Staunton, July 12 --
But if both religious and civil leaders in Moscow can see some advantages in this outcome, there are at least three reasons why they are going to continue to fight right up and quite likely after the Universal Patriarch in Constantinople publishes a tomos granting the Ukrainian church the independent and self-standing existence it seeks.
First, independence of the Ukrainian Orthodox would likely reduce the size and hence income of the Russian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate by half, measured by the number of parishes, indeed creating a situation in which the Ukrainian church would in fact be larger, something Russian leaders would view as an unacceptable threat.
Second, without a significant church presence in Ukraine, Moscow could find it far more difficult to continue its campaign to undermine and destabilize Ukraine. And the Moscow Patriarchate would find its own standing in the Kremlin reduced further as a result, given what the church hierarchy, if not always Kirill, have promised about this in the past.
And third, a Moscow Patriarchate delinked from Ukraine and those more progressive Orthodox communities would become increasingly obscurantist and reactionary, almost certainly reducing its influence within Russian society if not within the Putin leadership and quite possibly leading more Russians to exit that traditional faith for Protestantism or Roman Catholicism.
Such a step in the longer term could even lead to a new and far deeper split within the Russian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate along ideological or territorial lines within the Russian Federation, a development that would have a major and from Moscow’s point of view negative impact on the future of Russia.