Peter Anderson reports from the Orthodox world.

Longstanding reporter of the news from the Eastern Church, Peter Anderson shares our dream of a unified Christianity. His love for Orthodoxy has driven him to this personal mission to share the news of East with the world through his email list. The Urbi et Orbi Foundation is proud to share his efforts and his insights with you.

The Serbian Patriarchate has announced that the assembly (sobor) of its diocesan bishops will begin with a liturgy at the Church of St. Sava in Belgrade on Monday, May 24.  This is an annual meeting where most of the important decisions for the Serbian Orthodox Church are made.  I have seen surprising little information on the Serbian internet as to what to expect from this meeting.  The assembly will almost certainly elect a new metropolitan for Montenegro and a new Metropolitan of Zagreb and Ljubljana to fill the existing vacancies. Personally, I am interested in seeing whether the assembly will say anything about the desirability of a second Amman-type meeting.  As you recall, Patriarch Irinej of Serbia attended the first Amman meeting in February 2020.

On May 19, the Serbian Patriarchate posted a notice limiting the media interviews that Patriarch Porfirije will give in the future.  The notice stated that Patriarch Porfirije has received more than one hundred requests for interviews from domestic and foreign newsrooms.  From this point forward, the Patriarch will address important topics in sermons at services and will “give interviews only on the eve of major holidays or when certain circumstances require it.”   The results is that he will not be available for questioning with respect to next week’s assembly.  With respect to recent assemblies, Bishop Irinej of Bačka has acted as the spokesperson of the Serbian Patriarchate.  See

On Pascha, May 2, the Georgian independent television channel Formula News showed a 35-minute interview of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew by Giorgi Targamadze.   The entire interview can be viewed at (beginning at 4:55).  In the broadcasted video, Targamadze (a journalist and former leader of the opposition in parliament) asked questions of the Ecumenical Patriarch in the Georgian language.  The Ecumenical Patriarch responded in Greek.  However, in the video, one cannot hear the Greek because a Georgian-speaking voice provides a simultaneous Georgian translation of the Ecumenical Patriarch’s words.  The television channel has provided the full text of the Georgian translation at  To the best of my knowledge, the actual answers by the Ecumenical Patriarch in Greek are not available anywhere.    One is therefore completely dependent on the accuracy of the Greek-to-Georgian translation provided by the television channel.

There is one question and answer in the interview that has attracted the greatest interest.  Because of the deficiencies of a Google translation, a person who is fluent in both Georgian and English has very kindly provided me with the following accurate English translation of the Georgian transcript for this question and answer:

Journalist: There is an opinion in Georgia, which we hear even from members of the synod, that recognition of autocephaly of the OCU is problematic because it may instigate recognition of autocephaly of the church in Abkhazia by the Patriarchate of Moscow.  Is it possible or not?  Is meddling into internal affairs of the Orthodox Church of Georgia canonical on the part of the Russian Church?  I mean supporting separatist groups on the Abkhazian territory by the Moscow Patriarchate.  [The last sentence is slightly corrected as it made no sense in Georgian.]

Patriarch: Of course [Moscow] does not have the right [to do so].  First of all, the Russian Church has no right to grant autocephaly not only to Abkhazia but to anyone [any other territorial church].  It does not have such a right.  This is an exclusive right of Constantinople, as has been confirmed by the Orthodox tradition and practice throughout centuries.  I will remind you, in 1970 Russia  proclaimed autocephalous the Orthodox Church in America, not of all the Orthodox, [not] of all the Russian-speaking [orthodox] throughout America, but of only one part.  This way Moscow made dependent on itself the wealthiest Orthodox in America. This pseudo-autocephalous church founded in 1970 has not been recognized by anyone until today.  Only it [the OCA] calls itself the autocephalous church of America.  I am going back to the issue and repeat that Russia can grant autocephaly neither to Abkhazia nor to anyone.  On the other hand, interfering into the matters of the church in Abkhazia, as well as South Ossetia, is noncanonical since they belong to the jurisdiction of the Church of Georgia.  It is bad that the Russian Church interfered into their activities.  The Russian Church used for its own [purposes] political and military interventions in these regions, stepped into [the area] and stays [there].  Also, [Moscow] has its own bishop there, as far as I know, and benefits under the current circumstances.  Concerning your words: ‘If the Church of Georgia recognizes autocephaly of the Church in Ukraine, then the Patriarchate of Moscow will recognize autocephaly of Abkhazia’ – speaks of oppression and blackmail that has no basis.  It is bad that the Russian Church interferes in the internal affairs of your church.  It is bad that [Moscow] interferes anywhere it can.  It has/[suffers from] the sickness of becoming the third Rome, desires to expand, to lead the whole Orthodoxy, but this intention is in vain, since the fall of Constantinople, it [Moscow] attempted several times to realize an idea of the third Rome, becoming the leader of the Orthodox; however, as you see, it’s been 600 years since the fall of Constantinople, 600 years have passed,  – but it could not achieve its wish and will never be able to do so because the Orthodox Church has its own canonical system, its own tradition and practice.  We Orthodox are one big family.  We consider Constantinople as mother [church] to many churches and the coordinating center of the Orthodox; [we] wish unity, to love our brothers and our churches but also demand observance of church canons/Canon law which have protected us throughout these ages and led us up to this point.

When I first read this answer, I was puzzled by the Ecumenical Patriarch’s reference to “Moscow made dependent on itself the wealthiest Orthodox in America.”  On further research, I now believe that the Ecumenical Patriarch is referring to the fact that the tomos which was granted by Moscow to the “The Autocephalous Orthodox Church in America” carved out and reserved to itself over 40 parishes including the presumably wealthy “St. Nicholas Cathedral and its possessions” in Manhattan, New York City.  See (full text of the tomos).  The Ecumenical Patriarch also seems to refer to the title given by the tomos, namely “The Autocephalous Orthodox Church in America,” perhaps because the tomos deleted the original “Russian Orthodox” title of the organization and the Ecumenical Patriarch believe that the title specified by the tomos is broad enough to encompass all of Orthodoxy in the United States.  Without such explanations, certain remarks relating to the OCA (assuming that the Greek to Georgian translation is correct) remain puzzling to me.

On May 15, RIA Novosti posted an interview in which Metropolitan Hilarion (Moscow Patriarchate) disputed many of the statements made by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in the above answer.  For example, with respect to the allegation that the Russian Church desires to be first [первой] in the Orthodox world, Metropolitan Hilarion responded, “Of course, no.” According to him, the Russian Church is “quite satisfied” with its place in the diptychs, and its official position with respect to primacy [первенства] is set out in the document adopted by its Holy Synod in 2007.  With respect to Moscow being the Third Rome,  “[t]here is not a single official document of the Russian Church, not a single official statement, not a single speech by the patriarch, which would declare that Moscow is the Third Rome.”  With respect to the Russian Church granting autocephaly to Abkhazia, “Abkhazia and South Ossetia are recognized as the canonical territory of the Georgian Patriarchate, and the Russian Church has never disputed this.”  According to the Metropolitan, “[t]he Russian Church has no bishop in either Abkhazia or South Ossetia.”  With respect to the OCA, “[t]he autocephalous status of the Orthodox Church of America is recognized by a significant portion of the local Orthodox Churches,” including the Georgian Orthodox Church.  For the other points made by Metropolitan Hilarion, the entire interview should be read.

Metropolitan Hilarion does not address the question of whether the Moscow Patriarchate, which is the largest Local Orthodox Church and which some say contains more than half of the world Orthodox, does not seek to become the de facto leader of the Orthodox world.  One need not be the first in the diptychs or have a primacy of authority or claim the title of “Third Rome” in order to exercise the greatest influence in the Orthodox world.

In my personal opinion, the foregoing question asked by journalist Giorgi Targamadze reflects either a lack of knowledge by the journalist or an inadvertent use of the word “autocephaly” rather than “autonomy.”  Abkhazia is a relatively small territory with a current population of approximately 245,000, of whom approximately 60 percent consider themselves Christian.  At the present time, there appears to be no Orthodox priests in Abkhazia who regard themselves as members of the Georgian Orthodox Church.  The major church organization in Abkhazia is now the “Abkhazian Orthodox Church,” headed by the priest Vissarion Apliaa.   On February 28, Apliaa gave an interview to news agency Sputnik and stated: “The Moscow Patriarchate will help us in our independent position. The Russian Orthodox Church will support the establishment of an autonomous church in Abkhazia, it is too early to talk about autocephaly, first we need to restore autonomy.”   Apliaa also stated that the most important thing is that the Abkhazian Church not be associated with the Georgian Orthodox Church.  Thus, the concern of the Georgian Church would be that the Moscow Patriarchate might agree to make the Abkhazian Church an autonomous church under the Moscow Patriarchate, especially if the Georgian Church recognized the OCU.  Unfortunately, because of the framing of the question by the journalist, neither the Ecumenical Patriarch nor Metropolitan Hilarion addressed the much more likely concern relating to an autonomous Abkhazian church under the Moscow Patriarchate.

In other news, the Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ukraine Vasyl Bodnar met with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew on May 17 to discuss the details of the program of the Ecumenical Patriarch’s visit to Kyiv next August.  On May 18, President Putin awarded Metropolitan Hilarion the Order of Alexander Nevsky for “his great contribution to the development of international and interfaith relations, many years of conscientious work.”   On May 18, Interfax posted an interesting article entitled: “Russian Orthodox Church proposes setting up system to filter Russophobic content online.” <> &div=16194  Actually, it is the opinion of  Alexander Shchipkov, First Deputy Chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for Church, Society, and Media Relations.

Peter Anderson, Seattle USA