Friday, November 30, 2018

Constantinople’s Disbanding of Orthodox Archbishopric in Europe Not ‘Slap in [Moscow’s] Face’ Ukrainians Imagine, Portnikov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, November 30 – Given the importance of moves toward autocephaly for the Ukrainian Orthodox, many commentators with little expertise are weighing in on what is going on, often drawing conclusions that are not unjustified by the facts, according to Ukrainian commentator Vitaly Portnikov.

            These commentators have assumed that the decision of the Universal Patriarchate to disband the Archbishopric of Russian Orthodox Churches in Western Europe represents yet another “slap in the face” of the Moscow Patriarchate, but, Portnikov says, Constantinople’s action has a very different meaning (

                The Orthodox Archbishopric in Western Europe arose after 1917 among Russian emigres who wanted Constantinople to take over their supervision given that the Bolsheviks had destroyed the Russian Orthodox Church as an organization in the USSR and who viewed this émigré church as the only legitimate one even after Stalin restored the Moscow Patriarchate.

            “The existence within the Constantinople Patriarchate of a ‘separate’ Russain church, even in the form of an archbishopric always sparked tensions with the Russian Orthodox Church” of the Moscow Patriarchate, including serious fights over church property as in the case of the Nice church buildings.

            Consequently, Portnikov says, the liquidation of the Archbishopric of Orthodox Russian churches in Western Europe is not simply a serious step toward meeting the ROC MP half way.” It shows Constantinople doesn’t want to encroach on the “’legitimate’” flock of the ROC MP and wants the latter “not to interfere in Constantinople’s canonical territory – including Kyiv.”

            It seems clear, the Ukrainian commentator says, that “no one in the ROC has received this signal, one completely logical in advance of offering the tomos of autocephaly to the Ukrainian church. But this is no defeat of the ROC and no slap in the face,” however much some Ukrainians want to view it as such and however much it may work to their advantage to do so.

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