Saturday, December 23, 2023

Seeking Autocephaly, Church Dissident in Kazakhstan Ready for His Church to be Subordinate to Any Patriarchate ‘Except Moscow’s’

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Dec. 19 – Father Yakov (Vorontsov), who has come under increasing attack from the Moscow Patriarchate and the Kazakhstan government, says he will continue to pursue autocephaly for the Orthodox in Kazakhstan and that he doesn’t care which patriarchate it will fall under as long as it isn’t Moscow’s.

            Arguing that under Patriarchate Kirill, the Moscow church now features “elements of heresy,” Yakov says that he has “written a letter to the Constantinople Patriarch and is waiting for an answer. The need for a church structure in Kazakhstan which is not subordinate to Moscow objectively exists” (

            That is because an increasing number of church leaders and the faithful in Kazakhstan are no longer prepared to subordinate themselves to Kirill. But he adds that it is a matter of indifference to him “which patriarchate will be in charge here – Constantinople, Antioch … The main thing is that it now be Moscow.”

            Father Yakov concedes that the chances for an autocephalous church in Kazakhstan in the new future are not great although he is confident that such a church will ultimately emerge. What makes his latest move intriguing is his reference to the Antioch Patriarchate, a group that no other church group in Russia has talked much about at least in the recent past.

            Instead, across the former Soviet space, national Orthodox churches have put their faith in and sought the support of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Constantinople, recognized by all except Moscow as the senior Orthodox church of the pentarchy, the five most ancient Orthodox churches.

             But Antioch, the full title of which is “the Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East for the Orthodox World” has some basis to be considered a more appropriate affiliation for an autocephalous church in Central Asia given that it in earlier centuries claimed to be the father church for Orthodox groups in that region.

            Yakov’s statement thus opens a new chapter in the history of the disintegration of the Moscow Church’s control over Orthodox churches in the former Soviet republics and could serve as a model for what could now happen in other Central Asian countries and their small Orthodox congregations.

            At the very least, it means that Moscow religious and civil will now have to fight on yet another front if the former center is to maintain control in what now promises to be a delaying action rather than a strategy for victory. 

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