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Ukraine: New Leaders Pinning Hopes on ConstantinoplePatriarchate

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  • Fr John Brian
    From: JHForest@cs.com RIA Novosti / 26 April 2005 Opinion & analysis Nowosti Ukraine: New Leaders Pinning Hopes on Constantinople Patriarchate 14:00
    Message 1 of 1 , May 2, 2005
      From: JHForest@...

      RIA Novosti / 26 April 2005

      Opinion & analysis Nowosti

      Ukraine: New Leaders Pinning Hopes on Constantinople Patriarchate

      14:00 http://en.rian.ru/analysis/20050426/39742900.html

      by Alexei Makarkin
      deputy director of the Center for Political technologies


      The Christian Orthodox community in Ukraine is split among a number of
      openly competing churches: the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow
      Patriarchate (UOC-MP); the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Kyiv Patriarchate
      (UOC-KP), under the leadership of the former Metropolitan Filaret, who the
      Russian Orthodox Church anathematized; and the Ukrainian Autocephalous
      Orthodox Church, which was kept alive by supporters of Ukrainian
      independence in the 1940s.

      In the latest development in the long-standing confrontation between these
      churches, the Constantinople Patriarchate has expressed its desire to act as
      arbiter in the Ukrainian interchurch dispute. The Moscow Patriarchate is
      unsurprisingly opposed to this, as it believes that Ukraine falls under its

      Ukrainian Orthodox believers opposed to the influence of the Moscow
      Patriarchate had previously appealed to the Constantinople Patriarchate, but
      Istanbul had been very wary of getting involved, as it had thought that the
      UOC-MP was the only church with canonical standing in Ukraine.

      The situation changed after Viktor Yushchenko won the presidential
      election. The new president supports the idea that there should be just one
      church in Ukraine, a unified national church, which by its very nature could
      not come under the jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate. This explains
      why Ukrainian supporters of the Constantinople Patriarchate have stepped
      up their efforts. Archbishop Vsevolod (Maidanovsky), one of the leading
      hierarchs of the Constantinople Patriarchate, visited Ukraine last March and
      informed President Yushchenko that when Patriarch Dionysius of
      Constantinople transferred the Kyivan Metropolitanate to the jurisdiction of
      the Patriarch of Moscow in 1686 he had been acting on his own authority,
      without the consent of the Holy Synod. Therefore, Constantinople does not
      recognize the autocephaly of the Russian Orthodox Church beyond the
      borders of Moscow's rule; that is, it does not recognize its jurisdiction in

      Constantinople clearly wants revenge for the numerous setbacks that it has
      suffered over the years. For several centuries the territory controlled by
      Constantinople Patriarchate, the "first in honor" of the Orthodox sees (that
      traditionally the most revered), kept shrinking. Serbia, Romania and
      Bulgaria seceded in the 19th century, and even Greece left to establish its
      own Orthodox Church of Hellas (although the Constantinople Patriarchate
      had historically been Greek).

      In the last 100 years, Constantinople has increased its missionary
      in the US, but even there the "first in honor" Patriarchate does not have a
      monopoly: the Russian Orthodox Church granted autocephaly to the
      Orthodox Church in America, which was established on the basis of Russian
      dioceses set up in the "New World."

      Then there was the issue of Estonia. Moscow and Constantinople clashed
      head on over this small country in the 1990s, and now there are two
      competing churches in Estonia.

      Constantinople now has a chance to oust the Moscow Patriarchate from
      Ukraine by offering its patronage to the creation of a unified Ukrainian
      church, which would give it canonical legitimacy (hence the reference to the
      events of 1686). And we have seen moves being made towards this.
      However, Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople remains conspicuously
      silent about Archbishop Vsevolod's pronouncement, even though it concerns
      a crucial issue in interchurch relations. Constantinople appears to be
      the waters before making any decisions of principle. And there are good
      reasons for this.

      Firstly, Ukraine is not Estonia. If Constantinople directly interferes in
      Ukrainian Orthodox affairs, the two Churches could fall out for a long time.
      During the dispute over Estonia, Moscow suspended ecclesiastical contacts
      with Constantinople for several months. But now a rift could have much
      wider consequences. With Greek Orthodoxy in crisis (due to the corruption
      scandals in the Jerusalem and Hellenic Orthodox Churches), further
      interchurch conflict could seriously damage the international standing of
      Orthodox Christianity. Moreover, if this were to happen, Constantinople
      would be "the guilty party."

      Secondly, it is not known how stable the new Ukrainian government will
      prove to be. Already there are dissentions in the ranks. President
      Yushchenko may manage to "regulate" the situation, but what if he cannot?
      The ancient Constantinople Church cannot allow itself to become bogged
      down in an unstable political situation.

      Last but not least, Constantinople will struggle to find partners within
      Ukraine. The UOC-MP will not entertain a partnership, and given that this
      Church unites the overwhelming majority of Ukrainian Orthodox parishes,
      more than 10,000 of them, this poses something of a challenge to the
      Constantinople Patriarchate.

      * * *

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