Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Moscow Patriarchate’s Admits Defeat on Autocephaly: Says It will Talk with Constantinople

Paul Goble

            Staunton, December 24 – Only days after the Unification Church Council in Kyiv and after Moscow declared it will no longer be in communion with the Universal Patriarch in Constantinople for its role in offering autocephaly to Ukraine, the ROC MP has taken a step that represents its acknowledgement of its defeat both in Ukraine and in Orthodoxy.

            Speaking today on the Russia Today channel, Vladimir Legoyda, head of the Russian synod’s Department for Church relations with Society declared that the ROC MP is “ready for dialogue” with Constantinople because of its “concerns” about the situation in Ukraine (credo.press/221689/).

                The Russian church official, of course, cast this not in terms of an acknowledgement of defeat or a backing away from principle but rather in the name of principle: According to Legoyda, “Christians in general do not have the right to think about any point of no return in the sense that we are always ready for dialogue.”

            The ROC MP, he continued, shares the same position on Ukrainian autocephaly that Constantinople had until April 2018; and Moscow’s willingness to talk does not mean “a review byuse of our position or any compromise. There is not basis to speak of that.” But the two churches must escape from a situation where they are talking past one another.

            While Legoyda insisted that “the sword is not on our side” and that Moscow “needs some kind of adequate response,” his words represent a retreat from the isolation with respect to Constantinople and the Orthodox world that the ROC MP had driven itself into by its words and actions recently.

            Moreover, there is one significant detail that shows how hard this is for Moscow to do and therefore how important it is for the future: Patriarch Kirill had the civilian head of one of the patriarcahte’s offices deliver this message on the Kremlin’s main propaganda channel rather than having a church hierarch do so in a more church-related venue.

            That in and of itself suggests where the pressure for backing away from the ROC MP’s hard line comes from – and makes it even more likely that Legoyda’s words will be echoed by others in the coming days. 

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