Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Only Two Men – Putin and Erdogan – Can Block Ukrainian Autocephaly Now, Stepanov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 2 – Implicitly recognizing that the Ukrainian Orthodox are about to gain autocephaly, a Russian Orthodox nationalist commentator says Orthodox church opponents of that move have run out of resources to stop that development and that only two men – the presidents of Russia and of Turkey – can prevent what Anatoly Stepanov says will be a disaster.

            Stepanov, the editor of the Russkaya narodnaya liniya portal which is more pro-Kremlin than pro-Moscow Patriarchate, argues that it is extremely likely that the Universal Patriarch in Constantinople will issue the tomos of autocephaly in the coming weeks, possibly as early as October 11 (

            If that happens, he continues, there would then be a church assembly in Ukraine consisting of 60 hierarchs from the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate, 13 from the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church and an unknown number from the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate to form the new Ukrainian church.

            (According to Ukrainian sources, there are at least 10 hierarchs of the last who are ready to join what Sepanov describes as this anti-canonical action (

            “Unfortunately,” the Moscow editor says, “we cannot stop this. We have very few, in fact, practically none, church instruments” to do so. A major reason for this, Stepanov suggests, is that the arm of the ROC MP that should have been fighting this battle, the Department for External Church Relations has failed to do its job.

            Instead, it has concentrated “all its efforts on contacts with the Vatican and ecumenism. As a result, “we don’t have practically any church means of influence on the situation regarding Ukrainian autocephaly” and can only hope either that the Ukrainians will overreach and be rejected by Constantinople or that the ROC MP can make use of “political instruments.”

            Those include in the first instance “a Muslim, the Turkish leader Redcep Erdogan. It is precisely he who can create for the Istanbul patriarch such problems that [the later] won’t be ‘concerned with the fate of the Orthodox in Ukraine.’”

            Some Orthodox will be horrified by turning to outside political figures to achieve the church’s aims or to the very idea of “appealing to a Muslim for help in a fight among Orthodox,” Stepanov concedes.  But there are good reasons for doing both in what is becoming a desperate situation.

            That is what Khalif Omar did and St. Sofrony surrendered Jerusalem to him as a result even though Omar refused to pray with Sofrony at the time.  “We also do not need to pray with Erdogan; we only need him to help us stop autocephaly.” And there is good reason to think that the second political figure who can stop Ukrainian autocephaly has already asked him to.

            That figure, of course is Vladimir Putin. And thus for us it remains “only to pray for the slaves of God, Vladimir and Recep” so that they will help the Church avoid the split that Constantinople is working toward in Ukraine. 

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