The Russian Orthodox against the 'claims' of Constantinople
by Vladimir Rozanskij

Patriarch Kirill claims there are those who are determined to destroy the traditions of Orthodoxy and accuses the Ecumenical Patriarchate of wanting to create a rift between the Greek and Slavic Orthodox worlds. The next Synod of Bishops in Moscow will condemn the "canonical innovations" of the Greeks.


Moscow (AsiaNews) - In the world there are those who are determined to destroy the traditions of Orthodoxy, sowing division and hostility between peoples and Churches. This was stated by Russian Patriarch Kirill (Gundjaev) in the greeting with which he opened the work of a major conference on the universal destiny of Orthodox Christianity: "World Orthodoxy: primacy and communion in the light of the Orthodox Magisterium.

Hosted from September 16 to 19 in the Synod Hall of the Moscow Cathedral of Christ the Savior, the event was attended by members of the Theological-Biblical Commission of the Synod of Bishops, representatives of theological institutions and diocesan schools, several bishops and priests, and guests from other autocephalous Churches in good relations with the Moscow Patriarchate.

Before going to the conference, Kirill voted in his residence for the political elections: the authorities provided him with a portable ballot box at home. He then made a clear appeal to the participants to face such an important issue with courage, given that "the situation of the Orthodox world can be defined as critical", after the events of recent years that led to the break with the patriarchates of Constantinople, Alexandria, Athens and Kiev.

It is no coincidence that in all the ecumenical assemblies of the last twenty years, the patriarchate of Moscow had refused to discuss the question of primacy in the Church, for fear that it was an attempt to "popularize" the Orientals by exalting the role of the ecumenical patriarchate (Constantinople) at the expense of local autonomies, and especially of the Russian Church.

Kirill spoke of "a clear tendency to create a fracture, a 'mediastinum' that separates Greek and Mediterranean Orthodoxy from Balkan and Slavic Orthodoxy, pitting Constantinople against Moscow." This weakens the Orthodox Church in the world "which today, together with a few other Christian denominations, is the only one capable of carrying out the prophetic service necessary to illuminate what is happening in contemporary human civilization".

After the patriarch's greetings, the initial talk could not have had a more provocative theme: "Constantinople's claims to power as a threat to the unity of the Church." It was given by Kirill's main collaborator, Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeev). Serbian Bishop Irinej (Bulović) and Bishop Silvestr (Stoyčev) of Belgorod in Ukraine, who belongs to the Russian Patriarchate, gave presentations on the subject of primacy and autocephaly. The Georgian Metropolitan Andrej (Gvazava) and the Cypriot Nikifor (Kikkotis), representing the only pro-Russian Greek Church, presented a contribution on the same issues.

The speakers took up the accusations of "neo-papism" addressed by Kirill himself to the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew (Archontonis); they lashed out against the approval of the Tomos of autocephaly of the "schismatic" Ukrainian Church, led by Metropolitan Epifanyj (Dumenko), as opposed to the Ukrainian Orthodox faithful to Moscow.

Hilarion recalled that the "Constantinopolitan primacy" is not of patristic origin, but "was acquired as a result of painful historical circumstances, after the schism with the pope of Rome". Constantinople was only "the second Rome, a title of honor, but not of power". Only in the twentieth century, in anti-Russian function (after the revolution of 1917), the ecumenical patriarchs would begin to claim to meddle in the affairs of other national Churches and their "canonical territories", until the "excesses" of Bartholomew.

The conclusions of the conference will serve as a basic document for the next Synod of Russian Orthodox bishops, which should be held by the end of the year. It will solemnly define the condemnation of the "canonical innovations" introduced by the Greeks in the question of autocephaly and the doctrine on the Church in general.