Staunton, April 23 – Having lost
much of its position in Ukraine and thus its utility to the Kremlin, the Moscow
Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church has gone on offensive in Asia,
seeking to shore up its own status in international Orthodoxy and prove to Vladimir
Putin that Patriarch Kirill remains a most valuable ally for Moscow’s foreign
As part of this offensive, the ROC
MP is establishing exarchates on the canonical territory of the Ecumenical
Patriarchate in Asian countries, appealing primarily but not exclusively to
ethnic Russians living there and sparking confusion and disputes among the
Like many intra-church
controversies, this one is often anything but clear to those beyond the church;
but it is crystal clear that the ROC MP is making these moves for political rather
than religious reasons, as an act of revenge against Constantinople, an effort
to promote the idea of Moscow as the Third Rome, and a means of showing the Kremlin
how useful Kirill is.
His Eminence’s words deserve extensive
quotation because they explain why what the Moscow Church is doing is so
political and so destructive and thus provide a window into the ways in which
Patriarch Kirill, pursuing his own longstanding goals, has become more
aggressive abroad since the Ecumenical Patriarch granted Ukraine autocephaly.
Ambrosius says that “under the pretext of
their disagreement with the Ecumenical Patriarchate on the issue of Autocephaly
for the Orthodox Church in Ukraine, the Moscow Patriarchate has established an
Exarchate and Diocese within the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in
the Far East and throughout East Asia.”
just before Christmas 2018,” he continues, “there was only one Orthodox Church
in Korea, that of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, which was – please allow us the
term – a “model” for Orthodoxy all over the world. There was a single local
bishop, the Metropolitan of Korea, because we, as a Church, do not separate the
country – as the great powers unfortunately divided it between South and North
70 years ago.
“Under the Metropolitan of Korea’s omophorion
all Orthodox Christians who reside on the Korean peninsula belonged to the one,
unified Church regardless of their ethnicity. In other words, in Korea, for
many decades, we have been following the canonical tradition of the Ancient
Church, which was the existence of a single Bishop in each geographical area
who, as the responsible spiritual father, cared for the liturgical and pastoral
needs of his multinational flock.
“The anomalous phenomenon of the existence of many
bishops, and indeed of the same title and in the same region, is a situation
that emerged with the emigration of Orthodox believers during the 19th century
from Orthodox countries to the New World. Anyone who has even a basic knowledge
of the Church’s Canon Law immediately understands its irregularity.
“Moreover, the decision of the Fourth Pan-Orthodox
Conference for the Orthodox Diaspora at the Orthodox Center of the Ecumenical
Patriarchate in Chambesy (June 6-13, 2009), which was signed by all Orthodox
Churches, including His Beatitude Kirill, Patriarch of Moscow, called for the
restoration of the canonical order of the Ancient Church.
“This official decision shows clearly that the recent act
of the Moscow Patriarchate in Korea, and in other parts of the Far East, East
Asia, Europe, and Latin America, are entirely anomalous or contrary to Orthodox
ecclesiology and canonical tradition.
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