Monday, August 25, 2014

Window on Eurasia: Moscow Patriarchate’s Backing of Russian Aggression Undermining Russian Orthodox Church Everywhere

Paul Goble


            Staunton, August 25 – The more the Moscow Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church supports Russian aggression in Ukraine, “the fewer chances this church will have for a future not only in Ukraine but also in Russia and in the entire world,” according to Yury Chernomorets.


            The Kyiv commentator notes that Patriarch Kirill has appealed to the UN, the OSCE and the Universal Patriarch concerning “attempts by Uniates and splitters to inflict harm on canonical Orthodoxy in Ukraine by using the difficult situation arising as a result of military actions in the southeast of the country” (


            Kirill says he is worried about Orthodox priests, Chernomorets says, but the Moscow patriarch says nothing about the killing of four Protestant ministers in Slavyansk, an action that appears to be the result of the ROC MP’s efforts to promote conflicts among believers in order to aid Moscow’s aggression.


            To the extent that is the case – and there is evidence that it is from the conversations intercepted between the church, the FSB and the pro-Moscow fighters in Donetsk and Luhansk -- the Kyiv commentator says, this would be “the blackest day in the history of Russian Orthodoxy.”


            Moreover, Chernomorets continues, such a view has been pushed by those close to the Moscow Patriarchate “who already do not believe in the Gospels of Christ but believe in the Russian empire as an Absolute Good and consider the entire rest of the world as absolute evil” and even by Father Vsevolod Chaplin, one of Kirill’s “closest comrades in arms.”


            Chaplin, who heads the Synod’s department for ties with society, has argued that “Orthodox civilization” has “values above those of all-human and all-Christian ones” and that insists that “the individual does not have any importance and [that] the highest honor for him is to die for Orthodox civilization.”


            The promoters of this idea, of course, haven’t been rushing to the Donbas, Chernomorets points out. Instead, those who are coming include those who have been “deceived” into thinking that such views have anything to do with Christianity and that “all are equal but some are ‘more equal’ than others” and thus deserve what they get.


            “Thanks be to God,” the commentator continues, “the ‘Gospel According to Chaplin’ does not inspire the Orthodox people of Ukraine and Russia.”  Moreover, Orthodox  believers in the main do not believe the false version of events in Ukraine that the Moscow Patriarchate along with the Russian government has been putting out.


            If it were otherwise, Chernomorets says, then “a religious conflict of the Yugoslav type would already have broken out in Ukraine.” That would mean that “people who least often go to church but have a cultural attachment” to religion” would be fighting with each other for anything but real religious reasons.


            “But the ideologues of the Russian Orthodox Church are not taking into account several Ukrainian realities,” he continues.  Compared to two decades ago, relations between believers and clergy of various professions have become “a hundred times” more tolerant. And brainwashing doesn’t work if people have experience with those of other faiths.


            Moreover, Moscow’s effort to undermine this tolerance by equating the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and the Russian Orthodox Church has not worked either. On the one hand, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church occupies “a realistic and pro-Ukrainian” position and demands an end to the Russian occupation of Crimea.


            And on the other, Ukrainians “understand that even if they leave the Ukrainian Orthodox Church [of the Moscow Patriarchate] and go over to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate, they must do so in a quiet and tolerant fashion.”  In such a situation, the religious conflict the Kremlin and Kirill want isn’t going to happen.


            But the most serious consequences of the Moscow Patriarchate’s actions are going to be on the authority of the Russian Orthodox Church not only in Ukraine but in Russia itself and before the Orthodox and Christian worlds.  That is something Kirill ought to be thinking about rather than short-term political gains with the Kremlin.


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