Between Phanar and Moscow: a false choice of the Church of Cyprus

08 November 2019 00:37
Archbishop Chrysostomos made a mistake by accepting the rules of Phanar’s game. Photo: UOJ Archbishop Chrysostomos made a mistake by accepting the rules of Phanar’s game. Photo: UOJ

What a huge mistake Archbishop Chrysostomos II made having fallen into Patriarch Bartholomew's trap.

On November 3, 2019, the Greek edition Romfea cited the words of the Primate of the Orthodox Church of Cyprus, Archbishop Chrysostomos II of New Justinian and All Cyprus, that the hierarchs of this Local Church agree with neither Phanar nor Moscow. What is the falsity and danger of such a position, and what a blatant mistake do Cypriots make?

We entitled the article “False Choice ...”, although the Church of Cyprus has not yet made any choice. On the contrary, it stated it does not support either Moscow or Phanar, i.e. it remains a kind of beyond the battle, positioning itself as neutral in this matter, and therefore reserves the right to act as a mediator to resolve the situation.

Nevertheless, Archbishop Chrysostomos has apparently fallen into a trap being set by Patriarch Bartholomew for all Local Churches. As the UOJ already wrote, Bartholomew is trying to impose a false choice on everyone: Moscow or Phanar, Constantinople or the Russian Orthodox Church. The head of the Church of Constantinople tells everyone: are you for the "Ecumenical" throne, which has existed for almost 2,000 years and mentioned in the decisions of the Ecumenical Councils, or for the Russian Orthodox Church, which emerged 1,000 years ago and existed almost half a millennium as the 66th Metropolis of the Patriarchate of Constantinople? Such a verbal arrangement immediately implies an answer.

Saying that he does not agree with either Moscow or Phanar, the Primate of the Church of Cyprus shows that he had accepted this false choice: either-or.

However, the choice is completely different: do we believe in “One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church” or the Phanar-led Church? The Russian Church has nothing to do with it. Just because of its multiplicity and authority in the Orthodox world which it has, among other things, owing to the feat of the confession of many thousands of hierarchs, priests and laity who suffered for Orthodox faith in the 20th century, the Russian Orthodox Church can authoritatively raise its voice against Phanar’s lawless claims to primacy.

Patriarch Bartholomew has set a trap for all Local Churches: he is trying to impose on everyone a false choice – Moscow or Phanar.

The Russian Orthodox Church does not declare it should enjoy the privileges of primacy in Orthodoxy rather than Constantinople. The Russian Orthodox Church does not even insist that only it has the right to resolve the “Ukrainian issue”. On the contrary, the Russian Orthodox Church has always stated that like many other issues in Orthodoxy, it is necessary to resolve this one in a conciliar way by all Local Churches.

As early as 2008, the Russian Orthodox Church Council adopted the definition “On the Unity of the Church,” in which it called on the Church of Constantinople “to continue to prudently consider the above novelties and to refrain from steps that could undermine Orthodox unity. This is especially true of attempts to revise the canonical boundaries of the Local Orthodox Churches.”

After Phanar took explicitly lawless decisions on October 11, 2018, in which it declared the UOC together with the schismatic UOC-KP and UAOC its property, recognized the schismatics and announced autocephaly, the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church adopted a Statement of October 15, 2018: “We urge Primates and Holy Synods of the Local Orthodox Churches to the proper assessment of the aforementioned anti-canonical acts of the Patriarchate of Constantinople and a joint search for ways out of the grave crisis tearing apart the Body of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Churches.”

After the recognition of the OCU by the Church of Greece, the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church made a Statement on October 17, 2019, in which it also mentioned about the calls for a conciliar resolution of the “Ukrainian issue”: “On October 9, 2019 – a few days before the said extraordinary Council of the Hierarchy of the Church of Greece – Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Rus addressed His Beatitude Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens and All Greece with a fraternal message calling him to refrain from unilateral actions and not to make hasty decisions until the Holy Spirit collects "primates of all the Holy Churches of God and gives them wisdom on behalf of the entire Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church to jointly find a solution that will suit everyone and will serve to overcome the current crisis.”

The statements of the UOC are sustained in the same spirit. For example, below is a quote from the decree of the Council of Bishops of the UOC on October 13, 2018: “The Council of Bishops calls on the Patriarchate of Constantinople to engage in dialogue with the Ukrainian Orthodox Church with the fraternal participation of all Local Orthodox Churches in order to collectively resolve this problem.”

Besides, almost all other Local Churches directly or indirectly urge to seek a conciliar solution to the "Ukrainian issue".

For example, here is a statement of the Primate of the Orthodox Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia, Metropolitan Rostislav of October 12, 2018: “Since the Orthodox Church is based on the principle of collegiality, we are firmly convinced that any conflict situations and controversial issues that threaten the unity of Orthodoxy will be resolved collectively, in strict accordance with generally accepted church traditions and sacred canons."

According to Patriarch John X of Antioch dated October 14, 2018, “What is the need to discuss right now the issues of autonomy or autocephaly, when we most need the complete and firm unity of all Orthodox Christians? There is no doubt that the Orthodox Church should consider its problems at a general Council, with participation of the Primates of all Local Churches.”

Such calls are regularly heard from the lips of the hierarchs of the Local Churches or can be found in the decrees of their Synods.

Almost all other Local Churches directly or indirectly call for a conciliar solution to the "Ukrainian issue".

Neither the Local Churches nor the Russian Orthodox Church itself declares that only Moscow can resolve issues in Ukraine – only that the Council of all Churches can do this.

Therefore, the choice should not be made between Moscow and Phanar but between Phanar and the Council of the Ecumenical Church.

The declaration of the Church of Greece on the recognition of the OCU leaves no doubt that the Greeks rejected the Council and recognized the primacy of Constantinople; even though not in everything but on the “Ukrainian issue” – for sure. Here is a quote: “There are no obstacles to the recognition of the Autocephalous Church of Ukraine and the full acceptance and support of the Ecumenical Patriarchate from the Greek Church. <...> The Council of Bishops decided to ratify the decision of the past Holy Synod and the proposal of His Beatitude Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens and All Greece, namely: to recognize the canonical right of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to grant autocephaly.”

There is not even a hint of the possibility of resolving the "Ukrainian issue" in a conciliar manner – only Constantinople.

By the way, the Greek hierarchs, who are protesting against the recognition of the OCU, also call for resolving the issue at a pan-Orthodox level and even send official letters to Local Churches calling to convene such a Council.

As regards Phanar, Patriarch Bartholomew, Phanar hierarchs and theologians have spoken many times that it positions itself precisely as the leader of the Orthodox world.

From the early citations: “If we talk about the source of primacy, then this source is the personality of Archbishop of Constantinople, who as the Bishop is the first among equals, but as the Archbishop of Constantinople and, accordingly, the Ecumenical Patriarch is the first without equal (primus sine paribus)," Metropolitan Elpidophoros (Lambriniadis).

From the latest source: “According to this administrative structure, the Ecumenical Patriarchate occupied the first place and therefore had many privileges and rights <...>. Those who oppose Phanar are ignorant people,” Patriarch Bartholomew.

The danger of the position of the Primate of the Cypriote Church is that he apparently accepts the dilemma imposed by Phanar and agrees that in this situation the choice that the Local Churches should make is the choice between Phanar and Moscow.

Patriarch Bartholomew: “Those who oppose Phanar are ignorant people.”

True, Archbishop Chrysostomos II says he does not want to make such a choice, though he accepts the concept itself: Phanar or Moscow. And it is entirely possible that the staff of the US Department of State which is engaged in comprehensive diplomatic awareness-raising with the Local Churches regarding the recognition of the OCU, will eventually force the Cypriots to make the choice.

Although the dilemma is completely different: Phanar or conciliarity. Having accepted a false dilemma, the Church of Cyprus risks taking the wrong decision.

Remember what false choice was offered to Christ? “So they watched him and sent spies, who pretended to be sincere, that they might catch him in something he said, so as to deliver him up to the authority and jurisdiction of the governor. So they asked him, ‘Teacher, we know that you speak and teach rightly, and show no partiality, but truly teach the way of God. Is it lawful for us to give tribute to Caesar, or not?’” (Luke 20, 20-22).

Now a few words about the flagrant mistake of the Primate of the Cypriote Church.

Like the Council of Bishops of the Church of Greece, which recognized the OCU, he does not say a word about the UOC. From the statement of Archbishop Chrysostomos II, one can understand that Moscow and Constantinople are fighting for primacy and this conflict needs to be somehow resolved. But why doesn't he talk about the UOC? After all, logically in any statement on the situation in Ukraine there should be mentioned the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – the only canonical Church in Ukraine, which has always been recognized by all Local Churches.

The Patriarchate of Constantinople now pretends it does not exist at all. Recently, the same blindness struck the Church of Greece. How can one fail to notice more than 12,000 communities (for comparison, there are 500 of them in the Church of Cyprus), 100 hierarchs, 260 monasteries (40 in the Church of Cyprus), almost 5,000 monks?

Logically, in any statement on the situation in Ukraine there should be mentioned the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – the only canonical Church in Ukraine, which has always been recognized by all Local Churches.

Why does Archbishop Chrysostom II speak about the choice between Phanar and Moscow? Why does he not speak about the choice between the OCU and the UOC? Between the schismatics who, with the help of athletic young people from nationalist organizations, seize Orthodox temples, cut down locks, beat parishioners, expel priests from their homes and commit other offences, and Orthodox believers who do not retaliate for evil, who find the facilities unsuitable for worship or pray just under a tent, who forgive their offenders and pray for them.

Why doesn’t he speak about the choice between Epiphany Dumenko, who openly declares future unity with the Greek Catholics, and His Beatitude Onuphry, who fearlessly calls for the purity of Orthodoxy commanded by the Holy Fathers despite all kinds of risks and threats?

It is the Ukrainian Orthodox Church that is now at the forefront of the struggle for Orthodoxy. In order to prevent the appearance of a new pope in the Church in the person of the Patriarch of Constantinople. In order to make the union with the Latins in Ukraine, which is promoted by both Phanariots and Greek Catholics, impossible. It is the Ukrainian Orthodox Church that now bears the brunt of this struggle. To leave this Church behind the brackets, not to mention Her in the context of the current situation in Orthodoxy is a grave error.

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