Ukraine wants a national church that is not beholden to Moscow

10 July 2018, 12:13 | Society-digest | 0 |   | Code for Blog |  | 

The Economist, July 6, 2018

THE row is over points of ecclesiastical history and procedure that most people, including ordinary folk who belong to the relevant churches, find utterly obscure. But the geopolitical stakes are enormous. That is one way to describe the escalating dispute over religious authority in Ukraine, a devout and divided country, where 70% of people identify as Orthodox Christians.

At the root of the argument is a fact that would surprise many people. Although Ukraine is in a state of barely frozen conflict with Russia, the most widely organised Christian church on Ukrainian territory (and the only one which enjoys real international legitimacy) owes allegiance to the Patriarchate of Moscow. Its adherents deny being pawns of Moscow, but they are obliged to offer public prayers for Kirill, Moscow’s powerful patriarch.

Many Ukrainians feel that as a country battling to preserve its political independence, Ukraine should have a fully independent national church. As of now, there are two Orthodox bodies which operate on Ukrainian soil, but (in part because of Muscovite pressure) neither enjoys any recognition within world Orthodoxy. The larger of these styles itself the Kiev Patriarchate and is headed by a bishop who broke with Moscow’s authority in 1992, as Ukraine was consolidating its statehood. None of the 14 self-governing churches that make up global Orthodoxy accepts his title.

Tension has been building for several months. On April 9th Ukraine’s president, Petro Poroshenko, went to Istanbul and spelled out his aspirations before the Ecumenical Patriarch, Bartholomew I, who is considered “first among equals” in the Orthodox Christian world. Shortly afterwards, an envoy from Kiev formally presented the Istanbul-based Patriarch with a request for a grant of autocephaly, in other words full independence for a newly constituted Ukrainian church.

On April 22nd Patriarch Bartholomew and his advisers gave a careful response: the request was worthy of consideration but nothing hasty would be done. “Having received from ecclesiastical and civil authorities, representing tens of millions of Ukrainian Orthodox Christians, a petition that requests autocephaly, [the Synod] decided to communicate closely and coordinate with its sister Orthodox churches.”

The Moscow Patriarchate’s reaction was swift and thunderous. Its forceful external-affairs chief, Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev, said that if Patriarch Bartholomew accepts the request from Kiev, it could lead to the biggest split in Christianity since 1054, when the eastern Orthodox church and Rome parted company.

At a minimum, his words implied that relations between the Patriarchs of Moscow and Constantinople, the two main poles of authority in eastern Christianity, could go from scratchy but functional to non-existent. Metropolitan Hilarion has since warned there could be violence if “schismatics” take control of historically important Ukrainian churches.

Among canon lawyers in Moscow, Kiev and Istanbul, a key point at issue is an event that happened in 1686, giving Moscow authority over a then-flourishing metropolitan see of Kiev. Before that the Kiev church had answered only to Constantinople, its ultimate spiritual source. For Muscovites, the 1686 act settles the matter: their Patriarchate is the only legal authority in Ukraine, and if that country were ever to have an independent church, it could only be granted by Moscow. Ukrainians say the 1686 pronouncement was made under duress and they challenge its legitimacy.

Patriarch Bartholomew, always steering a very careful course, said on July 1st that the transfer of authority to Moscow in 1686 had not been unconditional and that his own ancient see retained a legitimate interest in the affairs of Ukraine.

Mr Poroshenko has told his supporters that their dream of a legitimate national church could be realised by July 28th which is the 1,030th anniversary of the conversion to Christianity of the eastern Slavs. According to tradition, this event followed a journey to Constantinople by Slavic envoys who were so overwhelmed by the beauty of the worship there they “did not know whether they were in heaven or earth.”

But Patriarch Bartholomew, whose relations with relations with Moscow have fluctuated sharply since he took office in 1991, will think very carefully before making any final adjudication on the religious affairs of today’s Slavs. The earthly stakes, as well as the heavenly one, are high.

Система Orphus
Rating
0
0
0comments count

comments

add comments 

    Сan leave comments only to registered visitors Еnter

    Monitoring

    Last comments

    • Ігор Затятий | 25 September 2018, 17:06

      Гумор-сатира.

    • velovs@ukr.net | 25 September 2018, 14:31

      Р. S. Перепрошую: дещо НЕ ТУДИ помістив цей свій комент.

    • velovs@ukr.net | 25 September 2018, 14:28

      В 1961 г., в момент её закрытия коммуно-совдеповской властью, наместником Киево-Печерской лавры был епископ Нестор (в миру - Никита Арсентьевич Тугай (1900-1969)). И в тот период будущего митрополита

    • Стефан | 24 September 2018, 21:26

      Мир и порядок в Украине это Поместная Православная Украинская Церковь, освобождение территорий страны от оккупантов, диверсантов и сепаратистов, единство народа в труде, учёбе и отдыхе.

    • Михаил | 24 September 2018, 18:59

      С таким самомнением и претензионностью на мировую власть он скоро начнёт предоставлять "автокефалии" на свой вкус и каприз Католической, Англиканской и церквям подряд. Можно только

    Most Popular Articles month