08/29/2019, 12.17
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Moscow and Constantinople clash in Southeast Asia

by Vladimir Rozanskij

The Metropolitan of Singapore Sergij (Chashin), of Russian obedience, writes an open letter to the metropolitan of Seoul Amvrosios (Zografos), linked to Constantinople. There are not two "parallel churches", but the traditional Russian mission in Asia. The patriarchate of Moscow increasingly proposes itself as the true orthodox  church of "universal" jurisdiction.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - On August 27 last, the Metropolitan of Singapore Sergij (Chashin), a Russian Orthodox exarch (in the center in the picture), defended the creation of the ecclesiastical region of South-East Asia. In an open letter to the Metropolitan of Seoul Amvrosios (Zografos), exarch for South-East Asia of the patriarchate of Constantinople, he states that the reason for forming the region for which he is responsible is not to create a "parallel Church", but to renew the spiritual mission of the Russian Orthodox Church in those territories.

The open letter is the reply to an interview with Amvrosios last April, published on the website The Orthodox World. In the interview, the exarch of Constantinopolitan obedience expressed doubts about the creation of the new ecclesiastical region of Russian obedience, which took place last December 28th, after the approval of the new Ukrainian Church, which Moscow had opposed.

In the letter released on the Pravoslavie.ru, Sergij recalls that " today we speak not of the establishment of a “parallel Church” but of the restoration of the ecclesiastical mission of the Russian Orthodox Church. It is conditioned by the historical process of revival of the Russian Church which suffered under the yoke of the godless power for seventy years and by the need to provide pastoral care to our compatriots in all parts of the globe including Asia, as well as by the impossibility of our flock at present to partake of the Mysteries in the Church of Constantinople as it has entered into communion with schismatics and invaded the canonical bounds of the Moscow Patriarchate in Ukraine ".

According to the Russian metropolitan, the patriarchate of Moscow received numerous letters and appeals from the Russians living in Seoul and in the other provinces of Korea, with the request to offer the services of the Church. Speaking generally of the Russian Church in Southeast Asia, he recalled that "Russian priests began their pastoral ministry in China in 1685, St. Nicholas (Kasatkin) came to Japan in 1861, and the Russian Ecclesiastical Mission in Korea was established in 1897. Russian parishes appeared in Indonesia in 1934; in the same year, a parish was opened in Manila. St. John (Maximovitch) of Shanghai celebrated the first Divine services in Vietnam in 1949. This is only some of the documentary evidence of the beginning of the Russian Church’s mission in the countries of South and Southeast Asia during which no other Orthodox Church was represented".

It is also recalled that "the historical fact is also that for hundreds of years not a single complaint or reproach has come to the Russian Church from her Orthodox brothers as to our actions in Asia up to the recent times when the Patriarch of Constantinople has changed his ecclesiology and wished, instead of being “the first among equals” to become “the first without equals.”. In this regard, the gratitude letters of the Patriarchs of Jerusalem in Nikolaj of Japan are mentioned, where the local Church is considered "daughter" of the Russian one.

Sergij also recalls the special "friendship relationship" between the Russian and Korean people. The current mission would be an attempt to "revive the spiritual closeness between our peoples", forcibly interrupted after the Second World War due to the American occupation, and to the subjugation of the Korean leadership at the time. In this sense, the Russian metropolitan turns his accusation of enslavement of the Church towards politics towards his "colleague": "you prefer not to see the political nature of your Church’s actions in Ukraine, but you speak of a political nature of the actions of the Moscow Patriarchate in Korea... in many countries in Europe and America, which do not belong to the canonical territory of a particular Church, there are several coexisting bishops of various Local Churches, and this does not present an unsurmountable obstacle for their ministry and common witness to Christ".

The Russian Church, concludes the metropolitan, has always solved all the questions of collaboration with the other Churches with dialogue and common sense, without imposing unacceptable conditions on anyone even where its faithful represent the majority of the Orthodox in a given region. The accusations of Amvrosios thus appear "groundless".

The tone of the letter shows that the patriarchate of Moscow increasingly proposes itself as the true "universal" Orthodox jurisdiction, capable of attracting all the other "sister Churches" to itself, in clear opposition to the ecumenical patriarchate of Constantinople.

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