What he gets out of recognizing the Ukrainian Orthodox Church dreamed up in 1991 as legitimate is a huge amount of control over it, totally unmatched by the control the Russian Orthodox Church has over its branch in Ukraine. Simultaneously he is making a bid to emerge as a sort of Orthodox pope to whom all the other Orthodox Patriarchs bow down to
Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard
Bartholomew met our expectations. Instead of Tomos of Autocephaly, naive Kiev fighters against the Russian world and the Third Rome received the restoration of the stauropegion of the Constantinople Patriarchate in Ukraine.
I.e., anyone who doesn’t like the absolute autonomy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate – which is autonomous in cadre, financial, and property questions, completely self-governed, and also has considerable weight in the Holy synod of the Russian Orthodox Church (i.e., it’s not the ROC that governs the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, but the Ukrainian Orthodox Church that governs the ROC) – are welcome to be directly subordinated to Constantinople. Bartholomew will personally decide who is worthy of what dignity, who will be appointed to what diocese, and also he will superintend independently.
But Bartholomew and the Synod of the Constantinople Patriarchate that supported him in everything went much further. The anathema imposed by the Russian Orthodox Churchwas removed from the so-called patriarch of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kiev Patriarchate (UOC-KP) Filaret, and the canonicity of both the UOC-KP and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church – schismatic Ukrainian pseudo-churches -was de facto recognised.
This is the main, most dangerous, and not at all obligatory step that was made by Constantinople. Bartholomew could work on creating in Ukraine a structure subordinated to the Constantinople Patriarchate that could be given autocephaly also without the removal of the anathema from Filaret and without the recognition of schismatics. It would be more reasonable for him to save this argument for later — both for negotiations with the Moscow Patriarchate and for influencing the internal situation in self-proclaimed churches. Nevertheless, Bartholomew laid it out on the table, depriving him of the chance to sort out relations with Moscow.
Constantinople hurries to rouse war. On the one hand, this testifies to the uncertainty that the window of opportunities that opened for him in Ukraine will be open for long. I will remind that Poroshenko for the first 3.5 years of his reign didn’t show an interest in autocephaly. It started to interest him only as a pre-election technology. There is no guarantee that after the election cycle ends, Ukrainian politicians will be so favorably intended in relation to the pretensions of Constantinople. I will remind that instead of the requested autocephaly, Bartholomew conceived the idea of establishing his rigid control over Ukrainian Orthodoxy.
On the other hand – and this is much more important – Bartholomew used the situation in order to go far beyond the borders of the Ukrainian crisis itself. He proclaimed (and was supported in it by the Constantinople Synod) his right to be the sole authority in all the orthodox world, some kind of orthodox papacy. By initiating a rigid conflict with the ROC (and the removal of the anathema, which Bartholomew had no canonical right to do, and the acceptance of communication with an anathematised Filaret’s expands the anathema to Bartholomew himself), Constantinople takes away world Orthodoxy from the discussion about the ambitions of Bartholomew, forcing local churches to determine for themselves who they are with — Constantinople or Moscow. At the same time, there is a threat of split not only for world Orthodoxy – when one part of local churches will support Constantinople and another part will support Moscow, but also in each separately taken church, where some hierarches and priesthood can support Bartholomew, and others can support the Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia Kirill.
These multiple splits are also dangerous because they will destabilise the situation in those states where these churches operate. I.e., this concerns the destabilisation of the situation and the provocation of religious conflicts not only in Ukraine, but also in Eastern Europe – in particular on the Balkans, in North Africa, in Asia Minor, and in the Levant. If civil religious armed conflicts will capture this region, a big war will practically immediately knock on the doors of mankind. After all, some will accuse Bartholomew and the US of destabilising the situation , and others will accuse the ROC and Moscow.
But the main crime of Bartholomew before mankind is that, having provoked a crisis fraught with civil and interstate military conflicts (including long ones of high intensity), the Constantinople Patriarchate deprived the political structures of Russia, the US, and the EU of control over the development of events. But he himself didn’t obtain such control either.
The escalation should accrue automatically, and in an explosive way. At the same time, a de-escalation mechanism is completely absent. Even if to imagine the impossible – the total and unconditional surrender of ROC before Bartholomew, even this move can’t lead to conflict de-escalation because certain hierarches, priests, monasteries, and laity will stand in opposition to Bartholomew and his “patriarchate”.
There are no more opportunities to avoid a conflict, which, having begun as a purely religious one, will quickly develop into military-political clashes between the corresponding states (and also inside of them). The only question is what scale it will assume, how many countries will it capture, and will it be possible to localise it within Ukraine’s borders.
It is necessary to understand that Bartholomew’s actions are deliberate — it wasn’t difficult to calculate possible answers, they were laying on the surface. I.e., he consciously opted to initiate bloodshed and to let the situation spiral out of control. He risked mankind for the sake of his ambitions, and the Synod of Constantinople Patriarchate supported him in this. This means that such a policy is long-term. The patriarch sometime – most likely rather soon – will be replaced, but the political principles laid down by Bartholomew and the Synod of the Constantinople Patriarchate between October 9th and 11th, 2018 are for decades, if not centuries.
World Orthodoxy will never be the same as it was before the latest decisions made by Constantinople. A new Great Split took place, and it’s not a fact that in one millennium it won’t poison religious and political in the same way. In the near future the wave of destabilisation awaits a vast region – from the Carpathians and the Danube, to the upper courses of the Nile and the coast of Euphrates.
But it is, of course, Ukraine, the UOC, and its leader the Most blessed Metropolitan Onufry – who is the main defender of canonical Orthodoxy in Kiev and on who the fragile unity of the UOC-MP rests – that will bear the first blow. Everything that has happened in Ukraine to date is child’s play in comparison with what is being prepared now. And it won’t be better for Poroshenko, who initiated all of this, it will be only worse. Only an extremely limited and absolutely inadequate person could throw the country into a crisis fraught with civil religious war, the development of which can’t be controlled.
However, as was said, this crisis is so considerable and dangerous and covers such a number of countries that soon nobody will have the time for Poroshenko and his problems.