Staunton, April 23 – Having lost much of its position in Ukraine and thus its utility to the Kremlin, the Moscow Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church has gone on offensive in Asia, seeking to shore up its own status in international Orthodoxy and prove to Vladimir Putin that Patriarch Kirill remains a most valuable ally for Moscow’s foreign policy.
As part of this offensive, the ROC MP is establishing exarchates on the canonical territory of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Asian countries, appealing primarily but not exclusively to ethnic Russians living there and sparking confusion and disputes among the Orthodox.
Like many intra-church controversies, this one is often anything but clear to those beyond the church; but it is crystal clear that the ROC MP is making these moves for political rather than religious reasons, as an act of revenge against Constantinople, an effort to promote the idea of Moscow as the Third Rome, and a means of showing the Kremlin how useful Kirill is.
The situation in the Far East with regard to Orthodoxy is described by Metropoiltan Ambosius of Korea whose church is now under attack from Moscow. His interview on this subject (theorthodoxworld.com/exclusive-how-the-moscow-patriarchate-tramples-on-church-canons-and-undermines-orthodox-unity-in-korea/ahilla.ru/mitropolit-korejskij-amvrosij-rpts-i-russkoe-gosudarstvo-prodvigayut-ideyu-moskva-tretij-rim/ and regnum.ru/news/polit/2615971.html
under the pretext of their disagreement with the Ecumenical Patriarchate on the issue of Autocephaly for the Orthodox Church in Ukraine, the Moscow Patriarchate has established an Exarchate and Diocese within the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in the Far East and throughout East Asia.”
“Until just before Christmas 2018,” he continues, “there was only one Orthodox Church in Korea, that of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, which was – please allow us the term – a “model” for Orthodoxy all over the world. There was a single local bishop, the Metropolitan of Korea, because we, as a Church, do not separate the country – as the great powers unfortunately divided it between South and North 70 years ago.
“Under the Metropolitan of Korea’s omophorion all Orthodox Christians who reside on the Korean peninsula belonged to the one, unified Church regardless of their ethnicity. In other words, in Korea, for many decades, we have been following the canonical tradition of the Ancient Church, which was the existence of a single Bishop in each geographical area who, as the responsible spiritual father, cared for the liturgical and pastoral needs of his multinational flock.
“The anomalous phenomenon of the existence of many bishops, and indeed of the same title and in the same region, is a situation that emerged with the emigration of Orthodox believers during the 19th century from Orthodox countries to the New World. Anyone who has even a basic knowledge of the Church’s Canon Law immediately understands its irregularity.
“Moreover, the decision of the Fourth Pan-Orthodox Conference for the Orthodox Diaspora at the Orthodox Center of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Chambesy (June 6-13, 2009), which was signed by all Orthodox Churches, including His Beatitude Kirill, Patriarch of Moscow, called for the restoration of the canonical order of the Ancient Church.
“This official decision shows clearly that the recent act of the Moscow Patriarchate in Korea, and in other parts of the Far East, East Asia, Europe, and Latin America, are entirely anomalous or contrary to Orthodox ecclesiology and canonical tradition.