Why Pat. Theodore II recognized OCU or Judas Syndrome and power of Christ
The Patriarch of Alexandria recognized the OCU. What is behind this act and how it will affect the fate of the whole Church.
On November 8, 2019, the Patriarchate of Alexandria officially recognized the OCU. This was a big surprise for many believers not only in Ukraine but also in the entire Orthodox world.
Indeed, most recently, the same Patriarch Theodore II of Alexandria declared that in Ukraine there is only one canonical Church – the UOC, and only one canonical Primate – His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry.
What happened? Why did the position of the head of the Patriarchate of Alexandria suddenly change so radically and, most importantly, how should common believers take it?
The fact that an attempt to legalize the non-canonical religious structure of the OCU did not lead to anything good was understandable from the very beginning. Now, after falling away from the Church (this is exactly the case — without a hint of diplomacy) of a greater part of Hellas, and now Africa, we must note: a schism in world Orthodoxy has become inevitable, it is a historical and religious fact.
Moreover, it was after the fall of Alexandria that the schism virus removed almost all the obstacles that prevented its spread, and now its expansion rate will be equal to the free fall rate of the body under gravity – the closer to the ground, the higher the fall rate is.
Recently, we’ve heard ambiguous statements from the Primate of the Cypriot Orthodox Church, Archbishop Chrysostom; we hear voices in support of the Orthodox Church from the Georgian Orthodox Church; we are surprised at the stance of some Bulgarian hierarchs and observe a rather strange policy of the Romanian Church. The question that worries many is who is next? And no matter how terrible it sounds, the answer to it is also simple: it doesn’t matter which Church falls from Christ next, it is important who stays with Christ.
Schism in world Orthodoxy has become inevitable, it is a historical and religious fact.
In this regard, it is worth recalling that the Church is the Body of Christ. The Creed clearly indicates its nature – Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic. The grace of the Holy Spirit is always present in the Church. It has a conciliar nature (because only through it, egoism and the thirst for power can be defeated) and apostolic succession.
The absence of any of these factors turns the community of believers into an organization with signs of religion, into an ideological or other party but not into the Church.
Therefore, in connection with the “Ukrainian issue”, we can note not only the fact of the elimination of an apostolic succession among schismatics and those who entered into communion with them but also the destruction of the principle of catholicity. The whole situation around the OCU – from the beginning to the end – is an attack on the Catholicity of the Church.
Attack on the Catholicity of the Church
The head of the Orthodox Church is Christ. This is an axiom from any Orthodox catechism or textbook on dogmatic theology. The classical catechism of Metropolitan Filaret (Drozdov) reads: “To believe in the Church means to reverently honour the true Church of Christ and obey Her teachings and commandments with the confidence that grace, poured out from One Eternal Head of Hers, Lord Jesus Christ, stays, acts, teaches and rules in Her." In other words, the Church throughout history has taught that only the Lord Jesus Christ is its Head.
Recently, however, Phanariots and their adherents from the Greek-speaking Churches have put forward a completely wild theory for the Orthodox consciousness that the head of the earthly Church is the Patriarch of Constantinople.
For example, Metropolitan Eustathios of Sparta stated that today there are “approximately 900,000,000 Orthodox Christians in the world who recognize the Patriarch of Constantinople as the head of Orthodoxy on earth, although in general we consider Christ to be the Head of our Church. But on earth, this is the Ecumenical Patriarch”. According to him, it is the Patriarch of Constantinople, not Christ, that is the centre of Orthodoxy.
Do not think that this statement is an isolated case. Many Greek and Phanar bishops will agree with the words of Metropolitan Eustathios of Sparta.
Recently, Phanariots and their adherents from the Greek-speaking Churches have put forward a completely wild theory for the Orthodox consciousness that the head of the earthly Church is the Patriarch of Constantinople.
Therefore, one should not be surprised that the Ukrainian issue is not solved in a collegiate manner but behind the scenes, through backstage negotiations, bribery, threats and blackmail. For example, the Synod of the Church of Greece granted the right to recognize or not recognize the OCU to its primate, Archbishop Ieronymos. The Patriarch of Alexandria went further: he recognized the OCU even without a synodal decision.
A cleric of the European Archdiocese of the Russian Orthodox Church Alexander Zanemonets wrote on his Facebook page: “Such-and-such a patriarch recognized the new Ukrainian Church, but such-and-such did not recognize ... But who will be the first to stop talking about the Church: ‘It is our internal business’? Whose initiative will it be here? Shouldn't issues of this scale be decided collectively, and not through backroom negotiations? We wanted so much to see the end time of the pontificate of Pat. Bartholomew in the return to church catholicity rather than to a monarchy everywhere.”
There is a gross violation of the principle of Catholicity, and not only within individual Orthodox Local Churches but also at the church level. Through the abolition of Catholicity, right before our eyes, people who have been recently in the Church, tear it into small pieces, which ultimately leads to the transformation of the Church into a political tool.
A few days ago, Patriarch Kirill said:
“I will say perhaps a somewhat unexpected thing. Why is papism dangerous? – Certainly, because papism does not follow from either the Word of God or the Tradition of the Church. I will still offer another, completely different argument: papism is dangerous in that it is much easier to influence one individual than a group of people. A pope and a patriarch who wants to become the pope become a very attractive target to the powers that be, and an outside influence made on one individual may ruin the Church.
When the system of synodal governance of the Church was developed, the holy apostles were well aware of what they were doing. It was impossible in the context of the Roman Empire that only one individual should have borne responsibility for the whole Church – indeed, he could be arrested, he could be persuaded to cooperate, he could be scared. However, all these dangers come to naught when the Church is governed collegially, synodally.
Therefore, in our time too, it is necessary to uphold the synodal governance of the Universal Church. We do not challenge the Patriarch of Constantinople’s primacy in honour, but we disagree with any encroachments on the universal power. The Patriarch of Constantinople, who resides in the territory of Turkey, is very vulnerable personally, and for this reason, it remains for us only to pray that the Lord may save him from influences that could have a pernicious effect on the life of the whole Church.”
Factors of influence: State Department, ethnophyletism and loss of faith
The Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church is completely right: without collegiality, the Church is only a tool for solving one-time problems. The emergence and recognition of OCU is an excellent illustration of this.
A church schism in Ukraine was created in the early 1990s with the help of state power in the person of the former functionary of the Communist Party, later the first President of Ukraine, and the anathematized Metropolitan Filaret.
The same applies to the OCU – President Petro Poroshenko and the same Filaret created a new “Church”. At the same time, they enjoyed the full support of the US State Department and political forces inside Ukraine.
With the help of the same State Department, they exert unprecedented pressure on the Primates of other Local Churches with the aim of recognizing the OCU, and this pressure is bearing fruit.
Greek chauvinism plays an important role in the pan-Orthodox crisis. The strange desire to revive the former greatness of the Byzantine Empire leads many Greeks to the actual usurpation of Orthodoxy. For example, with regard to Ukraine, the Greeks constantly emphasize that the Orthodox faith is their gift to us, that we accepted the teachings of Christ and the apostles from them.
The Phanar constantly stresses the maternal nature of the Church of Constantinople, and not only for Ukraine but for the whole world.
With the help of the State Department, an unprecedented pressure is exerted on the Primates of other Local Churches with the aim of recognizing the OCU, and this pressure is bearing fruit.
That is why many Greek hierarchs perceive the Phanar’s struggle for the OCU in the context of the pan-Orthodox struggle of Hellenism against the Slavic world, which leads to completely unpredictable consequences.
However, behind all this external struggle there are internal causes, the main of which is the derogation of faith. It is very sad to observe how the successors of the apostles link their aspirations and hopes not with the help of God, but with the help of the Department of State or other political structures. Relying on strength, on the human factor, Orthodox bishops refuse the Providence of God, and this will inevitably lead to a decline in all areas.
The problem with the OCU is not that some hierarchs recognized a structure that other hierarchs do not recognize, but that this structure is anti-canonical, grace-free, and schismatic. It is based on the struggle against the very principle of ecclesiasticism and ultimately against the Church Himself. This is a virus that can only be caught without the immunity of faith.
To understand how deeply this virus hit Orthodox hierarchs, it is enough to compare their position and statements of two or three years ago and today. What do we see? Not so long ago, all bishops and theologians asserted their commitment to the canons of the Church, stood guard over the purity of dogma and claimed that the Ukrainian schism was an institution that lacked grace.
One of the first among this host of hierarchs was Patriarch Theodore II of Alexandria.
Betrayal: Judas, Theodore, and others
After breaking the Eucharistic communion with Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, the first Primate in the Diptych, whom the Patriarch of Moscow read at every service, was the name of His Holiness Patriarch Theodore. His personal stance in relation to the Ukrainian schismatics until yesterday was irreconcilable.
Even during the Crete Council, at which the Primates unofficially discussed the recognition of the then UOC-KP, Patriarch Theodore clearly and unequivocally expressed his support to His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev: “Let him know that the Patriarchate of Alexandria and we all side with the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church under the leadership of His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry.”
In fact, he repeated the same words during his visit to Odessa in October 2018: “We are together with those who want Orthodox unity, <...> stay faithful to the canonical Church.”
In June 2019, he said: “I believe that a solution can be found. Just let each of us leave our personal interests aside and see first and foremost the interest of the Church. <...> I lived in Ukraine, I experienced the pain and schism of the Ukrainian Church. But I also know the Russian Church very well, because I lived in its bowels for ten years, and the Patriarchate of Alexandria has emotional ties with it.”
Probably, precisely because of these “emotional” ties, the act of Patriarch Theodore towards the UOC was perceived in the same light as the act of Judas towards Christ. We again witnessed betrayal.
It is regrettable that recently there have been more and more of these betrayals. We can recall the statements of Archimandrite Ephraim of Vatopedi. For example, in 2015, he said: “I appeal to the Ukrainian people and ask them to adhere to the canonical Orthodox Church led by His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry. And I lovingly ask you to become members of the canonical Church. And the entire Holy Mountain accepts and recognizes only the canonical Ukrainian Church headed by Metropolitan Onuphry."
In December 2017, he addressed our people within the “Word to the Ukrainians” project, where he said the following: “Schism cuts like scissors, and one who has fallen into schism must understand: he is already outside the bosom of the Church. We here, on Holy Mountain, are very sad because of the split of the Ukrainian Church that Filaret committed. Therefore, we ask all our brothers who have left the canonical Church, address and ask them to return to the fold of the Orthodox сanonical Church.”
But, as you know, in the end, the person who said these words agreed to attend the “enthronization” of Sergei Dumenko in Kiev.
Pressure on monks or how much is conscience
Many say, including in our Church, that those who agree with the recognition of the OCU are being pressured by the Department of State, the government, the geopolitical situation, and internal church problems ...
Archbishop Ieronymos, Archimandrite Ephraim, Patriarch Theodore were under pressure: “Patriarch Theodore, who is personally against the recognition of the OCU, was pressured by the Greek Foreign Ministry (the Greek state finances the Patriarchate of Alexandria). This structure threatened to stop funding if Theodore did not recognize the OCU. This pressure of Greek diplomats was supported by a group of metropolitans of the Patriarchate of Alexandria, who threatened to overthrow the patriarch.”
We understand that this is true and they really were under pressure.
But on the other hand, how can you put pressure on a person who has died for the world? How can you put pressure on someone who imitates the martyrs and speaks of monasticism as an equal-to-angels living?
Here are, for example, the words of Archimandrite Emilian, a famous Athonite devotee and elder: "Monasticism is the acceptance of lifelong torment, the perception of the consciousness of a martyr, which, of course, rejoices in the struggle and is never satisfied with what has been achieved."
How can you put pressure on a person who has died for the world? How can you put pressure on someone who imitates the martyrs and speaks of monasticism as an equal-to-angels living?
And Rev. John Climacus emphasized: “Everyone who embarks on this good deed, cruel and tight, but also easy, should know that they have come to plunge into the fire if they only want a non-material fire set in them.”
It turns out that all the pompous words of the monks mentioned above are just words that have no meaning not only for us but also for them? It turns out that just like that, just applying a certain “negotiation tactic”, it is possible to convince the monks to go against conscience, beliefs and, most importantly, their Church?
As the notorious gangster Al Capone once said, "With the help of arguments and a revolver, much more can be done than with the help of arguments alone." It is only a pity that these words apply to the people of the Church.
I will build My Church ...
The Church was created by Christ Himself, and no storms and disturbances of the outside world can destroy Her. There are many examples in history when it seemed that the days of the Church of Christ on earth were numbered, that heresy, schism, or persecution triumphed.
It is enough to recall the Arian heresy, which hit virtually the entire territory of the Byzantine Empire. There were very few Orthodox Christians then – the episcopate, clergy, monastics, and laity in great numbers supported the Alexandrian presbyter Arius. But then he was opposed by a man who went down in the history of the Church with the name Athanasius the Great, first as a deacon and later as a bishop. They persecuted him, tried to kill him, and oppressed him – but despite this, St. Athanasius did not betray his faith and the Church. And it was he who ultimately won.
You can recall St. Maximus the Confessor, who during the triumph of Monothelitism was one of the few Orthodox in the entire Byzantine Empire who refused to recognize the new heretical teaching. He was visited by bishops and nobles who persuaded him to stop persevering, promised benefits and titles that the emperor would shower him with, as soon as he accepted heresy, said that the whole Church, together with the Patriarch of Constantinople, already professed Monothelitism. St. Maximus replied to this: “Truly, all the power of heaven will not force me to do this, for I will answer – I do not say to God but to my conscience — if, for the sake of human glory, which itself has no existence, I renounced on oath the faith, saving and loving it?” For these words, St. Maximus was anathematized, had his hand and tongue cut off and was sent to exile to the Caucasus, where he soon died. But as a result, it was St. Maximus the Confessor who won.
Various schisms were no less harmful to the Church. For example, in the early 1920s, state power in the Soviet Union created the so-called Renovationist Church, which was then supported by representatives of the same patriarchs that are now – of Constantinople and Alexandria. However, very soon, having lost the support of the state, the Renovationists marginalized and disappeared from the historical arena, leaving behind a shameful memory.
Tomos of discord
The greatest harm from the Tomos and the recognition of the OCU by representatives of various Local Orthodox Churches is that by their actions they dishonor the Church in the eyes of the rest of the world and bring confusion to the minds and souls of those who have not strengthened in faith yet. This temptation, which looks very much like a millstone, harms the preaching of the Gospel most of all. And we remember what Christ said about this.
But you cannot despair and lose heart about what is happening. Whoever recognizes the OCU, no matter how authoritative this person is in the spiritual world, we must always stay with Christ. Man is changeable, weak, subject to external influences, and the Truth preached by Christ is eternal and unchanging.
The apostle Paul urged Christians to remain faithful to this Truth even if an angel from heaven preaches something else. The same concerns us. We know that the Church, whose children we have the honour to be called, was founded by Christ Himself, is His body and enables us to inherit the Kingdom of Heaven. This is the main thing. And everything else is just “the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire” (Matt. 6, 30).