Fwd: A U.S. patriarch in Kiev?
- 2005.04.26 UPI:
Eye on Eurasia: A U.S. patriarch in Kiev?
By Paul Goble
UNITED PRESS INTERNATIONAL
Tartu, Estonia, Apr. 26 (UPI) -- Only a few weeks after some Russians
speculated a Catholic bishop from Siberia might succeed John Paul II as
pope, others are discussing the possibility a U.S. citizen might become the
patriarch of a united Orthodox church in Ukraine.
If the speculation about a Russian pope was almost funny, yet hopeful,
concerns over an American hierarch ruling over an independent Ukrainian
Orthodox Church are deadly serious and tinged with more than a little fear
about what that would mean for the Moscow Patriarchate and Russia itself.
In a Web interview, Kirill Frolov, who heads the Ukraine Department of
the Moscow Institute of Commonwealth of Independent States Countries, said
he believes Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko's efforts to promote a
single Orthodox Church could combine with the desire of the Universal
Patriarchate in Istanbul to weaken its Moscow counterpart by placing a
Ukrainian-American metropolitan to lead an independent Orthodox Church in
Last month, Yushchenko said he hoped to see the emergence of a single
Orthodox Church in Ukraine, one that would unite the faithful who are split
among several church structures, including one subordinate to the Moscow
Patriarchate and others either autocephalous or subordinate to the
Five years earlier, at the urging of the Universal Patriarchate, the
Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church elected Metropolitan Constantine,
the primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the United States and a
U.S. citizen, as its "spiritual pastor." Such a title has no basis in
church doctrine, but it does give Constantine potentially significant
influence in Ukraine.
Frolov says the Universal Patriarchate now plans to pursue in Ukraine the
same approach adopted in Estonia in the 1990s to undermine the Moscow
Patriarchate's influence and to use Constantine as its agent in this
effort. (For Frolov's understanding of the Universal Patriarchate's
approach in Estonia, see his article at br-sl.com/2000/i48-00-8-r.html).
The reasons for choosing Constantine, whose U.S.-based church is
subordinate to Istanbul, Frolov continues, include his American
citizenship, which may appeal to the leaders of Ukraine's Orange
Revolution; his relative lack of opponents in Ukraine where he has not
served on the ground; and the relatively small size of the church over
which he exercises spiritual leadership. These reasons, Frolov suggests,
makes him a more acceptable compromise candidate.
In impassioned language, he says the Universal Patriarchate and, by
extension, Constantine are behind the actions of Ukrainian church leaders
and the faithful being directed against the Moscow Patriarchate's
congregations and church property there. He suggests the new Ukrainian
authorities are ignoring the law to support Ukrainian challenges to the
In fact, it is far from clear there is any single coordinated campaign to
form a single Orthodox Church in Ukraine or that Constantine is likely to
head it if one were created.
The religious situation in Ukraine is complicated and the number of
players large so none can say with any certainty when or even if there will
be a single Orthodox Church, to which, if any, patriarchate it will be
subordinate, and who will be chosen to serve as its head.
Indeed, Russian President Vladimir Putin appears committed to doing what
he can to prevent any loss of influence by the Moscow Patriarchate in
Ukraine. Last month, he met with Metropolitan Vladimir, who heads that
church's hierarchy there, to express the Kremlin's support.
But in his interview as he has before, Frolov suggests the Universal
Patriarchate will follow the script it developed when it was involved in
the redivision of church property and the redefinition of canonical
territories in Estonia. He warned if this script were allowed to play out
in Ukraine, there may be attempts to try to apply it to the Russian
If Frolov can see this, others -- in Ukraine and Russia -- will be able
to do so as well. At least some of them are likely to speak out and even to
act against it to defend what they see as their historical and religious
At least a part of Frolov's tone therefore reflects his concern that too
few people in Moscow seem to understand what he believes is taking place in
Ukraine -- and his equally obvious sense that more Russians will do so if
he suggests an American citizen is about to displace the Moscow
Patriarchate in Ukraine.
In Frolov's words, "If in the upper reaches of the Russian state, these
evidence things are not understand and adequate measures are not taken,
then the Russian Orthodox Church, the last advance fortress of the Russian
world will be dismembered, and Russia which will in this case lose its
ontological basis will lose its sovereignty as well."
(Paul Goble teaches at the EuroCollege of the University of Tartu in
Copyright 2005 United Press International
Nina Tkachuk Dimas
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