The title is an expression used in an inspiring conversation with the ever-memorable Metropolitan Laurus at the ROCOR Council of San Francisco in 2006. Below are a number of recent conversations, both actual and also from correspondence by e-mail, regarding current Church matters, all of which illustrate the search of all conscious Orthodox for the purity of Holy Orthodoxy in the Light of the Resurrection.
Q: What recent changes have marked the Church inside Russia?
A: A generation has now passed since the commemoration of the millennium of the Baptism of Rus in 1988 and the world-changing events that followed it, namely the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union. As a result of the passing of that generation, in the last few months there have been major changes, with the retirement in Kiev and St Petersburg of both Metropolitans Vladimir and in Minsk that of Metr Philaret. Thus, all three most senior Metropolitans in the Russian Church inside Russia have retired through age and ill health. This is the end of the old generation of those who were connected with the highly controversial and politically-minded Metr Nikodim (Rotov) of the Soviet period.
Those of his disciples who are still alive have all had to adapt since the Jubilee Council of 2000 with its rejection of sergianism and ecumenism and canonisation of the New Martyrs and Confessors, including the Royal Martyrs, and then the acceptance of the reconciliation between the Church inside Russia and the Church Outside Russia in 2007. In other words we are now entering the second generation since the collapse of secularist-atheist ideology in the Russian Lands and so the resurrection by the purity of Holy Orthodoxy of the crucified Church inside Russia. These three senior posts that have changed hands are symbolic of a more general generational change, as Lazarus’ grave-clothes have fallen off.
Q: What do you mean by ‘Lazarus’ grave-clothes’?
A: I liken the resurrection of the Church inside Russia to the resurrection of Lazarus. This was an incredible and astounding miracle, but we should not forget that Lazarus’ grave-clothes did not smell good because the decomposition of his body had already begun. These grave-clothes are represented by the deathly, Soviet and post-Soviet (not yet Russian), phenomena and problems that have accompanied the resurrection of the Church inside Russia.
Q: What phenomena?
A: For example, inside Russia in the 1990s they were so short of priests that they ordained very easily. There were several disasters here with clearly unworthy ordinations and subsequent defrockings, sometimes for sexual misdemeanours, sometimes for financial misdemeanours. I have met such priests – I know what I speak of. Then there was the confusion between Stalinism and the Church and the total misunderstanding or even rejection of the Royal Martyrs – all as a result of the brainwashing from old Soviet propaganda and lies. Then there have been the phenomena of pro-Catholic clergy (like the assassinated Fr Alexander Men, a suspected Uniat) and the events surrounding Paris-style Russophobes, including the modernist, pro-Protestant Fr George Kochetkov, suspended at one point by Patriarch Alexis as a ‘neo-renovationist’, and the recent scandals concerning Protodeacon Andrei Kuraev and Professor Zubov (a close friend of the late Olivier Clement), who both had to be sacked. These are all people who to some extent still live in the Soviet thought world. They have never managed to shake off the spiritual and intellectual impurity of the past and so make the transition from that old-style Soviet conditioning, paradoxically mixed with a superficial Orthodoxy, to the purity of Holy Orthodoxy.
The same thing happened outside Russia, where the Church inside Russia had several unworthy and scandalous representatives, uncanonically ordained, or other representatives who are now very elderly as they were appointed in Soviet times. Fortunately, the unworthy ones have mostly died out or been moved, some very recently. According to the 2007 agreement the Church inside Russia has to prepare its parishes outside Russia (except in China and Japan, which is part of its canonical territory) for their canonical handover to ROCOR. His Holiness understandably wants this process to go smoothly, without hurting anyone’s feelings, especially those of the elderly. Therefore it will take a generation before it is completed and all moves to the purity of Holy Orthodoxy.
Q: Surely there were impurities in ROCOR also?
A: ROCOR had from the start two wings. One was the political wing whose identity was nationalistic, cultural and anti-Communist rather than simply Orthodox; the other wing, which could be called the ‘Johannite wing’, as represented by St John of Shanghai, was the mainstream of ROCOR. Our view was and is Christian. I can remember how the political and nationalist wing dominated in certain parishes, for example at the former ROCOR chapel in Paris or at the old London Cathedral, as it used to be, when it had several members who worked for MI5. Significantly, those parishes have not survived, but died.
This was because the politically-minded elements refused reconciliation with the Church inside Russia in 2007 or even before. As one of our archbishops said before 2007, reconciliation with the repentant Church inside Russia, the Church of the New Martyrs and Confessors, would lead to a ‘purification’ of ROCOR. That is exactly what happened. Spiritual impurities such as extremism, phariseeism, sectarianism and fanaticism could not bear reality and love others or the purity of Holy Orthodoxy, and so that political wing left the Church for various sects. Several of the small communities concerned in North America were dominated by individuals who worked for the CIA or the Canadian Secret Services.
Q: What do you make of current political changes in the Ukraine?
A: Two weeks ago the US removed the gold reserves of the Ukraine. Then the CIA took over a floor in the offices of the Ukrainian Secret Police in Kiev and the head of the CIA, John Brennan, went to Kiev on Lazarus Saturday. The head of the CIA does not visit a foreign country without a very good reason. It was no doubt with the intention of hoping to further destabilise the Ukraine and then run it, just as it did countless Latin America banana republics and Italy and Greece after the Second World War.
Sure enough, just after that, the CIA began issuing black propaganda, sheer lies, for example about alleged persecution of the Jews in the eastern Ukraine or that President Putin had tens of billions of dollars in private bank accounts in the West, implying that he was a thief. Naturally the Western-media were fed those lies and naturally reported them. The Times of London (part of the Murdoch tabloid empire) was especially keen to report these slanders and lies.
For instance, as regards the Jews, everybody knows that the Jews were massacred by the Uniat Ukrainian SS in Galicia, the western Ukraine, which welcomed Hitler and where earlier anti-Jewish pogroms had taken place. These are facts of history. Many members of the Ukrainian (= Galician) SS, with Polish nationality, came to live in the UK and especially the US, after World War II. I know; I met some of them 30-40 years ago; some of them were frightening and admitted to killing Jews.
Today, at least 150 US mercenaries, probably being paid for by the CIA, are active against the people of the Ukraine, given that most Ukrainian soldiers and police refuse to use violence against their own people – indeed 9,000 Ukrainian soldiers have already asked for Russian nationality. Other soldiers in the eastern Ukraine have simply joined the insurrection of the Ukrainian people against the junta. We cannot see this crucifixion of the Ukraine, orchestrated in Washington and Brussels and carried out by their paid puppets in Kiev, as being successful.
Q: Why not?
A: First of all, the Ukraine is bankrupt, which is why the bankrupt US called on the world to ‘save the Ukrainian economy’. But it is too late. Prices are doubling. The poor people of the Ukraine, exploited and impoverished for 23 years by corrupt oligarchs, are spontaneously rising up against the unrepresentative, US-installed, separatist Kiev junta and its terror tactics. That regime seized power from the democratically-elected government in Kiev by violence and murder; now it is facing opposition from the Ukrainian people, who are using the same techniques as it did, in order to seize back power from it in turn. As it is written, those who live by the sword shall die by the sword. But there is chaos.
Q: Does any of this have any significance in Orthodox terms? Is it not all political?
A: All of this is highly significant for us. Today’s Russia is at last just beginning to position itself as a spiritual power, opposing the secularist atheism of the Western elite. This was Russia’s traditional role – to protect Christian civilisation both from Western barbarians and from Eastern hordes. Thus, it repelled the Mongol-Tartar yoke, encouraged moderate Islam, repelled the Charleses, Napoleons and Hitlers, liberating both Paris and Berlin, and supported the Church in the Holy Land, the Patriarchates of Jerusalem and Antioch. Outside Eurasia Russia has always helped the peoples of the developing world, aiding them to throw off the yoke of colonialism, as did Tsar Nicholas II during the Boer War in South Africa and also in Tibet, Thailand and Ethiopia. Even the Soviet Union merely continued these policies in Africa (the territory of the Patriarchate of Alexandria), Asia and Latin America.
The Russian Orthodox civilisational model, the Christian one, is quite different from the Western Catholic/Protestant model, which calls itself ‘Judeo-Christian’. Thus, the ‘civilised’ Judeo-Christian West and ‘Western values’ destroyed the native peoples of the Americas and Africa, enslaving them, massacring them like wild animals, sending them into concentration camps (‘reservations’), as the British were still doing in Kenya and Malaysia in the 1950s. Christian Russia, on the other hand, spreading across Eurasia into Alaska, left the native peoples in peace, not enslaving them or systematically exploiting them, but making them into equal allies. Today Western ‘civilisation’, which has reached its final stage of degeneration in Europe and the USA, has come to a dead end by trying to subjugate the whole world to its ruling transnational atheist elite and its corrupt New World Order pseudo-democracy. That, in fact, only gives a false choice – between one atheist oligarch and another.
Only Russia can potentially deliver the world from this civilisational dead end by providing a Non-Western and spiritual alternative. This is a geopolitical challenge and a historic turning-point. The US military-industrial complex, to use Eisenhower’s terminology, has bankrupted itself with its lust for global hegemony and us finally meeting its match in the resurgent Russian Lands. The New World Order, the near-millennial and ever accelerating movement of the Western world to enthrone Antichrist in Jerusalem, has been stopped for the moment.
The Russian Lands (Rus) are, it seems, returning to fulfilling their destiny as the last restraining force in the world, the last bastion of True Christianity. The Ukraine is a litmus paper, an acid test of this. If the Ukraine were to fall, that is, to lose its Orthodoxy, that would lead to the enthronement of Antichrist. The situation is on a knife edge, which is why so many icons in Russia and the Ukraine are at this moment giving off myrrh. We have to understand that today’s division in the Ukraine exists as the result of two historic injustices, which have to be righted
Q: Which are these injustices?
A: These two historic injustices are the events of 1054 and 1917, which are interconnected. In 1054 semi-barbarian, provincial nationalists, filled with the pride, greed and ambition of Roman paganism, rose up in heresy against the Church of Christ, the Christian Roman Empire, and declared that they were the true Church! And persecution followed 1054, with 1204, the sack of New Rome by barbarian Catholics, which in turn led to 1453, the fall of New Rome, not to mention the Western Crusades against the Russian Lands (including today’s ‘Ukraine’), and all the anti-Church horrors that followed, including Uniatism.
The second historic injustice was in 1917 when the descendants of the same provincials performed a coup d’etat in St Petersburg, overthrowing the legitimate government of the Lord’s Anointed on behalf of traitors, cowards and deceivers from inside the country who had lost their Faith. This atheist coup resulted in the martyrdom of the Christian Emperor and the destruction of his Empire, which had been about to end the First European War and liberate Constantinople (so preventing the Armenian genocide), Vienna and Berlin.
The atheist coup of 1917 also culminated in 1991 in the destruction of the legacy of the Christian Empire which had been built up over centuries by the Tsars and their peoples. That 1991 collapse of the legacy of the former Orthodox Empire, the Soviet Union, was inevitable because its atheism had denied the Faith of a Faith-based Empire. Today, in 2014, we are merely seeing the attempt to deepen that geopolitical fall, again using provincial nationalists, this time from the far west of the Ukraine, as its pawns. All that is happening now was prophesied by Solzhenitsyn in 1998. Thus, as he said then, the US and its EU colony want to dismember and separate the Ukrainian part of the remains of the Orthodox Empire, the Empire’s weakest link.
Q: Why is the Ukraine the weakest link of the former Orthodox Empire?
A: The word Ukraine is composed of two ancient Slavonic words meaning ‘at the border’ – though interestingly it could also be translated as ‘on the edge’. It was first recorded in the 12th century in this sense of a narrow strip of borderland and there exists an interesting academic article on its origins and uses for many geographical areas, including the area near Kazan. However, in its modern and non-historical sense – and so a sense completely unknown to the greatest ‘Ukrainian’ writer Gogol – the word ‘Ukraine’ was invented only in the late 19th century by the Hapsburgs. Then it was reused by the Soviets and the Nazis, and today by the US and the EU – by five empires all thoroughly hostile to the Orthodox Church. Indeed, decades ago I met old Ukrainian emigres, adults before the Revolution, who told me that they had never heard the word ‘Ukraine’ until the 1920s, when the atheists brought it in.
The contemporary Ukraine is the weakest link because at present it includes and is now run by never denazified, ultra-nationalist, Uniat Galicia, which until 1939 was part of eastern Poland. This is a schismatic, Catholicised area, which lived under foreign and anti-Orthodox – Polish and Austrian – rule for centuries. The majority of its population, just like that of the rest of Western Europe, now has no concept of uncompromised, unsecularised, non-1054 Christianity, that is, of Orthodox values. Until that area returns to Poland, or else becomes independent, it will continue to create chaos in the rest of the ‘Ukraine’, the 85% of it which is known to history not as ‘the Ukraine’, but significantly, going from east to west, as New Russia, Little Russia and Carpatho-Russia.
Q: So does this mean we should support President Putin?
A: He is only a politician and, like all politicians, he makes mistakes. The Ukraine, in some form or other, has a right to exist as an independent state, just like Belarus. It is an integral part of threefold Rus – Russia, the Ukraine and Belarus are the primary territory of Rus, the three Russias. I suspect that President Putin thinks the same thing. The last thing he wants to have to do is to send in tanks. However, he has to defend his country and Russian people against extreme Western aggression – which is what he did when he restored the Crimea to Russia amid the jubilation of its people. Otherwise the Crimea would have been invaded and occupied by the US military and its ports would have become NATO naval bases, closing off the Black Sea to Russia.
Our objection is not to an independent ‘Ukraine’, but to its domination and division by an anti-Orthodox and unrepresentative, US-installed, puppet clique in Kiev, which would mean that the Ukraine would become just another bankrupt and pillaged Western colony, like Yugoslavia, Iraq, Libya etc. Divide and rule is ever the Western policy. Our support should go to the martyred Tsar Nicholas II, as he was the last ruler of All Rus, and not to politicians. We support the saints – politicians only count inasmuch as they support the saints. Again we fight for the purity of Holy Orthodoxy, not for politicians.
Q: Why has the BBC been so incredibly biased in its reporting of events in the Ukraine?
A: Since the Second World War the UK Establishment elite has become the poodle or colony of the US ruling elite (a relationship that the UK Establishment has flattered itself into calling ‘the special relationship’!) and it has taken no account of the peoples of these islands. The BBC, even more than other Western media, is biased because it is an inherent part of that Establishment elite, in the pay of a secularist-atheist regime and its secret services. It is therefore hostile to Christianity, especially to uncompromised Christianity, that is, Orthodoxy, just as it is hostile to the people, from which it is ever more distant.
The BBC has become particularly subservient to the Establishment since it dared to criticise the Blair regime’s invasion and occupation of Iraq, for which the Blairites sacked the BBC Director General and intimidated BBC journalists. Now the BBC just seems to parrot whatever MI5 and MI6 tell it. I know two BBC journalists who have also worked for the secret services, which infiltrated the BBC from its inception in the 1920s; there must be many more of them.
Thus the BBC talks of the Neo-Nazi Uniat Galician terrorists in Kiev, who overthrew a democratically-elected government as ‘heroes’, but calls the Ukrainian citizens who are rising up against foreign oppression and US mercenaries in the south-west, south, east and north, ‘pro-Russian activists!’ Nor has the BBC reported on the wave of dissatisfaction in Kiev at the doubling of many prices and the very large anti-junta demonstrations in Kiev….
Q: Some would say that your views on the Ukraine are political and that Orthodoxy should be apolitical. What would you say to this?
A: Precisely by saying that they are ‘apolitical’, such people are making a political statement. For them Orthodoxy is, like Protestantism, just a personal belief, a private affair, a mere theory or hobby, which has no public and practical ramifications, no Incarnational consequences. This is a denial of the Incarnation of Christ. What they are saying is that Christianity should have no influence at all on society, including on economics and politics, and should just be a set of private opinions or personal fantasies for futile discussion and theoretical debate.
In the meantime, they say, we should just swim with the secularist-atheist tide of US/EU apostasy, to which such people, some of them nominally Orthodox, are spiritually enslaved. However, our Faith, if it is real, has practical consequences. This is what these secularists refuse. For those who are secular-minded, religion has no importance, but for us what counts is the purity of Holy Orthodoxy. The many icons now giving off myrrh in Russia and the Ukraine only prove the spiritual significance of these current events.
Q: With the events in the Ukraine and the new puritanism of political correctness, will there be a witch-hunt and persecution of Russian Orthodoxy in the West?
A: Not yet. We have not yet come to this point; that will come later. Then we may need Russian passports and in any case have to take refuge in Russia in order to get baptized and practise our Faith. But we are not there yet.
Q: So much for the contemporary situation of the Church inside Russia. What is the situation of the Church Outside Russia, ROCOR? Some say that it no longer has any reason to exist, since the Church inside Russia also has parishes outside Russia. What is the role of ROCOR in this new reality?
A: The Orthodox diaspora, whether in Europe, the Americas or Australia, and of all nationalities, has experienced two temptation or deviations in the last 100 years or so. The role of ROCOR is to avoid them. These are the deviations of the superiority complex and the inferiority complex.
The first deviation is that of the nationalist ghetto, of the superiority complex. This means that the Orthodox Faith is preserved as if in a museum, without any reference to the surrounding world (because of the superiority complex towards it), to the reality in which the children and grandchildren of the immigrants go to school and grow up. This ethos can be called the ‘three-generational syndrome’, since after three generations such a faith dies out, as it no longer even speaks in a language comprehensible to the descendants of the original immigrants. ‘Three generations and you are out’. I have seen countless Russian parishes in France and England disappear completely because of this mentality. It was the fate of the old London ROCOR Cathedral (but this will not at all be the case of the new parish that has risen phoenix-like from its ruins), exactly as was foreseen by many in the 1970s and 1980s, but also of many parishes abroad under the Church inside Russia, which are not independent of Russia, as is today’s ROCOR.
The second deviation is that of the conformist ghetto, of the inferiority complex. This means the ‘let’s swim with the tide’ mentality. Again I have seen countless examples in France and England. ‘Let’s give communion to Catholics, after all they are Christians’ (Paris jurisdiction). ‘Now we are in England, we baptize our children in the Church of England’ (as one well-known Russian academic in Cambridge did). ‘After all, we really do not want to be different from the others’. ‘The English do cremations, so we’ll do them as well’ (the old Sourozh jurisdiction). ‘The Protestants have pews in church, so shall we’ (Greeks and Antiochians). This is the deviation of those of weak faith, the ecumenists, liberals and modernists, who do not really believe in Orthodoxy, just like the Uniats. Indeed, the atmosphere in modernist churches (as sometimes in Finland, for example) is exactly that of Uniat churches.
It is to be noted, however, that, initially at least, both these deviations are psychological, and not at root theological, though in a second phase, they are then justified theologically, clearly by a false theology. ROCOR must avoid both these deviations.
Q: So what is the role of ROCOR? What is authentic Orthodoxy in the Western world?
A: Authenticity is faithfulness to the best, and not to the worst, in both attitudes. This means being both traditional and open, both strict and merciful, but without excesses and extremes, which would mean being unfaithful. We must be faithful to the incarnation and to the spiritual, to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. Our calling, the establishment of authentic European Orthodox culture, as also of authentic American and Australian Orthodox culture, means being both faithful and international = fruitful. ROCOR has an opportunity to do this, depending on the purity of Holy Orthodoxy, that is, inasmuch as we can be both faithful to the Russian Orthodox Church and also be incarnate, settled and permanent here (unlike most parishes dependent on the Church inside Russia). At least, this can be the case, for as long as our spiritual existence is tolerated in the increasingly intolerant West.
Q: Do you have examples of these deviations in the specific situation of Orthodoxy in the UK?
A: Here in the UK we have two ‘renewed’ jurisdictions, those of the Romanian and Russian Churches, which in recent years have increased in size from one parish or a few parishes to many parishes, simply by immigration. However, we also have the older jurisdictions like the Greek, which used to be the biggest but is now beginning to die out, just like the Russian in the 1970s and 1980s. The Russians immigrated in about 1920 and so after 50-60 years, in the third generation, began to die out. The Greeks (more precisely Cypriots) mainly immigrated here in the 1950s and 1960s – 50-60 years ago – and so too are now dying out. This is the ‘three generational syndrome’, which I mentioned above.
There are also two tiny ethnic English jurisdictions under the Patriarchate of Antioch (anti-Greek, anti-Russian, Antiochian’, as some Anglicans say) and the Paris Exarchate (the old Bloomite Sourozh jurisdiction). These are deaneries because they are both only a few hundred strong and mostly composed of ex-vicars and converts from Anglicanism. The Exarchate is particularly weak and small and is tending to die out. They failing to pass on their ‘Anglican-Orthodox’ Faith to children and grandchildren and so are dying. Their possible possible survival can only come from attracting Greeks, Romanians and others, not from attracting Anglicans.
Here I am much more optimistic about the future survival of the Antiochian Deanery, which is rapidly becoming Romanian. However, it still has to ordain clergy who are not ex-Anglican vicars. Here there is a very useful lesson to learn: all ethnic jurisdictions die out – including ethnic English jurisdictions. In other words, successful parishes – of all jurisdictions – are non-ethnic, that is, they live if they accept those whom God sends to them, without ethnic ghettoism, including Anglican or ex-Anglican clubbishness. In other words, they live only if they put the Faith above nationality, only if they put the Kingdom of God first.
Q: Does this mean that the convert movement in the UK has stopped?
A: The convert movement (I would prefer the word ‘trickle’) in the UK was only ever basically in England and it was always very small, concerning at most 2,000-3,000, many of whom were received by various jurisdictions without preparation and soon lapsed. There is still at least one ex-Anglican priest, like the late Metr Antony Bloom, who perhaps is his model, who receives within one week! You can imagine that his turnover is large. In 18 years he has not grown. It is true that the convert ‘movement’ has declined as the old generation of converts dies out, but it has not stopped. What it happening today is that Anglicans have largely stopped joining the Orthodox Church and trying to become Orthodox, which actually they often did not succeed in doing in any case.
Q: Why have they stopped?
Firstly, because Anglicanism is itself dying out, so there are even fewer Anglicans than before. Secondly, because those who are interested generally find Orthodoxy ‘too hard’ and either do not try to become Orthodox (if they try at all) or else give up very quickly, especially if they have been received prematurely by one of the ethnic English groups.
Q: So there are no more converts?
A: There are still converts, but they come more and more from the vast majority of English people who are not Anglicans. However, though there are fewer converts, they are now generally more serious. They are refreshing, blank sheets, without the cultural prejudices and baggage of Anglicanism. Here there is a future. English Orthodox culture could only be born when that prejudiced Establishment Anglican culture was dead. Authentic Orthodox culture could never be built on a compromised, semi-Orthodox, semi-Anglican faith.
Q: How are people being converted today?
A: There are two ways. One is through information about Orthodoxy which is today on the internet and then brings them to Church services. The other is through Orthodox wives whom they marry and who convert them. Orthodox wives are often very good missionaries.
Q: You have not mentioned those who did not support the reconciliation between the two parts of the Russian Church in 2007 and left to join various sects which existed already. How do they fit into the picture? Do they suffer from the superiority complex of the nationalist ghetto? Surely they do not suffer from the inferiority complex of the conformists?
A: They do not belong to nationalist ghettoes, as much as to ideological or psychological, sectarian, ghettoes, usually very Russophobic and very right-wing – such was the case even before they left ROCOR. In the USA, from what one of their bishops proudly writes and tells me, they seem to be linked to the CIA. There are among these people, and most are converts from Anglicanism or other forms of Protestantism, some very sincere and pious people, but also some with psychological problems. It is tragic. Sects are always based on hurt pride which then turns to hatred.
Such protest sects make themselves irrelevant, not only because they are tiny (often fewer than ten in number over the whole country), but also because they have played into the hands of this world by painting themselves into irrelevant corners. They have no influence because they focus so much on small and often ritualistic detail and individual opinions, with a negative, ‘anti-everything’ mentality. What they lack is a conscious, logically consistent and integral Orthodox world view, an overview. That is very important and all Orthodox need to develop such a world view.
Q: Do you think that the Inter-Orthodox Council will actually take place in 2016?
A: On paper, no, especially since the amazing, absurd and pretentious claims of the Patriarchate of Constantinople to the Ukraine, as described in the statement of Patriarch Bartholomew on Palm Sunday, which was surely written by the CIA. In the 1970s there could be no Council because the Russian Church inside Russia was controlled by the KGB; now we have Constantinople controlled by the CIA. That statement alone has surely set everything back until after the death of Patriarch Bartholomew.
However, everything is still possible – if the Greek Churches can overcome their vanity and inferiority complex, which the American State Department so plays on and exploits, and if they and the other Balkan Churches can overcome their phyletism (nationalism). Thus, at present three problems are outstanding and until they are solved they will stop this Council taking place.
Q: Which are?
A: Firstly, there is the territorial dispute between the Patriarchates of Antioch and Jerusalem. Secondly, there is the dispute between the Patriarchate of Constantinople and the Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia and, thirdly, that between the Patriarchate of Constantinople and the Orthodox Church in America (OCA).
These three problems all have to be solved before even a proper agenda (rather than the old, secularist, Protestant-style 1970s one) can be agreed. So 2016 is possible, but the Patriarchate of Constantinople will first have to liberate itself from outside political interference from the US government, which is forcing it to interfere in the Ukraine and Mt Athos, and from the Vatican. So Constantinople must demonstrate that it is free and independent and can actually speak with an Orthodox voice and not a Greek nationalist and Uniat voice. Metropolitans Andrew and Seraphim of the Church of Greece have already warned it about this quite clearly in their 89-page letter asking for the repentance of Pope Francis.
Q: Do you think in this context that the Church inside Russia could take back the autocephaly of the OCA in order to ease negotiations with Constantinople?
A: I think that for the Church inside Russia the OCA is a bargaining counter. We all know that there is a problem with the autocephaly of the OCA, the brainchild (not heartchild) of the highly controversial Fr Alexander Schmemann. Firstly, it was granted during the Cold War by the self-same, highly controversial Metr Nikodim (Rotov), whom we mentioned at the beginning of this conversation, and whom the Roman Catholics claim to have been one of their cardinals. So it was dubious from the start.
However, secondly and much more importantly, how can you give a jurisdiction autocephaly when it has been in schism from you for decades (as was the pre-OCA Metropolia) and, above all, when it only includes a minority of the Orthodox who live on the same geographical territory? However, the Church inside Russia will not cede these points if Constantinople does not first abandon its own anti-canonical errors elsewhere, for example on Mt Athos, in the Ukraine, Estonia, Finland and Paris, returning Russian Church property to the Russian Church.
Q: What could happen to the OCA, if Constantinople did stop such anti-canonical interventions?
That would be a miracle, so who knows? I suppose one solution would be to take back the OCA’s autocephaly and grant it autonomy instead. Alternatively, you could wait until the present generation of OCA bishops, many of them in difficult and compromised situations or retired, die out. Then, after that generational change, you could pick up the pieces and reincorporate the ex-OCA into the Russian Church in North America, though letting ultra-liberal, dissident pieces which are perhaps beyond redemption (St Vladimir’s Seminary?) join Constantinople or simply go back to the Episcopalians. The OCA too can only survive if it moves towards being a group based on the purity of Holy Orthodoxy.
Bright Monday 2014