Thursday, November 1, 2018

Moscow Sees Four Places It Can Exploit to Block Realization of Autocephaly in Ukraine

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 31 – The Universal Patriarch has made clear that he will grant autocephaly to Ukraine’s Orthodox church, but neither the Moscow Patriarch nor the Russian state is prepared to accept that. Instead, both are considering ways that they can prevent the realization of autocephaly even if they can’t now stop Bartholemew from offering it.

            Irina Polyakova, a commentator for the Russian nationalist site Politikus, lists four things which she believes constitute “barriers on the path to the tomos” and which Moscow, religious and secular, can exploit to maintain Russia’s position in Ukraine all the talk of the inevitability of autocephaly notwithstanding (

                The first of these is the rumored corruption of the Universal Patriarchate, which supposedly has received as much as 25 million US dollars from the Ukrainian authorities for the tomos.  That can be played up, Polyakova suggests, to show that “Bartholemew is not simply a splitter and a raider but corrupt as well.”

            The second is Bartholemew’s overweening pride. He believes, the Russian commentator says, that he is not just first among equals of Orthodox patriarchs but an “Eastern pope” with the right to give orders to others.  That has already generated negative reactions among many of the others, Polyakova says; it can generate more as the tomos process proceeds.

            The third, she continues, is the link between Bartholemew and the Gulen movement in Turkey. That has been well-established, Polyakova says; and the Turkish government is well aware of it. And the Turkish Orthodox Church is playing  this up. Consequently, Bartholemew may have to move to Ukraine – and that will make his universal pretensions disappear.

            And fourth and perhaps most important, the Ukrainian church assembly which must precede the tomos may not be able to unite. Indeed, “the impossibility of the Kyiv splitters to agree among themselves has frequently cut the ground under from any possibility of creating a Ukrainian church of its own.”

            None of these tactics may work, of course; but their enumeration is a reminder that just because most Ukrainians and most others around the world assume that a grant of autocephaly to Ukraine is a done deal, Moscow isn’t willing to accept that and will continue to work to make sure that it doesn’t happen or collapses be fore it can be fully realized.

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