Staunton, October 21 – The Moscow Patriarchate’s “categorical” unwillingness to reach any compromise with its opponents may make some Russians happy, the editors of Nezavisimaya gazeta say; but its approach under Patriarch Kirill not only violates Christian principles but undermines the possibility of maintaining Russian influence in churches abroad.
Kirill and his church have often been criticized by commentators who follow church affairs for rigidity even as others denounce him and it for contacts with the Vatican and the ecumenical movement, but this lead article shows that such criticism is spreading to more mainstream outlets and that in turn may mean that Kirill’s position is at increasing risk.
According to the editors, the Russian church in the current crisis over Ukrainian autocephaly has shown “a fatal inability to compromise,” even as its opponents have outmaneuvered it at every turn. As a result, they say, Moscow can no longer count on its usual allies and is losing influence everywhere ().
The most recent example of this, Nezavisimaya gazeta says, is Moscow’s decision to break with Constantinople, an action that Constantinople didn’t reciprocate and that few of Moscow’s alliesfollowed, thus making Kirill’s move not only an empty gesture but one that highlights Moscow’s isolation and limits its ability to move forward.
But this is hardly the only such case, the paper continues. Last December, Moscow didn’t know how to respond in a useful way to feelers from Kyiv seeking a compromise and the consequence was that the Ukrainian political authorities and the Orthodox there have moved toward independence from Moscow.
And in an example of “the big being reflected in the small,” the Moscow Patriarchate banned from further service a Minsk priest who photographed Patriarch Kirill’s limousine, saying that he was working for Constantinople. By so doing, the paper says, the Moscow Patriarchate got unanimity but only at the price of losing an interlocutor and the media war.
“The Russian Orthodox Church keeps stressing its unity with Russian society” to justify its approach, the paper says; but “the mission of the church” which is to find compromise and to turn the other cheek is otherwise. Unfortunately, Kirill only wants to talk about the defense of his “’canonical territory’” and “expel from its ranks ‘the fifth column.’”
Such an approach only guarantees that Moscow’s church and thus Moscow itself will lose “even more” in the future.