Ukraine: New Leaders Pinning Hopes on ConstantinoplePatriarchate
- From: JHForest@...
RIA Novosti / 26 April 2005
Opinion & analysis Nowosti
Ukraine: New Leaders Pinning Hopes on Constantinople Patriarchate
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
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