Russian Church Threatens Split with Constantinople

From (inevitably) Interfax:

The Constantinople Church’s actions in church politics is one of the main challenges to Orthodox unity, the Moscow Patriarchate believes.

According to Orthodox Bishop Hilarion of Vienna and Austria, the Patriarch of Constantinople is trying to set himself up as an “Eastern Pope”, so obviously it would be better if Russia just took charge:

“One of the main threats is Constantinople’s aggressive policy as it may lead to the schism of Orthodox world…Main opponent of Constantinople and the only Church capable to contest its claims for hegemony in Orthodox world is the Russian Church. For this reason, Constantinople seeks to weaken, divide and deplete it in all fields.”

This is just the latest volley against the Greek Orthodox Church from the Russians; last month the Russian theologian Andrey Kurayev sneered at Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople as the “Turkish Patriarch”, and he dismissed the historic Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem as the “local Greek Patriarch”.

Driving this rhetoric is power politics of the worldliest kind. Russian Orthodoxy is completely intertwined with Russian nationalism, and the Church, as Time has noted, is “a vital foreign policy instrument” for the Russian government. To this end, the Patriarch of Moscow seeks to maximise his church’s foreign influence, and he has been irritated to find Constantinople supporting Orthodox churches in the former Soviet Union that are not affiliated with Russia: last month Patriarch Bartholomew had a friendly meeting with President Yushchenko of Ukraine, and a few days ago he consecrated some bishops in Estonia.

UPDATE: Moves in the UK have also provoked Moscow’s ire:

“It seems to me that here (in relations with the Moscow Patriarchate – IF) Constantinople leads a kind of fight that is unhealthy and contradicts the spirit of Orthodoxy. They discredit Orthodoxy before non-Orthodox world. No one profits from it. They do it for their own reasons,” Archbishop Mark of Berlin and Germany said in his interview published by the NG-Religii paper.

…He also called it “an outrage upon justice” that Constantinople decided to welcome under its jurisdiction former head of the Sourozh Diocese of the Moscow Patriarchate in Great Britain Bishop Basil (Osborne). 

One Response

  1. Well, my theory says that, like it or not, the Greek and Slavic Orthodox Churches will drift apart over time.

    It is very doubtful that Russian nationalism will get anything from an Orthodox schism, since that won’t increase the number of Orthodox followers.
    Interestingly, Holy Russia seems to be more of a popular, than natinoalist (government) program in that State. At least according to Eric Hobsbawm, from “Nations and Nationalism since 1780”, p.50
    “[T]he phrase [Holy Russia, as an emblem of religious nationalism in Russia] did not come into wide use until the time of troubles in the early seventeenth century when the Tsar and state virtuall dissapeared. Even, even had they not, they would not have contributed to the currency of the phrase since neither Tsar, nor bureaucracy, Church or the ideologists of Muscovite power ever appear to have used it before or after the time of troubles.” (emphasis in original)

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