Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Moscow Patriarchate Caught in an Unsustainable Situation, Soldatov Says

Paul Goble

Staunton, July 23 – The former Ukrainian exarchate of the Moscow Patriarchate, which now styles itself as the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate), has continued to flourish when other “survivals of post-Soviet Russian imperialism” have not, Aleksandr Soldatov says; but its own nature means that it is caught in an ultimately unsustainable situation.

The UOC (MP), the Russian religious affairs expert says, is caught between its own caesaro-papist traditions of at least implicit deference to the government of country on which it is located and the aspirations of Moscow Patriarchate to reduce it to a set of bishoprics within the Moscow church itself (risu.org.ua/ru/index/expert_thought/open_theme/71875/).

And consequently, Soldatov continues, the UOC (MP)’s repeated declarations that it is the only institution that represents Ukrainians on both sides of the conflict in the Donbass ring hollow given how the Moscow Patriarchate has behaved with respect to the UOC (MP)’s parishes in Russian-occupied Crimea and towards the UOC (MP) as a whole.

After the Anschluss, the Moscow Patriarchate not only liquidated all churches in Crimea loyal to the Kyiv Patriarchate but took over all their property and imposed its right to control the appointment of all religious leaders there, Soldatov says, thus completely undermining the still-existing statutes of the UOC (MP).

The Moscow Patriarchate has been even more active in the Donbass, seeking to gain direct control over all Orthodox churches there, a step that violates Patriarchate Kirill’s talk about “canonical territories” whose defense has gotten him into trouble with the Kremlin but negates the UOC (MP)’s efforts to present itself as a defender of the faith in Ukraine.

“Among the bishops, clergy, and laity of the UOC (MP),” Soldatov says, “there are patriots of Ukraine; and their number is gradually growing. But the collective identity of this Church up to now is based on an imperial or if you prefer post-imperial model with its center in Moscow.”

According to the analyst, “the ideologues of the UOC (MP) really are offering a certain program for overcoming ‘the contradictions’ of East and West, but they all are infected by ‘Moscowcentrism,” on a return to the ‘Great Russian’ type of church relationship and to the Moscow historical myth.”

There are many reasons for the vitality of this approach, psychological, cultural, political and financial, Soldatov says; but its ultimate duplicity is on display in the double standards applied to Orthodoxy in Ukraine and to Orthodoxy in Russian-occupied territories where the church supports Moscow’s position in all things even as the UOC (MP) attacks Kyiv policies.

That is gradually becoming increasingly obvious to Ukrainians in the UOC (MP) and depriving it of its flocks precisely because its hierarchs toe Moscow’s line.

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