The recent split between the Moscow-based Russian Orthodox Church and the now Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Ukraine has been directly along political lines. The Patriarch of Constantinople was the first to recognize the legitimacy of the Patriarchate, in spite of much protest from Moscow.
Now the situation has become much more dire as the ancient Greek Orthodox Church has now recognized Kiev’s claims, delivering a formal letter of reconciliation to the Kiev Patriarch.
The Synod of the Church of Greece has recognised the autocephaly of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Greek Archbishop Ieronymos sent a letter to this effect two days ago to Epiphanius, Metropolitan of Kyiv, dated October 21, 2019. The Greek Synod met on 12 October 2019 and backed the decision taken by the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Constantinople on 6 February 2019.
The missive, called a letter “of reconciliation” because it restores the sacramental communion between the two Churches, follows the concelebration of the liturgical service by the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Archbishop Ieronymos on 20 October in Thessaloniki (Greece), when Metropolitan Epiphanius was mentioned for the first time as head of the Ukrainian autocephalous Church.
With this act, the Synod of the Church of Greece adopted the views expressed by the specially constituted commission – composed of experienced priests and laity – following the request by the Church of Kyiv for recognition presented on 22 May 2019.
The commission’s report – which gave the go-ahead to approve the autocephaly granted by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople and which was handed out to the 80 synod bishops in order to take cognizance of the facts before the final discussion – is based on the following points:
1) Constantinople never granted Moscow jurisdiction over Kyiv, but granted only (by an act dated 1686) the power to ordain the Metropolitan of Kyiv, elected by a clerical lay assembly.
2) Constantinople has always held the privilege (according to Canons 9 and 17 of the 4th Ecumenical Synod) to act as the Court of Appeal in the territories under its jurisdiction.
3) The Ecumenical Patriarch has always had the right and obligation to take the necessary steps to prevent and protect his ecclesial body, as evidenced by its millenary history, both in times of peace and in times of captivity.
4) It is up to the Patriarch of Constantinople to grant autocephaly, as he did in the course of history in the cases of Georgia (1950), Czech Republic (1998), Poland (1925), Albania (1937), Greece (1850), Serbia ( 1878), Romania (1885), Bulgaria (1945), Russia (1496), etc.
Unfortunately, the Commission report states that the Moscow Patriarchate decided at the last moment not to participate in the Pan-Orthodox Synod held in Crete (June 2016). Thus, it prevented the Synod from jointly deciding on autocephaly.
Consequently, the Church of Greece, the document concludes, which recognises Our Lord as head of the Church and is united by the common faith to the great Mother Church of Constantinople, acknowledges that the latter has the canonical right to grant autocephaly to the Church of Kyiv, and the right of the Archbishop of Greece to set in motion the procedures for such recognition.
It is very interesting that the document reviews the concept of “autocephaly” – already present in the history of the Church as the idea of a local Church but linked and fully expressed in the concept of synodality – as the foundation of an apostolic Church.
However, due to certain abuses perpetrated by some local Churches, and in order to avoid rifts, the concept of “pentarchy” was introduced.
Other considerations in the text are also very interesting. One points to the rise of the Enlightenment and the creation of secularised nation-states on the basis of which ethnophyletism developed. This has resulted in identifying the Church of Christ with secularised powers, which is the cause of so many ills on society. For this reason, the Ecumenical Patriarchate of 1872 condemned ethnophyletism as heresy.
Some have expressed reservations during the discussions at the General Synod of 12 October 2019, including a group of seven traditionalist bishops (out of the 80 total) who see the Russians as protectors of Orthodoxy, and have consistently condemned any ecumenical dialogue with Rome, since the latter is not considered a sister Church.
It should also be noted that many Metropolitans have strongly expressed their disappointment at the interference by Russian Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev (head of the Department of External Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate), who over recent months travelled far and wide in Greece (and elsewhere) to prevent the Greek Church from coming out in favour of Kyiv’s autocephaly, urging various bishops to express a negative opinion.
A letter full of threats sent in September by the Metropolitan himself to Metropolitan Chrysostomos of Mogadishu (Patriarchate of Alexandria of Egypt) was also not well received. In very unorthodox ways, it urges others to take a stand against the recognition of the Ukrainian Church. Such a missive, bypassing the Patriarch of Alexandria, was deemed disrespectful and “not worthy” of the Christian tradition.
Now it remains to be seen, after the publication of the letter of recognition of the autocephaly of the Ukrainian Church by the Greek, if Moscow will suspend sacramental communion with Athens. (source)
Likewise, the Greek Patriarch of Alexandria also recognized the legitimacy of Kiev.
The Orthodox patriarch of Alexandria, Theodoros, has recognized the Metropolitan Epiphanius of Kiev of the Ukrainian autocephalous Church. The Patriarchate of Moscow has already broken communion with Kiev and Constantinople due to Ukrainian autocephaly. It is feared that it will now also break communion with the Patriarchate of Alexandria. A month ago, the Church of Greece also recognized Kiev.
The “recognition” and communion with the Ukrainian Church takes place with the simple mention of the name of the Metropolitan of Kiev in the canon of the Divine Liturgy, as a sign of communion. Theodoros mentioned Epiphanius this morning while celebrating the liturgy in Daher, near Cairo in the church of the Archangels, on the feast of the archangels Michael and Gabriel, according to the Orthodox calendar.
The official communiquè states that autocephaly to the Ukrainian Church “was granted by the Ecumenical Patriarchate” of Constantinople “in accordance with the sacred canons of our Orthodox Church tradition”.
For this reason, “after consulting the leaders of our local Churches, who are part of our very ancient Patriarchate founded by the Apostle Mark, and also bearing in mind the historical considerations for the future, we proceeded with the recognition of Autocephaly and during today’s liturgical celebration named of his bleatitutde Epiphanius, head of the church of Kiev and all of Ukraine, and we have prayed for peace and unity of the Orthodox Churches”. (source)
For the purpose of this discussion, I do not want to get tied up with the word “legitimacy” as far as what side is “right” or not. Rather, it is of greater interest to see the changing interplay between geopolitics and what is essentially a religion whose purpose is the enforcement of a particular tribal governing ethos.
The question of national identity and her role in religious life was always one that had beleaguered Eastern Christianity, as just with the Slavic peoples, faith was often times considered, officially or not, to be an extension of obedience to governmental authority. While many will make issue with various points, it is not an exaggeration to say that the central element to the largely eastern rebellion of 1054 was one of power in light of Scripture. Christ explicitly says in the New Testament, in blunt and direct language not unlike that used in John 6 to describe the meaning, role, and importance of the Eucharist, that the rock upon which He will build His church is St. Peter, and it is this Church built upon him is the one over which the gates of hell will not prevail and who has power to bind and loose on Earth:
And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”- Matthew 16:18-19
While the other Churches established by the apostles indeed proceed from them and have a direct connection to Christ, the physical entity entrusted with custody of the whole body of Christian teaching for the universality of the human race’s salvation- which Christ promised cannot fail as He built it -is the Church that He built from St. Peter’s efforts. The Orthodox Churches- as there is no proper concept of an “orthodox church” as a single definition that, like Protestantism, cannot be cohesively explained outside of the rebellions of 431 (for the Assyrian Church of the East), 451 (for the Oriental Orthodox) and 1054 (for the Eastern Orthodox) -retain apostolicity but reside in the error schism in their deference to national identity and the governing bodies which preside over them in the particular territories in which they reside.
The Orthodox Churches as a general rule will viciously deny any lack of universality and will claim “Catholicity” in the concept of a universally shared faith in Christ rooted in “tradition.” Yet Christ did not come to establish a series of nationalistic churches divided on the basis of race and deference to a particular governmental authority over human-defined land boundaries in which a given people have residence. The Orthodox churches will deny the existence of this in spite of the obvious divisions along said racial and national lines, calling it “phyletism,” and say that “anybody” can become “Orthodox” of a particular national Church, and that “phyletism” was condemned during the 19th century. This is true in the technical sense, but then it does not answer the insistence upon having churches who are continually defined in racial and nationalistic terms.
The result of this has been the Protestaneqsue splitting of Orthodox Churches from each other on the basis of racial and nationalistic lines that continues even through today. One might proclaim that there is a “union” between the Orthodox Churches, but it is only words. Ask a Georgian Orthodox if he says that Russian Orthodox Christians are fellow Orthodox and he may say “yes,” but attempt to have the Russian Orthodox speak alongside fellow Georgian Orthodox and the entire country will erupt into nationalistic fervor and accuse, and rightly so based on history, Russian governmental and Russian Orthodox Church attempts at manipulation of Georgian national politics and subversion against the Georgian Orthodox Church. There is the entire history of wars between Bulgaria and Serbia, with the respective Orthodox Churches supporting their particular nations, the current seeking of Macedonia to have her own “autocephalous” Orthodox Church, much to the anger of the Russian Orthodox Church, which has pronounced her as schismatic in spite of support from other Orthodox Churches. Such things, while sad, are not new, and the history of much of Eastern Christianity and especially the “Orthodox” post-1054 can be written not as Orthodox unity, but the idea of unity against the “Latins” with a practical reality of the absolute fragmentation of each church along racial and national boundaries.
For all of the (abundant, legitimate) criticism that can be put to the Catholic Church, the dogma has always emphasized the universality of all men and has never explicitly aligned herself with one particular government explicitly. This is consistent with her mission in that she partakes of both the rulers and the ruled, but also exists independently of both, and to that is not bound to any culture, society, people, race, government, or tribe. Thus a Bantu from the most remote jungles of Africa who is a new convert to the Catholic Faith as as much a right to claim and a responsibility to assert Catholic truth in his society as does a man from any of the ancient Catholic lands of Europe, and the Church also has a right to preach, teach, and help both the peoples ruled as well as the rulers in either society.
This cannot be said about the Orthodox, for without discounting many of the good and holy people of the East who have been recognized by many Catholics, including formally by the Church, the opposition to the Pope (in spite of clear evidence in Sacred Scripture and Tradition) is simply due to the issue of nationalism and the position of the government at the time vis-a-vis the Church, making Christian belief synonymous with good citizenship in the same way that Protestantism did but with the cover of tradition instead of open heresy.
The problems of the Catholic Church are well-known, and have been long discussed, but as it appears from our investigation, ultimately seem to be linked to attempts by some Catholics or those who are claiming to be Catholic to indulge in nationalist sentiments to the detriment of the internationalist approach of the Church. This is not a new problem in Catholic history, and it is not a surprise that it is being faced again, but this time with the aggravating factors of the FSB and CIA. As Pope Benedict XVI noted, the Church will likely become much smaller and will require more of her members as well as face persecution, but she will not disappear because the Bible says so.
This same issue in the east is much more serious because the churches are already split on ethnic lines, and it is only for a skilled manipulator- of which the FSB and CIA are masters of doing this -to further divide and break down the Churches into soulless shells of nationalism more than what they already are. With all respect to the Orthodox Churches, not only are there few people who generally attend, but attendance numbers are not increasing (even in spite of propaganda campaigns from Lubyanka), these people are not having families anywhere near replacement rates, and they are being demographically replaced by Tajik, Turkic, Tuvan, and Muslim migrants who are reproducing and are not Christians.
Our Lady of Fatima spoke of the “annihilation of nations” that would come if Russia was not converted to the Catholic Faith. Many have believed this to be nations of Western Europe, and the apostasy in combination with the rise of Islam and paganism as well as demographic shifts makes this clear. But Russia and the east are no saviors either, and while I certainly desire the good will of Russia and the Russians, she is a very weak nation that is dying from within due to a myriad of issues which you can read about in the Shoebat archives, but Russia could break up and become a nation isolated to the westward points of the Urals. Indeed, it would take a miracle to save Russia at this point, which is what the Fatima prophecies indicate would be possible.
While Wikipedia says that Russia claims anywhere from 58 to 100 million Orthodox adherents, according to the CIA factbook, no more than 20% of Russia is Russian Orthodox in any sense of practicing, which makes the total population about 28 million. Ukraine is noted by Wikipedia and the CIA factbook to have about 27 to 30 million adherents, and the next largest churches are Romania at 16 million and Greece at 10 million.
If we consider these numbers, then right now, the second largest “Orthodox Church” in the world is the Ukrainian Patriarchate, which just received the support of the fourth largest church. If one considers the CIA numbers, then there are more Orthodox Christians by physical number between Greece and Ukraine than there are in all of Russia.
The Romanian Church has remained silent on the controversy, but is expected to issue a ruling in the future.
The Serbian Orthodox Church, the fifth largest church at 8 million, has sided with Russia, but even then, considering their numbers as reported by the CIA with those above, there are approximately the same or just slightly less than those between Ukraine and Greece.
The fact that Greece recognized Ukraine is huge because now, in spite of the words of many, there is not only a split taking place, but a major split because at least half of the ancient Orthodox world has aligned themselves against Moscow’s claims.
In October 2018, Shoebat.com reported that the Russian Orthodox Church forbade her clergy and faithful from visiting the ancient Mt. Athos, a Greek Orthodox Monastery popular to Orthodox and Catholics alike around the world. This recent decision by the Greek Orthodox Church certainly is not going to improve relations over this.
Is the Greek Orthodox Church now in a state of schism or heresy with the rest of “Orthodoxy”? Or perhaps is it Moscow and small Belgrade that are schismatics or heretics because the Ecumenical Patriarch has recognized Ukraine according to what he says are his ancient rights, and the Greek Orthodox Church has agreed this is correct and submitted to her?
Nobody can give a clear answer in the Orthodox world, just as Protestants cannot give a clear answer about doctrine, for what doctrine is to Protestants, nationalism and tribalism is to the Orthodox, but covered under the blanket of tradition, and the only rallying cry that both Protestant and Orthodox will say that, while being unable to admit who holds either the correct teaching (for Protestants) or proper power authority (for Orthodox), all will say “The Papacy is wrong and the source of our problems, rebel against it.”
Now there are many Popes who have their problems. As I have noted before, it would not be uncommon for a man to see two antipopes in his lifetime until 1444. The last five centuries of general stability in the Papacy (political I speak of, as there have been some men in the seat who were morally reprehensible) are a historical anomaly- the Papacy was bound for some medieval-style trouble.
But for all of the things that one can say about the Pope- even if he were to attempt to change doctrines -he cannot because the teaching of the Church exists outside of any man, for the Pope is just a custodian, not the owner. He cannot claim ownership of them any more than a butler can claim to own the mansion of his master, but only to care for, explain, and order that which already exists on behalf of the master.
I have no ill will toward the orthodox, but the fact is the schism is not getting any better. In fact, for all of the criticism that one may throw at the Ukrainians and Greeks, many of the Russians and many American Orthodox have openly supported and will defend a urine-drinking sodomite who claims “traditionalism” and Orthodoxy while defending and promoting paganism and satanism, and yet these same people will ignore this but attack the Pope and the Catholic Church.
I am not worried about the survival of the Catholic Church- she will get smaller and have a lot to struggle with, but this has been warned about prophetically since the 16th century beginning with the revelations of Our Lady of Good Success.
The Orthodox, I fear, may disappear in large part because her people are disappearing.
The political moves are just the show to the fulfillment of many political, economic, historical, and ultimately, prophetic events.
As always, never forget to pray for and seek the good will of all, because things are not going to get better.