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Ukraine President Poroshenko moves to steal Russian Orthodox Church property

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 84.

Dmitry Babich

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The press service of the Patriarch of All Russias announced that the first person in the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, will visit Istanbul on August 31, 2018, for a “very important talk” with his colleague, the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.

All Russia and all of Ukraine will be watching this meeting with their hearts beating. Bartholomew, even though not playing in the Orthodox world the same role as the Pope plays in the Catholic one, is in a “make or break” position now. Bartholomew has been asked by the Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko to separate the Ukrainian “sister church” from the Moscow Patriarchate. The problem is that Russian and Ukrainian Orthodox believers belonged to the same church since Russia’s baptism in 988 AD, which makes it more than 1000 years. (Kirill is traditionally called the Patriarch of All Russias, meaning the White Russia, i.e. Belarus, and Small Russia, i.e. Ukraine.)

The head of the un-recognized pro-Poroshenko “alternative” Ukrainian church, Filaret Denisenko, said that Bartholomew’s agreement will mean an immediate confiscation of all the temples, chapels and monasteries in the country from the “pro-Moscow” church to the newly formed Unified Orthodox Church of Ukraine, which president Poroshenko announced would be founded right after getting Bartholomew’s eventual permission. Bartholomew’s response is awaited in September, so the visit of the Russian Patriarch to Bartholomew’s office in Istanbul has an urgent character. In Ukraine, several deputies warned of “bloody consequences” if the buildings of prayer start to be taken away from the traditional church.

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Political Analyst with Sputnik International, Dmitry Babich, discuss the move by Ukraine President Poroshenko to divide the Russian Orthodox Church and execute a massive land grab against the Russian Church that would be historic in size and scope.

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TURMOIL AROUND THE ANNIVERSARY

In The end of July 2018, on the eve of the 1030th anniversary of the Baptism of Kievan Rus, an Eastern Slavic proto-state, on whose territory the three modern states of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus are located today, the events of that long past epoch were suddenly echoed by some very modern pains. The authorities in Kiev, the site of baptism performed by prince Vladimir in 988 AD and currently the capital of Ukraine, spread fears among believers. Fears unheard of since Christianity was de facto “rehabilitated” in the former Soviet Union during the celebrations of the 1000th anniversary of the Baptism – under Mikhail Gorbachev in 1988.

The heads of Ukrainian transportation companies said in their many conversations with Ukrainian priests that they got “recommendations” from the authorities not to provide buses at the request of  peripheral parishes of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Moscow Patriarchate (UPTsMP in the local abbreviation). The aim of the authorities was to prevent UPTsMP from busing the believers into Kiev and holding a mass march there. Since UPTsMP openly condemns the ongoing civil war in Ukraine, refusing to call it a “Russian aggression” and retaining the word “Moscow” in its name, the authorities’ concerns are easy to explain. They were afraid that the march could be seen as a sign of the believers’ opposition to certain policies of the ruling regime in Ukraine. Namely, the policies aimed at total cut of ties to Moscow, advocated by the ruling regime in Ukraine.

PROBLEMS OF TRANSPORTATION

“We called dozens of various [transportation] companies and everywhere we heard total refusal. In the end, one of the heads of these companies confessed: they were unofficially prohibited to transport the believers to Kiev under threat of a physical violence,” the official site of the Ukrainian church quoted archpriest Oleg Dominsky as saying. Dominsky represented the Ovruch diocese of UPTsMP. https://ria.ru/religion/20180726/1525416709.html

Ovruch is located in the north-west of Ukraine, a few hundreds of miles away from Kiev. Similar complaints came from the Odessa, Nezhin and Chernovtsy regions of Ukraine. The metropolitan of the Ovruch diocese Vissarion said in an interview to the Kiev-based Ukrainian television channel  112UA: “Not only the transportation companies, but even simple believers face obstacles [on their way to Kiev]. People are… intimidated, some of them face threats of having problems with their jobs,” Vissarion said on 112UA channel. https://ria.ru/religion/20180726/1525416709.html

“SEPARATISTS” IN THE MAJORITY

However, on July 27, the UPTsMP’s  march in honor of the 1030th anniversary did take place, with about 250 thousand people attending it, according to the church’s own estimates. The deputy of Ukraine’s interior minister, Sergei Yarovoi, came with a much more modest estimate, telling the journalists that “about 20 thousand people took part” in the march of the church which the pro-government Ukrainian nationalist organizations often accuse of being “a pro-Moscow group of separatists in priests’ attire.”

Why was the Ukrainian government so much against the march commemorating something that happened 1030 years ago? “It had been clear long before the anniversary that this march would reveal the spiritual bonds between Ukrainians and Russians, since prince Vladimir during the baptism did not make any difference between these two nations. So, the authorities tried to prevent the march, while giving maximum support to an alternative event, organized by the so called Ukrainian church of Kiev Patriarchate, which is loyal to the authorities and calls the war in Ukraine a ‘Russian aggression,” said Vladimir Sinelnikov, the Ukrainian-born correspondent of the Russian Vesti FM radio station in Kiev. https://radiovesti.ru/brand/61178/episode/1860284/

According to Sinelnikov and several Ukrainian media outlets, the authorities are giving a clear preference to an “alternative” Ukrainian Orthodox church, the so called Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Kiev Patriarchate (UPTs KP), not recognized by any of the world’s Orthodox Patriarchates. This so called “church” is headed by “patriarch” Filaret Denisenko, an excommunicated former member of the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church who founded UPTsKP on the basis of Ukrainian nationalism and total rejection of any “spiritual communion” with Russia in 1992.

APOSTOLIC SUCCESSION

“We know that participants in the march organized by citizen Denisenko and his followers were bused in to Kiev by none other than the local administrations and other government bodies,” said Alexander Shchipkov, deputy head of the Russian Orthodox Church’s department for relations with society and media. “However, experience shows that excommunicated Denisenko and his so called church never attain the same numbers of supporters as the canonical Ukrainian church, which is officially a branch of the Russian Orthodox Church, sharing its apostolic tradition and many hundreds of years of history. For every true believer, this is more important than the government’s graces.”

According to historical records, Kievan Rus was officially baptized by prince Vladimir in the tenth century AD with the support and participation of the Greek Church in Constantinople, then the official church of the East Roman Empire, later referred to by historians as Byzantine. (In reality, the Byzantine emperors and their subjects called themselves Romans and considered their empire the same state as the legendary Roman empire of Julius Caesar. It is from Caesar that the word “tsar” emerged in the Russian language to designate the monarch, while Roman history became the root of the theory of “Moscow as the third Rome,” which presumed Moscow’s succession to the imperial city of Rome and its previous successor of Constantinople, the second Rome, that fell to Turkish hands in the fifteenth century.)

The first Orthodox bishops and metropolitans in Russia were Greeks from Constantinople, who got their “apostolic succession” from Christ’s own disciples, which visited Rome and Greece on many occasions, starting the tradition of “ordaining” new bishops and priests, which lasts to this day. Today, Russia, Ukraine and Belarus are in fact celebrating the 1030th anniversary of this unbroken tradition.

UNWANTED SEPARATION

“The strength of the Russian Orthodox Church and its Ukrainian sister UPTs MP lies in the apostolic succession, which the current Ukrainian government can neither provide nor imitate,” Moscow Patriarchate’s Shchipkov said. “The state cannot “create” a church, nor should it aspire to do it. But this is exactly what the Ukrainian authorities are trying to do, urging the Ukrainian Orthodox Church to merge with Denisenko’s entity and asking from the ecumenical Patriarch in Constantinople an autocephalous status for this new “united” Ukrainian church of their own invention.” In April this year, Ukraine’s president Petro Poroshenko and the country’s parliament did ask the Istanbul-based Patriarch Bartholomew to give “patriarch” Denisenko and his church an “autocephalous” status, thus breaking the more than 1000 years old link to Russia. Bartholomew is still considering that request. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Moscow Patriarchate protested, saying that it did not empower Poroshenko and Rada to ask Constantinople for any special new status for it. “This initiative is an abuse of power, an interference of state into church affairs,” the Church’s statement said. http://news.church.ua/2018/04/21/zayavlenie-ovcs-ukrainskoj-pravoslavnoj-cerkvi-po-povodu-obrashheniya-prezidenta-ukrainy-k-vselenskomu-patriarxu-varfolomeyu-otnositelno-predostavleniya-tomosa-ob-avtokefalii-pravoslavnoj-cerkvi-v-ukr/?lang=ru

SPIRITUAL LINK

However, besides a purely religious significance, today’s anniversary has an important humanitarian element, which goes far beyond the sphere of religion alone. Joint celebration of the Eastern Slavs’ baptism provides an enduring spiritual link between tens of millions of people, who in the 1990s suddenly became divided by newly emerged borders. Ukraine again gives the most vivid – and dramatic – example of this.

After the Maidan revolution in Ukraine in 2014 and the subsequent crackdown by the new authorities on all things Russian in that country, Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Moscow Patriarchate (UPTsMP) remained the only public organization in Ukraine which still legally has the word “Moscow” in its name. For millions of Ukrainian citizens, ethnic Russians or not, any kind of legal linkage to Russia is valuable and important. Besides the Cyrillic alphabet, which was given to both Russians and Ukrainians by the saintly teachers Cyril and Method in the 9th century, there are few non-Internet links that remain between the two countries. Already in the beginning of its rule in 2014, the new regime in Kiev terminated air flights between the two countries and banished Russian television and radio from Ukraine’s cable networks. Constant attempts to shut down the Russian embassy and to introduce a visa regime or just to close the borders are made from the Ukrainian side.

CHURCH SUCCEEDS WHERE GORBACHEV FAILS

But why does the church endure where diplomacy does not?

In the period of collapse of the Soviet Union as a successor to the Russian empire, which culminated in the country’s dissolution in 1991, the Russian church proved to be much wiser and more flexible than the Soviet state. It succeeded where the last president of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev failed.

“Russian Orthodox Church then gave its “periphery” so much autonomy, that this prevented the collapse of the whole structure. The unified state might collapse in tears, but the church did not follow it. It remained alive and did not give up its right to cater to believers on all sides of the newly emerged borders,” explains Yevgeny Nikiforov, the head of the Orthodox-oriented radio station Radonezh and a specialist in Russian church’s history.

Even before the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Moscow Patriarchate allowed the sister churches in Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova to have their own budgets, to appoint their own bishops and to run all of their “earthly” activities (education, production of church items, etc.) without consulting anyone in Moscow. In return, the Russian Orthodox Church remained in “eucharistic union” with them, with representatives of these churches participating in the election of the Russian Patriarch of ROC. But what is most important, all believers in these countries and Russia can satisfy their religious needs on equal footing in any of these sister churches.

PATRIARCH IN DREAM OF KIEV

After his election in 2009, the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Kirill became much more active than his predecessors in propagating the idea of the “Russian world,” a free spiritual community of the individuals sharing Christian Orthodox values, anchored in Russian culture and having some knowledge (not necessarily proficiency) of the Russian language.

The tragic wars in Georgia and Ukraine in 2008 and 2014, when Christian Orthodox believers killed each other on both sides of the fronts, led to innumerable losses for both the church and its Orthodox parishioners. Dozens of Orthodox priests had to emigrate from Ukraine to Russia because of accusations of being “Moscow stooges.” But this suffering did not shatter the belief of Patriarch Kirill in the feasibility of Russian world and its benign nature.

For Kirill, there is a personal side to these conflicts: the tradition to celebrate the anniversaries of Prince Vladimir’s Baptism of Rus in Kiev, established by Kirill’s predecessors back in 2008, can no longer be continued because of the Ukrainian government’s negative stance towards him personally.

“The Patriarch feels very badly about the fact that the Ukrainian authorities do not let him visit Kiev, the cradle of Russian Orthodoxy,” explained Vladimir Legoyda, ROC’s representative in the Holy Synod’s department on public affairs. “For many centuries, this is the first time that the head of the Russian orthodox Church is facing such a constraint on his movement. But the Patriarch is sure that sooner or later such a visit will be possible again. We don’t support any sides in Ukraine’s war. We just want this war to end as soon as possible.”

Speaking to a convention of the world’s Orthodox churches’ representatives in Moscow on July 27, Patriarch Kirill denounced the attempts to divide and subdue the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, he condemned its discrimination and the attempts to disown it of its most famous  Pochayiv monastery and Kiev-Pechersk one. “For our church, Kiev is the same kind of a holy place as Jerusalem is for Christians of all creeds or Kosovo is for the Serb Orthodox church,” Kirill explained. He also asked the Ukrainian authorities not to “cut away” the Ukrainian church from the Moscow Patriarchate.

But will the official Kiev hear the Patriarch?  It may not, but after all, the link between the Russian and Ukrainian believers is really not of an earthly nature. And what God has tied together, will the governments be able to severe? Every true believer knows the answer to this question.

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franz kafkaGuillermo Calvo Mahe Recent comment authors
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franz kafka

Nothing gives Khazar Oligarch fake-jews a woody like stealing from the defenceless, especially if they are Christian Slavs.

It is just like the good ole days of the Trotskyite-Bolshevik Zionist Genocide in Russia 1917 -1975, and then again (The Browder Days) 1990-2000.

A small quibble, Dimitri; why do you not put the Maidan ‘revolution’ in quotes, or at least diacritics? Every child knows by now that it was a coup.

Like dropping the ‘The’ in The Ukraine, does it not needlessly cede ground to the liars of the Global Kakistocracy?

Guillermo Calvo Mahe
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Important and interesting article but its length renders it much less effective than it deserves to be, a problem I not infrequently suffer with my own writing (a pot calling a kettle black).

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OPEC Plus: Putin’s move to control energy market with Saudi partnership (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 150.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss OPEC Plus and the growing partnership between Russia and Saudi Arabia, which aims to reshape the energy market, and cement Russia’s leadership role in global oil and gas supply.

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Russia and Saudi Arabia’s ‘long-term relationship’ WILL survive

The Express UK reports that Russia and Saudi Arabia’s ‘long-term relationship’ will not only survive, but grow, regardless of geopolitical turmoil and internal Saudi scandal…as the energy interests between both nations bind them together.

Ties between Saudi Arabia and Vladimir Putin’s Russia have a “long-term relationship” which is strategically beneficial to both of them, and which underlines their position as the world’s most influential oil producers, alongside the United States, an industry expert has said.

Following concerns about too much oil flooding the market, Saudi Arabia on Sunday performed an abrupt u-turn by deciding to reduce production by half a million barrels a day from December.

This put the Middle Eastern country at odds with Russia, which said it was no clear whether the market would be oversupplied next year, with market analysts predicting the country’s oil producing companies likely to BOOST proaction by 300,000 barrels per day.

But IHS Markit vice chairman Daniel Yergin said the decision was unlikely to jeopardise the relationship between the two allies.

The Saudis have faced significant international criticism in the wake of the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Turkey.

Speaking to CNBC, Mr Yergin made it clear that Moscow and Riyadh would continue to be closely aligned irrespective of external factors.

He explained: “I think it’s intended to be a long-term relationship and it started off about oil prices but you see it taking on other dimensions, for instance, Saudi investment in Russian LNG (liquefied natural gas) and Russian investment in Saudi Arabia.

“I think this is a strategic relationship because it’s useful to both countries.”

Saudi Arabia and Russia are close, especially as a result of their pact in late 2016, along with other OPEC and non-OPEC producers, to curb output by 1.8 million barrels per day in order to prevent prices dropping too far – but oil markets have changed since then, largely as a result.

The US criticised OPEC, which Saudi Arabia is the nominal leader of, after prices rose.

Markets have fluctuated in recent weeks as a result of fears over a possible drop in supply, as a result of US sanctions on Iran, and an oversupply, as a result of increased production by Saudi Arabia, Russia and the US, which have seen prices fall by about 20 percent since early October.

Saudi Arabia has pumped 10.7 million barrels per day in October, while the figure for Russiaand the US was 11.4 million barrels in each case.

Mr Yergin said: “It’s the big three, it’s Saudi Arabia, Russia and the US, this is a different configuration in the oil market than the traditional OPEC-non-OPEC one and so the world is having to adjust.”

BP Group Chief Executive Bob Dudley told CNBC: “The OPEC-plus agreement between OPEC and non-OPEC producers including Russia and coalition is a lot stronger than people speculate.

“I think Russia doesn’t have the ability to turn on and off big fields which can happen in the Middle East.

“But I fully expect there to be coordination to try to keep the oil price within a certain fairway.”

Markets rallied by two percent on Monday off the back of the , which it justified by citing uncertain global oil growth and associated oil demand next year.

It also suggested  granted on US sanctions imposed on Iran which have been granted to several countries including China and Japan was a reason not to fear a decline in supply.

Also talking to CNBC, Russia’s Oil Minister Alexander Novak indicated a difference of opinion between Russia and the Saudis, saying it was too soon to cut production, highlighting a lot of volatility in the oil market.

He added: “If such a decision is necessary for the market and all the countries are in agreement, I think that Russia will undoubtedly play a part in this.

“But it’s early to talk about this now, we need to look at this question very carefully.”

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Nigel Farage lashes out at Angela Merkel, as Chancellor attends EU Parliament debate (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 17.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris take a quick look at Nigel Farage’s blistering speech, aimed squarely at Angela Merkel, calling out the German Chancellor’s disastrous migrant policy, wish to build an EU army, and Brussels’ Cold War rhetoric with Russia to the East and now the United States to the West.

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The Ukrainian President Signs a Pact With Constantinople – Against the Ukrainian Church

There is still a chance to prevent the schism from occurring.

Dmitry Babich

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Authored by Dmitry Babich via Strategic Culture:


Increasingly tragic and violent events are taking their toll on the plight of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Ukraine . After several fights over control of the church’s property, prohibitions and blacklists are starting to spread, affecting respected church figures coming from Russia to Ukraine. The latest news is that the head of the Moscow Theological Academy, Archbishop Amvrosyi Yermakov, was deported from Ukraine back to Russia. Amvrosyi’s name popped up on the black list of Russian citizens who are not deemed “eligible to visit” Ukraine. Obviously, this happened right before his plane landed in Zhulyany, Kiev’s international airport. After a brief arrest, Amvrosyi was put on a plane and sent back to Moscow. This is not the first such humiliation of the Orthodox Church and its priests that has taken place since the new pro-Western regime came to power in Kiev in 2014. Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church has been declared persona non grata throughout Ukraine since 2014. That decision was made by humiliatingly low-level officials. A department within the Ukrainian ministry of culture published a ruling stating that Kirill’s visit to Ukraine’s capital of Kiev “would not be desirable.”

Since the ancestors of modern Russians, Belarusians, and Ukrainians were first baptized in 988 in Kiev, the Patriarchs of the Russian Church have never had problems visiting Kiev, the birthplace of their church. Not even under the Bolsheviks did such prohibitions exist. So, for Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church to be denied permission to visit Kiev can only be compared to a possible prohibition against the pope visiting Rome. Since 2014, there have also been several criminal cases filed against the priests of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC MP) because they have called the hostilities in eastern Ukraine a “civil war” and have discouraged the faithful from supporting that war. This has been interpreted by the Ukrainian state authorities as a call for soldiers to desert the army.

Why Poroshenko’s meeting with Bartholomew is ominous

Despite the fact that the UOC MP has become used to all sorts of trouble since 2014, things have been looking even worse for the canonical church lately, as 2018 draws to a close. In early November 2018, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko broke the wall of separation between church and state in the most overt manner possible — he signed “an agreement on cooperation and joint action” between Ukraine and the so called Constantinople Patriarchate, the oldest institution of Orthodox Christianity, which is now based in Turkish Istanbul.

Rostislav Pavlenko, an aide to Poroshenko, wrote on his Facebook page that the agreement (not yet published) is premised on the creation of a new “autocephalous” Orthodox Church of Ukraine — a development that the official, existing Orthodox Churches in Russia and Ukraine view with foreboding as a “schism” that they have done all they can to prevent. Why? Because Poroshenko’s regime, which came to power via a violent coup in Kiev in 2014 on a wave of public anti-Russian sentiment, may try to force the canonical Orthodox Church of Ukraine to merge with other, non-canonical institutions and to surrender to them church buildings, including the famous monasteries in Kiev and Pochai, as well as other property.

President Poroshenko was visibly happy to sign the document — the contents of which have not yet been made public — on cooperation between the Ukrainian state and the Constantinople Patriarchate, in the office of Bartholomew, the head of the Constantinople Patriarchate. Poroshenko smiled and laughed, obviously rejoicing over the fact that the Constantinople Patriarchate is already embroiled in a scandalous rift with the Russian Orthodox Church and its Ukrainian sister church over several of Bartholomew’s recent moves. Bartholomew’s decision to “lift” the excommunication from two of Ukraine’s most prominent schismatic “priests,” in addition to Bartholomew’s declaration that the new church of Ukraine will be under Constantinople’s direct command — these moves were just not acceptable for the canonical Orthodox believers in Russia and Ukraine. Kirill, the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC), as well as Onufriy, the Metropolitan of Kiev and all Ukraine, are protesting loudly, viewing this situation as a breach of two basic principles. First of all, the Ukrainian state has interfered in the church’s affairs, asking Constantinople to give the Ukrainian church “autocephaly,” which that church never requested. Second, Constantinople itself has interfered in the affairs of two autonomous national churches, the Russian and the Ukrainian. In the eyes of Ukrainian and Russian clergy, Bartholomew is behaving like the Roman pope and not as a true Orthodox leader who respects the autonomy and self-rule of the separate, national Orthodox Churches.

The Russian President sympathizes with the believers’ pain

Two days before Poroshenko made his trip to Istanbul, Russian president Vladimir Putin broke with his usual reserve when commenting on faith issues to bitterly complain about the pain which believers in Russia and Ukraine have experienced from the recent divisions within the triangle of Orthodoxy’s three historic capitals — Constantinople, Kiev, and Moscow.

“Politicking in such a sensitive area as religion has always had grave consequences, first and foremost for the people who engaged in this politicking,” Putin said, addressing the World Congress of Russian Compatriots, an international organization that unites millions of ethnic and cultural Russians from various countries, including Ukraine. Himself a practicing Orthodox believer, Putin lauded Islam and Judaism, while at the same time complaining about the plight of Orthodox believers in Ukraine, where people of Orthodox heritage make up more than 80% of the population and where the church has traditionally acted as a powerful “spiritual link” with Russia.

Despite his complaints about “politicking,” Putin was careful not to go into the details of why exactly the state of affairs in Ukraine is so painful for Orthodox believers. That situation was explained by Patriarch Kirill. After many months of tense silence and an unsuccessful visit to Barthlomew’s office in Istanbul on August 31, Kirill has been literally crying for help in the last few weeks, saying he was “ready to go anywhere and talk to anyone” in order to prevent the destruction of the canonical Orthodox Church in Ukraine.

Politics with a “mystical dimension”

Kirill said the attack against the Orthodox Church in Ukraine “had not only a political, but also a mystical dimension.” Speaking in more earthly terms, there is a danger that the 1,000-year-old historical Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP) — which now owns 11,392 church buildings, 12,328 parishes, and two world-famous monasteries in Ukraine — will be dissolved. The roots of the UOC MP go back to the pre-Soviet Russian Empire and even further back to the era of Kievan Rus, the proto-state of the Eastern Slavs in the tenth-twelfth centuries AD, when the people who would later become Russians, Ukrainians, and Byelorussians were adopting Orthodox Christianity from the Byzantine Empire. It is by far the biggest church in Ukraine, as Mikhail Denisenko’s non-canonical “alternative” church has only 3,700 parishes that include church buildings (fewer than a third of what is owned by the UOC-MP, despite the fact that Denisenko enjoys official support from the Ukrainian state).

What many Russian and Ukrainian believers fear is that the Istanbul-based Patriarch Bartholomew will eventually grant Kiev what is being called autocephaly. In that event, the UOC-MP may be forced to merge with two other, non-canonical churches in Ukraine that have no apostolic liaison. The apostolic succession of the UOC-MP consists in the historical fact that its first bishops were ordained by medieval bishops from Constantinople, who had in turn been ordained by Christ’s disciples from ancient Israel. Apostolic succession is crucial for the Orthodox Church, where only bishops can ordain new priests and where the church’s connection to the first Christians is reflected in many ways, including in the clergy’s attire.

Metropolitan Hilarion (his secular name is Grigory Alfeyev), the Russian church’s chief spokesman on questions of schism and unity, accused the patriarch of contributing to the schism by officially “lifting” the excommunication from Ukraine’s most prominent schismatic church leader — the defrocked former bishop Mikhail Denisenko. That clergyman stands to gain most from the “autocephaly” promised to Poroshenko by Patriarch Bartholomew. A hierarchical Orthodox Church is considered to have autocephalous status, as its highest bishop does not report to any higher-ranking bishop. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has stated that for Ukraine to be granted autocephaly from Istanbul, this would mean a complete “reformatting” of the country’s religious status quo and the severing of all links to Orthodox Russia and its “demons.”. Most likely, the new “united” church won’t be headed by the UOC MP’s Metropolitan, but by Mikhail Denisenko, who was excommunicated by both the UOC MP and the Russian church back in 1997 and with whom real Orthodox priests can only serve against their will and against the church’s internal rules.

Constantinople’s first dangerous moves

On October 11, 2018, the Constantinople Patriarchate made its first step towards granting autocephaly by repealing its own decision of 1686 that gave the Moscow Patriarch primacy over the Kiev-based Metropolitan. This 17th-century decision reflected the political reality of the merger between the states of Russia and Ukraine and established some order in the matters of church administration. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Moscow gave the Ukrainian church complete independence in financial and administrative matters, but the two churches retained their cherished “spiritual unity.” “Constantinople’s decision is aimed at destroying that unity,” the ROC’s Patriarch Kirill explained. “We can’t accept it. That is why our Holy Synod made the decision to end eucharistic communication with the Constantinople Patriarchate.”

How Moscow “excommunicated” Bartholomew

The end of eucharistic communication means that the priests of the two patriarchates (based in Moscow and Istanbul) won’t be able to hold church services together. It will be maintained as long as the threat of autocephaly continues. The Western mainstream media, however, interpreted this decision by the Russian church as a unilateral aggressive act. The NYT and the British tabloid press wrote that it simply reveals Putin’s “desperation” at not being able to keep Ukraine’s religious life under control.

However, Patriarch Bartholomew seems undeterred by the protests from the Russian faithful and the majority of Ukraine’s believers. Bartholomew said in a recent statement that Russia should just follow the example of Constantinople, which once granted autocephaly to the churches of the Balkan nations. Bartholomew’s ambassadors in Kiev do not shy away from communicating with the self-declared “Patriarch” Filaret (Mikhail Denisenko’s adopted religious name from back when he was the UOC MP’s Metropolitan prior to his excommunication in 1997). For true Orthodox believers, any communication with Denisenko has been forbidden since 1992, the year when he founded his own so-called Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kiev Patriarchate (UOC-KP). Unfortunately, Denisenko enjoys the full support of Ukrainian President Poroshenko, and recently the US State Department began encouraging Denisenko, by giving its full support to Ukraine’s autocephaly.

The lifting of Denisenko’s excommunication by Patriarch Bartholomew in Istanbul both upset and embittered the Orthodox believers in both Ukraine and Moscow, since Denisenko was excommunicated by a joint decision of the Russian church and the UOC MP in 1997, after a five-year wait for his return to the fold of the mother church. So, by undoing that decision, Constantinople has interfered in the canonical territory of both the Ukrainian and the Russian churches.

The UOC-MP protested, accusing not only Patriarch Bartholomew, but also the Ukrainian state of interfering in the church’s affairs. “We are being forced to get involved in politics. The politicians do not want Christ to run our church; they want to do it themselves,” said Metropolitan Onufriy (Onuphrius), the head of the UOC-MP, in an interview with PravMir, an Orthodox website. “Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate has been independent. Our church did not ask for autocephaly, because we already have independence. We have our own Synod (church council) and our own church court. Decisions are made by a congress of bishops and priests from all over Ukraine. We have financial and administrative independence, so autocephaly for us will be a limitation, not an expansion of our rights.”

Poroshenko’s premature jubilation

Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Poroshenko did not conceal his jubilation about Constantinople’s moves. “This is a victory of good over evil, light over darkness,” Poroshenko said when the news about the lifting of Denisenko’s excomnmunication came from Istanbul in early October.

Poroshenko said he wanted a “united Orthodox Church” for his country, and he openly pressured Patriarch Bartholomew to provide autocephaly to Kiev during his visits to Istanbul in the spring of 2018 and in November of the same year. Meanwhile, Denisenko said that the provision of autocephaly would mean the immediate dispossession of the UOC MP. “This Russian church (UOC MP) will have to cede control of its church buildings and famous monasteries to the new Ukrainian church, which will be ours,” Denisenko was quoted by Ukrainian media as saying. “These monasteries have been owned by the state since Soviet times, and the state gave them to the Russian church for temporary use. Now the state will appoint our communities of believers as the new guardians of this heritage.” Denisenko also made a visit to the US, where he met Undersecretary of State Wess Mitchell, obtaining from him America’s active support for the creation of a “unified” Ukrainian church.

There is still a chance to prevent the schism from occurring. Poroshenko’s presidential aide, Rostislav Pavlenko, made it clear on Tuesday that the actual “tomos” (a letter from the Constantinople Patriarchate allowing the creation of an autocephalous church) will be delivered only IN RESPONSE to a request from a “unifying convention” that represents all of Ukraine’s Orthodox believers in at least some sort of formal manner. This new convention will have to declare the creation of a new church and elect this church’s official head. Only then will Constantinople be able to give that person the cherished “tomos.”

Since the UOC-MP has made it very clear that it won’t participate in any such convention, the chances of the smooth transition and easy victory over the “Muscovite believers” that Poroshenko wants so badly are quite slim. There are big scandals, big fights, and big disappointments ahead.

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