Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Could the Moscow Patriarchate Establish an ‘Orthodox Vatican’ in Crimea?

Paul Goble

            Staunton, September 15 – Stanislav Stremidlovsky, a commentator for the Regnum news agency which often floats Kremlin ideas to test reaction to them, says that the Moscow Patriarchate must create “an Orthodox Vatican” in Crimea not only to ensure its primacy in the Orthodox world but also to be a partner with the Vatican in Rome to promote Christianity.

            The Regnum writer writes that “in the beginning was the word, and this word should be cited,” the word in this case belonging to Vladimir Putin who remarked during his visit to Russian-occupied Crimea that he would like to see “a historical-cultural center of Christianity” established on the peninsula (regnum.ru/news/polit/1970617.html).

            Putin made this remark to former Italian president Silvio Berlusconi who said he supported the idea, and the Russian president, in Stremidlovsky’s words, “stressed (and this is very important that he had in mind a center ‘not only of Orthodoxy but of all trends of Christianity.’”

                A millennium ago, the commentator continues, “when Christianity was still united and whole, Crimea became the place of the baptism of St. Prince Vladimir,” who was responsible for establishing “the history of the Christianity of our people.” Later, because of the force of circumstances, Russian Christianity shifted its center from Kyiv to Moscow.

            “But today,” Stremidlovsky writes, “a new Vladimir has restored truth.” Kyiv can only offer “the history of Christianity under the Horde and the attacks of foreign conquerors.” That is why Crimea is so important for Russians because it ties them directly to the “heritage of ancient Rome and Greece.”

            Still more, he says, “Russian Orthodoxy and the Russian Orthodox church need Crimea because it will allow them to overcome” the trap of being caught in narrow political borders of “the so-called ‘Russian world’ and escape the trap of the limitations of ‘Moscow the Third Rome’” which has left Russian Orthodoxy “in a besieged fortress.”

             The walls of this fortress have fallen long ago, Stremidlovsky says, and “it is time [for the Russian Orthodox Church] to go out in freedom in order to aspire to the position of the center of the Universal Orthodox world,” a center which Constantinople Patriarchate  at present does not “fully deserve.”

            For that to happen, “the Russian Orthodox Church needs its own Vatican. Up to now, it has been a prisoner of the Stalinist model. But this model is not creative; it does not allow for the development of Orthodoxy and Orthodox thought, as a result of which” it has been reduced to ritual and cult.

            Still worse, Stremidlovsky says, the Moscow Patriarchate because of its obvious links to the Russian State creates the conditions under which Orthodox churches in other countries, as in Ukraine, aspire to independence and autocephaly, placing their hopes in that regard on Constantinople.

            As far as church affairs are concerned, Stremidlovsky says, the Russian Orthodox Church must offer a conception of “an Orthodox world,” not just a “Russian” one given that “Russian Orthodoxy is not limited to the borders of the former Russian and Soviet empires.”

            Crimea, the Regnum writer says, is “the ideal place for establishing an Orthodox Vatican.” Its history makes it so, and the time is right because with the creation of an Orthodox Vatican, “the Holy See would gain an equal partner in the task of Christianizing the world.”  And thus it is even possible that Rome would support such a project.

            “But the Russian Orthodox Church must show initiative first. The state cannot resolve such an important task for it. Whether the church will, only time will tell,” Stremidlovsky concludes.

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