Disunity and the Ukraine

The news that the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, the local jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, intends to consecrate Alexander Belya as an auxiliary bishop of the Greek Archdiocese for its ‘Slavic Vicariate’, has brought even more disunity there.

In a letter addressed to the Greek Archdiocese’s Archbishop Elpidophoros, the hierarchs of the five other largest Orthodox dioceses in North America, warn that the consecration of Belya poses a great threat to Orthodox unity in America. Indeed, if he is made a bishop and therefore becomes a member of the Assembly of Bishops, the hierarchs warn that they will be forced to leave the Assembly, as they recognise his defrocking in 2020 as canonical. The defrocking was done by ROCOR, which has received many strange clergy from the Ukraine over the last thirty years, who have always caused profound division and distress.

The hierarchs are already concerned about the break in communion between the Moscow and Constantinople Patriarchates, following the latter’s establishment of their Epiphanius Church in the Ukraine in 2019. The Assembly hierarchs should do nothing to further impede the eventual return of Russian hierarchs to the work of the Assembly, write the OCA, Antiochian, Bulgarian, Romanian and Serbian hierarchs. Moreover, we have heard that Archbishop Elpidophoros, a highly controversial political figure, is opposed in this decision by most of his own Greek bishops in the USA.

Yet again, we see how the Ukraine stands at the centre of disunity within the Orthodox world. First, there were the uncanonical ‘Churches’ of Filaret and Epiphanius. Then, according to some critics, declared in a Sergianist manner, there is the virtually autocephalous Church under Metr Onufry, forced into being under State pressure and the theft/closure of his 250 churches in the last four months. Finally, there is the fourth Ukrainian Church, consisting of those who continue to commemorate Patrarch Kyrill. Thus, we actually have four groups on the same territory, all using more or less the same language and same rite. They are divided by nationalism, not by doctrine.

I visited the Ukraine five times between 2016 and 2021, as the Missionary Representative for Europe, appointed by the late Metropolitan Hilarion (Kapral), the last ROCOR First Hierarch. I can confirm that Inter-Orthodox relations throughout the whole Orthodox Church are in a state of paralysis and will remain so until the conflict in the Ukraine is over. How long will this be?

According to Western data revealed at the recent NATO meeting in Brussels, Ukrainian military losses now stand at about 200,000 troops killed (including some 2,000 mercenaries, 102 of whom were British), with nearly three quarters of their military equipment and ammunition destroyed. In just four months. This is catastrophic. As Western secret services MI6, the BRD and that in Poland state this, then there is little future or hope for the present government in Kiev. We can only expect military collapse and the formation of a new government. Then the Church situation will be transformed. But how exactly, nobody knows.

We see yet another confirmation that all divisions in the Church are caused by politics.

 

The Pathology of Sanctions

The word ‘to sanction’ has a curious history. Originally it comes from a Latin word meaning ‘to make sacred’ and was used in Church decrees. However, after the Protestant Reformation, by 1560, it had come to mean simply to decree or ratify. Next it obtained the meaning of ‘to approve’ (‘He sanctioned the use of force’). Only from the 1630s on did it obtain the common modern meaning of ‘to penalise in order to enforce obedience’. The word is then closely associated with Protestant and today post-Protestant moralism, the attempts to enforce conformism in the absence of any sort of spirituality.

For example, today, the post-Protestant Western world imposes ‘sanctions’ on anyone who disobeys its will. The US-controlled West sanctions Russia, Venezuela, Iran, Cuba, anyone it chooses. Indeed, the USA threatens to sanction EU countries or indeed any country in the world which steps out of line. ‘You disagree with me? Therefore I ban/cancel/ suspend you’. ‘You don’t agree with me? You no longer exist’. ‘Cancel Russia’. Cancel anyone who disagrees. It is a mentality which is shared by many Americans in business or in other fields who are given, or give themselves, tyrannical authority.

They seem to think that they have the God-given right to ban anyone. This is pathological. No normal person behaves in this way. Its origin is certainly in the Puritan sectarian mentality. It reminds us that some of the first settlers to arrive in North America were unsociable Puritans who were so intolerant that they could no longer live in England side by side with others who had different views. Later they proved their intolerance by engaging in witch-hunts and burning innocent women to death. Such Puritans also took part in the genocide of the native people whose land they had stolen and used slaves.

It is this intolerance that their descendants are still displaying today on their Facebook and Twitter and Instagram. For after the Cold War ended, the Puritan United States proclaimed itself to be God’s messenger on Earth. In the 1990s the priggish secular moralists of the post-Protestant world justified all sorts of imperialism with the term ‘humanitarian interventionism’, which gave them the God-given right to bomb anyone they wanted. For instance, George Bush proclaimed that God had told him to invade Iraq. How do we resist, when we have been sanctioned or threatened with being sanctioned?

In my experience, we have to separate ourselves from such attitudes, cultivating our independence. Independent means or support from others is often enough. This separation must be spiritual, moral, social and financial. We must be independent. Our freedom-loving culture and history must be defended from the pathological and sectarian. We will remain on the spiritual and moral high ground. Let God deal with such people. For sanctions always backfire and become suicidal. This is exactly what has happened today with the anti-Russian sanctions, from which the West is suffering so terribly.

The Diaspora Again

The new Macedonian Orthodox Church, granted autocephaly by the Serbian Mother-Church, was allowed to keep its Diaspora by the Serbian Church. However on this Sunday of Pentecost it was denied this right by the Patriarchate of Constantinople. Here there could be a problem, though it is true that Constantinople does not admit the right of any Local Church to have a Diaspora.

The new Ukrainian Orthodox Church under Metr Onufry, with perhaps 15 million faithful after the defection of so many dioceses to the Russian Orthodox Church, has also set up a Diaspora, notably opening a church in Denmark, but apparently also in nine other countries in Western Europe, among them in Portugal and Germany. It seems that there will be more to come.

Here there is definitely a problem, for the Mother-Church in Moscow has not even granted autocephaly to Metr Onufry’s Church, let alone allowed it a Diaspora. The Russian Orthodox Diaspora is already split into three jurisdictions, in order of size: churches of the Moscow Patriarchate, churches of ROCOR and churches of the Archdiocese of Western Europe. And this does not include Ukrainian churches under various groups. And now it seems there is yet another jurisdiction.

Whatever sympathy we may have with any exiled group, we feel a certain regret at the fragmentation of the Orthodox Church in the Diaspora. It means that there are now nine canonical Orthodox jurisdictions in the Diasporas in Western Europe, the Americas and Australia: Greek, Romanian, Russian (in several parts), Serbian, Antiochian, Bulgarian, Georgian, Macedonian and Ukrainian.

The problem of such a nationalisation of the Diaspora is that it is in fact a secularisation and politicisation of the Diaspora. It goes against multinationalisation. This we believe to be an error, for the emphasis on ultimately political identities automatically means division, rather than a coming together under the local umbrella of any particular nation, region or language within the Diaspora.

We already have a situation In the USA where the head of one large jurisdiction commands his flock to vote Democrat and another jurisdiction is not just overtly Republican, but Trumpist, and imposes these purely political views on its members internationally and punishes them if they do not agree! (Just as the old Soviet Moscow Patriarchate tried to impose loyalty to the atheist Soviet Union internationally on Russian Orthodox outside Russia – and we know how that ended up). Then we have a jurisdiction in Germany which supports its government’s sending of arms to the Ukraine.

We have always struggled to unite all and our enemy has always been narrowness, whether racial or political, because that is always secular and always divisive. We are concerned.

 

 

 

Against Sectarianism

He made a pit and dug it and is fallen into the ditch which he made. His mischief shall return on his own head and his violent dealing shall come down on his own pate.

Psalm 7, 6-17

 

Blessed are you when men shall revile you and persecute you and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.

Matt. 5, 11-12

 

Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be therefore as wise as serpents and harmless as doves. But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues.

Matt. 10, 16-17

 

Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. But evil men and seducers shall grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.

2 Tim. 12-13

 

Christ will judge those who create schisms – for they have no love for God and care more for their own profit than for the unity of the Church. For petty and random reasons they divide and disrupt the great and glorious body of Christ and, insofar as they can, they destroy it, speaking of peace but practising war.

St Irinei of Lyons (c. 130-202)

 

Error never shows itself in its naked reality. This is so that it will not be discovered. On the contrary, it dresses itself elegantly, so the unwary are led to believe that it is more truthful than truth itself.

St Irinei of Lyons

Those who have the means to do good to their neighbour but do not do it, will be considered to be strangers to the love of the Lord’.

St Irinei of Lyons

 

Not even wild beasts are as hostile to men as Christian sects.

Ammianus Marcellinus, historian, (c. 330 – c. 391)

 

At the end of thy life, O holy hierarch, thou wast called to the New World to offer there thy witness to ancient Christianity and to suffer persecution for thy righteousness…Rejoice, thou who didst keep thy faith and courage in the midst of unjust persecution!

Akathist to St John of Shanghai, Kontakion and Ikos 8

 

The Orthodox Church in the Future?

The Martyr-Emperor Nicholas led the renewal of then decadent Church architecture and iconography in the early 1900s. His vision was also that every European Capital would have its own Russian Church. Perhaps he thought of a world where there would be new many Local Churches with Autonomy from the Russian Church – not Autocephaly, because that comes only after long generations of maturity. Premature autocephaly always leads to spiritual catastrophes. Today it seems that the Russian Church, on the verge of victory in late 1916 and discussing the future of the Patriarchate of Constantinople even then, does not wish to repeat the mistakes of the past.

The disloyal are being removed Inside the Russian Church or else they are removing themselves.

Outside the Russian Church, the conflict in the Ukraine is revealing exactly who is who and who will renounce communion with the Russian Church.

An Orthodox friend asked a monk:

When will it all end?

He received this answer:

When the Russian Orthodox Patriarch reconsecrates the Church of the Holy Wisdom in Constantinople.

On the Present Difficulties in the Orthodox Church

The Orthodox world is going through a difficult period. Regardless of where you live and which Local Church you belong to, all the divisions are centred on the Ukraine. Indeed, they have been, even before the Patriarchate of Constantinople created its own grouping there on US orders in 2019. Now the problems are much more serious.

We have no doubt, like it or not, that the Russian Federation will win in the conflict in the Ukraine. Then unity with the Church in Moscow will come in the Ukrainian Church. The problems of those who elsewhere, under political pressure from Western governments or otherwise, object to the Russian Church’s policies in the Ukraine, whether they are in the Baltics, Moldova, Western Europe, North America, or elsewhere, will be solved.

We are surprised by none of the dissidence in various foreign sections of the Russian Church in the Diaspora, especially in Western Europe, as we were told exactly what the intentions were in March 2021. We reported them. Then nobody, including a now removed Moscow Patriarchal bishop, listened to us. Indeed, we were punished for reporting the truth.

Here is a wise parable:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7BMZbAV-YdE

 

The Orthodox Church: 200 million Faithful and 1,000 Bishops

This is an update as a result of recent events. We now have the most accurate statistics we can obtain in the light of new demographics and polls (Wikipedia is of little help here). If any reader has more accurate figures, please inform us, so that we can make corrections.

 

The Orthodox Church is a family of Local Churches, just like the Churches of the Galatians, the Ephesians, the Romans, the Thessalonians, the Colossians etc, as described in the letters written to them by the holy Apostle Paul. Each of the Local Orthodox Churches has a main administrative figure, a chief bishop known as a Patriarch, or in the case of smaller Churches, a Metropolitan or an Archbishop. However, the Church as a whole has no earthly head, because the head of the Orthodox Church is our Lord Jesus Christ. His authority is expressed in the Orthodox Church through the Holy Spirit as revealed particularly through the Holy Scriptures, Church Councils and the saints. Below you will find details of the 16 Local Orthodox Churches and their approximate sizes, totalling: Bishops: 1,003. Priests: 80,092. Parishes: 72,493. Monasteries: 3,008. Faithful: 200,000,000.

 

Russia: Bishops: 419. Priests: 40,000. Parishes: 36,878. Monasteries: 1,000. Faithful: 144,000,000

This is a multinational Orthodox Church and accounts for over 70% of all Orthodox. It cares for Orthodox living on canonical Russian Orthodox territory, spread over one fifth of the planet (the former Soviet Union except for Georgia, plus China and Japan) and peopled by over 62 nationalities, with autonomous (semi-independent) Churches in several countries outside Russia. Its territories include the Russian Federation, the Ukraine (with its fully-independent Church), Belarus, Moldova, Transcarpathia (the main part of Carpatho-Russia), Kazakhstan, Central Asia and the Baltic Republics. The Russian Church also includes the autonomous Japanese Orthodox Church and the Chinese Orthodox Church, as well as Exarchates in Belarus, Western Europe, South-East Asia and Africa.

 

Romania: Bishops: 59. Priests: 15,513. Parishes: 13,527. Monasteries: 637. Faithful: 18,800,000

Also known as the Patriarchate of Bucharest, apart from in Romania there are also many Romanian parishes in the Diaspora. This is especially in Western Europe, where the Autonomous Metropolia of Western and Southern Europe has two million faithful, six bishops and 677 parishes.

 

Greece: Bishops: 100. Priests: 9,117. Parishes: 8,000. Monasteries: 598. Faithful: 10,000,000

Under the Archbishop of Athens, this Church cares for all Orthodox in Greece.

 

Serbia: Bishops: 45. Priests: 3,000. Parishes: 2,974. Monasteries: 204. Faithful: 8,000,000

The canonical territory of the Patriarchate of Belgrade covers Serbia, Montenegro, Croatia and Slovenia. There are also many parishes in the Serbian Diaspora.

 

Bulgaria: Bishops: 27. Priests: 1,500. Parishes: 2,600. Monasteries: 120. Faithful: 4,500,000

The Patriarchate of Sofia covers Bulgaria and a number of churches in the Diaspora.

 

Georgia: Bishops: 47. Priests: 1,100. Parishes: 550. Monasteries: 172. Faithful: 3,500,000

The Patriarchate of Tbilisi covers Georgia and a small Georgian Diaspora.

 

Constantinople: Bishops: 130. Priests: 5,935. Parishes: 3,196. Monasteries: 148. Faithful: 3,050,000

This includes Greek Orthodox in Istanbul (about 1,000), those on Greek islands such as Crete and Rhodes (700,000), and above all the Greek Diaspora in the Americas, Western Europe and Australia. There are also ten parishes in Finland and small groups of other Non-Greek Orthodox elsewhere. It has 58 titular bishops.

 

Antioch: Bishops: 41. Priests: 408. Parishes: 496. Monasteries: 32. Faithful: 3,000,000

The canonical territory of the Arab Patriarch, who lives in Damascus, includes Syria, the Lebanon and Iraq.

 

Macedonia: Bishops: 10. Priests: 500. Parishes: 500. Monasteries: 20. Faithful: 1,300,000

This Church looks after Orthodox in North Macedonia and in the Diaspora, in Australia and elsewhere.

 

Alexandria: Bishops: 38. Priests: 350. Parishes: 850. Monasteries: 3. Faithful: 1,000,000

Although for historical reasons its Patriarch is a Greek and his appointment is in the care of the Greek government, this Patriarchate is in Egypt. It also cares for St Catherine’s Monastery on Mt Sinai, but most of its faithful are Africans in over 54 African countries.

 

Cyprus: Bishops: 17. Priests: 600. Parishes: 628. Monasteries: 28. Faithful: 650,000

Under an Archbishop, this Church cares for all Greek Orthodox in Cyprus

 

Poland: Bishops: 12. Priests: 420. Parishes: 237. Monasteries: 13. Faithful: 600,000

Under the Metropolitan of Warsaw, this Church cares for Orthodox of all origins who live mainly in eastern Poland.

 

Albania: Bishops: 8. Priests: 154. Parishes: 909. Monasteries: 1. Faithful: 200,000

Under the Archbishop of Tirana, this Church cares for Orthodox in southern Albania, many of whom are of Greek origin.

 

The Czech Lands and Slovakia: Bishops: 5. Priests: 197. Parishes: 240. Monasteries: 4. Faithful: 170,000

Led by a Metropolitan, this Church cares for Carpatho-Russian, Slovak and Czech Orthodox, as well as large numbers of Ukrainian Orthodox immigrants.

 

Jerusalem: Bishops: 23. Priests: 50. Parishes: 50. Monasteries: 25. Faithful: 130,000

Although its Patriarch is a Greek and his appointment is in the care of the Greek government, the flock consists of Palestinian Orthodox in Palestine and the Jordan.

 

North America (OCA): Bishops: 13. Priests: 1,098. Parishes: 699. Monasteries: 3. Faithful: 100,000

This Church began from the descendants of Slav immigrants to North America from the old Austro-Hungarian Empire, but is now a multinational group, not recognised by all but destined to be part of a future North American Orthodox Church.

 

 

Two (?) New Local Churches and Controversy

In a single week the number of universally recognised Local Churches has apparently gone up from 14 to 16. First, the Serbian Orthodox Mother-Church granted autocephaly to the Macedonian Orthodox Church. Thus a schism that has lasted well over fifty years has at last been overcome and the 1.5 million Orthodox of North Macedonia have now entered back into communion with the Serbian Orthodox Church and hopefully with the whole Orthodox family. There is rejoicing at this.

However, today (27 May) a Council (not Synod) of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, meeting in Kiev, has declared its autocephaly (without ever using that actual term), though it has not been granted it by the Mother-Church in Moscow. This is problematic, as the Mother-Church must first grant autocephaly, as in the Serbian example. We fear problems and divisions ahead. Of course, we well understand why the Kiev Council has been forced into this by the Kiev government and by the general tragic situation. A great many canonical Ukrainian Orthodox churches were being stolen, closed or handed over to schismatic groups by the nationalist Kiev government authorities in Central and Western Ukraine, as the UOC was under Moscow. Here there are many questions:

Was the decision reached freely? Was this the only solution? In declaring full independence, does the Council actually mean autocephaly? How will out-of-touch Moscow react? Should centralised Moscow have granted the Ukrainian Church at least autonomy previously, as we and others have long suggested? (For example, our March article on the possible reconfiguration of the Russian Church, suggesting large-scale autonomy, and many other articles years before that). What will happen as the UOC enters into negotiations with other groups, many of whose members left the Church only for political reasons? Will there at last be unity in the Ukraine, as the UOC wants to negotiate with at present schismatic groups in the Ukraine? How will this affect the Diaspora? What about churches, clergy and people in the Diaspora that are largely Ukrainian-dominated (like one in London)? Will the Ukrainian Orthodox Church accept or open churches in the Diaspora, as it suggests it will do in its Council’s statement?

Of course, we do not even know the borders of the future Ukraine. So far Russian forces have completely taken or almost taken five largely Russian-speaking provinces: Donetsk, Lugansk, Kherson, Zaporozhe and Kharkov. Given the rout of the Kiev forces, with hundreds deserting or surrendering every day, Russia may also soon take Odessa, Nikolaev and Dnipropetrovsk, so as to join up with Transdnestria.

Thus, it now looks as though all these more heavily-populated  eight provinces of the Eastern Ukraine/Novorossija will, as the Crimea did in 2014, join Russia. Presumably, they will also, with their 20 million population (half the total of the Ukraine), also Join the Russian Church, still leaving it with some 130 million faithful. This will leave the sixteen provinces of Western and Central Ukraine, with some 10 to 15 million Orthodox, under the new Ukrainian Orthodox Church – presuming that Western provinces do not return to Poland, Romania and Slovakia, so restoring the 1930s borders. However, with the remnants of the routed Ukrainian Army collapsing in the Donbass and rumours, but only rumours, of an imminent coup d’etat in Kiev, the situation is very fluid.

We, canonically and safely living our Orthodox lives in a sister-Church, can only pray for Metr Onuphry and all concerned. We have as fathers steered the ship of the Church to remain outside devious political pressures and keep ourselves free. This, as everywhere, has been essential in order to retain the multinational ethos of the Church and protect our flocks and our churches. We all want a situation where all are free to worship God in the Orthodox manner.

The Russian Church has been in chaos for well over a year now, in the Diaspora, in Lithuania, which also seeks autonomy, and above all in the Ukraine. It has been thrown left and right by sinister political forces and has even rejected its own most faithful members of half a century’s standing because of raison d’etat. But God is not mocked. You will see. All of this was predicted.

The City of Colchester

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-essex-61509353

The news that Queen Elizabeth has made the town of Colchester into a City as a present on the occasion of her Platinum Jubilee is most welcome.

Once the Capital of the Celtic Trinovantes tribe, then briefly the Capital of Roman Britain, when London was still wild marshland (a possible meaning of its name), Colchester has long been known as Britain’s oldest recorded town. Its Celtic name was Camulodunum, the fortress of the Celtic war-god Camulos. Its Roman name appears to come from the word Colne, the Celtic name of the local river (there are several other Celtic-named River Colnes in England) and chester, from the Latin castra, meaning a Roman camp. Thus, for the Romans Colchester was a ‘civitas’, which is the Latin word from which is derived the modern word ‘city’.

Its crest shows the three crowns of St Edmund of East Anglia, King and Martyr (+ 869), Patron-Saint of East Anglia and Co-Patron of England, against a background of the Cross of Christ. The connection with the Cross goes back to its finder, St Helen, who is reputed to have visited Colchester together with her son Constantine. He was a military leader in Roman Britain and was proclaimed Emperor of the Roman Empire on 25 July 306 in York. Later he opened the First Universal Council of the Church in 325, which took place just outside New Rome, the City he founded, which later became known as Constantinople. Today a statue of St Helen holding the Cross, stands on top of Colchester City (no longer Town) Hall facing south-east – towards Jerusalem, where she found it.

With the largest Orthodox church outside London (and probably as big as any in London), both in terms of the building and the multinational parishioners, we wonder if Colchester may not yet also become a City in the sense that it will one day have an Orthodox bishop?

May God’s Will be done.