30 August 2021, 15:26
Patriarch Bartholomew's visit to Kiev turned into a complete fiasco
Vladislav Petrushko, Professor of the Orthodox St. Tikhon's University for the Humanities, Doctor of Church History, in an interview with the Interfax-Religion, spoke about the results of the recent visit of Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople to Kiev.
- Why was the visit of Patriarch Bartholomew to Kiev given such significant attention not only in the Ukrainian, but also in the Russian media? It would seem that this is quite an ordinary event in religious life. Why is there such an interest in him?
- Probably, first of all, because the visit of Patriarch Bartholomew to Kiev wasn't religious at all, but frankly political in nature. This was evidenced by the very reason for the patriarch's visit — the 30th anniversary of the independence of the Ukrainian state. That is, a guest from Istanbul came to Kiev not to celebrate some church date, but in fact to celebrate the anniversary of the event, the result of which was the separation of Ukraine from Russia with all the consequences that follow from this - the complete collapse of the Ukrainian economy and the impoverishment of the country, its transition to external management, a catastrophic decline in the population and its standard of living, and so on.
However, the whole idea of autocephaly of the so-called "Orthodox Church of Ukraine" (OCU), which was "created" two and a half years ago by the Patriarch of Constantinople with the support of the Ukrainian and American authorities and which he came to support at the end of August this year, was also a purely political action.
I would like to note that in the appearance of the "new Ukrainian church", former President Poroshenko saw both an attribute of the independence of the Ukrainian state and a way to attract the most nationalistic part of the electorate to his side. For the Western masters of Petro Poroshenko, this was an additional means of separating Russians and Ukrainians. And Patriarch Bartholomew also saw in this project an opportunity to convert his primacy of honor among the primates of the Local Orthodox Churches into the primacy of power.
The newly created "autocephalous church" immediately became actively involved in the political life of Ukraine, perceiving the Ukrainian nationalist idea as an integral part of its "tradition". So, it is entirely natural that the Patriarch of Constantinople who continues to take care of his "offspring" also took part in the political performance that Vladimir Zelensky arranged on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of Ukraine's independence and which was more like a "feast during the plague".
- And why did President Zelensky need to involve Patriarch Bartholomew in these celebrations at all? After all, it would seem, unlike Poroshenko, he was not inclined to use the religious factor in politics.
— Yes, at first it seemed that Zelensky remained aloof from the confrontation between the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and the newly created OCU. In the first year of Zelensky's presidency, raider seizures of churches of the canonical UOC-MP by schismatics practically stopped. But it didn't last long. The popularity of Zelensky who did not fulfill almost anything that he promised the people of Ukraine before the elections began to fall rapidly.
It's obvious that the visit of the Patriarch of Constantinople to the celebrations on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of Ukraine's independence was considered by Zelensky's entourage as a way to increase the rating of the current Ukrainian president. By inviting Bartholomew to Ukraine, Zelensky sought to please first of all the electorate that supports the party of former President Poroshenko, the part of the Ukrainian population that adheres to radical nationalist beliefs.
— Do you think Zelensky managed to improve his image with this visit?
— It seems to me that the current Ukrainian president not only didn't benefit from Bartholomew's visit which he had hoped for — the whole idea seems to have become a big mistake and a failure of Zelensky. The ovation with which the supporters of the OCU met the mention of Poroshenko as one of the main "creators" of Ukrainian autocephaly at the liturgy at St. Sophia Cathedral testified that Zelensky failed to win over radical nationalists to his side — he is still a stranger to them. But the believers of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church are now unlikely to ever vote for Zelensky after he so cynically ignored their position and sided with the schismatics. So, as a result, his rival Poroshenko received political dividends from Zelensky's idea of inviting Bartholomew to Kiev.
- Did Patriarch Bartholomew himself benefit from his visit to Ukraine?
— I think that this question should also be answered in the negative. For him, as a contender for primacy in the Orthodox world, the trip to Kiev was a complete fiasco.
First, Bartholomew put himself in an extremely ridiculous position by running like a hare from tens of thousands of Orthodox believers who wanted to meet with him in the hope of explaining to the high Turkish guest that his gross and lawless interference in the church life of Ukraine not only didn't heal the schism, as he claims everywhere, but aggravated it. However, the patriarch not only did not want to meet with those whom he constantly calls "spiritual children of the Mother Church of Constantinople", he behaved very ugly when, for example, he came to the Verkhovnaya Rada of Ukraine from the "black" entrance-only to avoid meeting with the believers outraged by his actions.
This behavior of the Patriarch of Constantinople shows that he is well aware of the crimes committed by the adherents of Ukrainian autocephaly, whom he had previously rightly considered schismatics for almost three decades, and now suddenly unexpectedly recognized as the "new Ukrainian church". The fact that during the entire visit to Kiev Bartholomew didn't find time to meet with hierarchs, priests and believers of the UOC-MP indicates that he was well aware that he actually brought to Ukraine the notorious "tomos" on autocephaly - enmity and schism. I think he has absolutely nothing to object to the thousands of believers protesting against his arrival, otherwise he would have to admit not only the wrongness, but also the criminality of the decision he made.
Secondly, it is obvious that Bartholomew didn't achieve any success in another way — in attempts to support the OCU and thereby strengthen his own position in the Orthodox world as a newly appeared center of power. First of all, everyone could see that the handful of adherents of the "new Ukrainian church", brought from all over Ukraine to St. Sophia Cathedral for the liturgy served by Bartholomew, was nothing compared to the thousands of adherents of the canonical Church who protested all over Kiev against the arrival of the Istanbul guest.
But the most important thing is that none of the primates of the Local Churches arrived in Kiev together with Bartholomew. Even from among those whom the Patriarch of Constantinople and his Western masters forced to recognize the OCU. And even the Patriarch of Alexandria, Theodore II, known for his "principled" attitude, whom the head of the OCU specially invited to the celebrations in Kiev, was careful to take part in them. It is possible that today, when the political situation is obviously changing, and the Ukrainian case, which has become not much more successful for the United States than the Afghan one, is increasingly losing its relevance, those few primates who recognized the Ukrainian schismatics (the Churches of Alexandria, Cyprus and Greece) regret already about their hasty decision to follow Bartholomew's order in this matter.
- But may be Patriarch Bartholomew received at least some material benefit from his trip to Ukraine?
— I would not be surprised if it turns out that Bartholomew received some kind of monetary reward for his participation in the Kiev "holiday" - today, even some wealthy people often "decorate" their celebrations by inviting visiting "stars" to them. However, it's unlikely that today the authorities of Ukraine, which is in a deep crisis, can afford to spend a lot on invited guest performers.
But according to the leaked information, Bartholomew had a special personal interest in this trip to Ukraine — he hoped to still achieve the transfer to him of at least part of those notorious "stavropegia" [metochions] that were promised to him by Poroshenko as a "fee" for the tomos on autocephaly of the OCU.
It's known that on the eve of Bartholomew's arrival, the possibility of his trip to Lvov was discussed — clearly in order to take possession of the famous Fraternal Assumption Church which appeared in the list of churches and monasteries that Poroshenko pledged to transfer to the direct ("stavropegial") possession of the Patriarch of Constantinople. But apparently, something went wrong with this. This, in general, is understandable. I think that even the OCU wouldn't be too happy to give up their churches to Bartholomew, especially since they are so significant in the history of Ukrainian Orthodoxy.
But it should be noted that the list of potential "stauropegia" of the Patriarch of Constantinople in Ukraine also included a number of objects that today belong to the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church. That is, its clergy and believers should first be expelled from these churches and monasteries before presenting them to Patriarch Bartholomew. I think even Zelensky who is inclined to look at everything with the relieved gaze of a professional comedian understands how such a redistribution of church property in favor of the Istanbul patriarch threatens to turn into a fierce confrontation on religious grounds.
So, today Bartholomew still has only one "stavropegia" in Ukraine - St. Andrew's Church in Kiev. By the way, it was built by order and at the expense of the Russian Empress Elizabeth Petrovna, according to the project of the famous Italian Bartolomeo Rastrelli, whose name, it seems, can be considered as the only basis for the claims of the current Patriarch of Constantinople to this church.
- So what is the main result of Patriarch Bartholomew's visit to Kiev?
- The result, unfortunately, is deplorable. We have to state that Patriarch Bartholomew, despite his advanced years, when believers usually sum up the results of their life path, plunged headlong into a political adventure that has already brought him the sad "glory of Herostratus". By his gross interference in the church life of Ukraine, the first in honor among the Orthodox patriarchs actually dishonored both his name and his patriarchal see of Constantinople. Hypocritically claiming that his actions are aimed at healing the split in Ukraine, Bartholomew actually only aggravated it. The schismatics legitimized by him, inspired by his support, forcibly seized hundreds of churches of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church. The religious confrontation between the believers only intensified after that. What kind of overcoming of the split can we talk about?
But the many times increased problems in the church life of Ukraine are only one aspect of the results of the activities of Patriarch Bartholomew. It threatens to have much more serious consequences for the entire Orthodoxy world – or rather, it has already turned around. After all in fact it is already possible to talk about a split not only on the scale of Ukraine, but also of the entire Orthodox world.
It is no longer so much about the recognition or non-recognition of Ukrainian schismatics illegally legitimized by Bartholomew, which don't have a legal hierarchy (in fact, mummers "self-saints"), as about the new ecclesiology of Constantinople, absolutely heretical, from the point of view of the Orthodox teaching about the Church. In fact, today Phanar is trying to turn itself into an "Orthodox Vatican" by imposing the Patriarch of Constantinople on the entire Orthodox world as a kind of "eastern pope" in the image of Rome. But such an understanding of the structure of the Church has always been deeply alien to Orthodoxy, which, unlike Catholicism, has never recognized any other head of the Church except Jesus Christ.
- In this case, what conclusions should the Orthodox world draw from the activities of Patriarch Bartholomew?
— It seems to me that the moment has come when the entire Orthodox world should think about whether we need such a "first in honor patriarch" who is guided in his activities not by the Christian commandment of love, not by the dogmas and canons of the Orthodox Church, but by the instructions of the US State Department and the wishes of puppet Ukrainian politicians. For whom his own "papal" ambitions are more important than genuine church unity and peace between believers. Perhaps it is time to review and rethink critically the 28th rule of the Council of Chalcedon, which elevated the See of Constantinople for only one reason - as the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire. It's time to finally notice that Byzantium hasn't existed for more than half a thousand years, and the once glorious Constantinople has long since become Istanbul.