysostomoy/ , Chrysostomos of Paphos was elected the new primate.
It is expected that the Synod of Bishops will convene between Christmas and New Year’s Day to select the new primate. Not surprisingly, there are already predictions as to how each member of the Synod will vote. I found the most detailed analyses at https://cyprus-mail.com/2022/12/19/speculation-takes-off-over-who-will-be-next-archbishop/ and https://www.alphanews.live/editorial/arhiepiskopikes-ti-tha-ginei-stin-iera-synodo. There remain many question marks. However, it appears that Isaias has little likelihood of success and that the contest will be between Athanasios and Georgios, with Georgios holding the advantage.
Metropolitan Athanasios, who was born in Limassol in 1959, is very much a product of Mt. Athos. In 1980 he entered Nea Skiti, a skete under the Agiou Pavlou Monastery. In 1982 he was granted the Great Schema (the highest level of asceticism allowed to those with great spirituality) and was ordained a priest. From 1987 to 1992, he was at the Vatopedi Monastery. Beginning in 1991, he served a one-year term as head of the body that governs the entire Mt. Athos complex. He returned to Cyprus in 1992 at the request of Archbishop Chrysostomos I and in 1999 became the Metropolitan of Limassol, the second largest city in Cyprus, at the very early age of 39. http://www.imlemesou.org/index.php/bishop-athanasios/biography-bishop-athanasios He is a prolific writer on Orthodoxy and spiritual subjects and has many enthusiastic followers, primarily among the most conservative Orthodox, both in and outside of Cyprus. For example, over 150 of his articles, translated into Russian, have appeared on the website of Sretensky Monastery in Moscow. See https://pravoslavie.ru/83984.html
Metropolitan Georgios was born in Athienou (now located in the UN Buffer Zone on Cyprus) in 1949. He studied both theology and chemistry in Athens and in England. In 1989 he was arrested by Turkish troops at an anti-occupation demonstration. His legal case against Turkey for arrest and mistreatment reached the Council of Europe. It was a landmark case as it involved the first occasion that the Council condemned Turkey for violating human rights in Cyprus. In 1994 he became secretary of the Holy Synod and was ordained as the bishop of Arsinois in 1996. After the election of Chrysostomos as primate in 2006, Georgios became the new Metropolitan of Paphos. https://www.impaphou.org/biografiko.aspx In a sense, Georgios has acted as the foreign minister of the Church of Cyprus. For example, he has represented the Church in inter-Orthodox affairs such as various preparatory meetings for the Crete Council. He was the representative of the Church at the funeral of Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow in 2008. Shortly before Archbishop Chrysostomos II died, the Archbishop expressed the hope that Georgios would be one of the three finalists because the Archbishop did not wish that the nature of the Church of Cyprus be changed. https://cyprustimes.com/koinonia/ta-telika-apotelesmata-ton-archiepiskopikon-eklogon-ekleise-2i-thesi-o-pafou/
At least on certain issues, Athanasios and Georgios are poles apart. With respect to Ukraine, Metropolitan Georgios has strongly supported the decision of Archbishop Chrysostomos to commemorate in the Liturgy Metropolitan Epifany as primate of Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCA). In fact, when the Archbishop first commemorated Epifany, the Archbishop chose to be in Paphos with Georgios. https://orthodoxtimes.com/archbishop-of-cyprus-commemorates-metropolitan-epifaniy-of-kyiv-for-first-time/ On the other hand, Metropolitan Athanasios and three other Cypriot hierarchs on the day following this initial commemoration issued a public letter condemning the commemoration as “illegal and invalid.” They also condemned the granting of “autocephaly” by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to the OCU as “an arbitrary, anti-canonical and anti-church action.” https://www.romfea.gr/epikairotita-xronika/40082-i-apofasi-tou-arxiepiskopou-kuprou-apotelei-katafori-parabiasi-tou-sunodikou-sustimatos Metropolitan Isaias of Tamasos, who was also one of the four signers of this letter, has now completely changed his position and has even concelebrated with a bishop of the OCU. However, Athanasios has not retreated from what he said in his letter, except to say that whoever is elected must abide by the decisions of the Holy Synod in relation to the commemoration of Epiphany. https://www.alphanews.live/cyprus/athanasios-den-einai-oraio-i-iera-synodos-anatrepsei-tin-laiki-etymigoria As you may recall, a majority of the members of the Holy Synod on November 23, 2020, “decided not to oppose the decision of the Archbishop” to commemorate Epifany. https://churchofcyprus.org.cy/66493 However, this cautiously phrased decision is arguably not the equivalent to a decision that a new primate must commemorate Epifany even if the primate is personally opposed to doing so. It is certainly possible that if Athanasios is elected primate, he may chose in his first Liturgy as primate not to commemorate Epifany. He may also continue to omit Epifany unless and until the Holy Synod requires him to do so.
Athanasios and Georgios are also very different on ecumenical matters. Georgios has been a member of the Joint International Commission between Orthodox and Catholic Churches for many years. He even hosted the 2009 plenary of the Commission in Paphos. On the other hand, Metropolitan Athanasios refused to sign the document, “Relations of the Orthodox Church with the Rest of the Christian World,” which was approved by the Crete Council. https://orthochristian.com/94964.html When the Cypriot Orthodox bishops met with Pope Benedict in 2010 and with Pope Francis in 2021, Athanasios boycotted both meetings. The Metropolitan considers the pope “a heretic, estranged from the Church, and therefore not even a bishop.” https://www.johnsanidopoulos.com/2010/05/interview-with-metropolitan-athanasios.html
Although the Ecumenical Patriarchate has stated that it is not involved in the Cyprus election, I believe that it is quite certain that it would be greatly disappointed if Athanasios were elected as the new primate. On the other hand, Father Nikolai Balashov, special advisor to Patriarch Kirill, informed RIA-Novosti that “after the election of a new head of the Cypriot Orthodox Church, a new situation may arise in its relations with the Russian Orthodox Church.” https://ria.ru/20221108/rpts-1829887466.html I believe that he had in mind the hope that Metropolitan Athanasios will be selected as the new primate. As with many matters in the Orthodox world today, the great conflict between Moscow and Constantinople will be influenced by what occurs in Cyprus next week.
For those of you celebrating Christmas on December 25, I wish you a very blessed Nativity of Our Lord!
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
17 December 2022: Action of Bulgarian Synod on Serbian tomos & other news
On December 16 the Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church - Bulgarian Patriarchate posted the results of its meeting on December 13. https://bg-patriarshia.bg/news/reshenie-na-sv-sinod-vav-vrazka-s-dadenata-avtokefalia-na-pr The results are as follows:
At its regular meeting on December 13 (Tuesday), the Holy Synod, in full composition, considered the letter No. 569/29.09.2022 of the Serbian Patriarch Porfirije, notifying that in implementation of a unanimous decision of the Holy Bishops' Council of the Serbian Orthodox Church during the Holy Bishops' Liturgy on June 5 this year, the Patriarchal and Synodal Tomos was handed over, granting autocephaly to the Orthodox Church in the Republic of North Macedonia, with a recommendation that the issue of the official name be resolved in a fraternal dialogue with the Greek-speaking and other Local Orthodox Churches.
After voting, the Holy Synod unanimously DECIDED:
It accepted with spiritual joy the Tomos given by the Serbian Patriarchate to the Church in the Republic of North Macedonia. Until the adoption of a Pan-Orthodox decision on the issue of the name of the Orthodox Church in the Republic of North Macedonia:
The Holy Synod adds the following wording in the Diptychs of the BOC - BP for the mention of the Heads of the Local Orthodox Churches, the mention of the Head of the Church in the Republic of North Macedonia: "His Beatitude Stefan - Archbishop of North Macedonia."
When the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate responded on August 25 to the request of Patriarch Porfirije, it expressly stated that it recognized the Macedonian Church “as an autocephalous Sister Church.” http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/5952955.html The statement by the Bulgarian Church is not as strong as this. However, Bulgarian Church does state that it accepted with joy the tomos which it earlier described as “granting autocephaly” to the Macedonian Church. Further, Stefan will be commemorated in the diptychs with the primates of the Local Orthodox Churches. This certainly implies that the Bulgarian Churches recognizes the Church in North Macedonia as an autocephalous church. The Bulgarian statement is also stronger than the statement issued by the Orthodox Church of Poland on October 25. https://www.orthodox.pl/komunikat-kancelarii-sw-soboru-biskupow-15/ The Council of Polish Bishops stated that it “joyfully took note” of the “information of the Serbian Patriarch about the independence of the Orthodox Church in North Macedonia.” In so doing the Polish Church refrained from using the Polish word for autocephaly, but rather used the general word for independence. Also the Polish Church said nothing about commemorating Archbishop Stefan in the dipyths.
In contrast to this, the Orthodox Church in North Macedonia itself has viewed the tomos from Porfirije as a kind of recommendation and believes that only the Ecumenical Patriarch can issue a universally recognized tomos. https://orthochristian.com/146559.html The Holy Synod of the Church of Greece at its meeting on June 8-9 had expressed “its serious objections and reservations… for the possible granting of autocephaly by the Patriarchate of Serbia, given that the most venerable Ecumenical Patriarchate is the only one competent to grant autocephaly.” https://www.romfea.gr/epikairotita-xronika/50545-apofaseis-tis-ieras-synodou-gia-ti-moe-aa
Metropolitan Anthony of Volokolamsk, chairman of the DECR of the Moscow Patriarchate, was in Bulgaria for several days beginning December 5. According to the DECR website, he participated in the 70th anniversary of the metochion of the Russian Orthodox Church in Sofia, met with the head of the Royal House of Bulgaria, Simeon II, visited the memorial church near Shipka Pass, and visited Metropolitan Nikolai of Plovdiv. https://mospat.ru/ru/news/tag/chairman/ The Bulgarian Church posted the full text of the welcoming address of Metropolitan Nikolai. https://bg-patriarshia.bg/news/privetstvie-na-negovo-visokopreosveshtenstvo-plovdivskia-mit Metropolitan Nikolai expresses the view that the military conflict between Russia and Ukraine at the moment is a direct consequence of the inter-church dispute over jurisdiction that preceded it. He stated, “Until the cause is removed, the effect will not be corrected.” He also stated, “Glory to God and to the holy fathers of the Church, who decided and decreed that in the Orthodox Church all bishops are equal and that priority in honor does not mean priority in rights.” As far as I can determine, Metropolitan Anthony did not meet with Bulgarian Patriarch Neofit.
The decision by the Bulgarian Holy Synod has resulted in some strong criticism by the Bulgarian media. One example is found at https://faktor.bg/bg/articles/sv-sinod-izpalni-udarno-ruskite-narezhdaniya-prizna-avtokefalna-tsarkva-na-severna-makedoniya-otkaza-sashtata-chest-na-ukrayna This article contends that “the Synod strictly fulfilled the orders of the Russian masters, given by Anthony during his visit to our country last week.” The meeting of the Synod “was planned for December 8, but General Secretary [of the Synod, Bishop] Gerasim postponed it due to the urgent visit of Metropolitan Anthony of Volokolamsk.” “Then he [Anthony] held official and unofficial meetings with more than 2/3 of the metropolitans, including the former monarch Simeon, who influenced their decisions today.” The article also states that the Holy Synod decided against recognizing the Orthodox Church of Ukraine at this time, but to await the results of a pan-Orthodox council. However, the official posting by the Bulgarian Church says nothing about the latter. Another example of criticism is from the website that first broke the news of the Synod’s decision. https://www.doxologiainfonews.com/2022/12/bulgarian-patriarchate-confirmed-the-information-of-doxologia-infonews-that-it-recognizes-the-serbian-pseudo-tomos-of-church-in-republic-of-north-macedonia/ (the website refers to “the Serbian pseudo-tomos”)
However, a partial explanation for the action of the Bulgarian Synod may also be the special role that the Bulgarian Church assumed in the past with respect to the Church in North Macedonia. In November 2017, the Bulgarian Holy Synod resolved: “Given that the Orthodox Church of Macedonia recognizes the Bulgarian Orthodox Church - Bulgarian Patriarchate as its Mother Church, the Bulgarian Orthodox Church - Bulgarian Patriarchate, aware of its sacred duty, undertakes to offer full cooperation with the latter, as well as to intercede for her and to support her with the Local Orthodox Churches, so that all the measures necessary for the establishment of her canonical status are taken.” Perhaps, the Bulgarian Synod may have reasoned that it should accept the tomos from the Serbian Patriarchate now, and thus allow the immediate commemoration of Stefan in the diptychs of the Bulgarian Church, rather than wait for a tomos from the Ecumenical Patriarchate which may be years in the future.
On December 10 in Belgrade, there occurred an event which I believe is a major milestone in relations between the Serbian Patriarchate and the Catholic Church. It was the installation of Bishop Ladislav Német as the new Catholic archbishop of Belgrade. https://ika.hkm.hr/novosti/mons-ladislav-nemet-preuzeo-sluzbu-beogradskog-nadbiskupa-i-metropolita/ For Catholics, it was a major event with over forty Catholic bishops from Eastern Europe including Cardinal Péter Erdö of Budapest. However, very significantly, the installation was attended by Patriarch Porfirije of Serbia together with Bishop Irinej of Bačka and Protodeacon Radomir Vrućinić (rector of St. Sava Seminary). It appears that this is the first time that a Serbian Patriarch has attended the installation of a Catholic bishop. However, even more remarkable is the location of the Patriarch and his delegation during the service. This can be seen in a video of the entire service at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=67LWHGRfq8c . Patriarch Porfirije processed into the Cathedral in the long line of Catholic bishops. (video at 2:53) During the entire service, Patriarch Porfirije, Bishop Irinej, and Protodeacon Radomir were in the sanctuary of the Cathedral only a few meters from the concelebrating Catholic bishops as can be seen from the video. In my opinion, this closeness is very unusual for an Orthodox hierarch at a Catholic Mass. At the service, Patriarch Porfirije gave a 13-minute address. (video beginning at 1:33:40) The text of his address can be read at https://spc.rs/ustolicen-novi-nadbiskup-beogradski-mons-vladislav-nemet/. Near the beginning of his address, the Patriarch stated:
Dear Archbishop, You are a man of this area, I can freely say a man of our people, someone who was born and grew up, don't mind what I say, in Bačka, where I was born and grew up. This very fact says that not only do you know the soul of all the people who live here in Serbia, but as a Christian, as a bishop, as a minister of the Church, you certainly know that you share all that is good and all that is bad with all the people of this area. I am also sure that you share the conviction that all people living in Serbia, and above all those who believe in God, know - and I am deeply convinced of this - that we need each other and that no one can say to anyone: You are redundant! If it were not so, God would not have placed us in this time and in this space to live together, because we Christians know that everything happens according to His will and according to His providence.
After the installation, Archbishop Német gave an interview to Vatican Radio. http://kc.org.rs/nadbiskup-ladislav-nemet-u-intervju-za-hrvatsku-redakciju-vatikanskog-radija-moramo-dati-vise-prostora-zenama-u-crkvi/ He stated:
It seems to me that the most important thing is to create good contacts and relations with the representatives of other historical Churches in Serbia, and especially, as I mentioned, with the Orthodox Church, because it is the largest and has a huge influence on life in Serbia, and then the same with others…. What is important for us in Serbia is that the level of humanity, human closeness, be in order. And then we will be able to talk in peace and reach some results. It was a special honor for me, but I think for all Catholics as well, that there were representatives from all Churches at the enthronement, and especially, as you probably saw, that the Patriarch was there. It is a special honor for us. I think that was the first time it was like that. However, this means that the weather is changing in Serbia and is moving in a better direction.
Lastly, let us pray that the Holy Spirit will guide the Orthodox Cypriot people when they vote for a new primate on Sunday, December 18.
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
10 December 2022: The "church housecleaning" in Ukraine & other news
The Council of Ministers of Ukraine (“Council”) has now confirmed an earlier report on the social media that Olena Bogdan, head of the State Service of Ukraine for Ethnopolitics and Freedom of Conscience (“State Service”), has been dismissed from her position. https://www.kmu.gov.ua/npas/pro-zvilnennia-bohdan-o-v-z-posady-holovy-derzhavnoi-sluzhby-ukrainy-z-etnopolityky-ta-svobody-sovisti-1092-061222 The official order dismissing her states that the dismissal was “in connection with receiving a negative evaluation based on the results of the evaluation of official activities in 2022 (paragraph 3 of part one of Article 87 of the Law of Ukraine ‘On Civil Service’).” The order is dated December 6, five days after the decree by President Zelensky transferring the State Service from the Ministry of Culture to the direct control of the Council. It is certainly possible that the transfer was done so as to allow the dismissal of Bogdan by the Council. As reported in my last two newsletters, Bogdan had given an extensive interview on November 25 in which she stated her view that there is currently no reason to believe that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) has a dependent or subordinate relationship with the Moscow Patriarchate. She added that she believes that only a canonical relationship exists so as to avoid severing canonical relations with other Local Orthodox Churches. Such conclusions by Bogdan may not have pleased the Council. One wonders also whether the transfer of the State Service from the Ministry of Culture may have been due to the unwillingness of Oleksandr Tkachenko, Ukraine’s Minister of Culture and Information Policy, to give a negative evaluation to Bogdan.
In my opinion, Bogdan has impressive credentials. She has a PhD in sociology and has studied at Oxford, Stanford, and Duke. https://www.ukma.edu.ua/eng/images/docs/CV/Bogdan%20-%20CV%20KMA.pdf (extensive vita in English) On July 5 she moderated a meeting between priests of the UOC and priests of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU). The meeting was hosted by Minister of Culture Oleksandr Tkachenko. It was probably largely organized by Father Georgy Kovalenko, who is now the rector of the Open Orthodox University of Saint Sophia-Wisdom and was the press secretary for the primate of the UOC, Metropolitan Volodymyr (Sabodan), from 2008 to 2014. After the meeting, Bogdan stated: “This face-to-face conversation is extremely important so that we can continue to build our common home – Ukraine – together.” https://df.news/en/2022/07/06/we-will-overcome-everything-together-with-christ-ukrainian-orthodox-churches-start-informal-dialogue/ It seemed to me that Bogdan was one of the relatively few voices publicly seeking to improve relations between the UOC and the OCU.
One of the observations made by Bogdan in her November 25 interview is that the UOC is now communicating directly with various Local Orthodox Churches. This has subsequently proven to be true. On December 5 Archbishop Viktor (Baryshivsky) met with Metropolitan Sawa of Poland. https://news.church.ua/2022/12/05/arxijepiskop-barishivskij-viktor-zustrivsya-z-predstoyatelem-polskoji-pravoslavnoji-cerkvi-blazhennishim-mitropolitom-savvoyu/ Also on December 5, Metropolitan Filaret of Lviv met with Patriarch Theophilos of Jerusalem. https://news.church.ua/2022/12/06/mitropolit-lvivskij-i-galickij-filaret-zustrivsya-z-blazhennishim-patriarxom-jerusalimskim-feofilom-iii/ Both visits occurred with the blessing of Metropolitan Onufry, and a blessing by Patriarch Kirill was not mentioned.
Father Georgy Kovalenko, mentioned above, gave a long interview on December 6 on the current situation relating to the UOC. https://hromadske.ua/posts/pro-kremlivskih-agentiv-u-ryasah-i-milyardera-novinskogo-v-lavri-intervyu-z-proiyereyem-kovalenkom Although he has now joined the OCU, he has had many years of experience as spokesperson of the UOC. I was particularly interested in the following answer from the interview:
In Ukraine, according to the legislation, it is impossible to ban religious activities as such. In our country, religious activities do not require a permit, that is, you can worship and believe in anybody without a license from the authorities. Therefore, it is impossible to ban a church or religion.
But religious organizations as legal entities own architectural monuments, churches, land, or perform some activity. This is something that needs to be dealt with. I think that the entire logic of the NSDC's [National Security and Defense Council's] decisions leads to the fact that all people who are proven to have connections with the Russian special services or "Russian world" will be subject to sanctions. Sanctions, in particular, will make it impossible for the organizations they lead to exist. And the church as a single organization does not exist in Ukraine. There are several thousand communities, parishes and administrations, each of which is a separate legal entity. Talks about a possible ban of the UOC-MP in general actually contradict freedom of conscience. There is no such legislation in Ukraine. Therefore, it is necessary to develop mechanisms that will make the existence of an agent network impossible, that will expose those who work for the enemy state. As a result, the Ukrainian church will be purified. And with the believers who are in such parishes, it is necessary to work with enlightenment.
On December 9, it was reported that the committee on humanitarian and information policy of the Ukrainian parliament has recommended that the parliament adopt draft law No. 8221. https://www.ukrinform.ua/rubric-society/3631036-zaborona-moskovskogo-patriarhatu-komitet-vr-rekomendue-uhvaliti-zakonoproekt.html The draft law is summarized in the foregoing link and seems to be extreme. As just as an example, a religious organization cannot use “Orthodox” in its title unless it is affiliated with the OCU. There are other proposed draft laws which would impose measures such as losing tax exempt status. Draft law No. 8221 was filed on November 23, so it is not the proposed law that Zelensky directed to be prepared in his decree on December 1. http://w1.c1.rada.gov.ua/pls/zweb2/webproc4_1?pf3511=75230 John Kirby, the U.S. National Security Council's strategic communications coordinator, has stated that the United States is monitoring the situation in Ukraine relating to the UOC and expects that Kyiv will comply with international law on religious freedom. https://ukrainian.voanews.com/a/kirbi-pro-sankcii-na-svyashchennykiv-pravoslavnoi-cerkvy-/6863305.html
The official English translation of the press releases for the meeting of the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Alexandria, November 22-24, have now been posted. https://www.patriarchateofalexandria.com/27617/?lang=en (Nov. 22); https://www.patriarchateofalexandria.com/deyteri-imera-ton-ergasion-tis-ieras-synodoy-toy-patriarcheioy-alexandreias-2/?lang=en (Nov. 23); https://www.patriarchateofalexandria.com/peratosi-ton-ergasion-tis-ieras-synodoy-toy-patriarcheioy-alexandreias-3/?lang=en (Nov. 24) The press release of November 22 confirmed the news that “the commemoration of the name of the Patriarch of Moscow by the Primate of the Alexandrian Church, is stopped indefinitely.” On November 25, Patriarch Theodoros in fact omitted the name of Patriarch Kirill at the Liturgy at the Church of St. Catherine in Suez. https://www.orthodoxianewsagency.gr/patriarxeia/patriarxio_aleksandrias/o-patriarxis-aleksandreias-theodoros-stamatise-episima-tin-mnimoneysi-tou-patriarxi-mosxas-vinteo/ However, there is nothing in the press release that states that eucharistic communion with the Moscow Patriarchate has been severed. The press release of November 22 also states:
After a dialogical discussion, the Holy Synod proceeded to defrocking of the former Metropolitan Leonid of Klin from the noble ministry of the Hierarchy for a series of Canonical offenses (infiltration into the jurisdiction of the ancient Church, establishment of antimensia, distribution of holy Myrrh, acquisition of local clergy by payments, even defrocked oneσ [ones], factionalism and ethnic tribalism, etc), and he [it?] condemned the new ecclesiastical-political “theories” of spreading the Russian world around the globe on the basis of nationality.
On November 24, Metropolitan Leonid gave a long interview to Interfax concerning the action against him taken by the Alexandrian Patriarchate. http://www.interfax-religion.ru/?act=interview&div=554 He said that only the Moscow Patriarchate could affect his rank, and he called the action by the Alexandrian Patriarchate “madness.” With respect to the African Exarchate, he stated “today we already have 186 clergy (священнослужителей) from 15 countries.” The term “clergy” usually includes deacons as well as priests. I found this figure interesting as a TASS article on June 26 had stated: “Earlier, the exarch said that a total of 192 clerics of the Patriarchate of Alexandria from 12 countries have passed into the jurisdiction of the Russian Church and their number is constantly growing.” https://tass.ru/obschestvo/15036821?utm_source=t.me&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=t.me&utm_referrer=t.me This would indicate that the number of clergy in the Exarchate has actually decreased slightly in the last six months.
The Alexandrian Holy Synod also elected a native African, Archimandrite Panaretos Kykotis, to be the new Bishop of the Diocese of Nyeri and Mt. Kenya in the country of Kenya. The previous bishop of this diocese, Bishop Neophytos (another native African), was transferred to the relatively new diocese of Eldoret in Kenya. Previously, Bishop Neophytos had been temporarily administering the Eldoret diocese in addition to his own diocese of Nyeri. The African Exarchate has its greatest presence in Kenya. According to a recent Telegram post by Metropolitan Leonid, the Exarchate now has over 90 parishes in Kenya. https://t.me/exarchleonid See also the website of the Exarchate, https://exarchate-africa.ru/en/.
On November 30, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew celebrated at the Phanar the Liturgy on the feast of St. Andrew. https://ec-patr.org/%cf%84%ce%bf-%ce%bf%ce%b9%ce%ba%ce%bf%cf%85%ce%bc%ce%b5%ce%bd%ce%b9%ce%ba%cf%8c-%cf%80%ce%b1%cf%84%cf%81%ce%b9%ce%b1%cf%81%cf%87%ce%b5%ce%af%ce%bf-%cf%84%ce%af%ce%bc%ce%b7%cf%83%ce%b5-%cf%84%ce%bf-2/ As has been traditional for decades, a Vatican delegation was there. This year, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Emeritus Prefect of Dicastery for the Eastern Churches, led the delegation rather than Cardinal Koch. Presumably, this gave Cardinal Sandri, who has just retired, an opportunity to say farewell to the Ecumenical Patriarch. Sandri has now been replaced as head of the Dicastery for the Eastern Churches by Archbishop Claudio Gugerotti. Gugerotti was previously nuncio to the United Kingdom (2020-22), Ukraine (2015-20), Belarus (2011-15), and Georgia and Armenia (2002-11). Gugerotti received a special award from President Zelensky when he left for the UK. Gugerotti was also involved in negotiating the return of Archbishop Kondrusiewicz to Belarus.
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in his address to the Vatican delegation revealed that the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches will be holding its next plenary session in Alexandria, Egypt in June 2023. At the plenary the parties will discuss the draft document, Primacy and Synodality in the Second Millennium and Today. The last plenary was held in Chieti, Italy in 2016. At Chieti, agreement was reached on the document, Synodality and Primacy in the First Millennium.
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew had invited Metropolitan Isaias of Tamassos (Church of Cyprus) to celebrate the feast day of St. Andrew at the Phanar. Metropolitan Isaias is one of the leading candidates in the December 18 election for primate of the Church of Cyprus. Isaias celebrated the Liturgy at the Phanar on November 30 with the Ecumenical Patriarch and other bishops including Archbishop Agapit, vicar of the Kyiv Diocese of the OCU. Service with a hierarch of the OCU clearly places Isaias in the camp of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Isaias confirmed his support for the Ecumenical Patriarch, including his actions in Ukraine, in an interview following the service. https://cyprus-mail.com/2022/11/30/no-question-over-support-to-ukraine-tamasos-bishop-says/ Earlier, Metropolitan Isaias had criticized the actions of Bartholomew in Ukraine. On December 3, the Ecumenical Patriarchate issued a press release that the Ecumenical Patriarch and the Patriarchate “are not involved in any way in the upcoming archbishopric elections in the Holy Church of Cyprus.” https://ec-patr.org/%ce%b4%ce%ae%ce%bb%cf%89%cf%83%ce%b7-%cf%84%ce%bf%cf%85-%ce%b3%cf%81%ce%b1%cf%86%ce%b5%ce%af%ce%bf%cf%85-%cf%84%cf%8d%cf%80%ce%bf%cf%85-%ce%ba%ce%b1%ce%b9-%ce%b5%cf%80%ce%b9%ce%ba%ce%bf%ce%b9%ce%bd/ On November 28, the Holy Synod of the Church of Cyprus decided that foreign Orthodox Christians living in Cyprus would not be eligible to vote in the December 18 election. https://churchofcyprus.org.cy/83418 The Church's charter had previously provided that foreign Orthodox Christians having permanent residency in Cyprus for at least one year would be eligible to vote. One in nine Cyprus residents are foreign citizens. https://www.ekathimerini.com/economy/1181146/one-in-nine-cyprus-residents-is-foreign/
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
4 December 2022: What does Zelensky's decree on Russian-affiliated Churches really say?
On December 1, the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine, chaired by President Zelensky, made a decision ("Decision") relating to “the activities of religious organizations on the territory of Ukraine in the conditions of the military aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine.” The Decision was immediately placed in effect by a decree issued by the President. The full text of the Decision can be read at https://risu.ua/rnbo-virishila-pereviriti-diyalnist-upc-mp-ta-pravomirnist-koristuvannya-kiyevo-pecherskoyu-lavroyu_n134450 . In his evening television address later that day, the President described the Decision. The official English translation of the President’s remarks can be read at https://www.president.gov.ua/en/news/mi-garantuyemo-ukrayini-duhovnu-nezalezhnist-zvernennya-prez-79577.
The Decision contains a number of sections. In the first section, the Council of Ministers is directed to submit to the Verkhovna Rada [the parliament of Ukraine] for consideration within a two-month period a draft law on prevention of activity in Ukraine of religious organizations affiliated with centers of influence in the Russian Federation in accordance with the norms of international law in the field of freedom of conscience and Ukraine's obligations in connection with joining the Council of Europe. However, to determine the exact effect of this first section on the Ukrainian Orthodox Church ("UOC"), one must wait to examine the actual terms of the draft law prepared by the Council of Ministers and then later the actual terms of any law that may emerge from the Verkhovna Rada as a result. There are many open questions. For example, will the term “religious organization” be defined in the new law so as to allow the Ukrainian government to seek to limit the activity of a specific diocese, parish, or monastery as opposed to the entire church in Ukraine. Will the term “activity” be defined so as to allow the Ukrainian government to seek to prevent certain specific activities of a religious organization as opposed to seeking to prevent all activities of the religious organization. The drafters of the new law are also faced with a great challenge. The Decision expressly requires that the draft law be in accordance with the norms of international law in the field of freedom of conscience. To fulfill this mandate, the drafters must be very careful so as not to infringe on protected national and international rights, a difficult and perhaps even impossible task if the drafters attempt to prohibit all activity based on merely a spiritual affiliation with Russia as opposed to actual control from Russia.
To apply the new law to the UOC, the Ukrainian government will need to prove that the UOC in fact violated the terms of the new law. This in turn will involve some type of trial and court involvement. The UOC will surely invoke national and international guarantees of freedom of religion and conscience. All of this will take time. As you may recall, the 2018 amendment to the law on freedom of conscience and religious organizations required the UOC to rename itself to reflect its affiliation with the Moscow Patriarchate. The challenge to the constitutionality of this amendment is still in the courts four years later. To the extent that the future new law is applied to all activities of the UOC in Ukraine, the Ukrainian government is faced with the likely impossible task of enforcement. The UOC is not a smaller church such as the Jehovah Witnesses (banned in Russia), but a church with approximately 10,000 parishes. The UOC will certainly not stop ministering to its faithful and fade away. How does one prevent priests at approximately 10,000 parishes from celebrating the Liturgy, baptizing children, marrying couples, and caring for the dying? It would require massive imprisonments and coercive police actions on a vast scale. Even then, as shown by the historic example of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, the UOC would not die.
Although one must wait and see on many aspects of the Decision, the Decision has had a number of immediate effects. The Decision is seen as an effort by Zelensky to ban the UOC. In this regard it provides another ground for the Russian Federation to seek to justify its war in Ukraine – namely, it is protecting Orthodoxy against persecution. Father Mykolay Danylevich, deputy head of the DECR of the UOC, whose brother is a lieutenant colonel in the Ukrainian Armed Forces and was one of the defenders of the Azov plant in Mariupol to the very end of the siege, has made certain comments in his Telegram channel with respect to such attempted justification. https://t.me/s/MykolayDanylevych He stated:
The motivation to fight for the Russian military has appeared. The "Russian soldier-liberator" is sitting in a winter trench, where it is cold and scary. Money for the murder of Ukrainians is not warm; you don't want to fight for yachts-palaces of oligarchs, and the TV propagandists are unconvincing. All kinds of thoughts come to mind that the Ukrainians turned out not to be brothers at all: there is no reason to defend the language - they speak Russian, but they fight in Ukrainian... And here on a plate they bring the news from Medvedev [deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council and former Russian president]: "Satanists are persecuting Orthodoxy in Ukraine!" That's where the inner voice prompts: "Here it is - the long-awaited motivation to fight! Hooray! I will free you!"
The decision can also be perceived by the UOC as an attempt by the Zelensky government to cause Orthodox faithful in Ukraine to join the rival Orthodox Church of Ukraine ("OCU"). This just further embitters the UOC against the OCU and makes an eventual merger of the two churches even more unlikely. Father Mykolay on his Telegram channel commented that he had heard from UOC priests in western Ukraine that as a result of the campaign against the UOC, “they will never transfer to the OCU in their lives, no matter what happens next.” On another subject, Father Mykolay commented on an opinion poll stating the membership of the UOC has now decreased to only two percent of the population. In this regard, he issues a challenge. On Sunday, December 4, visit the churches of the UOC and compare the numbers of people in the UOC churches with the number of people in churches of other denominations. From what I have personally heard, the UOC would probably win that contest.
Three parts of the Decision of December 1 relate to the State Service of Ukraine for Ethnopolitics and Freedom of Conscience (“State Service”). The latter is part of the Ministry of Culture and Information Policy. In my last report, I discussed the November 25 interview of Olena Bohdan, who heads the State Service. The entire interview can be watched at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XL9nHwQ0QZ0&t=669s . In my report, I also stated that I believed that many of Bohdan’s conclusions are correct. One of her conclusions was that there is currently no reason to believe that the UOC has a dependent or subordinate relationship with the Moscow Patriarchate. However, she added that she believes that a canonical relationship exists (see the reference in the UOC charter to the 1990 document from Patriarch Alexy) so as to avoid severing canonical relations with other Local Orthodox Churches. Apparently the National Security and Defense Council was not pleased with Bohdan’s answers as the Decision “urgently” assigns the State Services from the Ministry of Culture “to the central bodies of executive power, whose activities are directed and coordinated directly by the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine.” Seeking to capitalize on Bohdan’s acknowledgement of a canonical relationship, the Decision requires the State Service to carry out a religious examination of the charter of the UOC “for the presence of a church-canonical connection with the Moscow Patriarchate and, if necessary, apply the measures provided for by law.” The Decision then requires the Council of Ministers to resolve the issue of functional subordination of structural units of local state administrations to the State Service. Perhaps this is due to Bohdan expressing the view, as stated in the interview, that when applications to transfer parishes are submitted to local administrations, the relevant consideration is the desire of the parish community and not the desire of the local territorial community. This is a point that the UOC has long been arguing in opposing registration of transfers of parishes.
In addition, the Decision supported the proposals made by the Security Service of Ukraine for the application of special economic and other restrictive measures and applied sanctions against individuals “according to the appendix.” The appendix is now available on the website of the President of Ukraine. https://www.president.gov.ua/documents/8202022-45097 (click on footnote which begins “Додаток”) The appendix lists ten individuals and the sanctions applicable to each. The individuals are listed in English at https://spzh.news/en/news/69922-zelensky-office-reports-the-list-of-sanctioned-persons-in-uoc . Four are bishops from Crimea: Metropolitans Lazar and Platon and Bishops Alexy and Kalinnik. Two are bishops from occupied areas of eastern Ukraine: Archbishop Arkady and Bishop Agathon. Two are bishops that have fled to Russia and have been replaced by the UOC: Metropolitan Elisey and Bishop Joseph. However, the two that have created the greatest interest are Metropolitan Pavel (Lebed) and Archdeacon Vadim Novinsky.
Metropolitan Pavel is responsible for the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra, although the actual head is Metropolitan Onufry. The historic Lavra is owned by the State, but the UOC holds a long-term lease. Aside from sanctions on Pavel, the Decision also directs the Council of Ministers to verify “the existence of legal grounds and compliance with the conditions of use” of Lavra by the UOC.
Vadim Novinsky is a billionaire and is one of the ten richest Ukrainians. Last July he announced his resignation from the Verkhovna Rada where he represented the city of Mariupol. Novinsky has been a huge financial benefactor to the UOC. In the traditional religious processions in Kyiv on the feast of St. Vladimir, where the UOC has amassed an immense number of people, Novinsky usually walks next to Onufry. It is my personal belief that Novinsky provides most of the funds to transport to Kyiv for these processions the very large number of UOC faithful from throughout Ukraine. Novinsky stated that he was resigning from Rada to engage in humanitarian and church matters. It is reported that Novinsky spoke strenuously at the UOC Council in May against the removal of the references to the Moscow Patriarchate from the UOC charter. On December 2, Novinsky stated on his Facebook page that he is a Ukrainian patriot who has always urged the preservation of Ukrainian statehood and its territorial integrity. https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100010720391976 He ended his comments by saying: “Considering the sanctions illegal persecution due to religious beliefs and consistent support of the UOC, I will challenge their application in Ukrainian and international courts.”
It will be interesting to see how other Local Orthodox Churches (aside from the Moscow Patriarchate) and the Catholic Church will react to the Decision and the future draft and final law.
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
29 November 2022: Is the "heart" of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church still with Moscow?
The Holy Synod of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) decided on November 23 to make its own Holy Chrism (Holy Myrrh) as opposed to receiving it from Moscow. https://news.church.ua/2022/11/26/the-results-of-the-holy-synod-of-the-ukrainian-orthodox-church-of-23-november-2022-video/?lang=en (English) At its Council on May 27, the UOC had stated that it “considered” the restoration of making its own chrism without stating that it would in fact make its own. However, now the decision has been made. The making of Holy Chrism is considered a prerogative of an autocephalous church, although a considerable number of autocephalous churches receive their Holy Chrism from the Ecumenical Patriarchate. The decision made by the UOC on November 23 is another step taken by the UOC to show that it is now truly independent of Moscow. Interestingly, the tomos given by the Ecumenical Patriarchate to the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU) requires that the OCU receive its Holy Chrism from the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Thus, the UOC can now claim a right which the OCU does not have – a point to be made in the bitter competition between the UOC and the OCU.
The Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate has not yet stated its reaction to the assertion by the UOC that it would make its own chrism. However, Father Nikolai Balashov, former deputy head of the DECR and now a special advisor to Patriarch Kirill, seems to minimize the importance of this decision. https://ria.ru/20221124/miro-1833971089.html He states: “In the Russian Church until 1917, there was a practice that myrrh was brewed in Moscow and Kiev. But then no one perceived this as a threat to the unity of the Church, it was not in question.” He also remarks: “Will this help our Ukrainian brothers avoid the persecution and harassment that they are now experiencing? I don’t think so.” Father Nikolai’s remarks seem to be consistent with the approach now taken by the Moscow Patriarchate. According to this approach, the UOC has not really severed its relationship with the Moscow Patriarchate. This approach is very understandable because to say that the UOC has severed the relationship would involve the very painful acknowledgement that the Moscow Patriarchate is now a far smaller church than it was before. Rather, the Moscow Patriarchate contends that the changes in the statute of the UOC and the decision relating to chrism-making are the results of the extreme and improper pressures placed on the UOC by political or social forces in Ukraine. In Moscow's view, to label the UOC as a schismatic church or to impose harsh discipline would only drive a further wedge between the UOC and the Patriarchate and would make future reconciliation more difficult. Moscow’s hope is that when the current hostilities and high emotions are over, the UOC will be content to live under the Moscow Patriarchate while enjoying great autonomy and at the same time preserving the spiritual and historic bond of Holy Rus’.
In an interview on November 28, Vladimir Legoyda, Chairman of the Synodal Department for Relations between the Church, Society, and the Media, took this same approach. http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/5981467.html He stated: “All her steps [steps by the UOC] are attempts by the canonical Church to survive under this [enormous] pressure. On our part, to make harsh statements in such conditions would mean to perceive the situation not as it is.”
Ironically, the OCU and its supporters seem to agree with the Moscow Patriarchate that the UOC has not in fact left the Moscow Patriarchate. From the perspective of the OCU, the changes made by the UOC are to give an appearance of separation and complete independence while at the same time preserving a bond with the Moscow Patriarchate. See, for example, https://www.pomisna.info/uk/vsi-novyny/zayava-shhodo-pereshkodzhannya-religijnym-gromadam-u-vyhodi-z-pid-vlady-moskovskogo-patriarhatu/ (charter changes only masked and concealed the dependence of the UOC on the Moscow Patriarchate). As a practical matter, the OCU uses this alleged connection with Moscow as an argument for the Orthodox in Ukraine to be part of the OCU and to avoid the UOC.
The Ukrainian government through the State Service of Ukraine for Ethno-Politics and Freedom of Conscience (DESS), headed by Olena Bohdan, has made inquires to the UOC concerning its independence from the Moscow Patriarchate. In November, a letter from Metropolitan Onufry, primate of the UOC, to Olena Bohdan was leaked on the Internet. https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=pfbid02CVzqxMKWZLA1oswP48z8hZh8VhLDQDycCrc71fxNSfwwQJoABT92qz3mGHknB99el&id=825148145 The text of the letter (on which the Google translation tool works) as well as critiques of the letter can be found at https://risu.ua/samostijnisha-za-avtokefalnu-merezha-gudit-cherez-poshirenij-list-poyasnennya-mitropolita-onufriya-pro-status-upc-yaka-nibito-vzhe-niyak-ne-mp_n134105. In the letter Metropolitan Onufry responds to a request from Bohdan to explain Article 1 of the general provisions of the revised charter. This Article refers to the document given by Patriarch Alexy II to the UOC in 1970 (the text of the 1970 document can be read at http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/525418.html) and is the only place in the revised charter where the Moscow Patriarchate is still referenced.
On November 25, an interview of Bohdan was posted in which she discusses the current situation of the UOC. https://fakty.com.ua/ua/ukraine/20221125-shho-vidbuvayetsya-v-ukrayinskomu-pravoslavyi-ta-chomu-dosi-isnuye-kanonichnyj-zvyazok-z-rpcz/; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XL9nHwQ0QZ0&t=669s This interview, of course, postdates her receipt of the letter from Onufry. A number of her conclusions are favorable to the UOC, which has in turn publicized them on its website. https://news.church.ua/2022/11/26/golova-dess-prokomentuvala-zmini-v-statusi-upc-pislya-soboru-27-travnya-onovleno/ (independence of UOC); https://news.church.ua/2022/11/26/glava-derzhetnopolitiki-svyashhennosluzhiteli-proti-yakix-porusheno-spravi-ce-menshe-yak-1-usijeji-upc/ (criminal proceedings have been opened against less than one percent of UOC clergy). Also, the Union of Orthodox Journalists, a strong supporter of the UOC, has posted on its website five articles in English relating to Bohdan’s answers. https://spzh.news/en/news Bohdan’s conclusions include the following: With respect to dependence and subordination of the UOC to the Moscow Patriarchate, there is currently no reason to believe that a dependent or subordinate relationship exists. Although organizational ties no longer exist, the canonical relationship (through the 1970 document from Alexy) was not severed so as to avoid losing canonical connection with other Local Orthodox Churches. However, this does not mean that the UOC communicates with the other Local Orthodox Churches through the Moscow Patriarchate, as the OCU now communicates directly with those other Churches without any coordination with the Moscow Patriarchate.
In my opinion, many of Bohdan's conclusions are correct. At the Council on May 27, the leadership of the UOC was faced with a difficult goal – to remove all controls of the Moscow Patriarchate over the UOC and at the same time not cause other Local Orthodox Churches to break their relationship with the UOC on the grounds that it has now become a schismatic church. The UOC attempted to accomplish this goal by deleting all references to the Moscow Patriarchate or Russian Orthodox Church from its charter, except leaving in the charter the reference to the 1970 document. Also, the UOC sought to reach this goal by avoiding the use of the word “autocephalous” which would be a “red flag” to Moscow and other Local Orthodox Churches. True, this course of action taken by the UOC leads to some ambiguity. However, this calculated ambiguity has caused the Moscow Patriarchate and other Local Orthodox Churches to refrain from labeling the UOC as schematic. On the other hand, the UOC has in practice acted as an autocephalous church. This has included such actions as ceasing of the commemoration of Patriarch Kirill in the Liturgy, the resignation of Onufry from the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate, the failure of the UOC to submit its revised charter to Moscow for approval, and the resumption of myrrh-making. In my opinion, the UOC has been amazingly successful to date in maintaining complete independence in practice while avoiding being labeled as a schismatic church.
The question remains as to whether the “heart" of the UOC still remains with the Moscow Patriarchate. According to the Moscow Patriarchate, the steps taken by the UOC in amending its charter and in taking other actions to show independence are the product of the “enormous pressures” placed on the UOC in Ukraine. According to the OCU, the steps were taken to mask and conceal the dependence of the UOC on the Moscow Patriarchate. Are these views of the Moscow Patriarchate and of the OCU correct? First, one must realize that the UOC is a very large religious body with millions of faithful, approximately 10,000 priests, and approximately 100 bishops. Certainly, with such large numbers, there are those whose hearts remain with the Moscow Patriarchate. But what about the “mainstream” of the UOC? In this regard, I share the view of Metropolitan Mark of Berlin and Germany (ROCOR) who stated several months after the invasion of Ukraine: “I find it difficult to believe that the Ukrainian part of our church wants to stay with the Russian [part].” https://www.haz.de/politik/russisch-orthodoxe-kirche-warum-sind-gebete-munition-metropolit-mark-WHWA3PWSKBC2ZJE57NARAHHCY4.html?fbclid=IwAR1hZ_8TcjnJd6gIKHbz7HBershHr80H1Kdp-k6R6TNMaXFpe8fJcHylUVE My concurrence with the opinion of Metropolitan Mark is not based on any inside information, but simply on human nature. The members and leaders of the UOC are suffering in this war to the same extent as are members of Ukrainian society in general. UOC members are serving in the Ukrainian armed forces. They are burying their family members, relatives, and friends. They are seeing the destruction to their country caused by missiles, bombs, and artillery. They read the news of civilians killed and of mass graves. They now suffer in the cold and the dark as the result of the destruction of Ukrainian infrastructure. They read the words of Patriarch Kirill relating to the Russian armed forces and his clearly taking the side of Russia in the war as opposed to being strictly neutral. Considering human nature and these events, it is very difficult to believe that the mainstream of the UOC, including its leadership, would view the Russian Federation under Putin or the Moscow Patriarchate under Kirill with favor. Under all of these conditions, I personally believe that the expressed desire of the UOC to leave the Moscow Patriarchate is very credible and is not a mere facade.
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
24 November 2022: The election campaign for Cypriot primate begins & other news
When the Holy Synod of the Church of Cyprus met on November 12, two days after the funeral for Archbishop Chrysostomos II, two dates were set: (1) November 22 was the deadline for a candidate to register officially his intention to run for the position of Archbishop; (2) Sunday, December 18, was set as the date on which the Orthodox faithful would vote for their favorite candidate using a ballot listing the candidates who had officially registered. November 22 has now passed, and six bishops have officially registered their intention to run. https://churchofcyprus.org.cy/83294 (official announcement). The six bishops are: Metropolitan Georgios of Paphos (age 73); Metropolitan Chrysostomos of Kyrenia (age 52); Metropolitan Athanasios of Limassol (age 63); Metropolitan Neophytos of Morphou (age 60); Metropolitan Vasilios of Constantia (age 74); Metropolitan Isaias of Tamasos (age 51). On November 22, Bishop Christoforos of Karpasia announced that he had changed his mind and would not seek to be the new Archbishop. On the same day, Metropolitan Nikiforos of Kykkos announced that he would be supporting Metropolitan Isaias for Archbishop. https://cyprus-mail.com/2022/11/22/six-bishops-put-themselves-forward-to-be-next-archbishop/
On November 18 the Cyprus Times published the results of a poll using a sample of more than 2,000 participants. https://cyprustimes.com/koinonia/dimoskopisi-cyprus-times-gia-archiepiskopikes-kleidonei-i-2i-thesi-machi-gia-na-symplirothei-to-triprosopo/ The results were as follows: Athanasios – 34.7%; Isaias – 17.1%; Vasilios – 12.3%; Georgios – 11.4%; Neophytos – 10.6%; Chrysostomos – 3.2%. On November 23, Alpha News Live released the results of its sample of more than 1,000 successful telephone interviews. https://www.alphanews.live/cyprus/dimoskopisi-arhiepiskopikon-ta-fabori-gia-triprosopo-kai-ta-dynata-hartia The latter poll showed: Athanasios – 23%; Georgios – 14%; Isaias – 14%; Vasilios – 9%; Neophytos – 6%; Chrysostomos – 2%.
It is reported that shortly before Archbishop Chrysostomos II died, he had indicated privately that he hoped that the next Archbishop would be Vasilios, Georgios, or Metropolitan Nektarios of Kiti (who decided not to run) as they would not change the character of the Church of Cyprus. https://fosfanariou.gr/index.php/2022/11/12/o-kostantias-basileios-gia-diadoxi-stin-kypro/ Vasilios and Georgios are quite ecumenical in their view points, and both have served on the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches. On the other hand, Athanasios is much more conservative and boycotted the meeting of the Orthodox Cypriot bishops with Pope Benedict in 2010 and the meeting with Pope Francis in 2021. See https://www.johnsanidopoulos.com/2010/05/interview-with-metropolitan-athanasios.html (interview of Athanasios concerning his refusal to meet the pope) Also, Metropolitan Neophytos of Morphou was one of three Cypriot bishops who boycotted the meeting with Pope Francis in 2021.
The recognition of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU) has been an issue on which the six candidates have differed. As you recall, the Holy Synod of the Church of Cyprus had voted on November 25, 2020, whether to oppose the action by Archbishop Chrysostomos II to commemorate in the Liturgy the primate of the OCU. The vote was 10 to 7 in favor of not opposing. Of the six candidates specified above, it was reported that three of them, Athanasios, Isaias, and Neophytos, had voted to oppose the action of the Archbishop. https://www.financialmirror.com/2022/02/21/cyprus-clergy-wobbles-over-ukraine-church/ Metropolitan Athanasios and Isaias were among the four bishops who signed a strongly-worded public letter on October 24, 2020, condemning as “a flagrant violation” the action of Chrysostomos in commemorating the OCU primate. The letter stated that the Moscow Patriarchate “has justifiably severed ecclesiastical communion with the Ecumenical Patriarchate, as well as with the Churches of Greece and Alexandria.” The signers maintained that the granting by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of “autocephaly” to the OCU was “an arbitrary, anti-canonical and anti-church action.” https://www.romfea.gr/epikairotita-xronika/40082-i-apofasi-tou-arxiepiskopou-kuprou-apotelei-katafori-parabiasi-tou-sunodikou-sustimatos
Now after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the warm meeting between Metropolitan Isaias and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew at the Phanar on July 25, and the visit of Bartholomew to Cyprus for the funeral of Archbishop Chrysostomos, the mood has changed. On November 16, Metropolitan Isaias was interviewed on Alpha News Live. https://www.alphanews.live/cyprus/tamasoy-isaias-oi-logoi-poy-ebale-h-stoys-anatheoritismoys-tis-moshas-binteo?fbclid=IwAR21WMEltCADXh32-IAR1qntr17P1b-d1BSNGf7NAuNGX3OrfOqKfGuJwrM In the interview, he expressed his support for the Ecumenical Patriarch with respect to Ukraine. He stated: “For me, the war was also a catalyst in the theological aspect of the Ukrainian conflict. I could not see people who claimed to maintain unity with a people being bombed and destroyed. What scandalized me from some attitudes is the attempt to justify the attacks of the soldiers by saying that whoever is killed on the battlefield that he will go to heaven.” Metropolitan Athanasios has stated that whoever is elected must abide by the decisions of the Holy Synod in relation to the commemoration of the OCU primate. Commenting on the Ukrainian crisis, he described it as a very "sensitive issue." He stated that it is not the time to consider ecclesiastical matters when people are suffering. https://www.alphanews.live/cyprus/athanasios-den-einai-oraio-i-iera-synodos-anatrepsei-tin-laiki-etymigoria
Although most would probably maintain that an election of a primate should be different from a political election of a governmental leader, the election campaign to elect a primate of Cyprus now seems to have many of the characteristics of a political campaign. The social media is being used extensively by the candidates and their supporters. This use is summarized by the following article: https://www.alphanews.live/cyprus/epistrateyoyn-kai-ta-social-media-oi-ypopsifioi-gia-ton-arhiepiskopiko-throno . Groups of supporters and “friends” are now working actively on behalf of their respective candidates. The following is the Facebook page of the “Friends of Metropolitan Athanasios:” https://www.facebook.com/groups/988296814930514/ The page has 33,000 members. I tried to scroll down to the end of the page, but finally gave up because it had so many entries. The following is the Facebook page of Metropolitan Isaias: https://www.facebook.com/imtamasou/ . In reviewing these websites, one sees the great number of public appearances and media interviews in which the candidates and their friends are participating. And, of course, like political elections, there are the polls on how the various candidates are doing. Christodoulos Protopapas, who is a candidate for the presidency of Cyprus, has assumed the role of heading the staff of Metropolitan Neophytos of Morphou. The staff is now organizing support groups for Metropolitan Neophytos in various cities. https://orthodoxtimes.com/metropolitan-of-morphou-is-a-candidate-for-the-archdiocesan-throne-of-cyprus/
Although the charter of the Church of Cyprus provides that the Synod of Bishops will select the new primate from the three candidates who receive the most votes in the December 18 election, there are now voices being raised that the Holy Synod should simply select as primate the candidate who received the most votes in the December 18 election, unless the Synod determines that this candidate is unsuitable. https://www.vimaorthodoxias.gr/eipan/archiepiskopikes-ekloges-kypros-tha-deixei-an-oi-ierarches-symporeyontai-me-ton-lao-poy-poimainoyn-i-poreyontai-monoi-toys/ In other words, the bishops should not substitute their own personal preferences for those of the people. According to the foregoing article, “The upcoming archdiocesan elections will show whether our Hierarchs are in company with the people they shepherd or walk alone without the people.” This raises some interesting questions. It should be remembered that many of the Orthodox who will vote in the election may have very little contact with the Church aside from being baptized in it. One wonders whether the choice made by such individuals might be dictated not so much by the Holy Spirit but by the effectiveness of a candidate’s election campaign.
In other important news, the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Alexandria on November 22 discussed the issue of the "illegal entry" of the Church of Russia into the spiritual and pastoral jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Alexandria on the continent of Africa. https://www.romfea.gr/patriarxeia-ts/patriarxeio-alexandreias/53586-to-patriarxeio-aleksandreias-diekopse-tin-mnimonefsi-tou-patriarxi-mosxas The Synod decided to depose Metropolitan Leonid of Klin, the Moscow Patriarchate’s “Exarch of Africa,” from the priesthood. The Synod also decided to cease the commemoration of Patriarch Kirill in the Liturgy. However, the Synod apparently did not decide to sever Eucharistic communion with the Moscow Patriarchate. Metropolitan Leonid has already commented on the decision on his Telegram channel and stated that an official response from the Moscow Patriarchate will be coming after it sees the actual decision. https://t.me/s/exarchleonid
The Holy Synod of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) met on November 23. Some of the decisions made are summarized at https://news.church.ua/ . One of the decisions was for the UOC to brew its own myrrh. https://news.church.ua/2022/11/23/svyashhennij-sinod-vidnoviv-mirovarinnya-v-ukrajinskij-pravoslavnij-cerkvi/ This is another development which shows that the UOC intends to sever completely its dependence on the Moscow Patriarchate. In addition, the Holy Synod decided to remove Metropolitan Elisey (Ivanov) from the administration of the Izyum diocese and send him to retirement. https://news.church.ua/2022/11/23/sinod-uxvaliv-nizku-kadrovix-rishen-yaki-stosuyutsya-jeparxialnogo-upravlinnya-23-11-22-2/ Elisey, age 49, left Izyum for Russia after the Ukrainian Armed Forces reoccupied the city. Archimandrite John (Ternovetsky) was elected to be the new head of the Izyum diocese. The Synod also issued a statement expressing concerns about improper actions and accusations against the UOC in Ukraine. https://news.church.ua/2022/11/23/zayava-svyashhennogo-sinodu-ukrajinskoji-pravoslavnoji-cerkvi-vid-23-listopada-2022-roku/
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
14 November 2022: Future election of new Cypriot primate & other news
On Monday, November 14, the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church of Cyprus met to discuss the procedures for electing a new primate of the Church of Cyprus. The election follows the death of Archbishop Chrysostomos II, who died on November 7. The official decision made by the Holy Synod at its meeting can be read at https://churchofcyprus.org.cy/83173. The decision sets a schedule in which nominations of those interested in running for the position of Archbishop must be submitted by November 22, 2022, with an election by the faithful to be held on Sunday, December 18, 2022. The decision does not set a date for the meeting of the Holy Synod which will subsequently be held to elect the primate from the three persons obtaining the most votes in the December 18 election. At its meeting on November 14, the Synod amended the Church’s Charter “to create a Ballot Paper on which the names of the candidates will be written with their photographs.” The Charter had previously provided that each of the faithful would write his or her favorite on a blank piece of paper. Presumably, the creation of an actual ballot will make the counting of the votes easier and will limit the choices to those who were nominated in accordance with the November 22 deadline. The November 14 decision provides “that the Election Centers are presided over by government officials and that representatives of the candidates are present.” Lastly, the Holy Synod “assigned the responsibility of the preparation of the Electoral Rolls and the preparation of the elections to Mr. Ioannis Charilaou, director of the Central Ecclesiastical Fund.”
The announcement of the results of the November 14 meeting by the Locum Tenens Metropolitan Georgios of Paphos can be watched at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6S57lrpGUkw&t=14s. According to Georgios, the electoral rolls for the November 22 election will be prepared by taking the Interior Ministry’s governmental election rolls and removing the names of those who are not Orthodox Christians. Added to the electoral rolls will be non-citizen Orthodox Christians who submit the necessary papers. https://in-cyprus.philenews.com/news/local/holy-synod-decides-on-18-december-for-election-of-three-bishops-by-the-people-video/ Under the Charter, these non-citizen Orthodox must show that they have been permanent residents of Cyprus for at least one year and are at least 18 years of age. Metropolitan Georgios stated that they must also show that they are Orthodox by a baptismal or marriage certificate or similar church document. https://www.romfea.gr/ekklisia-kyprou/53424-kypros-18-dekembriou-arxiepiskopikes-ekloges There are many thousands of Greek and Russian citizens now living in the Republic of Cyprus.
At the present time, seven of the existing 16 members of the Holy Synod have expressed an interest in becoming the new Archbishop. They are: Metropolitan Chrysostomos of Kyrenia, Metropolitan Neophytos of Morphou, Metropolitan Vasileios of Constantia, Metropolitan Georgios of Paphos, Metropolitan Athanasios of Limassol, Metropolitan Isaiah of Tamassos, and Bishop Christoforos of Karpasia. https://cyprus-mail.com/2022/11/14/karpasia-bishop-throws-hat-in-the-ring-for-new-archbishop/ In an interview, Metropolitan Vasileios stated that in his last visit to the Archbishop when the Archbishop could still communicate, the Archbishop had informed him: You, Paphos, and [Metropolitan Nektarios of] Kitiou should try to join the triumvirate so that one of you is elected Archbishop because I don't want the character of the Church of Cyprus to change. https://fosfanariou.gr/index.php/2022/11/12/o-kostantias-basileios-gia-diadoxi-stin-kypro/ Three of the seven, namely Athanasios, Isaiah, and Neophytos, had opposed the recognition of the OCU by Archbishop Chrysostomos.
On Saturday, November 11 at noon, the funeral service for Archbishop Chrysostomos II was held at the Cathedral of the Apostle Barnabas in Nicosia. He was then buried in the crypt of the Cathedral. https://ec-patr.org/%ce%bf-%ce%bf%ce%b9%ce%ba%ce%bf%cf%85%ce%bc%ce%b5%ce%bd%ce%b9%ce%ba%cf%8c%cf%82-%cf%80%ce%b1%cf%84%cf%81%ce%b9%ce%ac%cf%81%cf%87%ce%b7%cf%82-%cf%80%cf%81%ce%bf%ce%ad%cf%83%cf%84%ce%b7-%cf%84%ce%b7/ (press release of the Ecumenical Patriarchate describing the funeral service). A video of the entire service may be watched at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Odt43e-8yoI . Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew presided at the service.
The visit of the Ecumenical Patriarch to the Republic of Cyprus was itself extraordinary. Since becoming Ecumenical Patriarch in 1991, Bartholomew had never visited Cyprus. In fact, the last ecumenical patriarch to visit Cyprus was Jeremiah III in 1635. During recent decades, Turkey, of which the Ecumenical Patriarch is a citizen, has refused to recognize the Republic of Cyprus. Thus, a trip to the Republic of Cyprus by the Ecumenical Patriarch has the risk of incurring the displeasure of the Turkish government. However, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew felt so strongly about attending the funeral service of Chrysostomos II that he decided to take the risk. He took certain steps to minimize the risk. He arrived in Cyprus on the morning of the service and departed from Cyprus in the afternoon following the service. Because Turkey does not allow direct flights from Turkey to the Republic of Cyprus, the Ecumenical Patriarch flew on a private airplane which made a one-hour stop on the Greek island of Kos, both coming from Turkey and returning to Turkey. The Ecumenical Patriarch brought no other bishops with him from Turkey. Rather, Archbishop Nikitas of Thyateira came from the UK, and Metropolitan Panteleimon of Vryoula presumably came from Greece. https://fosfanariou.gr/index.php/2022/11/11/meso-kw-o-ecum-patr-stin-kypro/
Speakers at the funeral service included President Katerina Sakellaropoulou of Greece, President Nikos Anastasiadis of the Republic of Cyprus, Cardinal Kurt Koch (reading a message from Pope Francis), Metropolitan Georgios of Paphos, and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. https://www.orthodoxianewsagency.gr/aytokefales_ekklisies/ekklisia_kiprou/zontana-i-eksodios-akolouthia-tou-arxiepiskopou-kyprou-xrysostomou-v/ (summary of speeches) Primates in attendance also included Patriarch Theodoros of Alexandria and Archbishop Ieronymos of Greece. Metropolitan Timotheos of Bostra, Exarch of the Holy Sepulchre in Cyprus, delivered an official address from Patriarch Theophilos of Jerusalem. https://en.jerusalem-patriarchate.info/blog/2022/11/12/the-funeral-service-of-the-archbishop-of-cyprus-chrysostomos-ii/ Archbishop Nifon of Târgoviște was present and delivered the message of Patriarch Daniel of Romania. https://basilica.ro/en/patriarch-daniel-archbishop-chrysostomos-ii-of-cyprus-a-dynamic-and-missionary-shepherd/ A representative of the Patriarchate of Georgia presented a letter from Patriarch Ilia in which the Patriarch refers to the death of Archbishop Chrysostomos as a “great loss for the world Orthodox Church.” https://patriarchate.ge/news/3085 Patriarch Neofit of Bulgaria sent a representative and a letter which stated in part that the Archbishop “until his last breath was filled with glorification and service to God and people.” https://bg-patriarshia.bg/news/saboleznovatelen-adres-na-balgarskia-patriarh-neofit-do-sv-s Representatives were also present from the Patriarchate of Antioch, the Church of Albania, the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, and the various Oriental Orthodox Churches. Although the Serbian Patriarchate did not send a representative, Patriarch Porfirije sent a letter referring to the Archbishop as a “worthy shepherd and humble monk, a respectable and deeply religious person.” https://spc.rs/povodom-upokojenja-arhiepiskopa-hrizostoma-patrijarh-porfirije-uputio-izjavu-saucesca-svetom-sinodu-arhiepiskopije-kiparske/
The Vatican's Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity has posted a summary of Cardinal Koch’s trip to Serbia, October 26-29. http://www.christianunity.va/content/unitacristiani/en/news/2022/2022-11-03-visita-del-cardinale-koch-in-serbia.html The summary included a link to the Cardinal’s address on October 27 on the subject, “The Significance Today of the Ecumenical Council of Nicea.” His address includes the following statement: The "symphony" between State and Church still characterizes the situation of the Church in the East; however, it is increasingly burdened by heavy mortgages, as demonstrated today by the problematic position of Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill in the face of the war in Ukraine decided by Putin. This attitude rightly prompted Johannes Oeldemann, director of the Institute for Ecumenism Johann Adam Möhler of Paderborn, to ask himself whether this traditional model has come to its historical end with the war in Ukraine: “The 'Byzantine' model of symphony between State and Church is discredited by the attitude of the head of the Russian Church to such an extent that it can no longer prove viable in the future. ” Cardinal Koch believes that “the question of the relationship between Church and State is one of the least addressed issues in ecumenical dialogues; it will require special ecumenical attention in the future.” See also https://ika.hkm.hr/novosti/kardinal-koch-u-beogradu-odrzao-predavanje-o-prvom-ekumenskom-saboru-u-niceji/
Beginning in 2014, Metropolitan Hilarion started an interview program, Church and the World, on the state-owned television channel “Russia 24.” On this program, Metropolitan Hilarion would respond to various questions. The Metropolitan appeared regularly on this program until his transfer to Budapest in June. Last Saturday, the person who answered questions on the program was Metropolitan Tikhon (Shevkunov) of Pskov. It is not known whether Metropolitan Tikhon will continue to be on the program in future weeks. The entire program in Russian can be viewed at https://ruskline.ru/video/2022/11/12/mir_nuzhen_po_vole_bozhiei . However, this week’s program has received special attention both in Russia and the West. See, for example, https://www.eurasiareview.com/14112022-putins-favorite-orthodox-leader-calls-for-making-peace-in-ukraine-oped/ ("we are experiencing an unprecedented tragedy" in Ukraine); https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-11422487/Putins-personal-confessor-makes-extraordinary-plea-end-war-brother-Ukrainians.html See also three articles at http://www.interfax-religion.ru/.
As is customary, Pope Francis answered questions from journalists on his flight from Bahrain to Rome. A working English transcript of the session is found at https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2022-11/pope-flight-three-wars-century-pacifist-interview-bahrain.html . With respect to Ukraine, the Pope’s words included the following:
And (then) the preaching for peace. What strikes me – that's why I use the word 'tormented' for Ukraine – is the cruelty, which is not of the Russian people, perhaps... because the Russian people are a great people. It is of the mercenaries, of the soldiers who go off to war as an adventure, mercenaries... I prefer to think of it this way because I have high esteem for the Russian people, for Russian humanism. Just think of Dostoevsky, who to this day inspires us, inspires Christians to think of Christianity.
I have great affection for the Russian people and I also have great affection for the Ukrainian people. When I was eleven years old, there was a priest close to me who celebrated in Ukrainian and had no altar boys, and he taught me to serve Mass in Ukrainian, and all these Ukrainian songs I know them in their language because I learned them as a child. So I have a very great affection for the Ukrainian liturgy. I am in the midst of two peoples that I love.
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
7 November 2022: Developments following the death of Cypriot primate
Archbishop Chrysostomos II, primate of the Orthodox Church of Cyprus since 2006, died at 6:40 a.m. on November 7 at the age of 81. https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/head-cyprus-church-archbishop-chrysostomos-dies-aged-81-2022-11-07/ He had suffered for a number of years from intestinal cancer, and in recent weeks his doctors had announced that his condition was critical. Other primates came to say goodbye to him. Patriarch Theophilos of Jerusalem came on October 19, Patriarch John of Antioch came on October 25, and Archbishop Ieronymos of Greece came on November 3. https://cyprus-mail.com/2022/11/03/ieronymos-of-athens-in-cyprus-to-visit-archbishop-chrysostomos/ The Archbishop’s doctors issued a statement relating to their time with the Archbishop during the last period of his illness. The statement included the following: “The Archbishop fell peacefully asleep after facing the test of his illness with courage, patience and Christian determination. What those of us who were close to him experienced during the difficult hours of his illness, was his humility, the kindness of his soul and his profound faith as well as his concern for his flock.” https://cyprus-mail.com/2022/11/07/archbishop-chrysostomos-dies-overnight/
Later on November 7, the Holy Synod of the Church of Cyprus met under the chairmanship of Metropolitan Georgios of Paphos and published an announcement. https://churchofcyprus.org.cy/82968 The funeral services will be held on Saturday, November 12 at noon at the Cathedral of the Apostle Barnabas in Nicosia. Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew will be present for the service. https://ec-patr.org/%ce%bf-%ce%bf%ce%b9%ce%ba%ce%bf%cf%85%ce%bc%ce%b5%ce%bd%ce%b9%ce%ba%cf%8c%cf%82-%cf%80%ce%b1%cf%84%cf%81%ce%b9%ce%ac%cf%81%cf%87%ce%b7%cf%82-%ce%b8%ce%b1-%ce%bc%ce%b5%cf%84%ce%b1%ce%b2%ce%b5%ce%af/ A date for the election of a new primate has not yet been set by the Holy Synod.
Other Orthodox primates have already issued statements concerning the death of Archbishop Chrysostomos II. Patriarch Porfirije of Serbia has stated: “His Beatitude Archbishop will be remembered in the Orthodox Church as a worthy shepherd and humble monk, a respectable and deeply religious person.” https://spc.rs/povodom-upokojenja-arhiepiskopa-hrizostoma-patrijarh-porfirije-uputio-izjavu-saucesca-svetom-sinodu-arhiepiskopije-kiparske/ Patriarch Daniel of Romania stated: “It is with deep sorrow that we learned about the passing away, after a long-suffering which he has so bravely endured, of our beloved brother in Christ, the worthy to remember Chrysostomos II, Archbishop of New Justiniana and All Cyprus, a venerable and well-known personality of contemporary Orthodoxy. We share the grief caused by this loss, and, on behalf of the hierarchs, clergy and faithful of the Romanian Orthodox Church, we address fraternal condolences to the members of the Holy Synod and to the entire Church of Cyprus.” https://basilica.ro/en/patriarch-daniel-sends-condolences-after-repose-of-archbishop-chrysostomos-of-cyprus/ Archbishop Anastasios of Albania stated: “With deep sorrow, we were informed of the passing away of our beloved brother Archbishop Chrysostomos of Cyprus, with whom we were linked by long-standing cordial friendship. The deceased was distinguished for his orthodox spirituality, boldness, and patriotism.”
The Press Service of the Moscow Patriarchate has issued a statement with a different tone: “His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Rus' prays for the repose of the soul of the newly deceased Archbishop Chrysostomos and for the forgiveness of his voluntary and involuntary sins.” The statement also provides: “At the same time, according to V. R. Legoyda, His Holiness Vladyka regrets that the last years of Archbishop Chrysostomos' tenure at the cathedra of the Cypriot primate were overshadowed by his unilateral recognition of the schismatics in Ukraine, which had a negative impact on relations between the Russian and Cypriot Orthodox Churches.” https://mospat.ru/ru/news/89777/
The Cyprus Mail newspaper has already posted a long and candid obituary on the life of Archbishop Chrysostomos II. https://cyprus-mail.com/2022/11/07/obituary-archbishop-chrysostomos-ii-a-life-spent-in-the-church/ It describes how as a 12-year-old boy, he went to live at the Ayios Neophytos Monastery in Paphos after his father was killed in a construction accident at the Monastery. He developed his business acumen by working during his high school years with the Monastery’s stock keeper. He was ordained a deacon at the Monastery after graduating from high school and eventually became its abbot. Six years later he became bishop of Paphos. According to the newspaper, Chrysostomos as bishop and then as archbishop was viewed by many as a “hard-nosed, down-to-earth CEO.” He was outspoken on many issues and expressed his views without regard to political correctness. Contrary to his public persona, his staff said that he was “a simple and kind person” who was a “tough but fair” boss. His last major controversial decision was to side with the Ecumenical Patriarch and to recognize the new Orthodox Church of Ukraine. His decision was subsequently supported by a majority of the bishops of the Holy Synod of the Church of Cyprus.
Orthodox archbishops of Cyprus have played a huge role in the history of Cyprus. During the years of the Ottoman rule over Cyprus (1571-1878), the archbishops were recognized as the sole representives of the Greek Cypriot population before the Ottoman court. And, of course, Archbishop Makarios III is considered the father of modern Cyprus. He assumed his office in 1950 and led the fight for independence from Britain. He served as the first president of Cyprus from 1960 to 1977. Archbishop Makarios III was followed by Archbishop Chrysostomos I, who was primate of the Church of Cyprus for almost 30 years. However, during the later years, Chrysostomos I had a serious head injury, developed dementia, and fell into a coma. Because the charter of the Church of Cyprus had no provisions relating to incapacity of the primate, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew convened an “enlarged synod” in May 2006 with representatives of the Churches of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem, and Cyprus and declared the seat of the Archbishop vacant. Archbishop Chrysostomos II was subsequently elected.
As a result of the declining health of Archbishop Chrysostomos II, the media in Cyprus has recently discussed the election procedure for a new primate and the possible candidates for that office. The current election procedure was established by recent amendments to the Church’s charter, and a new archbishop has never been elected under the current procedure. The procedure involves a surprising degree of lay participation. The first step is an election in which the faithful are asked to write down on a piece of paper the name of their favorite candidate. Those eligible to vote are all Orthodox Christians, over the age of 18, who have been permanent residents of Cyprus for at least one year and are on the election rolls. The election rolls will be prepared shortly based on the foregoing eligibility requirements. The second step is that the Holy Synod, consisting of 16 bishops, will elect a new archbishop by majority vote from the three candidates who received the most votes in the election by Orthodox Christians. https://cyprus-mail.com/2022/08/28/the-separation-of-church-and-state/
With respect to speculation on who the future archbishop will be, there seems to be widespread agreement that Metropolitan Athanasios of Limassol, age 63, and Metropolitan Isaiah of Tamassos, age 51, will be two of the final three. https://orthochristian.com/146996.html; https://hellas.postsen.com/trends/143282/Tones-are-lowering-for-the-succession-of-Chrysostomou-in-Cyprus.html; https://cyprus-mail.com/2022/08/28/the-separation-of-church-and-state/. There is no agreement as to who the third finalist will be. Both Metropolitan Athanasios and Metropolitan Isaiah were among the minority members of the Holy Synod who opposed the recognition of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine by Archbishop Chrysostomos II. However, as previously reported in this newsletter, Metropolitan Isaiah met with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew at the Phanar on July 25. It was a warm meeting, and it is certainly possible that Isaiah may modify his position on Ukraine somewhat to obtain support from the majority of the bishops who supported the action of Chrysostomos in recognizing the new Ukrainian church.
May the memory of Archbishop Chrysostomos be eternal and may Our Lord guide the electors of a new primate for the Orthodox Church of Cyprus.
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
30 October 2022: Meetings in Moscow and Rome & other news
On October 17, Father Ioan Sauca, acting general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC), met with Patriarch Kirill in Moscow. Father Ioan is also a priest of the Romanian Orthodox Church. Subsequent to the meeting, the Moscow Patriarchate and the WCC issued separate statements describing the meeting. The statement of the Moscow Patriarchate is found in English at https://mospat.ru/en/news/89724/. The English-language statement of the WCC can be read at https://www.oikoumene.org/resources/documents/wcc-communique-his-holiness-patriarch-kirill-meets-with-wcc-acting-general-secretary. Aside from the statement, the WCC also posted an article entitled, “His Holiness Patriarch Kirill, WCC acting general secretary meet in Moscow, agreeing that war cannot be holy.” https://www.oikoumene.org/news/his-holiness-patriarch-kirill-wcc-acting-general-secretary-meet-in-moscow-agreeing-that-war-cannot-be-holy
On October 25, the WCC posted an exclusive interview of Father Ioan concerning the Moscow trip. https://www.oikoumene.org/news/exclusive-interview-with-wcc-acting-general-secretary-after-the-visit-to-moscow. The interview contains interesting information: “We met for several hours, and we had time for in-depth discussion. I had also a private audience with the Patriarch….Everything discussed in the meeting is not included in the report due to circumstances with local laws and the urgent need to continue the dialogue. We understand how to be sensitive to the situation in which the churches live and, while saying the full truth, we make sure we do not do more harm.”
In making a paragraph-by-paragraph comparison of the statement by the WCC and the statement by the Moscow Patriarchate, it is clear that, with certain exceptions, the two statements are the same but with differences resulting from different English translations. The major exception is that the statement of the Moscow Patriarchate completely omits two major paragraphs. These are the paragraphs found in the WCC statement beginning “Evidently surprised” and “Metaphysical war.” The first paragraph reads: “ Evidently surprised, the patriarch has answered: ”My theological position to the war? I do not think that any Church or Christian can have a supporting position to wars and killings. As Churches, we are called to be peacemakers and to defend and protect life. War cannot be holy. But when one has to defend himself and his life or to give his life for the lives of the others things look different. We have so many examples in our Christian history. Yet, as peacemakers we have to make all efforts to bring peace through dialogue and avoid any conflict or violence. This is my view.” Why did the Moscow Patriarchate decide not publicly to acknowledge that the Patriarch stated that “War cannot be holy”? In my personal opinion, it was due to a concern about criticism by public authorities and others in the Russian Federation. In the same vein, Father Ioan in his interview stated that not everything said during the meeting was reported by the WCC in its statement “due to circumstances with local laws.”
Another important meeting was held October 23-25 in Rome. It was a conference organized by the Sant’Egidio Community and had the theme, The Cry for Peace. https://preghieraperlapace.santegidio.org/pageID/31533/langID/en/The-Cry-for-Peace.html French President Emmanuel Macron spoke at the opening assembly of the conference. A video of his entire 34-minute address, which was delivered in French, can be watched at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5OBt1Mp0yxc&t=50s (video also has subtitles in French). Macron addressed the Ukrainian situation at length. As is not surprising, Macron expressed a very pro-Ukrainian stance. Beginning at 18:38 in the video, President Macron made the following statement:
Subsequently, I am convinced that religions and religious leaders have a role of resistance in the face of the madness of the times. And resistance means precisely never justifying, being taken hostage or supporting political projects that would enslave or deny the dignity of any individual. I believe that, in this regard, this duty of resistance is essential. It is essential because the risk is present and what I describe is happening. We all know how the Orthodox religion is today manipulated by Russian power to justify its actions.
The Moscow Patriarchate was represented at the conference by Metropolitan Anthony of Volokolamsk. https://mospat.ru/en/news/89736/ Metropolitan Anthony had the unenviable situation of sitting in the first row facing the podium during the French President’s remarks. See 28:53 in the video. The Reuters news agency approached Metropolitan Anthony in the conference hall after Macron's speech but the Metropolitan declined to comment. https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/macron-urges-russian-orthodox-church-resist-kremlin-pressure-ukraine-2022-10-23/ However, several days later, Metropolitan Anthony did make a comment to the Russian news agency RIA-Novosti. https://ria.ru/20221026/oproverzhenie-1826879216.html He stated: “Not only for me, but also for many other listeners, his statement that the Orthodox elite is allegedly being manipulated in Russia caused bewilderment. Mr. Macron did not confirm his statement in any way. Obviously, his words come from ignorance of the topic that he touched on.” He expressed the hope that President Macron "over time will be able to get to know the history of Orthodoxy, in particular, the Russian Orthodox Church, which is the largest local Orthodox Church in the world, and get acquainted with its current situation in the Russian Federation." Metropolitan Anthony also informed RIA-Novosti: “No working meetings with representatives of the Holy See are planned during my visit to Rome - I came to participate in a religious forum organized by the Community of Sant'Egidio.” https://ria.ru/20221028/vstrecha-1827519629.html The Metropolitan also spoke highly of the work of the Community.
It is also interesting that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) sent a delegation, consisting of Father Mykola Danylevych and Archbishop Victor, to the conference with the blessing of its primate Metropolitan Onufry. https://news.church.ua/2022/10/25/delegaciya-upc-bere-uchast-u-mizhnarodnij-zustrichi-spilnoti-svyatogo-egidiya-na-temu-zaklik-do-miru-yaka-proxodit-u-rimi/ Father Mykola, deputy head of the DECR of the UOC, was recognized by the conference as an official participant. Archbishop Viktor, head of the UOC representation at European international organizations, was also present, but only had “visitor” status. The website of the Moscow Patriarchate did not mention their presence at the conference, and it is clear that they were not part of the delegation led by Metropolitan Anthony. In the video of Macron’s address at 28:53, Father Mykola can be seen seated in the second row next to Brother Alois, prior of the Taizé Community. The website of the UOC stated: “In their speeches at the sections, representatives of the UOC expressed gratitude to the [Sant’Egidio] Community, representatives of various Christian denominations in Europe, international organizations and European countries for accepting refugees from Ukraine and for the fact that Europe and the world support our country in the fight against Russian aggression.” To the best of my knowledge, the conference is the first occasion that the UOC has appeared at an important international event with a delegation completely separate from that of the Moscow Patriarchate. A lay representative of the UOC was at the WCC Assembly at Karlsruhe, but the UOC never officially acknowledged that it had a delegation there. The official UOC delegation in Rome is further evidence that the UOC has indeed separated from the Moscow Patriarchate.
The Orthodox played an important role at the conference. Among the listed speakers were three metropolitans (Ioan, Iosif, and Serafim) from the Romanian Orthodox Church and a metropolitan (Joan) from the Church of Albania. Elder Metropolitan Emmanuel of Chalcedon (Ecumenical Patriarchate) was a speaker and also played a very important role in the closing ceremony with Pope Francis at the Colosseum. A video of the closing ceremony can be watched at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8THDFjNHEOU&t=17s . It appears that no representative of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine participated in the conference. The text of the appeal for peace issued at the end of the conference can be read at https://preghieraperlapace.santegidio.org/pageID/31533/langID/en/text/3997/APPEAL-FOR-PEACE-2022.html. With respect to the world situation, the appeal states: “Let the guns be silent, let a universal cease-fire be declared at once. Let negotiations capable of leading to just solutions for a stable and lasting peace be activated soon before it is too late.” The appeal also states: “Peace is holy; war can never be holy!”
The health of Archbishop Chrysostomos, primate of the Church of Cyprus, who is suffering from metastasized intestinal cancer, remains “critical” according to a statement issued by his doctors on October 24. https://cyprus-mail.com/2022/10/25/archbishops-health-remains-critical/ He is being treated at the residence of the Archbishopric with 24-hour care. On October 25, Patriarch John of Antioch made a special trip to Cyprus to visit the Archbishop. The Patriarch described the Archbishop as a strong and loving man of great faith. After visiting the Archbishop, the Patriarch stated: “He understands, he doesn’t talk much and God may help him.” https://cyprus-mail.com/2022/10/25/archbishop-facing-health-battle-with-courage/ The Archbishop was visited by Patriarch Theophilos of Jerusalem on October 19.
On October 25, a meeting of the Council of Bishops of the Polish Orthodox Church was held, and the results were reported in a communique at https://www.orthodox.pl/komunikat-kancelarii-sw-soboru-biskupow-15/. The communique included the following: “The information from the Serbian Patriarch about the independence of the Orthodox Church in North Macedonia was read. The Holy Council of Bishops joyfully took note of this information and confirmed the prayerful communion with the above-mentioned Church.” It appears that the Polish bishops were very cautious in the wording of this statement. They avoided using the disputed title for this church but simply referred generally to the Orthodox Church in North Macedonia. They also avoided the use of the term autocephaly, which in Polish is “autokefalia.” See https://pl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autokefalia . Rather, they used the general Polish word for becoming independent, “usamodzielnieniu.” The bishops also confirmed again their position with respect to Ukraine and asked the Ecumenical Patriarch to convene a synaxis of the primates of all of the Local Orthodox Churches. With respect to Ukraine, they referred to the “destructive activity” of the head of the OCU. It appears that the Polish bishops recently have become even more displeased with Epifany as OCU priests have been providing spiritual care to Ukrainian refugees who have recently fled to Poland.
Cardinal Koch was in Serbia, October 26-29. https://www.agensir.it/quotidiano/2022/10/26/serbia-belgrado-visita-del-cardinale-kurt-koch-incontro-con-il-patriarca-porfirije-a-tema-la-pasqua-in-una-stessa-giornata/ He had a very positive meeting with Patriarch Porfirije of Serbia and Metropolitan Joanikije of Montenegro on October 29. https://spc.rs/patrijarh-srpski-porfirije-primio-kardinala-koha/ The following is a transcript of the interview that Cardinal Koch gave to Radio Belgrade during his visit: http://kc.org.rs/kardinal-koch-za-radio-beograd-1-velika-je-odgovornost-svih-crkava-i-vera-da-promovisu-mir-u-svetu/ On October 27, the Cardinal visited Bishop Irinej of Bačka at the Resurrection Monastery in Kać, near Novi Sad. https://www.ktabkbih.net/hr/vijesti/kardinal-koch-posjetio-episkopa-backog-irineja/110277 On October 16, Patriarch Porfirije had given an absolutely wonderful sermon at the restored St. Nicholas Cathedral in Vukovar, where tensions between Croats and Serbs are still strong. The sermon related to reconciliation and forgiveness between Christians so that all may be one. The full text may be read at https://spc.rs/tv-hram-uzivo-osvecenje-sabornog-hrama-i-srpskog-doma-u-vukovaru/. The sermon is too long to paste in this newsletter, but should be read in its entirety at the foregoing website with the use of the Google translation tool.
Lastly, the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas will be live streaming the important conference, Listening to the East, which was discussed in my last newsletter. The conference will provide an opportunity for the Orthodox and other Eastern Churches to provide their input prior to the forthcoming Catholic Synod of Bishops on the subject of synodality. The live streaming will begin on November 2 and may be accessed at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCYmQJMwouAQIy-HcsA6N-9Q .
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
28 October 2022: Vatican document on synodality - Orthodox experience ignored?
On October 27, the Vatican released a very important working document relating to the 2023-2024 Synod of Bishops which will be devoted to the subject, For a synodal Church: Communion, participation, mission. The popular Catholic website Crux has provided a summary of the document. https://cruxnow.com/vatican/2022/10/new-synod-doc-highlights-challenges-but-offers-few-solutions The summary includes the following:
On Thursday the Vatican released the working document for the next stage in Pope Francis’s ongoing Synod of Bishops on Synodality, which offered a global view of what faithful at all levels of the Church believe needs to happen for it to be a true place of inclusion.
The document, published Oct. 27 and titled “Enlarge the Space of your Tent,” is a summary of reports from national bishops’ conferences, who compiled the reports based on contributions from individual dioceses after an initial consultation phase with local parish communities.
It will serve as the working document for the next, continental stage of the synod, in which episcopal conferences on all seven continents will hold assemblies to reflect on and discuss the contents of the document. These assemblies will then submit a new report based on that discussion, which will be used to draft the working document for the final, universal stage in Rome.
Formally called “For a synodal Church: Communion, participation, mission,” the synod was opened by Pope Francis last October and, rather than the typical month-long meeting of bishops at the Vatican that a synod usually is, this one is unfolding in a multi-stage process extending into 2024.
An initial, diocesan phase of the process lasted from October 2021 to April 2022 and was designed as a consultative process that took place according to certain guidelines issued by the Synod of Bishops. A second, continental phase, began in September and will last through March 2023, when continental bishops’ conferences will coordinate and evaluate the results of the diocesan consultations.
A final, universal phase was set to conclude the process during next year’s Oct. 4-29 gathering in Rome, but with Pope Francis recently extended the process for a year, meaning the final universal phase will now conclude in 2024.
The entire document released today can be read in English at https://www.synod.va/content/dam/synod/common/phases/continental-stage/dcs/Documento-Tappa-Continentale-EN.pdf . The comments at the press conference held at the Vatican to introduce the document can be read at https://press.vatican.va/content/salastampa/it/bollettino/pubblico/2022/10/27/0801/01661.html .
Sadly, there is nothing in the document or in the comments at the press conference that would encourage bishops at the continental stage to study carefully and learn from the Orthodox experience of synodality. In the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis stated in 2013 that “in the dialogue with our Orthodox brothers and sisters, we Catholics have the opportunity to learn more about the meaning of episcopal collegiality and their experience of synodality.” https://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/it/apost_exhortations/documents/papa-francesco_esortazione-ap_20131124_evangelii-gaudium.html Through this exchange of gifts, the Pope stated that “the Spirit can lead us ever more fully into truth and goodness.” In an interview on September 21, 2013, Pope Francis observed that from the Orthodox “we can learn more about the meaning of episcopal collegiality and the tradition of synodality.”
Prior to 2014, the word “synodality” was used by the popes almost exclusively with respect to the Eastern Churches. I have attached a study which I prepared with respect to this usage ( download the document). Searching the Vatican website for papal statements using the Italian word “sinodalità,” I found the following results: The search showed that the first pope to use the word “sinodalità” in those documents was Pope John Paul II in April 1994. The word was used in a total of six documents for Pope John Paul II and a total of two documents for Pope Benedict XVI. With respect to the first year of the pontificate of Pope Francis, there were four documents using the word, “sinodalità.” In all of the documents, except two documents in 1994, the word “sinodalità” was used in the context of references to the Eastern Churches.
In view of the foregoing, it is difficult to understand why the preparation process for the Synod of Bishops now seems to forget the importance of the Orthodox experience. However, there may be an opportunity to remedy this omission before it is too late. On October 25, the Vatican’s Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity made an important announcement. http://www.christianunity.va/content/unitacristiani/en/news/2022/2022-10-25-simposium-sinodalita.html . The announcement includes the following:
An international symposium on synodality in the Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox Churches will be held at the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum) on 2‒5 and 23‒26 November 2022, upon the initiative of the Pro Oriente Foundation (Vienna) and of the Angelicum Institute for Ecumenical Studies.
Organized under the patronage of the Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity and the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops, the symposium, entitled “Listening to the East”, in which more than 100 theologians will take part, is aimed at listening to the various understandings and experiences of synodality of the Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox Churches.
The symposium will feature a first conference on the Orthodox tradition (program), and will be opened by Cardinals Kurt Koch and Mario Grech, together with Metropolitan Job Getcha, Co‒President of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue Between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church.
A second conference will include a first part on the Syriac tradition (program) and will be opened by the abovementioned Cardinals, together with His Holiness Mar Awa III, Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East. A second part will be dedicated to the various Oriental Orthodox traditions (program), with the participation, in particular, of His Grace Kyrillos, Co-President of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue Between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church.
Hopefully, the results of this symposium will be discussed and utilized by the Catholic bishops in preparing their documents at the continental stage.
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
19 October 2022: Contacts between the Serbian and Moscow Patriarchates & other news
Metropolitan Ioannikije of Montenegro and Primorye and Bishop Jovan of Pakrac and Slavonia, both hierarchs of the Serbian Patriarchate, are now in Russia. The primary purpose of their visit is to open the international festival "Serbian consolation to the Russian heart," organized by the Orthodox St. Tikhon Humanitarian University and held on October 18-28 in Moscow. The first evening of the festival is dedicated to the memory of Metropolitan Amfilohije of Montenegro (1938-2020), predecessor of Metropolitan Ioannikije. It was therefore very logical that Metropolitan Ioannikije was invited to attend. The program also includes a film and an art exhibit relating to the Jasenovac death camp, located in the Croatian diocese of Bishop Jovan. This explains why he was invited. The entire program for the festival can be seen at https://festivallihov6.tilda.ws/.
On Sunday, October 16, Metropolitan Ioannikije celebrated the Liturgy in the Church of the Resurrection of Christ and the New Martyrs and Confessors of the Russian Church, located at the Sretensky Monastery in Moscow. https://pravoslavie.ru/148762.html He made no reference to Ukraine. However, he stated: “In this difficult time, it is very important that we pray together and feel the suffering and troubles that we all, each in our own way, are experiencing and going through.” He also said: “We believe in the strength of the Russian Orthodox Church, which survived the most severe trials during the Bolshevik-Communist times, persecution and suffering.” On October 17 the two Serbian bishops met with Metropolitan Anthony of Volokolamsk (head of the Moscow Patriarchate’s DECR). https://mospat.ru/en/news/89723/
On the morning of October 18, Patriarch Kirill celebrated the feast day of the saints of Moscow in the Dormition Cathedral in the Kremlin. The two Serbian bishops concelebrated with the Patriarch. http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/5968634.html The text of the Patriarch’s sermon is found at http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/5968673.html The Patriarch again emphasized his familiar theme that the spiritual unity of Holy Rus’ (encompassing today's Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus) must be maintained and that Holy Rus’ constitutes “one people” who are “united by the bounds of the Russian Orthodox Church.” He is confident that the Lord hears the prayers for “the spiritual health of our entire united historical people of Holy Rus’.” The Patriarch acknowledges that “everyone must understand that he is shooting at his brother” and should pray for “the end of the war, the establishment of peace and the spiritual unity of all our people.” However, the Patriarch rejects the Western idea of pacifism, namely peace under any circumstances. There must be a lasting peace with justice. “And in order for it to be so, it is necessary that by the power of God all these diabolical thoughts be eradicated from the consciousness of people who do not strive for the spiritual unity of Holy Rus’, so that we all realize the responsibility for maintaining the spiritual unity of the Rus’ world.” From this, it is clear that the Patriarch believes that present hostilities are justified to preserve the spiritual unity of Rus’ and to eradicate the diabolical thoughts of those who do not strive for this unity.
At the Liturgy on October 18, Metropolitan Ioannikije delivered some short remarks. https://mitropolija.com/2022/10/18/patrijarh-ruski-kiril-bogosluzio-u-uspenskom-saboru-kremlja-sasluzivali-mu-i-mitropolit-crnogorsko-primorski-joanikije-i-episkop-pakracko-slavonski-jovan/ His remarks included the following: “We cannot help much in these difficult times, but be assured, Your Holiness, and dear fathers, dear brothers, that not only we bishops and our clergy, but also the entire Serbian people are praying for you personally and for the whole of Holy Rus'. May the Lord, through the prayers of the Most Holy Mother of God and all the saints, and also through our prayers from below, grant grace and mercy, enlighten all those who are most responsible, soften hearts and start a dialogue as soon as possible, to talk and through fraternal dialogue with trust to reach peace and that God's grace and God's justice, God's love for humanity, are manifested through all these trials.”
It is interesting that Metropolitan Ioannikije will next spend four days, October 20-23, with Metropolitan Ambrosij in Tver. This visit is occurring at the request of Ioannikije. https://tvereparhia.ru/news/events/23-oktjabrja-mitropolit-chernogorsko-primorskij-ioannikij-sovershit-bozhestvennuju-liturgiju-v-voskresenskom-kafedralnom-sobore-tveri/ It appears that the two hierarchs first met in 2019 when Ambrosij took part in the celebration of the 800th anniversary of the Budimla-Niksic diocese in Montenegro then headed by Ioannikije. Ambrosij was the very popular and relatively progressive rector of the St. Petersburg Theological Academy from 2008 to 2018. https://tvereparhia.ru/about/pravjashhij-arhierej/ He was then rector of the Moscow Theological Academy and the Sretensky Theological Seminary for short periods of time. Unlike Patriarch Kirill, he has been relatively quiet with respect to the events relating to Ukraine.
On October 14, Patriarch Porfirije of Serbia was enthroned at the historic Monastery of Peć in Kosovo. https://orthodoxtimes.com/the-patriarch-of-serbia-was-enthroned-at-the-monastery-of-pec-in-kosovo/ When the Serbian Patriarchate of Peć was established in 1346, this monastery became the seat of the Serbian Patriarchs. The fact that the monastery is now in a country which has claimed its independence from Serbia necessitated some delay in this enthronement from the time that Porfirije was elected Patriarch on February 18. He was therefore enthroned for the first time on February 19 in Belgrade. The enthronement at the Peć Monastery was then subject to even further delays because of the pandemic situation in Kosovo. The second enthronement has now finally occurred. When Porjirije’s predecessor, Patriarch Irinej, was enthroned in 2010, he also had a first enthronement in Belgrade and a second at Peć.
The Divine Liturgy at the Monastery on October 14 was served by the Patriarch and numerous bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church (SOC). https://spc.rs/patrijarh-srpski-g-porfirije-bice-ustolicen-danas-u-peckoj-patrijarsiji/ There were four from outside the SOC who also served: two bishops from the “Macedonian Orthodox Church - Ohrid Archdiocese,” an archimandrite from the Patriarchate of Antioch, and Metropolitan Hilarion of Budapest (Moscow Patriarchate). Metropolitan Hilarion had also been invited by the Patriarch to travel with him from Serbia to the Peć Monastery. https://t.me/s/MetropolitanHilarion There are numerous photos of the two together. https://spc.rs/patrijarh-srpski-g-porfirije-stigao-u-pecku-patrijarsiju/ ; https://spc.rs/patrijarh-srpski-porfirije-stigao-u-eparhiju-rasko-prizrensku/ It appears that Metropolitan Hilarion had been directly invited to attend this important event as opposed to being simply the representative appointed by Moscow to attend. On October 15, Metropolitan Hilarion accompanied the Patriarch on the latter’s visit to Vukovar, a city located on the Danube River in eastern Croatia. https://spc.rs/tv-hram-uzivo-patrijarh-srpski-u-vukovaru/ Metropolitan Hilarion served with the Patriarch during the Liturgy at Vukovar. https://spc.rs/tv-hram-uzivo-osvecenje-sabornog-hrama-i-srpskog-doma-u-vukovaru/
Metropolitan Hilarion was also in Serbia on October 2 for the canonization of Saint Irinej, bishop of Bačka (1884-1955). https://spc.rs/svecani-cin-kanonizacije-episkopa-backog-svetih-mucenika/# Hilarion served next to the Patriarch. Metropolitan Hilarion also met with the Patriarch on September 5 during the Patriarch’s trip to Hungary and was present at various events in Hungary involving the Patriarch. https://mospat.ru/en/news/89598/ ; https://spc.rs/%d0%bf%d0%b0%d1%82%d1%80%d0%b8%d1%98%d0%b0%d1%80%d1%85-%d1%81%d1%80%d0%bf%d1%81%d0%ba%d0%b8-%d0%bf%d0%be%d1%80%d1%84%d0%b8%d1%80%d0%b8%d1%98%d0%b5-%d1%81%d1%82%d0%b8%d0%b3%d0%b0%d0%be-%d1%83-%d0%b1/ From all of this, it appears to me that Patriarch Porfirije has taken a number of steps to show his strong public support for Metropolitan Hilarion after the latter’s demotion to Budapest. It should also be remembered that the very influential Bishop Irenij, the present bishop of Bačka, is a close friend of Metropolitan Hilarion. Although Serbia is normally a close ally of the Russian Federation, Serbia voted at the United Nations General Assembly to condemn “the organization by the Russian Federation of so-called referendums within the internationally recognized borders of Ukraine” and “the attempted illegal annexation” of the four regions. Metropolitan Hilarion, since his assignment to Budapest, has publicly spoken only on strictly religious subjects.
The Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate met on October 13. The minutes of the meeting can be read at http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/5966901.html . In Journal Entry 95 the Synod decided to “accept the Rovenky diocese in direct canonical and administrative subordination to the Patriarch of Moscow and All Rus' and the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church.” According to the minutes, this was done pursuant to an appeal from Archbishop Arkady and his diocesan council. The action was based on “the practical impossibility of regular communication between this diocese and the Kiev Metropolis.” The Rovenky diocese is located in the southern end of the Luhansk Oblast. The city of Rovenky has been outside the control of Ukraine since 2014 and is located only 22 km from the Russian border. The Rovenky diocese is now the first UOC diocese in eastern Ukraine to come under the direct jurisdiction of Moscow. The decision on October 13 uses essentially the same language as the Synod’s decision on June 7 when the Synod accepted direct jurisdiction over the three dioceses in Crimea. http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/5934527.html However, the October decision describes an appeal by both the archbishop and the diocesan council, while the June decision only refers to an appeal by the bishops.
It is interesting that Moscow’s assumption of direct jurisdiction on October 13 does not also include the larger neighboring Luhansk diocese under Metropolitan Panteleimon. Panteleimon was a member of the Russian Orthodox delegation, which was at the Kremlin for the speech of President Putin and the signing ceremony on September 30. https://mospat.ru/en/news/89690/ He and Arkady visited Patriarch Kirill on July 17. http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/5944605.html It is very possible that the failure to assume jurisdiction over the Luhansk diocese may be due to a possible failure of the diocesan council to support such a move. The UOC has not issued any statements with respect to Moscow’s assumption of jurisdiction over the Rovenky diocese or the three dioceses in Crimea.
The UOC has joined and posted the statement by the Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations relating to the Russian missile attacks on Ukrainian cities following the explosion on the Kerch bridge. https://news.church.ua/2022/10/11/zayava-vrciro-z-privodu-teroristichnix-obstriliv-mist-ukrajini-rosijskimi-vijskami/ The full text of the statement, adopted on October 10, can be read in English at https://vrciro.org.ua/en/statements/uccro-statement-on-russian-terrorist-attacks-on-cities-of-ukraine. The statement provides:
The Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations fully condemns the terrorist attacks on Ukrainian cities carried out by Russian troops with the aim of intimidating our people. All who participate in these brutal attacks on peaceful cities, both the leaders who give orders and the direct executors, as well as all who justify acts of inhuman cruelty, must know that they will be answered before the Almighty God and punished for their crimes.
We sympathize with those who suffered from the attacks, we pray for the victims, we ask God to bless our defenders.
We appeal to the international community, to the religious leaders of the world, with a call to condemn the acts of state terror carried out by Russia. The terrorist state must be stopped as soon as possible!
On October 13, the bishops of the Archdiocese of the Orthodox Churches of the Russian Tradition in Western Europe (Moscow Patriarchate) issued a declaration relating to Ukraine. https://archeveche.eu/ru/%d0%b7%d0%b0%d1%8f%d0%b2%d0%bb%d0%b5%d0%bd%d0%b8%d0%b5-%d0%b2-%d1%81%d0%b2%d1%8f%d0%b7%d0%b8-%d1%81-%d1%81%d0%b8%d1%82%d1%83%d0%b0%d1%86%d0%b8%d0%b5%d0%b9-%d0%b2-%d1%83%d0%ba%d1%80%d0%b0%d0%b8/ The statement includes the following:
We are witnesses to the fact that so many of our communities, seeing as their only goal the search for peace in the name of the Gospel, are in a state of turmoil. There are many Russians and Ukrainians among the parishioners of our churches who, along with all of us, are suffering from the current situation.
In particular, the statement that “if someone remains faithful to his calling and dies in the line of military duty, then he undoubtedly commits an act tantamount to a sacrifice ... and this sacrifice washes away all the sins that a person has committed” (sermon of September 25, 2022 ), was received with great pain and misunderstanding.
We once again appeal to His Holiness [Patriarch Kirill] with the request to speak with all the force of the patriarchal word in favor of the peace process and call on all the leaders and responsible persons of the Russian Federation to join it.
Lastly, the Synod of the Patriarchate of Antioch has completed its meeting of October 12 to 17. https://orthodoxtimes.com/the-holy-antiochian-synod-held-its-thirteenth-regular-session/ Among other actions, the Synod accepted the resignation of Metropolitan Joseph, the head of the Archdiocese of North America.
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
8 October 2022: The "Annexations" and the Churches
On October 5 President Putin signed the final papers “annexing” to the Russian Federation the Ukrainian oblasts of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhia. https://apnews.com/article/russia-ukraine-putin-international-law-donetsk-9fcd11c11936dd700db94ab725f2b7d6 This was preceded by a widely-publicized speech by President Putin on September 30 ending with the signing of treaties with persons from the four oblasts. The official English translation of the President’s speech can be read at http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/69465. A video of the entire speech and signing ceremony, with simultaneous English translation, can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ekNbe8tLXA . Patriarch Kirill was not present for the speech and signing ceremony as it was announced that day that he had contracted Covid. http://www.interfax-religion.com/?act=news&div=16688 It was later announced on October 6 that the Patriarch’s case was mild but that he was still testing positive. http://www.interfax-religion.com/?act=news&div=16691
Those present at the September 30 event at the Kremlin included: Metropolitan Dionisy of Voskresensk (chancellor of the Moscow Patriarchate); Metropolitan Anthony of Volokolamsk (head of the DECR); and Vladimir R. Legoyda (Chairman of the Synodal Department for Church Relations with Society and the Media). The three can be seen seated together in the video at 19:35 and 33:15. However, also present at the event were the following three persons from the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC): Metropolitan Panteleimon of Luhansk (video at 16:00); Archimandrite Ioann Prokopenko, the abbot of the Saint Sava Monastery in Melitopol (video at 27:10) ; Archimandrite Alexei Fedorov, rector of the Holy Dormition Cathedral in Kherson. All three are from cities occupied by Russian forces. Last June the Luhansk Diocesan Council headed by Metropolitan Panteleimon had voted to “suspend” the commemoration of Metropolitan Onufry of Kyiv because of its disagreement with the charter amendments adopted by the Council of the UOC on May 27, 2022. https://orthochristian.com/146667.html However, the website of the Luhansk diocese still states that the diocese is part of the UOC. https://eparhia.site/ On the other hand, the website of the Moscow Patriarchate in its article on the September 30 event lists Metropolitan Panteleimon as a representative of the “Russian Orthodox Church” together with Dionisy, Anthony, and Legoyda. https://mospat.ru/en/news/89690/
Later in the day on September 30, the UOC posted on its official website an announcement stating its position with respect to the foregoing events in Moscow. https://news.church.ua/2022/09/30/the-church-is-with-the-ukrainian-people-in-their-struggle-against-the-russian-aggression/?lang=en The full text is as follows:
The Church is with the Ukrainian people in their struggle against the Russian aggression.
The Ukrainian Orthodox Church has more than once distinctly emphasised its complete and unconditional support of the sovereignty and integrity of the Ukrainian state.
The actions of some members of the clergy which do not comply with the official attitude of the Church are the revelation of their personal political choice, for which they bear full responsibility as citizens of Ukraine.
The Church calls upon its flock to help the Motherland to uphold peace on its entire territory with prayer and good deeds and decidedly condemns the aggression of the Russian army against the Ukrainian people.
This is a strong statement in regard to aggression and territorial integrity, but a weak statement in regard to clergy members not complying with the official position of the UOC. Perhaps the UOC wishes to delay judgement on such individuals on the grounds that the individuals may now be subject to outside pressures. The UOC did take action when Bishop Elisey (Ivanov) of Izyum fled to Russia after Ukrainian forces took control over the city. The UOC appointed Metropolitan Onufry of Kharkiv as temporary head of the Izyum diocese. https://risu.ua/na-misce-mitropolita-vtikacha-izyumkogo-upc-mp-priznacheno-novogo-kermanicha-yeparhiyi_n132656 On October 4, Metropolitan Onufry of Kharkiv met in the city of Chuguiv with the clergy of the Izyum dioceses. https://news.church.ua/2022/10/05/mitropolit-xarkivskij-bogoduxivskij-onufrij-ocholiv-zbori-duxovenstva-izyumskoji-jeparxiji/
However, there are voices in Ukraine who have expressed far stronger opinions than the UOC with respect to the presence of the UOC clergy at the Kremlin signing ceremony and speech. Mikhailo Podolyak, an advisor to President Zelensky, stated that all Ukrainian citizens who went to the so-called Kremlin ceremony are collaborators of the enemy who must be prosecuted and imprisoned. He said that this also applies to representatives of the UOC. https://orthodoxtimes.com/kyivs-anger-at-ukrainian-priests-attending-the-kremlin-ceremony-for-the-annexation-of-the-occupied-areas/ There are clergy of the UOC who believe that their church should take a stronger stand against collaborators in the occupied territories. One appeal by clergy states that “we are extremely embarrassed by the lack of any reaction from the UOC leadership regarding the collaborationism of clergymen, who with their actions dishonor millions of members of our Church.” https://www.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=pfbid02kqm2FCx9wdSZAkRojMVqjvCfNS2HwJLb2oHonE5Bzg6FezYQQXqQvXn34JvAH8Lbl&id=107239995265551 Oleksandr Tkachenko, the Ukrainian Minister of Culture and Information Policy, has stated: “We constantly ask the leadership of this church [UOC] about the behavior of certain hierarchs of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Law enforcement agencies should respond to collaborators, if there are any. And I would very much like several such cases that exist to be brought to court. Because for society it is important to have answers to the questions of what certain hierarchs are doing, for example, the UOC, not only at the Kremlin, but also what actions they take in the occupied territories.” https://www.ukrinform.ua/rubric-society/3586435-tkacenko-hoce-baciti-u-sudi-spravi-sodo-predstavnikiv-cerkvi-aki-e-kolaborantami.html
Although the UOC has not taken disciplinary actions against hierarchs and clergy in occupied areas, hierarchs in areas controlled by Ukraine have expressed strong views. For example, Metropolitan Augustine (Markevich) of Bila Tserkva, head of the UOC Synodal Department for Interaction with the Armed Forces, strongly disagreed with the remarks by Patriarch Kirill relating to the washing away of all sin for soldiers who sacrifice their lives in defending their homeland. https://spzh.news/en/news/90965-ijerarkh-upc-nazval-jeresyju-uchenije-chto-smerty-na-pole-boja-smyvajet-grehi The Metropolitan stated: “Those who believe that a warrior is a hero, especially when he gave his life for his homeland, for his neighbors, automatically receives the Kingdom of Heaven by this, that the blood shed on the battlefield cleanses from sin….This is heresy. Only the blood of Christ cleanses sin. And sins are forgiven through repentance.” This is even a stronger statement on this issue than stated by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew who stated: “What he [Patriarch Kirill] said last, namely that all those who die in this war will go straight into the kingdom of God as martyrs, that is something that does not correspond to Orthodox teaching.” https://www.die-tagespost.de/politik/bartholomaios-widerspricht-patriarch-kyrill-art-232694 Metropolitan Luke of Zaporizhzhia issued a very strong statement with respect to missiles hitting a humanitarian convoy leaving the city of Zaporizhzhia and killing 30 civilians and wounding 88. https://hramzp.ua/newsitem/soboleznovanie-mitropolita-zaporozhs-2 The city, which is the administrative center and largest city of the oblast of the same name, is not under Russian occupation. The tragedy occurred on September 30, the same day as the signing ceremony. Metropolitan Luke stated in part: “The murder of innocent people is condemned always and by everyone, and cannot be a means to achieve any goals whatsoever, since it brings into the world only the law of diabolical misanthropy. No, and there can be no goals that can be justified in this way. These non-humans, striving to achieve their unrighteous goals, stop at nothing.” The Metropolitan also stated: “Having lost a person close to me in the war, I sincerely sympathize with all of you, and ask the Lord to grant patience and strength.” Earlier in the year, Metropolitan Luke lost his brother who was a member of the Ukrainian Armed Forces.
Ukrainian Minister of Culture Oleksandr Tkachenko spoke in an interview on October 5 about the need to maintain religious peace in Ukraine during the war. https://news.church.ua/2022/10/06/ministr-kulturi-pro-zakliki-zaboroniti-upc-slid-zberigati-religijnij-mir-pid-chas-vijni/ He said that “a correct, civilized attitude towards certain religious associations and ethnic minorities must be preserved, because our strength lies in our diversity, which is achieved through civilized dialogue.” In considering this statement by Tkachenko, I personally believe that better relations between the UOC and the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU) require a change in behavior on the part of both churches. Certainly a major cause of tensions has been the transition of parishes from the UOC to the OCU after the invasion of Ukraine. I believe that the OCU has sought to encourage these transitions by contending that the UOC is still affiliated with the Moscow Patriarchate and is not as loyal and supportive of Ukraine as the OCU. However, in spite of this argument by the OCU, the number of transitions are now decreasing greatly each month since their peak in May. Thus, there was the transition of 229 parishes in May, decreasing to 104 in June, 54 in July, 30 in August, and 10 in September. https://uk.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D0%9F%D0%B5%D1%80%D0%B5%D1%85%D1%96%D0%B4_%D1%86%D0%B5%D1%80%D0%BA%D0%BE%D0%B2%D0%BD%D0%B8%D1%85_%D0%B3%D1%80%D0%BE%D0%BC%D0%B0%D0%B4_%D0%B4%D0%BE_%D0%9F%D0%A6%D0%A3 From this sharply downward trend, the OCU may hopefully come to the realization that continuing to pursue its own self-interest may not result in a significant increase in parishes in the future and that it is now more important to pursue the common good for Ukraine by establishing better relations between churches.
There is still the question of what will be the relationship between the Moscow leadership of the Moscow Patriarchate and the dioceses and parishes of the UOC in areas controlled by the Russian Armed Forces. On September 30, Father Nikolai Balashov, special advisor to Patriarch Kirill, was asked by the Interfax news agency whether the dioceses in four new regions of Russia will remain under the jurisdiction of the UOC. http://www.interfax-religion.ru/?act=news&div=79817 He stated: “The future is known to God, who guides the ways of His Church. And I am not a prophet to proclaim the future. I personally think that now we need to focus primarily on issues not so much administrative as practical.” In this regard, he referred to the approaching of winter, the damaged churches, and the suffering of the people. He stated that the Holy Synod has established an Interdepartmental Working Group to provide assistance to the dioceses. On the same date, Archpriest Igor Yakimchuk, deputy head of the DECR, told RIA- Novosti that the Office of the Moscow Patriarchate for Dioceses in the Near Abroad, established by the Holy Synod last March, will organize the life of the parishes in the four areas. https://ria.ru/20220930/rpts-1820633139.html The reference to organizing the life of the parishes in the four areas certainly seems to go far beyond the providing of humanitarian assistance. Furthermore, neither Father Nikolai nor Father Igor make any reference to contacting or working through Metropolitan Onufry, primate of the UOC, with respect to the activities of the Moscow leadership of the Moscow Patriarchate in the four areas.
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
2 October 2022: The Pope's appeal may be attractive to Russia
The Pope made an extremely important appeal relating to Ukraine today. https://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/angelus/2022/documents/20221002-angelus.html The appeal includes the following: “My appeal is addressed first and foremost to the President of the Russian Federation, imploring him to stop this spiral of violence and death, also for the sake of his own people. On the other hand, saddened by the immense suffering of the Ukrainian people as a result of the aggression they have suffered, I address an equally confident appeal to the President of Ukraine to be open to serious proposals for peace.” This appears to be a suggestion that Russia agrees to a ceasefire and that Ukraine agrees to enter into serious negotiations. However, President Putin has already said in his speech on September 30 that Russia is willing to enter into an immediate ceasefire: We call on the Kiev regime to immediately cease fire and all hostilities; to end the war it unleashed back in 2014 and return to the negotiating table. We are ready for this, as we have said more than once. But the choice of the people in Donetsk, Lugansk, Zaporozhye and Kherson will not be discussed. The decision has been made, and Russia will not betray it. http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/69465 Russia may find the Pope’s proposal at this point in time, especially after the fall of Lyman today, very appealing. A ceasefire will allow time for Russia to get its mobilized forces in place on the front before any further loss of territory. There was nothing in the Pope’s remarks that would require Russia to negotiate with Ukraine on the four areas.
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
27 September 2022: A comparison of last Sunday's sermons by Kirill and Onufry
On Sunday, September 25, both Patriarch Kirill (head of the Moscow Patriarchate) and Metropolitan Onufry (head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church) delivered sermons to their faithful. The sermon by Patriarch Kirill received much media attention. However, the sermon by Metropolitan Onufry is important too. The two sermons are very different in their approaches. According to Patriarch Kirill, those that die in Ukraine fighting for Russia have all their sins washed away as a result of fulfilling their military oath. On the other hand, according to Metropolitan Onufry, those killing Ukrainians and destroying Ukrainian communities need prayers to change their hearts. This clearly implies that heaven is not guaranteed for the individuals doing the killing and destroying.
On Sunday, Patriarch Kirill celebrated the Divine Liturgy for the feast of the Nativity of the Theotokos in the skete of St. Alexander Nevsky near Peredelkino. The skete is near the Patriarch’s country residence and is where the Patriarch celebrated the Liturgy in his periods of self-isolation during the pandemic. The full text of the Patriarch’s sermon can be read at http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/5962628.html . A video of his homily can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oUSb9_ULkBM&t=21s. The part of the Patriarch’s sermon that has received the greatest attention is the following:
We know that today many are dying in the fields of internecine warfare. The Church prays that this warfare will end as soon as possible, that as few brothers as possible kill each other in this fratricidal war. And at the same time, the Church is aware that if someone, driven by a sense of duty, the need to fulfill an oath, remains true to his calling and dies in the line of military duty, then he undoubtedly commits an act that is tantamount to a sacrifice. He sacrifices himself for others. And therefore we believe that this sacrifice washes away all the sins that a person has committed.
With respect to “the need to fulfill an oath,” it is my understanding that all persons entering the Russian armed forces are obligated to take the following oath: “I, (full name), solemnly swear allegiance to my Fatherland - the Russian Federation. I swear to observe the Constitution of the Russian Federation, strictly comply with the requirements of military regulations, orders of commanders and superiors. I swear to fulfill military duty with dignity, courageously defending the freedom, independence, constitutional order of Russia, the people and the Fatherland.” https://kerchtt.ru/en/voennaya-prisyaga-rossiiskoi-federacii-kogda-prinimayut/ Because the oath is required for all soldiers, it would seem that all Russian soldiers who die “in the line of military duty” are fulfilling their oath and would have all of their sins washed away according to the Patriarch.
On the same Sunday, Metropolitan Onufry celebrated the Divine Liturgy in the Church of the Annunciation in Sviatoshyn. The official website of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church highlighted certain remarks by Metropolitan Onufry. https://news.church.ua/2022/09/26/molimos-shhob-gospod-napovniv-lyubovyu-sercya-lyudej-yaki-nas-vbivayut-predstoyatel/ These remarks are as follows:
We pray that the Lord will fill the hearts of all people with love, and especially those who today kill our people, destroy our cities, villages, so that they remember that God did not put us on earth to kill each other, to take away from each other something that we desire, but that we live in peace, in love for God and for each other.
The foregoing raises a number of questions. The following are just a few: Do those who kill Ukrainians and destroy Ukrainian settlements need a change in heart before all their sins are washed away? Would Patriarch Kirill say that Ukrainian soldiers that die in the line of military duty defending Ukraine also have all their sins washed away? It is likely that the remarks by Patriarch Kirill will give rise to many interesting discussions by Orthodox and other theologians.
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
24 September: Ukrainian Orthodox Church joins appeal on "pseudo-referendums" & other news
On September 24, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) prominently posted on its website the “Statement of the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations regarding pseudo-referendums in the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine.” https://news.church.ua/2022/09/24/zayava-vrciro-shhodo-psevdoreferendumiv-na-timchasovo-okupovanix-teritoriyax-ukrajini/ The posting includes a photo of Metropolitan Onufry of Kyiv and Metropolitan Anthony of Boryspil seated in the foreground at a large table with other church leaders. At the end of the Statement there is the following appeal:
- all countries of the world not to recognize the pseudo-referendums held by the Russian occupying power in the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine;
- all citizens of Ukraine living in the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine not to participate in pseudo-referendums and to be aware of their responsibility before God, their own conscience, previous, current and future generations, as well as before the Ukrainian people;
- the authorities of the Russian Federation to abandon the criminal plan of annexation, which violates not only the human laws of the coexistence of peoples, but also the corresponding prescriptions of the Christian, Islamic and Jewish Holy Scriptures.
Earlier in the Statement, there is a detailed recitation concerning the inviolability of Ukrainian territory, the intention of Russia to seize Ukrainian territory, and the conditions under which such pseudo-referendums are being conducted. Father Mykolay Danylevych, deputy head of the DECR of the UOC, has also posted the Statement on his Facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/mykola.danylevych It will be interesting to see how the hierarchs and clergy of the UOC in the occupied territories will react to this appeal. The Statement has not yet been posted on the website of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine. It has been posted by the UGCC. https://risu.ua/psevdoreferendumi---nezakonna-nasilnicka-sproba-aneksuvati-chastinu-teritoriyi-ukrayini---zayava-vrciro_n132493 Father Mykolay has also disclosed that his brother, Vitaly Danylevych, a lieutenant-colonel and one of the defenders of Mariupol, was one of the 215 Ukrainian soldiers released in the recent prisoner exchange. https://t.me/s/MykolayDanylevych
On September 21 at 9 a.m., President Putin made his address relating to the partial mobilization in the Russian Federation and the holding of referendums in the occupied territories. http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/transcripts/69390 A few hours later, Patriarch Kirill made an address at the conclusion of the Liturgy at the Cathedral of the Nativity of the Mother of God in Moscow. http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/5961607.html On the Julian calendar, it was the feast day of nativity of the Theotokos. On the Julian calendar, it is also the anniversary of the victory of Prince Dmitry over the Golden Horde at Kulikovo Field on September 8, 1380. Patriarch Kirill did not refer directly to the address by President Putin, but he did refer to the “severe trials” which “our Fatherland” is now experiencing. He defined “our Fatherland” as “historic Rus’.” The full text of the Patriarch’s address can be read at http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/5961645.html . The following is an excerpt of his remarks:
Today our Fatherland, Rus’, historical Rus’ is going through severe trials. We know what is happening in Ukraine. We know what danger hangs over the Ukrainian people, whom they are trying to reformat, to make a state that is contrary to Rus’, hostile to Russia. It is very important that in our hearts there is no feeling that an enemy is there. We must pray today that the Lord would strengthen the fraternal feelings of the peoples of Holy Rus’, so that the unity of our Church becomes even stronger and stronger, which is really a guarantee of peace in the expanses of Rus’ - which is why the collapse of our country began with attempts to break the Church, create schisms and divisions. The enemy knew that it was necessary to strike this point. And although we have suffered losses and a dangerous, sinful, graceless schism has arisen in Ukraine, but at the same time the Orthodox faith is preserved there, and our brothers and sisters, archpastors and pastors, who are united and, I believe, together with us around the throne of the Lord, continue to pray for an end to internecine strife, and for the restoration of peace in the expanses of historical Rus’.
Today is connected with the memory of the great victory of our people, their spiritual feat, with the memory of how spiritual authority influenced the formation of courage and heroism. I mean, first of all, the blessing of St. Sergius of Radonezh given to Dmitry Donskoy. How all this formed the true spiritual strength of our army, which won the historic battle. This is a digression into history from our ecclesiastical point of view. This point of view is not present in secular historical science, but in vain, because it is this approach to history that highlights the most important thing - the spiritual dimension in the life of people and the state, without which victory, in conditions of the fading of faith and spirit, becomes impossible. Therefore, today we pray to the Lord again and again that He would pacify Rus’, stop internecine strife, so that Holy Rus’ would be reunited - in the sense that no discord and division would torment the heirs of that very united Holy Rus’. And today, when we remember the victory of our people in the Battle of Kulikovo, we ask that a true victory come without particular battles and bloodshed, which would return to us spiritual unity, peace, prosperity, and mutual love.
May the Veil of the Queen of Heaven stretch over Her inheritance - over Holy Rus’. May the holy saints of God, equally glorified and revered in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and other parts of historical Rus’, pray today for us, the unworthy, and arm us with the correct thoughts, the necessary words, but, most importantly, the righteous deeds through which peace and prosperity could come to the land of Holy Rus’. Amen.
On September 22, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State, met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on the “sidelines” of the United Nations General Assembly in New York. According to the media release of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Lavrov “explained that the forthcoming referendums in the Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics, Zaporozhye and Kherson regions fully comply with international law and are the realization of the legitimate rights of the inhabitants of these territories to self-determination and organization of life in accordance with their own civilizational, cultural and religious traditions.” https://mid.ru/ru/foreign_policy/news/1830805/ On September 24, Cardinal Parolin delivered a long address to the General Assembly in which he focused on various world problems. The text of his address can be read at http://ilsismografo.blogspot.com/2022/09/onu-cardinal-pietro-parolin-addresses_24.html. With respect to Ukraine, he refers to the resulting food shortages, the danger of a nuclear disaster, and the refugee problems. However, nothing is said concerning the partial mobilization or the referendums. Russia is not mentioned by the Cardinal.
Jonathan Luxmoore has done an interview of an anonymous Catholic priest in Russia concerning President Putin’s address. https://catholicreview.org/russian-priest-says-catholics-including-clerics-fear-conscription/ The priest stated: “Catholics themselves are divided, with around 20 percent supporting the war, 40 percent categorically opposed and a further 40 percent watching to see what happens, especially if things get worse and their own family members are killed.” Catholic Archbishop Pezzi in Moscow stated with respect to the address: “It seems to me that the main problem is to find a way out that does not make anyone feel defeated.” https://www.agensir.it/quotidiano/2022/9/21/discorso-putin-mons-pezzi-vescovi-la-pace-purtroppo-sembra-allontanarsi-trovare-una-via-di-uscita-che-non-faccia-sentire-nessuno-sconfitto/
In other news, Metropolitan Joseph of the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of North America has retired. Patriarch John of Antioch issued a letter on September 17 in which he prays that the Metropolitan “may complete the remaining time of his life in peace and repentance.” https://www.antiochian.org/regulararticle/1345 Metropolitan Joseph ends the letter submitting his resignation as follows: “To all those who have falsely accused me by word, thought, or deed, without evidence, whether intentionally or unintentionally, I forgive you. May God be merciful in His judgment upon all of us. Now, let us go forth in peace.” https://www.antiochian.org/regulararticle/1346 Sister Vassa (ROCOR) is doing a video series in Russian on Orthodox against the war. https://www.youtube.com/c/VassaLarin
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
15 September 2022: Pope's meeting with Moscow Patriarchate in Kazakhstan & other news
Pope Francis has now returned to Rome after attending the VII Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions, held in Nur Sultan, Kazakhstan, September 14-15. The Pope had first stated his intention to attend the Congress in a video conference with the President of Kazakhstan on April 11. https://www.vaticannews.va/it/papa/news/2022-04/papa-francesco-viaggio-kazakhstan-congresso-religioni-mondiali.html In November 2021 the chairman of the Senate of Kazakhstan had personally delivered to Patriarch Kirill an invitation to attend the Congress, and the Patriarch “accepted this invitation.” http://www.patriarchia.ru/en/db/text/5867916.html On May 1 Patriarch Kirill personally confirmed to the Kazakhstan ambassador in Moscow that he would attend the Congress. http://www.patriarchia.ru/en/db/text/5867916.html On August 1 the Vatican officially confirmed that the Pope would attend the Congress, and the details of the Pope’s program was posted the next day. https://press.vatican.va/content/salastampa/it/bollettino/pubblico/2022/08/02/0573/01149.html#inglese On August 5 Metropolitan Anthony of Volokolamsk had a long meeting with Pope Francis at the Vatican. https://mospat.ru/en/news/89509/ Nothing was said publicly at that time about Patriarch Kirill not attending the Congress. However, on August 24, Metropolitan Anthony announced in an interview with RIA-Novosti that Patriarch Kirill would not attend the Congress. https://ria.ru/20220824/patriarkh-1811944055.html In this regard the Metropolitan stressed two points. First, the Vatican had unilaterally and to the great surprise of the Moscow Patriarchate cancelled the meeting between the Patriarch and the Pope planned for June in Jerusalem. Second, a meeting between the Patriarch and the Pope must be well-planned with an agreed-upon final document resulting from the meeting. According to Anthony, meeting “on the sidelines” of the Congress would not result in such a desired document.
At the Congress, Pope Francis did meet in the afternoon of September 14 with various individuals or groups. This included such religious leaders as Patriarch Theophilos of Jerusalem, Ahmad Al-Tayyeb, and the chief rabbis of Israel. It also included a 15-minute meeting with Metropolitan Anthony together with Metropolitan Alexander of Astana and Kazakhstan, Metropolitan Kirill of Kazan and Tatarstan (an area with a majority Muslim population), and the Patriarchal Exarch of All Belarus, Metropolitan Veniamin. A video of part of the meeting can be viewed at https://www.romereports.com/en/2022/09/14/pope-francis-meets-with-russian-church-delegation-and-asks-for-meeting-with-kirill/. In the video Pope Francis does say in Italian, “That at another time we may have another meeting [with Patriarch Kirill].” The meeting with the metropolitans did not lend itself to any serious discussion of issues. Fifteen minutes is a very short period of time, especially when one considers that part of this time is devoted to translation. The fact that Metropolitan Anthony brought three other metropolitans with him does not encourage an in-depth discussion. Also, Pope Francis spent a considerable amount of the short period of time asking Metropolitan Alexander various questions concerning the Orthodox in Kazakhstan. https://www.mitropolia.kz/news/religion/7378-mitropolit-astanajskij-i-kazakhstanskij-aleksandr-vstretilsya-s-papoj-rimskim-frantsiskom.html After the meeting, Metropolitan Anthony referred to it as “very cordial.” https://cruxnow.com/pope-in-kazakhstan-2022/2022/09/russian-orthodox-cleric-says-papal-remarks-on-kirill-not-useful-for-christian-unity
On the return flight to Rome on September 15, the Pope, as usual, answered the questions of journalists. A transcript and a recording is found at https://www.vaticannews.va/it/papa/news/2022-09/papa-francesco-conferenza-stampa-volo-viaggio-kazakhstan-ucraina.html . An English translation is found at https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2022-09/pope-francis-kazakhstan-inflight-press-conference-ukraine-china.html The Pope made no remarks with respect to the Moscow Patriarchate. With respect to the giving of arms to Ukraine, the Pope responded that the giving of arms can under certain conditions be morally acceptable. “But it can be immoral if it is done with the intention of provoking more war or selling weapons or discarding those weapons that are no longer needed. The motivation is what largely qualifies the morality of this act. To defend oneself is not only lawful but also an expression of love of country. Those who do not defend themselves, those who do not defend something, do not love it, instead those who defend, love.” The Pope was asked if there is a red line beyond which we should say that we are not open to dialogue with Moscow. The Pope responded: I think it is always difficult to understand the dialogue with the states that started a war, and it seems that the first step was from there, from that side. It is difficult but we must not discard it; we must extend the opportunity for dialogue to everyone, to everyone! Because there is always the possibility that in dialogue we can change things, and also offer another point of view, another point of consideration. I don't exclude dialogue with any power, whether it's at war, whether it's the aggressor... sometimes dialogue has to be done in this manner, but it has to be done; it "stinks", but it has to be done. Always one step ahead, an outstretched hand, always! Because otherwise we close off the only reasonable door to peace. Sometimes some do not accept dialogue: too bad! But dialogue must always be done, at least offered, and this is good for those who offer it; it helps them to breathe.
On September 8, 2022, the Saeima, the parliament of Latvia, adopted amendments to the existing state “Law of the Latvian Orthodox Church.” To understand this, some background information is helpful. In November 2000, the Republic of Latvia and the Holy See entered into an agreement relating to the Catholic Church in Latvia. Presumably, to provide comparable treatment for other denominations, Latvia entered into agreements with the other seven “traditional” religious organizations in 2004. Pursuant to these agreements, separate “Special Church Laws” were enacted by parliament in 2007 – 2008 for each of the seven religious organizations. The “Law of the Latvian Orthodox Church” was enacted in December 2008. This history is provided at http://tzpi.lu.lv/files/2019/10/State-and-Church-in-EU_R.Balodis.pdf (English). At the following site, one can see the full text of the Law of the Latvian Orthodox Church as enacted in 2008, as revised in 2019, and now as revised again in 2022. https://likumi.lv/doc.php?id=184626 One chooses the version desired near the top of the screen where it states: Attēlotā redakcija (Illustrated editorial). The actual 2022 amendments can be seen at https://www.vestnesis.lv/op/2022/175A.1 . The Google translation tool works well on these documents.
The 2022 amendments had been submitted to the parliament by President Egils Levits of Latvia to ensure that the Latvian Orthodox Church is an independent church, not dependent on any other pastoral power outside of Latvia. https://www.baltictimes.com/levits_proposes_recognition_of_independent_latvian_orthodox_church/ Thus, for example, Article 3(3) now reads: “The Church is headed by the Head of the Church, who is independent of any church authority outside of Latvia.” This previously read: “The church fully realizes the right of self-government and self-determination stipulated in its statutes.” Other amendments state that the church is autocephalous. The press release of the parliament did provide: “According to the explanatory note to the Draft Law, the definition of the scope of legal status in the Law does not affect or interfere with the Church's doctrine of faith and canon law.” https://www.saeima.lv/en/news/saeima-news/31372-saeima-affirms-independence-of-latvian-orthodox-church-from-any-ecclesiastical-authority-outside-latvia However, it is doubtful that a “note” could legally contravene the express language of a statute.
On the day following the enactment, the press service of the Latvian Orthodox Church issued a statement. http://www.pareizticiba.lv/index.php?newid=9660&id=6 The statement summarized the amendments without stating whether the Church agreed or disagreed with the amendments. However, the statement does provide: “The Synod of the Latvian Orthodox Church lovingly calls on the clergy and laity to maintain a peaceful disposition of spirit, to maintain the unity of our Church, strictly observing the laws of our Latvian State.” The call to observe the laws of the State implies that the Church will comply with the amendments. In March, Metropolitan Alexander of Riga and All Latvia had written a letter “praying for an end to aggression” and stating that resolving international issues “by military means is unacceptable.” http://www.pareizticiba.lv/index.php?newid=9438 However, there has been no call by the leadership of the Latvian Church to break its ties with the Moscow Patriarchate. On the day prior to the enactment of the amendments, Archpriest Nikolai Balashov, special advisor to Patriarch Kirill, issued a commentary strongly criticizing the proposed amendments. This commentary is available in English. https://mospat.ru/en/news/89610/
On September 12, the Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR) met in New York City and elected a new primate, called the “First Hierarch,” to fill the vacancy caused by the death in May of Metropolitan Hilarion (Kapral). https://orthochristian.com/148231.html The new First Hierarch is Bishop Nicholas (Olkhovsky) of Manhattan. He was vicar bishop of the Diocese of Eastern America and New York and acting bishop of the Diocese after the death of Metropolitan Hilarion. According to the 2007 Act of Canonical Communion between the ROCOR and the Moscow Patriarchate, the election requires the approval of the Patriarch and the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate. On September 14, the Patriarch and Synod approved the election. https://mospat.ru/ru/news/89638/ Particularly notable is the young age of Bishop Nicholas. He is 47 years old. He has been a priest for 10 years and a bishop for 8 years. He is elected First Hierarch “for life.” In spite of his youth, his election was not a surprise. Sergei Chapnin, an Orthodox commentator who is often critical of the Moscow Patriarchate, discussed the possible candidates several days before the election. https://russiapost.info/society/rocor?fbclid=IwAR1CN_R84ZDg-oQlyHYNCQx_STEv2gLHznEQg1nVVu-Cs95dWshXuYKfFq4 With respect to Bishop Nicholas, he stated: He is known as the guardian of the main relic of the Church Abroad, the Kursk-Root Icon of the Mother of God, with which he has traveled, if not the whole world, then most of it. He is soft and calm, ready to listen and act without haste. He enjoys the confidence of the clergy and laity. Many think that under his leadership the course that was taken by his predecessors would be continued. All this makes Bishop Nicholas the undisputed favorite in the upcoming election.
In my last report, I discussed the statement on Ukraine adopted by consensus at the 11th Assembly of the World Council of Churches (WCC) on September 8. https://www.oikoumene.org/resources/documents/war-in-ukraine-peace-and-justice-in-the-european-region Since the time of my report, two additional sources have become available. The first is an account by Natallia Vasilevich, an Orthodox who is from Belarus and now lives in Bonn. Valilevich was a member of the committee which prepared the Ukraine statement and was very much involved in the events relating to its adoption. Her account is found at https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100081913755637 . At the Assembly, the existence of a consensus is determined at a plenary session by delegates raising an orange card (approval) or a blue card (rejection). A blue card which is not withdrawn will defeat a consensus. In one of Valilevich’s entries on September 8, she stated that when the Ukraine statement was discussed on September 7, the delegation of the Moscow Patriarchate raised their blue cards. On September 8, the statement “was adopted without any significant revision, and the ROC delegation withdrew its objections and therefore no longer raised blue cards.” She also states that two individuals at the table of the Ecumenical Patriarchate raised blue cards on September 8, but none of them came forward at the request of the chair to explain their objection and their objection was deemed withdrawn. The second source is a video of the plenary session on September 8. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=isjw8x0b9E0 (discussion on the statement begins at 1:43:30) The video is consistent with the account by Valilevich. It therefore appears that the Moscow delegation raised neither orange or blue cards on September 8. If you watch the video carefully, one can see that many other delegates did not raise their cards at that time.
Interestingly, after the final adoption of the Ukraine statement on September 8, I have seen nothing from the OCU criticizing the statement. Perhaps, this is due in part to the fact that the OCU presently has an application for membership pending before the WCC. In other news relating to Ukraine, Olena Bogdan, head of the State Service for Ethnopolitics and Freedom of Conscience of Ukraine, has made a statement very favorable to the UOC with respect to the retention by the UOC of the Kyiv Lavra. https://spzh.news/en/news/90656-glava-gosetnopolitiki-pojasnila-pochemu-kijevskaja-lavra-dolzhna-ostatysya-u-upc
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
10 September 2022: Karlsruhe - from person on Ukraine document committee
https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100081913755637 These are the Facebook observations by Natallia Vasilevich, an Orthodox who is from Belarus and now lives in Bonn, concerning the Karlsruhe Assembly. (See article about her at https://www.oikoumene.org/news/natallia-vasilevich-christians-in-belarus-do-not-fear-to-be-messengers-of-justice-and-peace ) She was on the committee that drafted the WCC’s Ukraine document. One needs to scroll down though the various days to see all of her observations. She discusses the position of the delegation of the Moscow Patriarchate with respect to the Ukraine document. She also discusses certain interactions with the delegation. It was good to see the photo below showing some friendly interaction between Father Filaret and key people in the delegation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate (Metropolitans Emmanuel and Job).
9 September 2022: WCC's statement on Ukraine & other news
The 11th Assembly of the World Council of Churches (WCC), held in Karlsruhe, Germany, August 31 to September 8, has now concluded. The Assembly normally convenes every eight years. On the final day, September 8, the Assembly adopted a statement on Ukraine. The full statement may be read at https://www.oikoumene.org/resources/documents/war-in-ukraine-peace-and-justice-in-the-european-region The statement condemns the war but does not assess blame on a specific government or church. There has already been some negative criticism that the statement did not go further. See, for example, https://www.dw.com/de/meinung-weltkirchenrat-abschied-vom-dialog-im-gremium-des-dialogs/a-63061698 .
Metropolitan Anthony of Volokolamsk, chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate’s DECR and head of the Patriarchate’s delegation at the Assembly, has now issued a commentary that the Patriarchate “could not support by voting” the statement. https://mospat.ru/en/news/89613/ However, he stated that the Patriarchate viewed with “cautious optimism” the WCC’s position that “refused to bring any accusations against the Russian Orthodox Church and recognized the importance of her large-scale humanitarian mission carried out with a blessing of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Rus’ to give support to refugees and those affected by the conflict.” Metropolitan Anthony also stated that although the document remains “considerably politicized,” “the discussion, which took place during the Assembly, can become for the WCC a starting point for an objective and unprejudiced study of the causes of the longstanding conflict in Ukraine just as for subsequent peace-making efforts.” I have not yet seen any official comments from the OCU or the UOC concerning the WCC statement.
With respect to the foregoing, the Orthodox theologian and commentator Archimandrite Cyril Hovorun has made an interesting observation on his Facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/hovorun He states that the Moscow Patriarchate could have voted against the statement with the result that the statement would have been defeated because of the consensus requirement. However, he reasons that the Patriarchate did not do so as this would have resulted in an embarrassment for the leadership of the WCC which had resisted great pressures to exclude the Patriarchate from the WCC. It is possible in my opinion that the Moscow Patriarchate may have simply abstained from voting as opposed to voting for or against the statement.
Prior to September 8, there were a number of events at the Assembly regarding Ukraine. On September 2 there was a thematic plenary session relating to peace in Europe and especially Ukraine. A video of this entire plenary can be watched in English at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Yp8ji2xrns . Father Ioan Sauca (Romanian Patriarchate), acting WCC general secretary, made some introductory comments. (video at 0 to 3:00). He related that he had Orthodox students both from the OCU and the UOC at the Bossey Ecumenical Institute. He decided to invite them to meet together with him at a restaurant for pizza and beer. All of them came. He said that he did not see any divisions or animosities. Rather, they enjoyed themselves and sang Ukrainian hymns together. In this introduction, Father Ioan also stated that one Ukrainian church (OCU) has applied for membership in the WCC and another (UOC) is considering it. He said that he is not a prophet, but there may be two Ukrainian Orthodox churches in the WCC. Father Ioan then concluded, “I pray God that one day there will be one church member and that there will be one Orthodox Church in Ukraine.”
Later in this thematic plenary, Archbishop Yevstratiy (Zoria), head of the OCU delegation of observers at the Assembly and chief spokesman of the OCU, gave a presentation on the situation in Ukraine. (See video at 37:36) He was followed by a representative of the UOC, Dr. Sergii Bortnyk, a professor at the Kyiv Theological Academy and director of the Academic Initiative Charitable Foundation for Academic Theology in Ukraine. (video at 47:25) No one from the Moscow Patriarchate spoke as part of the panel (apparently they were not invited to do so). Dr. Bortnyk stated that our “enemies” are trying to make us part of Russia again, and he emphasized the UOC May declaration of complete independence of the UOC from the Moscow Patriarchate. He spoke about the humanitarian activity of the UOC in the war situation. He expressed the hope that after the end of the war, the UOC will be able to communicate more with other churches of the world including membership in the WCC. The Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations also sent a delegation of observers to the Assembly. The UCCRO delegation included an Armenian Apostolic bishop, a Greek Catholic priest, and a representative of the Evangelical Baptist Church. (video at 32:10)
Later, a WCC press conference was held featuring Archbishop Yevstratiy. The press conference in English can be watched at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2jb-lVVMqqQ&t=90s . Although the general secretary of CEC was also there to receive questions, all of the questions from journalists were for the Archbishop. In the past, it has seemed to me that the Archbishop usually took the role of an attacker and not a diplomat in his presentations. However, after watching this press conference, I was left with a better impression of him. He stated that the OCU was open to discussions with the UOC with respect to the transfer of parishes.
The Moscow Patriarchate at the beginning of the Assembly was faced with some rocky moments. On the first day of the Assembly, August 31, Germany’s President Frank Steinmeier spoke to the Assembly in very harsh words about the Moscow Patriarchate. https://www.bundespraesident.de/SharedDocs/Reden/EN/Frank-Walter-Steinmeier/Reden/2022/220831-VV-OeKR.html;jsessionid=B98848BC49F30EB78162FEFFBA65FFF4.1_cid353 (full text in English). He stated: “The heads of the Russian Orthodox Church are currently leading their members and their entire church down a dangerous, indeed blasphemous path that goes against all that they believe. They are justifying a war of aggression against Ukraine – against their own and our own brothers and sisters in the faith….The leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church has aligned itself with the crimes of the war against Ukraine. This totalitarian ideology, disguised as theology, has led to the complete or partial destruction of so many religious sites on Ukrainian territory…. ” He also said: “I expect this Assembly not to spare them the truth about this brutal war and the criticism of the role of their church.” Later the same day, Metropolitan Anthony issued a commentary in which he referred to the President’s remarks as “rude pressure” and interference in the internal affairs of the WCC. https://mospat.ru/en/news/89580/ As it turned out, the Assembly did not exclude the Moscow Patriarchate, and the final document on Ukraine did not criticize the Moscow Patriarchate.
On September 7, comments were received at a plenary session concerning the proposed Ukraine documents. The video of this session is found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=US8T3v35844&t=3588s. At 1:25:50 in the video, Archimandrite Filaret (Bulekov), Deputy Chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate’s DECR, commented on the proposed document. He said that the document was better than his expectations. He thought that it would be more politicized and more aggressive. But he adds that it is an example of the information war in that it “lights some things and camouflages other things.” According to him, there is no mention of other parties to the dispute. Immediately afterwards at 1:31:00 in the video, a young woman, Alexandra Kovalenko from the OCU, spoke and made the request to the members of the Moscow Patriarchate to raise their blue card (given to delegates to indicate disapproval) if they oppose the war in Ukraine. According to the media, none did. However, the young woman was rushing so much in her one-minute comment that it is questionable whether the delegation had an opportunity to act in response to her request.
The members of the large delegation from the Moscow Patriarchate are listed at https://mospat.ru/ru/news/89614/ . The Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate on May 24, 2022, had appointed Metropolitan Luke of Zaporozhye and Melitopol (UOC) as the second-ranking members of the Karlsruhe delegation. It is clear that he did not join the delegation. At the Assembly, Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox were elected to important positions in the WCC. Metropolitan Dr Vasilios of Constantia (Church of Cyprus) and Catholicos Aram I of Cilicia (Armenian Apostolic) became two of the eight presidents of the WCC. https://www.oikoumene.org/news/wcc-11th-assembly-elects-eight-new-presidents The 150 members of the newly-elected Central Committee are listed at https://www.oikoumene.org/sites/default/files/2022-09/NC-03.2-Central-Committee-Members-Elected-11th-Assembly.pdf. It appears that each of the autocephalous Local Orthodox Churches (except Georgia and Bulgaria which are not WCC members) have at least one representative on the Central Committee. The Moscow Patriarchate has five representatives, and the Ecumenical Patriarchate has five representatives on the Committee. Metropolitan Nifon of Târgoviște (Romanian Patriarchate) is vice moderator of the Central Committee.
On a different subject, the funeral services for Metropolitan Kallistos were held on August 31 and September 1 in Oxford at three different locations. The vigil was held at St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate); the Divine Liturgy was celebrated at Holy Trinity and Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church (Ecumenical Patriarchate); and the funeral service was held at the larger Oxford Oratory Church of St. Aloysius Gonzaga (Catholic) to accommodate the large number of people expected. https://www.thyateira.org.uk/news/announcements/funeral-arrangements-for-the-late-metropolitan-kallistos-of-diokleia/. The foregoing link provides links to videos of each of the services. Just as the life of Metropolitan Kallistos helped to build bridges between churches, his funeral services involved cooperation between churches. Aside from bishops from the Ecumenical Patriarchate who participated in the services (Metropolitan Athenagoras of Belgium, Metropolitan Athanasios of Koloneia, and Archbishop Nikitas of Thyateira and Great Britain), Metropolitan Silouan (Patriarchate of Antioch) and Archbishop Zenon (Patriarchate of Georgia) also participated. https://orthodoxtimes.com/the-funeral-service-of-the-late-metropolitan-kallistos-of-diokleia/ I also see that Dr. John Chryssavgis, another student of the Metropolitan, was the deacon at the Liturgy.
Dr. Brandon Gallaher, who is Associate Professor of Orthodox Christian Studies at the University of Exeter and a deacon of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, has written a very interesting article about Metropolitan Kallistos with whom he had a close association. https://publicorthodoxy.org/2022/09/06/true-man-kallistos-of-oxford-as-orthodoxys-first-universal-teacher-of-the-global-age/ I learned much from this article, especially about the love of the Metropolitan for the Russian Church and his participation in the Crete Council. I was also interested in the gifting of the signs of the Metropolitan’s office as bishop to various persons: the miter went to Metropolitan Athenagoras (Ecumenical Patriarchate), the episcopal staff to the Monastery of St. John the Baptist (Ecumenical Patriarchate), the pectoral cross of the Metropolitan to Fr. Stephen Platt (Moscow Patriarchate), and the Panaghia was sent to Metropolitan Hilarion of Budapest (Moscow Patriarchate). Again, there was a bridging of the churches.
On September 3, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew arrived on the island of Thassos in the north Aegean Sea near the coast of East Macedonia and Thrace. He was accompanied by Archbishop Hieronymos of Athens and Metropolitan Epifany, primate of the OCU. https://orthodoxia.info/news/sti-thaso-afichthi-o-oikoymenikos-patria/ The next day, the three primates celebrated the Liturgy together in the Dormition Church on the island. https://www.pomisna.info/uk/vsi-novyny/bozhestvennu-liturgiyu-na-o-tasos-ocholyly-predstoyateli-troh-tserkov/ Metropolitan Simeon of Vinnytsia (OCU) has now arrived in Cyprus for an official visit. https://www.pomisna.info/uk/vsi-novyny/mytropolyt-vinnytskyj-i-barskyj-symeon-zdijsnyuye-vizyt-na-o-kipr/ On the evening of September 7, he participated in an evening service with Metropolitan Nektarios of Kition (Church of Cyprus). https://www.pomisna.info/uk/vsi-novyny/mytropolyt-symeon-molyvsya-za-svyatkovym-bogosluzhinnyam-razom-z-iyerarhom-kiprskoyi-tserkvy/
On August 19, Metropolitan Epifany sent a letter to the Orthodox Church of Poland with respect to the latter’s complaints to the Ecumenical Patriarch concerning contacts by the OCU with the Catholic Church in Poland. https://www.pomisna.info/uk/vsi-novyny/ua-pl-dokument-mytropolyt-kyyivskyj-epifanij-nadislav-lysta-do-mytropolyta-varshavskogo-savvy/ It appears that the clergy and faithful of the OCU who are presently refugees in Poland have no place to go for OCU services except to use churches offered by the Catholic Church in Poland. On August 23, the Orthodox Church of Poland issued a statement which reaffirms that it supports the creation of a single autocephalous church for Ukraine. It states that the OCU is not canonical, and sacraments administered by laymen cannot be considered valid. Pastoral care is provided to refugees by the Orthodox Church of Poland. https://www.orthodox.pl/komunikat-kancelarii-metropolity-44/
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
- 1 September 2022: The Death of Metropolitan Nikodim of Leningrad. The Four Eyewitnesses
26 August 2022: Reciprocal cancellation by Kirill & actions by Russian Synod
As has been widely reported by the media, Metropolitan Anthony of Volokolamsk, the new head of the Department of External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate, has stated in an interview by RIA Novosti that Patriarch Kirill will not be attending the VII Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions to be held in Nur Sultan, Kazakhstan, September 14-15. https://ria.ru/20220824/patriarkh-1811944055.html There had been previous reliable reports that Patriarch Kirill had indeed accepted an invitation to attend. See https://astanatimes.com/2022/08/seventh-congress-of-leaders-of-world-and-traditional-religions-to-focus-on-spiritual-development-in-post-covid-19-period/; https://astanatimes.com/2022/05/the-spiritual-diplomacy-of-kazakhstan-and-the-upcoming-7th-congress-of-traditional-religions-protecting-peace-religiously/ (Patriarch confirmed his attendance in a meeting with the Kazakhstan ambassador on May 1). Therefore, this is not simply a decision not to attend, but a cancellation of a prior commitment to attend. On August 1, the Vatican had officially announced that the Pope would be attending the Congress. https://press.vatican.va/content/salastampa/it/bollettino/pubblico/2022/08/01/0570/01149.html On August 2, the Vatican had announced the details of the Pope’s visit including a general reference to “private meetings with various religious leaders.” https://press.vatican.va/content/salastampa/it/bollettino/pubblico/2022/08/02/0573/01149.html#inglese Metropolitan Anthony had a long meeting with Pope Francis on August 5, and nothing was said by either side after the meeting that the Patriarch would not be going to Kazakhstan. It is my personal opinion that the primary reason for the Pope attending the Congress in the first place was the prospect of a meeting with Patriarch Kirill.
In the interview Metropolitan Anthony also referred to the previous plans for the Patriarch and Pope to meet in Jerusalem on June 14, 2022. In this regard, the Novosti article states: “First of all, I would like to note that quite recently, preparations were underway for the second meeting of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Rus' and Pope Francis. The first such meeting took place, as is known, in February 2016 in Havana, Cuba. However, this spring, to our deep surprise, the Vatican unilaterally publicly announced that preparations for the meeting were suspended and that the meeting itself would not take place," Metropolitan Anthony recalled. The Pope had first announced his intention not to meet with Patriarch Kirill in Jerusalem in an interview with Argentine newspaper La Nación that was posted on April 22. Immediately afterwards, Metropolitan Hilarion had issued a face-saving explanation: The events of the last two months forced us to make adjustments to the plans and postpone the meeting. Too many difficulties would arise right now in its preparation. This concerns security, logistics, and public coverage of the meeting. We will wait for a more favorable time for this event. https://tass.ru/obschestvo/14448633 Now, the candid answer of Metropolitan Anthony acknowledges that the cancellation by Pope Francis was unilateral and caused “deep surprise” on the part of the Moscow Patriarchate. Perhaps, the sudden cancellation by Patriarch Kirill of his attendance at the Congress has an element of “tit for tat.”
For a meeting to occur, Metropolitan Anthony stressed that it “should be most carefully prepared, its agenda must be agreed upon, its resultant document must be thought out in advance.” In this regard, he referred to the final document issued by Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill at the conclusion of their Havana meeting in February 2016. In my opinion, any final document prepared at this time would need to include the subject of Ukraine, and agreement on the terms of such a document would be very difficult to achieve. If agreement on a joint document is a condition for a future meeting between the Patriarch and the Pope, such a meeting in the near future is highly unlikely. The cancellation of the Patriarch’s attendance at the Congress is probably a relief to many in Ukraine who oppose any meeting between the Pope and Patriarch. The cancellation will also lessen the pressure on Pope Francis to visit Ukraine prior to the trip to Kazakhstan.
Today, August 25, the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate met in Moscow. The minutes of the meeting have been posted at http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/5952955.html . Four of the participants were physically present while the remainder participated by video link. There is nothing in the minutes concerning the resignation of Metropolitan Onufry of Kyiv and All Ukraine (his resignation is reported at https://orthochristian.com/147137.html ), and there is no identification of those who participated by video link.
In Journal entry 62, the Holy Synod decided to “recognize the Macedonian Orthodox Church - the Archdiocese of Ohrid as an autocephalous Sister Church and inscribe the name of its Primate, His Beatitude Archbishop Stefan of Ohrid and Macedonia, in the sacred diptychs.” The preface to the resolution includes the following recital:
On June 5, 2022, at the Cathedral Church of St. Michael the Archangel in Belgrade, His Holiness Patriarch Porfirije of Serbia and His Beatitude Archbishop Stefan of Ohrid and Macedonia celebrated the Divine Liturgy, co-served by the hierarchs of the Serbian Orthodox Church and the Macedonian Orthodox Church — Ohrid Archdiocese. At the end of the Liturgy, His Holiness Patriarch Porfirije, fulfilling the decision of the Council of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church, solemnly presented His Beatitude Archbishop Stefan of Ohrid and Macedonia with the Tomos, confirming the autocephaly of the Macedonian Orthodox Church - the Ohrid Archdiocese. His Holiness Patriarch Porfirije of Serbia informed His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Rus' about the event in a letter dated August 8, 2022, expressing his wish and request to the Russian Orthodox Church “that you also accept the completely canonical Church already mentioned as the youngest sister autocephalous Orthodox Church, setting an example in this way for the rest of the Local Orthodox Churches.”
This is an interesting development as Archbishop Stefan has made it very clear that he did not consider the document presented to him on June 5 as a tomos of autocephaly and that such a document can only be issued by the Ecumenical Patriarchate. https://religija.mk/arhiepiskopot-stefan-za-to-vima-edinstveno-vselenskata-patrijarshija-izdava-tomos-za-avtokefalnost/ Also this represents a change of strategy by the Serbian Orthodox Church. On June 5 Patriarch Porfirije stated: “In order for this to manifest itself formally, we are obliged to send our decision to other local Churches, so that each, according to the canonical order, can express its position….” http://www.spc.rs/sr/patrijarh_porfirije_crkvom_ne_mozhemo_da_se_sluzhimo_ona_nije_orudje_kamoli_oruzhje Thus, it appears that Patriarch Porfirije has appealed to the Russian Church in his letter of August 8 prior to receiving the “position” of any of the Local Orthodox Churches that are higher in the canonical order than Russia, namely Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem. At least there has been no news of the higher patriarchates taking any action on a Serbian letter.
In Journal entry 66, the Holy Synod decided that the future Bishops’ Council will continue to be postponed due to the international situation and that the Holy Synod would consider the matter again at its December meeting. In Journal entry 87, paragraph 4, there is the following entry: “Satisfy the request of Archpriest Nikolai Balashov to be relieved of the post of Deputy Chairman of the Department for External Church Relations, expressing gratitude to him for his work, and bless him to continue his activities in the field of external church relations as an adviser to the Patriarch of Moscow and All Rus.” The Orthodox commentator, Sergei Chapnin, had reported in his Facebook page a few days after the decision transferring Metropolitan Hilarion to Budapest, that Father Nikolai had submitted his resignation to Patriarch Kirill. https://www.facebook.com/chapnin In my opinion the resignation of Father Nikolai is sad news. There are also other interesting items in the minutes.
Lastly, a good friend has kindly submitted to me an exact translation of Metropolitan Hilarion’s video remarks concerning his presence at the death of Metropolitan Kallistos. See https://t.me/s/MetropolitanHilarion It is much more complete and better than the Romfea.gr version which I used in my report yesterday. The correct translation is as follows: “Dear Brothers and Sisters. On the night of 23-24 August 2022, Metropolitan Kallistos of Diokleia passed away at his home in Oxford in his 88th year. I was with him for the last two days of his earthly life. On the morning of 23 August, I celebrated the Divine Liturgy at his bedside. He received the Holy Sacrament of Christ in full consciousness and with great gratitude. A few hours later he fell into a state of coma and he died at 1:00 in the night on 24 August. Together with Father Stephen Platt, the Rector of the Diocese of Sourozh of the Russian Orthodox Church in Oxford, and some people close to Metropolitan Kallistos, I celebrated the first Panikhida. May God grant his faithful servant rest where there is no sickness, no sorrow, no grief, but eternal life. It is incumbent upon all of us to pray for Metropolitan Kallistos who has just passed away.” The English website of the Moscow Patriarch has also mentioned the presence of Metropolitan Hilarion at the death of Metropolitan Kallistos including giving him communion. http://www.patriarchia.ru/en/db/text/5952634.html However, the Russian website has now been modified so as to refer simply to visits by Hilarion without further details. http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/5952549.html For another very nice tribute to Metropolitan Kallistos, I would recommend the following article by Archdeacon John Chryssavgis, a well-known student of the deceased. https://religionnews.com/2022/08/24/remembering-kallistos-ware-revered-orthodox-christian-theologian/ Funeral arrangements have not yet been announced by the Archdiocese of Thyateira & Great Britain (Ecumenical Patriarchate).
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
24 August 2022: Death of Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware)
Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware), a renowned bishop of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, died today, August 24 at 1 a.m. https://orthodoxtimes.com/metropolitan-kallistos-ware-of-diokleia-fell-asleep-in-the-lord/ An outstanding professor at Oxford University, he was greatly respected by Christians of all denominations. His books on Orthodoxy often serve as the first introduction for non-Orthodox to the Orthodox faith. He lectured in many places in the world and delighted his audiences with his knowledge and good humor. I attended one of his lectures at Seattle Pacific University in Seattle USA a number of years ago. The University is operated by the Free Methodist Church and has a strong religious orientation. The lecture was held in a large auditorium which was packed with many students. The audience of prominently Protestants was simply enthralled by this man as demonstrated their great attention, applause, and laughter. They truly loved him.
Metropolitan Kallistos had a great gift of bringing Christians closer together. He headed the Orthodox side of the Orthodox – Anglican dialogue for many years. He was an extremely valuable member of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches and played a major role in bringing about agreement on the very important Ravenna document.
The last two days of the life of Metropolitan Kallistos became a symbol of love between divided Christians. His death overcame the barriers and tensions between the Ecumenical and Moscow Patriarchates for a short period of time. Although the Moscow Patriarchate has severed communion with the Ecumenical Patriarchate, Metropolitan Hilarion of Budapest and Hungary (Moscow Patriarchate) flew from Budapest to Oxford to be with his former teacher and mentor for the last days of his life. Metropolitan Hilarion has just posted on his Telegram channel a short video describing the death of Metropolitan Kallistos . https://t.me/s/MetropolitanHilarion The remarks by Metropolitan Hilarion have already been transcribed and posted at https://www.romfea.gr/patriarxeia-ts/patriarxeio-mosxas/51779-o-voudapestis-ilarion-gia-tin-koimisi-tou-diokleias-kallistou. The following is a Google translation of Metropolitan Hilarion’s remarks:
"During the last months of his life, Metropolitan Kallistos was seriously ill. I was by his side during the last two days of his earthly life.
On the morning of August 23rd I celebrated Divine Liturgy at the bed of suffering, and then I communicated him to the Lord's sacred and holy mysteries.
Metropolitan Kallistos fell asleep around 01:00 in the early morning of August 24th.
A few minutes later, accompanied by the rector of the Oxford parish of the Diocese of Sourozh, Father Stephen (Platt), I performed the first Trisagion at the bed of the deceased."
May the memory of Metropolitan Kallistos be eternal!
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
20 August 2022: Fall of Montenegro Government after Church agreement signed
The Basic Agreement between the Government of Montenegro and the Serbian Orthodox Church was signed on August 3 by Prime Minister Dritan Abazović and Patriarch Porfirije of Serbia. https://spc.rs/podgorica-patrijarh-vladacg-temeljni-ugovor/; https://orthodoxtimes.com/patriarch-of-serbia-and-pm-of-montenegro-signed-a-fundamental-agreement/ Because of the controversy surrounding the agreement, there was no advanced publicity as to the place and time of the signing. The signing of the agreement and other factors sparked two initiatives for votes of no-confidence in the Government led by Abazović. https://theglobalfrontier.com/analysis-two-initiatives-for-the-dismissal-of-dritan-abazovics-government/ Shortly after midnight on August 20, 50 of the 80 deputies of the Montenegro parliament voted no confidence in the Government. https://www.cdm.me/politika/poslanici-danas-o-nepovjerenju-vladi/ The Government had only been in existence since April 28. For those voting for no confidence, the signing of the Basic Agreement was an important factor for many but not for all of them. The fall of the Government does not directly affect the validity of the Basic Agreement. However, it does raise the possibility that a new Government may take some action with respect to the Agreement. If a new Government cannot now be formed, there will be new elections.
On the Julian calendar, the feast of the Transfiguration is celebrated on August 19. For Metropolitan Hilarion of Budapest, it marks the 35th anniversary of his ordination as a priest. He celebrated the occasion during the Liturgy at the Dormition Cathedral in Budapest. Significantly, Bishop Irinej of Bačka, who is probably the second most important hierarch in the Serbian Orthodox Church, came to Budapest to celebrate the anniversary with Hilarion. The two hierarchs are good friends. https://spc.rs/%d1%98%d1%83%d0%b1%d0%b8%d0%bb%d0%b5%d1%98-%d0%bc%d0%b8%d1%82%d1%80%d0%be%d0%bf%d0%be%d0%bb%d0%b8%d1%82%d0%b0-%d0%b8%d0%bb%d0%b0%d1%80%d0%b8%d0%be%d0%bd%d0%b0-%d0%b0%d0%bb%d1%84%d0%b5%d1%98%d0%b5/ The entire Liturgy can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=96CK7pIZizM . Metropolitan Timotheos (Margaritis) of Bostra (Jerusalem Patriarchate) presided at the Liturgy. Others serving in the Liturgy included: Archbishop Tikhon of Ruza (Moscow Patriarchate – head of the Berlin – Germany diocese); Bishop Lukijan of Buda (Serbian Orthodox Church in Hungary); Bishop Siluan of Hungary (Romanian Orthodox Church); Bishop Gerasim of Melnik (chief secretary of the Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church); Archbishop Michael of Prague and Archbishop Juraj of Michalovce and Košice (both of the Orthodox Church of Czech Lands and Slovakia). So far, I have not seen news of this event on Russian websites.
On August 17, Metropolitan Onufry celebrated the eighth anniversary of his enthronement as primate of the UOC. https://news.church.ua/2022/08/17/ukrajinska-pravoslavna-cerkva-molitovno-vidznachila-vosmu-richnicyu-intronizaciji-svogo-predstoyatelya/ The website of the UOC has posted letters of congratulations from Patriarch Porfirije (Serbia), Patriarch Ilia (Georgia), and Metropolitan Rastislav (Czech Lands and Slovakia). Patriarch Kirill also sent a letter of congratulations although it was not posted by the UOC. http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/5950823.html The letter from Patriarch Kirill asked Our Savior to strengthen “you on the path of preserving the unity and purity of the canonical structure of Church life.” Patriarch Porfirije referred to Onufry as “a zealous and sacrificial shepherd.” https://news.church.ua/2022/08/17/patriarx-serbskij-porfirij-privitav-predstoyatelya-upc-z-vosmoyu-richniceyu-intronizaciji-na-prestol-kijivskix-mitropolitiv/
Disputes over the transfer of parishes from the UOC to the OCU have dampened hopes that the two churches would work together in a common defense of Ukraine. The number of transfers increased greatly after the invasion of Ukraine. However, they are now decreasing. If one graphs the number of transfers from the invasion to the present time, a bell-shaped curve is formed. This can be seen from the following website which has tracked the transfers for a long period of time. https://uk.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D0%9F%D0%B5%D1%80%D0%B5%D1%85%D1%96%D0%B4_%D1%86%D0%B5%D1%80%D0%BA%D0%BE%D0%B2%D0%BD%D0%B8%D1%85_%D0%B3%D1%80%D0%BE%D0%BC%D0%B0%D0%B4_%D0%B4%D0%BE_%D0%9F%D0%A6%D0%A3 The website claims that the number of transfers for the months of 2022 are as follows: Feb. 1; Mar. 54; Apr. 104; May. 229; June 104; July 54; Aug. (as of 8/19) 17. Interestingly, a similar bell-shaped curve occurred immediately after the council forming the OCU in December 2018. The number of transfers claimed for December 2018 and the five successive months are as follows: 35, 152, 234, 93, 14, 1. Although the UOC claims that the numbers are far smaller, the bell-shaped curve is probably accurate. If better relations are to be established between the UOC and the OCU, the churches need to realize that their own self-interests must sometimes be sacrificed for the common good.
On August 9, the Polish website Polityka posted an interview of Metropolitan Sawa, primate of the Polish Orthodox Church. https://www.polityka.pl/tygodnikpolityka/spoleczenstwo/2176527,1,co-z-uznaniem-ukrainskiej-cerkwi-pytamy-metropolite-sawe-teraz-trwa-wojna.read The transcript of the interview cannot be accessed without a subscription. However, the Union of Orthodox Journalists (UOJ) has translated into English and posted parts of the interview in several articles. In the interview, Sawa reaffirmed his previous position that the ordination of Epifany, primate of the OCU, is not valid. According to Sawa, the solution is canonical ordination for Epifany. https://spzh.news/en/news/90057-predstojately-polyskoj-cerkvi-jepifanij--miryanin-jego-nuzhno-rukopolagaty In a second article, UOJ provides more quotations from the interview. https://spzh.news/en/news/90060-mitropolit-savva-patriarkh-varfolomej-sprosil-ob-ukraine--chto-mne-delaty One of the quotations is as follows: A healthy church body cannot calmly take in such confusion, so I spoke about it with Patriarch Bartholomew. He agreed with me, but he finds it difficult to make a decision on Ukraine. But there can be only one thing in this respect: to convene the entire hierarchy, determine what to do with Epifany in order to give the Church in Ukraine full autocephaly.
In my last report, I discussed the visit of Metropolitan Isaiah of Tamassos (Church of Cyprus) to the Phanar. Isaiah was one of the Cypriot bishops who opposed the decision of Archbishop Chrysostomos of Cyprus to commemorate Epifany in the Liturgy. Metropolitan Isaiah has now given an interview describing the visit. https://www.philenews.com/koinonia/eidiseis/article/1527270 (full interview in Greek); https://orthochristian.com/147621.html (English with numerous quotes) The interview gives further support to the theory that Isaiah is softening somewhat his prior opposition to a recognition of the OCU by the Church of Cyprus. For example, Isaiah states: We were really impressed by his [the Ecumenical Patriarch’s] open heart and kindness. With a lot of patience, both he and his expert collaborators explained to us in detail the positions of the Patriarchate on the whole issue [relating to the OCU]. They gave us several answers, through legal and historical theses, which we will study very thoroughly. Yes, just a few days ago, a brilliant scientific study on the canonical origin of the consecrations of Ukrainian bishops, recognized by the Ecumenical Patriarchate, was prepared by the Chief Secretary of the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Throne Fr. Grigorios Fragakis. We believe that this fact will clarify and shed a lot of light on this thorny issue, which was also the main cause of our reservations, as well as that of many other bishops in Orthodoxy. Now, regarding my position on the decisions of the Church of Cyprus, on the matter, I make it clear that obedience to them [the decisions] is a commitment for every member of our Holy Synod, who respects our Synodal system. I cannot give you a clearer answer. Obedience to the Holy Synod. As discussed in my last report, it is very possible that the latest opinions by Isaiah may be motivated in part by a desire to be the next primate of the Church of Cyprus. With respect to the health of Archbishop Chrysostomos, who is suffering from cancer, he has returned from his medical trip to Israel and is again receiving visitors.
On August 2, the Vatican posted the program for the Pope’s trip to Kazakhstan, September 13-15. https://press.vatican.va/content/salastampa/it/bollettino/pubblico/2022/08/02/0573/01149.html#inglese The prime purpose of the trip is to attend the VII Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions. It is reported that Patriarch Kirill has also accepted an invitation to attend the Congress. Although there is nothing in the Pope’s program expressly referring to a meeting with the Patriarch, the program for the afternoon of September 12 includes “private meetings with various religious leaders.” Two days after the posting, Metropolitan Anthony of Volokolamsk, the new head of the Moscow Patriarchate’s DECR, met at the Vatican with Archbishop Paul Gallagher, who is responsible for the Holy See’s relations with states. https://mospat.ru/en/news/89507/ On August 5, Metropolitan Anthony met with Pope Francis. Father Jaromir Zadrapa, who is responsible for relations with the Slavic Byzantine churches at the DPCU, was also present. According to the posting of the DECR, the meeting was held “at an invitation of Pope Francis,” was “prolonged,” and “was held in Italian.” https://mospat.ru/en/news/89509/ Metropolitan Anthony is fluent in Italian because he was responsible for two parishes in Rome and then for all parishes of Italy from 2011 to 2017. The big question is whether Pope Francis will visit Ukraine before any possible meeting with Kirill in Kazakhstan.
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
1 August 2022: The quagmire in Montenegro & other news
Determining the proper relationship between the government of Montenegro and the Serbian Orthodox Church (SOC) continues to dominate the news from Montenegro. On April 28 the Montenegro's parliament approved a new government led by Prime Minister Dritan Abazović, who is 36 years old, a Muslim, and the leader of the Civic Movement URA. The new government was made possible through the support of the Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) headed by Montenegro President Milo Đukanović. One of the major problems facing the new government has been to conclude an agreement with the SOC. On June 30, Abazović met with Serbian Patriarch Porfirije in Belgrade, and it was announced that the working groups for the SOC and the government had reached an “agreement in principle.” The next step was for the agreement to be approved by the Holy Synod of the SOC and by the Montenegro government. On July 8, the ministers representing the parties of the new government voted 13 to 5 in favor of the proposed agreement. However, three ministers were absent from the session. https://balkaninsight.com/2022/07/08/montenegro-govt-votes-for-serbian-church-agreement-amid-no-confidence-threats/ This gave rise to a dispute as to whether the two-thirds majority required for approval should be calculated on the number of ministers present or the total number of ministers. As a result of this dispute, Đukanović and Abazović met on July 19 and agreed on the formation of an expert commission to determine whether the proposed agreement is consistent with the constitution and laws of Montenegro. The commission was to report its conclusions no later than July 31. However, the commission never met because of a controversy among the commission members. https://serbia.postsen.com/news/amp/29410 This resulted in three different legal opinions being submitted by different lawyers. On August 1, Abazović rejected all of the legal arguments opposing the proposed agreement. https://www.cdm.me/politika/abazovicev-kabinet-objavio-pravnu-analizu-teksta-ugovora-sa-spc-procitajte-sta-u-njoj-pise/ The stage is now set for the signing of the agreement. Also on August 1, the spokesperson of the DPS stated that if the agreement is signed, the DPS will withdraw its support from the government. https://www.cdm.me/english/initiative-to-overthrow-govt-after-signing-agreement-with-spc/ This will probably result in the fall of the government and new elections.
Archbishop Chrysostomos, primate of the Church of Cyprus, who has been suffering from cancer for a considerable period of time, is now in Israel for medical examinations. https://cyprus-mail.com/2022/07/28/archbishop-chrysostomos-in-israel-for-medical-examinations/ In an interview in June, the Archbishop stated that he is undergoing chemotherapy, but that it is going well. https://churchofcyprus.org.cy/79631 Nevertheless, speculation about his possible successor continues. At the present time, the procedure for electing a new archbishop is specified by the 2010 Charter of the Cypriot Church. Under this procedure, there is first an election in which all of the faithful, age 18 or older, are entitled to nominate one hierarch to be the new archbishop. The 17 members of the Holy Synod then elect by a simple majority the new archbishop from the three nominees who received the most votes in the first election. At the end of June, the Cyprus Times published the results of an extensive poll that asked the question: “Which Hierarch would you vote for if we had Archbishop Elections next Sunday?” https://cyprustimes.com/koinonia/dimoskopisi-cyprus-times-apo-tin-analytica-provadisma-ston-lemesoy-athanasio-gia-archiepiskopikes/ (in Greek); https://orthochristian.com/146996.html (in English) The three hierarch who received the most votes were: Metropolitan Athanasios of Limassol – 31%; Metropolitan Neophytos of Morphou – 16%; Metropolitan Isaiah of Tamassos – 14%.
Interestingly, all three opposed the action of Archbishop Chrysostomos to commemorate in the Liturgy the primate of the new Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU). On November 25, 2020, the Holy Synod of Cyprus had discussed and voted on the Archbishop’s action. It is reported that ten bishops voted not to oppose the Archbishop’s action while seven opposed it. The three were among the seven. https://www.financialmirror.com/2022/02/21/cyprus-clergy-wobbles-over-ukraine-church/ The June poll is good news for Moscow but not for Constantinople. There is a report that consideration was given to amending the Charter to eliminate the first election and to provide that a new archbishop would be elected solely by the Holy Synod. https://knews.kathimerini.com.cy/en/news/ukraine-crisis-stains-church-elections-in-cyprus However, the most recent development in this continuing drama is that Metropolitan Isaiah of Tamassos met with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew at the Phanar on July 25. https://www.romfea.gr/ekklisia-kyprou/51319-o-mitropolitis-tamasoy-sto-fanari-foto It is reported that the visit was made with the blessing of Archbishop Chrysostomos and that it was a warm meeting. https://knews.kathimerini.com.cy/en/news/cyprus-church-wars-over-ukraine-quiet-down It is certainly possible that Isaiah wishes to tone down his prior criticism of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and its actions in order to obtain the support of the ten bishops who did not oppose the commemoration of the primate of the OCU.
On July 22, the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate elected Archbishop Job of Telmessos (Getcha), age 48, to be the next Metropolitan of Pisidia. https://orthodoxtimes.com/archbishop-of-telmissos-is-the-new-metropolitan-of-pisidia/ Job became an archbishop when he headed the Patriarchal Exarchate of Orthodox Parishes of the Russian Tradition in Western Europe from 2013-15. From November 2015 to the present time, he has been the permanent representative of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to the World Council of Churches in Geneva. Since 2016, he has been the co-president of the Joint International Commission for the Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches. Job fills the position that has been vacant after the death of Metropolitan Sotirios (Trambas) of Pisidia on June 10, 2022, at the age of 92. Sotirios was previously the first Metropolitan of Korea, but resigned in 2008 for health reasons. He was then given the title of Metropolitan of Pisidia in 2008. From this it might appear that the title of Metropolitan of Pisidia is given to one who is no longer in active ministry. Also for the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the title of metropolitan is a lesser title than archbishop. Did Job receive a demotion?
On Sunday, July 24, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew made it very clear that this was in fact a promotion. Job was given the honor on Sunday of presiding at the Divine Liturgy at Patriarchal Church of St. George at the Phanar. https://fosfanariou.gr/index.php/2022/07/24/xorostasia-pisidias-job-ston-patr-nao/ At that time, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew praised Job and stated: ““We congratulate you again on your promotion. Axios!” In response, Job thanked the Ecumenical Patriarch and the Holy Synod for the “great honor” of serving as the head of this historic eparchy, made famous by the visits of St. Paul. https://orthodoxie.com/homelie-de-sa-toute-saintete-le-patriarche-oecumenique-bartholomee-lors-du-petit-message-au-metropolite-job-de-pisidie-23-juillet-2022/ Although Job will probably lose his archbishop title, the move from permanent representative at the WCC to heading a very historic eparchy is in fact a promotion. I suspect that Job will no longer be the representative in Geneva, but will continue to head the Orthodox side of the Orthodox – Catholic Theological Dialogue Commission.
The website of the Moscow Patriarchate’s DECR continues to give frequent coverage to the activities of Metropolitan Hilarion in Hungary. The latest example is https://mospat.ru/ru/news/89495/. On July 26 the Jesus Portal posted on YouTube a short 4+ minute video of Metropolitan Hilarion describing his life in Budapest. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nohNAhXIEhI On the first day there were over 66,000 views. There are now over 161,000 views. Below the video are over 1,000 comments by admirers of Metropolitan Hilarion. His Sunday Liturgy was streamed live on July 31. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zcMthQCDuTk&t=1s
The Moscow Patriarchate’s African Exarchate has now launched its new website. https://exarchate-africa.ru/ The best source of news continues to be the Telegram channel of Metropolitan Leonid. https://t.me/s/exarchleonid In a discussion of a lawsuit brought by the Patriarchate of Alexandria in Kenya, Metropolitan Leonid states that Bishop Markos of Kisumu and Western Kenya has been released from the administration of the diocese and that Archbishop Makarios of Nairobi has been appointed the ruling bishop. Markos has only been a bishop since December 2019. The diocese was previously under Bishop Athanasius, a beloved native African bishop who was only 48 years old when he died in January 2019 from a rare blood disease. It appears that a large majority of the native priests in the diocese have now joined the Moscow Patriarchate.
July has not been a good month for Archbishop Elpidophoros of America (Ecumenical Patriarchate). Photos appeared on the Internet showing the Archbishop at the baptisms in Vouliagmeni (an Athens suburb) of two children of a gay celebrity couple. https://orthochristian.com/147132.html The photo at the top of this last link, which was posted on many different sites, caused a furor. The gay couple had received their two children through the use of a surrogate mother. The baptism was followed by a lavish party at Four Seasons Astir Palace Hotel Athens. It is not clear whether the Archbishop participated in the party. The Archbishop’s actions have resulted in strong negative reactions (with some exceptions) in much of the Orthodox world, including criticism by the local bishop (who claims the Archbishop only sought permission to perform the baptisms without mentioning that the couple was gay), by the Holy Synod of the Church of Greece (conveying the protest of the local bishop to the Archbishop and to the Phanar), by the 20 monasteries of Mt. Athos (“foreign to the teaching of the Gospel and the Orthodox ethos to allow the understanding that a ‘same-sex couple’ can be considered a family with the right to adopt children”), and by Archbishop Chrysostomos of Cyprus (“he could have done it somewhat quietly”). The National Herald reports that there were also concerns expressed at the July meeting of the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and that the Ecumenical Patriarch was “very troubled and distressed” by what happened. https://orthochristian.com/147458.html The criticism appears to be focused not so much on the fact that the children were baptized, but on the manner and circumstances in which the baptisms were done. One of the concerns seems to be that the Archbishop’s participation in this high-profile celebration, including posing for photos likely to be broadly disseminated, could be construed by some as an indication that he does not object to gay marriages and the use of surrogate mothers. In my last report, I discussed another event involving the Archbishop -- the confrontation between the heads of several Orthodox jurisdictions in the United States and Archbishop Elpidophoros concerning the intention of the Archbishop to ordain Alexander Belya as a bishop. On July 15, the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of American announced that the ordination of Belya has been postponed until a consensus is reached with heads of other Orthodox jurisdictions in the United States. https://www.goarch.org/-/postponement-of-ordination-of-bishop-elect-alexander-of-nicopolis-2022
The Vatican confirmed on August 1 that Pope Francis will attend the Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan on September 13-15. https://apnews.com/article/russia-ukraine-pope-francis-religion-jerusalem-6a22e863361f74a1adc7b69fb8d5524f; https://press.vatican.va/content/salastampa/it/bollettino/pubblico/2022/08/01/0570/01149.html Patriarch Kirill has accepted an invitation to attend the same Congress.
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
15 July 2022: Orthodox dialogue in Ukraine & other news
On July 5 a meeting of 9 priests and one protodeacon of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) and 11 priests of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU) was held at the complex of the historical Sophia Cathedral of Kyiv. It was an unofficial and informal meeting to discuss the present and the future of the two churches. The meeting was hosted by Oleksandr Tkachenko, Ukraine’s Minister of Culture and Information Policy. The meeting was held on the anniversary of the death of Metropolitan Volodymyr (Sabodan), who was primate of the UOC from 1992 to 2014. The meeting was moderated by Olena Bohdan, head of the State Service for Ethnic Policy and Freedom of Conscience. At the end of the meeting, all of the participants from the UOC and the OCU signed a “declaration of understanding.” The text of the declaration and the names of the signatories can be read at https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSf66W6l9CV60FWhreS_4iZ6yMJLOSPObPKVFCBgvkTNpEVWng/viewform; This was the first of a series of meetings between the priests, and it is anticipated that future meetings will be scheduled monthly.
The following article (in English) contains quotations from some of the participants following the meeting. https://df.news/en/2022/07/06/we-will-overcome-everything-together-with-christ-ukrainian-orthodox-churches-start-informal-dialogue/; Olena Bohdan stated: For the first time since the OCU was established, a meeting of priests of the OCU and the UOC took place in order to exchange views on the present and future. Until now, the clergy of the two Churches never purposefully met to talk about today and tomorrow. It is very important that today here, in the heart of the spiritual life of Ukraine – in Sofia of Kyiv – we have gathered, and we thank the clergy of both Churches very much for their openness. This face-to-face conversation is extremely important so that we can continue to build our common home – Ukraine – together. Archpriest Serhiy Prokopchuk of the UOC Sarny Eparchy (Rivne Oblast) stated: We are Ukrainians. We are Orthodox. For us, Christ is a model of unity, peace, love, and understanding. Today we gathered to find points of contact between the clergy of the UOC and the OCU. We represent our parishes and would very much like peace and understanding to reign locally in our communities and that the steps towards reconciliation and future unity be visible.
It is very possible that the meeting was the idea of Father Georgy Kovalenko, who was one of the participants and played a very active role in the meeting. Since 2016 he has been the rector of the Open Orthodox University of Saint Sophia-Wisdom. https://oou.org.ua/about/; In Ukraine, Father Georgy is a very familiar face. From 2008 to 2014, he was the press secretary for the primate of the UOC, Metropolitan Volodymyr (Sabodan), and was the official spokesperson of the UOC-MP. He left that position after the death of the Metropolitan. He subsequently became a priest of the OCU. Father Georgy has been a good friend of Minister of Culture Tkachenko for a number of years. Prior to Tkachenko becoming a minister in June 2020, the two men travelled to Mt. Athos together and also met together with Patriarch Theophilos of Jerusalem and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. The Facebook entries for Father Georgy include many photos of the July 5 meeting. https://www.facebook.com/kovalenkogeorge
The terms of the declaration of understanding seek to create better relations between the UOC and the OCU. For example, there is a provision about the “the need to refrain from aggression, stereotypes, prejudice and the language of ultimatums and enmity in communication with each other and in public space.” Another provision refers to the “need to move away from narrow corporate interests in the inter-Orthodox dialogue.” The declaration urges the UOC and the OCU to begin an official dialogue before the feast of the “Baptism of Kyiv Rus-Ukraine” (July 28). Although there has been almost no controversy in the media about the provisions adopted at the meeting, a criticism of the declaration has been posted by the Union of Orthodox Journalists at https://spzh.news/en/zashhita-very/89462-deklaracija-neponimanija-pochemu-bessmyslenna-vstrecha-v-sofii.
The organizers of the July 5 meeting emphasize that the meeting was not “official.” Consistent with this, there was no mention of the meeting on the websites of the UOC or the OCU. Metropolitan Clement, Chairman of the UOC Synodal Information and Educational Department, stated that no one from the Church delegated the UOC participants to represent the UOC and that the Ministry of Culture was “responsible for all organizational issues, including the list of participants.” https://spzh.news/en/news/89403-minkulyt-sobral-v-sofii-chlenov-pcu-i-svyashhennikov-iz-upc On the other hand, there appears to have been no efforts by either church to prevent participation or to discipline those who did participation. It is possible for other priests to sign the declaration of understanding through the Google link at the beginning of this report. However, to date, there is no information as to the number who have done so.
As may be recalled, the resolutions adopted by the UOC at its Council on May 27 established three conditions for engaging in dialogue with the OCU. https://news.church.ua/2022/05/28/resolutions-council-ukrainian-orthodox-church-may-27-2022/?lang=en; They are: (1) “stop the illegal seizure of churches and forced transfers of parishes” of the UOC; (2) realize that the canonical status of the OCU under its statute is not autocephalous and that its statute provides less independence than the statute of the UOC; and (3) resolve the issue of canonicity of the bishops of the OCU as “it is first necessary to restore the apostolic succession” of the OCU bishops. It is difficult to imagine that the OCU would ever concede on conditions (2) and (3) simply to have the ability to start discussions with the UOC. Realistically, imposition of all of the three conditions means that the opening of any official dialogue is virtually impossible. On the other hand, condition (1) by its terms only relates to “illegal seizures” and “forced transfers.” Thus, it would not preclude voluntary transfers supported both by the priest and a majority of the actual parishioners.
+Since May 27, representatives of the UOC have focused on condition (1). In a recent interview, Bishop Victor (Baryshivsky), representative of the UOC to European international organizations, stressed the first condition without expressly mentioning the other two conditions. To the Ukrainian public, Bishop Victor’s argument that you cannot dialogue with someone hitting you with a bat (taking your churches) is somewhat understandable. However, with respect to the third condition, the reaction of many in Ukraine may be that it is totally unreasonable to say that dialogue with the OCU cannot even start unless the OCU bishops first received a form of episcopal ordination that is valid in the eyes of the UOC. The likely negative reaction from the public to conditions (2) and (3) may be the reason that the UOC is presently stressing only the first condition. Perhaps, the lack of emphasis on conditions (2) and (3) may indicate that the leaders of the UOC will not insist upon their application. Still, it could be argued that the leaders of the UOC are now legally bound by the three conditions imposed by the Council unless a new Council repeals some or all of the conditions. In view of this, the “unofficial” dialogue, such as occurred on July 5, may be the only way for the UOC and OCU to communicate and could be extremely important. One must wait and see whether the unofficial dialogue between the priests of the UOC and OCU produces fruit.
In other news relating to Ukraine, Olena Bohdan, head of the State Service for Ethnic Policy and Freedom of Conscience, has discussed the revised UOC statutes which were submitted to her by the primate of the UOC, Metropolitan Onufry. https://orthochristian.com/147137.html She stated that the Metropolitan informed her in a cover letter that the UOC is no longer bound by the decisions of the Bishops’ Council of the Moscow Patriarchate. She also noted that Metropolitan Onufry has resigned from the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate where he had been a permanent member.
In Africa, Greek Orthodox Patriarch Theodoros of Alexandria and All Africa on July 12 sent an extremely strong letter to the primate of the Coptic Orthodox Church, Pope Tawandros II. The complete text of the letter can be read in English at https://www.patriarchateofalexandria.com/en/patriarxiko-gramma-diamartyrias-pros-ton-kopth-patriarxh. The letter protests “ your decision to grant use of a Holy Church in Cairo to the Orthodox Church of Russia for the general liturgical and spiritual needs of Russian Orthodox Christians.” The letter includes the following paragraph:
This attitude of yours filled with disappointment the hearts of the Orthodox Christians in Africa, as well as of Our Mediocrity, it discourages any further effort of productive cooperation between us and directly threatens the amicable relations of our Churches. The fact that you overlooked the old Orthodox Church of Alexandria in a matter that concerns its relationship with another Orthodox Church within its canonical jurisdiction, is a grave error, which requires immediate healing on your part, and is also an act of ingratitude towards our Ancient Patriarchate, who stood by the sister Coptic Church in difficult moments, such as e.g. of the appearance some years ago of a Coptic pseudo-Patriarch from America, etc.
To date, I have seen no response from the Coptic Church. On July 14, Pope Tawandros arrived in Austria for a two-week visit. https://egyptian-gazette.com/egypt/pope-tawadros-ii-leads-mass-at-newly-inaugurated-church-in-vienna/;
With respect to strong letters, the leading bishops of the Antiochian, Romanian, Serbian, and Bulgarian Patriarchates in the United States and the primate of the OCA have now sent a reply to the June 29 letter from Greek Orthodox Archbishop Elpidophoros of America. A photocopy of the reply letter has been posted at https://orthochristian.com/147200.html This exchange of letters relates to the decision of the Archbishop to ordain Alexander Belya as a bishop to head a Slavic Vicariate. The reply letter includes the following:
We reiterate our position, which cannot be compromised, that we cannot and will not concelebrate with Alexander Belya or his vicariate, and we cannot continue to participate in the Assembly [of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America] if this man is elevated to the episcopacy and thereby, according to the Chambésy rules, joins the Assembly as a member. You are, of course, free to consecrate him; we, in turn, are free to avoid any dealings with him.
If the churches represented by the signatories refuse “to participate in the Assembly,” the very future existence of the Assembly is threatened. The Assembly performs a very valuable role for all Orthodox in the United States.
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
6 July 2022: Moscow Patriarchate's progress in Africa & other news
The Moscow Patriarchate continues to devote considerable resources to its effort to establish its presence in Africa. In this regard it continues to work closely with the Foreign Ministry of the Russian Federation which is seeking to expand Russian influence in Africa. The latest manifestation of this effort is the visit of Metropolitan Leonid of Klin, Patriarchal Exarch of Africa, to Cairo, June 24-28. This was his second trip to Africa as exarch. His first trip as exarch was to Uganda, May 19-21, to meet with Uganda President Yoweri Museveni. From 2004 to 2013, Leonid as a priest was in Africa as the representative of the Patriarch of Moscow to the Patriarch of Alexandria.
On June 25, Metropolitan Leonid celebrated his first Divine Liturgy in Africa as exarch. It occurred in the Church of the Great Martyr and Wonderworker Mina and Pope Cyrillos VI, located in Hadayek Al-Ahram (“Pyramids Gardens” – a section of Giza west of the historic pyramids). https://orthochristian.com/146978.html At the Liturgy, Coptic Bishop Theodosius of Mid-Giza announced that this particular church is being provided to the Moscow Patriarchate for it free use as a metochion to the Coptic Church. In return, the Moscow Patriarchate will be providing to the Coptic Church a metochion church in Moscow. https://ria.ru/20220628/kopty-1798823800.html?in=t It appears that the church in Giza was first consecrated in March 2020 and is located on one of the floors of a multi-floor building. https://www.dostor.org/3033746 The Ambassador of the Russian Federation to Egypt was present at the Liturgy. http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/5940178.html Approximately eleven members of the Moscow Synodal Choir were flown from Russia for the purpose of singing at the Liturgy. Before returning to Moscow, the group also gave a concert at the Russian Cultural Center, operated by a Russian federal agency through the Cairo Embassy. https://mossinodhor.ru/news/1619-v-egipte-vystupili-moskovskiy-sinodalnyy-khor-i-ansambl-solistov-vera/
On June 27, Pope Tawadros II, primate of the Coptic Church, met with Metropolitan Leonid and the Russian Ambassador. According to the Pope’s website, His Holiness “welcomed the delegation and their new service in Egypt for Russian citizens, whether residing in Egypt or visiting it for tourism.” https://copticorthodox.church/en/2022/06/27/h-h-pope-tawadros-ii-receives-h-e-metropolitan-leonid-gorbachov-metropolitan-of-africa-for-the-russian-orthodox-church/ From this, it appears that the Pope believes that the mission of the Exarchate in Egypt is limited to Russian citizens. While Metropolitan Leonid was in Egypt, Coptic Bishop Michael, rector of the Coptic theological academy and seminary in Cairo, was in St. Petersburg, Russia for the fourth meeting on the development of cooperation between the theological schools of the Moscow Patriarchate and the Coptic Church, June 26-30. https://mospat.ru/ru/news/89430/ As can be seen from the foregoing link, the meeting, which was held at the St. Petersburg Theological Academy, was programmed as a major event.
Metropolitan Leonid informed TASS that matching memos and appeals will be sent to the President of Egypt from the Russian Foreign Ministry and the Russian Orthodox Church requesting a site in New Cairo for the establishment of an administrative and spiritual center for the Russian Orthodox Church. https://tass.ru/obschestvo/15036821?utm_source=t.me&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=t.me&utm_referrer=t.me Presumably the spiritual center will be the cathedral for the Exarchate and for its Diocese of Northern Africa. According to this article, the Metropolitan previously stated that a total of 192 clerics [a term including both priests and deacons] of the Patriarchate of Alexandria from 12 countries have already passed into the jurisdiction of the Russian Church and their number is constantly growing.
Father Georgy Maksimov, the person from the Moscow Patriarchate who has been most involved in recruiting native clergy, has now returned to Africa. On June 26, Father Georgy was in Nairobi and held a pastoral seminar with deans. According to the report from Metropolitan Leonid, a “fruitful communication and exchange of experience on the preaching of Orthodoxy among Protestants took place.” https://t.me/s/exarchleonid Ten days earlier, the Sretensky Monastery in Moscow posted an article by Father Georgy where he expressed his views concerning the non-Orthodox. https://monastery.ru/tserkov/raskoly-kak-tragediya-tserkvi/ He stated:
As far as grace is concerned, external grace [призывающая благодать – grace calling one to accept the faith] operates throughout the world. Saving grace operates only in the Orthodox Church. Therefore, neither Catholics, nor anyone else who does not adhere to Orthodoxy, can be saved until they come into unity with the Orthodox Church. And this is a great tragedy that so many people who seem to believe in Christ, try to read the Bible and live like a Christian, but, having this infection of heresy, deprive themselves of salvation.
It is an interesting viewpoint in light of the current efforts of the African Exarchate to develop good relations with the Copts and with such people as Uganda President Yoweri Museveni, who is an Anglican.
On July 4 Metropolitan Leonid announced that the Exarchate had received its first certificate of registration on the African continent. The certificate was received from the Central African Republic (“CAR”). http://www.interfax-religion.com/?act=news&div=16610 (English) According to the article, the Metropolitan described this as “a historic moment.” The Telegram channel of the Metropolitan provided the details. https://t.me/s/exarchleonid An uncanonical community in CAR calling itself the “Orthodox Byzantine Church of the Patriarchate of Constantinople” had written to Patriarch Kirill requesting to come under his jurisdiction. The community consisted of one “bishop” and four “priests.” It appears that Father Georgy visited the community on July 2, and the bishop and priests agreed to accept lay status with possible ordinations later. After this visit, Father Georgy went to the Minister of Territories to apply for registration. It appears that the registration was provided within two days. This fast response is not surprising. The existing government of CAR has been especially grateful to Russia after the Wagner group played a decisive role in repelling a rebel attack on the capital Bangui in January. As evidence of the close relationship between CAR and Russia, Russian has now been made the third official language of CAR. All university students are now required to learn Russian, and this requirement will soon be extended to secondary schools as well. https://www.aljazeera.com/features/2022/5/20/the-curious-case-of-russias-romance-in-central-african-republic With respect to the Exarchate’s efforts in CAR, Metropolitan Leonid remarked, “Our embassy provides all kinds of support.”
From watching the Telegram channel of Metropolitan Leonid, it appears that the efforts of the Exarchate in Africa are well-financed. For example, professional singers are flown from Moscow to Cairo to sing for a day or two. On July 3, Metropolitan Leonid showed on his channel a large shipment from Russia (probably Sofrino) of 86 beautiful Eucharistic sets, altar crosses, and censers for the priests in Kenya. In various African countries, the Russian embassies and their Russian cultural centers are the bases of operations for priests such as Father Georgy and provide support for recruiting native clergy. In contrast, Bishop Neofitos, the one native bishop of the Alexandrian Patriarchate in Kenya, needs to hold a fund-raiser and to solicit donations online, in order to replace his car which has had major mechanical problems. https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=576264025 Fortunately, the Patriarchate has obtained funds to reopen its important seminary in Nairobi.
In other news, Pope Francis on July 2 gave a 90-minute interview with the news agency Reuters. One of the topics related to possible papal trips to both Moscow and Kyiv. Reuters has provided the following excerpts: “I would like to go (to Ukraine) and I wanted to go to Moscow first. We exchanged messages about this because I thought that if the president of Russia gave me a tiny window, I would go there to serve the cause of peace .... And now it’s possible, after I come back from Canada; it is possible that I manage to go to Ukraine. The first thing is to go to Russia to try to help in some way, but I would like to go to both capitals.” https://www.reuters.com/article/pope-interview-excerpts/exclusive-excerpts-from-pope-franciss-interview-with-reuters-idINL8N2YL1E7
Archbishop Elpidophoros, head of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America (Ecumenical Patriarchate), has responded to the letter from the leading bishops of the Antiochian, Romanian, Serbian, and Bulgarian Patriarchates in the United States and by the primate of the OCA. The letter to the Archbishop had protested the planned episcopal ordination of Alexander Belya to head a Slavic Vicariate. The full text of the response of the Archbishop can be read at https://orthochristian.com/146995.html. On June 30, Dritan Abazović, Prime Minister of Montenegro, met with Serbian Patriarch Porfirije in Belgrade. The two men acknowledged that the working groups on each side had reached “agreement in principle” on the Basic Agreement governing relations between the State of Montenegro and the Serbian Patriarchate. This agreement must now be reviewed and approved by the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate and by Montenegro’s Commission for the Political System and then at a session of the Government. https://spc.rs/en/%d1%80%d0%b0%d0%b7%d0%b3%d0%be%d0%b2%d0%be%d1%80-%d0%bf%d0%b0%d1%82%d1%80%d0%b8%d1%98%d0%b0%d1%80%d1%85%d0%b0-%d0%bf%d0%be%d1%80%d1%84%d0%b8%d1%80%d0%b8%d1%98%d0%b0-%d0%b8-%d0%bf%d1%80%d0%b5%d0%bc/ An unofficial draft of the agreement has been posted at https://www.cdm.me/politika/uskladena-radna-verzija-temeljnog-ugovora-sa-spc/.
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
30 June 2022: Strong words by Cardinal Koch & other news
On June 29 the Catholic publication Die Tagespost released a very interesting interview of Cardinal Kurt Koch, prefect of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity. (Please note that under the Vatican’s recent reorganization, the organization is no longer a “Pontifical Council” but rather a “Dicastery” and that its head now has the title “Prefect” rather than “President.”) The entire interview can be read at https://www.die-tagespost.de/kirche/weltkirche/kyrills-position-ist-in-der-orthodoxie-umstritten-art-229927 The remark by Cardinal Koch which has immediately received the attention of the media is the following: “In my opinion, it is heresy that the patriarch dares to legitimize the brutal and absurd war in Ukraine for pseudo-religious reasons.” However, there are many other interesting observations made by the Cardinal in this interview. For example, the Cardinal states: “I am grateful to Pope Francis for canceling the mid-June meeting with Patriarch Kirill in Jerusalem.” The Cardinal disclosed that at the end of February, he participated in a Zoom session with Metropolitan Hilarion. In the interview the Cardinal stated:
Since the war in Ukraine had already broken out, I took the opportunity of the Zoom meeting to make the request that the Pope and Patriarch should jointly oppose the war. Since the Metropolitan has repeatedly proposed a joint statement on the persecution of Christians in today's world, I have stressed that I share this concern, but that such a statement would become completely implausible if not a word is said against it now that - how in Ukraine - Christians fight against Christians and Orthodox kill each other. Shortly after this meeting, I received the answer that the Patriarch was not ready to have a common word with the Pope.
There are also other interesting statements in the interview, which should be read in its entirety.
As is customary each year, a delegation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate came to the Vatican for the feast of Saints Peter and Paul. The delegation was headed by Archbishop Job of Telmessos. The meeting between the delegation and Pope Francis is described at https://www.ecupatria.org/2022/06/30/the-delegation-of-the-ecumenical-patriarchate-at-the-thronal-feast-of-the-church-of-rome-5/#more-1783 This link also includes the full English text of the letters exchanged between Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Pope Francis for this occasion. The most interesting news for me is that the Patriarchate of Alexandria will be the host in 2023 of the next plenary meeting of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches. The plenary will be held in Alexandria, Egypt. The plenary will discuss the draft document, Primacy and Synodality in the Second Millennium and Today, approved earlier this year by the Commission’s Coordinating Committee. This is the first plenary session of the Commission since 2016, when a document relating to the first millennium was approved.
In contrast, the plenary sessions of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic and Oriental Orthodox Churches have been held more frequently. This Commission’s latest document, The Sacraments in the Life of the Church, was signed on June 23, 2022.
There have been two very interesting interviews of bishops of the UOC concerning the present status of their church. Father Jivko Panev has interviewed Metropolitan Meletius of Chernovtsy and Bukovina, chairman of the DECR of the UOC. https://orthodoxie.com/entretien-avec-le-metropolite-melece-de-tchernovtsy-et-bucovine-president-du-departement-des-relations-ecclesiastiques-exterieures-de-leglise-orthodoxe-ukrainienne%ef%bf%bc/ The Metropolitan explained: “Today, our Church has a de facto autocephalous status, which guides its activities, without having a formal autocephalous status for the moment.” According to the Metropolitan, the UOC has not yet proclaimed its autocephaly so no actions by the Local Orthodox Churches are now required with respect to recognition. However, the UOC remains in communion with them. The Metropolitan was asked about the canons and the failure to commemorate Patriarch Kirill. According to Metropolitan Meletius, Metropolitan Onufry stated at the Council that priests should commemorate only their bishop, bishops should commemorate only the Metropolitan of Kyiv, and that Metropolitan Onufry would commemorate Patriarch Kirill as well as other primates. There are also other interesting questions answered in the interview. The UOC has translated this interview into Ukrainian and has posted it on its website. https://news.church.ua/2022/06/30/mitropolit-cherniveckij-i-bukovinskij-meletij-migraciya-ce-pastirskij-viklik-dlya-cerkvi/
The second interview involved Metropolitan Filaret of Lviv. Unlike Metropolitan Meletius, he is not a member of the Holy Synod of the UOC. The long interview can be read at https://risu.ua/mitropolit-upc-mp-filaret-vse-maye-zavershitisya-yedinoyu-pravoslavnoyu-cerkvoyu-v-ukrayini_n130435. The Metropolitan makes many interesting observations. For example, Metropolitan Hilarion of Donetsk and Mariupol affirmed at the Council that he would implement in his diocese, if possible, the changes made by the Council. Meletius believes that it will be necessary to remove Metropolitan Lazar of Crimea from the Holy Synod of the UOC and to appoint new UOC bishops for Crimea. Meletius states that the possibility of requesting the Moscow Patriarchate to grant autocephaly to the UOC was discussed at the Council, but that it was concluded that this should not be done. He also points out: “The medieval Ohrid archbishopric was an independent church, without any subordination, without a Tomos on autocephaly or autonomy. Nevertheless, it was recognized by all local churches.” Many other points were made in the interview.
On Sunday, June 26, Metropolitan Hilarion celebrated his first Divine Liturgy in Budapest as Metropolitan of Budapest and Hungary. A video of the entire Liturgy can be seen at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dy4a4bYz-NA. Metropolitan Hilarion still has his audience of devoted supporters. There have been over 28,000 views of this video. Sunday was the Feast Day of the Saints of the Russian Land. As described in the following article, one of the saints discussed by Metropolitan Hilarion in his address at the end of the Liturgy was St. Philip, Metropolitan of Moscow. St. Philip was martyred because of his criticism of Ivan the Terrible. Metropolitan Hilarion stated in his address: “We remember many saints, including those who shone through the feat of confession. Such as St Philip, Metropolitan of Moscow, who was not afraid to stand up to the terrible tyrant who shed innocent blood. And who, on the ambo of the Assumption Cathedral of the Moscow Kremlin, instead of giving the terrible tsar a blessing, sternly rebuked him, saying: ‘Even the Hagarenes and pagans have judgment and truth, but in our Russian land there is no mercy,’ for which he paid with his own life and was strangled by the tsar's oprichnik.” https://spzh.news/en/news/89238-ijerarkh-rpc-napomnil-o-podvige-svyatitelya-filippa-oblichivshego-ivana-groznogo Although it is unlikely that this was intended by Metropolitan Hilarion to be a veiled reference to President Putin, it may well reflect his conviction that the Church must be free to criticize governmental actions. With respect to Metropolitan Hilarion, the websites of the DECR and of the Patriarch have covered some of the meetings that Metropolitan Hilarion has had since his arrival in Budapest. In my opinion this may be an indication that Metropolitan Hilarion is not viewed with disfavor by the Church leadership in Moscow and another indication that his sudden transfer may have been the result of external forces.
The Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of France met in Paris on June 10, 2022. The meeting was chaired by Metropolitan Demetrios (Ecumenical Patriarchate). The communique issued at the conclusion of the meeting states: “The Orthodox Bishops of France welcome the presence and participation in the work of the AEOF meeting of His Eminence Metropolitan John of Dubna and his auxiliary bishop Symeon of Domodedovo [Archdiocese of the Orthodox Churches of the Russian Tradition in Western Europe -- Moscow Patriarchate].” https://basilica.ro/en/frances-canonical-orthodox-bishops-meet-in-paris/ As you may recall, the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate on September 14, 2018, decided to “suspend the participation of the Russian Orthodox Church in all episcopal assemblies…chaired or co-chaired by representatives of the Patriarchate of Constantinople.” The Moscow Patriarchate may have made an exception in this case because the agenda of this meeting included preparing a statement on Ukraine. In the end, the Assembly adopted a statement which refers to the “military operations in Ukraine” and makes no reference to Russia.
There has also been a development concerning the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the United States. It relates to a letter sent to Archbishop Elpidophoros by the leading bishops of the Antiochian, Romanian, Serbian, and Bulgarian Patriarchates in the United States and by the primate of the OCA. A copy of the letter is posted at https://orthochristian.com/146933.html. The letter relates to the decision of the Archdiocese to proceed with the episcopal consecration of Alexander Belya, a former cleric of the ROCOR, whose discipline and deposition are recognized by the signatories of the letter. The bishops state that “we cannot continue participating in the Assembly itself if this man is elevated to the episcopacy and thereby becomes an Assembly member.”
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
21 June 2022: Stance of Patriarch Kirill following UK sanctions & other news
On Sunday, June 20, Patriarch Kirill consecrated the reconstructed Spassky Cathedral in Penza (625 km southeast of Moscow). http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/5937969.html The original cathedral had been blown up by the communists in 1934. The reconstructed cathedral is on the exact site of the original cathedral, but is larger than the original. After the Liturgy, Patriarch Kirill spoke. The full text of his remarks can be read at http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/5937993.html.
Once again I want to say that my words may seem incomprehensible to someone, strange, but these are not my words! I am telling you the words of God, this is God's law, and as a Patriarch I am obliged to speak about this law in order for the life of the individual to be integral, for our families to be strong, and hence for all our people to be strong. And how we need today this consolidation, the concentration of our entire nation in the face of enormous external dangers! We must be strong, but a strong man cannot be weak in his personal life. Everything is connected, one with the other, from childhood to the grave. That is probably why the Lord, having inclined to us His mercy, gave us the opportunity to build temples today. Nowhere, neither in Europe nor in America, new churches are being built, people no longer need them. They are closing, repurposing, and sometimes, instead of temples, dance floors and other entertainment facilities appear. And we, to the horror of the very world that cannot understand us, are building God's temples. We are the Russia of the 21st century. Isn't this a miracle of God? We, who have gone through all these persecutions, through all this godless ideology, we as a people have risen and are building churches, and a feeling of love for the Fatherland is growing in us. And we see how our young guys are now defending Russia on the battlefield. Our priests, who take care of our warriors, tell me about amazing examples of courage, self-sacrifice, the ability to lay down their lives for their friends. Where is it from? Not from a high salary, not from the encouragement of the authorities, not from the desire to advance in the service, but from an inner moral feeling, brought up by the Orthodox faith.”
On June 21, the Patriarch visited a military hospital. http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/5938567.html He presented an icon of the Archangel Michael. In so doing, he stated: “It is very important that our servicemen, our army are always on the side of good. This will provide them not only with full support from the people, but will undoubtedly help them gain Divine support in response to their feat - support by the power of the Divine, through the holy Archangel of God Michael.” He told the wounded soldiers: “Therefore, we bow low before all of you, realizing that you went towards death, defending your Fatherland. And the more a person gives himself to others, the more he receives from God.”
On June 16, the UK imposed sanctions on Patriarch Kirill for “for his prominent support of Russian military aggression in Ukraine.” https://www.gov.uk/government/news/uk-sanctions-russian-linked-to-forced-transfers-and-adoptions Vladimir Legoyda, head of the Synodal Department of Church Interrelations with the Media and Society, has stated in response: “I will start by saying that attempts to intimidate the Primate of the Russian Church with something or to force him to abandon his views are senseless, absurd, and futile. The Patriarch’s family went through years of godless persecution, he himself grew up and was formed under conditions of enormous pressure on people of faith, which he always honorably withstood.” https://orthochristian.com/146759.html In his address on Sunday, the Patriarch praises “our young guys” who are “now defending Russia on the battlefield.” Their courage and self-sacrifice comes from “an inner moral feeling” inspired by the Orthodox faith. The Patriarch raises these points in the context of the godless persecution which destroyed the original Penza cathedral. It appears that Legoyda’s remarks on the futility of the UK’s sanctions are probably correct and that the Patriarch will continue his strong support of the actions of the Russian Armed Forces in Ukraine. Archbishop Theodosius (Hanna) of Sebastia (Jerusalem Patriarchate) has stated that the “accusations against Patriarch Kirill are false and baseless.” He contends that “provocations against the head of the Russian Orthodox Church are perceived by us as hostile actions by the West against the Orthodox Church as a whole." http://www.interfax-religion.com/?act=news&div=16596
I have seen relatively little discussion on the Internet as to the reasons for the transfer of Metropolitan Hilarion to Budapest. Sergei Chapnin has now provided his own analysis. https://www.moscowtimes.ru/2022/06/20/ukraina-korruptsiya-ili-kreml-v-chyom-prichina-ssilki-mitropolita-ilariona-a21452 However, I have seen no comments on one of the consequences of the transfer. In the past, two names have been mentioned most frequently in the media as possible future patriarchs -- Metropolitan Tikhon (Shevkunov) of Pskov and Metropolitan Hilarion. Although the transfer of Metropolitan Hilarion does not completely eliminate his chances of becoming patriarch, it certainly diminishes his chances. In turn the chances of Metropolitan Tikhon, whom the media continue to describe (without clear proof) as spiritual advisor to President Putin, are significantly increased. Still, Metropolitan Hilarion has his enthusiastic supporters. A short video of a group of young people praising Metropolitan Hilarion was posted on June 15. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YsbLLok_Qhw It has now had over 110,000 views. At the present time, Metropolitan Hilarion is apparently communicating primarily through this Telegram channel. https://t.me/s/MetropolitanHilarion
As previously reported, both the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Serbian Patriarchate have now established Eucharistic communion with the Orthodox church in North Macedonia headed by Archbishop Stefan and that church is no longer considered a schismatic church. However, the acquisition of autocephaly by that church is proving to be complex, due primarily to the fact that various Local Orthodox Churches disagree on how autocephaly is obtained and bestowed. On June 5 Patriarch Porfirije, primate of the Serbian Orthodox Church, presented to Archbishop Stefan a “tomos” of autocephaly. An English translation of the text of the tomos can be found at https://orthochristian.com/146559.html. In the presentation, Patriarch Porfirije referred to the writing as the “tomos” while Archbishop Stefan referred to it as the “document.” The next day the Holy Synod of the church in North Macedonia thanked the Serbian Patriarchate for the document which it described “as a kind of recommendation with which our holy Church is presented as ready and worthy of autocephaly.” The Synod expressed the hope that the finalization of the process would begin with the issuance of a universally recognized tomos by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew “in accordance with his legal and historical responsibilities.” https://religija.mk/mpc-oa-so-dokumentot-na-spc-crkvata-se-pretstavuva-kako-dostojna-za-avtokefanost/
The Holy Synod of the Church of Greece met on June 8-9 and expressed “its serious objections and reservations… for the possible granting of autocephaly by the Patriarchate of Serbia, given that the most venerable Ecumenical Patriarchate is the only one competent to grant autocephaly.” https://www.romfea.gr/epikairotita-xronika/50545-apofaseis-tis-ieras-synodou-gia-ti-moe-aa The Holy Synod of Greece also objected to the writing from Patriarch Porfirije because of the use of the word “Macedonia” in the title of the church and the application of the writing to the diaspora. Archbishop Stefan was at the Phanar with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew for vespers on June 9, for the Patriarch’s name day on June 11, and for the Liturgy on the feast of Pentecost on June 12. At the vespers, the Ecumenical Patriarch presented Archbishop Stefan with the official document establishing Eucharistic communion between the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the church in North Macedonia. In connection with the presentation, Bartholomew referred to the good and fraternal disposition of the Serbian Church. Unlike the Church of Greece, he essentially ignored the presentation of a tomos by Patriarch Porfirije and in no way criticized the Serbian Church. https://orthodoxia.info/news/aprothymos-o-vartholomaios-na-sygkroys/
The addresses of the Patriarch and the Archbishop on June 11 are found at https://ec-patr.org/%ce%bf%ce%b9%ce%ba%ce%bf%cf%85%ce%bc%ce%b5%ce%bd%ce%b9%ce%ba%cf%8c%cf%82-%cf%80%ce%b1%cf%84%cf%81%ce%b9%ce%ac%cf%81%cf%87%ce%b7%cf%82-%cf%8c%cf%80%ce%bf%cf%85-%cf%85%cf%80%ce%ac%cf%81%cf%87%ce%b5/ Their addresses on June 12 are found at https://ec-patr.org/%ce%b9%cf%83%cf%84%ce%bf%cf%81%ce%b9%ce%ba%cf%8c-%cf%83%cf%85%ce%bb%ce%bb%ce%b5%ce%af%cf%84%ce%bf%cf%85%cf%81%ce%b3%ce%bf-%cf%83%cf%84%ce%bf-%cf%86%ce%b1%ce%bd%ce%ac%cf%81%ce%b9-%ce%b3%ce%b9%ce%b1/ The Ecumenical Patriarch said nothing about a tomos of autocephaly for the church led by Archbishop Stefan. However, the Patriarch did tell the Archbishop: “Your progress from here depends solely on your own behavior and your choices.” The Archbishop alluded to the desire for autocephaly and expressed his great trust in the Ecumenical Patriarch. The Archbishop stated: “We leave the judgment for the time to you and please, do not forget us, but help us to progress.”
On June 21, the Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Patriarchate considered the letter from Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Patriarch Porfirije concerning “the canonical status of the Orthodox Church of North Macedonia.” https://bg-patriarshia.bg/news/reshenie-na-sv-sinod-vav-vrazka-s-vdiganeto-na-shizmata-na-p It decided: “The Bulgarian Orthodox Church - Bulgarian Patriarchate with gratitude to God and spiritual joy welcomes the decisions to lift the schism and enters into canonical and Eucharistic communion with the Orthodox Church of North Macedonia. The name of the Orthodox Church in North Macedonia remains to be considered.“ It appears that the decision does not address the issue of autocephaly. It is also likely that the Bulgarian Church will object to the use of the word “Ohrid” in the name of the church of North Macedonia.
In Ukraine, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) continues to act as a completely independent church while at the same time refraining from using the word “autocephalous” to describe its status. A very interesting article concerning the changes made by the UOC in its statute at its Council on May 27 has been written by Vladimir Burega, Vice-Rector of the Kiev Theological Academy (UOC). https://lb.ua/society/2022/06/06/519101_mezhi_nezalezhnosti_statut.html He points out that the statute of the UOC has been amended on various occasions since 1990 and that the amendments have never been approved by Moscow. He discusses the changes made by the Council to the statute. He concludes: Of course, the reader cannot help but have an obvious question: what is the status of the UOC today? According to the new version of the UOC Governing Statute, it is now a fully independent religious association that is in no way subordinate to the top leadership of other Local Churches. At the same time, as said, the Council refrained from declaring the UOC autocephalous. And this is quite understandable. Self-proclaimed autocephaly would inevitably provoke a conflict with the Moscow Patriarchate, the Patriarch of Constantinople, and the OCU….One does not have to be a prophet to understand that until the end of Russia's current war against Ukraine, the status of the UOC will remain completely uncertain. But it is no less obvious that the UOC will never be the same as it was before February 24, 2022.
On May 29 the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate directed that the changes to the UOC statute be submitted to the Patriarch for approval. http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/5931468.html As far as I can determine, the new statute has not been submitted to the Patriarch, and it is extremely unlikely that it will be. On June 7, the Holy Synod stated in part: “Recall that the decision to change the status of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church can only be made within the framework of the canonical procedure, including the decision of the Local Council of the Russian Orthodox Church. Emphasize that unauthorized actions to change the status of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church may lead to the emergence of a new schism within it.” http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/5934527.html At the same time, the Moscow Patriarchate assumed direct jurisdiction over the dioceses in Crimea in view of “the practical impossibility of regular communication between these dioceses and the Kyiv Metropolis.” It appears that the UOC has not commented in any way on these resolutions by the Holy Synod. Rather, the UOC seeks to avoid an open argument with Moscow, but goes quietly its own separate way.
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
12 June 2022: "Current socio-political situation" dictated Hilarion's demotion
Today, June 12, Metropolitan Hilarion celebrated the Divine Liturgy at the Church of the Icon of the Mother of God "Joy of All Who Sorrow" on Bolshaya Ordynka where he has been rector for 13 years. It was his farewell to the parish. On the Orthodox calendar, it is Pentecost, the feast of the Holy Trinity. The service was filmed by Portal “Jesus,” a website that was founded by Metropolitan Hilarion in 2018. https://jesus-portal.ru/ Today’s entire service can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?app=desktop&v=6nZSKtCC22g&f . As far as I could see, none of the key people from the Department of External Church Relations (DECR) were present. At the end of the service, Metropolitan Hilarion spoke about the decision of the Holy Synod on Tuesday, June 7, to remove him from his position as head of the DECR, which he had held since 2009. TASS has described these remarks in an article at https://n.tass.ru/obschestvo/14891597. A Google translation of the entire TASS article is set forth below:
Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeev) of Budapest and Hungary, previously relieved by the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church of his duties as head of the Department for External Church Relations (DECR), linked his resignation from the post of head of the DECR with "the requirements of the current socio-political situation." This decision of the church leadership is not associated with any shortcomings in the activities of the DECR or other church institutions headed by Metropolitan Hilarion, the bishop himself said on Sunday after the liturgy in the church on Bolshaya Ordynka.
The Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church on Tuesday dismissed Metropolitan Hilarion from the post of chairman of the Department for External Church Relations, which he had headed since 2009, and appointed him Metropolitan of Budapest and Hungary. Metropolitan Hilarion was replaced as head of the DECR by Metropolitan Anthony (Sevryuk) of Korsun and Western Europe. Since 2009, Metropolitan Hilarion has also been the rector of the church in honor of the icon of the Mother of God "Joy of All Who Sorrow" on Bolshaya Ordynka. On Sunday, he served the last liturgy there on the occasion of the feast of the Holy Trinity, after which he said goodbye to the parishioners.
"Many people ask me these days - why, for what? I will not go into details now, in fact, I myself do not know many details. I was told that this decision was not connected with any shortcomings in the activity of the Department of External Church Relations, nor [with shortcomings] in the General Church Postgraduate School or this holy temple, or the Chernigov Patriarchal Metochion, or other church institutions that I headed. And it was said only that this is required by the current socio-political situation. That the road made a very sharp turn, I didn’t fit into it and ended up on the side of the road. But it’s better than if I drove into a ditch, my car would roll over and explode," said Metropolitan Hilarion.
He noted that life goes on and there is no need to dramatize these events, because "in the life of every clergyman there can be ups and downs, and promotions in the so-called career, and demotions." “All this is temporary, and this is not why we serve the church. I have never sought high appointments, or membership in the Synod, or any privileges, and I will never grieve that I have lost them,” the hierarch said.
According to him, he sincerely and heartily thanks everyone with whom he communicated during these 13 years of joint service and fellowship in the temple. Metropolitan Hilarion thanked the clergy for "impeccable service,” noting that the community of the church on Bolshaya Ordynka lived "like one family." During his address to the believers, he stopped several times and was silent, trying to contain his feelings.
Metropolitan Hilarion wished the clergy and parishioners to "always remain faithful to the Church and be devoted to the hierarchy, keep peace in your heart and love each other." The bishop also expressed the hope that he and the members of his community "do not lose each other for good," but "part for a while."
It appears that Metropolitan Hilarion was not present at the meeting of the Holy Synod on June 7. He is not visible in any of the photos of the meeting. Andrei Kuraev on his website, https://diak-kuraev.livejournal.com/?skip=10, conveyed the following account from a supposed reliable source:
Hilarion was summoned yesterday before the start of the meeting and confronted with the fact that he was removed. After that, he flew out of the building like a cork, no one could understand where he had gone so quickly just before the meeting. He presented his report on the trip [to Hungary] to Kirill, who then spoke about his removal and transfer. In response, no one [at the Synod meeting] even asked anything, did not say a word, since they understand what it entails [т.к. понимают, чем это чревато]. The only thing that His Holiness said: "So it is necessary" [“Так надо”].
Metropolitan Hilarion subsequently met with Patriarch Kirill on June 10. https://mospat.ru/ru/news/89371/ According to the report of the meeting, they discussed topical issues of the life of the Budapest-Hungarian diocese. Presumably, the little information that Metropolitan Hilarion has concerning his removal came from this meeting.
The precipitous nature of the decision relating to a new head of the DECR is also indicated by the fact that Metropolitan Anthony, who became the new head of DECR on Tuesday, had celebrated the Divine Liturgy at the Russian Orthodox church of St. Catherine of Alexandria in Rome two days earlier. https://stcaterina.com/mitropolit-antonij-sovershil-bozhestvennuyu-liturgiyu-v-ekaterininskom-hrame/ According to the website of the parish, he had arrived the previous evening for a pastoral visit to Italy. It is doubtful that Metropolitan Anthony would have undertaken this trip to Italy if he had any foreknowledge of his future promotion.
In evaluating the decision to send Metropolitan Hilarion to Budapest, it should be noted that he will be the first Russian Orthodox bishop in recent times to have the Budapest diocese as his only responsibility. When then Bishop Hilarion left Vienna in March 2009, he was administrator of both the Vienna-Austrian and Hungarian dioceses. The three bishops (Mark, Tikhon, and Anthony) who followed him also had responsibility for both dioceses. The fourth bishop, Metropolitan Ioann (Roshchin), was likewise given both dioceses, but in August 2019 the Budapest-Hungarian diocese was given to Metropolitan Mark of Ryazan. For the next three years, Metropolitan Mark continued to head the major Ryazan Metropolia (158 churches) while at the same time being responsible for the Hungarian diocese (10 churches). The Hungarian diocese has now been given to Metropolitan Hilarion, and Metropolitan Mark remains the head of the Ryazan Metropolia.
Although Metropolitan Hilarion perhaps enjoys Budapest and has a close friendship with Cardinal Péter Erdő, the transfer can only be considered a humiliating demotion in terms of responsibility. The diocese only has a total of 11 active priests and 4 deacons. http://hungary.orthodoxia.org/papsag/ It is difficult to believe that such a fall had its origin in the mind of Patriarch Kirill. Metropolitan Hilarion has been extremely loyal to the Patriarch. He authored the Patriarch’s biography. He has promoted the Patriarch’s books. He has done so much for the Patriarch. In the official minutes relating to the demotion, “gratitude” was expressed to Metropolitan Mark of Ryazan for his service in Budapest, but not a word of gratitude is found in the minutes for the services performed by Metropolitan Hilarion. Personally, I find it difficult to believe that Patriarch Kirill is so hard-hearted that he would do this on his own accord.
When one considers the reason given to Metropolitan Hilarion for his demotion, namely “required by the current socio-political situation,” the only likely “situation” relates to events in Ukraine. The reference to “a very sharp turn” in the road likely refers to Ukraine which has had a huge impact on the Russian Federation and the Moscow Patriarchate. The fact that the demotion does not relate to the activities of the DECR or other institutions headed by Metropolitan Hilarion indicates that the demotion relates to the personal conduct of Metropolitan Hilarion with respect to Ukraine. As many have observed, Metropolitan Hilarion has been very quiet with respect to Ukraine and has in no way endorsed the war there. The sudden and surprising nature of the decision to demote him supports the theory that the decision was dictated by an authority outside the Moscow Patriarchate.
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
7 June 2022: Why was Metropolitan Hilarion transferred to Budapest?
Today, June 7, there was startling news from the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate. Metropolitan Hilarion has been transferred from his position as Chairman of the Department of External Relations to head the relatively small diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church in Budapest. The official entry in the minutes of the Moscow Patriarchate relating to this change, Entry No. 61, can be read at http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/5934527.html . The following is a Google translation of the entry:
HAVE JUDGMENT about the administration of the Budapest-Hungarian Diocese.
1. To release Metropolitan Mark of Budapest and Hungary from the administration of the Budapest-Hungarian Diocese with gratitude for the work done.
2. His Eminence Hilarion, Metropolitan of Volokolamsk, to be the Administrator of the Budapest-Hungarian Diocese, Metropolitan of Budapest and Hungary, with his release from the duties of Chairman of the Department for External Church Relations, Permanent Member of the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church, and Rector of the General Church Postgraduate and Doctoral Studies named after Saints Cyril and Methodius Equal to the Apostles.
3. Chairman of the Department for External Church Relations and Permanent Member of the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church, with the title of Volokolamsk, to be His Eminence Anthony, Metropolitan of Korsun, with the temporary retention of the management of the Exarchate of Western Europe and the position of head of the Office of the Moscow Patriarchate for foreign institutions, with release from management of the Korsun diocese.
4. Entrust the provisional administration of the Korsun diocese to His Grace Nestor, Archbishop of Madrid and Lisbon.
5. Archpriest Maxim Kozlov, chairman of the Educational Committee of the Russian Orthodox Church, to be the rector of the General Church Postgraduate and Doctoral Studies named after Saints Cyril and Methodius, with the preservation of his previous positions.
Interestingly, there is nothing in the minutes stating that Metropolitan Hilarion had requested this transfer. There is nothing in the minutes thanking him for his many years of service as chairman of the DECR, although "gratitude" is expressed to Metropolitan Mark for his service in Budapest. According to the minutes, Metropolitan Hilarion is also relieved of his extremely important position as a permanent member of the Holy Synod and also his position as head of the Moscow Patriarchate’s postgraduate and doctoral studies program. In the photos of today’s meeting of the Holy Synod, Metropolitan Hilarion does not appear. https://foto.patriarchia.ru/news/zasedanie-svyashchennogo-sinoda-russkoy-pravoslavnoy-tserkvi-2022-06-07/
The only advanced clue that this would happen is that Metropolitan Hilarion was in Hungary from June 1 -5. His report on this visit is summarized in Journal Entry 57 of the minutes as follows:
From June 1 to June 5, 2022, with the blessing of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia, Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, Chairman of the Department for External Church Relations, visited Hungary.
During the trip, the DECR Chairman met with Archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest Cardinal Péter Erdő at his working residence in Budapest. The conversation touched upon a wide range of issues concerning the interaction between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church at the present stage.
Metropolitan Hilarion met with the Deputy Prime Minister of the Government of Hungary, Z. Semjén, in the building of the Prime Minister's Office in Budapest. On behalf of the Russian Orthodox Church, the DECR chairman expressed gratitude to Hungary for its firm position regarding the inadmissibility of including His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia on the EU sanctions list.
As part of a working trip to Hungary, the DECR chairman visited Szentendre, where he met with Bishop Lukijan of Budim (Serbian Orthodox Church).
Reports on the trip in English can be found at https://mospat.ru/en/news/89343/ and https://mospat.ru/en/news/89349/. Metropolitan Hilarion has had a close friendship with Cardinal Erdő since the time that Metropolitan Hilarion was appointed Bishop of Vienna and Austria and charged with temporary administration over the diocese of Budapest and Hungary in 2003. In September 2021, Metropolitan Hilarion was invited by the Cardinal to speak at the 52nd Eucharistic Congress in Budapest. https://mospat.ru/en/news/87972/ The fact that Metropolitan Hilarion made the trip to Hungary immediately before today’s Synod meeting may be an indication that Metropolitan Hilarion was not completely surprised by today’s decision.
Metropolitan Hilarion is replaced by Metropolitan Anthony of Korsun, Exarch of Western Europe. However, Metropolitan Anthony is only 37 years old. He moves into what is often considered the Number Two position in the Moscow Patriarchate. Although Metropolitan Anthony is well-regarded, he has not been considered in my opinion a rising star that everyone has been watching. Vladimir Legoyda, head of the Synodal Department for Relations between the Church and Society and the Media, has already given an explanation to the media as to why Metropolitan Anthony was chosen for this important position. http://www.interfax-religion.ru/?act=news&div=79278 The justification primarily relates to Anthony’s experience with the foreign institutions of the Moscow Patriarchate. However, Patriarch Kirill may believe that the DECR will be in good hands because of the presence of Archpriest Nikolai Balashov, deputy head of the DECR. It is reported that Patriarch Kirill has great confidence in Father Nikolai. Father Nikolai is married with a family and is thus not eligible to be a bishop.
Of course, one wonders whether the transfer of Metropolitan Hilarion to Budapest is related in any way to the position taken by Patriarch Kirill on Ukraine. Aside from advocating peace and help for refugees, Metropolitan Hilarion has been relatively quiet on the subject of Ukraine. He has not echoed the more controversial statements made by the Patriarch. It is possible that Metropolitan Hilarion wishes to disassociate himself from the current position of the Moscow Patriarchate on Ukraine and decided to move to Budapest where he could have more time to pursue his scholarly and musical talents. It is possible that Metropolitan Hilarion has been removed by the Patriarch because of a disagreement between the two of them on the subject of Ukraine. As a loyal hierarch of the Moscow Patriarchate, I doubt that Metropolitan Hilarion would ever say that the transfer was a result of his disagreement with respect to Ukraine. We may never know the answer to this question.
I am reminded of the conduct of Metropolitan Hilarion when he was a young priest in Kaunas, Lithuania. On January 13, 1991, known in Lithuania as “Bloody Sunday,” the Soviets attempted to suppress by force the new independence movement in Lithuania. The events culminated in the Soviet forces (members of the Pskov Division and the KGB Alpha Special Forces) taking control of the Vilnius TV tower and the Radio and Television Committee Building at approximately 2 a.m., Sunday morning. A large crowd had gathered to protect the TV tower. Soviet tanks and troops attacked the crowd, and 14 persons were killed either by gunfire or by being crushed by tanks. Hundreds were injured. The TV broadcast abruptly ended. The last TV images were of a Soviet soldier rushing towards the TV camera. However, a half-hour later, transmission unexpectedly began from a small TV studio in Kaunas where appeals were made for help. The appeals were picked up by a Swedish TV station and relayed from Sweden to the world. One of the persons who spoke on the Kaunas station that day was the young rector of the Russian Orthodox Annunciation Cathedral in Kaunas. He spoke in Russian and urged Soviet troops not to fire on unarmed persons. On the twentieth anniversary of “Bloody Sunday,” the mayor of Kaunas, Andrius Kupcinskas, recognized the actions of Metropolitan Hilarion on that day and awarded him the “Order of Jonas Vileisis” for his courageous actions. On January 11, 2010, Metropolitan Hilarion met with the speaker of the Lithuanian parliament (Seimas), Irena Degutiene , who also thanked the Metropolitan for his actions in January 1991.
In other news from the Holy Synod, the Moscow Patriarchate today assumed direct jurisdiction over the parishes of the UOC in Crimea. http://www.interfax-religion.com/?act=news&div=16581
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
6 June 2022: Tomos for N. Macedonia & revised Statute of the UOC
On Sunday, June 5, Patriarch Porfirije presented to Archbishop Stefan of the Orthodox Church in North Macedonia a tomos of autocephaly. http://www.spc.rs/sr/patrijarh_srpski_porfirije_uruchio_arhiepiskopu_stefanu_tomos_kojim_se_potvrdjuje_autekefalnost_make Although the foregoing link contains a photo of the tomos, the full text of the tomos has not yet been posted. However, the tomos was read aloud by the Patriarch at the service. According to https://orthodoxie.com/le-patriarche-de-serbie-a-remis-le-tomos-dautocephalie-a-larcheveque-de-macedoine-et-dohrid-stephane/, the tomos says that “the Serbian Orthodox Church will not condition the new sister Church by restrictive clauses with regard to the extent of its jurisdiction both in North Macedonia and in its Diaspora while fraternally recommending to resolve the question of its name in a fraternal dialogue with the Hellenic Churches and other Local Orthodox Churches.” Patriarch Porfirije made an address before the presentation. http://www.spc.rs/sr/patrijarh_porfirije_crkvom_ne_mozhemo_da_se_sluzhimo_ona_nije_orudje_kamoli_oruzhje Below is a Google translation of part of the address:
In order for this to manifest itself formally, we are obliged to send our decision to other local Churches, so that each, according to the canonical order, can express its position in what we think is the only correct, normal and best way for the Church of Christ in its fullness, and that means for the Church in Northern Macedonia and for the Church in Serbia and elsewhere. Of course, this attitude and knowledge of ours has nothing to do with other spaces in which our local Church exists and operates. The conditions and contexts and order in Northern Macedonia are absolutely different in relation to all other areas where our Church exists and lives.
The granting of a tomos by the Serbian Patriarch raises the current controversy in the Orthodox world as to how autocephaly is determined and as to how the tomos is issued. In the case of the Orthodox Church in America, the tomos was issued in 1970 by the “mother church,” the Moscow Patriarchate. However, the Ecumenical Patriarchate never accepted this act. Rather, the Ecumenical Patriarch takes the position that only he can issue a tomos. A pro-Constantinople website has already protested the granting of a tomos by the Serbian Patriarchate. https://orthodoxtimes.com/patriarchate-of-serbia-overrides-centuries-old-traditions-it-granted-tomos-of-autocephaly-to-ohrid-archdiocese/
Archbishop Stefan had previously announced that he has been invited by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to celebrate Pentecost with him at the Phanar and that he had accepted the invitation. On the Orthodox calendar, this is next Sunday, June 12. A religious website in North Macedonia has just posted an article about an interview of Archbishop Stefan. https://religija.mk/arhiepiskopot-stefan-za-to-vima-edinstveno-vselenskata-patrijarshija-izdava-tomos-za-avtokefalnost/ The article states: “In an exclusive interview with the Greek To Vima, Stefan said that the Ohrid Archbishopric will respect the canonical order of the Orthodox Church and will ask for a Tomos of autocephaly from the Ecumenical Patriarchate, because it is the only church that issues such a document according to traditions and canons.” The article does not specify the exact date when the interview was given.
In other news, Father Cyril Hovorun has obtained a photocopy of the official revised Statute of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. As far as I can determine, the document has not yet been officially released by the UOC. Father Cyril makes various comments about the changes on his Facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/hovorun His comments include the following:
The new statute itself does not proclaim autocephaly. Aspiration for autocephaly can only be noticed in the dynamics of change. Comparing the two major markers of autocephaly.
First: Approval of the new metropolitan of Kyiv in Moscow. The old version of the statute: "The Primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church is elected for life by the episcopate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and is blessed by His Holiness the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia" (P. V 2). New version: " The Primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church is elected for life by the episcopate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. " So, the norm of approval of the Metropolitan in Moscow disappears.
Second: networking with other local churches. The old statute says about this: " The Ukrainian Orthodox Church is united with the Local Orthodox Churches through the Russian Orthodox Church. " (I 3). In the new statute, this point has completely disappeared.
Father Cyril also provided a link to his Telegram channel where the entire new Statute can be seen. https://t.me/cyrilhovorun The prior Statute can be read at https://drevo-info.ru/articles/26109.html?fbclid=IwAR265CGoDpabFflH3_5h8elQGHHF07KEdeYu4VO_VnXYEdLWu_nBXDua8HA .
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
1 June 2022: The boldness of Metropolitan Mark (ROCOR) on Ukraine
Metropolitan Mark of Berlin and Germany, now Locum Tenens of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR), which since 2007 has been a part of the Moscow Patriarchate, gave an extremely interesting interview on Sunday to the Hannoversche Allgemeine Zeitung. https://www.haz.de/politik/russisch-orthodoxe-kirche-warum-sind-gebete-munition-metropolit-mark-WHWA3PWSKBC2ZJE57NARAHHCY4.html?fbclid=IwAR1hZ_8TcjnJd6gIKHbz7HBershHr80H1Kdp-k6R6TNMaXFpe8fJcHylUVE Metropolitan Mark, a noted conservative within the Moscow Patriarchate, is highly regarded by the leadership of the Patriarchate in Moscow. The following is a good biography of the Metropolitan’s life: https://orthochristian.com/135750.html He also supervises the affairs of the Russian Ecclesiastical Mission in Jerusalem. The interview includes many questions relating to Ukraine.
I believe that the interview is especially noteworthy because Metropolitan Mark very strongly expresses his views against the position taken by Patriarch Kirill and President Putin. Personally, I was surprised by his boldness in view of the fact that Patriarch Kirill is his spiritual leader. Metropolitan Mark does not subscribe to the view of Patriarch Kirill that the war in Ukraine protects Russia. The Metropolitan considers the war in Ukraine “a crime.” He states that the contention that Nazis rule in Kyiv and Ukraine is “nonsense.” He asserts that Russia should pull out of Ukraine “completely.” He finds it “difficult to believe that the Ukrainian part of our church wants to stay with the Russian.” He praises the Ukrainian Orthodox as “the most faithful members of the Russian Orthodox Church.” Below I have pasted from his interview a Google translation of the full text of all questions and answers relating to Ukraine.
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
Moscow Patriarch Kirill welcomes this war because it protects Russia.
I cannot subscribe to this point of view.
Why is he saying that?
I know that during the communist era, the official Russian church repeatedly justified communism and the crimes of the communist state. At the time I said I do not want to support this - but I did not know the motive. I have to say that clearly today in view of this war.
Do you know how many Ukrainian refugees are currently supported by your church?
Very, very many come to us. When the influx of refugees in Germany began, we wrote to all prime ministers and many mayors that we would be happy to make our knowledge and language skills available. This is also used. We also support convoys bringing food and clothing to Ukraine. We're giving what we have to a monastery in eastern Ukraine, right in the middle of the battle line. More than 1,500 refugees are housed there.
In a video message in March you said that a large part of your church is now involved in this war. What did you mean?
Well, on the one hand we help. On the other hand, many of our believers have relatives in Russia, Belarus or Ukraine. This touches directly, since we are all united in one church.
How does the church cope with this fratricidal war?
You recently described prayer as ammunition. For whom? And doesn't that sound a bit martial for a cleric?
The first word that comes off your tongue isn't always the best. We cannot and do not want to participate in any form of war. But we provide support through our prayers. Members of our church are fighting on both sides. That's challenging. In some communities, the situation is causing conflict.
What is your view of the war in Ukraine?
I consider this war a crime. Some say that it has actually lasted eight years and that, for example, the Ukrainian government made a mistake in banning the use of Russian in schools. It probably is. But this can never be the justification for a war. No way.
Putin continues to justify this attack with purging Ukraine of Nazis. What do you think?
There are indeed small groups in western Ukraine that are close to the spirit of former Nazi collaborator Stepan Bandera, but that is all. Nazis do not rule in Kyiv and Ukraine. This is nonsense.
How do you feel when you see pictures from Mariupol or other devastated places and hear about war crimes?
I feel reminded of my childhood. All of this is terrible. But I don't trust the pictures anymore. They do not show who hit which target.
Why should Ukrainians destroy their own cities?
In a war, the population and cities are affected by acts of war on both sides. I don't allow myself any judgement.
There are non-governmental organizations that have clearly demonstrated Russian destruction and war crimes in Ukraine.
I would be grateful for such information. But in many cases you really don't know who destroyed it. Because it's shot from both sides.
One attacking and the other defending.
Nevertheless, it is shot. From reports by my priests or deacons, I also know of cases in which the Ukrainian army has placed its tanks between inhabited high-rise buildings. Shouldn't the Russians be expected to shoot at them, hitting innocent people? I also don't understand why our monastery with all its refugees - from whoever - came under fire.
Should the Russians pull out of Ukraine?
Is that a question? Yes, definitely! And completely.
What do you wish for peace?
I hope that there will be more leeway for the Russian-speaking population in eastern Ukraine. All she wants is the right to speak her language. I don't understand why this should be so difficult. Ukraine's membership of the EU makes sense to me, even if this can again arouse great resentment on the Russian side.
Will Russia's war in Ukraine change your church?
Definitely, and unfortunately not for the better.
What are you afraid of?
I find it difficult to believe that the Ukrainian part of our church wants to stay with the Russian [part]. And Ukrainians are the most faithful members of the Russian Orthodox Church.
28 May 2022 (2): What happened at the UOC Council - verified by an important participant
Archpriest Nikolai Danilevich, Deputy Head of the UOC’s Department for External Church Relations and a frequent spokesperson of the UOC, has made an important posting on his Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/mykola.danylevych. With respect to the UOC Council held on May 27, he states: "The correct description of how it all happened.” He then provides a link to an article entitled, How the Council of the UOC was held and what decisions were made. The link provided is https://www.otrok.org/kak-prohodil-sobor-upc/?fbclid=IwAR1yB_A4Z0LQ9hbXaLcRjdeTqTdyR_oSOjYWu21FiGsuWy5UlUkHYd5Xdro. Father Nikolai Danilevich was at the Council, and a photo in the article shows Father Nikolai speaking there. The author of the article is not given. (It could have been Father Nikolai himself.) I personally consider Father Nikolai to be a very reliable source. The fact that he states that the article is a “correct description” of what happened leads me to believe that the description is true. Below is a Google translation of the article (absent photos) which is in Russian. Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
How the Council of the UOC was held and what decisions were made
On May 27, 2022, the Council of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church was held in Kyiv. The Council decided to introduce into the Charter on the management of the UOC provisions on its independence and independence - in accordance with the Tomos granted to it on October 27, 1990, as well as a number of other additions and changes.
The Council also condemned the war, expressed disagreement with the position of Patriarch Kirill in relation to the war in Ukraine, determined the conditions for further dialogue with the OCU, revived the tradition of world-making in Kyiv, outlined the need for pastoral care and nourishment for millions of Ukrainian refugees abroad, and much more. The decisions of the Council have yet to be comprehended and commented on, and we want to tell you how everything happened in Feofaniya today.
Word of the Primate
The meeting started with appeals of His Beatitude Metropolitan Onufry. The primate read out a report on the current state of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church - on the challenges and difficulties that we are experiencing, on the war, on how the Church is helping the people of Ukraine in this war. As we pray for our defenders , we collect humanitarian aid for the victims, for refugees. How do we accept refugees? How our temples served as bomb shelters - in those places where hostilities are taking place. How the Church helps the army by organizing fundraising for equipment, food, and other feasible assistance. The Primate also spoke about the persecutions that have arisen in many regions of Ukraine, where they are even trying to legally prohibit the activities of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church on the territory of certain UTGs [United Territorial Communities].
Three folders with appeals
After that, His Beatitude said that all these challenges and difficulties in the conditions of the military aggression of the Russian Federation caused a sharp reaction among believers, and it is no longer possible to live the way we lived. From everywhere, in his name receives many appeals with a request to respond to these challenges, because society identifies the UOC with Moscow, with the actions or inactions of the Patriarch of the Russian Church, with various statements of the Russian clergy. Such requests are received in large numbers.
His Beatitude Metropolitan Onufry noted that all the letters were personally read and processed by him. In one folder he has collected those in which people ask and plead for autocephaly and independence of the Ukrainian Church, in the second - those in which people want to leave the status of the UOC unchanged. And in the first folder, the number of appeals is many times greater than the number of those in the second. For example, the Primate read out in full the appeal of the clergy of the Kyiv diocese, which was drawn up two weeks after the start of the war. Other appeals from parishes and dioceses were also read, including a request to leave the status of the UOC unchanged. There was also a third folder - with letters in which people wrote that they fully trusted the Primate and hoped for his wise decision.
A say by all desiring
After that, they gave the floor to the diocesan bishops. First of all, those who are in the territories affected as a result of hostilities spoke. Bishops from the eastern dioceses and Crimea, those territories of Ukraine that are not yet controlled by the Ukrainian authorities, spoke via video link. Basically, the opinion was expressed that there is no need to change the status of the UOC, and the one that is now suits everyone. The metropolitan, who heads one of the departments in the East of Ukraine, noted that in his diocese the voices of the clergy were divided in half: those who are for and against the change in status.
During the speeches, it was said that the current meeting of bishops, clergy and laity should become a Council. Moreover, the composition is just right. There was also an argument that we ourselves in Kyiv need to brew myrrh [chrism], because now there is no connection with Moscow, but myrrh is necessary. In addition, before the revolution of 1917 in Kyiv they brewed myrrh - Kyiv had such a right, and this tradition was interrupted only as a result of revolutionary events.
Then His Beatitude gave the word to the clergy. Priests from Sarny, Vinnitsa, Chernivtsi, Lvov, Bila Tserkva, Odessa, Ovruch, Sumy, Ivano-Frankivsk, Kamenetz-Podolsk dioceses spoke.
Most of the representatives of the clergy, who, as they say, work "in the fields", literally on the front line, spoke out that the aspirations of the people were in the maximum separation from Moscow, because indeed many parishes are now practically on the verge of destruction.
Then they gave the floor to the laity. Representatives from the Chernivtsi, Kremenchug, Chernihiv dioceses, from Kyiv, from the organization "Laity" [«Миряне»] spoke out.
In one of the speeches, it was said that Patriarch Alexy II once said that “you need to grow to autocephaly,” and right now we see that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church has grown to autocephaly and should have an independent status.
Laymen from Rivne, Tulchin, Konotop, Zaporozhye, Kamenetz-Podolsky, Boryspil, Sumy, Uman and the Dnieper also spoke. It should be emphasized that the floor was given to everyone and absolutely everyone could speak.
How did the status of the UOC change?
After the speeches, His Beatitude Metropolitan Onufry, after listening to everyone, asked: “Should the status of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church be changed? Because if it is changed, then it is necessary for our meeting to become a Council.”
Everyone voted "yes" for this proposal, and the decision was met with applause.
When it was already decided that the meeting had received the status of a Council, the participants dispersed for lunch, and in the afternoon, in order to comply with the necessary formalities, a short meeting of the Holy Synod of the UOC was held, after which the Council of Bishops of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church met, and changes to the Charter of the UOC were worked out point by point concerning the connection of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church with the Russian Orthodox Church.
All items that make the Ukrainian Orthodox Church dependent on the Russian Orthodox Church were removed.
His Beatitude Metropolitan Onufry read out the options for changes, and the bishops voted on each item. The overwhelming majority of bishops were "for" the changes, and only a few literally voted either "against" or abstained.
After all the points were worked out by the Council of Bishops, the Council of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church began with the participation of the laity, monastics and clergy. In the same way, one after the other, items were submitted for discussion, clarification and voting. They voted for every one - moreover, the vast majority of the participants were in favor.
95% of the Council participants voted “for” changing the status of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. There were discussions, clarifications, but on the whole the Council was unanimous.
Thank the Lord
After the vote the Resolution of the Council (already published on official church resources) was read. The key points were those emphasizing that we, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, are independent and self-governing, that myrrh is brewing in Kyiv, that we condemn the war and express disagreement with the position of Patriarch Kirill regarding hostilities, and also that the Church decided to take on self-support for Ukrainian refugees abroad.
After that, the participants thanked the Lord and dispersed.
It can be said that the Council made those decisions that even the most courageous supporters of secession from Moscow did not expect. And the amendments to the Charter adopted by him are based on the Tomos on granting independence to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in governance, which we received in 1990. [http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/525418.html]
At that time we did not take full advantage of the rights that were given to our Church, but now we collectively decided that independence and self-sufficiency in governance will henceforth be manifested in this form.
It should be emphasized that the current Council of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church was held thanks to His Beatitude Metropolitan Onufry, and it was thanks to him that changes were made to the Charter of the UOC. As a good shepherd, beloved and loving, our Beatitude knows the needs of his flock, takes care of them and protects them from wolves that can rob them.
By the way, on this day exactly 30 years ago ..
“- On May 27, 1992, a historic event took place for the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
In the city of Kharkov, a Council of Bishops of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church was convened, which went down in history as the Kharkov Bishops' Council. The decisions made determined the further historical path of our Church.
The past 30 years of church life testify to the correctness and expediency of these decrees. In those difficult 1990s for Ukraine, the Council managed not only to preserve the unity of our Church, but also to protect it from the forces that tried to use the institution of the Church for personal purposes.
Today, Ukraine is going through extremely difficult times. The war that the Russian Federation started against Ukraine has been going on for more than three months. Military actions have already taken thousands of lives of our compatriots, houses have been destroyed, families have been orphaned, innocent people are suffering. It is impossible to describe all the consequences of the ongoing war, just as it is impossible to find words to convey all the pain of millions of Ukrainians. Not to lose humanity and the image of God when evil has filled the hearts, not to waver in faith in God - these super-difficult tasks are now facing each of us ..." From the speech of His Beatitude Metropolitan Onufry at the Council of the UOC on May 27, 2022
28 May 2022: Understanding the decision of the UOC
The decision of the Council of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) on May 27 contains the following paragraph 4: “The Council adopted relevant amendments and additions to the Statutes on the administration of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, indicating the full self-sufficiency and independence of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.” https://orthochristian.com/146405.html (this article contains a very good English translation of the entire decision) This key paragraph does not declare that the UOC is now autocephalous. However, it uses the language “full…independence” which describes the state of an autocephalous church. Why did the UOC not forthrightly state that it is breaking away from the Moscow Patriarchate and is now an autocephalous church?
In my opinion, the reason for this is to avoid being considered a “schismatic” church. For example, when the Macedonian Orthodox Church declared itself an autocephalous church in 1967 and broke away from the Serbian Orthodox Church, it was considered a “schismatic” church by all of the other Local Orthodox Churches. According to at least some schools of thought in Orthodoxy, a “schismatic” church loses the grace of the Holy Spirit and its sacraments become ineffective. Thus, if a schismatic priest hears the confession of a penitent, the sins are not sacramentally forgiven. If a schismatic priest celebrates the Divine Liturgy, the bread and the blood are not really turned into the Body and Blood of Our Lord. The challenge to the UOC is how to separate from the Moscow Patriarchate without having such dire results.
The apparent solution was found in a document issued by Patriarch Alexy in 1990. The document uses with respect to the UOC the words “self-sufficiency and independence” as found in paragraph 4. On May 27, Metropolitan Kliment, head of the Synodal Information and Education Department of the UOC, stated that the document now adopted by the UOC confirms what was done in 1990. https://lb.ua/society/2022/05/27/518169_upts_mp_zayavlyaie_pro_zberezhennya.html Thus, the Moscow Patriarchate gave the Ukrainian Church this status in 1990, and the Council of the UOC is now just reasserting that grant. Under this reasoning, the actions of the UOC on May 27 are “canonical,” and the UOC is not “schismatic.”
The text of the 1990 document can be read at http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/525418.html. It is the formal grant of authority by Patriarch Alexy to the UOC following the Bishops’ Council of October 25-27, 1990. In the grant, it uses the phrase “независимости и самостоятельности” several times. The decision of the Council of the UOC on May 27 uses the corresponding Ukrainian phrase “самостійність і незалежність” (self-sufficiency and independence).
As stated in the first link given above, Archpriest Nikolai Danilevich, Deputy Head of the UOC’s Department for External Church Relations and a frequent spokesperson of the UOC, has stated: “The UOC disassociated itself from the Moscow Patriarchate and confirmed its independent status, and made appropriate changes to its statutes. All references to the connection of the UOC with the Russian Orthodox Church have been removed from the statutes. In fact, in its content, the UOC statutes are now those of an autocephalous Church.”
It is true that the statute of the Moscow Patriarchate has a number of provisions in its Chapter X that subject the UOC to the control of the Moscow Patriarchate. For example, the decisions of the Bishops’ Council of the Moscow Patriarchate are binding on the UOC. http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/5082273.html (text of Chapter X) However, these are seen as not binding on the UOC because they are inconsistent with the key phrase used in the 1990 document. Although the statute of the UOC has provisions subjecting the UOC to the Moscow Patriarchate, all of these provisions have now been removed by the Council’s action on May 27.
Thus, according to the UOC, it is not under the control of the Moscow Patriarchate, but has still remained a canonical church.
All of this relates to legal analysis, and I am sure that the Moscow Patriarchate will have its own analysis. Regardless of the analysis, it is apparent that a majority of the UOC wishes to disassociate the UOC from the Moscow Patriarchate. The challenge is how it can do so in a manner considered canonical by the other Local Orthodox Churches. Although I am a retired attorney, I am not an Orthodox canonical lawyer.
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
27 May 2022: Decision of UOC-MP on "full independence"
Google translation below
Resolution of the Council of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of May 27, 2022 [Google translation]
FRIDAY, 27.05.2022 19:40
The Council of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (hereinafter - the Council), which took place on May 27, 2022 in Kyiv, considered issues of church life that arose as a result of the military aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine. Based on the results of the work, the Council approved the following:
- The Council condemns war as a violation of God's commandment "Thou shalt not kill!" (Exodus 20:13) and expresses condolences to all those who suffered in the war.
- The Council appeals to the authorities of Ukraine and the authorities of the Russian Federation to continue the negotiation process and search for a strong and sensible word that could stop the bloodshed.
- We disagree with the position of Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia on the war in Ukraine. самостійність і незалежність
- The Council adopted appropriate amendments to the Statute on the Administration of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which testify to the full self-sufficiency [самостійність] and independence [незалежність] of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. [My emphasis]
- The Council approves the resolutions of the Councils of Bishops of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and the decisions of the Holy Synods of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which met after the last Council of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (July 8, 2011). The Council approves the activities of the Department of Affairs and Synodal Institutions of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
- The Council was considering the restoration of myrrh making in the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
- During the period of martial law, when the relations between the dioceses and the ecclesiastical center are complicated or absent, the Council considers it expedient to give eparchial bishops the right to decide on certain issues of eparchial life within the competence of the Holy Synod or the Primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. further, while restoring opportunities, informing the clergy.
- Recently, a new pastoral challenge has been particularly acute for our Church. During the three months of the war, more than 6 million Ukrainian citizens were forced to go abroad. Mostly Ukrainians from the southern, eastern and central regions of Ukraine. Many of them are faithful to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. That is why the Kyiv Metropolis of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church receives appeals from various countries with a request to open Ukrainian Orthodox parishes. It is obvious that many of our compatriots will return to their homeland, but many will stay for permanent residence abroad. In this regard, the Council expresses its deep conviction that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church cannot leave its faithful without spiritual care, must be with them in their trials and organize church communities in the diaspora.
- Aware of the special responsibility before God, the Council expresses its deep regret over the lack of unity in Ukrainian Orthodoxy. The Council perceives the existence of a schism as a deep painful wound on the church body. It is especially unfortunate that the recent actions of the Patriarch of Constantinople in Ukraine, which resulted in the formation of the "Orthodox Church of Ukraine", only deepened misunderstandings and led to physical confrontation. But even in such crisis situations, the Council does not lose hope of resuming dialogue. In order for the dialogue to take place, the PCU representatives need to:
- to stop the seizure of churches and forced transfers of parishes of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
- to realize that their canonical status, as enshrined in the "Statute of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine", is in fact non-autocephalous and significantly inferior to the freedoms and opportunities in the implementation of church activities provided by the Statute of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
- to resolve the issue of canonicity of the hierarchy of the PCU, because for the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, as for most Local Orthodox Churches, it is quite obvious that to recognize the canonicity of the hierarchy of the PCU it is necessary to restore the apostolic succession of its bishops.
10. Summing up the results of the work done, the Council offers a prayer of thanksgiving to the Merciful Lord for the possibility of fraternal communication and expresses hope for an end to the war and reconciliation of enemies. According to the holy apostle and evangelist John the Theologian, may "grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love, be with all of us, especially brothers and sisters in the Risen Christ" (2 John 1: 3).
25 May 2022: Important events in Skopje and Kyiv
On May 24, the feast of Saints Cyril and Methodius, Patriarch Porfirije, primate of the Serbian Orthodox Church, made an extremely important announcement in the Cathedral of St. Clement of Ohrid in Skopje, North Macedonia. The full text of his announcement is found at http://www.spc.rs/sr/patrijarh_porfirije_gospod_je_alfa_omega_nasheg_postojanja_u_istoriji_u_vechnosti . The following is a Google translation of the most important part of the Patriarch’s remarks:
First of all, because of your prayers, brothers and sisters, and those in Belgrade and those here, and your love and prayers to all the saints, we have established unity, and now, brothers and sisters, coming here we bring you another joy. The Holy Assembly [consisting of all active bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church] with one voice and one mind met the requests of the Macedonian Orthodox Church - Ohrid Archbishopric, where the Assembly of our Church blesses and approves, accepts and recognizes autocephaly. Brothers and sisters, at the same time, the Holy Assembly of our Church has put in charge the Synod of the Serbian Orthodox Church and the Patriarch to work out all technical and organizational details together with Archbishop Stefan and his Synod, and then, of course, there will be the solemn proclamation of the official appropriate act. After that, all Local Orthodox Churches will be informed about it in their canonical line and order, and they will be invited to accept the autocephalous status of the Macedonian Orthodox Church - Ohrid Archbishopric.
Now after waiting for 55 years, the church in what is now North Macedonia has obtained the consent of the Serbian Orthodox Church to be a completely independent and autocephalous Local Orthodox Church. Much of the credit goes to Patriarch Porfirije who lives up to his reputation of being a bridge-building and a great advocate of dialogue. There has already been a reaction by the Moscow Patriarchate. On May 24, Father Nikolai Balashov, deputy head of the DECR of the Moscow Patriarchate, stated: “We rejoice together with our Serbian and Macedonian brothers. We have been waiting for this event for many years. And now the hour of God's will has come. I believe that the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church will give a proper response to the reports at its next meeting.” https://tass.ru/obschestvo/14713871
Before the church in North Macedonia is recognized by all of the other Local Orthodox Churches, certain potential roadblocks must be surmounted. The first is the official name of the church. In making the announcement, Patriarch Porfirije used the current formal name of the church – “Macedonian Orthodox Church – Ohrid Archbishopric.” The Ecumenical Patriarchate in establishing communion with this church on May 9 expressly excluded the use of the word “Macedonia” in any of its forms in the title of this church. https://ec-patr.org/communique-may-9-2022/ The Church of Greece will probably take the same position as it considers the word "Macedonia" to be an important part of the history of Greece. On the other hand, the Bulgarian Patriarchate will probably object to the use of the phrase “Ohrid Archbishopric” as it considers the historic archdiocese to be part of its heritage. In addition, the Ecumenical Patriarchate limited its communion with the church to the geographic boundaries of North Macedonia, while it appears that the Serbian Orthodox Church has not imposed this restriction.
Another area of future disagreement will most likely be the exact procedure for issuing the tomos of autocephaly. The Ecumenical Patriarchate contends that any tomos of autocephaly must come from it. Although not totally clear, the statement by Patriarch Porfirie seems to indicate that the formal document will be issued by the Serbian Orthodox Church before the other Local Orthodox Churches are informed. The Moscow Patriarchate will undoubtedly contend that a tomos must be signed by the primates of all of the autocephalous churches with no special privileges granted to the Ecumenical Patriarch. This was, at least, the position of the Moscow Patriarchate during the preparation stage for the pan-Orthodox council. This procedure of the signing of the tomos brings into play the great dispute between Moscow and Constantinople of whether the Ecumenical Patriarch has a form of primacy of authority at the universal level. The method for issuing the tomos may therefore be hotly contested. It is, of course, possible that the Ecumenical Patriarchate will take the pre-emptive step of simply issuing a tomos on its own in the form it desires.
Archbishop Stephan has accepted an invitation from Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to celebrate Pentecost with him at the Phanar in Istanbul. It is very likely that some of these issues will be discussed between the two at that time.
The Assembly of the Serbian Orthodox Church ended in Belgrade on May 21. The following is the full text of the press release issued May 22: http://www.spc.rs/sr/saopshtenje_za_javnost_svetog_arhijerejskog_sabora_6 Many in North Macedonia were disappointed that the press release said nothing about a decision to grant autocephaly. Instead, Patriarch Porfirije chose to travel to Skopje with a high-ranking delegation to make the announcement personally in the main cathedral of the North Macedonian church.
It is also interesting that the tone of the press releases issued by the Serbian Orthodox Church at the conclusion of its annual Assemblies has changed greatly under Patriarch Porfirije. Previously, there were sharp attacks against churches and persons with which the Church had disagreements. Now, the releases are extremely mild. It is characteristic of Patriarch Porfirije to attempt to settle disputes by dialogue rather than by sharp words. For example, the very mild press release provides:
The state of our Church in Kosovo and Metohija, Montenegro, Croatia and elsewhere was also discussed, as well as the spiritual and all other consequences of the war conflict in Ukraine. The topic of refugees was especially discussed, many of whom found refuge in the jurisdiction of the Serbian Orthodox Church. The Assembly also considered with due care and attention the phenomena that endanger and in some cases violate the unity of the Orthodox Church.
In contrast to the mild approach of Patriarch Porfirije, the recent relations between the UOC-MP and the OCU have been characterized by increasing tensions. Much of this may be attributed to the increasing number of parishes of the UOC-MP claiming to transfer to the OCU. Since the invasion began, a total of 338 parishes have claimed to transfer, and the rate of transfers seems to be accelerating. https://uk.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D0%9F%D0%B5%D1%80%D0%B5%D1%85%D1%96%D0%B4_%D1%86%D0%B5%D1%80%D0%BA%D0%BE%D0%B2%D0%BD%D0%B8%D1%85_%D0%B3%D1%80%D0%BE%D0%BC%D0%B0%D0%B4_%D0%B4%D0%BE_%D0%9F%D0%A6%D0%A3 The OCU maintains that the number of transfers are actually more than 400 parishes. https://www.pomisna.info/uk/vsi-novyny/vzhe-ponad-400-gromad-pryyednalysya-do-pomisnoyi-ukrayinskoyi-pravoslavnoyi-tserkvy/ In at least 84 of these parishes, the pastors did not join in seeking the transfer. The latter cases can lead to confrontations, and some ugly confrontations have in fact occurred. The UOC-MP has been publicizing these confrontations on its website. https://news.church.ua/
On May 24, the OCU Council of Bishops, consisting of all of the bishops of the OCU who could attend, was held in Kyiv. https://www.pomisna.info/uk/vsi-novyny/vidbuvsya-arhiyerejskyj-sobor-pravoslavnoyi-tserkvy-ukrayiny/ The Council approved an appeal to the bishops, priests, and faithful of the UOC-MP. The full text of the appeal can be read at https://www.pomisna.info/uk/document-post/zvernennya-arhiyerejskogo-soboru-upts-ptsu-do-iyerarhiv-duhovenstva-ta-virnyh-v-yurysdyktsiyi-moskovskogo-patriarhatu-v-ukrayini-24-travnya-2022-r/ . The appeal urges a formal dialogue between the OCU and the UOC-MP without any preconditions. It states that the Ecumenical Patriarchate had recognized the canonical dignity for the church in North Macedonia and that it had previously done the same for the churches in Ukraine. It urges the UOC-MP to follow the tomos granted by the Ecumenical Patriarchate for Ukraine. The appeal also urges support for the effort to remove Patriarch Kirill from his office.
On May 23, the Holy Synod of the OCU approved a statute for a future monastery at the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra and authorized a request to the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine to transfer one of the churches of the Upper Lavra and some of its premises for the use in worship and monastic activities of this monastery. https://www.pomisna.info/uk/vsi-novyny/ofitsijne-povidomlennya-pro-zasidannya-svyashhennogo-synodu-23-travnya-2022-r/ The legal department of the UOC-MP has already objected to this action by the OCU. https://news.church.ua/2022/05/24/komentar-yuridichnogo-viddilu-upc-shhodo-stvorennya-pcu-paralelnogo-monastirya-kijevo-pecherskoji-lavri/ Personally, I am puzzled by the OCU taking this aggressive action while at the same time holding out the olive branch to the UOC-MP in its appeal above.
Although no formal date has been announced, it appears that the planned meeting of the bishops, priests, and laity of the UOC-MP to decide its future is imminent. In preparation, the UOC-MP eparchy of Sumy held a meeting of its priests on May 20. http://portal-pravoslavie.sumy.ua/novini-eparhii/duhovenstvo-sumskoi-eparhii-upc-obgovorilo-kanonichnij-status.html?fbclid=IwAR1HEsg1w10ufyRbbwRkPHIRM3F9Z3phG8d2KsO4zLOk-O5R5UAFwBEXQ8U As you may recall, Metropolitan Eulogy of Sumy had ceased to commemorate Patriarch Kirill in the Liturgy shortly after the invasion and had been criticized by Patriarch Kirill for doing so. At the meeting, 89 priests of the eparchy supported separation from Moscow through the establishment of a canonical autocephalous Ukrainian church, while 48 priests were in favor of remaining in the Moscow Patriarchate. Although autocephaly received a majority, it is clear that there will be sharp divisions within the UOC-MP on this issue. It is very possible that the appeal by the OCU was timed to occur shortly before this very important meeting of the UOC-MP.
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
23 May 2022: Russian Church and State cooperation in Africa & other news
Metropolitan Leonid of Klin, the Moscow Patriarchate’s Exarch for Africa, has made his first trip to Africa, and Uganda has been his destination. https://t.me/s/exarchleonid It has been a very short trip to Africa, May 19-21. Uganda has had a strong Orthodox presence for decades. However, the Moscow Patriarchate has had only limited success in causing native clergy in Uganda to transfer from the Patriarchate of Alexandria to the Moscow Patriarchate. The Alexandrian Patriarchate has three dioceses in Uganda, and all three are now headed by native African bishops. According to the website of the Orthodox Church of Uganda (which may not be completely up to date), the Patriarchate has in Uganda 76 priests and 5 deacons. https://www.ugandaorthodoxchurch.co.ug/ The website also states that in Uganda “[t]here are over 100 communities, 41 brick and mortar churches, 17 medical clinics and one Holy Cross Orthodox Hospital.” The last number given by the Moscow Patriarchate is that 10 priests from Uganda have transferred to the Moscow Patriarchate, although the Telegram site of Metropolitan Leonid states that he signed six more antimensions on May 20.
It appears that the high point of the visit was the Metropolitan’s meeting on May 19 with Uganda President Yoweri Museveni, who has held that office since 1996. The Metropolitan’s Telegram channel reports: “President Museveni called on the Russian clergy to pay attention not only to the spread of their religion, but also to the development of education and healthcare for the sake of socio-economic transformations in the life of the people.” Maybe this “photo opportunity” with the President will help the Moscow Patriarchate’s efforts in Uganda. The Ambassador of the Russian Federation to Uganda, Vladlen S. Semivolos, was also present at the meeting with the President. In addition, the channel covered the very warm visit of the Metropolitan to the Russian Embassy and his meeting with the Ambassador.
The OrthoChristian website in Moscow has posted a report relating to the unsuccessful attempt of the Russian Embassy in Uganda to obtain a meeting between the Metropolitan and the Inter-Religious Council of Uganda. https://orthochristian.com/146224.html The report includes photos of the letter from the Embassy and the response by the Council. It shows that the Embassy was actively involved in setting up meetings for the Metropolitan. With respect to the Metropolitan’s visit to Uganda, a press conference with the Metropolitan has been announced for May 23 in Moscow. http://pressmia.ru/special_religion_and_worldview/20220523/953664398.html The conference also includes the Chargé d'Affaires from the Embassy in Uganda (who apparently travelled all the way from Africa for this conference) and the Director of the Africa Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation.
On May 19, there was another meeting of the “Working Group on Cooperation between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia” in Moscow. https://mospat.ru/ru/news/89264/ From the photos, one can see the large number of people on each side of the table. The Church side was headed by Metropolitan Hilarion, and the Ministry side was headed by Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation E.S. Ivanov.
In regularly monitoring the Internet reports on the recent activities of the Moscow Patriarchate relating to native clergy in Africa, I have been impressed with how frequently the representatives of the Moscow Patriarchate report on contacts and meetings at the Russian Embassies in the various African countries. In a sense this is natural and certainly not improper. On the other hand, I am left with a sense that there is close cooperation and assistance by the Embassies with respect to the efforts now being made by the Moscow Patriarchate in Africa. According the various media reports, the Russian Federation is seeking to increase its presence in Africa. Having an active Russian church in Africa may contribute to this.
On a different subject, the Coordinating Committee of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches met in Rethymno on the island of Crete from May 16 to 20. The communique issues at the close of the meeting contains the following good news: “The Committee completed the revision of the draft text entitled, “Primacy and Synodality in the Second Millennium and Today” to be presented to a Plenary Session of the Joint International Commission, expected to take place in 2023.” http://www.christianunity.va/content/unitacristiani/en/news/2022/2022-05-20-joint-coordinating-committee-crete.html The Coordinating Committee has the responsibility for preparing a document for consideration by the full Commission at a plenary meeting. Normally, this means that both the Catholic and Orthodox sides of the Coordinating Committee need to agree on the document for it to be submitted to the full Commission. Presumably, there was such an agreement in this case. Because the last plenary of the full Commission was hosted by the Catholic side, it is to be expected that any plenary in 2023 will be hosted by the Orthodox side.
At the last plenary held in Chieti, Italy in September 2016, a document was approved by the Commission on “Synodality and Primacy in the First Millennium.” The present document covers the Second Millennium and Today. The Coordinating Committee held meetings on the latter document at the Bose Monastery in Italy in November 2018 and November 2019, but then the pandemic required the cessation of meetings until the meeting this May. The topic of primacy has been a difficult one because Constantinople and Moscow have conflicting views on this topic. Constantinople maintains that a form of primacy of authority exists at the universal level of the Church, while Moscow contends that only Christ is the primate of the universal Church. For Moscow, primacy at the universal level is only a matter of honor and not authority. The practical application of this dispute is whether the position of the Ecumenical Patriarch with respect to the other Local Orthodox Churches is one of simply honor or whether the Ecumenical Patriarch has certain authority with respect to the other Local Orthodox Churches. As to be expected, Moscow contends that Constantinople has no authority over it or over the other Local Orthodox Churches. On the other hand, Constantinople contends that it does have some authority, although it adds that the Ecumenical Patriarch does not have the broad authority possessed by the pope.
The link above includes three photos of the meeting at Rethymno. I have attempted to identify the people in the photos. As best as I can determine, the Orthodox side includes: Archbishop Job of Telmessos (Ecumenical Patriarchate - co-chairman); Metropolitan Maximos of Selyviar (Ecumenical Patriarchate – co-secretary); Metropolitan Vasilios of Konstantia-Famagusta (Church of Cyprus); Archimandrite Amphilochios (Miltos) (Church of Greece); Professor Patriciu Vlaicu (Romanian Patriarchate); Professor Nathan Hoppe (Church of Albania); Professor Theodoros Giagkou (Jerusalem Patriarchate). The Catholic side includes: Cardinal Kurt Koch (co-chairman); Msgr. Andrea Palmieri (co-secretary); Bishop Brian Farrell; Archbishop Roland Minnerath; Bishop Dimitri Salachas; Msgr. Ivan Dacko Msgr. Paul McPartlan; Professor Theresia Hainthaler. Also in the photos is the host of the meeting (but not a member of the Committee), Metropolitan Prodromos of Rethymnon. These are not all of the members of the Coordinating Committee. Metropolitan Hilarion (Moscow Patriarchate) is a regular members of the Coordinating Committee, but has not attended meetings after the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate decided on September 14, 2018, not to participate in theological dialogues in which the representatives of the Patriarchate of Constantinople are co-chairs.
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
20 May 2022: A joyous event for the Churches of Serbia and N. Macedonia
A joyous event occurred in the huge St. Sava Cathedral in Belgrade on May 19. It was a liturgy of reconciliation which marked the end of a 55-year division between the Serbian Orthodox Church (SOC) and the schismatic Macedonian Orthodox Church – Ohrid Archbishopric (MOC-OA). Present at the event were Patriarch Porfirije, primate of the SOC, as well as all of the bishops of the SOC who are now attending their annual Assembly in Belgrade. The bishops of the MOC-OA who served in the Liturgy were its primate Archbishop Stefan as well as Metropolitans Peter and Timotej. http://www.spc.rs/sr/zaceljena_rana_poluvekovnog_raskola A video of the entire service can be watched at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JV9DZuOSFzQ . The full text of the address of Patriarch Porfirije at the service is found at http://www.spc.rs/sr/patrijarh_porfirije_nash_cilj_je_da_ispunimo_rech_hristovu_da_jedno_budemo. The Patriarch spoke of the importance of unity and described the healing of the schism as “a miracle of God.” The Patriarch in his address made no mention of what the final canonical status of the MOC-OA will be or of the desire of the MOC-OA for autocephaly. He also did not refer in his remarks to the Ecumenical Patriarch.
The remarks by Archbishop Stefan at the service are reported at http://www.spc.rs/sr/arhiepsikop_stefan_pokazali_smo_zajednishtvo_u_najsvetijem_u_krvi_telu_hristovom . In his remarks, Archbishop Stefan referred to the SOC and the MOC-OA as “two beloved sister Churches.” He stated that the MOC-OA “will continue on the path that leads and serves peace and mutual improvement, on the path that will justify fraternal decisions for unity with all, including our request for a final solution to the autocephalous status of our Holy Church.” He thanked the Assembly of the SOC for acting in “unanimity with the Ecumenical Patriarch” in restoring communion with the MOC-OA. It appears clear that the MOC-OA considers today’s event as only the first step in the process of being recognized as an autocephalous Local Orthodox Church.
To understand better the reconciliation of the SOC and the MOC-OA, the events of the last two weeks must also be considered. On Friday, May 6, a video was posted of a sermon by Bishop Fotije of Zvornik-Tuzla, a member of the Holy Synod of the SOC. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-FY-NzLUoJg He conveyed the surprising news that he had attended a very recent meeting between Patriarch Porfirije and representatives of the MOC-OA. He spoke very enthusiastically about the meeting and expressed the hope that at the forthcoming SOC Assembly canonical unity will be established between the SOC and the MOC-OA.
On Monday, May 9, the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate issued a decision which welcomed “into eucharistic communion the Hierarchy, clergy and laity under Archbishop Stefan of this Church, thereby healing the wound of schism….” There is no mention of autocephaly. The Holy Synod also “recognizes ‘Ohrid’ as the name of this Church (understood as the region of its jurisdiction solely within the boundaries of the territory of the state of North Macedonia)…excluding the term ‘Macedonian’ and any other derivative of the word ‘Macedonia.’” https://ec-patr.org/communique-may-9-2022/ The decision therefore limits this Ohrid church to the geographic territory of North Macedonia, even though the MOC-OA has three dioceses outside of North Macedonia, namely US - Canada, Australia – New Zealand, and Europe generally. http://www.mpc.org.mk/MPC/eparhii.asp This is not surprising as the tomos issued by the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Ukraine had limited the jurisdiction of the new OCU to Ukraine itself. The Ecumenical Patriarchate also receives the UOC-MP under the title “Ohrid” and prohibits the use of the word “Macedonia” in any form. In this regard, the Ecumenical Patriarchate supports the position of the Church of Greece which maintains that the word “Macedonia” belongs to the heritage of Greece. On the other hand, the Bulgarian Patriarchate will doubtlessly contend that the phrase “Ohrid Archbishopric” should not be used as this phrase is an important part of the history of Bulgaria.
On Monday, May 16, the Assembly of all of the bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church (SOC) established “full liturgical and canonical communion” with the MOC-OA. http://www.spc.rs/sr/saopshtenje_svetog_arhijerejskog_sabora_6 According to the announcement by the Assembly, this restoration of communion was based on an act (still not made public) in which the Synod of the MOC-OA accepted “the generally recognized canonical status granted to it in 1959” by the SOC and in which the Synod of the MOC-OA also expressed the hope that the SOC will resolve its “canonical status, which should be followed by a pan-Orthodox consent and acceptance of that status.” As explained in my earlier report, the SOC in 1959 had granted great autonomy, but not autocephaly, to the Orthodox church in Yugoslavia’s Socialist Republic of Macedonia. In 1967, this Macedonian church, impatient that the SOC had not yet consented to its autocephaly, declared its own autocephaly. This autocephaly was not subsequently recognized by any Local Orthodox Church, and the Macedonian church was considered schismatic from this point forward.
After referring to this recent act by the MOC-OA, the Assembly on May 16 decided: (1) to welcome “the acceptance [by the MOC-OA] of the generally recognized canonical status, which is the status of the widest possible autonomy, that is full internal independence, granted in 1959; (2) to establish “full liturgical and canonical communion” with the MOC-OA as its acceptance removes the 1967 unilateral declaration of autocephaly; and (3) to acknowledge that “dialogue on the future and eventual final status of dioceses in Northern Macedonia is not only possible but purposeful, legitimate and realistic.” Presumably, the last item refers to the desire of the MOC-OA for autocephaly. The Assembly in its decision makes no mention of the May 9 decision of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. However, the decision also states that the Assembly “does not intend to condition the new sister Church with restrictive clauses regarding the scope of its jurisdiction in the home country and in the diaspora after resolving the status, with its recommendation to resolve the issue of its official name in direct fraternal dialogue with Hellenic and other Local Orthodox Churches.” Thus, the SOC does not seek to impose the two conditions imposed by the May 9 decision of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
The big question now is whether the Assembly will decide in the remaining days of its meeting to agree to autocephaly for the MOC-OA. It appears to be the hope of the MOC-OA that it will. This is apparent from an interview of Metropolitan Timotej, who acts as the spokesperson of the Holy Synod of the MOC-OA and who spoke to journalists after a meeting of the Synod of the MOC-OA on May 18. A video of this remarks can be watched at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZkaaL-_tvB4 . The interview is described in an article by Deutsche Welle at https://www.dw.com/mk/%D1%82%D0%B8%D0%BC%D0%BE%D1%82%D0%B5%D1%98-%D1%81%D0%BF%D1%86-%D0%B4%D0%BE-%D0%B2%D0%B0%D1%80%D1%82%D0%BE%D0%BB%D0%BE%D0%BC%D0%B5%D1%98-%D1%82%D1%80%D0%B5%D0%B1%D0%B0-%D0%B4%D0%B0-%D0%B8%D1%81%D0%BF%D1%80%D0%B0%D1%82%D0%B8-%D0%BF%D1%80%D0%B5%D0%B4%D0%BB%D0%BE%D0%B3-%D0%B7%D0%B0-%D0%B0%D0%B2%D1%82%D0%BE%D0%BA%D0%B5%D1%84%D0%B0%D0%BB%D0%B5%D0%BD-%D1%81%D1%82%D0%B0%D1%82%D1%83%D1%81-%D0%BD%D0%B0-%D0%BC%D0%BF%D1%86-%D0%BE%D0%B0/a-61838512 . The following are excerpts from the article:
The Macedonian bishops hope that the Serbian Orthodox Church will send the proposal for autocephalous status to the MOC-OA at the end of May…."We accepted the invitation from the Serbian Patriarchate, namely the Assembly of the SOC, to establish Eucharistic unity with the whole Orthodox world with this hierarchical liturgy that will be celebrated tomorrow in the Cathedral dedicated to St. Sava," said…Bishop Timotej. According to him, this establishes unity not only with the SOC, but also with the other Orthodox churches, and it is a step towards the expected final resolution of the desired goal, which is the autocephaly of the MOC-OA.
He added that Primate Stephen wrote a letter to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew thanking him for the act of recognizing the hierarchy and the canonical status of the MOC-OA and for the invitation on the religious feast of Pentecost to attend a joint liturgy at the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
Bishop Timotej says that a church that is required to be nominated for autocephalous status must meet a dozen points in order to be nominated for a tomos of autocephaly. "We expect that for us, the mother church from which we separate will do that - in this case the SOC," said Timotej. Thus, the SOC should propose to the Ecumenical Patriarchate the granting of autocephalous status to be approved by all of the Orthodox Churches, and then the Ecumenical Patriarch to issue a tomos to be signed by him and the bishop of the SOC.
Bishop Timotej believes that the last decision of the SOC for autonomy as of 1959 is not a step backwards, but a step towards obtaining the autocephalous status of the church.
Even if the SOC, the MOC-OA, and the Ecumenical Patriarchate agree on autocephaly, difficult questions must be resolved before autocephaly is in fact established. Here are a few of these questions: (1) what will happen to the existing Ohrid Archbishopric, headed by Archbishop Jovan, that has not been in schism and that is also located in North Macedonia; (2) what will be the territorial jurisdiction of the autocephalous church; (3) what will be the name of the autocephalous church; (4) will the approval of all of the existing Local Orthodox Churches be required before the tomos is signed; (5) who will sign the tomos? The Ecumenical Patriarchate will be reluctant to agree to aspects which are inconsistent with its actions in Ukraine and which may indicate that its actions in Ukraine were improper. Resolving these questions may take a very long time.
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
16 May 2022: New Orthodox developments in Africa and Serbia
Father Andrei Novikov (Moscow Patriarchate), who was in Tanzania in February, is now in Madagascar. On May 13, he distributed antimensions to 20 native African priests from Madagascar who have joined the Moscow Patriarchate. https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100006853112431 According to Father Andrei’s narrative on his Facebook page, the two eparchies of the Alexandrian Patriarchate in Madagascar had a total of 30 native clergy, and a majority of these have now joined the Moscow Patriarchate. The priest who acts as the coordinator for the Moscow Patriarchate in Madagascar and who has been most active in organizing the clergy is Father Randrianaivo Vacilios Frederic. His Facebook page is at https://spzh.news/ru/news/85980-na-madagaskare-mestnym-klirikam-apc-zapreshhali-vkhodity-v-dom-jepiskopa . In January Father Vacilios made the following claim: “In Madagascar, black priests are not allowed to enter the bishop’s house! But any Greek can walk up and down his residence.” https://spzh.news/ru/news/85980-na-madagaskare-mestnym-klirikam-apc-zapreshhali-vkhodity-v-dom-jepiskopa The governmental ties between Madagascar and Russia have also been strengthened this year. See https://www.defenceweb.co.za/joint/diplomacy-a-peace/madagascar-and-russia-strengthen-defence-ties/
It appears that all of the African nations for which the Moscow Patriarchate has appointed coordinators have now been visited by a representative of the Moscow Patriarchate and the antimensions have been distributed. From what has been posted on the Internet by the African Exarchate, it appears that the number of African native clergy joining the Moscow Patriarchate to date from the various countries are as follows: Kenya – 93; Madagascar – 20; Tanzania – 16; Malawi – 11; Uganda – 10; Nigeria – 7; Zambia – 3; Cameroon – 3; Rwanda – 2; Democratic Republic of the Congo – 1 (?); Republic of the Congo – 1 (?). See especially https://t.me/s/exarchleonid . The total of these numbers is 167. Of course, these numbers may not be totally accurate and may change in the future. In addition, the Exarchate includes 6 Russian parishes in Morocco (Rabat and Casablanca), Tunisia (Bizerte and Tunis), Egypt (Cairo), and South Africa (Johannesburg).
On May 9, Patriarch Theodoros of Alexandria issued a circular providing instructions as to actions to be taken in view of the transfer of clerics to the Moscow Patriarchate. https://www.patriarchateofalexandria.com/en/stwmen-kalws-stwmen-oarsalews (Greek) The following is an article (https://www.europeantimes.news/2022/05/patriarchate-of-alexandria-to-protect-the-temples-from-the-robberies-of-the-russian-church/ ) which describes the circular:
Patriarch Theodore of Alexandria sent a circular message to the bishops of the Patriarchate of Alexandria, instructing them on how to approach the problems posed by the “illegal and vindictive invasion of the Russian Church into the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Alexandria” after the latter recognized the autocephaly of the Ukrainian Church. It is clear from the message that the tactics of the “Russian Exarchate” on the African continent envisage first financial enticement of local clergy, and then seizure of the temples of the parish communities and their other property.
“We learn with pain from our fellow hierarchs to our patriarchal cathedral, who describe the tragic events that befell them after the anti-canonical and inadmissible attempt to invade the Russian Church on the African continent, which has undoubtedly been in the canonical jurisdiction of our ancient patriarchy for centuries. This came after our recognition of the canonical autocephaly granted by the Ecumenical Patriarchate to the local Church of Ukraine.
The main goal of the non-fraternal Russian actions is the theft of the parish communities of local Orthodox Christians, which is done first by financially luring parish priests, and then separating parishes with their temples, buildings and others from our ancient patriarchate, which laid the foundations of Orthodoxy in the long-suffering African land and works around the clock with great efforts to enlighten all of us in Christ and other brothers and who, in addition to charities, is constantly building new structures to improve the quality of life of people here.
The Patriarch of Alexandria then told the bishops that the “robbery and disrespectful conduct of the Russian Church” must be addressed with clear action to protect movable and immovable parish property, to be organized by the diocesan legal advisers in accordance with local law. Relevant procedures must also be initiated for the immediate restoration of ownership of any property (temples, buildings, etc.) seized by an offender. To this end, the dioceses must speed up the process of documenting the ownership of all temples in order to limit the possibility of abuse.
With regard to the seceding African clergy, the patriarch ordered the bishops to impose a ban on the conduct of priesthood in the hope that they would repent until the competent ecclesiastical court of the Patriarchate of Alexandria ruled.
The patriarch called on the bishops to show courage to preserve the integrity of the verbal flock entrusted to them by their predecessors and acquired through the martyrdom of many hierarchs and priests, and not to be afraid to stand up for justice, following the canonical tradition of the Orthodox Church.
Finally Patriarch Theodore prays to “the Risen Lord, Who builds His Church, to purify the minds and hearts of the local clergy and our indigenous flock from the treacherous conduct of spiritual apostasy for thirty pieces of silver.”
There are now a number of complaints and lawsuits that have been initiated by bishops of the Alexandrian Patriarchate to protect property claimed by them. In a sense, this is very similar to the legal actions taken by the UOC-MP with respect to parishes seeking to transfer to the OCU. A majority of the attempts to transfer parishes to the OCU have resulted in lawsuits filed by the UOC-MP. The OCU claims that many parishes are reluctant to transfer because a transfer will often result in the need of the parish to hire an attorney to defend the lawsuit by the UOC-MP. However, in Africa, it is likely that the Moscow Patriarchate has the financial means to defend legal actions brought by the Patriarchate of Alexandria.
On May 15, the bishops of the Serbian Patriarchate celebrated in the Serbian town of Sremski Karlovci (near Novi Sad) the Divine Liturgy to mark the 100th anniversary of the re-establishment of the autocephalous Serbian Patriarchate and its recognition by the Ecumenical Patriarch. It was also the beginning of this year’s Assembly of all of the Serbian bishops. http://www.spc.rs/eng/centennial_reestablishment_serbian_patriarchate (English) An Epistle was issued by the bishops for the anniversary. http://www.spc.rs/sr/poslanica_povodom_stogodishnjice_vaspostavljanja_srpske_patrijarshije (full text) The Assembly of bishops will meet for a number of days beginning May 16 at St. Sava Cathedral in Belgrade. The results of the Assembly are announced at its conclusion. The agenda for the Assembly is determined by the bishops at the beginning of the Assembly. An article in the major Serbian newspaper Politika speculates on the subjects that will be covered. https://www.politika.rs/scc/clanak/507203/Status-crkve-u-Makedoniji-i-izbor-novih-episkopa-moguce-teme-Sabora The article assumes that the issue of the “Macedonian Orthodox Church” and the action of the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate with respect to that church will be discussed. Other subjects may include election of bishops, religious education in the schools, and the situation in Ukraine.
On May 12, Montenegro’s new prime minister Dritan Abazović (an ethnic Albanian and a Muslim) made a special trip to the Monastery of Ostrog to meet with Patriarch Porfirije on the feast day of Saint Basil of Ostrog. https://www.gov.me/en/article/pm-abazovic-meets-with-patriarch-porfirije-and-metropolitan-joanikije It appears to have been a warm meeting. Abazović said that the Government of Montenegro will lead a fair dialogue with the Serbian Orthodox Church to resolve open issues fairly and in accordance with the law, for the mutual benefit of the state of Montenegro and the Serbian Orthodox Church. With respect to the still unsigned agreement between the Serbian Orthodox Church and the government of Montenegro, Abazović said in an interview: “So when we have the contract that is in accordance with the law and the Constitution, then there is no problem to sign it. It does not matter to a secular state, we do not care if it is a small or large religious organization, if there are many or few believers. We want to promote the liberal context of freedom of religion, where every believer has the same rights. Nothing else! Nothing more! And if we talk about whether he will sign the agreement with the Serbian Orthodox Church? Yes! I am ready to sign it without any problem.” https://www.dw.com/sq/abazovi%C3%A7-sundimi-i-ligjit-dhe-zhvillimi-ekonomik-dy-prioritetet-e-qeveris%C3%AB/a-61795717
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
13 May 2022: Major meeting of the UOC-MP & the decisions relating to N. Macedonia
The Holy Synod of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP) met on May 12. The members of the Holy Synod are identified at https://news.church.ua/2022/05/12/vidbulosya-zasidannya-svyashhennogo-sinodu-ukrajinskoji-pravoslavnoji-cerkvi/ . Among the permanent members are Metropolitan Lazar of Simferopol and Crimea and Metropolitan Hilarion of Donetsk and Mariupol. The last meeting of the Synod was on February 28, a few days after the invasion. The results of the meeting on May 12 are summarized by the UOC-MP at https://news.church.ua/2022/05/12/pidsumki-svyashhennogo-sinodu-ukrajinskoji-pravoslavnoji-cerkvi-vid-12-travnya-2022-roku/. A number of subjects were discussed at the meeting. The most important subject was the issuance of a statement which can be read at https://news.church.ua/2022/05/12/zayava-svyashhennogo-sinodu-ukrajinskoji-pravoslavnoji-cerkvi-vid-12-travnya-2022-roku/ The statement first recounts how “the Ukrainian people have been courageously defending themselves against a military attack by the Russian Federation, which has invaded the territory of our sovereign and independent state.” It states that the UOC-MP “fully shares the pain and suffering of the Ukrainian people” and expresses confidence that “Ukraine will survive and maintain its statehood.”
However, the statement then condemns certain attacks against the UOC-MP. In this regard it refers to the bills introduced by certain legislators in the Ukrainian parliament to ban the activities of the UOC-MP and to the decisions of certain local governments to ban or restrict the activities of the UOC-MP. The statement adds: “We note with sadness that all these facts are the result of the erroneous religious policy during the presidency of P.O. Poroshenko and the destructive ideology of the so-called Orthodox Church of Ukraine. We are convinced that such activities of the previous government and the OCU became one of the reasons for the military invasion of Ukraine.” Thus, the UOC-MP contends that the OCU is partially responsible for the Russian invasion. This is a very serious accusation that will certainly not help relations between the OCU and the UOC-MP. In contrast, one can remember the appeal made to the OCU by Father Mykola Danilevich, deputy head of the DECR of the UOC-MP, on his Telegram channel a few days after the invasion: “Now is the time to unite, not quarrel. Trouble in our common home. We are all in the same boat. Do not shake it, because we will all drown. I very much hope that this trouble will motivate us to appreciate peace in general and interfaith peace in particular. That we will all rethink a lot. We are all citizens of Ukraine, let us unite in defense of the state and put aside mutual claims.” It is certainly possible that the present transfer of parishes from the UOC-MP to the OCU is partially the cause for this significant change of approach by the UOC-MP toward the OCU in the last three months.
Perhaps, most importantly, the statement provides for the calling of an important “meeting” of the UOC-MP. In this regard, the statement reads:
Another issue that has worried many lately concerns the future of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. The Holy Synod states that today this issue is the subject of church discussion. In some dioceses there are meetings of the clergy, who express their position. This information comes to the Primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. The Holy Synod, in general, welcomes the possibility of a thorough and comprehensive discussion of any issues of church life, as this is the manifestation of the conciliar nature of the Orthodox Church. But this process must take place without disturbing the church order.
In the near future, a meeting will be convened with the participation of bishops, priests, monks, and laity to discuss the problems of church life which have arisen as a result of the war and which concern us all. At the same time, we emphasize that we must do everything possible so that the discussion on this or that issue does not take us out of the canonical field and does not lead to new divisions in the Church.
It appears that the above statement is a compromise among the various camps within the UOC-MP. For those seeking separation from the Moscow Patriarchate, the meeting will involve the participation of priests and laity and will include the discussion of “any issues of church life.” For those more cautious or objecting to a separation, the meeting is not called a council. Also there is a provision that the parties should do everything possible so that the discussion will not lead to non-canonical actions or new divisions in the Church.
On a different subject, the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate on May 9 made decisions relating to an “appeal” by the schismatic “Macedonian Orthodox Church – Ohrid Archbishopric.” The official English text of the decisions can be read in its entirety at https://ec-patr.org/communique-may-9-2022/. The three decisions are as follows:
1. It welcomes into eucharistic communion the Hierarchy, clergy and laity under Archbishop Stefan of this Church, thereby healing the wound of schism and pouring “oil and wine” on the ordeal of our Orthodox brethren in that country. To this end, the appropriate Patriarchal and Synodal Act is issued.
2. It cedes to the Most Holy Church of Serbia the regulation of the administrative matters between itself and the Church in North Macedonia, in the context of course of the sacred canonical order and church tradition.
3. It recognizes “Ohrid” as the name of this Church (understood as the region of its jurisdiction solely within the boundaries of the territory of the state of North Macedonia), as also promised in writing to the Ecumenical Patriarchate by its Primate. Thereby excluding the term “Macedonian” and any other derivative of the word “Macedonia.”
To understand these decisions, some background information may be helpful. When the People’s Republic of Yugoslavia was established under Marshal Tito, the extreme southern portion of the country was designated the Socialist Republic of Macedonia with a capital at Skopje. At that time, this southern republic was under the jurisdiction of the Serbian Orthodox Patriarchate. In 1945, the Orthodox clergy in Macedonia began their efforts to establish a church based on the historic Ohrid Archbishopric, which had encompassed the present area of North Macedonia and much of Bulgaria.
In 1959 the Serbian Orthodox Patriarchate recognized the Macedonian Orthodox Church (“MOC”) as an autonomous organization within the structure of the Patriarchate. However, in 1967, the MOC declared that it was an autocephalous church completely independent of the Patriarchate. Subsequently, neither the Serbian Patriarchate nor any other Local Orthodox Church recognized the MOC as an autocephalous church. Rather, it was considered a schismatic church.
In 1991 with the breakup of Yugoslavia, Macedonia (now called North Macedonia) became an independent nation. In 2002, a delegation of the MOC negotiated in the city of Nis an agreement with the Serbian Patriarchate establishing the MOC as an autonomous church within the structure of the Serbian Patriarchate. However, the hierarchs of the MOC, except for Bishop Jovan, rejected the Nis agreement. In spite of the rejection, the Serbian Patriarchate went ahead and applied this agreement to establish its own “Ohrid Archbishopric” (“OA”) covering all Macedonia with Jovan as its archbishop. The OA remains today an autonomous part of the Serbian Patriarchate.
Thus, there are now two competing Orthodox organizations in North Macedonia – the MOC and the OA. The MOC remains by far the largest. For a period of time, the OA suffered persecution from the government including imprisonment of Jovan, but the persecution has now largely ended. In recent years, the MOC, supported by the government of North Macedonia, has sought a decision by the Ecumenical Patriarchate establishing the MOC as an autocephalous church.
On January 17, 2020, the Ecumenical Patriarchate invited delegations from the Serbian Orthodox Church and the MOC to come to the Phanar for consultations and an attempt to find a mutually agreeable solution to the schism in North Macedonia. When there was no response from the Serbian Church, a second letter was sent. To date it appears that the Serbian Church has still not responded to either letter. In February 2021, the Serbian Orthodox Church elected Porfirije, a great believer in dialogue, as its primate and patriarch. With his election, there was new hope that the stalemate between the MOC and the Serbian Orthodox Church might be resolved. In a letter of congratulations to the new Patriarch, the Prime Minister of North Macedonia, Zoran Zaev, asked Patriarch Porfirije “to devote part of his time and attention to finding a solution through dialogue.”
On Friday, May 6, 2022, a video was posted in which Bishop Fotije of Zvornik-Tuzla, a member of the Holy Synod of the Serbian Church, stated that he was personally present earlier in the week at a meeting in the Nis Eparchy between Patriarch Porfirije and representatives of the MOC. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-FY-NzLUoJg The bishop spoke with great enthusiasm about the dialogue of love that occurred at the meeting. He expressed the hope that at the Assembly (an annual meeting of all Serbian bishops normally held in May), the MOC will return to unity with the Serbian Church and with all of the Local Orthodox Churches. On the following Monday, May 9, the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate issued its decisions, quoted above.
The above decisions by the Ecumenical Patriarchate do not involve a tomos or the granting of autocephaly. They also do not specify that the MOC will be an autonomous church within the Ecumenical Patriarchate such as the Church of Finland. Rather, it seems that the status of the MOC is left undetermined at the present time and will be presumably established at a future date. For now, the MOC is simply welcomed “into eucharistic communion” with the Ecumenical Patriarchate, thus supposedly healing the schism.
Under the decisions of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, it appears that the next step contemplates negotiations between the Serbian Church and the MOC to determine their relationship. Thus, the decisions “cede” to the Serbian Church “the regulation of the administrative matters between itself and the Church in North Macedonia.” If the Serbian Church and the MOC reach an agreement, that agreement could determine the exact nature of the future church in North Macedonia. Those negotiations would presumably also determine the relationship between the MOC and the OA of the Serbian Church. In addition, the decisions specify that the new church will use the name Ohrid, and not a form of the word Macedonia. This later requirement may have been added because the Orthodox Church of Greece has been adamant that the word Macedonian belongs to the Greek nation.
Now three days have passed since the May 9 decisions, and the Serbian Orthodox Church has still said nothing about the decisions. This raises the possibility that the action of the Ecumenical Patriarchate was taken with the foreknowledge and consent of the Serbian Church. On the other hand, it is possible that the Ecumenical Patriarchate acted very quickly after the statement by Bishop Fotije to preclude the possibility that the Serbian Church would grant autocephaly to the MOC without any participation by the Ecumenical Patriarchate in the process. If this happened, it would minimize the role of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in granting autocephaly, while maximizing the role of the Serbian Church, arguably as the “mother church.” The action taken by the Ecumenical Patriarchate on May 9 was possibly a preemptive step to prevent this from happening.
On May 10, the Holy Synod of the MOC expressed “most heartfelt gratitude” to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew for the decisions made on May 9. The MOC Synod also stated that talks with the Serbian Orthodox Church will continue until the final status of the church is determined. http://www.mpc.org.mk/vest.asp?id=7622 Comments expressing concerns have been made by the representatives of the Moscow and Bulgarian Patriarchates, and these comments are summarized at https://orthochristian.com/146091.html (English). In conclusion, the action on May 9 appears to be only the first step, and one must wait and see what will happen in the contemplated negotiations between the Serbian Church and the MOC (now the Ohrid Church).
Lastly, the Orthodox Pre-Assembly of the World Council of Church held its first session on May 12, 2022, in Paralimni, Cyprus. The purpose of the meeting, which will last until May 16, is to coordinate a common stance on topical issues on the inter-Christian agenda in anticipation of the WCC Assembly to be held August 31 to September 8, 2022, in Karlsruhe, Germany. The delegation of the Moscow Patriarchate at the Orthodox Pre-Assembly is led by Metropolitan Hilarion. https://mospat.ru/en/news/89224/ Attendees include representatives from the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Patriarchates of Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem, Moscow, Serbia, and Romania, and the Churches of Greece, Poland, Albania, and Greece. https://en.famagusta.news/local/sto-paralimni-i-synantisi-gia-to-pagkosmio-symvoulio-ekklision/ The meeting appears to be a unique opportunity for members of the Orthodox and the Ancient Oriental Churches to meet during this time of major intra-Orthodox disputes. Numerous photos of the meeting can be seen at https://orthodoxtimes.com/orthodox-churches-pray-and-reflect-on-reconciliation-as-wcc-11th-assembly-approaches/ On May 12, Metropolitan Hilarion had dinner with Archbishop Chrysostomos, primate of the Orthodox Church of Cyprus, at the invitation of the Archbishop. https://mospat.ru/en/news/89235/
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
8 May 2022: Letter from Metropolitan Onufry to Putin (May 8)
On May 8, a letter was sent from Metropolitan Onufry, head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate), to President Putin. https://news.church.ua/2022/05/08/obrashhenie-blazhennejshego-mitropolita-onufriya-k-prezidentu-rossijskoj-federacii-putinu-v-v-v-svyazi-s-situaciej-vokrug-goroda-mariupolya/ The following is a Google translation of the letter:
To the President of the Russian Federation
On these Pascal days, when the celebration of the triumph of life over death is complemented by the Day of Victory over Nazism, I turn to you in connection with the situation around the city of Mariupol.
The difficult situation in which the residents and defenders of Mariupol find themselves prompts me to beg you as a person whose family survived the siege of Leningrad, and whose older brother Victor died in 1942. Your relatives have fully experienced what it is like to live in isolation from the mainland, under constant bombardment, without food, water and medicine, when death can come at any moment from the impact of a heavy weapon, hunger or lack of medical care. You remember this when you talk about the Great Patriotic War and when you visit the Piskaryovskoye Cemetery - the place of mass burials of the inhabitants of besieged Leningrad and its defenders.
Today the residents of Mariupol and its defenders are in the same situation. It is my pastoral duty to ask you to give everyone an opportunity, who wants to leave the city of Mariupol - and civilians and the military. At all times, in different wars, the warring parties found a possible manifestation of humanism. We know that the Russian Federation has repeatedly acted as a mediator in the evacuation of combatants in the encirclement in Syria. In this regard, we hope that you will in a Christian way agree to the Extraction procedure for the Ukrainian garrison in Mariupol, and give the opportunity to the surrounded civilians, police, border guards and the military to enter the territory controlled by Ukraine or the territory of third countries. Many countries will consider it an honor to mediate in this operation. I ask you to choose any of them in the Name of the Risen Christ.
METROPOLITAN OF KIEV AND ALL OF UKRAINE
PRIMATE OF THE UKRAINIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH
7 May 2022: Hope for North Macedonia & other news
On May 6 a video was posted of remarks by Bishop Fotije of Zvornik-Tuzla (Serbian Orthodox Church) relating to a very recent meeting held between Patriarch Porfirije and other representatives of the Serbian Church and representatives of the schismatic “Macedonian Orthodox Church - Ohrid Archbishopric.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-FY-NzLUoJg These remarks have also been reported at https://religija.mk/najnova-vest-mpc-i-spc-sednale-povtorno-na-masa-i-povtorno-vo-nish-soborot-vo-maj-mozna-presvrtnica/ and https://www.romfea.gr/patriarxeia-ts/patriarxeio-serbias/49934-synomilies-metaksy-patriarxeiou-servias-kai-legomenis-makedonikis-ekklisias . Bishop Fotije, whose see is in Bosnia- Herzegovina, is a member of the Holy Synod of the Serbian Church. http://www.spc.rs/sr/sinod He appears to be a reliable source of information. The following is a Google translation of some of his remarks:
As part of the Synod of the SOC, I accompanied His Holiness [Patriarch Porfirije] these days. On the first day we had a meeting with representatives of the Macedonian Orthodox Church in the Nis Eparchy. It was an interesting dialogue of love, faith, and hope and we hope that, God willing, it may happen, but first we should all pray to God, that the Macedonian Orthodox Church, that is the Ohrid Archbishopric, in May at the Assembly in Belgrade [the meeting of all of the bishops of the Serbian Church, usually held each year in May] will return to canonical unity with the Serbian Orthodox Church, and thus in canonical unity with all of the Local Orthodox Churches. It is a great challenge that stands before us, if God gives after the prayers of Bishop Nikolaj of Ohrid and Žiča, after the prayers of Saints Cyril and Methodius, Saints Clement and Nahum and other saints, Saint Sava of Serbia, to establish that unity, to heal that schism that has existed since 1967. We are now here on the threshold, to be resolved if God grants, so I urge you to pray to God, all of you and all of us, to resolve it for the glory of God and for the good of our holy churches. But also for the good of our Serbian people and for the good of the Macedonian people, which are two brotherly nations.
The invasion of Ukraine on February 24 has resulted in an increase in the number of parishes that have decided to transfer from the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP) to the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU). The number of these parishes is significant, but to date is still much smaller than the number that decided to transfer immediately after the granting of the tomos to the OCU in January 2019. I have found the best source of information as to the number of parishes deciding to transfer at https://uk.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D0%9F%D0%B5%D1%80%D0%B5%D1%85%D1%96%D0%B4_%D1%86%D0%B5%D1%80%D0%BA%D0%BE%D0%B2%D0%BD%D0%B8%D1%85_%D0%B3%D1%80%D0%BE%D0%BC%D0%B0%D0%B4_%D0%B4%D0%BE_%D0%9F%D0%A6%D0%A3 This source gives the following numbers for parishes deciding to transfer for each of the recent years: 2019 – 515 parishes; 2020 – 5 parishes; 2021 – 10 parishes. For the year 2022: February – 1 parish; March – 49 parishes; April – 99 parishes; May to date – 27 parishes. The decision to transfer is usually challenged in court by the UOC-MP. The number of parishes that have successfully completed the process of being re-registered by the government to the OCU is therefore smaller than these numbers. To place these numbers in perspective, it should be remembered that the UOC-MP claims to have a total of approximately 12,000 parishes. However, as discussed in my previous reports, there are also an unknown, but substantial, number of priests and parishes who do not wish to join the OCU, but have strongly-held views that the UOC as a whole should separate itself from the Moscow Patriarchate.
The Legal Department of the UOC-MP has issued a statement that any decisions by local authorities to ban the UOC-MP or force its parishes into the OCU violate the Constitution and laws of Ukraine and have no legal force. https://orthochristian.com/146026.html The City Council of Bovary, one of the suburbs of Kyiv occupied by Russian troops for a period of time, has suspended the activities of the UOC-MP in that suburb for the period of martial law. https://risu.ua/u-brovarah-zaboronili-moskovskij-patriarhat_n129004 The mayor of Konotop, a city besieged by Russian forces early in the invasion, has ordered the temples of the UOC-MP in the city sealed. https://risu.ua/mer-konotopa-doruchiv-silovikam-oplombuvati-majno-hramiv-upc-mp-u-misti_n128995
The interview of Pope Francis by Corriere della Sera (https://www.corriere.it/cronache/22_maggio_03/pope-francis-putin-e713a1de-cad0-11ec-84d1-341c28840c78.shtml) resulted in an immediate response by the Department of External Church Relations (DECR) of the Moscow Patriarchate. The official English translation of the full response can be read at https://mospat.ru/en/news/89214/. The response begins with the following paragraph:
It’s regrettable that a month and a half after the conversation with Patriarch Kirill, Pope Francis chose the wrong tone to convey the content of this conversation. Such utterances can hardly further constructive dialogue between the Roman Catholic and Russian Orthodox Churches, which is so necessary at the current time.
It is important to note that the DECR’s response does not state that the Pope’s description in the interview of what was said in the Zoom conference was untrue, but rather the Pope conveyed the “wrong tone” with respect to the content of the Zoom conference. Presumably, the Moscow Patriarchate recorded the Zoom conference, so there should be no factual dispute as to what was in fact stated. Much of what is contained in the DECR’s response appears to describe points made by Patriarch Kirill in his 20-minute presentation which the Pope described as follows: “For the first twenty minutes, he [Patriarch Kirill] read from a piece of paper he was holding in his hand all the reasons that justify the Russian invasion.” The Pope in the interview did not describe the actual reasons used by the Patriarch to “justify the Russian invasion.” However, the Pope was responding to the journalist’s question of whether the Patriarch “could convince Putin to crack that door open” and was not being asked to describe the Zoom conference. With respect to “tone,” it is certainly possible that the mood of the Pope at the time of the newspaper interview was different from his mood at the time of the Zoom conference a month and a half earlier. With the passage of this period of time, the Pope might well have been more exasperated that the killing and destruction were still continuing and that more was not being done to stop it.
In contrast to the careful phrasing of the response of the DECR, the official website of the Moscow Patriarchate issued a report with the caption: “Representatives of the Church noted with regret the incorrectness of the retelling of the content of the conversation between Pope Francis and His Holiness Patriarch Kirill.” http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/5923206.html The three major Russian news agencies also followed the same approach as the Patriarchate. https://tass.ru/obschestvo/14544289 (“Pope Francis incorrectly outlined his conversation with Patriarch Kirill”); https://ria.ru/20220504/razgovor-1786792621.html (“Pope Francis was incorrect in setting out the details of his conversation with Patriarch Kirill”); http://www.interfax-religion.com/?act=news&div=16535 (“Pope Francis has given an incorrect recount of his recent conversation with Patriarch Kirill”). In the entire Corriere della Sera interview, the discussion by Pope Francis with respect to the Zoom conference with Patriarch Kirill consisted of only six sentences. To the best of my knowledge, no one has shown or even attempted to show that any of these six sentences is factually incorrect.
From May 3 to 6, the Plenary Assembly of the members, consultors, and staff of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity was held at the Vatican. A summary of each of the days of the Assembly can be read at http://www.christianunity.va/content/unitacristiani/en.html . A complete list of the members and consultors is found at http://www.christianunity.va/content/unitacristiani/en/dicastero/membri-e-consultori.html . The members include 12 cardinals and 12 archbishops and bishops. The theme of the Assembly was ““Towards an Ecumenical Celebration of the 1700th Anniversary of Nicaea I (325-2025).” The Assembly met with Pope Francis on May 6. Although many interesting subjects were discussed in the Assembly, I was particularly interested in the following information disclosed by Bishop Brian Farrell in his report (http://www.christianunity.va/content/unitacristiani/en/dicastero/assemblee-plenarie/2022-assemblee-pleniere/en.html):
In November 2019, a meeting of the Coordinating Committee of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church was held. The purpose of the meeting was the examination of a draft document on the theme “Primacy and synodality in the second millennium and today,” on which drafting had begun in 2017. At the meeting it was decided that the text required further study and revision at a future meeting of the Coordination Committee. Due to the pandemic, this meeting could not take place in the years 2020 - 2021, but is planned to be held from 16 to 20 May this year. The hope is to complete the examination of the document in order to be able to convene a Plenary Session of the Commission in 2023.
With respect to the Catholic dialogue with the Oriental Orthodox Churches, Bishop Farrell’s remarks included the following:
The Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Oriental Orthodox Churches began the third phase of its dialogue in 2015, dealing with the sacraments in the life of the Church. The Commission met in Rome in January 2019, in Beirut in January 2020 (hosted by the Syrian Orthodox Church), and online in 2021 and 2022, in order to finalize a document on this topic. The plenary assembly of the Commission will meet in Rome in June 2022 and should be able to agree on this document, the third since the beginning of the dialogue. The next phase of the dialogue will focus on “The Virgin Mary in the teaching and life of the Church.”
On May 1, Patriarch Kirill confirmed that he would attend the VII World Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions to be held in Kazakhstan, September 14-15, 2022. https://astanatimes.com/2022/05/the-spiritual-diplomacy-of-kazakhstan-and-the-upcoming-7th-congress-of-traditional-religions-protecting-peace-religiously/ Last month, Pope Francis expressed his intention to attend the World Congress. https://www.vaticannews.va/it/papa/news/2022-04/papa-francesco-viaggio-kazakhstan-congresso-religioni-mondiali.html However, there has not yet been a formal announcement by the Vatican that the Pope will in fact attend. However, this raises at least the possibility that the two will meet in September in Kazakhstan.
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
4 May 2022: Church involvement at Azovstal & Pope's latest comments
On May 2 the Department of External Church Relations (DECR) of the Moscow Patriarchate posted an article relating to the role played by Metropolitan Mitrofan of Gorlovka and Slaviansk in the “escape” of civilians from the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol on April 30 and May 1. https://mospat.ru/en/news/89199/ (English). The involvement of Metropolitan Mitrofan in the departure of civilians from Azovstal was also extensively covered by the official website of the Moscow Patriarchate. See, for example, http://www.patriarchia.ru/en/db/text/5922922.html . The story about the involvement of Metropolitan Mifrofan had its origin in an April 30 posting made by Vladimir Legoyda, head of the Synodal Department for Relations between the Church and Society and the Media, on his Telegram channel. https://t.me/s/vladimirlegoyda The posting reads as follows:
The safe exit from the territory of the Mariupol plant "Azovstal" of a part of the civilians who were there is a very important result of the negotiations undertaken with the participation of international organizations. With the blessing of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Rus, Metropolitan Mitrofan of Gorlovsk and Slaviansk took part in organizing the exit of civilians, being among the first to meet those who left. The Russian Orthodox Church has previously participated in the exchange of prisoners and other humanitarian actions in the region.
On May 3 the official website of the Moscow Patriarchate posted a very detailed account by Metropolitan Mifrofan of his involvement. http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/5922765.html The first paragraph of the account reads as follows:
Late on the evening of Friday, April 29, I received a call. They said that Patriarch Kirill wanted to talk to me. I learned about the negotiations on the release of civilians from the territory of the Azovstal plant in Mariupol. His Holiness the Patriarch gave his blessing that I, on behalf of the Church, take part in the process of evacuating people. At three o'clock in the morning I left Gorlovka, and already at seven in the morning I was in the village of Bezymennoe as part of a convoy of representatives who were supposed to participate in this process.
Metropolitan Mitrofan is not a bishop of the Church in Russia, but rather a bishop of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate). His diocese does not include Mariupol, but rather covers the Gorlovka and Slaviansk areas which are northeast of the city of Donetsk. The seat of the Metropolitan is in the city of Gorlovka which has been largely in control of the supporters of the Donetsk People’s Republic prior to February 24 and thereafter.
Interestingly, all of the publicity from Moscow about the Metropolitan’s involvement states that the involvement was done with the blessing of Patriarch Kirill. From the interview, it appears that the involvement was initiated by a direct telephone call from the Patriarch to the Metropolitan. There is no mention of Metropolitan Onufry, the primate of the UOC-MP, in any of the publicity. There is no mention of the UOC-MP, but only the “Russian Orthodox Church.” To date, the official website of the UOC-MP has said absolutely nothing about the involvement of Metropolitan Mitrofan at the events in Mariupol. On April 24 Metropolitan Onufry made an appeal which would have directly involved the UOC-MP in the evacuation of civilians from Azovstal, but this appeal was met with complete silence from Moscow. From the publicity, one is left with the impression that Moscow dealt directly with a bishop of the UOC-MP without any blessing by the primate of the UOC-MP. If this is so, it is contrary to the assertion repeatedly made that the UOC-MP operates independently from Moscow.
Perhaps there is a subtle message here for the UOC-MP. The Church in Moscow may in the future exercise direct jurisdiction over areas controlled by the Russian Federation. This may include the areas now under the jurisdiction of the UOC-MP such as Crimea, Donetsk, and Luhansk. This would be especially true if the UOC-MP seeks autocephaly. These areas contain approximately 1,000 to 1,400 parishes out of the UOC-MP’s total number of approximately 12,000 parishes.
The major Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera posted on May 3 a major interview with Pope Francis. https://www.corriere.it/cronache/22_maggio_03/pope-francis-putin-e713a1de-cad0-11ec-84d1-341c28840c78.shtml (English) The following are two interesting paragraphs from the interview:
Is it maybe Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, the one man who could convince Putin to crack that door open? The Holy Father shakes his head and says: “I spoke with Kirill for forty minutes on Zoom. For the first twenty minutes, he read from a piece of paper he was holding in his hand all the reasons that justify the Russian invasion. I listened to him and then replied: I don’t understand any of this. Brother, we are not state clerics, we shouldn’t speak the language of politics, but rather the language of Jesus. We are shepherds of the same holy flock of God. For this reason we must look for a path to peace, we must stop the fighting. A Patriarch can’t lower himself to become Putin’s altar boy. I had a meeting with him, scheduled for June 14, in Jerusalem. It would have been our second face-to-face, nothing to do with the war. But we called it off, we agreed that it could send the wrong message.”
The Holy Father recalls his many attempts at stopping the conflict and reiterates his willingness to travel to Moscow. “The first day of war I called the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, on the phone. But I didn’t call Putin. I had had a chance to speak to him in December for my birthday, but this time no, I didn’t try to contact him. It was meant to be a clear gesture for the whole world to see, and for that reason I paid a visit to the Russian ambassador. I asked for explanations and told him, “in the name of God, stop this war.” Later on, about twenty days into the war, I asked Cardinal Parolin to convey my message to Putin, that I was ready to travel to Moscow. For sure, I was waiting for some kind of opening gesture from the Kremlin leader. We received no answer whatsoever, but we keep pressing them on this issue. I fear, however, that Putin cannot, or does not want to agree to our meeting at the moment. But how can you not try and do whatever you can to stop the atrocities? Twenty-five years ago we saw something similar happening in Rwanda.”
The Rome newspaper Il Messaggero has posted an article concerning three different plans explored by the Vatican to release persons from Azovstal. https://ilsismografo.blogspot.com/2022/04/ucraina-putin-per-tre-volte-ha-detto-no.html One involved the use of a ship flying the Vatican flag and coming to the Azovstal dock. Another plan involved Cardinal Konrad Krajewski. A third plan involved a bishop of the Moscow Patriarchate and the apostolic nuncio to Ukraine. The Russian Federation agreed to none of the plans.
On May 3 Patriarch Kirill served the Divine Liturgy in the Archangel Cathedral of the Moscow Kremlin. His address at the end of the Liturgy can be read at http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/5922848.html . With respect to the famous people buried in the Cathedral, the Patriarch requested their prayers “for the Russian state, for our country, so that our sacred borders are impregnable, so that we always have enough wisdom, strength and honor to protect them if necessary.” The Patriarch also stated: “ We don't want to fight anyone. Russia has never attacked anyone. It is amazing that a great and powerful country never attacked anyone - it only defended its borders. God grant that until the end of the century our country would be like this - strong, powerful and at the same time loved by God.”
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
30 April 2022: Shepherds of the people and not clerics of the state & other news
On April 28, Domradio.de, a media service connected with the Catholic Archdiocese of Köln, posted an interview with Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. https://www.vaticannews.va/de/vatikan/news/2022-04/vatikan-kardinal-koch-oekumene-dialog-orthodoxie-russland-itv.html The following are some of the questions and answers:
DOMRADIO.DE: You mention it, many people are looking to Ukraine with great concern. We have Christians on both sides and church leaders on both sides who also send the Christians into battle.
KOCH: Yes, that is a particular tragedy, because the Russian Orthodox Patriarchate has always said that we feel obliged to protect Christians and that we must stand up against the persecution of Christians. And today it is Christians fighting against Christians; yes, even Orthodox fighting against Orthodox. This is a terrible message for all Christianity to the world.
DOMRADIO.DE: What chances does Christian diplomacy have? Diplomacy, the Catholic Church in particular has centuries of experience.
KOCH: Yes, it is very important. Above all, that the consensus be rediscovered that we must be at the service of peace. So, as Pope Francis said, the Christian God is a God of peace and not a God of war. And I cannot advocate war and support war in the name of this Christian God. This is a non-Christian position.
DOMRADIO.DE: Many Christians had high hopes after the meeting between Patriarch Kirill and the Pope in 2016. There is the dialogue. You yourself pulled the strings in the background so that there was a corresponding video call. Can one really still speak of dialogue in the current situation?
KOCH: You should never break off the dialogue, because that's the only way you can bring your own position into play. And Pope Francis said very clearly in this video meeting that he is grateful for this encounter. He went on to say: you know, we are not clerics of the state, we are shepherds of the people and therefore have no other message than to end this war. That was a very clear message. I can't judge whether the Patriarch received it that way.
DOMRADIO.DE: Do you still have hope that this dialogue will bear fruit?
KOCH: I never give up hope that it will bear fruit. But I think we need finally to discuss a question in the dialogues that we've always put in the margins. This is the question of the relationship between church and state. Here we have a completely different conception. In the West we have had to learn through developments and have also learned that the adequate relationship between church and state is the separation of church and state with simultaneous partnership of both. This is a conception unknown in the East, in Orthodoxy. One speaks here of the symphony between church and state. And this conception is very much in the background. I think Director Oeldemann of the Ecumenical Institute in Paderborn has said very clearly in an article in KNA (Catholic News Agency) that this concept is now getting a few question marks with the developments in the Ukraine war.
On the night of April 23 -24, Patriarch Kirill presided at a magnificent Pascha Liturgy in Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior. http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/5920313.html The entire service, including the procession around the Cathedral, can be watched at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KqTzBqigaw0. It was a beautiful service. It seemed like the pre-pandemic days. As far as I could see, there was no military presence in the Cathedral, and I am aware of no specific remarks by the Patriarch at this service directed to the war effort in Ukraine. The Patriarch’s entrance into the Cathedral with the proclamation, “Christ is Risen,” begins at 33:15 in the video. President Putin and the mayor of Moscow can be seen beginning at 34:45. They leave the Cathedral at 1:10:10. In the video, there are many views showing the Apostolic Nuncio to the Russian Federation, Archbishop Giovanni d’Aniello, and the head of the Mother of God Archdiocese in Moscow, Archbishop Pavel Pezzi. They are standing in the most prominent position in the first row. It almost seemed as if there was an attempt to emphasize their presence. As usual, the commentary in the public broadcast was given by the Deputy Head of the Press Service of the Patriarch, Nikolai Derzhavin. As a young Leningrad theological academy student, Nikolai was part of the four-person delegation that Metropolitan Alexy of Leningrad sent to Seattle for eight days in September 1988 to help us celebrate the Millennium of the Baptism of Rus. When Alexy became patriarch in 1990, he took Nikolai with him to be an assistant. Nikolai has been providing the public commentaries for the Church since Christmas 1991.
Prior to Pascha, there were various appeals for a brief ceasefire in Ukraine during the time of Pascha. As I discussed in my last report, Father Ioan Sauca, Acting General Secretary of the World Council of Churches and also a priest of the Romanian Patriarchate, sent a letter to Patriarch Kirill requesting him to “ask publicly for a ceasefire for at least a few hours during the Resurrection service.” https://www.oikoumene.org/resources/documents/wcc-acting-general-secretary-letter-to-his-holiness-kirill-patriarch-of-moscow-and-all-russia-russian I know of no response from the Church or government in Moscow. It does appear that military activity in Ukraine was relatively low during the night of Pascha, but some shelling and other military activities did in fact occur. https://risu.ua/u-velikodnyu-nich-v-ukrayini-lunali-vibuhi-ta-vidbuvalisya-vorozhi-obstrili_n128642
On April 21, Metropolitan Onufry, head of the UOC (Moscow Patriarchate), made a dramatic appeal. https://news.church.ua/2022/04/21/zvernennya-blazhennishogo-mitropolita-onufriya-z-privodu-situaciji-navkolo-mariupolya/ He stated in part:
In this regard, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, with the help of the episcopate, clergy, monks, and faithful, is ready to organize a prayer procession from Orikhiv, Zaporozhye Oblast, to the Azovstal plant in Mariupol to provide emergency assistance and evacuate civilians. The march could also take out wounded soldiers and take away the bodies of the dead. We appeal to all those upon whom it depends, and we ask to ensure a ceasefire in the city of Mariupol and its surroundings and provide a humanitarian corridor for this prayer procession to pass through in the period from Holy Friday (April 22, 2022) to the Resurrection of Christ (April 24, 2022).
Within hours, the appeal was publicized by the major Russian news agencies, Interfax and RIA-Novosti. http://www.interfax-religion.ru/?act=news&div=78976; https://ria.ru/20220421/upts-1784788098.html. The distance between Orikhiv and Mariupol is over 160 km, so that it must have been contemplated that the procession would be motorized for at least part of this distance. In spite of the wide publicity in Russia, there appears to have been no response or comment concerning the appeal from the Russian government or the Church. In any event, the ceasefire and the procession did not occur. On April 22, the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations issued its own appeal calling “on every Russian religious figure, regardless of confessional affiliation, to make public and non-public requests to the Russian authorities to organize the evacuation of civilians and wounded defenders of Mariupol from the Azovstal plant.” https://vrciro.org.ua/en/statements/uccro-appealed-to-russian-religious-figures-to-evacuate-citezens-from-azovstal-plant To the best of my knowledge, there was no public response in Russia to this appeal from any religious denomination.
The Argentine newspaper La Nación posted on April 22 an interview with Pope Francis. https://www.lanacion.com.ar/el-mundo/el-papa-francisco-con-la-nacion-de-que-serviria-que-fuera-a-kiev-si-la-guerra-continuara-al-dia-nid21042022/ The Pope was asked: “How is your relationship with Patriarch Kirill?” The Pope responded: “Very good. I am sorry that the Vatican has had to cancel a second encounter with Patriarch Kirill, which we had scheduled for June in Jerusalem. But our diplomacy maintained that a meeting between us at this moment could lead to much confusion….” https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2022-04/pope-la-nacion-kiev-war-ukraine-francis-war.html A few hours after the interview was posted, Metropolitan Hilarion stated in Moscow: “The events of the last two months forced us to make adjustments to the plans and postpone the meeting. Too many difficulties would arise right now in its preparation. This concerns security, logistics, and public coverage of the meeting. We will wait for a more favorable time for this event.” https://tass.ru/obschestvo/14448633
Archpriest Andrei Pinchuk, the pastor of a UOC-MP parish in the Dnipropetrovsk Oblast (southeast of Kyiv), has given a long interview concerning his open appeal to the primates of the Local Orthodox Churches and concerning other religious issues in Ukraine. https://lb.ua/news/2022/04/21/514023_svyashchennik_upts_mp_andriy_pinchuk.html The open appeal, which was joined by 435 priests of the UOC-MP within a period of six days, stated the intention to bring charges against Patriarch Kirill before the Council of the Ancient Eastern Churches (Constantinople, Antioch, Alexandria, Jerusalem, and Cyprus) based on Kirill’s support of the “heresy” of the “Russian World” and based on his moral crimes by blessing the war against Ukraine. https://publicorthodoxy.org/2022/04/26/open-appeal-of-uoc-priests/ (English translation of the text of the appeal) It is interesting that although Father Andrei is extremely opposed to the UOC being under the Moscow Patriarchate, he is not seeking to join the OCU. He discusses his reservations in this regard at the end of the interview. First, there are issues of apostolic succession for some within the OCU that must first be resolved. Second, principles of coexistence between the UOC and the OCU need to be negotiated so that parishes can transfer back and forth without violence or parliamentary intervention. Third, Father Andrei had expected that the OCU would adopt what is best from the Patriarchate of Constantinople, but at times the OCU does some things which are more reminiscent of certain aspects of the Moscow Patriarchate which Father Andrei does not like. Lastly, and probably most importantly, Father Andrei states that there is a large circle of people within the UOC who are very dear to him. He grew up spiritually, attended the seminary and academy, and became a priest with these people. He is reluctant to leave them. Therefore, he hopes that a council of the UOC will occur where the bishops, priests, and laity can make the correct decisions for the UOC as to its future. With respect to these views, Father Andrei believes that many of the priests who signed the appeal feel the same way as he does. In a council, Father Andrei believes that “the struggle to break away from the Moscow Patriarchate will be between [Metropolitan] Anthony Pakanich [of Boryspil] and his entourage on the one hand and the pro-Ukrainian bishops on the other.”
On April 27, Patriarch Kirill had a video conference with Patriarch Porfirije of Serbia, similar to the video conferences held with Pope Francis and Archbishop Welby. https://mospat.ru/en/news/89192/ The video conference with Patriarch Porfirije also included Metropolitan Hilarion and Bishop Irinej of Bačka, both of whom are good friends of each other. Patriarch Kirill especially thanked Patriarch Porfirije for the humanitarian aid provided by the Serbian Church to the UOC-MP. According to the news release by the Moscow Patriarchate, Patriarch Porfirije stated: “We share your feelings and pray for you and are ready to do all that is possible to support the Russian Orthodox Church and the faithful people in Russia and in Ukraine.” As far as I can determine, the Serbian Patriarchate has not reported anything to date concerning the video conference.
In other news, Metropolitan Innokenty of Lithuania (Moscow Patriarchate) and his vicar bishop have written an open letter, posted on April 29, criticizing the Lithuanian media for their biased coverage relating to the priests who are leaving the Moscow Patriarchate. https://orthodoxy.lt/novosti/3678-otkrytoe-pismo?fbclid=IwAR3lLxnjgjbqjEmCVrjf1LInBAVquqec1qY0MQCKFDuL0VHfXPODHUVFVrg Ruslan Stefanchuk, the speaker of the Ukrainian parliament, has stated that the parliament has no plans to ban the UOC-MP. He stated that “during the war we do not have the right to pass any law that divides Ukrainian society.” https://www.unian.ua/society/upc-moskovskogo-patriarhatu-poki-zaboronyati-ne-budut-stefanchuk-novini-ukrajini-11800113.html
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
21 April 2022: Metropolitan Onufry - organize procession to Azovstal
https://news.church.ua/2022/04/21/zvernennya-blazhennishogo-mitropolita-onufriya-z-privodu-situaciji-navkolo-mariupolya/ Google translation from the official website of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate posted on April 21 at 15:19:
I am deeply saddened by what is happening in the city of Mariupol these days. The feeling of heartache prompts on the eve of the main Christian holiday - the Resurrection of Christ to pay attention to the need to save those who, remaining in the long-suffering Mariupol, found themselves in a humanitarian catastrophe. To this day, a large number of civilians remain within the city, including many children and the elderly. Wounded servicemen need urgent medical care. The bodies of the dead must be handed over to their families for proper burial.
In this regard, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, with the help of the episcopate, clergy, monks and believers, is ready to organize a prayer procession from Orikhiv, Zaporizhia Oblast [a city located 163 km from Mariupol], to the Azovstal plant in Mariupol to provide emergency assistance and evacuate civilians. The procession could also take out wounded soldiers and take away the bodies of the dead.
We appeal to all those on whom it depends, and we ask in the period from Good Friday (April 22, 2022) to the Resurrection of Christ (April 24, 2022) in the city of Mariupol and its environs to provide a ceasefire and provide a humanitarian corridor to pass the specified prayer procession.
METROPOLITAN OF KYIV AND ALL UKRAINE,
PRIMATE OF THE UKRAINIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH
20 April 2022: Orthodox tensions in Lithuania, WCC request & other news
As a result of the war in Ukraine, the Moscow Patriarchate is continuing to experience tensions within some of its dioceses outside of Russia. The latest example relates to Lithuania. On March 17, Metropolitan Innokenty of Vilna and Lithuania (Moscow Patriarchate) issued a statement on behalf of his diocese that “we strongly condemn Russia’s war against Ukraine.” https://orthochristian.com/145237.html Metropolitan Innokenty also did not attend the meeting of the Holy Synod in Moscow on March 24 – perhaps because of travel restrictions but perhaps also as a form of protest. However, now the Metropolitan is faced with a group of clergy within his diocese who seek to transfer to the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. On March 18, he issued a statement strongly attacking the priests who are promoting such a transfer. https://www.orthodoxy.lt/novosti/3639-zayavlenie-mitropolita-vilenskogo-i-litovskogo-innokentiya In the statement he first affirms that his views as expressed on March 17 have not changed and that Orthodox Lithuanians are faithful citizens of Lithuania. However, he then raises an additional subject: “Finally, the time has come to speak openly about what we have so far refrained from. Within the bosom of the Orthodox Church in Lithuania, a group of clergy has formed, who have long been hatching plans to move to the Patriarchate of Constantinople. Everything was done in secret, but they started talking about it openly now, in connection with the tragic events in Ukraine. Who are these priests? Their names are known. They present themselves as heroes, martyrs, and sufferers, but in reality we have before us ordinary schismatics, gravely sinning before God and the Church. They themselves embarked on the path of schism, and now they bring temptation to other priests and laity.”
On April 18 a group of seven clergy issued a rebuttal. The rebuttal stated in part: It is very sad, but we have real material evidence to the contrary - there are those among the Lithuanian clergy who justify this aggression. We do not plan to create a new Church - we want to move from subordination to one Orthodox bishop to another Orthodox bishop so that believers and we do not feel a conflict of conscience. The different jurisdictions of the Orthodox Church in one state are a normal reality in many parts of the world. To this end, we intend to apply to the Patriarchate of Constantinople. In doing so, we are not agitating and do not want to attract dissenting people, but only as part of a group of believers who, due to a conflict of conscience, cannot remain under the jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate. Some of them are therefore unable to receive the sacraments or are even considering leaving the Orthodox Church altogether. As you know, the Patriarchate of Constantinople also provides the sacraments to the faithful of the Moscow Patriarchate, allows the clergy to serve together, so, despite anything, we hope that the Orthodox in Lithuania will maintain in unity regardless of jurisdiction. On April 19 Protodeacon Victor Miniotas wrote an open letter to the Metropolitan. Miniotas contends that the deeds of the Metropolitan, through his vicar bishop, contradict the Metropolitan’s words condemning the invasion of Ukraine. http://ortodoksas.lt/
On April 15 the diocese had issued a press release that the pastor of the cathedral in Vilnius had been replaced by the vicar bishop of the diocese and that the request of two priests for dismissal had been granted. https://www.orthodoxy.lt/novosti/3637-ortodoks-baznycios-lietuvoje-informacin-s-tarnybos-pranesimas The statement also provides that these changes “relate exclusively to the internal affairs of the Church” and that “no external circumstances affected the decisions taken.” The two dismissed priests, Gintaras Jurgis Sungaila and Vitalis Dauparas, are apparently among those seeking to join the Ecumenical Patriarchate. See https://orthochristian.com/145746.html It appears that there are approximately 60 priests under Metropolitan Innokenty. If so, it appears that those presently seeking to transfer to the Ecumenical Patriarchate are a definite minority.
In Paris, Metropolitan John of Dubna, head of the Archdiocese of Orthodox Churches of the Russian Tradition in Western Europe, issued a letter to the clergy and faithful of the Archdiocese. https://archeveche.eu/message-du-comite-episcopal/ The letter includes the following paragraph: “It is very clear in this ecclesiology that our reference is the archbishop. Many of you are grateful that I have tried to be courageous in my stand against the monstrous war in Ukraine. Guided by everyone's prayers and the grace of the Holy Spirit, I encourage you to live in fidelity to your diocese under the leadership of its arch-pastor, to support him, and certainly not to abandon him. Those who say they want to leave the Moscow Patriarchate are mistaken: in reality, in this case, they are leaving our diocese and its archbishop.”
As anticipated, the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate has decided to postpone the dates of its Bishops’ Council from May 26 - 29, 2022 to “the autumn or winter period of 2022.” http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/5917963.html (remote Synod meeting on April 17) The reason for the postponement is the “international situation” which makes it difficult for the bishops to travel to Moscow. It had been originally planned to hold the Council during the period November 15-18, 2021. This was two days before the Patriarch’s 75th birthday on November 20, 2021. The November meeting was postponed because of the pandemic. Presumably, the May period was chosen because it was two days after the Patriarch’s saint’s name day celebration on May 24, 2022. There is no indication as to the identity of the hierarchs who participated in the remote Synod session on April 17, 2022. On the official website of the UOC-MP, I found no report about the April 14 meeting of the Synod, about the postponement of the Bishops’ Council, or about a participation of Metropolitan Onufry in the April 14 remote meeting.
Of all of the bishops of the UOC-MP, Metropolitan Luke of Zaporozhye and Melitopol has probably been the most harsh in his condemnation of the actions of the Ecumenical Patriarch in Ukraine. He is also very close to the Church in Moscow. For example, when the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate met on March 24, 2022, the Synod had enough confidence in him (in spite of the war in Ukraine) to appoint him as the second-ranking member of the Moscow Patriarchate’s delegation to the XI Assembly of the World Council of Churches (August 31 - September 8, 2022, in Karlsruhe, Germany). He is the only UOC-MP hierarch on the delegation. http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/5910999.html (Journal entry 14) On April 17, Metropolitan Luke received the very sad news that his brother Oleksandr Kovalenko had been killed in the line of duty fighting as a soldier in the Ukrainian Armed Forces. https://news.church.ua/2022/04/19/duxovenstvo-zaporizkoji-jeparxiji-vislovilo-spivchuttya-mitropolitu-luci-u-zvyazku-z-zagibellyu-jogo-brata-yakij-sluzhiv-u-zsu/
On April 19, Father Ioan Sauca, Acting General Secretary of the World Council of Churches and also a priest of the Romanian Patriarchate, wrote a second letter to Patriarch Kirill. https://www.oikoumene.org/resources/documents/wcc-acting-general-secretary-letter-to-his-holiness-kirill-patriarch-of-moscow-and-all-russia-russian (full English text) In the letter, Father Ioan acknowledges to the Patriarch that “it is not in your power and authority to stop the war or to influence those who have such powers of decisions.” However, Father Ioan makes the following request:
Our humble request to your Holiness in this particular and impossible situation is to intervene and ask publicly for a ceasefire for at least a few hours during the Resurrection service. To give a chance to the soldiers and to the terrified civilians to embrace and greet one another with the paschal greeting, to silence for a moment the bombs and the missiles and to hear instead the triumphant sound of the church bells and the joyful signing of the faithful people. May such a short ceasefire be a foretaste and a proof that a lasting peace can be achieved.
As you probably recall, Metropolitan Emmanuel of Chalcedon (Ecumenical Patriarchate) met with Patriarch John of Antioch on February 12 to invite him to participate in the meeting of the four Apostolic Patriarchates proposed to be held before the Great and Holy Week in Constantinople to discuss the issues facing the Orthodox Church. We are now in Holy Week for the Orthodox Church, and such a meeting has not occurred. Metropolitan Epifany, head of the OCU, was asked about this in a lengthy interview on April 12. https://lb.ua/society/2022/04/12/513128_mitropolit_epifaniy_mi_gotovi.html Epifany believes that discussions are still being conducted with respect to the agenda for such a meeting. In the interview Epifany was also asked about a future unification council between the UOC-MP and the OCU. He said that another council would not be necessary because one was already held in 2018. He states that the UOC-MP could come under the existing tomos without the OCU setting any conditions.
In Rome on Good Friday, Pope Francis presided over the traditional stations of the cross at the Colosseum. This year the meditations at each station were written by families. The 13th station (Jesus dies on the cross) received the greatest attention from the media because the mediation was written by and the cross was to be carried by an Ukrainian woman and a Russian woman. The two women are good friends and work together at a hospital in Rome. Because their proposed meditation evoked some controversy in Ukraine, a period of silent prayer was substituted for part of the meditation. The entire service with English commentary can be watched at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G8zsdrj-Cxw (13th station begins at 1:12:50). The service with Russian commentary can be watched at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OLL9mQg3zmI (13th station also at 1:12:50). Personally, I found that watching the 13th station – and indeed the entire service – to be very moving.
Pope Francis has expressed his intention to travel to Kazakhstan on the occasion of the VII World Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions to be held September 14-15, 2022. The Pope confirmed this in a video conference with the Kazakh president. https://www.vaticannews.va/it/papa/news/2022-04/papa-francesco-viaggio-kazakhstan-congresso-religioni-mondiali.html It will not be the first papal visit to Kazakhstan as Pope John Paul II visited the country in September 2001. Patriarch Kirill attended the Congress in 2012 and has been invited to attend this year’s Congress. http://www.patriarchia.ru/en/db/text/5867916.html Metropolitan Hilarion has stated that preparations are continuing for a second meeting between Patriarch Kirill and the Pope with the Middle East being considered as “one of the priority venues.” https://mospat.ru/ru/news/89154/ Based on two anonymous sources, Reuters has reported that a meeting in Jerusalem is being considered and that this would follow immediately after the Pope’s trip to Lebanon in June. https://www.reuters.com/world/vatican-mulling-jerusalem-meeting-between-pope-russian-patriarch-sources-2022-04-11/
With respect to recent activities of the African Exarchate of the Moscow Patriarchate, it is reported that three priests in Cameroon have joined the Exarchate. Of the 21 clerics of the Alexandrian Patriarchate in Malawi, it is reported that 11 have asked to be accepted into the Exarchate. https://t.me/s/exarchleonid
For those of you now celebrating Holy Week, I wish you a very blessed week and a very joyful Pascha!
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
11 April 2022: Patriarch Kirill - the danger of schism
On April 7, the feast of the Annunciation, Patriarch Kirill celebrated the Liturgy in Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior. At the end of the Liturgy, he delivered an address in which he made an appeal for the unity of the Church. http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/5915151.html The following is an excerpt from his address:
We have entered a very difficult period. Each of you probably knows what dangerous processes are taking place on Ukrainian soil today. Undoubtedly, the enemy of the human race provokes internecine strife between brothers, members of the same Church, belonging to the same Orthodox faith. There is nothing more vile, terrible and disgusting than the provocation of internecine strife, but very often people, being under strong pressure from propaganda, lose their life orientation and are so caught in the net of the devil that they cannot distinguish truth from lies and are ready to act at the instigation of the evil one. This spirit cannot be fought other than by prayer and fasting (Matt. 17:21). We must pray first of all for the preservation of peace in the Ukrainian land, for the preservation of the unity of our Church, so that the Orthodox Church does not suffer any damage, and first of all so that no false teachings violate the sanctity of the Church.
Our prayer today is that the spiritual unity of the Rus’ land will be preserved. And why did external forces rise up on the Rus’ land? Why do they seek to destroy it, divide it, set brother against brother? There is a mention in Scripture of a certain force that holds back the coming of the Antichrist into the world. The apostle does not say what kind of power this is, and some thought that it was about the Roman state, which, even being pagan, still maintained a certain order. Some believed that it was the Church, that it was she who was the holding force. And rightly so - the Church keeps people from losing their life orientations. But it is also all the pious people of all times and all peoples, this is the Orthodox faith, which lives and acts in the Orthodox Church. This is the force that holds back, and it is not by chance that all of the sharp arrows and poisoned arrows of those who seek to divide the Church, compromise the Church, tear it away from the people are directed at this force today.
Saying this, I first of all think and pray for our Church on Ukrainian soil, which is undergoing the hardest time. I pray that the Lord will give strength to the current episcopate of our Church, the clergy, the believing people to be worthy of those who, on the far frontiers of our united Fatherland, fearing neither climate, nor frost, nor other external circumstances, suffered exile precisely for their faithfulness to the Lord, imprisonment, but remained faithful to Christ and His Church.
So today, wherever we are - in the east, in the west, in the north or in the south - we are fighting for the unity of our Church. Not to be strong, powerful, but we realize that holiness is preserved in the Church and the grace of God is preserved in the Church. And in the struggle for the unity of the Church, we must give our souls, that is, give all our strength to prayer for the preservation of the unity of the Church, for the preservation of the Orthodox faith - today, first of all, on Ukrainian soil. And we believe that the Lord, through the prayers of the saints, through our feeble prayers, will strengthen our brothers and sisters in the truth, protect them from schisms and divisions, preserve them in the Orthodox faith, and through them grant salvation to the entire Ukrainian people.
In my view, the message that Patriarch Kirill is conveying can be summarized as follows: The holding force that is keeping the Antichrist from coming into the world is the Church and its pious people. Therefore, the enemy of the human race seeks to attack the Church in various ways. One is to provoke internecine strife through the influence of strong propaganda so that the people cannot distinguish between truth and lies. Another is to seek to divide the Church through schisms and divisions. The grace of God is preserved in the Church. The salvation of the Ukrainian people depends on strengthening them in the truth and protecting them from schisms or divisions. From this, one may conclude that dividing the Ukrainian Orthodox Church from the Moscow Patriarchate is the work of the enemy of the human race and imperils the salvation of the Ukrainian people.
This message from the Patriarch may sound very familiar to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate). The UOC-MP itself has been calling the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU), which is not under the Moscow Patriarchate, “schismatic.” As such, the UOC-MP has maintained that the OCU has no grace in its sacraments and does not lead to salvation. There are probably some in the UOC-MP who believe that the same conclusions would be true for the UOC-MP if it now separates from the Moscow Patriarchate without the consent of the Moscow Patriarchate. Perhaps concerns such as these led Metropolitan Anthony of Boryspil, chancellor of the UOC (MP), to insist that “all church issues must be considered and resolved exclusively by the canons and common sense.” https://news.church.ua/2022/03/03/cerkovni-pitannya-mayut-virishuvatisya-kanonichnim-shlyaxom-i-sobornim-rozumom-keruyuchij-spravami-upc/
If the UOC-MP decides to seek its complete independence from Moscow, there may be no easy canonical solution. The most likely course of action would be first to seek the consent of the Moscow Patriarchate, which is almost certain to deny or to delay consideration of the request for an autocephalous Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Absent consent, the UOC could seek a pan-Orthodox determination of autocephaly. However, under the current practice, a complete consensus is required for pan-Orthodox decisions, and Moscow’s objection could preclude such a consensus.
It is very unlikely that the UOC would turn to the Ecumenical Patriarch for his assistance. The UOC has vehemently attacked the granting of the tomos for Ukraine and has contended that the Ecumenical Patriarch has no power to grant autocephaly unilaterally. The UOC boycotted the visit of the Ecumenical Patriarch to Kyiv last August and supported demonstrations directed against him.
Another alternative is for the UOC-MP to hold a council with the OCU to establish a single autocephalous church in Ukraine. However, the UOC has maintained that the ordinations of almost all of the bishops of the OCU are invalid and that they are simply laymen. The UOC would be reluctant to hold a council with what it considers “pseudo-bishops.” Perhaps this problem could be overcome if those bishops now agree to be ordained in a fashion which the UOC found to be valid. However, the bishops of the OCU might not agree to undergo a “second ordination.” If these problems were solved and a joint council was concluded, it is very likely that many Local Orthodox Churches would recognize the new united Ukrainian church as autocephalous. However, the Moscow Patriarchate would probably still object.
History may provide some guidance. Many of the present autocephalous churches simply declared their autocephalous status, and recognition of such status by other autocephalous churches was a gradual process, often taking many years or decades. They eventually obtained their autocephaly even though some other Local Orthodox Churches considered them schismatic for a period of time.
With respect to the prospect of some reconciliation between the UOC-MP and the OCU, relations between the two churches seemed to have improved immediately after the invasion. As I previously reported, Father Mykola Danilevich, deputy head of the DECR of the UOC-MP, made an appeal on February 24 for inter-faith peace and for unity rather than quarrelling. Metropolitan Epifany, primate of the OCU, made an appeal to the faithful of the OCU to prevent any violence against the property of the UOC-MP or its supporters. However, tensions subsequently developed as a result of parishes deciding to transfer from the UOC-MP to the OCU. For all of 2019 and 2020 there were extremely few transfers. However, since February 28, there have supposedly been 65 parishes which have decided to transfer. https://uk.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D0%9F%D0%B5%D1%80%D0%B5%D1%85%D1%96%D0%B4_%D1%86%D0%B5%D1%80%D0%BA%D0%BE%D0%B2%D0%BD%D0%B8%D1%85_%D0%B3%D1%80%D0%BE%D0%BC%D0%B0%D0%B4_%D0%B4%D0%BE_%D0%9F%D0%A6%D0%A3 Interestingly, one parish near Lviv decided to transfer, not to the OCU, but directly to the Ecumenical Patriarchate. https://zaxid.net/gromada_upts_mp_u_mostiskah_pereyshla_vid__do_vselenskogo_patriarhatu_n1540581
On March 21, the Holy Synod of the OCU issued a resolution calling upon the bishops, clergy, monasteries, and communities of the UOC-MP to follow the tomos and enter into canonical unity of the OCU. The Synod also established emergency procedures for this to occur. https://www.pomisna.info/uk/vsi-novyny/postanovy-svyashhennogo-synodu-ukrayinskoyi-pravoslavnoyi-tserkvy-pravoslavnoyi-tserkvy-ukrayiny/?fbclid=IwAR3xLkEUb1gXwM7q5ziAsovN0E_GiD8uJu2o3qt5cJamvEdmWYxs5iZvhJc On March 26, Father Mykola noted on Facebook: “While everyone, regardless of religion or language, is united in the fight against the aggressor and defends their country, the OCU, meanwhile, is simply trying to benefit from this by dragging and capturing our parishes….” https://www.facebook.com/mykola.danylevych In my opinion, there is a difference between parishes deciding on their own to transfer and an active appeal by the OCU for parishes to transfer. The latter especially causes a worsening of relations between the two churches.
On April 6, the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations issued a statement relating to the acts by Russian troops in Bucha and the surrounding areas. The entire statement in English can be read at https://vrciro.org.ua/en/statements/uccro-statement-on-genocide-of-ukrainian-people-committed-by-russian-troops. It would be very difficult to write a stronger condemnation than this. The statement concluded: “We pray for the complete victory of Ukraine over this evil, for the defeat of the Russian occupation forces, the overthrow of the humanity-hating regime in Russia, and the eye-opening and repentance of Russian citizens blinded by propaganda.” According to the website of the Council, this statement was adopted unanimously. https://vrciro.org.ua/ua/events/uccro-calls-for-recognition-of-the-fact-of-genocide-of-ukrainian-people-by-russian-army This means that the UOC-MP, which is a member of the Council, joined in this extremely strong condemnation. This is quite amazing in my opinion.
With respect to the description of the April 6 meeting, the Council’s website also states:
In addition, during the meeting, the heads and representatives of Ukrainian denominations exchanged views on legislative proposals aimed at banning the activities of the Moscow Patriarchate in Ukraine. Some members of the Council of Churches believe that the influence of the Russian Orthodox Church on Ukraine is as dangerous as other forms of Russian aggression.
As a result, the AUCCRO decided to appeal to the Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine to initiate a public discussion of Bills № 7204 and № 7213 with the involvement of heads of relevant committees, representatives of various parliamentary factions, and the public. According to the Council of Churches, such an approach will help find a balanced solution to protect Ukrainian believers from the dangerous influence of the Russian Orthodox Church, which justifies the war to destroy the Ukrainian people and actually acts in the interests of the Russian invaders.
The Legal Department of the UOC-MP has issued a statement opposing these two bills. https://news.church.ua/2022/03/31/zayava-yuridichnogo-viddilu-upc-z-privodu-zakonoproektiv-yaki-spryamovani-na-zaboronu-diyalnosti-upc/ Metropolitan Anthony of Boryspil (UOC-MP) has stated that these bills are “particularly cynical” as members of the UOC-MP are fighting to defend their country especially in the south and east where much of the fighting is occurring and where the UOC-MP is the predominate religion. https://spzh.news/en/news/87492-upravdelami-upc-poka-vernyje-zashhishhajut-vostok-na-zapade-zahvatyvajut-khramy Archbishop Evstratiy (Zorya), one of the leading hierarchs of the OCU, has expressed his support for these bills. https://glavcom.ua/country/society/rpc-v-ukrajini-buti-chi-ne-buti-835850.html On the other hand, Mykhailo Podoliak, an adviser to President Zelensky’s office, has stated that it is more important to maintain unity at this time and that consideration of these bills is now inappropriate. https://glavcom.ua/country/society/rpc-v-ukrajini-buti-chi-ne-buti-835850.html It is probably unlikely that these bills will become law. However, to the extent that the OCU supports such bills, it creates another barrier to better relations between the OCU and the UOC-MP.
In other news, Metropolitan Mark of Berlin and Germany (ROCOR of the MP) has stated: “The Patriarch [Kirill] these days allowed himself not to be commemorated in certain places in Ukraine, where this could cause improper feelings.” https://ria.ru/20220405/pominovenie-1781953933.html In a telephone poll conducted in Ukraine in early April, respondents were asked whether they support the severance of the UOC from the Moscow Patriarchate. The overall results were: 71% support; 14% are indifferent; 4% difficult to answer; 7% do not support. For the Moscow Patriarchate, the best results were obtained in the south where only 55% support and 13% do not support severance from the Moscow Patriarchate. https://ratinggroup.ua/files/ratinggroup/reg_files/rg_ua_1200_ua_042022_v____i_press.pdf
For those of you who are now beginning the observance of Holy Week, I wish you a very blessed week.
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
4 April 2022: Patriarch Kirill's latest address & other news
On April 3, Patriarch Kirill celebrated the Divine Liturgy in the new and magnificent Resurrection Cathedral, the main temple of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation. A video of the entire service can be watched at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kDYvcRpaktc . Those present included military personnel standing in formation as well as a crowd of civilians. After the Liturgy the Patriarch gave his address. http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/5914188.html The address included the following:
I am very glad that today I had the opportunity to celebrate the Divine Liturgy in this beautiful church, in the presence of our servicemen. Today, our Fatherland is going through a difficult time. Today, the name "military man" is again associated with being not only in a peaceful state, but also being on the battlefield. Fortunately, our Fatherland does not often face the battlefield, but the arrival of young people in the Armed Forces who aspire to become officers, who strive to devote their lives to defending the Fatherland, does not run low. And if in peacetime this can be explained by some kind of privileges or material considerations, then in wartime, service in the Armed Forces is a real feat, and this is exactly the time we are experiencing now. The service requires readiness from everyone who has taken the oath to defend the Fatherland, not sparing their lives.
Today the word "independence" is often applied to almost all countries of the world. But this is wrong, because most of the countries of the world are now under the colossal influence of one force, which today, unfortunately, opposes the force of our people. And since this is so, since there is great strength, then we must also be very strong. When I say "we," I mean, first of all, the Armed Forces - but not only. All of our people today must wake up, wake up, understand that a special time has come, on which the historical fate of our people may depend.
That is why today I celebrated the Divine Liturgy right here, in this church, in order to meet first of all with representatives of our Armed Forces, to address them, and through them to our entire army, to the navy, to all the defenders of the Fatherland, so that they realize the historical importance of the present moment. I want to say again and again: we are a peace-loving country and a very peace-loving, long-suffering people who suffered from wars like few other European nations. We have no desire for war or for doing something that could harm others. But we have been so educated throughout our entire history that we love our Fatherland and will be ready to defend it in the way that only Russians can defend their country.
When I say these words, I do not say any empty compliments. I start from the history of our people, from the history of our Armed Forces. After all, we broke the back of fascism, which, undoubtedly, would have defeated the world, if not for Russia, if not for the feat of our people. May the Lord help us today too, so that we, being peaceful, peace-loving and modest people, are at the same time ready - always and under any circumstances - to protect our home.
Of course, when I say all this, I do not cease to feel anxiety for all the people who live in those places where military clashes are taking place today. After all, all these are the people and peoples of Holy Rus’, all these are our brothers and sisters. But, as in the Middle Ages, wishing to weaken Russia, various forces pushed the brothers against each other, plunging them into internecine strife, so it is happening today. Therefore, we must do everything we can to stop the bloodshed and to avoid the danger of internecine strife with all its consequences. But at the same time, we must be faithful - when I say "we,", mean, first of all, military personnel - to our oath and readiness to "lay down our lives for our friends," as the word of God testifies.
From these remarks by the Patriarch, it is clear that the Patriarch is telling the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation that they are defending their Fatherland by their actions in Ukraine and that this is something noble and honorable. This reinforces what was already known. If the relationship between the Patriarch and the Russian government makes a stance of neutrality by the Church impossible, the Patriarch will side with Russia and not Ukraine.
In considering the Patriarch’s remarks, it should be remembered that his views probably reflect the views of the vast majority of the people living in the Russian Federation. On March 31, the respected Levada Center in Moscow released the results of a poll with respect to the actions of the Russian Armed Forces in Ukraine which showed: 53% “definitely support,” 28% “rather support,” and only 14% do not support. Six percent found it difficult to answer. https://www.levada.ru/2022/03/31/konflikt-s-ukrainoj/ Also, the remarks by the Patriarch are more moderate than those of some other Russian hierarchs. For example, Metropolitan Leonid, Patriarchal Exarch for Africa, on this Telegram channel criticized Igumen Arseny (Sokolov), representative of the Moscow Patriarchate to the Patriarchate of Antioch, for calling the war in Ukraine “fratricidal.” https://t.me/s/exarchleonid Metropolitan Leonid stated: “And who, then, does he consider a brother when he speaks of a fratricidal war. I have no brothers among the brown scum [“коричневого отребья”]!
The difference in perceptions of what is true and factual between Russians on the one hand and Ukrainians and much of the West on the other hand is huge. For example, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) has posted numerous articles on the funerals given by its clergy to fallen Ukrainian soldiers. See, for example, https://news.church.ua/2022/04/01/svyashhennosluzhiteli-ukrajinskoji-pravoslavnoji-cerkvi-zvershili-chin-vidspivuvannya-ta-poxoronu-zagiblix-zaxisnikiv-ukrajini/. These soldiers were honored by the Ukrainian Orthodox Church for “defending our Motherland from the aggressive invasion of Russian troops.” However, in the eyes of Metropolitan Leonid, these fallen soldiers cannot be considered brothers but are rather “brown scum.” The Church in Moscow and the Church in Ukraine are living in two different worlds. Differences in perception such as these raise the question of whether the Ukrainian Orthodox Church will remain in the Moscow Patriarchate, especially when it can be seen that the Patriarch has not been neutral but has taken the side of Russia over Ukraine. I am sure that the Church in Moscow is painfully aware of this question. Perhaps this is the reason for the silence of Metropolitan Hilarion on the war – to enable him to be some form of bridge with the Ukrainian Orthodox Church at a later date.
The Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate held an in-person meeting on March 24. http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/5911047.html The Patriarch’s website stated: “Due to the international situation, His Beatitude Metropolitan Onufry of Kyiv and All Ukraine, Metropolitan Vladimir of Chisinau and All Moldova, Metropolitan Innokenty of Vilna and Lithuania, and Metropolitan Anthony of Boryspil and Brovarsky could not attend the meeting.” At least three of the four had previous expressed their opposition to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. On May 20, Metropolitan Hilarion was asked whether the Bishops’ Council of the Moscow Patriarchate will be held in May 2022 as previously planned. https://mospat.ru/ru/news/89098/ The Metropolitan answered:
The Council was scheduled for November , but then, due to the severe epidemic situation, it was postponed. Now other difficulties have arisen: it is very likely that many bishops will not be able to arrive in Moscow due to transport restrictions, so we will monitor the situation and at the right time we will make a decision on how and when to hold the Bishops’ Council. There are several options: one option is to hold it at the appointed time, the other option is to postpone, reschedule the Council to a later date, maybe in the fall. The third option is to provide for the remote participation of bishops. We will have to weigh all these factors in order to make an appropriate decision.
In my opinion, the bigger question is whether the bishops of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church will be willing to go to Moscow to attend the Council even if transportation were possible. In 2017, the Bishops’ Council in amending the Statutes of the Moscow Patriarchate created a new and separate Chapter X governing the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/document/133114/ Under Section 9 of this Chapter, the bishops of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church participate in the work of the Bishops’ Council in accordance with Chapter III. Section 15 of Chapter III in turn provides: “None of the hierarchs who are members of the Bishops’ Council may refuse to participate in its meetings, except in cases of illness or any other reason recognized by the Council as valid.” Thus, attendance of the Ukrainian bishops at the next Bishops’ Council is mandatory. A decision by the Ukrainian Orthodox Church not to attend the next Council could signal a major break with the Moscow Patriarchate. Moscow may decide to postpone the Council to lessen the chances of this happening.
Pope Francis spent this last weekend on a pilgrimage to Malta. In a speech on April 2, the Pope made his strongest statement to date with respect to the Russian – Ukrainian war. https://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/speeches/2022/april/documents/20220402-malta-autorita.html (complete text) He stated:
Finally, there is the wind coming from the east , which often blows at dawn, which is why Homer called it “Eurus” (Odyssey, V, 349.423). Yet from the east of Europe, from the land of sunrise, the dark shadows of war have now spread. We had thought that invasions of other countries, savage street fighting and atomic threats were grim memories of a distant past. However, the icy winds of war, which bring only death, destruction and hatred in their wake, have swept down powerfully upon the lives of many people and affected us all. Once again, some potentate, sadly caught up in anachronistic claims of nationalist interests, is provoking and fomenting conflicts, whereas ordinary people sense the need to build a future that, will either shared, or not be at all. Now in the night of the war that is fallen upon humanity, please, let us not allow the dream of peace to fade!
On his flight back to Rome on April 3, Pope Francis answered the questions of journalists. https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2022-04/pope-francis-inflight-press-conference-from-malta.html The Pope was asked about a possible trip to Ukraine. In this regard, the Pope stated:
The other option is the trip that some of you have asked about; I answered with sincerity that I was planning to go, that my availability remains constant. There is no “no”: I am available. What are my thoughts regarding such a trip? This was the question: "we heard that you were thinking about a trip to Ukraine"; I said that it is on the table; it is there, one of the proposals I have received, but I don't know if it can be done, if it is fitting, and whether it would be for the best or if it is fitting to undertake it, whether I should go… all this is in the air.
For some time there have been considerations made regarding a meeting with Patriarch Kirill; that's what's being worked on, with the possibility of the Middle East as a venue for such a meeting. This is how things are being considered at the moment.
In Africa, Father Dionysius Grishkov of the Moscow Patriarchate arrived in Rwanda from Moscow on approximately March 31. https://t.me/s/exarchleonid He is a 2019 graduate of the Moscow Theological Academy and is the rector of the Church of the Burning Bush in the Otradnoe District of Moscow. For a number of years he has been connected with the Missionary Commission of the Moscow Diocesan Council. It appears that Fathers Georgy Maksimov and Alexander Novikov have completed their recent African tours and are back in Russia. When Father Georgy was in Rwanda in February, there were two Rwandan priests who joined the Moscow Patriarchate. It appears that this number remains the same. On April 2, Father Dionysius was in Brazzaville, Republic of the Congo.
Metropolitan Leonid has now provided a rebuttal to the article which appeared in the Kenya newspaper Star on March 16 (discussed in my news report of March 20). https://www.the-star.co.ke/news/2022-03-16-why-rebel-orthodox-priests-rue-mutiny-as-russia-wages-war/ According to Metropolitan Leonid, the recent sanctions only affected some of the Russian banks, and funds continue to flow through other Russian banks to Kenya for the construction and repair of churches, for missionary and educational activities, for the clergy, and for assistance in the case of the loss of close relatives. http://www.interfax-religion.ru/?act=news&div=78795 With respect to clergy returning to the Alexandrian Patriarchate, the Metropolitan stated that when Father Georgy Maximov left Kenya [on February 12], 92 priests in Kenya had joined the Moscow Patriarchate. Since then, five priests have returned to the Alexandrian Patriarchate, one has died, and seven priests and a deacon have now applied for admission into the Moscow Patriarchate. https://t.me/s/exarchleonid With respect to clerics joining the Moscow Patriarchate’s African Exarchate in the last month, the numbers seem to be fairly static. At the present time, a significant majority of the clergy that have joined the Moscow Patriarchate in Africa are in Kenya, and a large majority of these Kenyan clergy are in the diocese of Kisumu and West Kenya.
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
21 March 2022: Orthodox scorecard on Ukraine & other news
Because a period of more than three weeks has elapsed since Russia commenced its military operations in Ukraine, it is now possible to prepare a scorecard or summary on how the various Local Orthodox Churches have reacted to the events in Ukraine. All of the Churches have expressed their dismay at the hostilities and urged prayers for peace. However, some have also made statements critical of Russia. The following Orthodox patriarchates or churches have remained neutral by neither criticizing nor supporting Russia: Antioch, Jerusalem, Serbia, Bulgaria, Poland, and Czech Lands and Slovakia.
The following patriarchates or churches have made statements that contain some criticism of Russia:
Constantinople: Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew -- “the world community is following with horror Russia’s, beyond every sense of law and morality, military attack and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, an independent and sovereign state” https://www.ecupatria.org/news/
Alexandria: Patriarch Theodoros – “innocent victims of the unjust war” https://www.patriarchateofalexandria.com/en/mhnyma-symparastashs-ths-aom-toy-papa-kai-patriarxoy-alexandreias-kk-oeodwroy-b-pros-ton-oykraniko-lao
Romania: Patriarch Daniel -- “the war in Ukraine, a war launched by Russia against a sovereign and independent state” https://basilica.ro/mesajul-patriarhului-daniel-sa-ajutam-in-continuare-pe-refugiati-sa-ne-rugam-pentru-pace-si-sa-fim-facatori-de-pace/
Georgia: Patriarch Ilia -- “Russian-led hostilities continue in Ukraine” https://patriarchate.ge/news/2927
Cyprus: Archbishop Chrysostomos -- “The huge mistake that the Russian President makes to demolish a big country, and he does not care how many souls will depart from this act.” https://churchofcyprus.org.cy/77680
Greece: Permanent Holy Synod – “condemn the violent invasion of the Russian troops and the war in Ukraine” https://www.romfea.gr/ekklisia-ellados/48974-egkyklios-ieras-synodou-peri-tou-polemou-stin-oukrania
Albania: Statement of the Interfaith Council of Albania (the Orthodox Church being one of five members) posted on the official website of the Orthodox Church of Albania -- “war and aggression of Russia against Ukraine” https://orthodoxalbania.org/2020/2022/03/05/deklarate-per-shtyp-ne-lidhje-me-situaten-ne-ukraine/
Orthodox Church in America: Metropolitan Tikhon -- “I ask that the hostilities be ceased immediately and that President Putin put an end to the military operations. As Orthodox Christians, we condemn violence and aggression.“ https://www.oca.org/holy-synod/statements/his-beatitude-metropolitan-tikhon/statement-on-war-in-ukraine
The Moscow Patriarchate is the only Local Orthodox Church which has sought to justify Russia’s actions. However, certain parts of the Moscow Patriarchate have disagreed with Russia’s actions. These include the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (https://news.church.ua/2022/03/10/zayava-ukrajinskoji-pravoslavnoji-cerkvi-vid-10-bereznya-2022-roku/ ), the Metropolis of Lithuania (https://orthochristian.com/145237.html ), the Metropolis of Latvia ( http://www.pareizticiba.lv/index.php?newid=9438 ), and the Archdiocese of Orthodox Churches of the Russian Tradition in Western Europe (https://archeveche.eu/lettre-ouverte-a-sa-saintete-cyrille-patriarche-de-moscou/ ).
On March 20, Pope Francis, following Sunday’s Angelus prayer, made his strongest statement to date concerning Ukraine. https://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/angelus/2022/documents/20220320-angelus.html The following are some of his remarks:
Unfortunately, the violent aggression against Ukraine does not stop, a senseless massacre where every day there is a repetition of slaughter and atrocities. There is no justification for this! I plead with all those involved in the international community to truly commit to ending this abhorrent war.
This week again missiles and bombs have fallen on civilians, the elderly, children, and pregnant mothers. I went to see the wounded children who are here in Rome. One was missing an arm; one had a head injury...innocent children. I think of the millions of Ukrainian refugees who must flee leaving everything behind, and I feel a great pain for those who do not even have the possibility to escape. So many grandparents, sick and poor people separated from their own families, so many children and fragile people are left to die under the bombs without being able to receive help and find safety even in the air raid shelters. All this is inhuman! Indeed, it is also sacrilegious because it goes against the sacredness of human life, especially against defenseless human life, which must be respected and protected, not eliminated, and this comes before any strategy! Let us not forget it is inhuman and sacrilegious cruelty! Let us pray in silence for those who are suffering.
I invite every community and all the faithful to unite with me on Friday 25 March, the Solemnity of the Annunciation, for the Solemn Act of Consecration of humanity, especially Russia and Ukraine, to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, so that she, the Queen of Peace, may help us obtain peace.
The Vatican’s press office confirmed on March 18 “that Pope Francis has invited bishops from all over the world and their priests to join him in the prayer for peace and in the consecration and entrustment of Russia and Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.” https://ilsismografo.blogspot.com/2022/03/vaticano-consacrazione-e-affidamento.html On March 16, the day after Pope Francis announced his intention to consecrate Russia and Ukraine to the Mother of God, Patriarch Kirill asked the faithful of the Russian Orthodox Church during Great Lent to pray for the intercession of the Theotokos for peace. http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/5908958.html This may well be an intentional response by Patriarch Kirill to the Pope’s initiative.
Personally, it is my great hope that Orthodox bishops, priests, and the faithful throughout the world will also offer prayers to the Theotokos on March 25 for Ukraine and Russia in a way consistent with Orthodox theology. Would not the Mother of God be pleased that both her Orthodox and Catholic children are joining together in asking for her intercession?
On March 16, Patriarch Kirill had separate video conferences with Pope Francis and Archbishop Justin Welby. It appears that the video conferences were initiated by the Patriarch. In a meeting with the Supreme Church Council of the Moscow Patriarchate on March 18, Patriarch Kirill stated with respect to the conferences: “I think the meeting, though remote but a real, face-to-face, was positive for both the preservation of good relations between our Churches and for the formation as far as possible a common attitude to the situation in Ukraine.” https://mospat.ru/en/news/89086/ The Vatican provided a more detailed version of the conversation with Pope Francis. http://www.christianunity.va/content/unitacristiani/en/news/2022/2022-03-17-colloquio-telematico-papa-francesco-e-patriarca-kiril.html Among the remarks by Pope Francis were: “Wars are always unjust….. War is never the way.”
In the last few weeks, there appears to be less activity by the Moscow Patriarchate in Africa. See https://t.me/s/exarchleonid. According to Metropolitan Leonid, three priests from Zambia have joined the Moscow Patriarchate and seven clerics from Nigeria have joined. The Moscow Patriarchate has posted a letter to Patriarch Kirill from the priests who are the “coordinators” for eight countries. https://mospat.ru/ru/news/89028/ The countries are: Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Nigeria, Zambia, Madagascar, Malawi, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Presumably, these are the African countries where the Moscow Patriarchate has had the most success. On March 16, an article was posted in the Star, one of the leading newspapers in Kenya, which claims that the Orthodox priests from Kenya are slowly returning to the Patriarchate of Alexandria. https://www.the-star.co.ke/news/2022-03-16-why-rebel-orthodox-priests-rue-mutiny-as-russia-wages-war/ The reason given is that the imposition of sanctions relating to Ukraine has impeded the payment of priests’ salaries from Russia.
On March 19, the Vatican released the long-awaited apostolic constitution which makes substantial changes with respect to the Vatican Curia. The new constitution becomes effective on June 5, 2022. The full text can be read at https://press.vatican.va/content/salastampa/it/bollettino/pubblico/2022/03/19/0189/00404.html Under the new constitution, the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity becomes the “Dicastery [Department] for Promoting Christian Unity.” Its head will have the title “Prefect” rather than “President.” This is in essence a promotion. Under Section III, Article 17, the prefect, the members, the secretary, and the undersecretary of the dicastery “are appointed by the Roman Pontiff for a five-year term.” To me it is unclear how the term-limit would apply to Cardinal Kurt Koch, Bishop Brian Farrell, and Monsignor Andrea Palmieri, all of whom have already served more than five years in their respective offices. Perhaps the term-limit only applies to persons appointed after the June 5 effective date.
In other news, the Ukrainian-language service of the BBC has posted an interesting article about the possibility of the UOC-MP breaking away from the Moscow Patriarchate. https://www.bbc.com/ukrainian/news-60749034?fbclid=IwAR3IDnRj_HSfUz5tU7AcC30FHTVNY4zaJxR4Mmw6cTkqOy_fXJAavqb7p_4 The article includes interviews with various UOC-MP bishops who have ceased commemorating Patriarch Kirill. According to the article, the mood of the bishops is to move away from Moscow, but not to affiliate with the OCU. The All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations, of which the UOC-MP is a member, has sent an appeal to the religious leaders of Belarus to use their authority to prevent the involvement of the Belarusian army in the war against Ukraine. https://vrciro.org.ua/en/statements/uccro-statement-on-belarus-role-in-war-against-ukraine “A Declaration on the ‘Russian World’ Teaching,” prepared by a group of Orthodox theologians, has been posted and has now been signed by over 1,000 persons. https://publicorthodoxy.org/2022/03/13/a-declaration-on-the-russian-world-russkii-mir-teaching/ (declaration); https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1Nl-0JXVZmAwTqtNw4FV_mgZO0cWWyBCgXfkRcRI7bqc/edit#gid=1998573025 (all signers)
Please remember to pray on March 25 for Ukraine and Russia.
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
18 March 2022: Day after Pope's announcement, Kirill also asks for intercession of Theotokos
On March 16, the day after Pope Francis announced his intention to consecrate Russia and Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of Mary on March 25, Patriarch Kirill asks the faithful of the Russian Orthodox Church during Great Lent to pray for the intercession of the Theotokos for peace. http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/5908958.html This may well be an intentional response by Patriarch Kirill to the Pope’s initiative. A Google translation of Patriarch Kirill’s address is pasted below:
His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Rus’ addressed the archpastors, pastors, monastics and all the faithful children of the Russian Orthodox Church in connection with the events in Ukraine.
Beloved fellow archpastors!
Dear fathers, brothers and sisters!
Today we are going through a difficult historical period: all our thoughts, worries and prayers are connected with the ongoing events in Ukraine. But even in the most difficult times of trials, our people sought help from the Most Holy Theotokos, who has always been a zealous intercessor and intercessor of Holy Rus’.
During the days of Great Lent, when the Church stands before the Lord in repentance, I appeal to all of you, my dear ones, with an appeal to read daily “The Canon of Prayer to the Most Holy Theotokos, sung in every sorrow of soul and situation” with the addition to it of the previously approved prayer for the restoration of peace.
Let us turn our eyes and sighs to the zealous Intercessor of the Christian race, so that, through Her relentless maternal intercession, the Gracious Lord inclines His mercy to our peoples and grants strong and unstoppable peace.
+KIRILL, PATRIARCH OF MOSCOW AND ALL RUS’
16 March 2022: Pope Francis to consecrate Russia and Ukraine to the Theotokos
On March 15, the Vatican’s Press Office made an announcement that may be of particular interest to Catholics devoted to Our Lady of Fatima. https://press.vatican.va/content/salastampa/it/bollettino/pubblico/2022/03/15/0177/00384.html It may also be of interest to Orthodox because it relates to two countries that are predominantly Orthodox, namely Russia and Ukraine. The English translation of the announcement is as follows:
On Friday 25 March, during the Celebration of Penance at which he will preside at 17.00 in Saint Peter's Basilica, Pope Francis will consecrate Russia and Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The same act, on the same day, will be carried out in Fatima by His Eminence Cardinal Krajewski, Apostolic Almoner, as envoy of the Holy Father.
For Catholics, Fatima is one of the most important Marian shrines in the world. Most Catholics believe that the Mother of God appeared at Fatima to three children, Lucia (age 10), Francisco (age 9), and Jacinta (age 7), six times from May 13, 1917, to October 13, 1917. The last apparition was accompanied by a “miracle of the sun,” in which thousands of people witnessed the sun spin and gyrate in the sky for approximately ten minutes. Jacinto and Francisco Marto were later canonized by Pope Francis on May 13, 2017. Lucia, who had become a Carmelite nun, died at the age of 97 on February 13, 2005. The canonization process for Sister Lucia is now underway.
Some Orthodox have been interested in Fatima, but have reservations about it. According to the children, the Mother of God referred to purgatory. She also referred to her Immaculate Heart. Orthodox believe in neither the doctrine of purgatory nor in the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. Very conservative Orthodox may therefore contend that Fatima was the work of the devil. Still, some Orthodox believe that an important Marian event occurred here, even though they might not accept what the children reported. One of the recent Orthodox visitors to Fatima was Metropolitan Hilarion (Moscow Patriarchate) who visited the shrine during a trip to Portugal in September 2018. https://www.fatima.pt/pt/news/o-metropolita-hilarion-alfeyev-responsavel-pelos-assuntos-externos-e-o-dialogo-com-a-igreja-catolica-visitou-o-santuario-de-fatima-2018-09-18
According to the children, Russia was specifically mentioned by the Mother of God during the apparition on July 13, 1917. On that date, she told the children that the war [World War I] will end, but that if the world does not stop offending God, He will punish the world by war, hunger, and persecution of the Church and the Holy Father. She added:
"To prevent this I come to ask the consecration of Russia to my Immaculate Heart and the Communion of reparation on the first Saturdays. If they listen to my requests, Russia will be converted and there will be peace. If not, she will scatter her errors throughout the world, provoking wars and persecutions of the Church. The good will be martyred, the Holy Father will have much to suffer, various nations will be annihilated. In the end my Immaculate Heart will triumph. The Holy Father will consecrate Russia to me, and it will be converted and a certain period of peace will be granted to the world."
This raises the question of whether now, more than 100 years later, the consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary has been done by the Pope. Many, including the Vatican, say that it was done collegially by Pope John Paul II in 1984, and that this satisfied the request of the Mother of God, made on July 13, 1917. Some doubters say that it was not done in 1984, because the Pope did not expressly say the word “Russia” in the consecration. As seen by the announcement on March 15, Pope Francis will presumably expressly mention Russia and Ukraine in this consecration of March 15, 2022. However, if all of the Catholic bishops of the world do not also say the consecration on March 25, 2022, the doubters will still maintain that the consecration is not valid because it was not a collegial consecration with all of the Catholic bishops of the world.
To make all of this more understandable, especially to Orthodox, below is a summary of the previous events relating to the consecration.
On October 31, 1942, Pope Pius XII , solemnly consecrated the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Russia is not expressly mentioned, but there is a reference to the land where “there was not a house that did not honor your venerable icon, though now perhaps hidden and put away for better days.” In an interview several years later, Sister Lucia stated: "What Our Lady wants is that the Pope and all the bishops in the world shall consecrate Russia to her Immaculate Heart on one special day. If this is done, she will convert Russia and there will be peace. If it is not done, the errors of Russia will spread through every country of the world."
On July 7, 1952, in an apostolic letter Sacro Vergente Anno, Pope Pius XII wrote to the Russian people and expressly entrusted and consecrated "in a very special way to the Immaculate Heart of Mary all the peoples of Russia." However, it was not a collegial consecration with all of the bishops of the world.
On May 13, 1981, an anniversary date of the first Fatima apparition, Pope John Paul II was shot in St. Peter’s Square. Immediately afterwards, he associated the assassination attempt with the message of Fatima. On leaving the Gemelli Polyclinic, the Pope told Slovak bishop Pavel Hnilica, “I have come to understand that the only way to save the world from war, to save it from atheism, is the conversion of Russia according to the message of Fatima.” On the first anniversary of the assassination attempt, Pope John Paul II made a pilgrimage to Fatima. There, he stated: “"But after the well-known attempt on my life a year ago in St. Peter's Square, on regaining consciousness, my thoughts turned immediately to this sanctuary to place in the heart of the Heavenly Mother my thanks for having saved me from danger ... And in the coincidence -and there are no mere coincidences in the plans of Divine Providence - I also saw an appeal and, who knows, a reminder of the message which came from here 65 years ago ..."
During the Mass at Fatima on May 13, 1982, the Holy Father made reference to the fact that Pope Pius XII had in 1942 and 1952 "consecrated the human race and especially the peoples of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary." He renewed this consecration, but did so "united with all the pastors of the Church in that particular bond whereby we constitute a body and a college." However, the bishops of the world did not actually participate in this consecration.
From September 29 to October 29, 1983, the Synod of Bishops met in Rome to discuss the topic of penance and reconciliation. At the Mass for the canonization of Leopold Mandic on October 16, the Pope and the attending bishops repeated verbatim the consecration of the world to the Mother of God which the Pope had made at Fatima on May 13, 1982. In the repetition of the collegial consecration, they consecrate in a "special way ... those individuals and nations which particularly need to be entrusted and consecrated."
On December 8, 1983, the feast of the Immaculate Conception, Pope John Paul II wrote a letter to all of the bishops of the Church. He requested that on the feast of the Annunciation, March 25, 1984, all of them join him in reciting the act of consecration. However, unlike the acts of consecration made by the Pope at Fatima and by the group of bishops attending the Synod, this collegial act of consecration contemplated the active participation of all of the bishops of the world.
On March 25, 1984, the Holy Father together with all of the bishops of the world consecrated all peoples and nations to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Mother of God and of the Church. In making the consecration, the Pope knelt before the statue of Our Lady of Fatima which had been brought from Portugal for this purpose The Holy Father recited the consecration prayer but also added the following words not found in the prepared text: "Enlighten especially the peoples whose consecration and entrustment by us you are awaiting." Russia was not expressly mentioned.
In a letter dated November 8, 1989, Sister Lucia Sister Lucia personally confirmed that the Pope’s act of consecration corresponded to what Our Lady wished (“Sim, està feita, tal como Nossa Senhora a pediu, desde o dia 25 de Março de 1984”: “Yes it has been done just as Our Lady asked, on 25 March 1984.” https://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_20000626_message-fatima_en.html
On October 11, 1993, Cardinal Antony Padiyara from India met with Sister Lucia at her convent in Portugal. He asks her whether Our Lady’s reference to the conversion of Russia meant conversion to Catholicism. The response of Sister Lucia was, “Our Lady never said that.”
Catholics are not required to believe in Fatima, but almost all do, including all of the recent popes. For Orthodox who do not believe in Fatima, they would most likely agree that putting all of Russia and Ukraine under the protection of the Theotokos, especially during these most difficult times, is a very good idea. Certainly, her intercession is greatly needed.
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
10 March 2022: Patriarch Kirill's statements and neutrality
Because the Moscow Patriarchate of the Orthodox Church has a very strong presence in both Russia and Ukraine, the present war in Ukraine has placed Patriarch Kirill in a very difficult position. One possible course of action is to urge peace and to maintain a neutral stance which favors neither Russia nor Ukraine. However, in the last four days, Patriarch Kirill has delivered two sermons that have departed from a neutral stance.
On March 9, Patriarch Kirill celebrated the Lenten Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts in Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior. At the end of the Liturgy, he delivered a sermon. The full text of the sermon can be read at http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/5907484.html . In the first part of the sermon, the Patriarch described how an alienation of peoples may begin through lies and distortions of facts. According to him, “sometimes conflicts are fomented by a third party who has an interest in two people quarreling….” The Patriarch then stressed that Russia and Ukraine “are practically one people, bound by historical fate, we all came out of the Kiev font together, we are united by faith, our saints, common hope, the same prayers.” He said: “Rus’ -- one country, one people, but this people turned out to be very strong, and the neighbors, frightened by its strength, began to do everything to divide this people, to inspire parts of this people that you are not at all one people.” The Patriarch urged all “to intensify the prayer that all military confrontation between Russia and Ukraine will stop, so that our people will once again be able to realize the existence of common spiritual roots and common spiritual strength, which is our undivided Church, residing in Russia, Ukraine and other countries.” He urged prayers for Metropolitan Onufry, primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP). He also stated:
Of course, the topic related to Russian-Ukrainian relations has now become a part of big politics or, as they say now, geopolitics. And one of the goals of this geopolitics is the weakening of Russia, which has become a strong, really powerful country. But how disgusting and vile to use the fraternal people to achieve these geopolitical goals! How terrible to set these people against their brothers! How terrible it is to arm him so that he enters into a struggle with his brothers of the same blood and of the same faith!...
The Patriarch’s statement implied that outside forces, presumably the West, have armed Ukraine so that it can enter into a struggle with Russia. However, nothing is said about Russia’s use of arms against Ukraine and the invasion of Ukraine by Russia. The Patriarch’s statement is clearly a pro-Russian statement and not a neutral statement.
On March 6, the Patriarch celebrated the Divine Liturgy for “Forgiveness Sunday” in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior. At the end of the service, he delivered an address. The full text of the address can be read at http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/5906442.html . The Patriarch’s remarks include the following:
For eight years there have been attempts to destroy what exists in the Donbass. And in the Donbass there is rejection, a fundamental rejection of the so-called values that are offered today by those who claim world power. Today there is such a test for the loyalty of this government, a kind of pass to that “happy” world, the world of excess consumption, the world of visible “freedom.” Do you know what this test is? The test is very simple and at the same time terrible - this is a gay parade. The demands on many to hold a gay parade are a test of loyalty to that very powerful world; and we know that if people or countries reject these demands, then they do not enter into that world, they become strangers to it….
Everything that I say has not just some theoretical meaning and not only a spiritual meaning. Around this topic today there is a real war. Who is attacking Ukraine today, where the suppression and extermination of people in the Donbass has been going on for eight years; eight years of suffering and the whole world is silent - what does that mean? But we know that our brothers and sisters are really suffering; moreover, they may suffer for their loyalty to the Church….
Today, our brothers in the Donbass, Orthodox people, are undoubtedly suffering, and we cannot but be with them, first of all in prayer. It is necessary to pray that the Lord would help them to preserve the Orthodox faith, not to succumb to temptations and seductions. At the same time, we must pray that peace will come as soon as possible, that the blood of our brothers and sisters will stop, that the Lord will incline His mercy to the long-suffering Donbass land, which has been bearing this mournful stamp for eight years, generated by human sin and hatred….
The foregoing address received considerable attention from the western media particularly because of the reference to gay parades. The government authorities in Ukraine have allowed such parades although the UOC-MP has opposed them. However, it is very important to note that the address clearly supported “the Donbass” which includes the breakaway republics of Donetsk and Luhansk. The armed forces of these areas are now fighting against Ukraine and have been for eight years. Furthermore, the UOC-MP supports the territorial integrity of Ukraine which means that Donetsk and Luhansk should not be allowed to separate from Ukraine. The championing of the Donbass by Patriarch Kirill does not reflect neutrality with respect to Ukraine, but reflects a very pro-Russian view.
In contrast, Metropolitan Hilarion has been more neutral by essentially remaining silent. During his weekly television program, The Church and the World, broadcast on March 5, nothing was said about the current hostilities in Ukraine. On March 9, the Metropolitan, unlike Patriarch Kirill, made no specific remarks about the war in Ukraine during the liturgy at his personal parish, aside from offering a prayer for peace. https://mospat.ru/ru/news/89061/ News about the Patriarch’s services on March 6 and 9 have not been posted on the website of the DECR. Much of the recent news on the website of the DECR has related to the Metropolitan’s very recent visit to the Patriarchate of Antioch and to Syria. One simply does not know how Metropolitan Hilarion feels in his heart-of-hearts about the current war in Ukraine.
The invasion of Ukraine by Russia and the conduct of Patriarch Kirill since the invasion has had its effect on the UOC-MP. As of March 3, the heads of approximately 15 dioceses of the UOC-MP have given their blessings to priests in their respective dioceses to cease to commemorate Patriarch Kirill in the Divine Liturgy. https://spzh.news/en/news/86823-ryad-jeparkhij-upc-prekrashhajut-pominovenije-patriarkha-kirilla Most of these dioceses are in western Ukraine. One of the first bishops to give such a blessing was Metropolitan Evlogy of Sumy (a city in northeastern Ukraine near the Russian border). On March 2, Patriarch Kirill issued a resolution to Metropolitan Evlogy that included the following statement: The termination of the commemoration of the Primate of the Church, not because of doctrinal or canonical mistakes or errors, but because of inconsistency with certain political views and preferences, is a schism for which everyone who commits it will answer before God and not only in the future century, but also in the present. http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/5905352.html On the same day, Metropolitan Evlogy posted a response that he and his flock have not gone into schism but remain in the UOC-MP under Metropolitan Onufry. http://portal-pravoslavie.sumy.ua/novini-eparhii/zayava-mitropolita-sumskogo-i-ohtirskogo-evlogiya.html
Also on March 3, Metropolitan Anthony of Boryspil, the chancellor of the UOC-MP, delivered a statement. https://news.church.ua/2022/03/03/cerkovni-pitannya-mayut-virishuvatisya-kanonichnim-shlyaxom-i-sobornim-rozumom-keruyuchij-spravami-upc/ He stated that “all church issues must be considered and resolved exclusively by the canons and common sense” and that this “should not be done under the roar of explosions.” In his remarks, he also spoke highly of Metropolitan Evlogy as “known to the whole Church and one of the most educated Orthodox hierarchs and an experienced diocesan bishop.” http://portal-pravoslavie.sumy.ua/novini-eparhii/keruyuchij-spravami-upc-visloviv-pidtrimku-mitropolitu-sumskomu-i-ohtirskomu-evlogiyu.html Since the resolution by Patriarch Kirill and the statement by Metropolitan Anthony, I have not heard of additional diocesan bishops of the UOC-MP publicly blessing the cessation of the commemoration of Patriarch Kirill in the Liturgy. However, this does not mean that Patriarch Kirill continues to be commemorated in all of the parishes of the other dioceses. It may mean that commemoration of the Patriarch has ceased in various parishes without the bishop blessing the action in a public and visible fashion. The remarks of Metropolitan Anthony were probably also intended to reply to the request of the clergy of several dioceses that the UOC-MP should become an autocephalous church independent of Moscow. See https://orthochristian.com/144768.html Admittedly, it may not be feasible to summon a council of the bishops of the UOC-MP in the midst of a raging war. However, it is very likely that sentiment within the UOC-MP for autocephalous status is now much stronger than it was before the invasion.
On March 2, the website of the UOC-MP posted a letter to Patriarch Kirill from the brothers of the Pochaev Lavra, which is located in western Ukraine and which is the second most important monastery in Ukraine. https://news.church.ua/2022/03/02/pochajivska-lavra-zvernulasya-do-predstoyatelya-rpc-cherez-vijnu-v-ukrajini/ The letter urged the Patriarch to “to appeal to the President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin, as well as to the leadership of the Russian Federation immediately to cease hostilities in Ukraine and do everything in your power to end the armed confrontation and not to shed human blood!” Metropolitan John of Dubna, head of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Archdiocese of Orthodox Churches of the Russian Tradition in Western Europe, has issued a letter which urged “His Holiness Patriarch Kirill and the Holy Synod to intervene firmly with the political authorities of Russia to immediately end this war which is a grave sin before God.” https://archeveche.eu/communique-aide-pour-lukraine/ Vasile Bănescu, spokesperson for the Romanian Orthodox Church, has issued a statement which refers to “Russia’s unjust war against Ukraine.” https://basilica.ro/en/romanian-patriarchate-renews-call-for-solidarity-with-ukraine/ Bănescu also posted on Instantgram a far stronger statement – probably reflecting his own personal view. https://www.instagram.com/p/Cawk0owMgeZ/ In recent days, the Romanian Patriarchate has been a leader in providing humanitarian assistance to the UOC-MP.
There has been considerable publicity in the media about almost 300 clergy of the Moscow Patriarchate in Russia signing an online petition calling for an immediate ceasefire. https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1yOGuXjdFQ1A3BQaEEQr744cwDzmSQ1qePaaBi4z6q3w/viewform?edit_requested=true Interestingly, the first signer is Igumen Arseny (Sokolov), representative of the Moscow Patriarchate to the Patriarchate of Antioch. As shown on the website of DECR, Igumen Arseny accompanied Metropolitan Hilarion on the latter’s trip to Syria on March 5. https://mospat.ru/en/news/89046/ The second signer is Hegumen Nektary (Morozov), who is a very prolific and highly-regarded writer. See https://www.pravmir.ru/author/user_3334/. However, in the last few days, there have been very few additional signers of the online petition. It has now been reported that one of the signers, Father Ioann Burdin (number 77 on the petition), has been arrested for discrediting the Russian armed forces. He had a link to the online petition on his parish’s website. https://www.newsweek.com/russian-priest-arrested-delivering-sermon-anti-war-against-ukraine-1685436 In another recent development, it appears that the Russian religious website Credo is no longer online. This very independent website has often posted news that is not viewed with favor by the Moscow Patriarchate.
Pope Francis has repeatedly shown his concern for what is now happening in Ukraine. However, as frequently noted by the media, he has neither mentioned Russia nor made any explicit criticism of Russia. Some believe that the Pope is refraining from any criticism in order to preserve the possibility of the Vatican serving as a mediator in the war in Ukraine. With respect to the Vatican, there are two very recent developments. Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, the “Papal Almoner,” arrived in Lviv, Ukraine on March 8 as the Pope’s personal envoy with respect to humanitarian help. https://www.vaticannews.va/en/church/news/2022-03/krajewski-in-lviv-ukrainian-refugees-grateful-for-assistance.html According to him, “the Holy Father has paid for many of the journeys of the trucks that bring humanitarian aid into Ukraine.” Also on March 8, Vatican Secretary of State Pietro Parolin spoke with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov by telephone. https://www.vaticannews.va/en/vatican-city/news/2022-03/cardinal-parolin-calls-minister-lavrov-asking-for-halt-to-fight.html On March 9, on the sidelines of a Rome conference, Cardinal Parolin presented a very grim assessment of the conversation. He also made some very candid remarks according to ANSA, the leading Italian news agency. https://ilsismografo.blogspot.com/2022/03/vaticano-nuovo-incontro-francesco.html With respects to Patriarch Kirill’s sermon on March 6, the Cardinal stated that "Patriarch Kirill's words do not favor and do not promote an agreement, on the contrary they risk enkindling even more minds and going towards an escalation and not resolving the crisis in a peaceful way." The Cardinal also cast doubt on the possibility of a meeting between Patriarch Kirill and Pope Francis this summer. According to the Cardinal, Foreign Minister Lavrov in the telephone conversation gave no reassurances of humanitarian corridors.
On a completely different subject, the Patriarchate of Antioch stated on February 14 that its Holy Synod would meet soon and would take a stand on the invitation of the Ecumenical Patriarch to hold a “meeting of the patriarchs of the four apostolic churches proposed to be held by the Patriarchate of Constantinople before the Holy Week.” It was anticipated that the proposed meeting of the four patriarchs would discuss the actions of the Moscow Patriarchate in Africa, but could also include broader issues relating to the OCU. The Holy Synod did in fact meet on March 2 and issued a statement concerning the meeting of the Synod. https://antiochpatriarchate.org/en/page/%D8%A8%D9%8A%D8%A7%D9%86-%D8%B5%D8%A7%D8%AF%D8%B1-%D8%B9%D9%86-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%85%D8%AC%D9%85%D8%B9-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A3%D9%86%D8%B7%D8%A7%D9%83%D9%8A-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%85%D9%82%D8%AF%D8%B3/2540/ (English) The statement made no specific reference to the invitation, but did included the following paragraph:
They reiterated the position of the Patriarchate of Antioch stressing the necessity to return to the principle of consensus and unanimity of all Orthodox Churches, those recognized by the family of Local Churches, in what relates to the joint Orthodox work and the efforts to find solutions to controversial issues challenging the Orthodox world. Consensus and unanimity guarantee the unity of the Orthodox Church.
It could well be argued that the reference to the need of “consensus and unanimity of all Orthodox Churches” implies that a meeting of less than all, such as meeting of the patriarchs of the four apostolic churches, would not be an appropriate means of solving controversial issues. However, we do not know for certain that the Patriarchate of Antioch has decided not to attend such a meeting. Obviously, a complete resolution would require the agreement of both Constantinople and Moscow. However, will Antioch decline to meet if the purpose of the meeting is to discuss ideas for a resolution which would then be presented to all of the Local Orthodox Churches for consideration? Much may depend on what the precise agenda and scope of the meeting would be. It is quite clear that the Moscow Patriarchate is opposed to the meeting of the four. Metropolitan Hilarion met with Patriarch John of Antioch on March 4 and discussed “matters of mutual concern.” https://mospat.ru/en/news/89044/ The invitation of the Ecumenical Patriarch was undoubtedly one of the matters discussed. Of course, what evolves from the present war in Ukraine could drastically affect a final resolution of the existing religious dispute relating to Ukraine.
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
1 March 2022: Putin more important than the UOC-MP?
On February 28 the Holy Synod of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP) issued an address to the Ukrainian people. https://news.church.ua/2022/02/28/zvernennya-svyashhennogo-sinodu-ukrajinskoji-pravoslavnoji-cerkvi-vid-28-lyutogo-2022-roku/ A good English translation of the entire text of the address can be read at https://spzh.news/en/news/86735-sinod-upc-prizval-ostanovity-krovoprolitije-mezhdu-bratskimi-narodami. The address leaves absolutely no doubt that the Holy Synod stands with the Ukrainian people against the invasion from the Russian Federation. This is demonstrated by such statements as the following:
In such a difficult situation, we call on everyone to be courageous, to enhance prayer and unite around the defense of our Homeland. Addressing all our defenders today, we want to testify that we honor you and pray for you because your risking your lives sacrificially truly testify how one can fulfil the words of our Lord Jesus Christ: Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends (John 15:13). For our part, we once again confirm that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church has always supported and continues to support the state sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine. We fully share the pain and suffering of our people. In these challenging times, fervent prayers are offered in all the churches and monasteries of our Church for an end to the war and the restoration of peace in Ukraine.
The address also includes a direct appeal to Patriarch Kirill in Moscow. This appeal states:
Realizing our special spiritual responsibility, today we address His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia. Your Holiness! We ask you to intensify your prayer for the long-suffering Ukrainian people, to say your First Hierarch’s Word on the cessation of fratricidal bloodshed in Ukrainian land and call on the leadership of the Russian Federation to immediately stop hostilities that are already threatening to turn into a world war.
The appeal unambiguously asks Patriarch Kirill to call upon the leadership of the Russian Federation (namely President Putin) to immediately stop hostilities (namely begin a ceasefire). However, to this moment, there has been complete silence on the part of Patriarch Kirill and the Russian Orthodox Church in the Russian Federation. There is not much time left for Patriarch Kirill to speak as the final assault by the Russian forces on Kyiv is now beginning. With few exceptions, the appeal was not reported by the Russian secular and religious media. One of the few exceptions was the popular religious website Pravmir.ru. https://www.pravmir.ru/sinod-upcz-prizyvaem-prekratit-bratoubijstvennoe-krovoprolitie/ It quoted the first part of the appeal as can be seen below:
“Realizing our special spiritual responsibility, today we address His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia. Your Holiness! We ask you to intensify your prayer for the long-suffering Ukrainian people, to say your First Hierarch’s Word on the cessation of fratricidal bloodshed on Ukrainian land <…>.”
The website replaced the key phrase about calling on the leadership of the Russian Federation with dots. It is reported that Vakhtang Kipshidze, deputy head of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Synodal Department for Church Relations with Society and the Media, was asked about the appeal of the Holy Synod of the UOC-MP to Patriarch Kirill, and Kipshidze responded, “We are not commenting yet.” https://www.ridus.ru/news/374981 Meanwhile, the full onslaught on Kyiv is beginning.
The inaction by Patriarch Kirill has certainly been noticed by the UOC-MP. It has been reported that the following dioceses of the UOC-MP have already directed that Patriarch Kirill no longer be commemorated in the Divine Liturgy: Sumy, Rovnskaya, Mukachevskaya, Vladimir-Volynskaya and Zhytomyr. It is also reported that the Vladimir-Volynskaya diocese has called for a complete separation from the Moscow Patriarchate. https://www.facebook.com/chapnin Archpriest Nikolai Danilevich, who together with Metropolitan Anthony of Boryspil is the leading spokesperson of the UOC-MP, addressed this matter on his Telegram channel a few hours ago. https://t.me/s/MykolayDanylevych He stated:
I was approached by the Russian media with a request to comment on the fact that the commemoration of Patriarch Kirill was stopped in many churches of the UOC. I wrote a comment. But they did not take it, they said that this would not work for them. "As you wish," I said, "but this is the truth as it is." Posting this comment here. Maybe someone from Russia will read it.
“Yes, many of our priests have stopped commemorating the Moscow Patriarch during divine services this Sunday. From Sumy, where Russian tanks are already driving, to Volyn, where in many parishes the Patriarch has not been commemorated for a long time. Many priests call me and tell me about it. Such is the reality. And the reason is obvious. The perfidious open invasion of Ukraine is a huge mistake of Russia. Perfidious, because we have heard earlier assurances from high-ranking Russian officials that "there is no invasion and it is not planned." In Ukraine, all the people stood up for the defense of the country, namely the country, and not personally for President V. Zelensky or his policies. In fact, this is a Patriotic War. War to defend the Fatherland. And the Church did too. Like in 1941. It's a matter of principle. After all, there is a fact of an open invasion of the territory of a sovereign country. The defense of the country is the sacred duty of every citizen. And our Beatitude clearly stated this in his statement on the first day of the war.
Today Russia is at war not with our government, but with the people. That is how we perceive it. This means that it is impossible for the aggressor to win such a war. In addition, people did not hear from the Patriarch a clear assessment of this war and his call to stop this madness. But people heard these words from His Beatitude Metropolitan Onufry.”
By being silent, Patriarch Kirill may be saying that his relationship with President Putin is more important than his relationship with the UOC-MP. However, for the primate of a Local Orthodox Church, the most important consideration should be doing what is right in the eyes of God, and not man. Would God want an immediate end to this bloodshed?
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
28 February 2022: Sunday's prayer of the Moscow Patriarchate's Ukrainian Church -- important signal
On Saturday, February 26, Metropolitan Onufry, head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP), sent to all of the diocesan bishops of the UOC-MP a prayer which was required to be recited during the Divine Liturgy at all churches and monasteries of the UOC-MP on Sunday, February 27. The full text of the prayer can be read at https://news.church.ua/2022/02/26/v-usix-xramax-i-monastiryax-upc-pidnositimutsya-osoblivi-proxannya-i-molitva-za-pripinennya-bojovix-dij-i-vidnovlennya-miru-v-ukrajini-tekst/ The petitions in the prayer for Ukraine included the following: “Grant us Your omnipotent grace: make the authorities wise, strengthen our army [host] with courage, help them in all that is good….” The actual words of the petition in the Ukrainian language are: “Даруй нам всесильную благодать Твою: власти умудри, воинство наше мужеством укрепи, споспешствуй им во всем благопотребном….” The word воинство is Church Slavonic and means host (as used in the Bible) or army.
On February 24, Metropolitan Onufry had delivered an address which stated: “At this tragic time, we express our special love and support to our soldiers who stand guard and protect and defend our land and our people.” https://news.church.ua/2022/02/24/zvernennya-blazhennishogo-mitropolita-kijivskogo-vsijeji-ukrajini-onufriya-virnix-ta-gromadyan-ukrajini/ For several days after this address, the official website of the UOC-MP said nothing about further about supporting Ukraine’s military effort, but rather devoted its primary attention to such matters as accusing supporters of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU) of beating a priest and destroying a prayer house of the UOC-MP. See, e.g., https://news.church.ua/2022/02/25/u-novozhivotovi-na-vinnichchini-predstavniki-pcu-pobili-svyashhenika-ta-znesli-molitovnij-budinok-upc/ In contrast, Metropolitan Epifany, head of the OCU, issued appeals every day for the defense of Ukraine. https://www.pomisna.info/uk/ From this several days of silence in regard to supporting Ukraine’s military effort, it appeared that the UOC-MP after an initial burst of support on the day of the invasion had decided to follow the neutral stance taken by the church in Moscow.
Sunday’s prayer that was required to be recited in all UOC-MP churches and monasteries shows, in my opinion, that the UOC-MP as a whole has now decided to support the armed forces of Ukraine. For such a prayer to be mandated for all churches and monasteries in all dioceses of the UOC-MP, it is extremely likely that the decision was not made by Metropolitan Onufry alone, but required broader support within the UOC-MP, such as from its Synod of Bishops. Perhaps the days of silence were needed to arrive at such an internal church-wide decision. It is also possible that there was pressure from the faithful and the clergy of the UOC-MP for their church to take a strong stand in favor of the defense of Ukraine. Metropolitan Epifany of the OCU in his address on Sunday stated: “But I already see and know about many clergy and faithful of the Moscow Patriarchate that they have reconsidered their attitude to the leadership in Russia and stand by everyone in the defense of Ukraine.” https://www.pomisna.info/uk/vsi-novyny/zvernennya-mytropolyta-epifaniya-27-lyutogo-2022-r/ I believe that Sunday’s prayer is a very significant signal from the UOC-MP.
The possibility that the invasion of Ukraine might drive a wedge between the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow and the UOC-MP must be very apparent to Patriarch Kirill. This Sunday on the calendar of the Russian Orthodox Church is the time for the faithful to reflect on the Last Judgment (Gospel reading from Matthew 25:31-46). Patriarch Kirill in his homily at the Cathedral Church of Christ the Savior in Moscow this Sunday spoke about the danger of division. https://mospat.ru/en/news/89032/ (official English translation) He stated in part:
Today we also need unity - the unity with our brothers and sisters in Ukraine. We are aware of the difficult circumstances encountered today by the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate. I especially prayed today for His Beatitude the Primate [Onufry] and certainly for the whole episcopate and all the faithful people of Ukraine; and I call you to lift up these prayers too. God forbid that the present political situation in fraternal Ukraine so close to us should be aimed at making the evil forces that have always strived against the unity of Rus’ [the medieval state centered in Kyiv] and the Russian Church, gain the upper hand. God forbid that a terrible line stained with the blood of our brothers should be drawn between Russia and Ukraine. The Lord may give them strength and wisdom to repulse the attacks of the evil one while serving their people in faith and truth promoting peace by all possible ways.
May the Lord preserve our Church in unity. May the Lord protect from fratricidal battle the peoples comprising the one space of the Russian Orthodox Church. It must not be allowed to give the dark and hostile external forces an occasion to laugh at us; we should do everything to preserve peace between our peoples while protecting our common historical Motherland against every outside action that can destroy this unity.
On the other hand, the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow has said nothing about urging President Putin to engage in an immediate ceasefire or otherwise to end the Russian offensive in Ukraine. If someone is beating your brother, should you not urge that person to stop immediately?
On the day of the invasion, Father Mykola Danilevich, deputy head of the DECR of the UOC-MP, made a strong statement on his Telegram channel: “Putin treacherously attacked our country! We bless everyone for the defense of Ukraine!” https://t.me/s/MykolayDanylevych Like the official website of the UOC-MP, he made no further comments on the defense of Ukraine for several days. However, on Sunday, he was again very vocal in his support of Ukraine’s defense. Quoting Napoleon, he said: “’Military forces are not enough to defend the country, while a country defended by the people is invincible.’ Today’s Ukraine.” He also made a personal appeal: “Personal appeal to the sympathizers and believers of the OCU. We are all in the same boat. [Here he refers to some negative comments with respect to the UOC-MP on the social media of the OCU, especially in the province of Volyn.] Brothers and sisters! Don't do that. Now is the time to unite, not quarrel. Trouble in our common home. We are all in the same boat. Do not shake it, because we will all drown. I very much hope that this trouble will motivate us to appreciate peace in general and interfaith peace in particular. That we will all rethink a lot. We are all citizens of Ukraine, let us unite in defense of the state and put aside mutual claims. True patriotism today is in unity and in helping the state. Remember the words of Christ in the Gospel that "a house divided against itself cannot stand" (Matt. 12:25). Please do not divide our common Ukrainian home. Restrain emotions. Just please.” For anyone closely following the hostile stance of the UOC-MP toward the OCU over the past few years, the fact that one of the leading spokespersons of the UOC-MP would make a statement advocating uniting with the OCU in defense of the state and putting aside mutual claims is truly amazing. Also amazing is his remark that “we will all rethink a lot.”
There is a great irony in all of this. President Putin in his long address on February 21 devoted a paragraph to the subject: “Kiev continues to prepare the destruction of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate.” Rescuing the UOC-MP is one of the purposes of the invasion by the Russian Federation. A pious Orthodox soldier of the Russian Federation now attacking Kyiv should realize that the church which is being rescued is actually praying for the victory of the Ukrainian forces. May God grant that this craziness immediately cease!
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
25 February 2022: Ukraine - church views change
During the early morning of February 24 in Seattle, I awoke to read the news of the invasion of Ukraine by the Russian Federation. When I looked at the official website of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP), the lead story on the home page was “Address of His Beatitude Metropolitan of Kyiv and All Ukraine Onufry to the faithful and citizens of Ukraine.” In this address, the head of the UOC-MP made such strong statements as the following: “At this tragic time, we express our special love and support to our soldiers who stand guard and protect and defend our land and our people. May God bless and cherish them! Defending the sovereignty and integrity of Ukraine, we also appeal to the President of Russia to stop the fratricidal war immediately.” When I woke up this morning, I read the following headlines in the Seattle Times: “Russian Troops Close in on Kyiv.” I immediately looked at the official website of the UOC-MP and saw that the lead story on the homepage was: “In Novozhyvotov in Vinnytsia Region, representatives of the OCU beat a priest and demolished the UOC house of prayer.” https://news.church.ua/2022/02/25/u-novozhivotovi-na-vinnichchini-predstavniki-pcu-pobili-svyashhenika-ta-znesli-molitovnij-budinok-upc/ The next story was: “An act of vandalism was committed against a church in the Kherson diocese.” A new story has now been posted on the official website of the UOC-MP: “In Mariupol, unknown individuals in uniform and with weapons robbed the cathedral and beat the priest and parishioners.” As you may recall, Metropolitan Epifany, head of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU), in his statement on February 22 specifically appealed to the faithful to prevent any violence against the property of the UOC-MP or its supporters. https://www.pomisna.info/uk/vsi-novyny/mytropolyt-epifanij-zaklykav-do-zahystu-ukrayiny-vid-rosijskoyi-agresiyi/
Earlier on February 25, the official website of the UOC-MP had posted an article relating to dioceses and monasteries providing help to refugees and victims and an article relating to the basements of churches in Kyiv being available as bomb shelters. All of this is consistent with the appeal by Patriarch Kirilll for the protection of civilians. However, on February 25 there were no items posted related in any way to the defense of Ukraine or prayers for the defenders. In today’s postings there is nothing that could in any way be construed as criticism of the actions of the Russian Federation or President Putin. On February 24, Father Mykola Danilevich, deputy head of the DECR of the UOC-MP, posted on his Telegram channel an emotional and patriotic appeal that “Putin treacherously attacked our country!“ On February 25, he has said nothing more, but has simply posted on his Telegram channel the two articles from the official website relating to help for refugees and the use of church basements. Clearly, there has been a radical change of approach by the UOC-MP between February 24 and 25. We are left to speculate as to what caused this.
As expected, the OCU has not changed its views. Today, Metropolitan Epifany, head of the OCU, issued an “appeal to the religious and state leaders of the free world - Ukraine needs all your help and support.”
In the Vatican, there has been some change in approach. On February 24, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State for the Vatican, issued a very cautious statement. https://press.vatican.va/content/salastampa/it/bollettino/pubblico/2022/02/24/0137/00298.html He refers to the appeal of Pope Francis for the parties to
refrain from any action that causes even more suffering to the populations. The cardinal states: “This appeal acquires a dramatic urgency after the start of Russian military operations on Ukrainian territory.” In contrast to this cautious statement, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, together with the Archbishop of York, issued a statement that was very blunt: “The horrific and unprovoked attack on Ukraine is an act of great evil.” https://www.churchofengland.org/media-and-news/press-releases/attack-ukraine-act-great-evil-statement-archbishops-canterbury-and According to a statement from the Ecumenical Patriarchate, Patriarch Bartholomew “condemns this unprovoked attack by Russia against Ukraine, an independent and sovereign state of Europe, as well as the violation of human rights and the brutal violence against our fellow human beings and, above all, against civilians.” https://www.ecupatria.org/news/ Metropolitan Tikhon, head of the Orthodox Church in America has stated: “I ask that the hostilities be ceased immediately and that President Putin put an end to the military operations. As Orthodox Christians, we condemn violence and aggression.” https://www.oca.org/holy-synod/statements/his-beatitude-metropolitan-tikhon/statement-on-war-in-ukraine
Today, Pope Francis took a dramatic step with respect to Ukraine. This was reported in an AP article by Nicole Winfield, who has covered the Vatican for years. https://apnews.com/article/pope-francis-europe-religion-florence-e593465a714b79047ee7f6cfc51b0c08 She writes:
Pope Francis visited the Russian Embassy on Friday to personally “express his concern about the war” in Ukraine, in an extraordinary, hands-on papal gesture that has no recent precedent.
Usually, popes receive ambassadors and heads of state in the Vatican, and diplomatic protocol would have called for the Vatican foreign minister to summon the Russian ambassador. For Francis, the Vatican head of state, to leave the walled city state and travel a short distance to the Russian Embassy to the Holy See was a sign of his anger at Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine and his willingness to appeal personally for an end to it.
Vatican officials said they knew of no such previous papal initiative.
Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni confirmed the visit, and the Vatican said Francis traveled to and from the embassy in a small white car.
“The Holy See press office confirms that the pope went to the Russian Embassy to the Holy See on Via della Conciliazione, clearly to express his concern about the war. He was there for just over a half-hour,” Bruni said.
We will have to wait and see what will happen from this initiative.
With little hope that Ukraine will prevail militarily, some predict that the nature of the conflict will be changed. It will be a struggle for the hearts of the Ukrainian people. Major Archbishop Sviatoslav, head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, said today: “In this tragic time, all our hope is in God. At this tragic time, the fate of Ukraine depends on our ability to self-organize and act responsibly and take responsibility for the future of our state.” https://risu.ua/en/together-we-will-survive-we-take-responsibility-for-our-state-into-our-own-hands---video-call-of-the-head-of-the-ugcc_n126418 Father Cyril Hovorun, a well-known theologian and speaker, who sympathizes with the OCU, stated on his Facebook page today: “All Ukraine now is Maidan. And not against Putin's proxy, as in 2014, but against their owner. This is Maidan 3.0 - after 2004 and 2014. I'm sure, like the last times - we'll win, although it gets harder and harder each time. And again the main subject is the whole Ukrainian community. And now we stand for the dignity of Europe, which is not very concerned about this dignity.” https://www.facebook.com/hovorun
Will the invasion bring the Ukrainian and Russian people closer together? Will the invasion bring state actions against the OCU and its leaders? Will the invasion result in greater support by the faithful of the UOC-MP for an autocephalous church completely independent of Moscow? Much remains to be seen.
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
24 February 2022: Both Ukrainian Orthodox churches condemn invasion
The Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP) has ceased its previously cautious approach of avoiding criticism of the Putin administration and of simply relying on the general phrase “supports the territorial integrity of Ukraine.” This morning, Father Mykola Danilevich, deputy head of the DECR of the UOC-MP, who often speaks on behalf of the UOC-MP, made on his Telegram channel a very strong statement which shows that the previous restraint is now gone. https://t.me/s/MykolayDanylevych He stated: “Putin treacherously attacked our country! We bless everyone for the defense of Ukraine! We pray and defend ourselves! Church with the people! God save Ukraine! Later, he wrote: "Tell your parishioners that there are people in Italy who pray for you," said friends from the Community of Sant'Egidio of Rome. Priests from Cyprus, Greece, Georgia, and other countries are also calling. Coptic priest from Egypt. Pleasant, even joyful, tears well up in my eyes. Thank you!
Metropolitan Onufry, head of the UOC-MP, has made the following address to the faithful:
Dear brothers and sisters! Faithful to our Ukrainian Orthodox Church!
As the Primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, I appeal to you and to all citizens of Ukraine. There was trouble. Unfortunately, Russia has launched military operations against Ukraine, and at this fateful time I urge you not to panic, to be courageous and to show love for your homeland and for each other. I urge you, first of all, to intensify penitential prayer for Ukraine, for our army and our people, I ask you to forget mutual quarrels and misunderstandings and to unite with love for God and our Motherland.
At this tragic time, we express our special love and support to our soldiers who stand guard and protect and defend our land and our people. May God bless and cherish them!
Defending the sovereignty and integrity of Ukraine, we also appeal to the President of Russia to stop the fratricidal war immediately. The Ukrainian and Russian peoples came out of the Dnieper baptismal font, and the war between these peoples is a repetition of Cain's sin, which enviously killed his own brother. Such a war has no justification for either God or man. I call on all to common sense, which teaches us to solve our earthly problems in mutual dialogue and mutual understanding, and I sincerely hope that God will forgive us our sins and that God's peace will reign on our earth and in the whole world!
In contrast to Metropolitan Onufry and Father Mykola, Metropolitan Anthony of Boryspil, the chancellor and number two person in the UOC-MP, has issued a more cautious statement:
"During any of the most dramatic and terrible events, we must first remember that we are Christians. And the thought of the Lord must precede all our other thoughts. The main weapon of a Christian is prayer. And the more difficult the situation, the stronger it should be. Today the Church stays with her people and prays for peace. Praying for people, praying for peace - this is what is most important now. I will repeat what we have been preaching lately: help the weak, the frightened, the defenseless. Unite in prayer for our people.
Metropolitan Epifany of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine has issued a very strong address. https://www.pomisna.info/uk/vsi-novyny/zvernennya-mytropolyta-epifaniya-z-pryvodu-napadu-na-ukrayinu/ The first part of his address stated:
Despite the long, sincere, persistent efforts of Ukraine and the entire international community, there was an unprovoked, insidious, cynical attack by Russia and Belarus on Ukraine.
Our common task is to repel the enemy, to protect our homeland, our future and the future of new generations from the tyranny that the aggressor seeks to bring on his bayonets.
The truth is on our side. Therefore, the enemy, with God's help and with the support of the entire civilized world, will be defeated.
Our task now is to unite, to withstand the first blow, not to panic. We believe in God's providence and the victory of truth. We trust our Armed Forces, our defenders. We pray with all those who are at the forefront of the fight against the aggressor.
It is extremely important not to succumb to possible internal provocations, to maintain order, to carry out orders of the state and military authorities of Ukraine.
Wherever possible, I ask the clergy and the faithful to regularly offer their prayers for Ukraine, for victory, for our soldiers. I bless you to read the Akathist to the Intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and other relevant prayer requests.
I appeal to the international community, to all the world's religious leaders, to support Ukraine, to force Russia and Belarus to stop the aggression immediately. I ask all people of good will to do this.
In Moscow, Patriarch Kirill has issued a very neutral statement without any criticism. https://mospat.ru/en/news/89020/ The statement is as follows:
Your Beatitude! Your Eminences and Graces! Dear fathers, brothers, and sisters!
I take the suffering of people caused by the events taking place with deep and heartfelt pain.
As the Patriarch of All Russia and the primate of a Church whose flock is located in Russia, Ukraine, and other countries, I deeply empathize with everyone affected by this tragedy.
I call on all parties to the conflict to do everything possible to avoid civilian casualties.
I appeal to the bishops, pastors, monastics, and laity to provide all possible assistance to all victims, including refugees and people left homeless and without means of livelihood.
The Russian and Ukrainian peoples have a common centuries-old history dating back to the Baptism of Rus’ by Prince St. Vladimir the Equal-to-the-Apostles. I believe that this God-given affinity will help overcome the divisions and disagreements that have arisen that have led to the current conflict.
I call on the entire fullness of the Russian Orthodox Church to offer a special, fervent prayer for the speedy restoration of peace.
May the All-merciful Lord, through the intercession of our Most Pure Lady the Theotokos and all the saints, preserve the Russian, Ukrainian, and other peoples who are spiritually united by our Church!
Patriarch Daniel, primate of the Romanian Orthodox Church, has issued a statement relating to “a war launched by Russia against a sovereign and independent state.” https://basilica.ro/en/patriarch-daniel-calls-for-end-to-war-in-ukraine-urges-prayers-for-peace/
The Romanian Orthodox Church, like the other important institutions in Romania and the European Union, has noted with the utmost concern the beginning of the war in Ukraine, a war launched by Russia against a sovereign and independent state.
In this way, we hope that the Euro-Atlantic political forces can find a way to a peaceful dialogue for the good of Ukraine and the whole of Europe.
At the same time, we express our full solidarity with the Romanian Orthodox Christians living in Ukraine, as well as the willingness to help them according to our own strength.
We pray to the Merciful God, the Lord of peace, justice and love, to give protection to the Ukrainian people and peace-making wisdom to all responsible political leaders.
With respect to the Catholic response, Major Archbishop Sviatoslav (Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church) has issued a very strong appeal. https://risu.ua/en/we-will-lay-down-our-souls-and-bodies-for-our-freedom-our-church-stays-beside-her-people---patriarch-svyatoslav_n126370 It included the proclamation: “We will lay down our souls and bodies for our freedom!” The statement of the conference of Roman Catholic bishops in Ukraine likewise issued a forceful statement: “We will be ready to defend our homeland in accordance with our capabilities and responsibilities – in the army or at our workplace, in hospitals or by providing first aid, material support or a word of comfort, prayer or sacrifice of suffering.” https://risu.ua/en/lets-be-ready-to-defend-our-homeland---hierarchs-of-the-rcc-appeal-to-the-faithful_n126375 The All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations, to which both Orthodox churches and the Catholic churches belong, issued a statement relating to “an unprovoked attack by Russia and Belarus on Ukraine.” https://risu.ua/en/world-leaders-do-everything-possible-to-stop-the-aggressors-offensive-on-ukraine---auccro_n126376
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
23 February 2022: Reactions of churches in Ukraine & other Orthodox news
On February 22, the day following the recognition by President Putin of the Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics and the sending of peace-keeping troops into those areas, both the OCU and the UOC-MP issued statements relating to these events. The full text of the statement by Metropolitan Epifany, the head of the OCU, to the Ukrainian people can be read at https://www.pomisna.info/uk/vsi-novyny/mytropolyt-epifanij-zaklykav-do-zahystu-ukrayiny-vid-rosijskoyi-agresiyi/. It is a strong attack against “the Kremlin’s aggression” and a recital of past wrongs that “Ukraine – Rus” has suffered from its neighbor to the north. Epifany states: “I call on you to fight for Ukrainian statehood, to support the armed forces and all our defenders. Together we can stand. With God's help, we will win this fight. The truth is on our side. Our state is supported by the world community, all people of good will. Millions offer their daily prayers for peace for Ukraine.” Metropolitan Epifany also makes an appeal to the faithful of the UOC-MP. He states:
I would like to address separately the Orthodox brothers and sisters who belong to the Moscow Patriarchate in Ukraine. The Kremlin is expanding its aggression using "defense of Orthodoxy" rhetoric. Do not wait until your leaders dare to break the silence and finally say something in defense of peace, in defense of Ukraine - do it personally. The aggressor must hear and see that you are not waiting for him, you do not need his troops and his power. It is the civic and Christian duty of each of you personally.
I also appeal to all fellow citizens - Ukraine is proud of interfaith and interethnic peace. No matter how hard the Kremlin tried to inflame the opposition over the years, it failed. Together we will not allow this inner peace to be violated even now. The Orthodox Church of Ukraine calls for the prevention of violence against the property of the communities of the Moscow Patriarchate in Ukraine or supporters of the Russian Orthodox Church. If you are witnessing specific illegal actions in the interests of the aggressor, including covert and religious slogans - follow the law, turn to law enforcement, do not succumb to provocations. The enemy is only looking for an excuse to justify his aggression - our common task is to destroy his plans.
The UOC-MP has reported the remarks of Metropolitan Onufry concerning the “military escalation in eastern Ukraine.” The posted remarks consist of the following three sentences: "The Ukrainian Orthodox Church has consistently supported and continues to support the territorial integrity of Ukraine and calls on its faithful to pray for peace in our Ukrainian state and around the world. I urge the leaders of the states and all those on whom it depends not to allow a new war. War is a grave sin before God! ” “Support the territorial integrity of Ukraine” is the exact phrase that has been consistently used by the UOC-MP in recent years to describe its position with respect to Crimea, Donetsk, and Luhansk. To the best of my knowledge, the UOC-MP has never directly criticized any actions by the Putin administration.
In his long address on February 21, President Putin did refer to the situation of the UOC-MP in Ukraine. http://kremlin.ru/events/president/news/67828 His comments are as follows:
Kiev continues to prepare the destruction of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate. This is not an emotional judgement; proof of this can be found in concrete decisions and documents. The Ukrainian authorities have cynically turned the tragedy of the schism into an instrument of state policy. The current authorities do not react to the Ukrainian people’s appeals to abolish the laws that are infringing on believers’ rights. Moreover, new draft laws directed against the clergy and millions of parishioners of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate have been registered in the Verkhovna Rada.
On February 16, a prayer service, Address to the Almighty for the Protection of Ukraine, organized by the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations took place in St. Sophia Cathedral in Kyiv. Among the church representatives present were the heads of the OCU and UGCC, Metropolitan Epiphany and Major Archbishop Sviatoslav. Although neither Metropolitan Onufry nor Metropolitan Anthony of Boryspil attended, Bishop Victor (Kotsaba) of Baryshevka, the representative of the UOC-MP to European international organizations, participated in the service. https://news.church.ua/2022/02/16/jepiskop-barishivskij-viktor-vzyav-uchast-u-zaxodi-vrciro-u-svyatij-sofiji/ Bishop Victor remarks at the service were strong. For example, he stated: “The Ukrainian Orthodox Church supports our state, our President and all the leadership, which currently has a great responsibility.” He stressed the need for unity: “We pray that any threats that may come from outside will be overcome, that the dream of peace will be achieved by millions of our fellow citizens. When a nation is united, then it is strong, then it overcomes any trials with honor, so we must once again realize insightfully that we are all Ukrainians, that there are no better or worse among us, that we are all different, but we are all equal.” Bishop Victor has even posted a video of his remarks on YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kKDwvLDvjEo In my opinion, it is an indication that some bishops of the UOC-MP may feel less restrained than those at the top.
On a different topic, Metropolitan Gregory of Cameroon and Metropolitan John of Zambia, both from the Patriarchate of Alexandria, met with Patriarch John of Antioch at the latter’s residence in Balamand, Lebanon on February 14. The communique subsequently issued by the Patriarchate of Antioch states:
The Metropolitans briefed the Patriarch on the developments that the patriarchate has witnessed after the creation of the African Exarchate by the Russian Church. The gathering also discussed the meeting of the patriarchs of the four apostolic churches proposed to be held by the Patriarchate of Constantinople before the Holy Week. His Beatitude reiterated to the Alexandrian delegation what he had told the envoy of the Ecumenical Patriarch, Elder Metropolitan of Chalcedon, Emmanuel, that the Holy Antiochian Synod would meet soon to confer the developments in the Orthodox Church and take an appropriate stance on them.
https://antiochpatriarchate.org/en/page/patriarch-john-x-meets-the-delegates-of-the-patriarch-of-alexandria/2536/ I have seen no information as to when the Antiochian Synod will meet. There has also been no publicity about Metropolitan Emmanuel or the two metropolitans from the Alexandrian Patriarchates meeting with Patriarch Theophilos of Jerusalem, who would be the fourth participant in the proposed meeting with Bartholomew, Theodoros, and John. It is very possible that Metropolitan Emmanuel and the other two metropolitans may have already met with Theophilos, but the meeting was kept private. On February 20 Metropolitan Hilarion (Moscow Patriarchate) met and had dinner with Patriarch Theophilos. https://mospat.ru/en/news/89001/ I certainly suspect that the proposed meeting of the heads of the four apostolic churches was discussed. I also suspect that the Moscow Patriarchate is not in favor of such a meeting. Rather, Moscow has been proposing a second Amman-type meeting which would be called by Patriarch Theophilos and in which Moscow would have a very important role. https://mospat.ru/en/news/88972/
There is now more information on the results of the Moscow Patriarchate’s current efforts in Africa. Metropolitan Leonid, head of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Exarchate of Africa, has been quite transparent with respect to the results of the visit of Father Georgy Maksimov to Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, and Nigeria and the visit of Father Andrei Novikov to Tanzania. As you recall, Metropolitan Leonid reported that 95 clerics from Kenya had joined the Exarchate. The credentials of an additional ten clerics are being checked. Other sources report that at least 60 of the 95 clerics come from the diocese of Kisumu and West Kenya, which is one of four dioceses in Kenya. The numbers below were obtained from https://www.facebook.com/africa.russia.orthodox/ .
Uganda. Father Georgy Maksimov was in Uganda February 12-16 and visited six towns. During the visit, three priests and one deacon were received into the Exarchate. Father Georgy also celebrated the Liturgy in Bukedea, Uganda (near Kenya and its Kisumu diocese) with six clerics who are apparently already members of the Exarchate. Metropolitan Leonid summarized that the Exarchate presently has a total of 10 clerics in Uganda. The Alexandrian Patriarchate has three dioceses in Uganda, and all three are now headed by native African bishops. According to the website of the Orthodox Church of Uganda, the Patriarchate has in Uganda 76 priests and 5 deacons. https://www.ugandaorthodoxchurch.co.ug/ The website also states that in Uganda “[t]here are over 100 communities, 41 brick and mortar churches, 17 medical clinics and one Holy Cross Orthodox Hospital.”
Tanzania. Father Andrei Novikov was in Tanzania from January 31 to February 16. He visited six cities or villages. According to Metropolitan Leonid, the exarchate now has in Tanzania 16 priests. Personally, I was surprised that this number was not higher. As you may recall, a group of 27 priests, who identify themselves as being “African priests” of the Patriarchate of Alexandria, wrote an open letter in December 2019 that they “do not agree” with the decision of the Patriarchate to recognize the OCU. https://orthochristian.com/126449.html Of the 27 there were 19 signers from Tanzania. From this I assumed that Tanzania would be one of the most fertile grounds for the Moscow Patriarchate, but the number joining the exarchate are now less than those from Tanzania who signed the letter. The Alexandrian Patriarchate has four dioceses in Tanzania: Irinoupolis, Mwana, Bukoba, and Arusha. Although I have not seen a number, I believe that the total number of Orthodox priests in Tanzania must be about 100 or more. The Arusha diocese has 38 priests, and Bukoba diocese had a number of years ago 34 priests.
Rwanda. On February 16, Father Georgy Maksimov was in Rwanda. He reported that 2 priests from Rwanda joined the exarchate. Apparently he did not visit Burundi. The Alexandrian Patriarchate’s metropolis covering Rwanda and Burundi is headed by Metropolitan Innokentios, a native Africa hierarch.
Nigeria. Father Georgy Maksimov was in Nigeria February 19-20. He reported that 7 priests in Nigeria have joined the exarchate and that there are about a total of “about 16 priests in all in Nigeria.” There is a photo which shows five native African priests holding antimensions. Although I was not able to confirm the number 16, I did find that the Alexandrian Patriarchate did have 23 parishes in Nigeria in 2017. The diocese of the Alexandrian Patriarchate includes not only Nigeria, but also the Benin Republic, Niger and Togo.
The last report from Metropolitan Leonid is that “nearly 160-170” clerics have now joined the Moscow Patriarchate. https://spzh.news/en/news/86556-ekzarkh-afriki-v-rpc-iz-aleksandrijskoj-cerkvi-pereshlo-uzhe-170-klirikov A range, rather than a specific number, was probably given because the credentials of the ten clerics in Kenya are still being checked. Because the word “nearly” is used, the number of clerics actually admitted to date is probably 158 or 159. The numbers above account for 130 of the clerics. It is reported unofficially that 17 clerics from Madagascar have been admitted.
It appears that the Patriarch of Alexandria is now launching a type of counter-offensive. Father Elpidophoros of the Patriarch’s office in Alexandria was in Kenya from February 6 until at least February 15 in order to assess the needs and challenges in Kenya. This included meeting with local clergy. The leaders of the Orthodox Church in Kenya met in Nairobi on February 17 to discuss the needs and challenges. Bishop Neofitos of Nyeri and Mt. Kenya wrote on his Facebook page: “Just know that we will be thinking differently, seeing differently, acting differently, yes, we will be more focused for real change on what we don’t like.” https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=576264025 There was also a letter which is addressed to the clergy and all of the faithful of Kenya and which was signed on the day of the February 17 meeting. See https://orthochristian.com/144540.html (includes photocopy of the letter). According to the terms of the letter, clergy who signed the oath to join the Moscow Patriarchate are suspended indefinitely. For the Kisumu diocese, the letter was not signed by its bishop Marcos, but it was rather signed by Archimandrite Anastasios (Kihali), the vicar general of the diocese and an African native. On February 14, Patriarchate Theodoros wrote a letter to Patriarch Kirill demanding that Metropolitan Leonid of Klin be withdrawn from Africa or else Leonid will be deposed by Patriarch Theodoros. https://orthodoxtimes.com/patriarch-of-alexandria-to-kirill-either-you-withdraw-exarch-klin-or-i-will-depose-him/ ; https://orthodoxia.info/news/alexandreias-pros-moschas-pare-piso-to/
In an interview Metropolitan Leonid has stated that if Patriarch Theodoros of Alexandria withdrew his recognition of the OCU tomorrow, the Moscow Patriarchate would negotiate with him, but the exarchate would not be abolished. https://spzh.news/en/news/86504-ekzarkh-rpc-vremya-idet-ne-v-polyzu-aleksandrijskogo-patriarkhata On his Telegram channel, Metropolitan Leonid acknowledged that the sacraments within the Patriarchate of Alexandria are now valid and that there are now two valid patriarchates in Africa. https://orthochristian.com/144582.html In a long English-language interview, Father Stefan Igumnov of the Moscow Patriarchate’s DECR answered a question as to whether the Moscow Patriarchate was using money to attract native African clergy. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M3-t_cFb7mE )(beginning at 41:25) Father Stefan began his answer by saying that the native African clergy joining the Moscow Patriarchate lost their salary, many lost their houses, lost everything during the last almost two years. From this, I assumed that Father Stefan would use this reason as a justification for paying money to these clergy members. However, Stefan added that what the clergy will receive from the Moscow Patriarchate will be “more or less equal” to what they received from the Alexandrian Patriarchate.
As a final news item, the Moscow Patriarchate and the Vatican celebrated in Paris the sixth anniversary of the historic Havana meeting between Patriarch Kirill and Pope Francis. Participants in the celebration included Metropolitan Hilarion and Cardinal Koch. The celebration included a round table at the Russian Cultural Center on the role of sanctuaries and pilgrimages in the Orthodox – Catholic dialogue followed by a prayer service before the precious relic of the crown of thorns. http://www.christianunity.va/content/unitacristiani/en/news/2022/2022-02-16-6e-anniversaire-rencontre-pape-francois-et-patriarche.html A video of the entire prayer service before the crown of thorns can be watched at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j88011qhUyg&t=10s. Cardinal Koch during his time in Paris also visited Metropolitan Dimitrios of France (Ecumenical Patriarchate). The latter meeting was also attended by Metropolitan Ignatius (Patriarchate of Antioch) and Archbishop Job (Getcha)(Ecumenical Patriarchate). http://www.christianunity.va/content/unitacristiani/en/news/2022/2022-02-16-visite-cardinal-koch-au-metropolite-dimitrios-de-fran.html In addition, Cardinal Koch visited the Moscow Patriarchate’s Sainte-Geneviève Seminary in Épinay-sous-Sénart. Metropolitan Hilarion met with the head of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of France, Archbishop Éric de Moulins-Beaufor. Metropolitan Hilarion also visited the Cathedral at Chartres where he held a prayer service before the relic of the robe of the Theotokos. There, he also met with the Catholic bishop of Chartres, Bishop Philippe Christory. https://mospat.ru/en/news/tag/chairman/
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
13 February 2022: Future meeting of four primates in Constantinople & tally in Kenya
Today, February 12, Patriarch John of Antioch met with Metropolitan Emmanuel of Chalcedon (Ecumenical Patriarchate). The Patriarchate of Antioch immediately issued a communication concerning the meeting. https://antiochpatriarchate.org/ar/page/%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A8%D8%B7%D8%B1%D9%8A%D8%B1%D9%83-%D9%8A%D9%88%D8%AD%D9%86%D8%A7-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B9%D8%A7%D8%B4%D8%B1-%D9%8A%D8%B3%D8%AA%D9%82%D8%A8%D9%84-%D9%85%D8%B7%D8%B1%D8%A7%D9%86-%D8%AE%D9%84%D9%82%D9%8A%D8%AF%D9%88%D9%86%D9%8A%D8%A9-%D8%B9%D9%85%D8%A7%D9%86%D9%88%D8%A6%D9%8A%D9%84/2535/ The communication reads in part as follows:
Patriarch John X, Patriarch of Antioch and all the East for the Greek Orthodox, received Metropolitan Emmanuel of Chalcedon, an envoy of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, at the patriarchal residence in Balamand. The bishop carried an invitation to participate in the meeting of the four Apostolic Patriarchates proposed to be held before the Great and Holy Week in Constantinople to discuss the issues facing the Orthodox Church. The meeting touched on the historical relations that unite the Churches of Antioch and Constantinople, and the overall issues of the day.
It is important to note that the communication refers to “issues facing the Orthodox Church.” This is a broad topic and is not limited to the recent events relating to Africa. It is also important to note that there is only mention of the four ancient patriarchates (Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem) and no mention of the Church of Cyprus. Thus, this would be a meeting where the primates who recognized the OCU would not be in the majority nor would the primates who have not recognized the OCU be in the majority. Presumably, this was the compromise where the sides are evenly balanced. Although the communication only refers to an invitation and not an acceptance by Patriarch John, the announcement with the general time and place makes it, in my opinion, extremely likely that the invitation will be accepted.
As you recall, Patriarch Theophilos of Jerusalem in an interview with Izvestia, posted on January 29, alluded to a future meeting of Church leaders. https://iz.ru/1283673/sofiia-deviatova/privivka-ochen-praktichnyi-sposob-proiavit-liubov-k-blizhnemu He stated in part:
I have long believed that communication provides the best solution to our biggest problems. In the Orthodox Churches, it is vital that we continue to meet each other in a spirit of Christian love and brotherhood and discuss issues that too easily divide us. By living hospitably and sharing everything, we invite the Holy Spirit to unite us. I have been very encouraged by the leaders' willingness to meet and look forward to more opportunities to share my thoughts with them in the coming months.
It now appears that the reference in the last sentence is to the meeting which is the subject of the invitation extended today to Patriarch John. Personally, I believe that the proposed meeting is a wonderful God-given opportunity. It may be the best opportunity in recent years to make progress in resolving the present crisis in the Orthodox world. Let’s pray that the meeting will result in much fruit!
Today, Patriarch Theodoros of Alexandria met with the bishops of Uganda in connection with the ordination of Archimandrite Nektarios Kabouye, a native African, as the Bishop of Gulu (Uganda). https://www.romfea.gr/epikairotita-xronika/48367-o-patriarxis-aleksandreias-kalei-tous-iereis-tis-afrikis-na-min-parasyrontai-foto I believe that now all of the three hierarchs for Uganda are native Africans. At the meeting the Patriarch made a final appeal to Fathers Georgy Maksimov and Alexander Novikov of the Moscow Patriarchate to cease violating the canons or else sanctions will be imposed immediately. The Patriarch also called on all African clergy who are carried away by the material promises of these priests and to return to the arms of their mother church of St. Mark.
Today, February 12, Metropolitan Leonid, the head of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Exarchate of Africa, summarized the results of the work of Father Georgy Maksimov. https://www.facebook.com/africa.russia.orthodox The summary included the following:
For 2 weeks we visited 12 cities and villages of the Western, Central and Eastern provinces. We held 10 general meetings with priests and 7 private ones. The conversations were attended by 95 Kenyan priests of the Russian Orthodox Church and 10 whose documents and biographies are being checked. Three congregational Liturgies, prayer services, memorial services were performed. Visited 11 temples, 2 orphanages and 5 houses of priests. Four public sermons delivered….Bottom line: today there are 95 priests from Kenya in the Exarchate. As for the territoriality of church districts, I think there are nuances.
On February 7, Metropolitan Leonid stated that “today, we have about 150 clergy from more than 12 countries.” https://ria.ru/20220207/svyaschenniki-1771432664.html From the foregoing it appears that a substantial majority of the 150 priests are from Kenya. With respect to the remainder of the 150, I would suspect that Tanzania would be second in the number of priests. Madagascar may possibly be third.
In January the Facebook page of Russian Orthodox efforts in Africa gave the following accounting for the presence of the Alexandrian Patriarchate in Kenya: one million believers, 300 parishes, 200 priests, 30 primary schools, 15 secondary schools, 30 medical centers, and 4 orphanages. https://www.facebook.com/africa.russia.orthodox There is also, of course, the seminary and the teachers college in Nairobi. If the figure of 200 priests is correct, the present number of the priests under the Russian Exarchate in Kenya would be slightly less than half of the total.
There are presently four dioceses in Kenya: (1) the Metropolis of Nairobi, headed by Archbishop Makarios; (2) the Diocese of Kisumu and West Kenya, headed by Bishop Marcos; (3) the Diocese of Nyeri and Mt. Kenya, headed by Bishop Neofitos, a native African; and (4) the Diocese of Eldoret and Northern Kenya. The Diocese of Eldoret is a newly-established diocese, and a bishop has not yet been appointed for it. It is now being administered by Bishop Neofitos. It has been reported that approximately 60 priests of the Diocese of Kisumu have joined the Exarchate. Thus, priests from this diocese would represent almost two-thirds of the 95. The Facebook page of the Russian Orthodox efforts in Africa reported that 15 priests of the Central Meru and North Meru deaneries of the Diocese of Nyeri were received into the Exarchate. There was a photo taken in a suburb of Nairobi showing 8 priests holding the antimensions of the Moscow Patriarchate. Although I have no information to substantiate this, I suspect that those joining the Moscow Patriarchate would tend to come from the poorer and smaller parishes. Priests who have a better church building might be reluctant to join the Moscow Patriarchate because it would mean that they would have to leave their church which is most likely owned by the Alexandrian Patriarchate. It might also mean that they may need to leave their home if it is owned by the Alexandrian Patriarchate.
It appears that the Patriarchate of Alexandria in Kenya may be mounting a counter-offensive to the efforts of the Moscow Patriarchate. It appears that Archbishop Makarios and Bishop Neofitos have formed a “consultative team” of native African clergy loyal to the Alexandrian Patriarchate. There are plans to increase the size of this team. https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=576264025 (Facebook for Bishop Neofitos) Although the exact function of the consultative team is not specified, it is certainly possible that it may have a role in the campaign against the Exarchate. The consultative team could also be involved in discussions with the bishops with respect to improvements for the clergy. There may also be funds coming to the Metropolis from foreign countries to alleviate the present financial crisis within the Alexandrian Patriarchate in Kenya. One just does not know what will happen. On February 11 and 12, Bishop Neofitos met with approximately 28 priests of the Diocese of Eldoret. On his Facebook page, Bishop Neofitos states in part:
Today was a special mission whereby we met together with the clergy of the diocese. I look forward to working together with all the faithful to safeguard the peace and the unity of the church. I thank all the priests from the bottom of my heart for showing their love, respect and obedience. Let us all make every effort to keep the unity of the church. As the Body of Christ, we should be unified. This doesn’t mean we all have to agree on every little detail or all have the same likes and dislikes. But to be truly powerful, the Church needs to be unified in following Jesus Christ and this is our calling.
It is too early to tell who will win this “religious war” in Kenya.
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
7 February 2022: Orthodox Africa - confrontations begin
As previously reported, Father Georgy Maksimov of the Synodal Missionary Department of the Moscow Patriarchate is now in Kenya celebrating Liturgies and distributing to native African priests some of the 115 antimensions (antimins) which had been signed in Moscow by Metropolitan Leonid, the head of the newly-established Exarchate of Africa. From approximately January 20 to February 4, Father Georgy was in the territory of the Alexandrian Patriarchate’s Diocese of Kisumu and West Kenya. It has been reported by a Moscow website that 60 of the 71 priests of this diocese have decided to join the Russian Church. It is very possible that approximately half of the signed antimensions were intended for priests of this diocese.
On February 5, Father Georgy was in the Alexandrian Patriarchate’s diocese of Nyeri and Mt. Kenya, which is headed by Bishop Neofitos (Kongai), a native African. Before Father Georgy began the Divine Liturgy in the Church of St. Moses in Nyeri, Bishop Neofitos arrived. The Bishop on his Facebook page described what happened from his perspective including his personal reflections and 13 photographs of the encounter. https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=576264025 He stated that it was “a spiritual insult” for a clergy member of the Moscow Patriarchate “to invade an altar in our diocese for liturgical service” but that they “can establish their own and nobody will interfere with their mission.” He also said:
For our clergy who want to or have already joined them, kindly let us respect one another. We are Africans by the end of the day and if we destroy what we have built for years, we are the ones at a loss. Why all this enmity amongst ourselves? No one will force you to stay with us but remember every action has a reaction. There is no war as far as I know...but always remember what goes around comes around, and NOT everything that glitters is Gold. Things might not be the same as they seem to be given all the hefty promises on the basket of "hope."
Father Georgy has now replied to Bishop Neofitos. https://www.facebook.com/africa.russia.orthodox/ His response included the following:
You know very well that we have no desire to take over any church that is the property of a Greek metropolis. Honestly, these churches don't look like anyone would want to take them over. Any dog kennel in Greece looks better than most of the Orthodox churches built in Kenya during Greek mission times. We will provide our priests with better places to serve, as I informed you today.
He also stated: “One must have the courage to admit that the responsibility for everything that is happening in Africa now lies with Patriarch Theodoros. You know this, but are forced to defend a position in which you yourself do not believe.”
It appears that on February 6, Father Georgy was scheduled to celebrate the Divine Liturgy in Zimmerman, a suburb located 13 kilometers from Nairobi. Zimmerman is within the archdiocese of Nairobi, headed by Archbishop Makarios (Andreas Tillyrides). Makarios is an internationally-known personality. He was born in Cyprus, and in 1977, he was sent as a layman by the primate of the Orthodox Church of Cyprus, Archbishop Makarios III (1913-1977) to organize and open an Orthodox seminary in Nairobi. The opening of this seminary was made possible because of a close friendship between Archbishop Makarios III and Jomo Kenyatta, the first president of independent Kenya. Prior to heading the Nairobi seminary, Tillyrides had studied under Kallistos Ware and had obtained a PhD from Oxford University. In 1992, he was ordained a deacon, a priest, and a bishop within a space of one week. Since 2001, he has been the metropolitan of Kenya. He has been a member of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches for many years as well as other dialogues. https://www.patriarchateofalexandria-kenya.com/makarios-of-kenya/
Archbishop Makarios has described the events in Zimmerman in a letter to the faithful posted on the Facebook page of the Nairobi Archdiocese on February 6. https://www.facebook.com/Orthodox-Archdiocese-of-Nairobi-2123556001065201/ The events were described as follows:
Today morning before going for the Divine Liturgy at St Paul Kagira, I saw fit to visit our Church in Zimmerman after reports reached my office that a priest purported to be from Russia was to celebrate with some of our priests which goes against our canons. The said priest didn't turn up but a group of priests came and upon seeing me and my team left leaving the priest in charge who was very rude, shouting at us and calling us all sorts of names to attract attention from passersby. I explained to him that we cannot accept this kind of aggression, and we are out to defend the flock of Christ. After leaving the place, we learnt that they came back together with the intruder priest (Russian) and celebrated together something we confirmed with the photos appearing here.
One of the photos shows Father Georgy with eight African priests, each holding an antimension. The letter states that the Archdiocese has been striving to meet the daily needs of our priests which has not been satisfactory due to well-known “financial restraints.” The Archbishop affirms that he is “tirelessly working together with our Local Bishops” to find the best way forward in addressing all of the issues. The letter suspends indefinitely “priests who celebrated with him [the Russian priest] today and any other who is planning to join that group.”
Metropolitan Leonid, who is still in Moscow, has posted a rebuttal. https://www.facebook.com/africa.russia.orthodox/
The day before, the fathers agreed on a congregational service. Upon learning of this, Metropolitan Makarios of Nairobi called the rector of the church and demanded that there be no Liturgy, to which he received an answer that he was treated with respect, but the decision to transfer to the Russian Orthodox Church was conscious and final. “Your decision (to go to the ROC) will destroy your church!” (I quote the dialogue verbatim), - the words of the Metropolitan sounded like thunder. The priest replied: “Vladyka, by your actions you destroyed it many years ago. There was no roof in the temple for several years, and you never called me. There were other problems, but you were silent. What caused your call today!? But this is not the final. In the morning, His Eminence arrived at the temple before anyone else with a support group and announced that he would here and now serve the Liturgy. Fathers, all as one, refused. The Metropolitan was forced to leave.
Other interesting insights into what is happening in Kenya today can be obtained by watching a video of a presentation given in Romania by an African priest on February 4. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MDpUIghQ930 The presentation was given by Father Agapios Habbil Lipesa from the diocese of Kisumu and West Kenya. The presentation was given in English and runs one hour and 45 minutes, due in part to the need to pause for the Romanian translation of his English. I watched the entire presentation and was really impressed by this native African priest. Father Agapios is the founder of St. Tabitha Orphanage and School. His presentation included a very interesting history of the Orthodox Church in Kenya, his own personal conversion to Orthodoxy, and the great need in Kenya for Orthodox missionaries and financial assistance from Romania. His visit to Romania was publicized by two articles in the official news agency of the Romanian Orthodox Church. See https://basilica.ro/preotul-african-habbil-lipesa-omukuba-sustine-o-conferinta-despre-ortodoxia-in-africa-si-experienta-convertirii/ .
Father Agapios spent little time discussing the Alexandria – Moscow dispute, although it is clear that he remains loyal to Alexandria. However, he made certain observations that I found very interesting. He describes the current financial crisis of the Alexandrian Patriarchate in Kenya. He stated that because of the great decrease in funds from Greece and Cyprus, the Orthodox seminary in Nairobi cannot open now because it has no money to pay staff. (video at 52:00) The seminary is the “crown jewel” and most important institution of the Orthodox Church in Kenya. If Archbishop Makarios does not have money to run his beloved seminary, the financial crisis that the church is facing in Kenya is extremely dire. Although it may be a coincidence, the decision by the Moscow Patriarchate to assume jurisdiction over priests in Africa comes at exactly the same time that the church in Kenya is facing perhaps its greatest financial crisis in recent times. Under these circumstances, the assurances of the Russian church to increase salaries, to build better churches, and to provide humanitarian aid such as medical clinics and Covid vaccinations can be extremely appealing to African clergy. Father Agapios stated: “Now in Kenya we have those priests who decided to join the Russian Church so that they can be paid well.” (video at 41:50)
Father Agapios described the decision by Archbishop Makarios to start the Orthodox Teacher Training College in Nairobi in 2003. See https://ocattc.com/index.html. The teachers’ college allows Orthodox seminarians to become teachers as well as priests. Priests can therefore have a job with a full salary at a government school as well as being priests at their parishes. However, Father Agapios candidly described the present poverty of Orthodox priests who do not have a second job. Some do not have enough money to buy wine for Sunday Liturgy. Some do not have money to travel from their homes to their parishes. From the Church, some receive a salary of 100 dollars a month. (video at 37:10) It is not that the Orthodox bishops in Kenya do not want to do more for their priests, but they are dependent on the donations from outside of Africa.
Father Agapios also referred to past efforts to have more native African bishops. The native African priests are overwhelming married men with families. To be an Orthodox bishop, one must be a celibate monk. The pool of potential African bishops is therefore very small. In the past, very young Orthodox men, who were open to celibacy, were sent by the Patriarchate of Alexandria to the United States for theological education with the hope that they would be future Orthodox bishops in Kenya. Some in fact became Orthodox bishops.
Metropolitan Leonid gave an interview in Moscow on February 4. http://www.interfax-religion.com/?act=news&div=16431 (English) He stated that the Moscow Patriarchate intends to establish monastic communities in Africa. Perhaps this is due in part to the recognition of the need to have monastics who are eligible to become native African bishops. He also stated that schools, almshouses, kindergartens and medical posts will be built under the auspices of the Russian Church in the places of its presence in Africa to the extent possible. This again is a repetition of the great benefits that will occur when a priest comes under the jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate. Finally, Metropolitan Leonid remarked that the Russian Church will be in Africa “forever, no matter how events develop.” This indicates that even if the Ukraine religious situation is resolved, the Moscow Patriarchate intends to maintain its exarchate in Africa.
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
4 February 2022: Russian Church's strong areas in Africa & other Orthodox news
Orthochristian.com, which is an English-language website associated with the Sretensky Monastery in Moscow, has posted an article entitled, “Kenya: Overwhelming Majority Kisumu Diocese Priests Join Russian Church.” https://orthochristian.com/144241.html Kisumu is the third largest city in Kenya and is located on the shores of Lake Victoria. It is the seat of the Patriarchate of Alexandria’s Diocese of Kisumu and West Kenya. The diocese is headed by one of the Patriarchate’s newest bishops, Bishop Marcos (Theodosi), who was born in in Johannesburg to Greek Cypriot parents. https://www.orthodoxdiocesekisumu.gr/the-bishop/ It appears that most of the parishes of the diocese are located in the countryside of West Kenya and not in Kisumu.
The operators of the Orthochristian website have direct communications with some African priests. The article states:
According to the Russian Patriarchal Exarch in Africa, Metropolitan Leonid of Klin, the number of African priests who joined the Exarchate had already grown to 150 from the initial 102 as of early last week. And that number continues to steadily grow, the Metropolitan has said. According to sources in Africa, a large number of those priests come from the Kisumu Diocese (Kenya) of the Patriarchate of Alexandria. OrthoChristian was initially informed that 53 of the diocese’s 71 priests have joined the Moscow Patriarchate. While that exact number is unconfirmed, several other sources on the ground have confirmed that an overwhelming majority of Kisumu priests have switched. “Almost all the priests will switch to Moscow. Very many priests are asking for the oath to sign,” writes one priest. Another source reports: “I don't know how many, but yes, almost the entire diocese of Kisumu.” During the writing of this article, another Kenyan priest told OrthoChristian that more than 60 Kisumu priests have joined the Russian Church.
As you may recall, Metropolitan Leonid, the Moscow Patriarchate’s exarch for Africa, signed a week ago 115 antimins (antimensions) for the parishes of the newly created Russian Exarchate in Africa. It appears that perhaps half of these antimins were intended for parishes within the Kisumu Diocese. This indicates that the strength of the Moscow Patriarchate may be concentrated in certain specific areas of Africa and is not evenly distributed among African clergy of the entire African continent.
The article explains that Bishop Marcos was the successor to Bishop Athanasius (a very beloved native African bishop who was only 48 years old when he died in January 2019 from a rare blood disease). The article states: “The local clergy were frustrated that a greatly beloved African hierarch was replaced by a Greek bishop who took four months to visit the diocese.” The article also pointed out that the Holy Synod of the Alexandrian Patriarchate had delayed nine months in appointing Marcos so that the priests of the diocese were without a local bishop for a year. For me at least, this indicates that local discontent among the clergy, especially with respect to their relationship with their own bishop, may be a crucial factor in determining whether the clergy of a certain area will decide to come under the jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate.
Father Georgy Maksimov of the Synodal Missionary Department of the Moscow Patriarchate is now in the diocese of Kisumu distributing the antimensions signed by Metropolitan Leonid. You can follow Father Georgy’s daily activities and the Russian activities in Africa generally at https://www.facebook.com/africa.russia.orthodox/ . This is a very active Facebook page with multiple postings every day. On January 20, Father Georgy celebrated the Divine Liturgy with 24 African priests from the Kakamega and Vihiga districts (located northeast of Kisumu). https://spzh.news/en/news/86010-v-afrike-kliriki-ekzarkhata-rpc-otsluzhili-pervuju-liturgiju It was the first Liturgy of the new exarchate in Africa. Today, February 3, he is the town of Migori (south of Kisumu) to open an administrative center to coordinate clergy and humanitarian aid. (See Facebook page) While Father Georgy is working in Kenya, Father Andrei Novikov is working in Tanzania. See Father Andrei’s biography at http://hram-troicy.prihod.ru/nash_nastojatel. On February 2, Father Andrei and 5 African priest celebrated the first Liturgy of the Exarchate in Tanzania at the Russian house in Dar es Salaam. The five priests were given their antimensions. (See Facebook) The Alexandrian Patriarch now has no native African bishops in Tanzania after the transfer of Metropolitan Ieronymos to Uganda in January.
However, the Patriarchate of Alexandria ordained a native African, Archimandrite Chariton Musungai, as Metropolitan of Kananga (Democratic Republic of the Congo). https://www.romfea.gr/epikairotita-xronika/48209-xeirotonithike-o-neos-mitropolitis-kanagkas-xariton-foto The position was previously held by a Greek. According to Romfea.gr, the remarks of the new metropolitan included the following:
He referred with regret to the predatory invasion of the Orthodox Church, to the regular jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Alexandria, emphasizing that they did not respect the sacrifices and efforts of so many missionaries who gave themselves for the evangelization of the Africans. He promised that he would never become a second Judas Iscariot and would work with all his might, defending the rights and privileges of the Throne of Alexandria. He will strive to inspire and teach the clergy and the people of his diocese and especially the young people that they must have devotion, trust and respect to the ancient Patriarchate of Alexandria and all Africa, the mother Church of the African continent.
In other news, Izvestia posted on January 29 a significant interview by its reporter of Patriarch Theophilos of Jerusalem. https://iz.ru/1283673/sofiia-deviatova/privivka-ochen-praktichnyi-sposob-proiavit-liubov-k-blizhnemu When asked about “the issue of overcoming the schism caused by the signing of the tomos on autocephaly of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine,” the Patriarch stated in part:
I have long believed that communication provides the best solution to our biggest problems. In the Orthodox Churches, it is vital that we continue to meet each other in a spirit of Christian love and brotherhood and discuss issues that too easily divide us. By living hospitably and sharing everything, we invite the Holy Spirit to unite us. I have been very encouraged by the leaders' willingness to meet and look forward to more opportunities to share my thoughts with them in the coming months.
Much of the Russian media has construed these remarks to mean that Theophilos plans to call a second Amman-type meeting. However, these remarks are not totally clear and could also refer to a meeting called by the Ecumenical Patriarch with the primates of Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem, and Cyprus to discuss the Moscow Patriarchate’s actions in Africa. At this meeting, Theophilos could also share his thoughts with respect to Ukraine. We will simply have to wait to see what develops. In the interview, Theophilos also had some kind words about Pope Francis. He stated: “He is an inspiring leader and true friend to many of us around the world. He is also a shining example of true Christian leadership in a diverse and divided world. “
The Razumkov Centre in Kyiv has published its report on “Religion and Church in Ukrainian Society in 2020-2021.” The Centre has published similar reports since 2000. This report, financed with the support of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, is available both in Ukrainian and English. The entire English-language report, which runs 127 pages, can be accessed at https://razumkov.org.ua/uploads/article/2021_Religiya_eng.pdf . The report reached some interesting, and sometimes surprising, results.
At page 42, there is a graph showing the specific church to which respondents who identify themselves as Orthodox belong. It shows both the results for the current 2021 survey and for the previous survey in 2020. The most significant changes from 2020 to 2021 are that the “Just Orthodox” decreased approximately 10% while the OCU increased by approximately 10% (see below).
2021 OCU 40.6% UOC-MP 20.1% UOC-KP 4.5% Just Orthodox 33.0% Don’t know 1.9%
2020 OCU 29.8% UOC-MP 21.7% UOC-KP 3.7% Just Orthodox 43.3% Don’t know 1.5%
How does one reconcile the 2021 finding that twice as many respondents stated that they belonged to the OCU as compared to the UOC-MP when the UOC-MP undisputedly has far more parishes and priests than the OCU? One explanation might be that the survey includes those who consider themselves Orthodox but who seldom go to church. On page 46 of the survey, it shows that 25.8% of those who identify with the OCU state that they are members of a “certain religious community (parish),” while 36.1 % of the those who identified with the UOC-MP stated that they are members of a certain community (parish). This provides a partial explanation for the difference. If one considers only those respondents that state that they are members of a certain community (parish), the members of the OCU are only 44% more numerous rather than twice as numerous. If one considers only those who regularly support the church financially (see page 56), the OCU would only be 32% more numerous than the UOC-MP. Another possible explanation for the discrepancy between the number of parishes and the survey results is that there may be respondents who identify with the OCU but go to a parish of the UOC-MP because of convenience and other factors. It should also be remembered that the survey only covered geographic areas that are under the present control of Ukraine. If one includes the Crimea and certain areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, the figures for the UOC-MP would doubtlessly improve somewhat further.
I found most surprising the results on page 65 to the question, “Do you trust the following hierarchs of churches?” The following (I trust him % / I don’t trust him %) are some of the answers to this question:
Epifany OCU 79.9/2.8 UOC-MP 44.7/34.8 Simply Orthodox 44.4/7.5
Onufry OCU 33.3/44.4 UOC-MP 70.7/7.0 Simply Orthodox 34.1/15.8
Kirill OCU 15.4/54.7 UOC-MP 50.4/20.9 Simply Orthodox 20.6/29.3
Bartholomew OCU 41.3/10.0 UOC-MP 37.4/22.2 Simply Orthodox 28.3/9.8
With respect to those who identify with the UOC-MP, 44.7% trust Epifany while 34.8% do not trust him. Similarly, there is greater trust than distrust of Bartholomew among those who identify with the UOC-MP. Among those who identify with the OCU, one-third trust Onufry. If all of this is true, our preconceptions and stereotypes may be faulty. Other interesting findings can be read at page 115 (how various age groups “feel” -positive or negative- about the OCU and the UOC-MP) and at page 124 (tensions between various churches in the respondent’s area).
I have been interested in seeing what the reaction of the UOC-MP has been to this Razumkov report. So far the UOC-MP seems to be treating it as a serious report, and not as propaganda. The very pro-Moscow Union of Orthodox Journalists in Kyiv has a positive article about the report’s finding of increased church attendance and provides a link to the complete report. https://spzh.news/en/news/86058-ukraincy-stali-chashhe-khodity-v-cerkovysociologi A metropolitan of the UOC-MP participated in a roundtable sponsored by the Centre to discuss the report. https://news.church.ua/2022/02/02/mitropolit-avgustin-vzyav-uchast-u-roboti-kruglogo-stolu-religiya-vlada-v-ukrajini-problemi-vzajemovidnosin/ So far, I have not seen any allegation that the report was not professionally done.
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
29 January 2022: Moscow's answer to Alexandria & other Orthodox news
The Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate met today, January 28, by means of remote communications. http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/5891253.html The only agenda item was a response to the announcement of the Patriarchate of Alexandria ( https://www.patriarchateofalexandria.com/en/anakoinwoen-ths-ieras-synodoy-toy-patriarxeioy-alexandreias-kai-pashs-afrikhs) relating to the establishment by the Moscow Patriarchate of an exarchate and two dioceses in Africa. The Holy Synod’s response has been posted in Russian, English, and Greek. The response in English, entitled Statement of the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church of 28th January 2022, can be read in full at https://mospat.ru/en/news/88910/. In my opinion, there are no surprises in the statement from Moscow. The Statement condemns the issuance of the tomos relating to Ukraine, the assertion by Constantinople of an exclusive right to grant and revoke autocephalies, and the recognition of the schismatic church in Ukraine by the Patriarchate of Alexandria. The Statement concludes:
For two years the Russian Church did not respond to the appeals coming from African clerics, but patiently waited for His Beatitude Patriarch Theodoros to change his decision. However, during that time not only did His Beatitude commemorate the head of one of the Ukrainian schismatic groups in the diptychs of the Orthodox Primates, but he also entered into the Eucharistic communion with him and other “hierarchs” of that structure. Those sorrowful developments convinced the Russian Orthodox Church’s Holy Synod of the necessity to respond to the coming appeals and under these exceptional circumstances to establish the Patriarchal Exarchate in Africa.
Such a difficult decision, taken in the situation when the Patriarch of Alexandria recognized the Ukrainian schismatics, is by no means a sign of claims to the canonical territory of the ancient Church of Alexandria. It pursues one goal only – to give canonical protection to those Orthodox clerics in Africa who do not wish to be involved in the unlawful legitimization of the schism.
We call upon His Beatitude Patriarch Theodoros II of Alexandria and the archpastors of the Most Holy Church of Alexandria to renounce their support for the Ukrainian schism and return to the canonical path in order to preserve the unity of the Holy Orthodoxy.
In the meantime, it appears that native African clergy of the Patriarchate of Alexandria in increasing numbers are seeking to come under the jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate. On January 24, a 30-minute interview of Metropolitan Leonid, Moscow’s exarch for Africa, was posted by the Russian Orthodox Church’s television channel Spas. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CKKqQZISVxA In an English-language article, Interfax briefly summarized the interview as follows:
"The increase is almost daily - countries are being added, dozens of pastors are being added, hundreds of thousands of believers are being added. Of course, this is global, and this is a very serious agenda, and we understand what a burden we are shouldering in this regard," Patriarchal Exarch of Africa Metropolitan Leonid said on the Spas TV. He noted that at the time of the adoption by Synod, there were 102 clerics who had transferred to Russian Church (from eight African countries), and today there are already 150 clerics from more than 12 countries, "and the number is constantly increasing," while the Russian Church is actively engaged in checking all people who want to transfer to its jurisdiction. "Our task is, in addition to take care of the spiritual care of these people, we'll be engaged in humanitarian activities there, social activities, we'll try to provide everyone with basic access to medical services, open by analogy, remember how in the Soviet Union there were, paramedic stations in remote places, we will try to do this," the patriarchal exarch said. He also said that Patriarch Kirill blessed allocation of quotas in the educational institutions of the Russian Orthodox Church for students from Africa. "We have now fully entered the continent, where the entire normal vertical of life is required to be fully restored, and the Russian Church will not stop only on its pastoral activities," Metropolitan Leonid concluded, noting that Moscow Patriarchate doesn't seek to destroy the Alexandrian Church and is not engaged in expansion, but will never give anyone "the opportunity to mock Orthodox canons."
On January 27, Interfax posted another English-language article at http://www.interfax-religion.com/?act=news&div=16420 stating:
Patriarchal Exarch of Africa Metropolitan Leonid signed the first 115 antimins [antimensions] for the parishes of the newly created Russian Exarchate in Africa, which means allowing these clerics to celebrate the liturgy, that is, in fact, completes the process of their transition to Russian Church. "I signed the first 115 antimins for Africa. This is history!" the metropolitan wrote in his Telegram channel. Antimins is a quadrangular plate with a particle of the relics of an Orthodox martyr sewn into it, lying in the altar on the throne. Being a necessary accessory for the celebration of the liturgy, the antimins is at the same time a document authorizing it to be performed.
A photo of the signing can be seen at http://www.blagovest-info.ru/index.php?ss=2&s=3&id=98629 . Another posting has a photo, entitled “Africa waiting.” The photo shows Metropolitan Leonid with 13 African clerics, two of whom are holding a painting of Patriarch Kirill giving a blessing with Mount Kilimanjaro below. https://credo.press/240696/ Although the Moscow Patriarchate has stated that it is not seeking to destroy the Alexandrian Patriarchate or claiming its canonical territory, the reality is that the Alexandrian Patriarchate may in fact be crippled if the exodus of native African clergy continues. The Moscow Patriarchate and the Russian media seem to be delighted that this exodus is happening and are publicizing it highly.
The question remains as to whether this exodus has been encouraged by the assurance of good salaries for the clerics, access to medical facilities for the villages, and other material humanitarian aid for the villages. Compared to the Patriarchate of Alexandria, the Moscow Patriarchate has greater financial resources including very rich individuals who are willing to give financial support to the Russian Church’s missionary efforts in Africa. In my last report, I quoted from a letter to the faithful by a native African bishop of the Alexandrian Patriarchate, Bishop Neofitos (Kongai) of Nyeri and Mt. Kenya. He addressed the poverty experienced by many of the native African clergy and noted that “the machine that mints euros for Africa seems to be drying up.” He remarked about “thinking that by joining the Russian church everything is going to be heaven on earth.” This raises the question of whether the exodus stems simply from a concern about what happened in Ukraine or whether higher compensation for clergy and material aid to the villages are also influencing the exodus. If you were a villager in a remote and poor African village, would you be influenced to change your allegiance to the Moscow Patriarchate if this meant the establishment of a paramedic station in your village?
It is also interesting that the Moscow Patriarchate still has not selected a bishop to head the newly established diocese for southern Africa. This diocese includes such countries as Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where the greatest numbers of native African clergy are found. The vacancy gives rise to the hope that the new bishop for all of southern Africa will be a native African. This hope can also be an inducement to join the Moscow Patriarchate. Leaving the position vacant for now may also be a wise decision. If a native African was selected now, it could lead to discontent by some African clergy that the wrong native African was selected.
In other news, the Orthodox Church of Albania has issued a statement that the views of its primate Archbishop Anastasios on the church issues relating to Ukraine and Africa have been clearly expressed in previously published texts and that any efforts to distort his views do not correspond with reality. https://orthodoxtimes.com/archdiocese-of-albania-the-archbishops-views-on-ukraine-and-africa-were-clearly-stated-in-his-texts/
January 25 marked the end of the week of prayer for Christian unity. As is traditional, Pope Francis presided at the vesper service at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls for this occasion. A video of the entire service can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wh5pc-zgeCY&t=15s. Those involved in the service included Metropolitan Polykarpos (Ecumenical Patriarchate) and representatives from the Romanian, Bulgarian, Coptic, and Armenian Apostolic Churches. http://www.christianunity.va/content/unitacristiani/en/news/2022/2022-01-26-vespers-st-paul-outside-the-walls.html Ecumenical services were also held in Moscow and St. Petersburg. http://www.blagovest-info.ru/index.php?ss=2&s=4&id=98614; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3aiS4AyFY5I (video of Moscow service).
Catholic Patriarch Pierbattista Pizzaballa of Jerusalem for Latins has sent a letter to the heads of the Christian churches of the Holy Land. https://www.lpj.org/posts/letter-from-the-catholic-ordinaries-to-the-heads-of-the-christian-churches-in-the-holy-land.html He refers to the synodal way that the Catholic Church is now undertaking. He states: “We would be delighted to share with you what we are learning and also learn from you, listening to your wisdom and experience. Pope Francis has said and written repeatedly that Catholics have much to learn from the Orthodox regarding the exercise of synodality.”
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
24 January 2022: Delegation from Alexandria visits Phanar & other news
On January 22, a delegation from the Patriarchate of Alexandria visited the Phanar and met with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. At the meeting, the establishment of an exarchate in Africa by the Moscow Patriarchate was discussed. The delegation also gave the Ecumenical Patriarch a letter from Patriarch Theodoros of Alexandria. https://fosfanariou.gr/index.php/2022/01/23/antiprosopeia-patr-alexandreias-sto-fanari/ The three-person delegation consisted of Metropolitan Gregory of Cameroon, Metropolitan Ioannis of Zambia, and Bishop Prodromos of Toliara and South Madagascar. At the January 10-12 meeting of the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Alexandria, Metropolitan Gregory was the hierarch who made the main presentation relating to the Moscow Patriarchate’s actions in Africa. The full text of his presentation at the Holy Synod can be read at https://greek.vema.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2022/01/%CE%95%CE%99%CE%A3%CE%97%CE%93%CE%97%CE%A3%CE%99%CE%A3-%CE%9A%CE%91%CE%9C%CE%95%CE%A1%CE%9F%CE%A5%CE%9D-%CE%93%CE%A1%CE%97%CE%93%CE%9F%CE%A1%CE%99%CE%9F%CE%A5.pdf (in Greek).
On January 21, immediately before the trip to the Phanar, Metropolitan Gregory gave an interview on Pemptousia Radio. https://www.orthodoxianewsagency.gr/epikairotita-stin-pemptousia/o-kameroun-grigorios-sto-radiofono-tis-pemptousias-gia-tin-rosiki-eispidisi/ (includes a recording of the entire 33-minute interview in Greek). The Metropolitan talked about calling a meeting of the primates of the Ancient Patriarchates [Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem] and the Archbishop of Cyprus in response to the actions of the Moscow Patriarchate in Africa. To this end, he said, a delegation of the Patriarchate of Alexandria will go first to the Phanar and then to the other Patriarchates to inform about the issues that have arisen. We now know that the first step of this plan of action has in fact occurred. It is likely that the delegation will next travel to Jerusalem and Damascus.
If the four primates of the ancient patriarchates and the archbishop of Cyprus do meet, it is extremely likely that the three of them who have already recognized the OCU will condemn the actions of the Moscow Patriarchate in Africa. However, one can hope and pray that if a meeting does occur, it may be something more than a short meeting with a vote of three to two. It is possible, with the aid of the Holy Spirit, that there can be an in-depth discussion between the five primates leading to a balanced solution acceptable to all five of them. That would be a great step forward.
A native African priest, who was among the first priests of the Patriarchate of Alexandria to appeal to the Moscow Patriarchate, has given an interview at https://raskolam.net/en/48268-tanzanijskij-svyashhenik-pro-perehid-do-rpc-parafiyani-povnistyu-pidtrimali-moe-rishennya. His answer included the following:
People in Tanzania and from other African countries are very attracted with Orthodox faith when they hear about its teachings. The main problems of Orthodoxy in Africa is the Greeks, the way they are doing a mission. The Greeks are not in Africa for the spiritual life. They are here for their own profit through the umbrella of the Church. They take photos of poor people and find money through these Africans. Greeks don’t teach people but give sweets. This way doesn’t help the Orthodoxy to grow in the spiritual life. The second problem is the discrimination in the Church and weak leadership. The Greeks of the Patriarchate of Alexandria don’t teach people in Africa, looking at them as a third people. There are many problems here in Orthodoxy of Africa but I can’t mention all.
A native African, Bishop Neofitos (Kongai) of Nyeri and Mt. Kenya of the Patriarchate of Alexandria, has written a very long letter in English on his Facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=10160204348619026&id=576264025&_rdc=2&_rdr The letter is addressed to Kenyan clergy and also to all African clergy in Africa. The entire letter is worth reading. Here are a few excerpts from the letter:
There is an African proverb that says “when two bulls fight, it is the grass that suffers.” The “grass” is really suffering at the moment because of what is happening at the top of the ecclesiastical pyramid of our One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. Because of this, the Church in Africa is bruised and spiritually wounded. Because of this, most of you our beloved clergy, the oil of your patience, love and humility has gone dry. Now, you have decided to write letters or sign documents to pay your priestly oath of allegiance to the Patriarchate of Moscow which by speaking in human terms did not give you the priesthood…. You know, right now you are thinking and seeing yourself as an individual but when a whole multitude of the faithful are involved our church will turn into chaos like a mad house. Regrets comes after an action. For this reason, I make this special request as your Bishop and your brother unworthy as I am that it is never too late to bring your hearts and minds back home. As this will be happening hopefully soon, it’s never too late to be truthful and real to matters that concern us as Africans. It is not rocket science to know that there are so many problems that face us and our church. They are visible as the stars in the darkest night. But do we solve these problems by running away from them? Obviously not! All these calls for us to develop a very well-formed problem statement that opens avenues of discussion and options. Our Patriarchate is engaging it at the top, let us also engage ourselves down here because we are the “grass” that is suffering.
This light was given to us to be put on the mountain tops so that others can come and see. If what is motivating or taking us to Russia is nothing theological, nothing historical, nothing spiritual but hunger strike, then why can’t we find an African solution to it? By finding an African solution to it, means coming together as a Kenyan church and her leadership and hold this bull called poverty by its horns. Are you forgetting that we have tried for centuries to find a Greek solution, an American solution, a Cypriot solution, an Australian solution, a Finnish solution to an African problem but they never and have never worked until this day? That is why we are still poor, stuck, spiritually handicapped and unproductive in our missions.
Instead of finding the real root cause of the problem, some us have already immersed themselves into this false thinking that by joining the Russian church everything is going to be heaven on earth. Far from truth! Because a few years ago we were singing the same song about Greece and Greek bishops, Cyprus and Cypriot bishops. Now, that the machine that mints euros for Africa seems to be drying up and God forbid, we have started calling them names and running away from them as far as our legs can carry us. We are easily forgetting that these bishops who have come to Africa especially Kenya because I have seen what they have done with my own eyes have educated us and our children, build houses for us, paid hospital bills, built churches, clinics and schools just to name them but a few. It is unfortunate that those who have benefited the most are the first ones to raise the Russian flag for others to follow.
It is time we step in and find something tangible, something powerful, strong and eternal that really works for Africans and the church of Africa. We have to grow our church from the inside out, by finding something that really works for Africa and Africans. Nobody will grow this church for us alone and you are all aware of this…. This habit of painting ourselves as black Greeks, black Cypriots and now black Russians should stop. Let us not be too naïve, let us be real and say it as it is without flinching. Teach and preach to your faithful to own and take responsibility. Our faithful are ready to listen and take action. My dear friends, spiritual children and the faithful of our church, I am speaking to you as an African. Not just an African human being but as an African Bishop of our esteemed Patriarchate of Alexandria and all Africa that please, kindly try to reconcile your hearts and thoughts and return back home. Your cross-over will be a cut-over at the heart and peace of our church that we have labored for it for so many years. Listen, unless we create our own leaders, who understand our deep and internal problems, unless we appreciate our own sons, love and embrace them no matter how they look like, we will forever go around in circles until the second coming of Christ and yes, He will be very disappointed with us.
On a different subject, Aleksa Bečić, president of the parliament of Montenegro, visited Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew at the Phanar on January 16. https://www.cdm.me/politika/vartolomej-becicu-pratili-smo-postupak-ustolicenja-joanikija/; https://fosfanariou.gr/index.php/2022/01/16/proedros-koinovouliou-mavrovouniou-sto-fanari/. The Ecumenical Patriarch congratulated Bečić on his support of Metropolitan Joanikije of Montenegro and gave Bečić a panagia to be presented as a gift to Joanikije. The Patriarch also told Bečić that the irenic visit (the traditional visits of a newly-elected primate to the primates of sister Orthodox churches in the order of the diptychs) of the new Serbian Patriarch Porfirije to the Fanar is expected with joy. A number of days later, the Serbian news agency Tanjug contacted the Serbian Patriarchate and was informed that Patriarch Porfirije is not now preparing a visit to the Phanar. http://www.tanjug.rs/full-view1.aspx?izb=712329
More than a week earlier, Patriarch Porfirije of Serbia gave a long interview to the magazine of the Foreign Ministry of the Russian Federation. http://www.spc.rs/sr/intervju_patrijarha_srpskog_g_porfirija_za_medjunarodni_zhivot_chasopis_ministarstva_spoljnih_poslov With respect to Ukraine, he stated:
Our attitude towards the church problem in Ukraine is well known to everyone, and I believe it is well known to our readers who are interested in these topics. I will just say that, despite the astonishing ease with which the Patriarchate of Constantinople neglected the holy canons, ecclesiology, the centuries-old structure of the Orthodox Church, Holy Tradition, we, essentially like, I am sure, the sister Russian Church, do not give up love for the Mother Church. We pray that the day will come, and as soon as possible, when non-Orthodox anti-church influences and non-church projects will be rejected, which, as far as I can see, did not bring anything good to anyone in Ukraine, and when we will all in the spirit of the Church, return to brotherly love and pan-Orthodox solution of all problems.
Patriarch Porfirije was also asked about the 80th anniversary of the beginning of the genocide against the Serb people in the Independent State of Croatia. His answer included the following:
An Orthodox man transformed by prayer has never and will never blame someone's descendants, someone's children, for what their parents did. Hence, many who do not know the spirit and ethos of Orthodoxy wonder how an Orthodox man can forgive. An Orthodox Christian will always build peace, friendship, not revenge. Every Christian must use all his gifts for peace and understanding among people. The Serbian Orthodox Church will continue to encourage and affirm historians and other scholars to work on establishing historical truth, in order to expose revisionism, which here in the Balkans, but also across Europe, has a simple goal: the abolition of Nazi and fascist criminals, and then the possibility of restarting that spiral of evil should not be ruled out.
Elsewhere in the interview, he states: There are a number of essential things that need to be resolved in the dialogue with the Roman Catholics, and which leads us to one goal, commanded by God, for all to be one.
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
15 January 2022: Encyclical by Patriarch Theodoros on actions by Moscow Patriarchate & other news
On January 13, Patriarch Theodoros of Alexandria issued an “Encyclical to the Holy Clergy and Pious People of Our Ancient Patriarchate of Alexandria and All Africa.” Today, the Patriarchate posted on its website the official English translation of the Encyclical. https://www.patriarchateofalexandria.com/en/egkyklios-pros-ton-iero-klhro-kai-ton-eysebh-lao-toy-kaohmas-palaifatoy-patriarxeioy-alexandreias-kai-pashs-afrikhs . I have pasted below the most important section of the Encyclical.
But, my dear children, unfortunately, lately, I observe and find that some others are "false prophets" “savage wolves that come in among you and will not spare the flock" (Acts 20:29), and without any blessing and permission from the Patriarch they approached some Spiritual Folds of Africa sowing weeds of division, which they watered with accusations against our Patriarchate and with dirty money and these weeds grew and festered and they threaten to drown the humble Evangelical work of our Apostolic Patriarchate, which has been done with effort, sacrifice and blood for many decades.
However, what is the cause of all this disorder?
I believe you are well aware that the Church was organized by the Holy Apostles and Disciples of the Lord, who in their place ordained Bishops and organized the local Churches and clearly defined geographical boundaries which were confirmed by the Holy Ecumenical Synods and by many Local Synods with many sacred Canons which are - or should be - respected by all the Orthodox Local Churches.
The first organization of the Christian world was observed in five Patriarchates, the so-called Pentarchy:
1. Patriarchate of Rome
2. Patriarchate of Constantinople
3. Patriarchate of Alexandria with geographical area and jurisdiction over all of Africa and its islands
4. Patriarchate of Antioch
5. Patriarchate of Jerusalem
as well as the Autocephalous Church of Cyprus.
In Western Christianity the primacy (first place) is held by the Patriarchate of Rome, while in the Eastern Church the Patriarchate of Constantinople (New Rome) will have an equal position and will enjoy primacy among the other ancient Patriarchates. The Schism of 1054 will alienate the Western Church (Roman Catholic Church), and in the Orthodox East the Ecumenical Patriarchate will continue to have the primacy and to enjoy special privileges and responsibilities within the Body of the Church.
This special and unique position of the Ecumenical Patriarchate is secured by the Holy Canons, the Tradition and the Act of the Church. The Ecumenical Patriarchate, having the first word, in collaboration with the other ancient Patriarchates (of Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem) has always taken care of the governance of the Orthodox Church and the solution of the problems that arose.
This was the situation in the old days (Byzantine and Ottoman Empires). That is, the Orthodox World was considered divided into these four Patriarchates (and the Church of Cyprus) and their geographical boundaries were considered separated, clear and unambiguous. If problems arose at any time, these were resolved by Synods convened by the Ecumenical Patriarch and attended by the other three Patriarchs.
In modern times, some nations who acquired their own States wanted to acquire their own independent Church, and indeed the Ecumenical Patriarchate cut off territories that belonged to it and created new independent Churches, which became known as Autocephalous Churches.
One of them is the Russian Church (Moscow Patriarchate) which became Autocephalous only in 1589, which due to the State in which it was located (Russian Empire) gained great economic power and strength and this created many problems as to how it perceived its role and mission.
Thus, the Russian Church, wanting to increase its power and prestige in the Orthodox World, using secular power and -sometimes- violence, began to trample and "enslave" neighboring Orthodox Churches, as it did with the Metropolis of Kiev in the country of Ukraine, a Metropolis that has always belonged to the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
With the dissolution of the Soviet Union, to which both Russia and Ukraine belonged, in 1991 the Ukrainians, who are a different people from the Russians, wanted to have their own Church independent (Autocephalous) from the Patriarchate of Moscow, something with which the Russian Church disagreed radically. After many troubles, our orthodox Ukrainian brothers asked the Ecumenical Patriarchate, which is the only one in charge, and in 2019 acquired their own independent, i.e. Autocephalous, Church.
Our Patriarchate also agreed with this act of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, since it is in accordance with the sacred canons and the tradition of our Church. Unfortunately, the Church of Russia, in retaliation, violated the tradition of the Ecumenical Councils, which were respected by all the Patriarchs of Russia until today, and hastened to establish here, in blessed Africa, its own Church (Exarchate), as an act and practice purely inspired by "Colonialism" and tries to "steal" priests and Christians from our Patriarchate, using impermissible means. This action is utterly hostile to our Patriarchate as it is contrary to many other Canons which forbid one Church from violating the borders of another.
As your Patriarch and Father, my beloved children, before God and the Church, I call on you to remain faithful to our Patriarchate, which spoke to you about the Gospel of Christ and gave you Holy Baptism, to close your ears and eyes to the promises and the dirty exchanges - (like "the thirty pieces of silver of Judas") - of people whom until yesterday you did not even know existed because the spiritual danger is enormous, as Christ Himself tells us: What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? (Matthew 16:26).
Always have before your eyes the endless sacrifices and costs in human power and resources that we all spent together to build the presence of the Orthodox Church in Africa and to give daily and with works of love the testimony of the Gospel throughout our beloved continent.
As can be seen, much of the Encyclical is a recitation of history from the perspective of the Patriarchate of Alexandria. Some of the Patriarch’s key points are as follows: During the first millennium, Rome held the primacy for Western Christianity, while the Patriarchate of Constantinople had an equal primacy among the other ancient Patriarchates. After 1054, Constantinople continued to enjoy its primacy and special privileges. Constantinople, “having the first word” in collaboration with the ancient Patriarchates of Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem, has always had responsibility for the governance of the Orthodox Church and the solution of its problems. Later, some nations wanted to have their own independent churches, and the Ecumenical Patriarchate created the Russian Church in 1589. This Church, using the secular power of Russian Empire, began to trample neighboring Orthodox Churches including the Metropolis of Kiev. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Ukrainians, “who are a different people from the Russians,” asked the Ecumenical Patriarchate, “who is the only one in charge,” for their own independent church. This was done by the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and the Patriarchate of Alexandria agrees with this act “since it is in accordance with the sacred canons and the tradition of our Church.” The present actions by the Russian Church in Africa constitute retaliation and a violation of the canons.
In defending this historical recital, the Patriarchate of Alexandria would probably state that it was written in very abbreviated and simple fashion because the intended readers are all of the faithful. The popular Greek website Romfea.gr has already posted a rebuttal by an author to parts of this historical account. https://www.romfea.gr/katigories/10-apopseis/47902-stin-egkyklio-tou-patriarxi-aleksandreias-apokryptetai-i-alitheia Interestingly, the author states that Moscow was raised to a patriarchate to replace Rome and to restore the Pentarchy. I am sure that the Moscow Patriarchate will strenuously oppose this historical account by Patriarch Theodoros.
From the Encyclical, it is clear that the Patriarchate of Alexandria believes that the Patriarchate of Moscow is using financial inducements (“dirty money” “thirty pieces of silver”) to recruit native African priests. The Patriarchate of Moscow has greater financial resources that the Patriarchate of Alexandria. I believe that it is very possible that the Moscow Patriarchate may be telling African clergy who are receiving low or no salary that they will receive better compensation under the Moscow Patriarchate. To my knowledge Moscow has never commented on this aspect. The oath which the clergy is apparently required to sign as a condition for coming under the jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate does provide: “I do it not in pursuit of personal financial benefit, but for the sole purpose of saving my soul….” https://credo.press/240410/ However, this relates to motivation and not to whether there would in fact be financial benefits in making the change. Presumably, the oath is a fixed form that must be signed to come under the jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate and is not subject to proposed changes by the individual priest.
The Patriarchate of Alexandria has now posted the official English translation of the announcement of the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Alexandria and All Africa relating to “the anticanonical and anti-ecclesiastical incursion of the Russian Patriarchate to create new ‘ecclesiastical formations in Africa.’" https://www.patriarchateofalexandria.com/en/anakoinwoen-ths-ieras-synodoy-toy-patriarxeioy-alexandreias-kai-pashs-afrikhs This is far superior to the translation that I provided in my last report. The official English translation of the communique issued at the close of the session of the Holy Synod has also been posted. https://www.patriarchateofalexandria.com/en/oloklhrwsh-ths-ierarxias-toy-alexandrinoy-patriarxeioy
Father Georgy Maksimov of the Synodal Missionary Department of the Moscow Patriarchate has claimed that “the vast majority “ of the priests of the Patriarchate of Alexandria wish to transfer to the Moscow Patriarchate. https://ria.ru/20220113/svyaschenniki-1767662882.html He is quoted in this RIA-Novosti article as follows:
According to him, “about half of all the clerics of the Patriarchate of Alexandria filed petitions to join the Russian Orthodox Church.” “And of the half that remained, many are planning to do it later. The vast majority of the clergy of the Patriarchate of Alexandria have the desire to go to the Russian Orthodox Church. The roots of all this lie in the extremely unhealthy, incorrect construction of church life, which took shape during the last 20-30 years under the Greeks.”
All of this seems to indicate that the source of the discontent among the native African clergy is not so much the recognition of the OCU in Ukraine, but rather preexisting church life under the Greeks. Father Georgy also states that now that the exarchate has been established for Africa, Metropolitan Leonid, the new exarch, has authority to accept additional priests without the action of the Holy Synod. According to TASS, Father Georgy asserts that some hierarchs of the Patriarchate of Alexandria from among the indigenous inhabitants of Africa support the transfer of priests to the jurisdiction of the Russian Orthodox Church. https://tass.ru/obschestvo/13420639
It has just been reported by the website Orthodoxia.info that a delegation from the Alexandrian Patriarchate will be immediately sent to the Phanar to request that the Ecumenical Patriarch call a meeting of the primates of the Pentarchy (Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem, as well as Cyprus) to discuss the intrusion by the Moscow Patriarchate into Africa. https://orthodoxia.info/news/apokleistiko-synaxi-prokathimenon-ka/ This article also states that information is being received in Alexandria that the Moscow Patriarchate “offers [African] priests almost four times the salary they receive today, as well as bonuses.”
It will probably take some time for the dust to settle to know what is really happening.
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
13 January 2022: Response from Alexandria & other Orthodox news
The Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Alexandria has now completed its three-day session, January 10-12, and has issued a communique. https://www.patriarchateofalexandria.com/el/oloklhrwsh-ths-ierarxias-toy-alexandrinoy-patriarxeioy (official communique in Greek) The communique announced the election of one new metropolitan and five new bishops. https://orthodoxtimes.com/the-patriarchate-of-alexandria-elected-new-metropolitans-and-bishops/ The new metropolitan and one of the new bishops are native Africans. The important vacancy left by the death of Metropolitan Jonah of Kampala and All Uganda, a native African, was filled by Metropolitan Ieronymos of Mwanza (Tanzania), another native African. Archimandrite Chariton Musungai, a native African, was elected Metropolitan of Kananga (Democratic Republic of the Congo). Archimandrite Nektarios Kabouye, who I believe is also a native African, was elected Bishop of Gulu (Uganda). There are now a total of six native Africans (3 metropolitans and 3 bishops) in the hierarchy of the Patriarchate of Alexandria. It was planned that the second day of the Synod would be devoted to the pay of the clergy. This issue was to be presented by Metropolitan Seraphim of Zimbabwe and Angola. https://orthodoxtimes.com/intrusion-of-orthodox-churches-in-patriarchates-work-in-africa-to-be-discussed-in-holy-synod/ The communique states that because of the non-attendance of Metropolitan Seraphim at the Synod, this subject was postponed. At the present time, I understand that some of the clergy in Africa serve with little or no pay.
The Holy Synod also issued an announcement. It relates to the December 29 decision by the Moscow Patriarchate to establish an exarchate and two dioceses in Africa and to accept jurisdiction over 102 priests of the Patriarchate of Alexandria. The full text of the announcement by the Patriarchate of Alexandria is found at https://www.patriarchateofalexandria.com/el/anakoinwoen-ths-ieras-synodoy-toy-patriarxeioy-alexandreias-kai-pashs-afrikhs (Greek). The following is a brief summary in English. https://orthodoxtimes.com/patriarchate-of-alexandria-we-face-an-immoral-blow-from-the-orthodox-russians/ Another English summary is found at https://spzh.news/en/news/85565-aleksandrijskij-patriarkhat-o-sozdanii-ekzarkhata-rpc-eto-neozhidannaja-mesty I have tried to piece together, from various sources and Google, a very imperfect English translation of the entire text. The translation is as follows:
In the name of the Triune God, we gathered in the great City of Alexandria at the invitation of His Beatitude the Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and of all Africa Theodore II and, with a sense of responsibility before their flock and their long historical apostolic course, the Hierarchy of the ancient and very ancient Patriarchate of Alexandria, following its session, having examined in different and multiple ways the canonical parameters of the intrusion of the Patriarchate of Russia with a view to the creation of new “ecclesiastical forms in Africa”, communicates the following:
During the last two years already, due to the recognition by HB the Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and of all Africa Theodore II, of the autocephaly of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, we have suffered the invasion and the non-canonical and indecent intrusion of the Russian Church, by methods contrary to ecclesiastical practice and tradition, which was respected by all the predecessors of blessed memory of the Patriarch of Russia Kirill, and this by recruiting native clerics of our Patriarchate, in application of direct reprisals and, by extension, of blackmail or revenge against us. After the announcement of December 29, 2021 of the Moscow Patriarchate, we now have the official decisions of the Church of Russia, the resulting declarations, and the interviews of its representatives on the entirely anti-canonical foundation of an "Exarchate," on the basis of its "statutes" and point of canonical provisions, within the boundaries of our Patriarchate, made up of clerics who themselves moved away or being under epitemy [penance] and still of unknown origins, the latter qualifying themselves as Orthodox, but not belonging to the Patriarchate of Alexandria. By these acts is confirmed the attempt to alter Orthodox ecclesiology in many particular parameters, but mainly in terms of the boundaries of the administrative structures of formation of the Church of Christ, and this from the starting point of motivations far removed from the Orthodox Tradition. With sadness, we understand that all this comes for spiteful reasons, infected by “the virus of ethno-phyletism" condemned by the Synod of 1872. Certainly, the secular spirit is not absent from these decisions, which also refer to the parameters of “neo-colonialism,” known for a long time on the unhappy African continent, and to the demand for a world supremacy, which does not correspond with the sacrificial spirit of our consecrated Orthodox Tradition. The Assembly of Bishops, with saddened astonishment, protests to the Patriarch of Russia and his Synod. Astonishment, on the one hand, because for us “following our holy Fathers,” the boundaries of each Local Sister Church are clear, geographically drawn by the Ecumenical Councils, and worthy of respect. We declare, that we have never encroached in action within the boundaries of any Local Sister Church, especially those of the Russian Church. This, because not only is the message of evangelical love altered in this way, but also because, in our age-old struggle, and in the coexistence with different faiths and religions in the spirit of respect and mutual understanding, we receive an unfriendly blow from the Russians who share our faith. We consider that, by these methods, is once again grossly transgressed the essence of our Orthodox faith and this on the sensitive ground of the Mission in Africa, which is "nourished" by us "like an infant, with milk and not by solid theological nourishment,” to use the Pauline expression.
For this purpose, it has been decided:
A) To inform the venerable Ecumenical Patriarchate and of the Local Churches through their Primates, through patriarchal letters which will be transmitted to them, which will describe the “pestilential” confusion which has arisen in “the children in Christ whom we have begotten,” the African faithful, following the visible and invisible actions of those sent by the Russian Church, and
B) The faithful and immediate application of ecclesiastical sanctions, prescribed by the divine and holy canons, to transgressors.
From this, it is not clear whether the Patriarchate of Alexandria will or will not sever communion with the Moscow Patriarchate.
Immediately before this announcement, Metropolitan Hilarion gave an interview to RIA-Novosti. https://mospat.ru/ru/news/88812/ It contains the following interesting statement: The Holy Synod of our Church decided to form the Exarchate of Africa not in order to undermine the mission of the Alexandrian Patriarchate or to alienate some parishes from it. The Russian Church does not need this and is not interested. Metropolitan Leonid of Klin, who heads the exarchate in Africa, has given an interview to Interfax. http://www.interfax-religion.com/?act=interview&div=126 One of his comments was that “there are benefactors in the Russian Church who… are ready to support our mission in Africa from their generosity.” He also stated that “ it is possible that we will create a number of educational institutions on the territory of the African continent, if necessary and expedient.”
On January 8, Archbishop Anastasios, primate of the Orthodox Church of Albania, issued a statement relating to the decision of the Moscow Patriarchate to establish dioceses in Africa and to accept jurisdiction over 102 priests of the Patriarchate of Alexandria. https://orthodoxtimes.com/archbishop-of-albania-described-creation-of-russian-exarchate-in-africa-as-painful-development-upd/ Anastasios has a great interest in Africa. From 1981 to 1991, he was Locum Tenens of the Archbishopric of Irinoupolis – East Africa (Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania). His biography states: “He ordained 62 African clergy and consecrated 42 readers-catechists from eight African tribes (among them the first four clergy from Tanzania). At the same time, he promoted the work of translation of the Holy Liturgy into four African languages. He took care of the further organization of about 150 Orthodox parishes and tiny communities. He undertook the construction of tens of churches, the building of seven missionary stations, and worked for the creation of schools and medical stations. He was recognized as a ‘Great Benefactor’ of the Patriarchate of Alexandria (2009).” https://orthodoxalbania.org/2020/en/archbishop-of-tirana-durres-and-all-albania/
The Archbishop’s statement is entitled, “The rift from Ukraine to Africa.” It includes the following:
The recent decision of the Moscow Patriarchate to establish an exarchate on the African continent confirms the initial fears. Along with the rift between millions of Ukrainian Orthodox, a new rift is being created in the sensitive African continent, where Orthodox foreign mission has been developing in recent decades. In African countries various Christian denominations have long been established as well as expansionist Islam. From now on, ordinary Africans will be invited to come to Orthodoxy by two Orthodox Patriarchates, without having a sacramental communion with each other. The scandal and the weakening of the Orthodox testimony by this divisive activity is obvious. This is a painful development. The claim that there is no schism in Orthodoxy but simply disagreements resembles the theory that there is no coronavirus. The schism, with a variety of mutations, is obvious and it is urgent to seek treatment and use of the vaccine, which the apostolic tradition has defined: conciliation, reconciliation [συμφιλίωση, καταλλαγή].
Archbishop Anastasios attached to his statement his “appeal,” dated November 20, 2019. The appeal states that the first step for solving the Ukraine crisis is de-escalation and the exchange of creative proposals between the key actors. According to the Archbishop, “there will be no solutions through the exchange of offensive and threatening texts or through extra-ecclesiastical interventions; nor can they be imposed unilaterally or automatically over time.” He expresses the hope that through synodality “we have the possibility of reaching a solution commonly accepted by the whole Orthodox Church.”
On a different subject, Metropolitan Hierotheos (Vlachos) of Nafpaktos (Church of Greece) has released the results of his research analyzing the discussion of the issue of autocephaly that occurred in the preparatory meetings held over the years before the Crete Council in 2016. https://www.romfea.gr/epikairotita-xronika/47842-nafpaktou-i-aitia-tis-ekklisiastikis-krisis-stin-oukrania-kai-tin-orthodoksi-ekklisia (this includes a link to the Metropolitan’s 27-page research paper). In conducting this research, the Metropolitan reviewed approximately 1500 pages of the official minutes for the preparatory meetings. He states that at a meeting in Chambésy in November 1993, the Inter-Orthodox Preparatory Commission reached a general agreement as to how autocephaly should be granted. The Metropolitan observes this involved the Ecumenical Patriarchate granting autocephaly in a synodal way while it had been previously granted by the Ecumenical Patriarchate alone. He claims that it was the result of the “tactics” of the Russian Church that final agreement was not reached on the autocephaly issue. In this regard he refers specifically to a dispute over the use of the words “decided” and “co-decided” in connection with the signatures of primates on a tomos of autocephaly.
The factual events relating to the use of these two words are also discussed in a 2018 interview of Father Nikolai Balashov, deputy chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate’s DECR. https://orthochristian.com/113241.html (interview in English). The factual events occurred at the meeting of the Inter-Orthodox Preparatory Commission, held at Chambésy, February 22-26, 2011. Father Nikolai stated:
All the Churches agreed that a Tomos should be signed by all the Primates. Everybody agreed that the signature of the Ecumenical Patriarch (of Constantinople) is to occupy the first place. But the delegation of the Patriarchate of Constantinople insisted that the signature of the Ecumenical Patriarch should be also singled out in a special way. In particular, it was proposed that it should be provided with the word apophenete (Gr. "decides")[ἀποφαίνεται – decided] while the signatures of the Primates of the rest of the Local Orthodox Church should be provided with the word synapophenete ("decides together")[συναποφαίνεται – co-decided].
The delegation of the Russian Orthodox Church expressed an opinion that a Tomos should be confirmed by equal signatures of the Primates of all the Local Orthodox Churches, with the Patriarch of Constantinople certainly given the place of the first among the equals.
Metropolitan Hierotheos in his research from the minutes states that the proposal using the words “decided” and “co-decided” was actually a proposal made by the Church of Czech Lands and Slovakia. This compromise was accepted by the Ecumenical Patriarchate and rejected by the Moscow Patriarchate.
If these two words had been accepted by the Moscow Patriarchate at the Commission meeting in February 2011, the present religious crisis in Ukraine could well have been avoided. Acceptance of these two words would have meant that total agreement had been reached in 2011 on the autocephaly document, and the document would have been ready for acceptance at the Crete Council. Under the terms of this document, the Ecumenical Patriarchate could not have granted autocephaly for Ukraine without the consent of the Moscow Patriarchate. A very good deal at the February 2011 meeting was not accepted by the Moscow Patriarchate with the hope of even further minimizing the role of the Ecumenical Patriarchate by eliminating two words. One can push too hard in negotiations. However, it is easy to make such assessments when one has the advantage of hindsight.
In other news, Patriarch Porfirije of Serbia has tested positive for Covid but is fortunately experiencing only minor symptoms. http://www.spc.rs/eng/press_release_10 The Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate has elected Metropolitan Eugenios of Rethymno and Avlopotamos as the new Archbishop of Crete. https://orthodoxtimes.com/announcement-of-the-election-and-the-mega-minima-for-the-new-archbishop-of-crete-video/
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
7 January 2022: Alexandrian synod to make major decisions
A very interesting article, entitled “Pray for the Church as it seeks new Archbishop - Orthodox told,” has appeared in the Uganda media. https://www.newvision.co.ug/articledetails/123559/pray-for-the-church-as-it-seeks-new-archbisho The article begins:
Orthodox Christians have been asked to pray for the Church to conclude well the process of getting the new Archbishop of the Metropolis of Kampala and All Uganda. The prayer was made by the Dean of St. Nicholas Cathedral Namungoona, Fr. Dr. Nicholas Bayego, during the Holy Mass to celebrate the New Year which was the first time in so many years the Metropolis had no Shepherd. “Use this period to pray for the process the church is going through to get us a Bishop. On January 10, 2022 the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Africa will begin to convene up to January 13, 2022 to discuss several issues among them including electing the new Archbishop,” said Fr. Bayego. The New Metropolitan will be in the footsteps of the late Archbishop Metropolitan Jonah Lwanga who died on September 5, 2021, in an Athens Hospital in Greece, leaving the Metropolis and the country in total shock.
Although there has been no official announcement by the Patriarchate of Alexandria as to the dates of the next Holy Synod session, the dates of January 10-13 are most likely correct. The dean of St. Nicholas Cathedral, the most important Orthodox church in Uganda, would appear to be a very reliable source of information. The communique of the Patriarchate issued on December 30 stated: “The decision of the Russian Patriarchate will be discussed at an upcoming session of the Synod of the Patriarchate, at which time relevant decisions will be taken.” https://www.patriarchateofalexandria.com/en/anakoinwoen-patriarxeioy-alexandreias-30122021 A letter from Bishop Markos of Kisumu and Western Kenya (Patriarchate of Alexandria), dated January 3 and discussed in my last report, stated that the Synod would begin “in the next few days.” The Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Alexandria includes almost all of the bishops of the Patriarchate. It consists of the heads of 31 metropolises, holding the title Metropolitan, the heads of six dioceses, holding the title Bishop, and the Patriarch.
Of course, many observers of the Orthodox world are anxious to hear what the response of the Patriarchate of Alexandria will be with respect to the decision of the Moscow Patriarchate to assume jurisdiction over 102 priests of the Patriarchate of Alexandria and to establish an exarchate and two dioceses covering all of Africa. However, the decision as to the successor of Metropolitan Jonah will also be extremely important. Prior to the death of Metropolitan Jonah, there were three Black metropolitans and two Black bishops on the Holy Synod. The three metropolitans were Jonah of Kampala and All Uganda, Ieronymos of Mwanza (Tanzania), and Innokentios of Burundi and Rwanda. The two bishops were Neophytos of Nieri and Mount Kenya and Silvester of Gulu and Eastern Uganda. Of the five, Metropolitan Jonah was the most prominent and influential.
Metropolitan Jonah, who died at the age of 76, had been truly a remarkable person. He had been a bishop of the Patriarchate of Alexandria for 29 years and Metropolitan of Uganda for 24 years. He was one of three metropolitans who held the title “Elder” and sat next to the Patriarch at meetings of the Holy Synod. He had performed wonders in Uganda. The number of Orthodox faithful in Uganda is now almost 400,000. There are approximately 100 Orthodox communities with approximately 78 priests. Metropolitan Jonah oversaw the establishment of 18 medical clinics and one hospital. He was fearless in defending human rights at the time of authoritarian governments in Uganda. He was the protégé of Archbishop Anastasios, primate of the Orthodox Church of Albania, when Anastasios was an acting archbishop of East Africa. The following article contains some wonderful eulogies about the Metropolitan. https://www.newvision.co.ug/articledetails/115386 He lived a monastic life of self-denial. It is said that he had two pairs of shoes, a few clothes, and a few cassocks. If people donated some money to him, he would give it to the needy. He did not own any personal property, bank account, car or house. The following is a short video of his life. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7t_F68uz2zo&t=1s After the death of Metropolitan Jonah, Patriarch Theodoros said with emotion that the Metropolitan left a “great spiritual legacy” and made “a great contribution to our Patriarchate.” https://www.patriarchateofalexandria.com/en/sthn-agkalia-ths-oygkantas-anapayetai-o-aeimnhstos-gerwn-kampalas-kyros-iwnas
In my opinion, the death of Metropolitan Jonah has left the Patriarchate of Alexandria, at least for a period of time, in a weakened position with respect to its native African clergy. With his presence, native African clergy could believe that one of their numbers had great importance in the governance of the Patriarchate. From the perspective of the Patriarchate, Metropolitan Jonah was a person who could possibly use his influence and prestige to persuade native African clergy to remain faithful to the Patriarchate of Alexandria. However, now he is gone. Can someone be found at the next Synod meeting to fill his shoes? This will be an important decision.
There is also the question of whether the Moscow Patriarchate is now seeking to take advantage of the weakness caused by the death of Metropolitan Jonah. As discussed in my last report, a group of 27 priests, who identified themselves as being “African priests” of the Patriarchate of Alexandria, wrote an open letter in December 2019 that they “do not agree” with the decision of the Patriarchate of Alexandria to recognize the OCU. https://orthochristian.com/126449.html However, the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate took no action with respect to the priests in the Patriarchate of Alexandria until its session on September 23-24, 2021, which was less than three weeks after the September 5 death of Metropolitan Jonah and almost two years after the open letter. http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/5837973.html Was this close timing with respect to the death of Metropolitan Jonah simply a coincidence? I do not have an answer to this question.
A Russian website has posted a photocopy of a written oath which the Moscow Patriarchate is supposedly requiring clergy of the Alexandrian clergy to sign in order to come under the jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate. https://credo.press/240410/ The oath is on one page and is in English. It makes interesting reading. In the oath, the priest asserts that he is signing it “for the sole purpose of saving my soul from spiritual danger of associating with the schism in Ukraine, with which the Patriarch of Alexandria entered into communion.” The signer also makes six different “pledges,” including being faithful to the Patriarch of Moscow and to a bishop appointed by him “to my dying day.” The signer asserts that if he breaks his “oath of loyalty to the canonical Church and lapse into communion with a schism, may the Lord punish me.” The oath is apparently designed to demand complete loyalty from the priest and to prevent the priest from subsequently changing his mind.
The popular Greek website Romfea.gr has prominently posted a commentary by Metropolitan Isaiah of Tamassos (Church of Cyprus). https://www.romfea.gr/epikairotita-xronika/47765-se-nea-axartografita-nera-entasis-i-orthodoksia Metropolitan Isaiah has been very critical of the decision by Archbishop Chrysostomos, primate of the Church of Cyprus, to recognize the OCU. He has also been critical of the Ecumenical Patriarch having any primacy of authority as opposed to simply a primacy of honor. See, for example, https://mospat.ru/en/news/88052/. The Romfea.gr website on which the commentary is posted has been sympathetic to Moscow’s position in the Ukrainian religious dispute, and the head of the website is a friend of Metropolitan Hilarion. In the commentary, Metropolitan Isaiah refers to the creation of an African exarchate by the Moscow Patriarchate and concludes: “In the face of this danger, it is urgent to convene the Synaxis of our Primates, presided, of course, by the First among our Orthodox equals, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, who is also responsible for convening such an Assembly, as he has done before 2018, where many problems were solved there, even with difficulty.” Less than a week earlier, Metropolitan Hilarion had stated that “the conciliar wisdom of the Church can heal the schism in the world Orthodox community.” https://mospat.ru/en/news/88753/ The commentary by Metropolitan Isaiah may possibly be a further step to marshal support for a meeting of the primates. The Moscow Patriarchate has consistently argued for a second Amman-type meeting of the primates. As stated in my last report, it is possible that a motive, in part, for the Moscow Patriarchate’s actions in Africa was to create a situation where the primates would agree to a second meeting. At the first Amman meeting, Patriarch Kirill envisioned that a second meeting would address six topics – all of which relate to the powers claimed by the Ecumenical Patriarch. https://mospat.ru/en/news/45658/
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
4 January 2022: More developments relating to Orthodox Africa
Almost a week has now elapsed since the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate resolved on December 29 to establish two dioceses and an exarchate covering all of Africa and to accept jurisdiction over 102 clerics of the Patriarchate of Alexandria. http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/5877047.html What has been the reaction to this very bold move by the Moscow Patriarchate? Although I am sure that many people may have strong opinions on this subject, none of the Local Orthodox Churches, aside from Moscow and Alexandria, have yet expressed their opinions on the subject. On December 30, the Patriarchate of Alexandria issued a very limited statement. https://www.patriarchateofalexandria.com/en/anakoinwoen-patriarxeioy-alexandreias-30122021 The statement provided:
The ancient Patriarchate of Alexandria expresses its deepest sorrow at the synodal decision of the Russian Patriarchate to establish an Exarchate within the normal limits of the jurisdiction of the Ancient Church of Alexandria, a decision taken in the midst of the Nativity of Christ and the divine Epiphany, during which Christ the King of Peace is projected. The Patriarchate of Alexandria will continue to carry out its pastoral duties towards the flock which has been entrusted to it by the Lord, which fall under the spiritual legacies of the great Greek Fathers of the Church, who, according to the modern Russian theologian the late Fr. George Florovsky, left an indelible mark on Orthodox Theology and the Church. The decision of the Russian Patriarchate will be discussed at an upcoming session of the Synod of the Patriarchate, at which time relevant decisions will be taken.
As far as I know, no date has been set for the “upcoming session.” Alexandria may need some time to assess the situation. The only specific information that Moscow has provided is that there are 102 unidentified clerics from eight unidentified African countries. My only information comes from an open letter posted in December 2019 in which a group of 27 priests, who identify themselves as being “African priests” of the Patriarchate of Alexandria, wrote that they “do not agree” with the decision of the Patriarchate of Alexandria to recognize the OCU. https://orthochristian.com/126449.html The signers consist of 19 priests from Tanzania, 4 from Kenya, 3 from Uganda, one from Zambia. It is certainly possible that Alexandria will seek to ascertain further the reasons for the discontent of the 102 clerics (which may be largely unrelated to Ukraine) and seek to address or remedy the discontent.
There are also a number of other factors that might be important. For example, who owns the churches used by the 102 clerics? This may depend on the law of the country involved and the name in which title is held. Interestingly, the Russian Federation has very recently adopted a law that parishes cannot separate from their parent organization without the consent of the parent organization. Do any of the eight African countries have similar laws? Financial support is another important factor. It is extremely likely that most of the parishes involved are not self-supporting but are missionary parishes depending on outside financial support. At the present time, most of the outside money comes from places such as Greece and the United States. If the Moscow Patriarchate takes over missionary parishes, it will probably involve a substantial financial commitment on its part. One also wonders if the Moscow Patriarchate will seek to use increased financial support, such as higher clergy salaries, as a means of attracting clergy.
Today, January 4, a letter from Bishop Marcos of Kisumu and Western Kenya (Patriarchate of Alexandria) has been posted at https://orthochristian.com/143798.html . See also https://spzh.news/en/news/85372-afrikanskim-klirikam-ugrozhajut-lishenijem-sana-za-perehod-v-rpc. It states that the Patriarch of Alexandria has called “a synod of Bishops in the next few days.” He urges his priests who have signed an oath [to join the Moscow Patriarchate] to sign an attached letter stating that they will not have an affiliation with this movement in any way. Affiliation will endanger their priesthood. It is certainly possible that this letter, assuming that it is genuine, was the idea of Bishop Marcos individually and not directed by the Patriarchate.
Since the December 29 resolution, there have been a number of statements by representatives or supporters of the Moscow Patriarchate. Soon after the announcement, Metropolitan Leonid of Klin, who is heading the Moscow Patriarchate’s efforts in Africa, gave an interview to RIA Novosti. https://mospat.ru/ru/news/88751/ He stated that the 102 clerics represent a significant percentage of the total number of clerics of the Patriarchate of Alexandria and that he expects their numbers to increase. He said that he did not exclude the possibility that some of the bishops of the Patriarchate of Alexandria will declare their desire to join the Russian Orthodox Church. Furthermore, the “issue of allocating a land plot in Cairo for the construction of a cathedral there is being resolved.” Metropolitan Leonid also gave an interview to TASS. https://tass.ru/obschestvo/13340751 Here, he emphasized that the new Exarchate will not only provide spiritual care, but also humanitarian care such as providing “our brothers and sisters in Africa with basic living conditions and infrastructure” and medical care including an expected shipment of vaccines to them. According to the Metropolitan, the clergy should be provided with everything necessary for the performance of divine services: utensils, vestments, vessels, literature in the native language of believers. All of these may be inducements that may be attractive for local clergy.
Metropolitan Hilarion has also given an interview to RIA Novosti. https://mospat.ru/en/news/88753/ (official English translation). He explains the reasons for the actions of the Moscow Patriarchate in Africa. He also stated:
We could not turn down the clergy, who realized the falsity of the stand taken by their Patriarch, in accepting them in the fold of our Church. In the same way, we cannot deny pastoral care to the Orthodox faithful in Turkey in the situation when the Patriarch of Constantinople has taken the side of the schism.
This is a clear message that the Moscow Patriarchate is prepared to establish its own parishes in Turkey, the country in which the Ecumenical Patriarchate is headquartered. Metropolitan Hilarion also stated that “the conciliar wisdom of the Church can heal the schism in the world Orthodox community.” This observation may provide some support for the theory that Moscow’s actions with respect to Africa may have been motivated in part by a desire to create a situation where more Local Orthodox Churches will support a second Amman-type meeting of the primates. It appears to be the hope of Moscow that such a meeting would examine the powers claimed by the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
Father Georgy Maximov, a well-known figure in the Moscow Patriarchate who has had substantial contact with Africa, has also expressed his views on the current situation. https://spzh.news/ru/news/85302-rpc-v-afrike-mozhet-iscelity-sprovocirovannyje-grekami-raskolybogoslov Here are some of his views:
However, it [the current situation] is not surprising given their monstrous isolation from their own African flock, when most of the Greek bishops do not even live in Africa.
The modern Greek mission in Africa is largely a Potemkin village, exploited by a handful of Greek bishops in order to collect money from Greeks from other countries. Not all Greek bishops are like that, but many are. Africans are not fools, and they see it too. Their irritation from the Greeks has been accumulating there for a long time. Africa deserves better.
He noted that the African priesthood was tired of the exploitation of the Greeks. He estimates that the 102 clerics represent approximately one-third of the total number of priests in the Patriarchate of Alexandria. These observations by Father Georgy may or may not be accurate. However, his observations lead me to suspect that the cause of the discontent in the African priesthood may not stem so much from what is happening in Ukraine, but more from certain long-term tensions between Africans and Greeks in the administration of the Patriarchate.
The Union of Orthodox Journalists has posted a long English-language article on the “Russian Orthodox Church in Africa: causes and effects.” https://spzh.news/en/zashhita-very/85299-russkaja-cerkovy-v-afrike-prichiny-i-sledstvija This website, which publishes in seven languages, is not an official organ of the Moscow Patriarchate, but is the most prolific source of news championing the position of the Moscow Patriarchate in Ukraine. The article discusses the canonical aspects of Moscow’s resolution, the possible reaction by the Phanar and its supporters, the alleged intimidation exercised by some of the Alexandrian hierarchs, and what to expect in the future. The following quotations especially caught my interest:
It is clear the Phanariotes and their “overseas friends” are worried along with the Alexandrian Church, because they understand that the Russian Church may not stop there. The African dioceses of the Russian Orthodox Church are a "big clue" that there may be further creation of similar structures in Greece and Turkey. More precisely, in the territory of those bishops who recognize the OCU.
Moreover, in terms of creating an Exarchate in Africa, the ROC showed it can give quite a clear and adequate answer. At the moment, the ROC stands out as the leader of conservatism in Orthodoxy, and therefore there is a high probability that if other Churches fall into schism, traditionally-minded believers from other countries will join the Russian Church.
Some may raise the question of whether the bold stance made by the Moscow Patriarchate on December 29 was coordinated with the government of the Russian Federation. On December 2, Archbishop Leonid met with Head of the Foreign Policy Directorate of the President of the Russian Federation, I.S. Neverova. http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/5868980.html There was no mention of the subjects discussed.
In my opinion, all of this means that the Moscow Patriarchate has chosen to increase to a very significant degree its conflict with the Ecumenical Patriarchate. It comes at the same time that tensions between Russia and Ukraine have greatly increased due to the presence of Russian troops near the Ukraine border. The Moscow Patriarchate does not wish to accept the status quo in Ukraine. For example, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in Kyiv on August 22, 2021, appealed to the UOC-MP “to foster peaceful coexistence and mutual understanding between people and Orthodox Christians here.” https://credo.press/238670/ To best of my knowledge, the Moscow Patriarchate has never responded to this appeal or discussed publicly the idea of peaceful coexistence between the UOC-MP and the OCU. Instead, it is my belief that the Moscow Patriarchate believes that the claims of Constantinople for special powers must be defeated and that it is prepared to take very aggressive action to accomplish this end.
For those of you celebrating Christmas on January 7, I wish you a very blessed feast of the Nativity of Our Lord. May He bring us peace.
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA