Of the fifteen universally-recognised Local Orthodox Churches, two are in great trouble, not to say in danger of being quite discredited. One was the most prestigious, the other is by far the largest, some 70% of the whole.
The first is the Patriarchate of Constantinople. Having accepted a lot of dollars from those who wish to destroy the Church, it has sponsored an entirely uncanonical ‘Church’ in the Ukraine, whose sponsors and gangsters and thugs, the worst of the worst, do violence to actual Christians and attempt to destroy the Church.
The second is the Patriarchate of Moscow. Outside Russia and Belarus, this is in danger of becoming a small network of nationalist ghettoes or tiny, semi-private groups, each with a few right-wing neophytes. To some it seems as though it has squandered its great, post-Soviet potential, just as it squandered its great Tsarist potential before 1917. Some even call its actions suicidal.
It has long been suggested that the first can repent by leaving its flock of fewer than 500 in Istanbul in the hands of one priest and moving to Athens. There, its leader would remain the Patriarch of Constantinople, though now with a real flock and real churches covering all Greece, just as the Patriarch of Antioch, who has long lived in Damascus and does not go to Antioch, which is in Turkey.
As for the second, like others, we too have a suggestion. Some will dismiss the following as fiction, not even faction. But suppose just 10% of it came true in the coming years? That would be a lot. We will never discount the possibility of repentance for anyone. We know how it transforms, from our own lives. See below:
The meeting of the Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church which began on 20 May 2024 culminated on 24 May, the Feast of Sts Cyril and Methodius, Apostles to the Slavs. Momentous decisions were announced on that day, including changing the legal name of the Russian Orthodox Church from ‘Patriarchate of Moscow’ to ‘Patriarchate of New Jerusalem and All Rus’. The change of name is connected with the radical decentralisation of the Patriarchate, described below, and the move of all Patriarchal offices to the historic New Jerusalem Monastery outside Moscow. Even after the creation of two more Autocephalous Churches, the Russian Orthodox Church will still have over 130 million baptised, representing two-thirds of the whole Orthodox Church. As such the Russian Church has a huge responsibility to work together with other Local Churches in the Diaspora, shedding itself of any imperialistic tendencies.
Four Autocephalous Churches
The Polish Orthodox Church and the Orthodox Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia were already granted autocephaly by the Russian Church, respectively in 1948 and 1951. Now two new Autocephalous Churches have been created:
Ukrainian Orthodox Church
This covers the territory of the Ukraine, whose new borders were established on 5 May 2024. This numbers over 15 million baptised Orthodox.
Baltic Orthodox Church
This covers Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and Finland and gathers all Orthodox in those countries who celebrate the canonical date of Orthodox Easter. They number some 400,000 baptised Orthodox.
Eight Autonomous Churches
The Chinese Orthodox Church and the Japanese Orthodox Church were already granted autonomy in 1957 and 1970, respectively. They have remained autonomous and not become autocephalous, simply because they have both remained small. At the Synodal meeting of the Russian Orthodox Church in May 2024 six new Autonomous Churches were created:
Moldovan Orthodox Church
This is destined to gather together all Orthodox in the Republic of Moldova, who are at present under the Russian and the Romanian Churches. If unity can be achieved through this autonomy, then this Church can become autocephalous.
Central Asian Orthodox Church
This gathers together Orthodox living in the five ‘stans’ of Central Asia. This Church could help bring Orthodoxy to other stans, such as Pakistan. Autocephaly is quite possible with time.
Northern American Orthodox Church (NAOC)
This replaces the old Autocephalous Orthodox Church in America, the OCA, founded in 1970. Its canonicity was always disputed as it was declared autocephalous, yet shared the same territory as other Orthodox, who were in fact far more numerous. Also the title ‘in America’ was very vague. Northern America is precise, meaning fundamentally the USA and Canada (with Greenland and Bermuda). Moreover, the NAOC has today received the addition of some 40 parishes from the former Moscow Patriarchate, which have now been transferred to it. (Only St Nicholas church in New York remains as a dependency under the Patriarchate). Furthermore, all bishops, clergy, parishes and monasteries of the old ROCOR in Northern America are invited to become part of the NAOC in order to avoid any uncanonical tendencies and extremes within itself. With time we hope that Orthodox of other ethnic backgrounds will join the NAOC and this Church will then become Autocephalous. However, on shared territory, such an Autocephaly can only be granted by several Patriarchates together, thus forming an authentic multinational Local Church.
Western European Orthodox Church (WEOC)
This replaces the old Western European Exarchate of the Moscow Patriarchate. It is hoped that with time the members of the old ROCOR in Western Europe and of the old Archdiocese of Western Europe, both officially within the Patriarchate, will come to take part in it in order to avoid any uncanonical tendencies and extremes within themselves. With time we hope that Orthodox of other ethnic backgrounds will join the WEOC and this Church will then become Autocephalous. However, on shared territory, such an Autocephaly can only be granted by several Patriarchates together, especially with the majority Patriarchate of Romania, thus forming an authentic multinational Local Church. Its territory at present covers the six Dioceses of: Germania (Germany, Austria, German Switzerland and Liechtenstein); the British Isles (England, Scotland and Wales) and Ireland; Iberia (Spain, Portugal and Andorra); Italia (Italy, Malta, San Marino and Swiss Ticino; Gallia (France, southern Belgium, French Switzerland and Monaco); the three countries of Benelux; Scandinavia – Iceland, Norway, Sweden and Denmark. This is 23 countries, with at present 9 bishops.
Hungarian Orthodox Church
This is led by Metropolitan Hilarion of Budapest and All Hungary. Most of its baptised live in the autonomous Carpatho-Russian province in the east, formerly part of the old Ukraine, now part of Hungary. In time it will become Autocephalous.
African Orthodox Church
Founded in 2021 under the present Metropolitan Leonid of Uganda, this now has four bishops, three of whom are Black Africans. Its territory covers all Africa and with expansion will become Autocephalous.
The Exarchates of Belarus and of South East Asia already exist. Now two missionary Exarchates have been created:
Exarchate of Oceania
Based on the old ROCOR Australian Diocese, this covers the Continent of Australia, New Zealand and Pacific islands. Its vocation is to work with other Orthodox to form a new Local Church.
Exarchate of Latin American and the Caribbean
This gathers Orthodox living in South and Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean. Its vocation is to work with other Orthodox to form new Local Churches.