“The Patriarch of Constantinople has lost his declared primacy in world Orthodoxy”
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Interviewed in a TV program, Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, the chairman of the Russian Orthodox Church Department for External Church Relations declared the following,
“The Patriarch of Constantinople has lost his declared primacy in world Orthodoxy. We can no longer recognize him as the first in the family of Orthodox Churches, and he can no longer speak in the name of the whole Orthodoxy, as he used to. Patriarch Bartholomew can no longer call himself ‘the leader of the 300 million Orthodox on the planet’, since at least half of the Orthodox do not recognize him.”
Metropolitan Hilarion also spoke about the situation in Ukraine.

Here is the interview in its entirety:

Alexey Pushkov, author and host of the “Post-scriptum” TV program on channel “TVTs”, analyzes main events in Russia and abroad. On January 26, 2019, he invited Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, the the chairman of the Russian Orthodox Church Department for External Church Relations.

Alexey Pushkov:
As everyone knows, Petro Poroshenko actively uses his dubious successes in ecclesiastical politics as an argument in his election campaign. He boasts of having achieved independence for the schismatics of the “Ukrainian Orthodox Church”. However, it is a fake independence, since this “church” is directly dependent on Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople.
Today, with Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, the chairman of the Russian Orthodox Church Department for External Church Relations, we will speak about the consequences of the schism of the Church in Ukraine, and about the objectives of its authors.
Hello, Your Grace.

Metropolitan Hilarion:
Hello, Alexey Konstantinovich.

AP:
My first question is this: Poroshenko, in his election campaign, presents the decision of the Patriarch of Constantinople as his own great political victory. He even traveled all over Ukraine to show the tomos to everyone, saying, “I gave you an independent Church.” But did he? One has the impression that in fact, it is not Poroshenko’s victory, so to speak, but Bartholomew’s: Ukraine is now subject to Constantinople, instead of being independent of Constantinople. Is it not another form of dependence for Ukraine, which can no longer decide for itself, even in religious matters?

MH:
I don’t think it’s a victory, neither for Poroshenko nor for Patriarch Bartholomew, because neither of them got what they wanted at first. And now, they’re trying to save face. Patriarch Bartholomew thought, as he had been persuaded, that if he granted the tomos of autocephaly, all the bishops of the canonical Church would quickly join this autocephalous structure. But that did not happen. Of the ninety hierarchs in the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, only two agreed to participate in this adventure. In other words, the episcopate of the Ukrainian Church was and remains basically unanimous in its rejection of this structure.

As far as President Poroshenko is concerned, it was naturally part of his pre-election campaign. As he wasn’t successful in the political and economic fields, he needed success somewhere else, or at least to create the impression of a success. He played the card of the autocephalous church, which ends up not being autocephalous actually, as the tomos received by the new ecclesiastical structure from Constantinople implies such a high level of dependence on the Patriarchate of Constantinople, that one cannot speak of autocephaly. For example, even whenever this church wants to canonize someone, they will have to ask Constantinople, where the decision will be made. And any bishop, priest or deacon who is unhappy with his superior is allowed to write to the patriarch in Istanbul, and necessary decisions will be made there. Obviously, this is not what autocephaly is.

The Patriarch of Constantinople has lost his declared primacy in world Orthodoxy. We can no longer recognize him as the first in the family of Orthodox Churches, and he can no longer speak in the name of the whole Orthodoxy, as he used to. Patriarch Bartholomew can no longer call himself “the leader of the 300 million Orthodox on the planet”, since at least half of the Orthodox do not recognize him”.

AP:
What is at the origin of his decision? He quarreled with the Russian Orthodox Church and caused a schism in the Orthodox world. As you said, his words are no longer authoritative for 150 million Orthodox. It is generally said that he wanted to play the game of the Western world, of the Americans, who have an interest in this schism and in supporting Poroshenko. But what did he gain in this game? Why did he do that? The logic of his function is to be the first among equals, and to gather around him all the Orthodox Churches. They recognize him, and that is where his authority is coming from. What did he get by acting this way? Why did he accept to play this dishonest game?

MH:
America is not only interested in the fall of Russia, but also in the utmost weakening of the Russian Orthodox Church. Because in America, they understand well that the Russian Orthodox Church is a powerful factor of unity in post-Soviet areas, and that it influences millions of people. They have an interest in weakening and dividing the Russian Church. That’s why they supported the schism in Ukraine. They are the ones who pull the threads in this adventure. As for the Patriarch of Constantinople, he is materially and politically dependent on the United State. He basically only does what he is told to do.

AP:
In other words, in this present case, we can consider him to be the vector of the American influence in this issue, can’t we?

MH:
And not only in this case, nor just in this issue.

AP:
What can be the consequences for the Orthodox in Ukraine? Has there already been attempts to seize churches not led by schismatics? What will become of religious life in Ukraine? What are the possible dangers, and how to prevent them?

MH:
There are many dangers. Almost all come from the current authorities. The Ukrainian authorities have passed several bills in order to legitimize church seizing. There has already been several dozens of usurpations. They all follow the same pattern: people, masked or not, take the church by storm, chase the parishioners away, and tell them, “we are the parish community”. When there is no lists of parishioners, it is very easy to do.

The parishes of the Canonical Church used to lodge complaints against such acts of violence, and they would win. But from now on, the law is on the side of the usurpers. The Verkhovna Rada [literally, The Supreme Council, TN] has also passed a law to change the name of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Now, its name must mention that it is in contact with an aggressor country, that is, Russia.

Why is that? In order to label the Ukrainian Church as a foreign body and as an enemy, as Jews has to wear the six-pointed yellow star under the Third Reich. For the Jews, it was a sacred symbol, but for the Nazis, the six-pointed star served as a sign, marking out the Jew as the enemy to shoot down.

And above all, this change of name is required in order to force dioceses and parishes to register again under a new name. But this new registration process, in the context of present-day Ukraine, can take a while. It can be over-bureaucratized. In the meantime, pressure will be exerted on each diocese and parish, to force them to join the new structure.

AP:
What name do they want to give to our Orthodox Church in Ukraine?

MH:
They haven’t said yet. But I draw your attention to the fact itself: the State wants to impose a name on an ecclesiastical structure. I don’t know of any other case where a State imposed a name on a religious organization. Usually, the religious organization names itself.

AP:
Thank you for this interview, Your Grace.

Source in Russian and French

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About the Author

Emma Cazabonne

Emma Cazabonne

Beside an anthology on Cistercian texts, Emma Cazabonne has translated and published articles on Cistercian spirituality, the Middle Ages, and Orthodoxy. She converted to Orthodoxy in 2008. Her husband is an Orthodox priest. If you are interested in having your book translated into French, she can be contacted here https://wordsandpeace.com/contact-me/

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