04/27/2022, 09.20
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Kirill calls for defense of Moscow, Ancient Eastern Churches prepare advice for him

by Vladimir Rozanskij

Russian patriarch criticised for his support of Putin's invasion of Ukraine. It would take a council of all the Churches or a decision of the Moscow synod to dismiss him. Kirill increasingly under scrutiny in the Orthodox and Christian world of the West.


Moscow (AsiaNews) - The patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Kirill (Gundjaev) celebrated a service after Easter in the historic Cathedral of the Assumption within the walls of the Kremlin, inviting the population to gather around the "city of Moscow, center of all Russia" to defend itself from the "centers of power abroad." The Russian people need to rediscover their inner unity, the patriarch said, "because only in unity is our strength, and if we preserve in our hearts the faith of our fathers, then Russia will be invincible."

As Kirill explained, "victory is not always that of arms, but also the victory of the spirit, and many today would like this spirit to disappear." He listed the tactics of the enemy, who "spreads confusion, creates new idols, draws attention to new pseudo-values, in order to overthrow the dimensions of man's consciousness, from the vertical one that unites with God to the horizontal one, on which all the demands of human flesh are implanted."

Rumors are circulating of a possible meeting of the Council of Apostolic Patriarchs of the Ancient Oriental Churches, the four members of the ancient Pentarchy, from which Rome is excluded: Constantinople, Alexandria, Jerusalem and Antioch. The meeting had been planned for months, to evaluate Kirill's choice to establish a Russian exarchate in Africa, on the canonical territory of Alexandria, and now the question raised by more than 400 priests of the Orthodox Church in Ukraine, the judgment on Kirill's support for Putin's policy, arises.

The question was formally posed by protoierej Andrej Pinčuk of the eparchy of Dnepropetrovsk, part of the Ukrainian Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, asking to "deprive Kirill of the patriarchal see", and was then signed by 430 priests of the same Church. The same signatories also appealed to their Metropolitan Onufryj (Berezovsky) of Kiev to proclaim autocephaly independently, but so far the head of the Ukrainian Orthodox has not responded. It is known that several Russian priests and bishops are advising Kirill to proclaim from Moscow the autocephaly of the Ukrainian part, which is already independent at the administrative level.

The meeting of the patriarchs remains pending, also because two of the four, Theophilos III of Jerusalem and Ioannis X of Antioch are supporters of Kirill, or at least not willing to break relations with him, and it is no coincidence that Kirill's right-hand man, Metropolitan Ilarion (Alfeev), visited the two between late February and early March.

Andrej Šiškov, a canonist of the University of Tartu in Estonia, says "the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew himself, an expert in canon law, realizes that this "supreme tribunal" has no real effectiveness in the Orthodox world, it would take a council of all the Churches to dismiss a patriarch, and this has never been able to convene".

The council of four patriarchs made sense in the period of the Ottoman Empire, but it never acted at the level of universal Orthodoxy. The great council of Moscow in 1666 dismissed Patriarch Nikon in the presence of the patriarchs of Antioch and Jerusalem, but there it was Tsar Aleksej who made the decisions.

Patriarch Kirill could be put on trial only by the Synod of the Patriarchate of Moscow itself, which has not been able to meet for months, and recently its meeting was postponed to the end of 2022 because of the "international situation". The problem would be the participation of Metropolitan Onufryj and the Ukrainian bishops, who have the right to participate in the Synod of Moscow, but at this moment are in direct conflict with the patriarch.

Kirill is also being questioned in the Orthodox and Christian world of the West, and the question of his exclusion even from the World Council of Churches, the highest international ecumenical body, has been raised. In fact, what is seen as the "UN of the Churches" appears to be rather impotent, and the Russians would have no problem in definitively detaching themselves from it, accusing it of being subservient to the "centers of power abroad".

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