A New Schism in the Orthodox World Growing as Moscow Seeks Supremacy Over Constantinople
Largely unreported events (in the Greek media) took place in Moscow in early December when Patriarch Kirill, head of the The Russian Orthodox Church hosted 380 Orthodox bishops from Russia and throughout the world, including representatives from the Slavic countries and the Near East, and ethnic Greek church leaders from Alexandria, Cyprus, Jerusalem and Albania.
The celebrations were taking place to commemorate the centennial of the restoration of the Russian Patriarchate following the Revolution of 1917 and the Russian Church went all out to make a grand affair of the spectacle– complete with a gathering with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Representatives from the entire “canonical” (or recognized) Orthodox world were present– except two.
Notably missing from the festivities was Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, whose absence was interpreted by Greek and Russian religious media as a “boycott” in exchange for Moscow’s refusal to participate in the 2016 PanOrthodox Synod in Crete.
Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens, an autocephalous church, was also absent.
The Russian Church capitalized on the opportunity, issuing numerous statements throughout the days-long celebrations and Divine Liturgies, including major press releases as Patriarchs and Archbishops arrived, one by one.
The press throughout the Orthodox world took the bait. Headlines appeared in newspapers in Ukraine, Serbia, Romania and elsewhere depicting Kirill as the self-proclaimed leader of global Orthodoxy and one by one, national church leaders coming to kiss his hand and bowing to his leadership.
Bartholomew was nowhere in sight.
Kirill’s main theme throughout the events during sermons and public speeches was “Orthodox unity,” something Bartholomew wasn’t able to establish or accomplish during the 2016 Crete synod, with four Churches missing, including Russia.
Also strategic was the selection of hierarchs chosen to lead the various religious ceremonies and special attention given to certain Church heads that Kirill himself was said to have been involved in, including the ethnic Greek Patriarchs of Alexandria and Jerusalem, and heads of the Churches of Cyprus and Albania, also ethnic Greeks.
Above: Kirill met privately with Archbishop Chrysostomos of Cyprus. Below, he gave Patriarch Theophilos of Jerusalem special attention during a visit.
Putin shared Kirill’s common message of Orthodox supremacy and unity when he greeted the delegation at the Kremlin, despite Bartholomew’s position of the primus inter pares (or first among equals) in the global Orthodox hierarchy, his absence from Moscow allowed a sort of perceived power grab in the eyes of the world.
Above: Russian President Vladimir Putin greeted visiting Orthodox Christian hierarchs from throughout the world at the Kremlin, with Kirill at his side.
This gathering with Putin also provided him an opportunity to present himself as the political defender of Orthodox Christianity throughout the world.
Putin bragged to the Orthodox Patriarchs that he defeated the ISIS terrorists in Syria, “including historically Christian areas.” He also had a private conversation with the Patriarch John X of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch, whose base is in Damascus.
Above: Russian President Putin with Patriarch John of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch
The Moscow celebration and show of power by Kirill, with Putin at his side, came at a time when events and circumstances transpiring thousands of miles away have played into Kirill’s potential power-grab of global Orthodoxy– a sort of a perfect storm.
Bartholomew is facing huge challenges in America, his largest and wealthiest colony, where the Archdiocese is facing an unprecedented financial crisis that could see the flow of cash to Istanbul slow down, or even stop, as wealthy donors grow increasingly weary of the Church.
At home, Bartholomew is also facing a growing distrust, with some media accusing him of collusion with Fethullah Gülen, the arch enemy of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, as well as American spies, who claimed to have notified Bartholomew of the coup attempt against Erdogan, allowing him to leave the country before the incidents began to unfold.
To make matters even more complicated and difficult for Bartholomew, a potential reconciliation is beginning to unfold between Moscow and the “secessionist” Metropolitan Filaret of Kiev, who since 1992 has separated from Moscow and self-proclaimed an autocephalous Ukrainian Patriarchate, that Bartholomew has been quietly supporting to the outright disdain of Kirill, who excommunicated Filaret.
Filaret sent a letter to the Moscow Patriarchate asking the bishops to cancel the excommunication Moscow inflicted on him, and asking forgiveness “as your brother and concelebrant for everything in which I have sinned in words, deeds and with all my senses”, saying in turn to be willing to forgive “with all my heart”.
Add to all of this, Kirill’s high profile meetings with the Roman Catholic Pope Francis in Cuba where several matters of Catholic-Orthodox unity were discussed, while the Western media depicted Kirill as the Pope’s equal on the Orthodox side.
Kirill also took an unprecedented trip to Romania this year, the first such trip by a Russian religious leader to the country since 1962.
Constantinople’s symbolic primacy over global Orthodoxy is now under greater challenge than ever from Moscow, which has the numbers in its favor, including more than half of all Orthodox believers, backed by the political power of the Kremlin and Putin himself.
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I am for Moscow.
Putin and Kirill are corrupt autoctrats. I am for Christ.
Christ has forsaken the Turkocracy controlling the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
A positive development.
The russian daughterchurch of the Ecumenical Patriarchate will never hold the first place in Orthodoxie. -The Ecumenical Patriarchate should finally grant the Autocephaly to its most faithful daughter, the Church of Ukraine, the second largest orthodox church.
Istanbul is a rump Patriarchate. Time to graciously fold the tent and now out.
Here’s the big problem: Patrairch Bartholomew wants to consolidate power under him like a Roman pope. The Council in Crete spouted ecumenistic and Protestant stuff never heard in Orthodoxy before. All bishops should have been there not just Primates. The Greek Archdiocese in America has become incredibly liberal and Protestant (robed choirs (?), organs in Churches, shaved priests, parishes hiring and firing priests (Congregationalism), and a number of scandals). No wonder wealthy Greeks don’t want to donate money.
If the Patriarch of Constantinople positively replied to the invitations from Moscow and participated in the event, things would be as they always are, the Patriarch of Constantinople would have been revered as the first among the equals. It is his mistake for not showing up and creating this image of Moscow Patriarchate as one which is inclining towards schism with Constantinople, which is, by the way, totally unsubstantiated in this text. Kiril’s meetings with other church hierarchs are a welcome and normal thing, and not a plot against Constantinople. It would mean that all the other church hierarchs who participated were also willingly participating in the making of a schism, which is then a grave accusation.
One other thing is very indicative of this text. Namely, a very open and conciliar stance towards the Ukrainian schismatics of Filaret and the support of Constantinople’s policy of supporting Ukrainian schismatics against the autocephalous Russian Orthodox Church, and the article is about Russians who are allegedly preparing to introduce schism with Constantinople and the entire Orthodoxy. Absurd.
So Bartholomew fails to attend of his own accord, and suddenly it’s Russia who’s the bad guy seeking to consolidate power? That’s stupid, that’s as stupid as suggesting that Trump not attending some G8 or G20 summit means that Putin or Trudeau is maneuvering their way into leaders of the economic world.
You also completely failed to mention that Jerusalem, Alexandria and Antioch were all given rank in Moscow, despite the fact that traditionally Moscow could have held it’s own rank since it’s in Russian territory. Instead, Kirill graciously bowed out to the three senior Patriarchates, when traditionally only Constantinople (or Rome in ancient times) would hold precident over a Church in it’s own canonical territory.
IF you look at demographics in the world, where growth will surge and where it is contracting you might conclude even the Vatican its self will shortly be relocated from that tide of Islam to another more hospitable location. Logistically speaking, a Moscow center may be the logical choice (logistically speaking)
I don’t see anything wrong with Moscow’s primacy. In fact, it would be a better move for the Orthodox Church in general. Constantiople fell over 500 years ago. The Ecumenists and the Greeks are clinging to the past while under the yoke of Turkish domination and oppression. Russia has revived and given Orthodoxy a primary place in its society. The Greeks on the other hand have embarked on a path of socialism, secularism and degeneracy and now take their marching orders from bourgeois globalists in Brussels while their country is being inundated with muslims. Erdogan continues to restrict Christianity in Turkey even threatening to turn Hagia Sophia back into a mosque. All this while the Greek socialist government works diligently toward limiting influence of the church of Greece, while funding the construction of a brand new, central mosque in Athens. The Greeks have failed not only at being the custodians of the Orthodox faith, but the custodians of Western culture as well. All in the name of the EU pipe dream.
What you’re all forgetting is that this is a RELIGION
This is not a club, a movement, or a popular ideology
While you’re at it, look up what ORTHODOX means before you think that now is a good time to scrap its very meaning
We Greek Orthodox proudly assert that our views on our religion have remained as close to the original tenets as possible, and that man’s interpretation and re-interpretation is based on convenience and perhaps arrogance
Why do we fully immerse at baptism? Because that’s how it was done when Jesus was baptized
Why do we have a 2 hour liturgy? Because St. John Chrysostom didn’t write a short version
Why are there Greek letters in Catholic churches? Because they have always been there; because Catholic is a Greek word
Why do you think Bartholomew remains in a hostile and ever shrinking environment? Because it’s Constantinople to us; named after Constantine the Great, who built the Ἁγία Εἰρήνη there in 330AD
This is not politics to us, it’s our FAITH
Just logically, how is inviting all the churches to participate together in an event, bringing all but two of them together without any coercion or threats (unlike what happened to some degree on Crete) fomenting schism? Refusing to take part out of some misplaced sense of pride seems to be the more schismatic act.
Why would the Orthodox world accept an ex-KGB agent as its leader who takes direction from the Russian state?
This is nothing new.
Moscow has been moving strategically over the past few years to bring this change about. The Phanar’s stupidity and hubris will be its undoing.
A few years ago, very quietly, Moscow dropped almost ALL reference to “ecumenical patriarch” and “first among equals,” and began referring to the EP as simply “the patriarch of Constantinople.”
Then, the worldwide Assemblies of Bishops became a complete bust, most notably in America where absolutely NOTHING of consequence has occurred. Moscow sat by, gave the Phanar lots of rope, knowing they would hang themselves.
Finally, the GREAT AND HOLY COUNCIL on Crete, diminished by the absence of Russia, did NOTHING to address unity in the various parts of the world (Australia, America, W. Europe) where overlapping jurisdictions make a mockery of the canons.
Moscow has sat by, biding its time, watching the “elder Rome” make a complete fool of itself.
I hate to say it, but “you can’t fix stupid.” A thousand years ago, the most brilliants minds of the age sat on the throne of St. Andrew. Now days, the quality is pitiful, including most of the bishops in the US. The ones I have spoken to are detached from reality.
I’ve said for many years that the end of the Cold War, and the fall of the Iron Curtain, were certain to lead to tension between the “LIVE” churches of E. Europe (Russia, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria) and the “DEAD” ancient bishoprics (Constantinople, Jerusalem and Alexandria).
I have no idea what the Holy Spirit has in mind for the church, but I can’t believe God will tolerate “stupid” for very long.
…but common sense would tell us that a church with 1600 dioceses and upwards of 150 million members is probably better equipped to lead the Orthodox world than a dead bishopric with fewer than 1000 members in its home diocese.
Such a shame! This was ALL avoidable!
866 Patriarch Fotios commences schism on Rome Pope Nicholas on cause of Bulgarian frivolities favoring Rome. This instigated orientalist Platonic Chrysostomist black clergy overcoming Aristotelian Capadocian whites after collapse of iconoclasm.
1235 Bulgarians declare Trnvo Third Rome, seeking Greece and Constantinople. This adopted by Russians in in 1589, declaring protocommunist obschina to slavify world, The urban mentality is the root of Hellenistic Civilisation, thus those seeking peasant clan naturalism are slavseeded squatters.
1342 Communist Zealotes take Salonica, slaughtering aristocracy on orders of Russian agent Gregory Palamas. Palamas brings Slavs and Turks to support 1345 Cantacuzene usurpation, giving Turks knowledge of defenses. Spread oriental demonic hyperventilatory hallucination hesychasm, turning monks into soviet agents. Toynbe wrote that Asia Minor farmers embraced Turks to avoid Cantacuzene taxation.
1824 Russia opposes to the creation of unique Greek state and under orders of Minister of Exterior Nesserode (German victor for seat against Kapodistrias) proposes to remaining powers the foundation of three separated Greek statelets, vassal tributaries simultaneously to Turkey and Russia, as earlier with Moldovia and Georgia.
1843 On command of Nesselrode is dispatched the panslav Archimandrite Uspensky to turn Arab-held Grecophone Christian flocks of Jerusalem and Antioch patriarchs and finally achieves in 1847 the detachment of Antioch who now proclaims dehellenising dissemination. Turning to Persozoroastrian roots, Russians embrace monofysites as misunderstood victims of Greeks, and fabricate supposed Aramaic Gospels over Greek. These efforts consummated century later with Michael Aflaq, founder of Saddam Assad Ba’ath Party.
1870 Panslavs assault Ecumenical Patriarchate with publication of Turkish firman founding autocephalous Bulgarian racial parasynagogues, supposed Exarchate, under orders of Russian ambassador Ignatief. Now they distort the synodical anathema at racism against dispora. They allocated five myriad rubles in 1872 to slavify Holy Mountain and expel Greeks.
1878 Ignatief forces Turkey sign St. Stephen Treaty commencing FYROM and creating Greater Bulgaria inclusive of Salonica. Ignatief announces “And now if Greeks wish Constantinople, let them arrive swimming!”
1923 Plastiras slaughters victors of Macedonia, allowing orientalists Vafiades and Zahariades commence civil war. Meletios Metaxakis seeks move Patriarchate to Moscow at Lenin invitation and organises supposed panOrthodox Youth Syndesmos. In 1937 Stalin displaces 285 thousand Russian Greeks to Archangel and Siberia and slaughters them. The black goats force even Mataxas and Junta into Socialism
It is unfortunate that the article is written in a sensationalist journalistic manner and thus a distortion of the reality of the meeting. The implication throughout is that the Hierarchs are shameless power-hungry politicians. This projection says more about the article writer than the bishops themselves. The article itself seems meant to stir up differences. The same events could have been presented in a different manner and light, focusing on the positives, such as stressing more the show of Orthodox unity and the support of the Russian State for embattled Orthodox peoples, etc. We are in need of good Orthodox journalism which builds up the Church, supports the faithful, focuses on essential spiritual and dogmatic issues and problems. I look forward to future articles which will do this.
Accusations that the Russian Church is attempting to usurp the position of the Ecumenical Patriarchate are false.
It should be kept in mind what the role of the Ecumenical Patriarchate actually is however. The Ecumenical Patriarch
is considered “First among equals” with a “Primacy of honor”. The Church of Constantinople is recognized as such without
exception by all local Orthodox Churches.
Nobody is questioning this or Constantinople’s first rank in the diptychs. The Russian Church is taking issue with
the actions of Constantinople and not those of its honorary position. The Ecumenical Patriarch has been in the wrong
in attempting to push the pseudo council of Crete on Othodoxy. The Russians, like the Antiochians, Georgians, and
Bulgarians were right not to go to Crete.
Furthermore, the Church of Greece has likewise expressed criticism of the Ecumenical Patriarchate for a variety of
reasons which include Constantinople’s interference in Northern Greece, as well as attempts to force Crete on
Orthodoxy. The Orthodox Church is synodical and conciliar and it is entirely natural for local Churches to express
In point of fact, the Ecumenical Patriarch and the Russian Church have been quite friendly with one another despite
disagreements. Metropolitan Hilarion Alfayev has frequently visited the Ecumenical Patriarch and has attend liturgical
services with other Russian Bishops in holy sites at Cappadocia and other Russian Bishops were present at the
Patriarchal liturgies in Trabezond in 2010 and after.
Even Patriarch Kyril when he was a former Metropolitan attended such services as a representative of the Russian
Orthodox Church. To my knowledge, the Patriarch of Moscow has never ceased commemorating the name of the
Ecumenical Patriarch first in worship services before the other primates of local Churches.
What transpired in Moscow was a commemoration of the restoration of the Moscow Patriarchate in 1917, nothing more.
It is unfortunate that the Ecumenical Patriarch was not there but it was a wonderful display of Orthodox unity regardless.
In addition, in 2016 when President Vladimir Putin visited Mount Athos he publicly thanked the Ecumenical Patriarch for
extending his permission for the Russian President to visit the Holy Mountain. There is no effort by any local Church
or Patriarchate to “seek supremacy” and there is no Patriarchate that possesses “supremacy”.
The local Churches and Patriarchates each hold a rank in the diptychs. To my knowledge, neither the Russian nor any
Church is seeking to change the ranking of the local Churches.
The issues at hand have to do with Constantinople’s behavior in promoting Crete and its claims of authority over other
local Churches where the Ecumenical Patriarch is clearly in the wrong. For another local Church to express opposition
to Constantinople’s policies does not indicate an effort to seek a non existent supremacy ( a Roman Catholic concept)
or to overturn the ranking of the Churches.