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  5. The place of Constantinople: the ideological gap between the Greeks and the Slavs

The place of Constantinople: the ideological gap between the Greeks and the Slavs

A meaningful interview with Metropolitan Isaiah of Tamassos and Orini is very important from the point of view of understanding the Greek attitude towards today’s processes in the Orthodox world. And I would like to draw attention not to those moments that are pleasant to us in the ROC – they were listed by colleagues from the “Eastern Church” and other Orthodox resources. I would like to draw your attention to the accents that are alien to us.

First, it is a common Greek reverence for the Ecumenical Patriarchate. For us, the Slavs, this is just the honorary name of the Patriarchate of Constantinople (CP), the first one in the Diptych, which once had special significance in the past, but nothing more… The reasons are simple: we have been independent from the CP for almost 6 centuries. Moreover, even during the period of our unrecognized autocephaly, the Patriarchs of Constantinople lived largely on Russian donations. Therefore, they were more dependent on us than we were on them. And this continued until the revolution in 1917.

Even before the breakup after the Union of Florence, although we were subordinate to the CP, it was too far from us by the standards of that time…

The CP looks quite different in the eyes of the Greeks: since the time of Emperor Constantine, the bishops of Constantinople have been influential throughout the Church. After the Arab conquest, the Churches of Jerusalem, Antioch and Alexandria looked to Constantinople as their only source of aid. After his capture by the Turks, the Patriarch of Constantinople received exclusive rights in the Ottoman Empire, including influence over the rest of the Patriarchates. Russia and the Russian Church actively participated in the affairs of the ancient Churches, but she was far away… And after 1917 she was persecuted at all. A little recovered from persecution only in 1943, the ROC was perceived abroad as a conductor of the geopolitical influence of the USSR, which, after anti-Christian persecutions, aroused well-founded fears in it… And since 1948, the CP received support in the United States, again gaining some influence…

The whole problem is not even that phanariots have created a system of interpretations of several canons of the Ecumenical Councils in their favor over the past 100 years. This interpretation has not been fully accepted by the Local Churches. The problem is that in history there is a practice of the primacy of the KP in the Byzantine-Ottoman period due to political realities. And in the Church there is a point of view that everything is Orthodox that took place in church history and was not condemned. The opinion that historical precedents are a part of Church Tradition.

And here the experience of the ROC and the ancient Patriarchates is different: in the historical experience of the ROC there is no relationship between two Churches within one empire.

It could have been, but the autocephaly of the Georgian Church was eliminated by the imperial authorities as well as the Russian Patriarchate. In the Byzantine-Ottoman experience for many centuries the Local Churches existed under the dominance of the CP.

Of course, the affiliation of the Russian, Byzantine, and Ottoman experience to the Church Tradition is highly doubtful. We try to separate the actual church experience from the forced interaction with the world of politics. But the essence of the problem is that in the theological tradition of the Greek Churches, this experience is already registered as a church experience.

And this is the difficulty of our mutual understanding with them.

But Phanar also has its own difficulties: in the imperial period, the CP was more restrained in its claims than it is now. And he did not go so boldly to trample on the independence of the Churches and violate the apostolic succession.

Second, the Churches understand that the CP today is a conductor of American interests. But the Russian Orthodox Church for many is a conductor of Russian interests, as the CP and the State Department convince them. It is no coincidence that the phanariots are trying to intercept accusations of papism by turning them against the ROC.

Therefore, today the sympathies of the Local Churches will be on the side that stands for the most consistent canonical position, respecting their independence, themselves, as well as the CP that is significant for them, but rejecting its excessive claims and heresies.

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