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.
On April 6, RIA Novosti posted an interview with Metropolitan Hilarion. https://ria.ru/20210406/ilarion-1604366149.html On the same day, the DECR of the Moscow Patriarchate posted the interview both in Russian and English. https://mospat.ru/en/news/86955/ (English) Usually, there is a delay on the DECR website for an English translation, but not this time. The caption of the interview is entitled: “Metropolitan Hilarion: Summit of the heads of Churches is possible in foreseeable future.” The first question in the interview is whether Patriarch Theophilos or any other Church leader was planning another meeting of the kind of the Amman summit this year. The answer provided by Metropolitan Hilarion is as follows:
I would like to point out that all the delegations that took part in the Amman meeting last February expressed their intention to continue the brotherly meetings of the heads and representatives of Local Churches. Back then they expressed their wish, as is specified in the Communique, to come together again “preferably before the end of the year.” Of course, at that time none of us expected the pandemic and that many plans would not be destined to be carried out. No wonder then that a year after the Amman meeting, Patriarch Theophilos of Jerusalem in his message recalled the plans outlined at that time. Although the risk of the Covid morbidity in the world is still high, quarantine measures are gradually being weakened in some countries, as the number of people with immunity to this disease is growing because some have already had it and others have had the vaccination against it. Under these circumstances, the prospects for a new meeting of the Heads in the foreseeable future look promising. However, I think that to speak about concrete dates is early yet. I would like to remind you that Patriarch Theophilos was the initiator of the meeting last year. I suppose that next meeting, if it is to take place, would be called together also by him as the Head of the Jerusalem Church, the Mother of all Churches. The Russian Orthodox Church, for its part, welcomes the conducting of this kind of events looking for ways out from the crisis among the Orthodox and for the re-establishment of their unity.
It should first be noted that Ukraine is mentioned nowhere in this answer. Rather, the purpose of the meeting is “looking for ways out from the crisis among the Orthodox and for the re-establishment of their unity.” This is not surprising. At the Amman meeting in February 2020, Patriarch Kirill enumerated six issues that needed to be discussed on a pan-Orthodox basis. https://mospat.ru/en/news/45658/ Patriarch Kirill’s articulation of these six issues did not mention Ukraine specifically, but rather addressed certain powers that the Ecumenical Patriarchate is claiming to possess generally. Presumably, the Moscow Patriarchate hopes that the future meeting, hosted by the Patriarch of Jerusalem, will focus on these same issues and will decide that the Ecumenical Patriarchate does not possess such powers. This would be a great victory for Moscow and a defeat for Constantinople. On the other hand, the discussion by the primates relating to a possible compromise between the UOC-MP and the OCU in Ukraine would be very dangerous for the Moscow Patriarchate because a suggested solution may involve the formation of a single autocephalous church in Ukraine and a departure of the UOC-MP from the Moscow Patriarchate. For the same reason, the Moscow Patriarchate may not be interested in the primates discussing ways in which peaceful relationships between the UOC-MP and the OCU may be encouraged as this could also be the first step in creating a single autocephalous church in Ukraine. In light of this, it is entirely logical for the Moscow Patriarchate to promote a discussion to undercut the powers claimed by the Ecumenical Patriarchate in general terms as opposed to focusing on specific solutions for Ukraine.
At the present time, it is not clear that Patriarch Theophilos will call such a meeting. The calling of the first meeting by Patriarch Theophilos caused a very strong reaction by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, who maintains that he has the sole right to call such a pan-Orthodox meeting. See https://www.ecupatria.org/2020/02/26/the-ecumenical-patriarchs-second-response-to-the-patriarch-of-jerusalem/#more-1346 If Patriarch Theophilos called a second meeting, especially one to challenge the powers claimed by the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the gulf between Theophilos and Bartholomew would likely become very great – something that may not lead to the hoped-for pan-Orthodox unity. The “open letter” from Patriarch Theophilios, dated February 24, 2021, is very cautiously worded. See https://en.jerusalem-patriarchate.info/blog/2021/02/24/open-letter-from-his-beatitude-patriarch-theophilos-iii/ In the letter, Patriarch Theophilos expressed the hope for the primates “to gather for prayer and fellowship” later in the year, but there is no mention of Theophilos himself calling and hosting such a meeting. Furthermore, the suggestion of a meeting of “prayer and fellowship” in the letter does not seem to encompass a debate on the powers of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. It is certainly possible that the remarks by Metropolitan Hilarion in the April 4 interview is intended to encourage Patriarch Theophilos to take a stronger stand and to sponsor a second Amman summit with a discussion of the issues suggested by Patriarch Kirill at the first Amman summit.
In the interview, Metropolitan Hilarion was also asked about the Moscow Patriarchate receiving under its jurisdiction clerics of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria who do not agree with the recognition of the OCU by Patriarch Theodoros of Alexandria. His answer was a follows:
Indeed, we have received individual and mass requests from clerics from different countries in Africa. We sincerely wish to render them all possible support, but so far we have suspended judgment on their reception to the Russian Church, because we do not want to deepen divisions existing among Orthodox Christians in Africa due in large part to the recognition of Ukrainian schismatics by Patriarch Theodoros. Yet, we go on hoping that Patriarch Theodoros will change his mind.
The fact that judgment on the question has been “suspended” does leave open the possibility that the Moscow Patriarchate may decide to take jurisdiction over these clerics in Africa at a future time, especially if Patriarch Theodoros does not change his mind.
From March 25 to April 3, 2021, a large “monastic delegation” from the UOC-MP was in Egypt on a pilgrimage to the monasteries of the Coptic Church. https://news.church.ua/2021/04/02/zavershilasya-pojizdka-chernechoji-delegaciji-upc-do-monastiriv-jegiptu/ This included a meeting with Coptic Pope Tawadros II on April 1. https://popetawadros.org/?p=19183 As you can see in the photo in the foregoing link, the delegation also included Father Mykolay Danylevych (deputy head of the DECR of the UOC-MP) and Hieromonk Stefan Igumnov (DECR’s secretary for inter-Christian relations). The two are on the far right of the second row. The presence of Father Stefan from Moscow is not surprising as his responsibilities include relations with the non-Chalcedon Orthodox Churches. It appears that the delegation did not have any contacts with the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria during their visit to Egypt. Perhaps, there was a subtle message to the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria that the Moscow Patriarchate intends to continue its visits to Africa in spite of the action taken by Patriarch Theodoros.
On April 5, President Putin signed the new law relating to the certification of clergy receiving a religious education abroad and relating to preventing schisms. https://ria.ru/20210405/dukhovenstvo-1604315447.html The new law will go into effect in 180 days after its official publication. https://tass.ru/obschestvo/11072077 The full text of the new law can be read in Russian at https://publication.pravo.gov.ru/Document/View/0001202104050017?index=0&rangeSize=1 .
The media war continues in Ukraine. A hieromonk of the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra has decided to join the OCU. The following is an extensive interview that the monk gave to a pro-OCU website in Kyiv. https://religionpravda.com.ua/?p=66489 In a rebuttal, Metropolitan Pavel, the abbot of the Lavra, describes the monk as a “a proud, arrogant, power-hungry person.” https://spzh.news/en/news/78692-mitropolit-pavel-rasskazal-pochemu-byvshij-ijeromonah-lavry-okazalsya-v-pcu (English article)
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA