July: About Compromises

3 August 2010, 09:35 | Viktor Yelenskyi's column | 0 |   | Code for Blog |  | 
Viktor Yelenskyi

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Why did the media – not only Ukrainian and Russian for that matter – show such an interest in this year’s visit of Patriarch Kirill to Ukraine? I think because the patriarch hit the most sensitive, raw nerves of Ukrainian self-realization and self-recognition. Nothing original in the content of the visit was remembered: a lot about the unity of peoples of the Holy Rus and Orthodoxy as its cultural dominant, about the sin of the schism, about the decline of the West…One way or another, we heard all of this during his earlier visit.

But this year the orientation crisis of the Ukrainian society grew deeper from disillusionment and even despair. The new government made a series of steps which forced one to seriously doubt its intentions to save Ukrainian statehood and the division in the country grew even deeper. The Moscow Patriarchate happily spoke about the “outside circumstances that changed.” And while the Ukrainian journalists were busy trying to answer the “unsolvable” question: “Is the patriarch’s visit political or pastoral?” their Russian colleagues, not burdened by such almost ontological thoughts, embellished the newspaper columns with such bold headings as “The Patriarch Came to Ukraine to Unite the People” or “All-Rus Unity Will Follow Church Unity.”  

Therefore we aren’t in a hurry to talk about the complete failure of the 2010 visit. Fewer people came out to meet the patriarch than was announced. Indeed, many were stunned by the impressive contrast between the patriarchal criticism of the attempts to become rich and the government with the luxury of its “Cadillac’s” and the large amount vicious guards. Many did not hear what they had hoped, many were offended. But while part of the society holds doubts about the choice that was made 20 years ago, far removed from the Gospel speeches about the “Russian World” will find its listeners. . And no matter how many times the patriarch and those whose duty it is, said that the “Russian World” “is not what you thought it was,” the massive reaction and zealous adherents, and firm opponents of this doctrine attest that it was indeed understood adequately. Twenty years ago there were fewer doubts about the choice in the society and that is why it was much more difficult for Patriarch Alexy II to visit St. Sophia Cathedral.

Now – despite the ritual assurance to respect the Ukrainian choice – the goals of the Moscow Patriarchate concerning Ukraine are strict and uncompromising.

Above all, this concerns ideological constructions: Orthodoxy in Ukraine should not enter the framework of the Russian World and try to comprehend itself in other contexts. Similar attempts of Orthodox theologians in uniting with the Moscow Patriarchate came across not only destructive criticism, but also downright badgering.

To rigidly squeeze Orthodoxy in Ukraine so that it fits in the historiosophic schemes constructed outside of Ukraine means to deny the creation of a unique religious culture. We know better than you what the fundamental spiritual and religious-cultural foundation of your existence should be, is what Orthodox Ukrainians hear. We better understand the content of your historical memory, your spiritual bonds that unite you with other cultures and spiritual traditions and what your ideas are. Some unique memories, bonds, and ideals you cannot have. Discard particularism and move toward universalism. But universalism, which is often mentioned by the Moscow Patriarchate, is very specific.

The characteristics in this sense are the accusations addressed to nationalism. When this year Patriarch Kirill in Odesa described nationalism as an attempt to secure the welfare of one’s people on the cost of the suffering of others, he, it must be understood, spoke about Ukrainian, American, and Georgian nationalism, but never about Russian nationalism. At least, when in March 2008 President Putin directly announced that he is a “Russian nationalist” and that his successor Medvedev is also a Russian nationalist, there were no protests as far as one can remember.

One more “historiosophic” target is the West, which is condemned for its atheism, same-sex marriages, and secularization. Human dignity, civil rights, and the development of the civil society in that part of Europe are looked passed. And the fact that people in atheist Western Europe (let alone those in the USA) attend mass more often than in God-loving Russia, and no less sympathize with misery and suffering, but rather significantly less often abandon children and kill unborn babies, is concealed.

At the end of the visit the patriarch called Ukrainians to lower the boiling temperature, including the “boiling of historiosophy.” It seems that the views propagated by him and his “Ukrainian policy” will only raise that temperature.

The second direction of this policy, where compromises of the Moscow Patriarchate are excluded, is the attitude to the schism in Ukrainian Orthodoxy. The patriarchate will support the separation between Orthodox Ukrainians. The dialogue with the “schismatic formations” will not be allowed; and if once references to the canons were treated seriously, then after the unification in 2007 of the ROC with the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad they can no longer look so reliable.. How wittily they condemned one another not long ago, when they righteously exposed the collaboration with Stalin and Hilterists accordingly, how convincingly they came to the conclusion that not only is there no grace, but no decent people in any of the churches; yet, they united! Because the unification of these churches has a great symbolic meaning – this and the end of the civil war, and the reconciliation between “two Russias.” And Russian nationalists for certain are interested in such a unification. No less than Ukrainian nationalists in the unification of the Orthodox of Ukraine in one church. And this is precisely not needed for the Russian nationalist. In so far as – despite of the declarations about the complete equality of all components of the “Russian World” – there are no Ukrainian nationalists in the Moscow Patriarchate, but only Russian nationalists, Russian imperialists, and some Eurasians, they are and will create systematic oppositions for such a unification – in any form. It was hard to do something worse for the unification and something more repulsing for the faithful of the Kyivan Patriarchate than to declare that christening in their church doesn’t have grace. But Patriarch Kirill did this. In principle, the Moscow Patriarchate needs the Kyivan Patriarchate. But a weak, isolated, marginal, theologically powerless, organizationally divided. Such a formation will become the refuge for “bad nationalists” and will attest to the Orthodox world how harmful it is to separate from the mother church. Thus, evidently, “through external circumstances that have changed,” the Moscow Patriarchate will not listen to the advice of the press secretary of one of the eparchies and will not ask the government, which is its adherent, to prohibit the Kyivan Patriarchate.  It will be “simply” about its discrimination.

Finally, the compromises in the question about the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in unity with the Moscow Patriarchate are being made impossible. The patriarchate is and will do everything to protect itself from “unpleasantries,” which it encountered from this church in previous years. In this sense, it will be interesting to see how the 20th anniversary of the UOC receiving Tomos in sovereignty and independence in its management will be celebrated. How much will it differ from the celebration in 2005 marking the 15 year anniversary, when there was talk about “embodying the national expectations of Orthodox Christians in Ukraine” and about “possibilities ...to build independently its church life in accordance to the church-national traditions”?

For now we will not talk about the possible scenarios that are being worked on by the patriarch’s entourage, about preparing a cadre and the style of work with “the present cadres.” Not because of the reluctance to deprive work from the conspirologists and Kremlin studies experts. And not because the patriarch wants to go down in history not only as a land gatherer, but also as the father of the Great and Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church, which requests the establishment of additional alternates for analyzing its policy. In our case where will be more important the position of Orthodox in Ukraine, and of all the Ukrainian society. It mainly and decisively depends on them if it will be a success, as a once popular Russian singer expressed, “to finish beating the khokhly this time.”

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