Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Moscow Patriarchate Goes on the Offensive in Asia

Paul Goble

            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 policy.

            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 Orthodox.

            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.

            The situation in the Far East with regard to Orthodoxy is described by Metropoiltan Ambosius of Korea whose church is now under attack from Moscow. His interview on this subject ( has attracted positive and negative comments by Russians ( and

            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.”

            “Until 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.

“I strongly believe that the Patriarchate of Moscow’s decision to suspend commemoration of the Ecumenical Patriarch, well before Autocephaly was granted to the Church of Ukraine was a pretext designed by Moscow in order to begin implementing a premeditated plan conceived several decades ago.

“Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, when he was still Archbishop of Smolensk and Kaliningrad, visited St. Nicholas Cathedral in Seoul, the cathedral of the Korean faithful under the spiritual care of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. After the Sunday Divine Liturgy, he told a local person of Russian descent, “You see all these? (meaning the church and the surrounding buildings). They were once ours, and were taken by the Greeks!”

“The claims of the Patriarchate of Moscow in Korea began in the early 1990s. We have in our possession documents from the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department of External Affairs asking the Protestant Churches for money to build a church in Seoul. We have reports from the Korean media, apparently planted by the Russian authorities, in which they “explain” that the Russians have no church for their liturgical needs.

“Thus, they deliberately ignore the existence of the Orthodox Metropolis of Korea, under the Ecumenical Patriarchate, in which they have a church and a priest as well as everything else necessary for their liturgical and pastoral needs in their own language.

Asked whether “an Orthodox Church under the Russian jurisdiction been established?” Ambrosius responds: “Unfortunately, yes. In a private room allotted to them by the afore-mentioned “Mr. So,” on December 30, 2018, they began conducting Church services with a priest sent by the Patriarchate of Moscow and being assisted by “Mr. So,” an Orthodox priest.

“Some people have left us and attend the new church, apparently for ethno-racial reasons. But many more faithful still belong to the Orthodox Metropolis of Korea. The saddest thing, however, is that the representatives of the Moscow Patriarchate do not only call Russians and other Slavophones, but also Koreans, Americans and other English speakers, trying to convince them to attend their church. They even call or meet young children and try to influence them, exploiting them at their tender age.

“The Moscow Patriarchate has done and continues to do the same and even worse things in other Southeast Asian countries where there are Metropolises of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. In Indonesia, for example, not only did they occupy a church that was erected through the donations of Orthodox Christians in Greece, but they also claimed members of the clergy, who had studied and were ordained through the care of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

“All these abusive acts are “accomplishments” of the Metropolitan of East America and New York Hilarion (ROCOR), which the Patriarchate of Moscow has appropriated.

“Unfortunately, I do not think the Patriarchate of Moscow is interested in the unity of the Orthodox Church. On the contrary, I believe it lives by the anti-Christian doctrine of “divide and conquer.”

“Now that the masks and pretenses have fallen, we see that the supposed “good relations” between the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Patriarchate of Moscow were not always good; but not by the fault of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, which has tolerated Moscow’s challenges with great patience.

“And now that the Ecumenical Patriarchate is supposedly “schismatic,” the representatives of the Patriarchate of Moscow act as if they are free to do whatever they wish all over the world, implementing their premeditated “Third Rome” plan to become themselves the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

“The impact [of what Moscow is doing] is very ugly. It is, to speak frankly, a huge scandal. For decades, we have proclaimed that the Orthodox Church is one. In the ecumenical dialogues in which we are participating, we emphasize that fragmentation into different denominations is a point of decline. We keep repeating that we must stop this evil, at all costs.

“Now, the situation caused by the Moscow Patriarchate, not of course because of dogmatic or canonical reasons, but for purely political ones, confuses and scandalizes our dialogue partners. They ask us to explain what is happening. We answer them that we hope and pray daily for logic and orthodox ecclesiological consciousness to prevail over worldly aspirations and political expediency.

“I honestly wonder, when, finally, will we understand that politics and diplomatic alliances are ephemeral phenomena? That, economic and secular power, upon which so many people base their lives, have an expiration date; and that only the Church of Christ remains unchanged and salvific throughout the centuries?”

No comments:

Post a Comment