Russian Orthodox Rexit and the “Holy and Great Council”

Interfax Religion, 2007:

All-Orthodox meetings for settling disputes are not held regularly to the ‘shame of Orthodox world’ – the Russian Church

The Russian Orthodox Church considers it necessary to conduct regular all-Orthodox meetings to settle controversial issues arising between local Churches and to work out the common notion of a canonical territory.

‘It is a shame of the Orthodox world that we are not able to settle our problems through a fraternal dialogue’, Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin, the deputy head of the Moscow Patriarchate Department for External Church Relations said at a church scientific conference in Moscow.

The AP, 2016:

The leaders of the world’s Orthodox Christian churches ended a historic gathering on the Greek island of Crete on Sunday hoping to repeat the meeting within a decade, despite a boycott by the Russian church — the most populous in a religion of some 300 million people — and three other churches.

Patriarch Kirill of Moscow did not attend, arguing that preparation had been inadequate… Kirill described the Crete meeting as a preparatory one and called for a new full meeting at a later date. It is unlikely he will accept a decision to make such meetings a permanent acting body.

In other words, “fraternal dialogue” is only really acceptable if Russia is running the show. Back in 2007, it was Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople who was reluctant to agree to “All-Orthodox meetings” under Russia’s aegis; now it’s Russia worried about Bartholomew’s status in new regular meetings in the wake of the long-planned “Holy and Great Council”. The Russian Orthodox Church has been challenging the status and authority of the Patriarch of Constantinople for a long time.

Meanwhile, the pro-Kremlin Interfax News Agency has been busy interviewing Russian Orthodox experts ready to explain why Kirill was right to boycott the event. First up, Alexey Svetozarsky of the Moscow Theological Academy:

…We see the life of the Orthodox Church as a fraternal unity of separate local Orthodox Churches, which should settle problematic questions jointly, not dictated by a certain “Eastern pope,” very small pope, caricatured in a certain sense, even though in a high rank.

…The Constantinople Patriarchate focuses on Anglo-Saxons, on evident, inexplicable for an Orthodox person, attraction by Rome. Anyone can search in Internet browser “Patriarch Bartholomew,” he jumps out of the frock as he wants to serve with the Pope of Rome. They read Gospels together, the Creed. They only don’t commune together with the pope. It is absolutely inexplicable moment.

Kirill Frolov, of an organisation called the Byzantium Club, sees an American conspiracy:

“We can suppose who these benefactors from the State Department and other services are. Setting up a standing body of outside administration over local Orthodox Churches, imposing the program of their deautocephalization correlates with Washington idea of depriving national states of sovereignty by the way of holding orange revolutions there,” he said.

Frolov believes the Russian Orthodox Church as the world’s biggest Orthodox Church bears the responsibility of preserving unity of Orthodoxy, “dogma about Orthodox Church as the only true, and convene the truly Pan-Orthodox Council without pressure and doubtful dogmatic and canonical experiments.”

The Lebanon Star has some details about other absentees:

Aside from Russia, the Orthodox churches of Bulgaria and Georgia were also absent. Both are considered close to Moscow.

The Patriarchate of Antioch also stayed away because of a spat with Jerusalem over the appointment of clerics in Qatar.

The Qatar dispute goes back to 2013; the current Patriarch of Jerusalem, Theophilos III (a controversial figure), has links with the country going back to the 1990s. However, one has to wonder if citing the Qatar dispute is a way for the Antioch Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II to tactfully align with the rising power and protector of Christians in his home country of Syria.

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