The meeting of two religious leaders - Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church - recently held at Havana airport, continues to haunt the minds and the souls of the Christians in many countries. And if the Ukrainian Greek Catholics limited their reaction to a flash of resentment expressed by the Head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church Sviatoslav (Shevchuk) almost immediately after the Cuban dialogue, for the Orthodox world the event at the airport of the Island of Freedom has become the reason to start an open review of the Church’s geopolitics.
It could seem, that enough time has passed from the moment of the meeting itself, so it is high time to discuss other problems. But it turns out, that the most interesting events begin to develop only now. In March, the Orthodox community meetings began in Russia, Ukraine, Greece and other countries. During these meetings the clergy and the laity began to declare indignantly the "betrayal of spiritual traditions and precepts," mentioning the name of Kirill. So, what happened? Why is meeting the Pope and the Russian Patriarch began to cause disagreement almost after a month’s time, while the mixed assessments of the last few weeks are literally changing a lot in the balance of forces inside the Christian world? And why is the reaction of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church has such a difference in time of its expression?
One article doesn’t permit to answer all these questions - too many things are intertwined in historical, mental and political terms. And yet, we will try to throw the light on the matter.
As we remember, immediately after the signing of "Havana Declaration", where a separate point was directed at criticizing the principle of "all-uniting position", the Head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church Sviatoslav (Shevchuk) – on the photo - could not resist and literally said the following: "In this regard I have already heard from many people that they feel betrayed by Vatican, deeply disappointed by the half-heartedness of the truth reflected in this document, and by indirect support which the Holy Thrown shows to the Russian aggression against Ukraine. " However, later the Primate of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church apologized for being too "emotional" in expressing his reaction, however, let us underline that all this happened in the days immediately following the meeting between Kirill and Francis. The Orthodox Church had been keeping silent position...
The first example of activity was demonstrated by the Orthodox community of St. Petersburg.
On the 6th of March, 2016 the Northern Capital of Russia hosted an international round table "The Russian Orthodox Church and Havana Declaration: Victory or Defeat?" It gathered more than 400 people to discuss the problems which give worries and concerns to the faithful of the Church. There were a lot of visitors, including Moldova, Ukraine and many Russian regions (Moscow, Yekaterinburg, Kamchatka). A lot of unpleasant critics about the official leadership of Moscow Patriarchate were expressed by the participants. In particular, it was noted that "the meeting in Havana could be interpreted as a well-conducted operation of the Jesuits, aimed not only at legitimizing of the heretical Catholics in the eyes of the Orthodox and at the revitalization of Catholic organizations, but also – what is the most important – at the introduction of splits in the Russian Orthodox Church and the division of the Russian people according to Ukrainian model."
Three weeks later, on the 31st of March, in Moscow, in the conference hall of hotel complex "Izmailovo" there were the public hearings "Havana Declaration and the "Pan-Orthodox" Cathedral: Pros and Cons." The personality of the Patriarch himself was criticized, while his policy was evaluated as "liberal ecumenical political steps of the Moscow Patriarchate", and the documents signed in Chambesy in January this year (they were considered a rightful success of Kirill) were called "more than questionable."
It was here, in the capital of Russia, that a foundation of a new association was announced, which is called the "movement of the FAITHFUL". And this, incidentally, represents an already institutionalized opposition to the church leadership of Russia.
A seemingly disturbing warning to Moscow Patriarchate was articulated at the meeting: the thesis that "the continuation of the current ecumenical course of Moscow Patriarchate of Moscow will cause breaking away of many parishes and even dioceses."
By the way, Ukrainian guests actively participated in this meeting and in the discussions of the issues raised at it. Indeed, the event was attended by the Head of the "People's Council of Ukraine and New Russia" Igor Druzj, who is openly fighting on the side of the so-called DNR / LNR, and the infamous Orthodox activist from Kiev Valentine Lukiyanik.
Yet the first major alarm was sounded in Ukraine by the bishop Banchensky Longin (Zhar), who is currently the bishop of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Moscow Patriarchate. He held a similar conference in Bancheny (Chernovitska diocese), during which he accused Patriarch Kirill of "heresy" and described the forthcoming Pan-Orthodox Cathedral as " the Cathedral of the liars, the Cathedral of the wicked" and a "shame" for the sake of the Antichrist. In addition, he promised not to remember Kirill in the Church during the Liturgy, demanding his repentance. It certainly was a big scandal.
And it is not possible to close one’s eyes to this fact. First, a statement of this kind was not worded by any activist or even by a priest, but by a bishop. And secondly, Longin is very close to the Head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Moscow Patriarchate, Metropolitan Onuphrius.
Knowing about the key role of subordination in the church, it is difficult to believe that Longin spoke out without the knowledge of his immediate supervisor. And in Moscow they know it very well. But even if this fact could "go unnoticed" or could be attributed to emotions, after a few days Longin went to Greece, where he took an active part in the conference, which criticized the meeting between Kirill and the Pope Francis, as well as the intention to conduct a Pan-Orthodox Council, calling it precisely "a predatory pseudo-Council".
Of course, in the First Throne city of Moscow they are outraged by the position of leadership of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Moscow Patriarchate, and regard these actions as a stab in the back. It has become known that - while speaking in his close circle - the Patriarch of Moscow wondered why the Ukrainian Church, which represents a subordinate structure and which is "being given so much help," suddenly tripped up the religious leadership and turned its back on it.
Officially Onuphrius of Kiev has been keeping silence. Those who know him well, are not too surprised by his attitude. First of all, the Head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Moscow Patriarchate is an Orthodox monk, for whom the principles of faith are above all else. People who know him well, say that he is ready to "mount the scaffold", but he will not depart from these principles. This is a very valuable quality for the spiritual leader, but in this case it plays against the high church politics, where there are other laws, far more similar to the political moves than to faith.
And now we are coming to the point. The appeal of "the FAITHFUL", supported by the political orthodox members, yet will not be the Waterloo for Kirill. For the simple reason that his meeting with the Pope Francis took place in full accordance with the plan of the political leadership of Russia, which is aggressively seeking supporters in the West, trying to break through his defenses, built on sanctions and financial restrictions. So every vote in support of Moscow's position is precious, not to speak about such an authority as the Head of Vatican.
Havana meeting and Pre-Conciliar meeting the world's Orthodox leaders in Chambesy should certainly be attributed to the diplomatic fortunes of the Russian Patriarch, who hopes to continue the success at the Pan-Orthodox Council this summer. And even if it does not happen, Kirill could easily put down a successful score: he has achieved victory on the Ukrainian issue, he has managed to factor out of the possible dialogue with the Catholic World the problem of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church and the Kyiv Patriarchate (and therefore, the anti-Moscow religious resistance in the Ukraine), in his face of its Head.
It is highly unlikely that those in Kremlin do not understand that Kirill is running in a highly risky situation, making "the heresy of ecumenism" in the small airport of the Cuban capital. And if it is so, then the indignant voices of the "right" church communities in Russia, Ukraine, Moldova will remain a voice crying in the wilderness – because the heavy Kremlin road-roller will level to the ground their "fair protests", while influential media of the Russian Federation "will not notice anything."
As a result, Moscow Patriarchate will do one more step forward, and, most likely, the Russian Orthodox Church will not split in the nearest future. However, in this regard, I wonder what will happen to the Ukrainian Bishop Longin in the future?Victor Stoian, for "Vector News"
Translated by Maria Kryzhanovska