The split of Orthodox Christianity or the isolation of Russia? Over the past two weeks, Orthodox believers have been anxiously watching the conflict between the Moscow Patriarchate and the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. What may the situation lead to?
The Patriarchate of Constantinople is the most highly respected authority in the Orthodox world. In turn, the Patriarchate of Moscow is the richest one; it has the most numerous flock of souls which makes for one third of the Orthodox church. However, after the separation of Ukraine, it will be down by a quarter.
Moscow has long been at outs with the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. After the split, the Russian Orthodox Church forbade its people to participate in divine services in many regions of Turkey and Greece, including Antalya, Rhodes and Crete, which are frequented by Russian tourists. But it is Mount Athos, where Russian politicians and businessmen like to pray, that has become the most focal point. For the last ten years, Russians have donated about $200 mln to Athos monasteries.
A few days ago, the Metropolitan of Montenegrin and the Serbian Patriarch called the decision of Constantinople ‘uncanonical’. But they did not break off their relations with Constantinople.
Meanwhile, the Moscow Patriarchate is not going to come to terms. “As the Patriarch of Constantinople is engaged in misappropriation and brigandism in the territories of other local churches, he is no longer a believer for half the Orthodox Christians in the world,” Metropolitan Hilarion, head of the department for external church relations of the Russian Orthodox Church, told the BBC.
Moreover, the secretary of the Russian Ecclesiastical Mission to Jerusalem warned that Moscow was ready to cut off contact with the Jerusalem Patriarchate if they supported Constantinople in its decision to grant autocephaly to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
It is the priests of the Jerusalem Orthodox Church who hold the Divine Service in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher on the eve of Easter, during which the Holy Fire appears. It is usually delivered to Moscow by special flight.
If the situation reaches its logical but absurd end, the hierarchs of the Russian Orthodox Church will be left without the Holy Fire on Easter.
As reported earlier, the Ecumenical Patriarchate continues the procedure of granting autocephaly to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. On October 11, the Holy and Sacred Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate decided to issue a tomos of autocephaly to it.
The church may be given Tomos at the Holy Synod session in mid-late November, the Kyiv Patriarchate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church hopes. The Synod recognized as illegal the annexation of the Metropolitan of Kyiv by Moscow in 1686 by cancelling the corresponding decree on obedience. Moreover, the Ecumenical Patriarchate restored Ukraine’s schismatic Patriarch Filaret (Denisenko) and schismatic Archbishop Makariy (Maletych) to canonical status.
On October 15 in Minsk, the Russian Orthodox Church split from the Patriarchate of Constantinople as a response to their decision on Ukraine’s autocephaly. According to the statement, there was the ‘attempted interference of the Patriarchate of Constantinople in the affairs of the canonical territory of the Russian Orthodox Church’.
The Belarusian Orthodox Church supported the decision of the ROC.