Grace with a"grinder" or What Constantinople’s claims are worth
Today in Ukraine, there are massive seizures of UOC temples with the beating of believers. But it turns out that the Phanar foresaw all this back in 2018.
Reports of the seizure of temples – often occurring in the most demonstratively rude, ugly and lawless manner, in violation of even new anti-church norms, with beatings and cutting locks – once again return us to the assessment of the claims of Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople to primacy in the Orthodox world.
More recently, in October 2018, the Synod of the Patriarch of Constantinople decided “to call on all parties involved to avoid misappropriation of churches, monasteries and other property, as well as any other acts of violence and retribution, so that peace and love of Christ would triumph”.
Now we see precisely the “appropriation of churches, monasteries and other property” and the undoubted “acts of violence”. How to perceive the high-minded speeches of Constantinople against this background?
For example, Patriarch Bartholomew writes in his response to the Albanian Church, which refused to recognize the OCU: “God-bearing fathers who, through divine and sacred canons, entrusted Constantine’s throne with the well-known omnipotent and terrible super-boundary responsibility not in the form of privileges but sacrifices, guided by the Holy Spirit, when there is a need for a final settlement of issues arising in the local Churches, which cannot be resolved by themselves."
We note that these are not political claims to power - “according to the constitution, I have the right to do so and so”. These are religious claims – according to Patriarch Bartholomew, “God-bearing fathers ... guided by the Holy Spirit", that is seeing the future needs of the Church supernaturally, entrusted "Constantine’s throne" with a unique power and responsibility.
And here we face an inevitable question. Cutting off church locks with a “grinder”, beating priests and believers, political activists, driving the Orthodox from churches, where they have prayed for decades, communities forced to worship on the street or in private houses — did God-bearing fathers guided by the Holy Spirit foresee all this and approve? Or do we still have to admit that God-bearing fathers have nothing to do with all this lawlessness?
If a person claims that the Holy Spirit, through God-bearing fathers, has given him special powers, should we not expect that the Holy Spirit, in this case, would give him the capabilities necessary to carry out such an infinitely responsible mission? The Holy Scripture says: “The Spirit of the Lord, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and strength, the spirit of knowledge and piety” (Is.11: 2).
Do we see supernatural wisdom and understanding in the acts of Constantinople?
Both the patriarch and the hierarchs of the Phanar have declared many times that their actions in Ukraine would lead to peace and unity of the Orthodox. The results of their activities are quite obvious and directly opposite – the extreme multiplication of chaos and discord. Nothing like the reconciliation of the dissenters with world Orthodoxy has ever happened. One Local Church after another — most recently the Albanian Church — declares its refusal to recognize the new structure. The schismatics have remained out of communion with the fullness of Orthodoxy, only the break between the Constantinople and Moscow Patriarchates was added to this. Every day there are reports on the seizure of temples of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, accompanied by the ugliest violence against Orthodox Christians.
Of course, diplomats can say that Constantinople, as a well-known saying goes, “wanted the right thing, but it turned out as always”. Representatives, for example, of the Cypriot Church say so. It is right and appropriate for a diplomat – you should always give your opponent the opportunity to retreat, saving face.
But, since now you are reading not an official document but a journalistic article, it is quite possible to draw attention to the obvious. If Constantinople did not understand the consequences of its actions, this is a sign of utmost incompetence. If it understood (and all evidence suggests so), this, alas, indicates that it found these consequences, at least, acceptable.
Are these the achievements of a person gifted with special wisdom, understanding, and knowledge by the Holy Spirit?
The leader, even in a worldly position, is expected to have wisdom, prudence, the ability to listen to sensible advice and correct the wrong course when its fallaciousness becomes apparent. A manager – for example, a director of a corporation — is expected to act in the interests of the community he/she heads, to take care of its preservation and prosperity.
These are not even requirements of high morality, wisdom, or holiness — these are the requirements of minimal professional suitability. The further, the more obvious is that Patriarch Bartholomew, even at this level, does not display leadership qualities. If he does not even show human common sense, can we believe in his supernatural powers?
The claims of Constantinople are often - and with some reason - compared with the claims of the popes. But it is impossible not to note the fundamental difference – the strengthening of papal power occurred, in many respects, in the course of opposition to secular rulers. The famous 14th-century Unam Sanctam bull, in which the pope proclaimed that the subordination of every human being to the Roman high priest is the dogma of faith necessary to save the soul, appeared during the struggle of Pope Boniface VIII with the attempts of the French and English kings to tax the Church. Popes struggled with princes and kings for the rights of the Church. We still cannot agree with the imperious claims that they put forward, but the historical context, at least, helps to understand how they were formed. Medieval popes, in their defence, can say that they protected the Church from attempts by worldly rulers to subjugate it.
Today’s claims of Constantinople, on the contrary, reflect its subordination to secular rulers and the desire to act in their interests. If the popes were on the side of the Church against the world, the current Patriarch of Constantinople is on the side of the world against the Church.
It would be a bad caricature to believe that the Holy Spirit would act in the interests of one politician, trying to raise his dead rating – especially since we didn’t see any miracle about the rating rise. It would be equally absurd to believe that the Holy Spirit would heed the instructions of the US State Department. The gifts of the Holy Spirit, as we know from the Scripture, are given for the creation of the Church. If the Church is destructed, if believers are expelled from churches, if unrest and contention only increase – the claims of a person who, alas, is behind all this, to special, God-given powers, can only be rejected.
Of course, until the Pan-Orthodox Council or the Synaxis of the Primates of Local Churches, where the actions of Patriarch Bartholomew can be assessed, is not convened yet, the head of Constantinople remains one of the most respected and influential hierarchs of world Orthodoxy. But we know that in Christianity the division into “more respected” and “less respected” is very conditional. Christ said to his disciples, “If anyone wants to be greater between you, let him be your servant” (Mark 10.43). Of course, Constantinople hopes that the emergence of a new structure will add “weight” to it in the Orthodox world. However, is the rise of one, albeit the authoritative Church, worth of tears, grief and sufferings of hundreds and thousands of the “lesser” Orthodox in Ukraine? Let's hope that sooner or later Patriarch Bartholomew will ask himself this question.