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What local Orthodox Churches think about Ukrainian autocephaly

Comprehensive review of Local Orthodox Churches remains mostly the same since this article was first released, but with a few updates.

Seraphim Hanisch

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The most serious schism within the Eastern Orthodox Church since the Great Schism of 1054 continues this year, with the excommunication of the Constantinople Patriarch, Bartholomew I, following his “rehabilitation” of two schismatic hierarchs on October 11th of this year. The local Orthodox Churches already had a reaction before this ever happened, and that response has largely deepened now.

Prior to that event, though, the possibility that the Ukrainian government, consumed with a fervor to utterly purge the country of all things Russian, was going to try to eject the leading Orthodox Church in that country because it is under the Moscow Patriarchate. The noisings of Filaret Denisenko and President Poroshenko were getting noticed by Constantinople and by the West, who seek to use Ukraine as the next outpost in its proxy battle against Russia.

This is not merely an ecclesiastical spat but a major front in the fight between secular or atheist globalism and Christian sovereignty.

On the 6th of July of this year, the Union of Orthodox Journalists compiled a list of the thoughts expressed by the fourteen “Local” Orthodox Churches regarding Ukrainian autocephaly, or total independence.  (A “Local” Church is such a church, in 100% communion theologically with all the other Orthodox Churches, but administered independently of them. There is no single human point of authority in Eastern Orthodoxy, with each bishop having independence within his own see.)

The following is excerpted heavily from the Union’s piece, with emphasis added where we thought it would be useful for the reader in understanding the nature and character of this problem:

World Orthodoxy supports the UOC (the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Moscow Patriarchate) and condemns the split.

Recently, representatives of the unrecognized Kyiv Patriarchate have voiced manipulative theses about the support of the Ukrainian authorities by the Local Orthodox Churches. In particular, head of the UOC-KP Filaret stated that autocephaly for the schismatics will be supported by 12 out of 15 (although the recognized autocephalous churches at the moment are only 14) Churches.

The UOJ has prepared a selection of statements by representatives of the Orthodox Churches, upon which one can make sure that the fullness of Orthodoxy condemns the split and does not accept its legalization in any form. Priests of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church can print out this material and deliver the truth to their parishioners.

Alexandrian Orthodox Church

On June 29, 2018 Metropolitan Luke of Zaporozhye and Melitopol took part in the Liturgy in the Greek city of Berea and communicated with representatives of the Orthodox Churches, in particular with the Patriarch Theodoros II of Alexandria.

Regarding the initiative of the Ukrainian authorities, the Patriarch of Alexandria noted that modern politicians are more likely to harm the Church than to help it. They and we need to remember that “even hair cannot fall from our head without the will of God” (see Matthew 10, 29), therefore not always what they want will be pleasing to God, Who does everything for our eternal salvation, and not for up-to-the-minute whims.

Patriarch Theodoros II stressed that the issues of autocephaly should be resolved through fraternal discussion, since only general support can contribute to their solution.

“Let us pray to God, Who does all for our good, that He will impart wisdom to everyone by solving these problems. If the schismatic Denisenko wants to return to the bosom of the Church, then he must go back to where he left. What has fallen off must return to where it fell from. God is merciful to those who repent. So the Church forgives and accepts in its maternal embrace all those who repent,” said the Primate of the Alexandrian Orthodox Church.

Serbian Orthodox Church

On May 23, 2018 Primate of the Serbian Orthodox Church Irinej stated the following: “Everyone knows the feat of hundreds of thousands of Serbs who fought to the death for holy Orthodoxy. Therefore, I think, it is not necessary to say a lot of words to explain how the Serbian Church sees everything that is happening in Ukraine today,” Patriarch Irinej said.” Our response is the same as the response of our predecessors: the Serbian Church entirely supports the unity and integrity of the Russian Orthodox Church and resolutely condemns actions of Uniates and schismatics who tear apart the robe of Christ at the place of Kievan Baptism betraying their people to the enemies of faith. Their end shall be according to their works (2 Corinthians 11:15).”

“Everyone who helps Ukrainian schismatics is not only an enemy of the Russian Church and the Russian world, but also of all Orthodox Slavonic peoples and the whole Orthodox world,” Patriarch Irinej said.

Earlier, on May 10, 2018, the SOC’s Council of Bishops expressed full support to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

“We express our full solidarity in compassionate brotherly love for our sister – the Church-martyr in Ukraine, which is subjected to the brutal persecution by the current regime in Kiev.”

Bulgarian Orthodox Church

On June 15, 2018, deputy head of the presidential administration, Rostislav Pavlenko, met with Patriarch Neophyte, the leader of the BOC.

The chief secretary of the Holy Synod of the BOC, Bishop Gerasim of Melnish, stressed that the Bulgarian Orthodox Church is well acquainted with the Ukrainian situation and its complexity. However, within the framework of this process, said Bishop Gerasim, it is necessary to strictly observe the ecclesiastical canons, which the Orthodox Church has been following for many centuries.

Earlier the Primate of the Bulgarian Church has repeatedly expressed his support for the UOC and condemned the actions of the schismatics.

Polish Orthodox Church

On May 17, 2018, the Synod of the Polish Church expressed support for the UOC.

“As for the letter of His Beatitude Metropolitan Onufry of Kiev and All Ukraine, who informs us of the current situation of the Orthodox Church in Ukraine, we express a clear position of the Polish Autocephalous Church, namely, that the ecclesiastic life of the canonical Orthodox Church should be based on the principles of dogmatism and holy canons of the Orthodox Church,” reads the decision of the Holy Synod of the Polish Orthodox Church. “Violation of this principle leads to chaos in the life of the Church. In Ukraine there are certain schismatic groups that must first of all repent and return to the canonical Church. Only then can we discuss the issue of granting autocephaly.”

The hierarchs of the Polish Orthodox Church emphasize, “The Holy Synod of Bishops of the Polish Orthodox Church professes, above all, the observance of the canonical order in the life of the Church. The Mother Church can grant autocephaly in accordance with the opinion of the Local Orthodox Churches provided it has been confirmed by all Primates of the Local Churches.

“When it comes to dogmatic-canonical issues, one cannot be guided by political considerations,” the Synod summed up.

Orthodox Church of Jerusalem

On April 26, 2018, His Beatitude Metropolitan Onufry of Kiev and All Ukraine met with the Primate of the Jerusalem Orthodox Church, His Beatitude Patriarch Theophilos III.

“We are doing our best to restore the unity of the Church,” said the head of the Jerusalem Church. “I have always believed and believe, like my spiritual fathers, that the best way to resolve the church schism in Ukraine is to restore the unity of Ukrainian Orthodoxy with the Moscow Patriarchate and then to start a dialogue as a way of solving the problem. As an example, I often refer to the relationship between the Patriarchate of Constantinople and the Church of Greece.”

Orthodox Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia

On May 30, the Ukrainian delegation with the participation of former presidents Kuchma and Kravchuk visited Metropolitan Rostislav.

His Beatitude Metropolitan Rostislav drew the attention of interlocutors to the fact that interference in the affairs of religion on the part of the authorities is unacceptable in a democratic society.

“The schism that arose out of human egoism can only be healed through repentance and return to the Church,” Vladika said, adding that the new autocephaly (for the canonical Church – author) should be born out of an all-Orthodox consensus.

Georgian Orthodox Church

On June 21, the Holy Synod of the Georgian Orthodox Church took place. According to the member of the Holy Synod of the Greek Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Petra, at the meeting on June 21 the Synod did not consider this issue in the sense of “support it or not”.

“The Holy Synod took a reasonable position, which lies in that the discussion on this issue will take place after the Ecumenical Patriarchate has clarified its position,” the hierarch said in a conversation with reporters.

However, according to the Greek media outlet Romfea, one of the metropolitans of the Georgian Patriarchate, on condition of anonymity, reported that Patriarch Ilia II expressed deep dissatisfaction with the Ukrainian issue: “His Beatitude does not agree with the initiatives of the Ecumenical Patriarchate on Ukraine and accepts as legitimate exclusively the Church under the leadership of Metropolitan Onufry,” said the Georgian hierarch.

Contrary to the position of the Patriarch and the Holy Synod, Metropolitan Peter (Tsaava) supported the granting of autocephaly to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. In his statements to the Georgian media he justified his opinion by the fact that 40 million people in the country should have their independent Church. Yet it should be emphasized the above said is just his private opinion.

Antiochian Orthodox Church

A communique of the Holy Synod of the Antiochian Orthodox Church, published on April 30, commented on conflicts in the Orthodox world, in the course of which “efforts are being made to change the borders of the Patriarchates and autocephalous churches.”

The Synod stated that “the Patriarchate of Antioch suffered and continues to suffer from the invasion of the Jerusalem Patriarchate to its canonical territory and the establishment of the so-called “diocese” in Qatar. In this context, he calls for a return to the principle of consensus by addressing important issues, because it has always helped Orthodoxy avoid splits and fragmentation.”

Greek Orthodox Church

On June 26, Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, Chairman of the Department for External Church Relations of the ROC, met with Archbishop Jerome, the head of the GOC.

Archbishop Jerome noted, “I am particularly pleased by today’s meeting with Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, which gave us a wonderful opportunity to exchange views on ecclesiastic topics in general, to discuss our good fraternal relations with the Russian Church, as well as a number of pressing issues, for example, the situation of church affairs in Ukraine. We decided that we will follow the development of events in order to state whether we agree or not. We wish enlightenment to all those who, unlike us, are endowed with great powers to achieve the result for the good of the whole Church.”

Orthodox Church of Cyprus

On July 21, 2017 a letter from His Beatitude Archbishop Chrysostom II of New Justinian and the whole of Cyprus arrived in the name of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia regarding the position of the canonical Orthodox Church in Ukraine.

In his return letter, His Beatitude Archbishop Chrysostom, in particular, notes: “Whenever the state and especially the parliament interfere in the issues of the Church, the harm is obvious. The actions of the parliament will lead to the creation of a certain schismatic church, while the holy fathers view schism as the deepest wound on the sacred body of the Church. The Church is a feeding Mother, and it strives for unity in the love of all the people of the Ukrainian state. Laws are always compulsory, causing division among the people. The Ukrainian people have suffered enough and continue to be in distress, so there is no need for additional misfortunes and torments. The Church of Cyprus expresses its discontent with this interference,” Archbishop Chrysostom said.

Having assured His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of his support of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church “in this troubled and difficult time,” the Primate of the Church of Cyprus noted, “Our Church prays to the Organizer of the Church, our Lord Jesus Christ, to enlighten the political leaders of Ukraine so that they could persuade the schismatics to return to the Church headed by Your Holiness.”

Deputy Head of the Department for External Church Relations of the UOC, Protopriest Nikolai Danilevich, told http://spzh.news/en/news/44835-hierarchs-of-local-churches-express-support-for-the-uoc-video on his Facebook page about the position of the Cypriot hierarchs: “I had talks with the priests from Cyprus. They asked me about the situation around our ecclesiastic issue. They said, “We communicate with our bishops. All of them are against it. No one supports (the idea of giving Tomos in circumvention of the UOC). Everyone says, “We do not know what it will result in, but we will not recognize this new structure. We will be with the Church of Metropolitan Onufry.”

Romanian Orthodox Church

In April 2016, Bishop Varlaam, secretary of the Holy Synod of the Romanian Church, supported the UOC as the only canonical Church in Ukraine and stated, “The Romanian Orthodox Church prays continuously for peace in Ukraine, on whose body the bleeding wound is gaping caused by the ongoing armed conflict, which is aggravated by actions of the schismatics being lawless and contradictory to the Gospel and canons, which can not in any way contribute to the establishment of peace on the Ukrainian land.”

Albanian Orthodox Church

The Church of Albania has not yet expressed its official position concerning the initiative of Ukrainian authorities, yet one can make conclusions based on its previous statements it also supports the UOC.

UPDATE: From the article linked here, the Albanian Church struck a non-polarized point of view, calling both sides out – for the Albanians, Russia was wrong to excommunicate Constantinople, but the Ecumenical Patriarch’s actions were also uncanonical, and the solution is for all the Local Churches to settle the matter. Albania offered to mitigate.

Orthodox Church of Constantinople

Finally, the Patriarchate of Constantinople, which the schismatics pin high hopes to and assert it is determined to recognize them, declares quite the opposite.

Metropolitan Luke of Zaporozhye and Melitopol held talks with the representative of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, Metropolitan Ambrosios of Korea, who said literally the following:

“Patriarch Bartholomew is particularly concerned about the split triggered by the current head of the “Kyiv Patriarchate” with the support of politicians. Aware of the responsibility for the church unity, His Holiness wishes, without interfering in the internal life of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and in the political situation, to help solve a very difficult issue – the existence of the schism in Ukraine, which can only be settled by canonical means. The issue is so complex that so far no one knows how to resolve it and at the same time not to lose our brothers, who are in schism, and to return them to the saving bosom of the Orthodox Church.”

Arising from the aforesaid, the position of the Local Churches can be summed up as follows:

  1. Politicians should not interfere in the internal affairs of the Church;
  2. Schismatics must unite with the canonical Church after their repentance and only later can the prospect of autocephaly be discussed;
  3. All complex ecclesiastical issues should be resolved by consensus, together, rather than by an individual decision;
  4. The overcoming of the split must take place strictly on a canonical basis.

The last position listed, that of the Ecumenical Patriarchate itself, is the most interesting situation because between the time that this article was first released and now, the EP has obviously done a pretty radical reversal, “finding” precedent to claim that it can reverse history and therefore resume control over Ukraine “which it never ceded.” However, given information we show here and here, it is apparent that the besieged patriarch, Bartholomew I, was easy pickings with an alleged US $25 million offered for him to create the turmoil in Ukraine.

Given the susceptibility of Bartholomew to socio-political and cultural issues in the same vein as the Roman Catholic Church, it probably did not seem a great leap for the man to make this change in his direction.

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The conclusion of Russiagate, Part II – news fatigue across America

The daily barrage of Russiagate news may have been a tool to wear down the American public as the Deep State plays the long game for control.

Seraphim Hanisch

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Presently there is a media blitz on across the American news media networks. As was the case with the Russiagate investigation while it was ongoing, the conclusions have merely given rise to a rather unpleasant afterbirth in some ways as all the parties involve pivot their narratives. The conclusion of Russiagate appears to be heavily covered, yet if statistics here at The Duran are any indication, there is a good possibility that the public is absolutely fatigued over this situation.

And, perhaps, folks, that is by design.

Joseph Goebbels had many insights about the use of the media to deliver and enforce propaganda. One of his quotes runs thus:

The best propaganda is that which, as it were, works invisibly, penetrates the whole of life without the public having any knowledge of the propagandistic initiative.

and another:

That is of course rather painful for those involved. One should not as a rule reveal one’s secrets, since one does not know if and when one may need them again. The essential English leadership secret does not depend on particular intelligence. Rather, it depends on a remarkably stupid thick-headedness. The English follow the principle that when one lies, it should be a big lie, and one should stick to it. They keep up their lies, even at the risk of looking ridiculous.

If there has ever been a narrative that employed these two principles, it is Russiagate.

A staggering amount of attention has been lavished on this nothing-burger issue. Axios reports that an analytics company named Newswhip tallied an astounding 533,074 web articles published about Russia and President Trump and the Mueller investigation (a number which is being driven higher even now, moment by moment, ad nauseam). Newsbusters presently reports that the networks gave 2,284 minutes to the coverage of this issue, a number which seems completely inaccurate because it is much too low (38 hours at present), and we are waiting for a correction on this estimate.

Put it another way: Are you sick of Russiagate? That is because it has dominated the news for over 675 days of nearly wall-to-wall news cycles. The political junkies on both sides are still pretty jazzed up about this story – the Pro-Trump folks rejoicing over the presently ‘cleared’ status, while of course preparing for the upcoming Democrat / Deep State pivot, and the Dems in various levels of stress as they try to figure out exactly how to pivot in such a manner that they do not lose face – or pace – in continuing their efforts to rid their lives of the “Irritant-in-Chief” who now looks like he is in the best position of his entire presidency.

But a lot of people do not care. They are tired.

I hate to say it (and yes, I am speaking personally and directly), but this may be a dangerous fatigue. Here is why:

The barrage of propaganda on this issue was never predicated on any facts. It still isn’t. However, as we noted a few days ago, courtesy of Fox News’ Tucker Carlson, at present, 53% of US registered voters believe that the Trump campaign worked with Russia to influence the 2016 election.

That means 53% of the voting public now believes something that is totally false.

Many of these people are probably simply exhausted from the constant coverage of this allegation as well. So when the news came out Sunday night that there was no evidence of collusion and no conclusive evidence, hence, of obstruction of justice by the Trump Administration – in other words, this whole thing was a nothing burger – will this snap those 53% back into reality?

Probably not. Many of them may well be so worn down that they no longer care. Or worse, they are so worn out that they will continue to believe the things they are told that sustain the lie, despite its being called out as such.

C.S. Lewis wrote about this peculiarity of human nature, in particular in the seventh book of his Chronicles of Narnia. After a prolonged and fierce assault on the sensibilities of the Narnians with the story that Aslan, the Christ figure of this world, was in fact an angry overlord, selling the Narnians themselves into slavery, and selling the whole country out to its enemy, with the final touch being that Aslan and the devilish deity of the enemy nation were in fact one and the same, the Narnians were unable to snap back to reality when it was shown conclusively and clearly that this was in fact not the case.

The fear that was instilled from the use of false narratives persisted and blocked the animals from reality.

Lewis summarized it this way through the thoughts of Tirian, the lead character in this tale:

Tirian had never dreamed that one of the results of an Ape’s setting up as a false Aslan would be to stop people from believing in the real one. He had felt quite sure that the Dwarfs would rally to his side the moment he showed them how they had been deceived. And then next night he would have led them to Stable Hill and shown Puzzle to all the creatures and everyone would have turned against the Ape and, perhaps after a scuffle with the Calormenes, the whole thing would have been over. But now, it seemed, he could count on nothing. How many other Narnians might turn the same way as the Dwarfs?

This is part of the toll this very long propaganda campaign is very likely to take on many Americans. It takes being strongly informed and educated on facts to withstand the withering force of a narrative that never goes away. Indeed, if anything, it takes even more effort now, because the temptation of the pro-Trump side will be to retreat to a set of political talking points that, interestingly enough, validate Robert Mueller’s “integrity” when only a week ago they were attacking this as a false notion.

This is very dangerous, and even though Mr. Trump and his supporters won this battle, if they do not come at this matter in a way that shows education, and not merely the restating of platitudes and talking points that “should be more comfortable, now that we’ve won!”

The cost of Russiagate may be far higher than anyone wants it to be. And yes, speaking personally, I understand the fatigue. I am tired of this issue too. But the temptation to go silent may have already taken a lot of people so far that they will not accept the reality that has just been revealed.

Politics is a very fickle subject. Truth is extremely malleable for many politicians, and that is saying it very nicely. But this issue was not just politics. It was slander with a purpose, and that purpose is unchanged now. In fact things may even be more dangerous for the President – even risking his very life – because if the powers that are working behind the people trying to get rid of President Trump come to realize that they have no political support, they will move to more extreme measures. In fact this may have already been attempted.

We at The Duran reported a few months ago on a very strange but very compelling story that suggested that there was an attempted assassination and coup that was supposed to have taken place on January 17th of this year. It did not happen, but there was a parallel story that noted that the President may have been targeted for assassination already no fewer than twelve times.  Hopefully this is just tinfoil-hat stuff. But we have seen that this effort to be rid of President Trump is fierce and it is extremely well-supported within its group. There is no reason to think that the pressure will lighten now that this battle has been lost.

The stakes are much too high, and even this long investigation may well have been part of the weaponry of the group we sometimes refer to as the “Deep State” in their effort to reacquire power, and in their effort to continue to pursue both a domestic and geopolitical agenda that has so far shown itself to be destructive to both individuals and nations all over the world.

Speculation? Yes. Needless? We hope so. This is a terrible possibility that hopefully no reasonable person wants to consider.

Honestly, folks, we do not know. But we had to put this out there for your consideration.

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Parliament Seizes Control Of Brexit From Theresa May

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Schaeuble, Greece and the lessons learned from a failed GREXIT (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 117.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris examine a recent interview with the Financial Times given by Wolfgang Schäuble, where the former German Finance Minister, who was charged with finding a workable and sustainable solution to the Greek debt crisis, reveals that his plan for Greece to take a 10-year “timeout” from the eurozone (in order to devalue its currency and save its economy) was met with fierce resistance from Brussels hard liners, and Angela Merkel herself.

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Via FT

“Look where we’re sitting!” says Wolfgang Schäuble, gesturing at the Berlin panorama stretching out beneath us. It is his crisp retort to those who say that Europe is a failure, condemned to a slow demise by its own internal contradictions. “Walk through the Reichstag, the graffiti left by the Red Army soldiers, the images of a destroyed Berlin. Until 1990 the Berlin Wall ran just below where we are now!”

We are in Käfer, a restaurant on the rooftop of the Reichstag. The views are indeed stupendous: Berlin Cathedral and the TV Tower on Alexanderplatz loom through the mist. Both were once in communist East Berlin, cut off from where we are now by the wall. Now they’re landmarks of a single, undivided city. “Without European integration, without this incredible story, we wouldn’t have come close to this point,” he says. “That’s the crazy thing.”

As Angela Merkel’s finance minister from 2009 to 2017, Schäuble was at the heart of efforts to steer the eurozone through a period of unprecedented turbulence. But at home he is most associated with Germany’s postwar political journey, having not only negotiated the 1990 treaty unifying East and West Germany but also campaigned successfully for the capital to move from Bonn.

For a man who has done so much to put Berlin — and the Reichstag — back on the world-historical map, it is hard to imagine a more fitting lunch venue. With its open-plan kitchen and grey formica tables edged in chrome, Käfer has a cool, functional aesthetic that is typical of the city. On the wall hangs a sketch by artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude, who famously wrapped the Reichstag in silver fabric in 1995.

The restaurant has one other big advantage: it is easy to reach from Schäuble’s office. Now 76, he has been confined to a wheelchair since he was shot in an assassination attempt in 1990, and mobility is an issue. Aides say he tends to avoid restaurants if he can, especially at lunchtime.

As we take our places, we talk about Schäuble’s old dream — that German reunification would be a harbinger of European unity, a step on the road to a United States of Europe. That seems hopelessly out of reach in these days of Brexit, the gilets jaunes in France, Lega and the Five Star Movement in Italy.

Some blame Schäuble himself for that. He was, after all, the architect of austerity, a fiscal hawk whose policy prescriptions during the euro crisis caused untold hardship for millions of ordinary people, or so his critics say. He became a hate figure, especially in Greece. Posters in Athens in 2015 depicted him with a Hitler moustache below the words: “Wanted — for mass poverty and devastation”.

Schäuble rejects the criticism that austerity caused the rise of populism. “Higher spending doesn’t lead to greater contentment,” he says. The root cause lies in mass immigration, and the insecurities it has unleashed. “What European country doesn’t have this problem?” he asks. “Even Sweden. The poster child of openness and the willingness to help.”

But what of the accusation that he didn’t care enough about the suffering of the southern Europeans? Austerity divided the EU and spawned a real animus against Schäuble. I ask him how that makes him feel now. “Well I’m sad, because I played a part in all of that,” he says, wistfully. “And I think about how we could have done it differently.”

I glance at the menu — simple German classics with a contemporary twist. I’m drawn to the starters, such as Oldenburg duck pâté and the Müritz smoked trout. But true to his somewhat abstemious reputation, Schäuble has no interest in these and zeroes in on the entrées. He chooses Käfer’s signature veal meatballs, a Berlin classic. I go for the Arctic char and pumpkin.

Schäuble switches seamlessly back to the eurozone crisis. The original mistake was in trying to create a common currency without a “common economic, employment and social policy” for all eurozone member states. The fathers of the euro had decided that if they waited for political union to happen first they’d wait forever, he says.

Yet the prospects for greater political union are now worse than they have been in years. “The construction of the EU has proven to be questionable,” he says. “We should have taken the bigger steps towards integration earlier on, and now, because we can’t convince the member states to take them, they are unachievable.”

Greece was a particularly thorny problem. It should never have been admitted to the euro club in the first place, Schäuble says. But when its debt crisis first blew up, it should have taken a 10-year “timeout” from the eurozone — an idea he first floated with Giorgos Papakonstantinou, his Greek counterpart between 2009 and 2011. “I told him you need to be able to devalue your currency, you’re not competitive,” he says. The reforms required to repair the Greek economy were going to be “hard to achieve in a democracy”. “That’s why you need to leave the euro for a certain period. But everyone said there was no chance of that.”

The idea didn’t go away, though. Schäuble pushed for a temporary “Grexit” in 2015, during another round of the debt crisis. But Merkel and the other EU heads of government nixed the idea. He now reveals he thought about resigning over the issue. “On the morning the decision was made, [Merkel] said to me: ‘You’ll carry on?’ . . . But that was one of the instances where we were very close [to my stepping down].”

It is an extraordinary revelation, one that highlights just how rocky his relationship with Merkel has been over the years. Schäuble has been at her side from the start, an éminence grise who has helped to resolve many of the periodic crises of her 13 years as chancellor. But it was never plain sailing.

“There were a few really bad conflicts where she knew too that we were on the edge and I would have gone,” he says. “I always had to weigh up whether to go along with things, even though I knew it was the wrong thing to do, as was the case with Greece, or whether I should go.” But his sense of duty prevailed. “We didn’t always agree — but I was always loyal.”

That might have been the case when he was a serving minister, but since becoming speaker of parliament in late 2017 he has increasingly distanced himself from Merkel. Last year, when she announced she would not seek re-election as leader of the Christian Democratic Union, the party that has governed Germany for 50 of the past 70 years, Schäuble openly backed a candidate described by the Berlin press as the “anti-Merkel”. Friedrich Merz, a millionaire corporate lawyer who is the chairman of BlackRock Germany, had once led the CDU’s parliamentary group but lost out to Merkel in a power struggle in 2002, quitting politics a few years later. He has long been seen as one of the chancellor’s fiercest conservative critics — and is a good friend of Schäuble’s.

Ultimately, in a nail-biting election last December, Merkel’s favoured candidate, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, narrowly beat Merz. The woman universally known as “AKK” is in pole position to succeed Merkel as chancellor when her fourth and final term ends in 2021.

I ask Schäuble if it’s true that he had once again waged a battle against Merkel and once again lost. “I never went to war against Ms Merkel,” he says. “Everybody says that if I’m for Merz then I’m against Merkel. Why is that so? That’s nonsense.”

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