Sunday, January 6, 2019

Autocephaly for Belarusian Orthodox would Condemn Church There to ‘Death,’ Moscow’s Churchman in Minsk Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, January 6 – Now that Ukraine has achieved autocephaly, in the course of which the Universal Patriarch declared that Belarus and Moldova are not within the Moscow Patriarchate’s canonical territory, some Orthodox in both are thinking about autocephaly for themselves and Moscow is worried.

            Just how worried is reflected the hyperbolic comments of Metropolitan Pavel, the head of the Belarusian Exarchate of the Moscow Patriarchate. He says that “One must say completely sincerely and openly the following” about autocephaly in Ukraine and potential autocephaly in Belarus (

            “If for Ukraine, this attempt to impose autocephaly is a terrible tragedy, then if this would happen in Bealrus, it would be death for the Belarusian Orthodox Church. It would condemn the Belarusian Orthodox Church to destruction. Thank God, today, the episcopate of the Belarusian church and the priests and practically all believers are not thinking about this.”

            But in fact, many in Belarus are thinking about it. Autocephaly for Ukraine is “very important for Belarus, Archipriest Leonid Akalovich of the Belarusian Autocephalous Orthodox Church says. Now, “Belarus like Moldova is standing in line to receive the tomos of autocephaly (

            Belarusian theologian Yuliya Nagornova says that “theoretically, if there is a change of power in Belarus, the question could perhaps become as sharp as it is in Ukraine.” And Belarusian historian Anatoly Sidorevich adds that if Belarus becomes truly independent of Russia, its church should become truly independent of Moscow as well. 

            At present, the Belarusian exarchate has far less autonomy than did Russian Orthodoxy in Ukraine prior to autocephaly and is totally opposed to the Belarusian Autocephalous Orthodox Church, which is dominated by parishes and bishoprics in the emigration.  But their conflict might become less severe if autocephaly for a single Belarusian Orthodox church were on offer.

            Moscow both patriarch and president are clearly worried about that, and the possibility of autocephaly for Belarus may be on its way to becoming a major argument in favor of some kind of Russian Anschluss. Indeed, only a Russian occupation and absorption of Belarus may be able to prevent the Belarusian church from following the lead of its Ukrainian counterpart. 

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