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.