Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Orthodox 'irrational exuberance'

The Russian Church denies reports about negotiations with the Patriarchate of Constantinople on the Ukrainian problem

Moscow, March 19, Interfax - Archpriest Nikolay Balashov, Moscow Patriarchate Department for External Church Relations secretary for inter-Orthodox relations, has stated that the Russian Church is not aware of any activities by the commission of the Patriarchate of Constantinople on the Ukrainian problem.

Commenting on the report that this commission ‘conducts talks both with the Moscow Patriarchate, Metropolitan Vladimir of Kiev and the clergy of the Kievan Patriarchate,’ the priest underlined that ‘no negotiations have been held with it.’

In a talk with an Interfax correspondent, he also said that no answer has been received yet to the request sent to Constantinople a year ago concerning the statements made by Archbishop Vsevolod (Maidansky) of Skopelos about the refusal to recognize the incorporation of the Kievan Metropolitanate in the Moscow Patriarchate in the 17th century.

The Tserkva web-site of the Kievan Patriarchate, not recognized by any in the Orthodox world, reported earlier that Ukrainian President Victor Yuschenko ‘asked the Ecumenical Patriarchate for its intervention and the patriarchate set up a commission made up of the Holy Synod Chief Secretary Archimandrite Elpidophoros and Archimandrite Athenagoras Chrisan.’

The publication also noted that ‘Yuschenko’s open support for the Kievan Patriarchate inspires to energetic actions’ aimed to ‘recognize Patriarch Philaret of Kiev and All Russia-Ukraine who was excommunicated by the Moscow Patriarchate’.

Last September, I linked to a piece at Interfax. This new article provides some interesting updates on what was reported in the September article. First off is this reference to a commission set up by the Patriarchate of Constantinople. Notice too how the Russians deny any kind of talks, much like they did the other day with Cardinal Kasper's comments.

Second and more interesting is the later reference to President Yuschenko's invitation for the Constantinople Patriarchate to intervene and help figure out the question of which Orthodox Church in Ukraine is in fact the 'real' one. The reference to Yuschenko's support of the Kiev Patriarchate is of course a perfect example of the president's continuing struggle to get his country out from under the thumb of the Russians, both in foreign and internal affairs.

If I had to prognosticate, I can seriously see this ending up with Constantinople recognizing an independent Kiev Patriarchate and encouraging the two current patriarchs to unite their two factions. Where that leaves the Russians is anyone's guess.

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