Since an interesting discussion has flared up around the correspondence polemic between Bishop Sylvester of Belogorodsk and Archimandrite Kirill (Govorun), I would like to insert my “five kopecks” into the topic under discussion, writes Pravblog.
In the question of the reasons for the schism in world Orthodoxy that we are observing, one should delve not in the church canons of one and a half thousand years ago, and not in individual historical episodes. The main question here is that in the second half of the 20th century a certain status quo developed in world Orthodoxy. After the First World War and the fall of four great European empires (two of which, the Russian and the Ottoman, were directly related to world Orthodoxy – the second of them on the basis of the fact that four ancient Eastern Patriarchates were located on its territory), tectonic shifts took place. And the Patriarchate of Constantinople, by subjugating the Greek diaspora, proclaiming autocephaly of the Polish Church (which was historically part of the Kiev Metropolis), creating its own diocesan structures in Finland and Estonia, tried to win back the losses it suffered during the Russian-Turkish wars of the 19th century and the “parade of autocephaly. “. After 1945 and the settlement of all existing disputes, a rather fragile consensus was reached, which, one way or another, persisted until Phanar’s intervention in the “Ukrainian church issue” in 2018.
Speaking about the canonicity or non-canonical nature of the change in church boundaries, it should be noted that at different stages of church history this issue was resolved in different ways in practical terms. During the existence of the Roman and then Byzantine empires, it was exclusively under the jurisdiction of the emperor. That is why we do not find in canon law clear procedures for the creation of new Local Churches, the transition of dioceses from one Church to another, an exhaustive description of the appeal procedure. It was clear to contemporaries how to resolve such issues – in ecclesiastical law, procedures similar to secular law operated. In the same way, in the Middle Ages, especially after the fall of Constantinople and the spread of the power of the Ottoman Empire to the Balkans and other Orthodox regions, the Local Churches merged into the Patriarchate of Constantinople that reigned under the Ottomans. And as, for example, the expansion of the borders of the Russian Empire, the dioceses included in its composition and even the Local Churches merged into the Russian Church. This happened with the dioceses of Crimea, the northern Black Sea region, and the independent Georgian Church. Such was the practice, which, in general, did not cause any surprise among contemporaries.
An exception, perhaps, is just the transfer of the Kiev Metropolitanate to the Moscow Patriarchate. Here it was important for the Moscow tsars to achieve a formal consent to this action of Constantinople, although the issue could be calmly resolved within the framework of the then existing practice – de facto annexation. Probably, among other things, Moscow did not need an excuse to exacerbate relations with the Turks. However, it is precisely this exception from the then existing “rule”, which, upon agreement of the parties, had its own roughnesses (rich gifts, bribery, difficult negotiations with the Ottoman Port), which Phanar today used to start aggressive expansion. Allegedly, everything was not completely canonical, and therefore it can be canceled.
What is it all about? If we approach historical events in accordance with modern templates, or from the point of view of literal adherence to the canons, the conclusions will be so destructive that it will call into question the canonicity of the existence of many Orthodox Churches, including the Patriarchate of Constantinople. ”
There is a well-known Ottoman practice, within which once every few years the Porta held an informal “auction” for the chair of the Patriarch of Constantinople. And if the current patriarch or the group of influence standing behind him could buy off, then this patriarch continued to occupy his throne. Otherwise, the department was given to a representative of another group of influence, which was able to offer a higher price. Thus, the same persons became patriarchs several times, with breaks for a short period.
Is it worth talking about the canonicity of such patriarchs? How many Apostolic rules and canons of the Ecumenical Councils have been violated? And if one wishes, one can draw a conclusion from this that the Patriarchs of Constantinople were not canonical, at least for the last 300 years. All of them, including the current one, can be “canceled”.
The conclusion is simple. Phanar considered it possible to violate the status quo that developed in the 20th century, which ensured the unity of world Orthodoxy, under which the Patriarch of Constantinople had the primacy of honor as a sign of respect for the former greatness of Constantinople. What will come of this? Phanar has already begun to be reminded that he is not “ecumenical” at all, “New Rome” is no more, and how historically reliable are the legends about the founding of the See of Constantinople by the Apostle Andrew. If there is a serious reshuffle of forces in the world, then the new configuration will make its own adjustments in world Orthodoxy. If the balance remains the same, then we will continue toobserve the formation of a schism similar to the Great Schism of 1054. It is characteristic that both the motives and arguments on the part of the “leading department” have not changed over the millennium. Only Rome then had more arguments in favor of primacy.
It is doubly bad that the Phanar, by its actions, did not allow the Orthodox Church to become an independent entity acting outside state interests. Thus, thanks to Patriarch Bartholomew and his Synod, we return to the above-described Middle Ages and its customs. However, there is hope. If the Ukrainian Orthodox Church survives, this will be a serious precedent in the Orthodox world. And a signal to everyone that the Orthodox Church can be truly separated from the state as the embodiment of the words of Christ: “My kingdom is not of this world.”