Member of Ecumenical Patriarchate's Synod: Moscow Church no 'mother' but daughter of Ukrainian one

Member of Ecumenical Patriarchate's Synod: Moscow Church no 'mother' but daughter of Ukrainian one

Russia-based "Orthodoxy and Peace" media outlet distorted an interview with a Greek supporter of Ukrainian autocephaly, losing in translation certain key points and misinterpreting words in line with the Moscow narrative.

The Church of Russia launched a slander campaign against the Ecumenical Patriarchate...

A few days ago, a Russian outlet covering matters of religion, Orthodoxy and Peace, published an interview with an influential Greek hierarch, Elpidophoros, member of the Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate who is a vocal advocate of Ukrainian autocephaly.

Ukrinform became curious over the fact that the interview had been published in the form of quotes with journalist's questions put as comments, instead of a traditional Q&A format. Besides, these "comments" took up more space in the piece than the speaker's answers. Ukrinform has already mentioned the story here.

Since the text contained a reference to the initial, more substantialversion of the conversation delivered in Greek, we decided to look closely at the quotes that were missed out in the Russian article. The agency ordered a translation into Ukrainian of the original piece in Greek, and we did not regret it. The original version was much more eloquent than the Russian cut!

Here, we offer parts of the interview that were edited out of the Moscow version of the conversation. In turn, we cut the journalist's questions. In passing, I would like to ask (not blame, just ask) my Moscow-based "colleagues,"whether it was anaccident that they used the word "disinformation" instead of "blackmail" (Elpidophor called "blackmail" the behavior of the Moscow Church toward the Ecumenical Patriarch), as well as where did they get phrases like "Poroshenko's hands are drenched inblood"... In our translation, we did not see such expressions. But let's move on to the most interesting part of the conversation.

The answer to a journalist's question about the situation with "the notorious Ukrainian autocephaly" ...

"Look, the provision of autocephaly to a local church belongs exclusively to the jurisdiction and sphere of responsibility of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Synod of Constantinople. But for the local church to receive the autocephalous status there are certain conditions that are objective and documented throughout the history of the church, very specific ones. In order to become autocephalous, according to the church tradition, the church should be located in a country that has gained independence, became an independent state; it is necessary that an autocephaly be requested by both the state and the local church. That is, there should be an official appeal from the state authorities and church authority to the Ecumenical Patriarch who will evaluate these two appeals and decide whether to grant autocephaly or reject the appeal because it is not obvious that the Patriarchate approves every request for autocephaly...

In addition to these two criteria, the Patriarchate will determine whether this local church is mature organizationally, spiritually, theologically, and administratively, in order to be with all the Orthodox Churches, to have support as an autocephalous church, and to be represented in a universal Orthodox body. This is the canonical procedure of giving the church the status of autocephaly. Now, speaking of the Ukrainian Church: as you know, Ukraine as a state became independent several decades agowhile the local church there suffers from a split, which also lasts for decades and is also a matter of concern for believers, and today is the time when there are millions of Orthodox Christians who are considered as schismatic and outside the community of the Orthodox church. We do not believe that as the Patriarchate we have the luxury of dragging this situation indefinitely. Having been in the Patriarchate since 1994, I can say that I know that the Patriarchate is constantly striving for open communication, searching for channels and dialogue to resolve the problem of Ukraine, the Ukrainian Church. What we have already seen for almost three decades that the problem exists is that the Moscow church rejects, postpones, and avoids dialogue, and as a result perpetuates this unacceptable situation, which is a shame for Orthodoxy, especially at this critical time when we struggle to survive as Orthodox all over the world. We do not have the luxury of losing and holding millions of people outside the Orthodox community...

And we, as the Ecumenical Patriarchate, have a responsibility, because our role is not only to preside over, govern or proudly speak, if you please, at liturgies or worship meetings, but also from time to time, do our best to do some hand work to clean up when difficult situations arise, complex situations, dangerous situations, such as exists today in Ukraine. This is the task and duty of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in the Orthodox church system to manage and find solution to such problems."

The answer to the question of who has more rights to grant autocephaly ... and whether local churches should participate in decision-making.

 "... The decision to grant autocephaly belongs exclusively to the Ecumenical Patriarch and the Synod of Constantinople, as was the case with all the patriarchates. The Patriarchates of Russia, Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia, Georgia – all of these churches accepted their own autocephaly and patriarchal status from the EP, there were no co-signatures of other churches, there was no common decision-making. However, from this perspective, one cannot conclude that the Patriarchate may ignore other churches because any autocephalous church proclaimed by the EP must also be recognized by other churches; it must establish communication, correspondence, and put it into diptychs; finally, it must enter the system of Orthodox churches. The Ecumenical Patriarchate does not have the right, despite the fact that it has the exclusive right to single-handedly award autocephaly, to ignore other churches, and does not wish to ignore them, so the Universal Patriarchate has decided to inform them about what they are doing, as stated in the press release. That's because, as you should already know from the media, the Russian Church has started a campaign to inform other churches, which is essentially a slander campaign against the Ecumenical Patriarchate, a campaign, as Ican say more precisely, of blackmail, claiming that the Ecumenical Patriarchate will do such and such, and such things will happen, that there will be schism, there will be the second coming, and things like that – trying to intimidate and scare away other Orthodox churches, trying as much as possible to influence them in any way possible, politically or otherwise, to influence the churches, so that they do not recognize declaration of the autocephaly of the Ukrainian church. Actually, it was because of this activity of the Russian Church that the Patriarchate decided to establish a representative commission for the bishops of the EP, whose delegation would visit Orthodox churches all over the world to inform them of real facts, of real intentions, of the real state of affairs regarding the resolution of the Ukrainian problem in order to scatter false information , misleading, and distorted messages circulated by the Russian Church."

The answer to the journalist's question about the differences in the views on who should give autocephaly, and that the Russian church is maternal for Ukraine...

"... Look, someone can agree or disagree with the procedure for the provision of autocephaly that exists in the Orthodox Church, but no one can deny the historically established realities, according to which, to date, throughout these 2000 years that a Christian church exists in this world, the provision of autocephaly is carried out by the EP. Full stop. Such are the facts, and this is the way the Russian church received autocephaly, and all other churches, which I mentioned, too. Therefore, someone may or may not like the procedure, but this does not mean that it is not realities. This is a reality. Now, regarding the notion of the maternal church. Again, if the church is the mother of another church, it does not give it the right to provide autocephaly to it. Maybe, internal autonomy, but not autocephaly… Granting autocephaly belongs exclusively to the jurisdiction of the EP, this is the first thing. Secondly, in particular, in the case of the Ukrainian Church, anyone's assertion that the Church in Moscow is the mother of the Church of Ukraine is paradoxical and distorted to say the least. Quite the opposite… The Moscow church is the daughter of the Ukrainian church, which, the Ukrainian church I mean, is the daughter of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. You know that Christianization (baptism) of Rus (the Ros people) - not Russians - because as you know, Kyivan Rus is a different thing, that is, today's Ukrainians, was carried out under Volodymyr, with his conversion. So, the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate is Ukraine, it's Kyiv, and hence mother-church..."

The response to the journalist's clarification that there was no Ukraine back then...

"There was [Ukraine]. The territory may be called differently, but the land is the same, we are not interested in the name orterritory, we are interested in canonicality. Perhaps, it was called differently, but we are talking about the same land, at least about the same geographical area. So, the Ukrainian church has a mother church in Constantinople, and the Moscow church has a mother church in Kyiv. Incidentally, this was acknowledged, and Moscow Patriarch Kirill said this himself, while on an official visit to Constantinople, that 'for us Kyiv is our homeland, it is our mother. So, you see, things are put in another perspective, and today nobody can argue that the Moscow church is the mother church for Ukraine. It is historically and canonically, and in all respects, paradoxical to claim something like that."

Then the journalist makes an analogy: perhaps for today's Russians, and therefore for the church of Russia, and perhaps for others who are watching the process without any absolute theological approaches, Ukraine's "withdrawal" (put in quotation marks), the separation, more precisely, from a political point of view, is as if Peloponnese had withdrawnfrom Greece. That is, the place where the modern state began is being lost. "I say so about us because we understand what Greece means."

"... As in the case of the Church of Greece and the Ecumenical Patriarchate.Didn't the same thing happen? As Greece became an independent state, the Greek church was separated from the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Can you imagine a Greek nation separated from the Ecumenical Patriarchate? Emotionally speaking, or from a national point of view, as you please, this happened anyway. And this is natural because as soon as an independent state emerges, the natural consequence for it is to create its own independent church.

But isn't it worth returning now to the previous question and tell why Moscow has been fighting the idea of ​​ an independent church being established in Ukraine since the time when the Ukrainian nation rallied to become an independent state? Does not it seem that such a refusal by the Moscow church to recognize reality is in fact the reason for the split in Ukraine? This is exactly the real reason for the split in Ukraine. It is not about the behavior of certain bishops or, perhaps, about certain people's desires, it is about Moscow's refusal to see and accept reality. Ukraine is independent, it should not be subordinate, and there is no way that subordination and dependence on another statecan be applied to it. No matter how desirable it is for Russia from geostrategic, energy, national, political perspectives; and I do not want to delve into the analysis of these reasons, but I repeat: Ukraine is an independent state and it seeks to have an independent church. It is Moscow that prevents this by all means at its disposal – spiritual, political, economic, military, you name it, as a result of which the nation is divided and the entire church suffers. This is realities. That is, I also have to change the question. Why does Moscow prevent the church from liberating itself, and especially, the church that the Moscow church owes everything to, the church it should treat with greater gratitude and love and care for unity and stability, not divide it by its actions?"

The response to a number of questions by the journalist that autocephaly is not a timely issue, that it will worsen the situation and that the president is the most controversial one amongall his predecessors...

"For 20 years, Mr. Avgerin (the journalist's name), we have been delaying this... Before myself I see the representative of the state, plus other representatives of the same state, who have consistently and persistently addressed us with their request over recent decades. Poroshenko is not the only one who has filed the appeal – remember how close we were with Yushchenko 10 years ago in reaching a solution to the Ukraine issue?... While the split continues, the more acute will be the turmoil. Once the split is over, this chapter of church division will be closed and the church in Ukraine will be established for all Orthodox Ukrainians; and, I think, it will help calm the spirit and reconcile the people."

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