Introduction: After the Special Military Operation
One of the outcomes of the ten-year old American war against Russia in the Ukraine will inevitably be great changes in the Russian Orthodox Church, often known as the ‘Moscow Patriarchate’. The first outcome could be precisely to change the name of the Moscow Patriarchate, which is a temporary Soviet name, perhaps to the ‘Patriarchate of New Jerusalem and All Rus’, which refers back to the seventeenth century history of Russia. New Jerusalem is a restored historic monastic centre with an international background just to the west of Moscow. Such a name change would be the final step in the Patriarchate losing its often unpleasant, centralising Soviet associations and Moscow-centric image.
The second outcome could be to restore to the priesthood and diaconate those who were ‘defrocked’ over the last three years, either because they had political disagreements with the Russian State, or because their bishops were schismatics, thieves, perverts, womanisers or persecutors of truth-telling clergy. Before being ‘defrocked’, they had been forced to transfer as refugees to the Greek Patriarchate of Constantinople or to the Romanian Orthodox Church, or elsewhere. (Why such bishops are not defrocked for committing such serious misdeeds – priests would be defrocked automatically if they did – is a problem that needs to be addressed by all the Local Churches. Recently we saw yet another example of episcopal impunity in the case of a Metropolitan Joseph of the Antiochian Church in North America. Convicted of such above crimes, he was simply retired!)
The third outcome would be a further and more radical restructuring of the Russian Orthodox Church, in order to take account of the real post-Soviet, international world. The possible forms taken by such a restructuring, overdue by more than 30 years, are outlined below.
Autonomisation and Internationalisation
After 2008 the Russian Orthodox Church went through an initial process of restructuring, which can be called ‘Metropolitanisation’, that is, Localisation, the establishment of Local Metropolias covering large geographical areas, each led by a Metropolitan with an archbishop and several diocesan bishops who help him. This has led to the consecration of over 200 new bishops in the Church. This was a move away from the previous 300 years, when there were few bishops and great centralisation.
It is our suggestion that there should be a further stage in this process, at last recognising ecclesiastically that the old unitary State of the Soviet Union long ago ceased to exist and is now divided into fifteen different, independent republics. Such a further move away from the old centralisation could be called ‘Autonomisation’. This means the granting of Autonomy (Independence) to Russian Orthodox in various ex-Soviet and Non-Soviet countries and groups of countries outside the Russian Federation.
At present Autonomy means that a Church is independent, except that the Mother Church has the right to select the head (Metropolitan) of the Autonomous Church, that all the clergy in the Autonomous Church must commemorate the Patriarch of the Mother Church and that the Autonomous Church must obtain its myrrh from the Mother Church. However, Autonomy could be redefined only to mean that the Mother Church selects the head of that Church. The two second conditions could be made voluntary. Thus, commemoration of the Patriarch by bishops or priests would be voluntary and each Autonomous Church would have the possibility to make its own myrrh, if it so wished.
Some may ask why would only Autonomy be granted and not Autocephaly (full independence)? This is because Autocephaly is only possible on five conditions. These are: If an Autonomous Church is not on a territory shared with other Local Churches, if it is large enough (it should have at least four bishops), if it is in politically stable conditions with fixed borders, if it is spiritually mature, that is, has many parishes and an established monastic life, and, above all, if the majority of its members wants such Autocephaly. (Autocephalisation on territories shared with other Orthodox has to be worked out at a Council of all the Local Churches, though it can come much sooner on non-shared territories).
Two Autonomous Churches already exist within the Russian Orthodox Church. These are the small Church of Japan and the tiny Church of China, both established because of the total political independence of Japan and China from Russia. In order of geographical proximity, ten more Autonomous Churches, recognising international realities, could be:
- The Ukrainian Orthodox Church. This would cover the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox population in the New Ukraine (Malorossija?), now under Metr Onufry of Kiev. This would be the old Ukraine, but probably minus the nine new eastern and southern provinces: Crimea, Donetsk, Lugansk, Zaporozhie, Kherson, Kharkov, Dnepropetrovsk, Nikolaev, Odessa, which would revert to Russia (five already have done so), and minus the four new provinces in the west: two, Lvov and Ivano-Frankovsk, going back to Poland, one, Chernovtsy, going back to Romania, and one, Zakarpatie, going back to Hungary. In other words, the New Ukraine would basically be the historic, pre-Soviet Ukraine.
However, this Autonomous Ukrainian Church, covering less than half the territory of the post-1922 Soviet Ukraine, could also be responsible for two Exarchates. These would be all the remaining Russian churches in Moldova (most churches there are joining the Romanian Church, perhaps only 15% will end up remaining under the Russian Church) and all the churches in Hungary, which, if the border change happens, would nearly all be from a former part of the Ukraine. Given its size and recent history, this Ukrainian Orthodox Church could probably soon become Autocephalous, if it is desired by clergy and people, once it has found political stability, just like the Polish and Czechoslovak Churches, which received their Autocephaly from the Russian Church in the last century.
- The Belarussian Orthodox Church. This would replace the present Belarussian Exarchate and cover the Belarussian Orthodox population in Belarus. Given its size, this Belarussian Orthodox Church could probably soon become Autocephalous.
- The Baltic Orthodox Church. This would cover the Russian Orthodox population in four countries, that is, the three Baltic countries and Finland.
- The Central Asian Orthodox Church (CAOC). This would cover the large Russian Orthodox population in the five republics of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan.
- The Western European Orthodox Church (WEOC). This would cover the Russian Orthodox population in the twenty-one countries below. It would include the Paris-based Russian Orthodox Archdiocese of Western Europe and the non-schismatic churches of ROCOR. This group used to be canonically Russian Orthodox, but sadly, after entering into canonical communion with Moscow, it first rejected the Metropolitanisation or Localisation which the Patriarch and all of us wanted, as a result going into schism (from the Russian Orthodox Archdiocese of Western Europe), by introducing the scandalous practice of rebaptising other Orthodox, thus totally discrediting itself and becoming a sect. As we suggested in 1988, the WEOC, centred in Paris, could consist of eight archdioceses and have a considerable number of diocesan metropolitans, archbishops or bishops in the following groups of countries, according to language and culture:
Gallia: France and French-speaking Southern Belgium, Luxembourg and Monaco (centred in Paris).
Germania: Germany and Austria (centred in Berlin).
Iberia: Spain, Portugal, and Andorra (centred in Madrid).
Italia: Italy, San Marino and Malta (centred in Rome).
Iona (Isles of the North Atlantic): The British Isles and Ireland (centred in London).
Scandinavia: Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Iceland (centred in Stockholm)
Netherlandia: The Netherlands and Northern Belgium (centred in Amsterdam).
Helvetica: Switzerland and Liechtenstein (centred in Geneva).
- The African Orthodox Church (AOC). Centred in Kampala, this would cover the Russian Orthodox population of the whole African Continent.
- The Northern American Orthodox Church (NAOC). This would cover the USA, Canada, Greenland, Bermuda and St Pierre et Miquelon and include the churches of the former OCA, whose tomos of autocephaly will have to be revoked anyway. This revocation will be necessary because, after over fifty years and despite the best intentions and efforts of many, the territorially ill-defined OCA has not been successful in bringing all Orthodox in Northern America together, which is what it was created for. As it is on shared territory, that Soviet-era tomos has never been accepted as canonical by the majority of Orthodox there. In this it has not been helped by a narrow ideology and grave pastoral errors made in the past. There is one Metropolitan in the Russian Orthodox Church, at present much under-used, whose diplomatic and linguistic talents could be of vital import here in solving the problem of this heroic, pioneering, but failed attempt to create a Local Church. Unlike the old OCA, the NAOC would also include churches which are at present under the Moscow Patriarchate and the non-schismatic churches of ROCOR. This group used to be canonically Russian Orthodox, but sadly, after entering into canonical communion with Moscow, it first rejected the Metropolitanisation or Localisation which the Patriarch and all of us wanted, as a result going into schism (from the Russian Orthodox Archdiocese of Western Europe), by introducing the scandalous practice of rebaptising other Orthodox, thus totally discrediting itself and becoming a sect.
- The Latin American and Caribbean Orthodox Church (LACOC). This would cover all Russian Orthodox in Latin America and the Caribbean, with populations speaking Spanish, Portuguese, English, French and Dutch, as well as local languages, especially in Central America.
- The South-East Asian Orthodox Church (SEAOC). This would replace the present international Exarchate of the same name.
- The Oceanian Orthodox Church (OOC). This would cover all Russian Orthodox in Oceania.
A Patriarchate of New Jerusalem and All Rus would consist of one Mother-Church, covering the population of the Russian Federation, with a Family or Confederation of Twelve Autonomous Churches. In due course, Autocephalisation on non-shared territories could follow, but only if the five necessary conditions (see above) were met. As we have said above, Autocephalisation on shared territories would have to be worked out at a Council of all the Local Churches and would require great diplomatic skills and an supranational, and not nationalist consciousness.