State Dept-Phanar alliance attacks: Will Georgia and Jerusalem withstand?
In November, the DOS head visited the Phanar, Georgia and Israel. Pompeo considers the Phanar a "key partner" of the USA. What do these visits mean for world Orthodoxy?
In recent days, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has held several meetings with heads of Middle Eastern and Eastern European states, as well as with Patriarchs Bartholomew of Constantinople and Ilia II of Georgia. These meetings are particularly noteworthy because they were actually held on the eve of the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church of Cyprus, which is likely to consider the issue of the unauthorized commemoration of Dumenko by Archbishop Chrysostomos. Therefore, it is not difficult to assume that Pompeo's visits to Phanar and Georgia are directly related to the recognition of the OCU. This is what several details support.
"Patriarchate of the USA"?
The program of Mike Pompeo's visit to Turkey did not include any meetings with Turkish authorities. That is, Pompeo had to meet with Erdogan, but the latter suddenly changed his intentions and the head of the State Department enjoyed only a meeting with Patriarch Bartholomew. American diplomats convince the public that they do not see any political implication in it, but the fact remains that the Turkish authorities demonstratively ignored Pompeo.
The Secretary of State himself said that he was meeting with Patriarch Bartholomew solely to discuss issues of religious freedom in the world. Later, after the meeting, the State Department reported that issues related to the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Greek diaspora, Turkish Orthodox believers, Orthodoxy in the world and the course of inter-Christian dialogue were discussed with the Pat. Bartholomew. The Phanar stressed that during the meeting, they "exchanged views on the respect for fundamental rights and religious freedom in the world, in strengthening which the United States is known to be interested”.
Turkey is confident that the interaction between the State Department and the Phanar should be considered not in religious but primarily in political terms.
However, Ankara and Turkey as a whole saw not only a "religious component" but also something else behind these general statements. Thus, the Turkish Foreign Ministry urged the United States to “look in the mirror” before discussing the problems of Turkey in terms of religion. This advice clearly demonstrated that the Turkish authorities see in Pompeo's visit not a desire to promote "religious freedoms", but a desire to use religion for their own purposes.
Turkey is sure that the interaction of the State Department and the Phanar should be considered not in religious but primarily in political terms.
In particular, the Turkish newspaper “Αydinlik” almost on the day of the meeting of the two “key partners” published an article in which it gave specific (in its opinion) examples of Phanar’s ties with “FETÖ” - the “Fethullahçı Terör Örgütü. According to the Turkish authorities, it was this organization and its head Fethullah Gülen who organized the putsch against Erdogan in 2016.
So, the “Αydinlik” edition published data on the correspondence between the priest of the Phanariot Archdiocese in the USA and the head of the “Rumi Forum” program Rashid Telbisoglu. In turn, the journalists say, "Rumi Forum" is one of the most important structures of "FETÖ" in the United States headquartered in Washington.
In another article, the same resource essentially accused Patriarch Bartholomew of being a "spy" of the United States. The article titled "It looks like US Patriarchate" argues that "the Phanar today is much more on the side of the US than Turkey and continues to take action against Turkey on not only religious but also geopolitical issues".
The article titled "It looks like US Patriarchate" argues that "the Phanar today is much more on the side of the US than Turkey and continues to take action against Turkey on not only religious but also geopolitical issues".
In other words, Patriarch Bartholomew was once again reminded of his friendship with Fethullah Gülen and transparently hinted that his extremely active pro-American activities could end badly. In this context, the actions of the Turkish authorities to transform the Hagia Sophia and the Chora Monastery into mosques become clear – the Phanar was given to understand that the United States would not be able to protect them.
On the other hand, the meeting between Pompeo and Patriarch Bartholomew should be viewed as a clear signal to the Turkish authorities from the United States to leave the Phanar alone. By what methods the United States will use to defend the interests of its "key partner" is another question. Because it is quite obvious that the "protectorate" of the State Department, in any case, will cost dearly for the Phanariots. And here in the first place come not only the Phanar’s verbal support of the US initiatives, such as the more active promotion of the issues of "religious freedom", but also concrete actions to further split Orthodoxy. In the current situation, this means a more active promotion of the recognition of the OCU by other Local Churches.
Georgia: Blackmail with Abkhazia?
This assumption is confirmed by Pompeo’s subsequent voyage program. The next day, after negotiations with Patriarch Bartholomew, the head of the State Department left for Tbilisi, where he met with Patriarch Ilia II of Georgia. According to the US Embassy, Pompeo and His Holiness discussed "Georgia's important role in promoting and protecting religious freedom around the world".
However, let us ask ourselves a question: Does Georgia really play such an important role in the world political arena to really help in promoting and defending such an important issue as religious freedom? The answer is obvious.
Given the state of health of Patriarch Ilia, there is no doubt that the discussion of "religious freedom" issues with Pompeo was hardly of great interest to the Primate. Therefore, the meeting could have been purely nominal, if it were not for the open support of the United States for the interests of the Phanar, among which the further legalization of the OCU should be called the greatest interest.
Obviously, the purpose of the meeting between Pompeo and Patriarch Ilia was precisely to convince the Primate of the Church of Georgia to recognize this newly created religious structure.
An indirect confirmation of the fact that the Phanar has come to grips with attracting Georgians to its side can also be found in the words of the head of the Church of Cyprus, Archbishop Chrysostomos, who presented as an argument regarding his position on the OCU the fact that the ROC allegedly took away its canonical territories from Georgia. It is worth noting that Archbishop Chrysostomos spoke about this after his visit to Phanar. This means that the Patriarchate of Constantinople is seriously considering the Georgian Church as its possible “partner”.
Obviously, the purpose of the meeting between Pompeo and Patriarch Ilia was precisely to convince the Primate of the Church of Georgia to recognize the newly created religious structure – the OCU.
And there is no doubt that for greater "negotiability" the Phanariots can use the "argument" in the form of "recognition" by the Phanar of a marginal schismatic group in Abkhazia. Moreover, the Abkhazians wrote a petition for their "recognition" eight years ago, and in 2019 Metropolitan Emmanuel already attempted to negotiate with the leadership of the Georgian Church on the recognition of the OCU, threatening with this "recognition".
We do not know how successful the negotiations were this time. But, knowing the mood of Patriarch Ilia, one can assume that while he is alive, the Georgian Church does not recognize Ukrainian schismatics.
Jerusalem and American Friends
Pompeo held another meeting on November 19 with the Israeli authorities. The State Department understands that it is hardly possible to put direct pressure on Patriarch Theophilos III of Jerusalem. There are no, so to speak, "arguments" like the "Abkhaz", "Montenegrin" or "Macedonian" ones. The only way to force the Church of Jerusalem to accept the terms of the US-Phanar alliance is to make the already difficult life of the Patriarchate as difficult as possible. There are means for this – just remember the already well-established problem with real estate in the Old City.
Thus, representatives of the radical group "Ateret Cohanim" insist on their ownership of the Orthodox real estate located near the Holy Sepulcher, under the jurisdiction of the Jerusalem Patriarchate.
“Ateret Cohanim” is a radical right-wing organization whose goal is to "fulfil the long-standing dream of generations to restore and secure a united Jerusalem". To date, this group owns 59 properties in the Old City of Jerusalem and claims several dozen more. You probably won't be surprised to learn that an organization called “American Friends of Ateret Cohanim” headquartered in New York is helping a lot in realizing the main goal of “Ateret Cohanim”. In addition, the current US Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, is closely connected with “Ateret Cohanim” and helps the organization not only through politics but also through large donations to its development.
In other words, the organization financed and supported by the US government, which, in turn, is interested in the recognition of the OCU by the Orthodox Church of Jerusalem, opposes the Jerusalem Patriarchate. This fact allows us to conclude that Pompeo's visit to Israel, among other purposes, was associated with increased pressure on Patriarch Theophilos.
"The Patriarchate is ready for anything and everything to save and protect its property near the Jaffa Gate and church property in general."
Patriarch Theophilos of Jerusalem
In this sense, the words of the head of the Jerusalem Church, who stated that "the Patriarchate is ready for anything and everything to save and protect its property near the Jaffa Gate and church property in general" look very alarming. Patriarch Theophilos also stressed that "the protection of the Christian presence in Jerusalem is achieved not by slogans, but by real actions".
What is next?
It is not a fact that after the change in US leadership, Mike Pompeo will remain in his post. However, there is no doubt that the next head of the State Department will continue his work – both because in America they are trying to maintain the continuity of power, and because geopolitical and geostrategic plans in this country are developed for years in advance. This means that the State Department will continue to promote the issue of recognition of the OCU by the Orthodox Churches of the world. In this regard, Pompeo’s activation is not surprising.
Firstly, as we have already said, he can leave the office, which means that at the moment the head of the State Department is trying, at least, to consolidate the achieved "successes" with regard to the split of Orthodoxy so that his successor does not have to start everything from scratch.
Secondly, the State Department understands that an extremely quick response to the "Cyprus problem" is needed. After all, if the Synod of this Church does take place on November 23, it is far from a fact that the necessary decisions for the US-Phanar alliance will be taken there. Moreover, if the Synodals of Cyprus succeed in upholding the canons of the Church, then the process of "hybrid recognition" of the OCU, at least, risks stopping for many years, if not forever.
If the Synodals of Cyprus succeed in upholding the canons of the Church, then the process of "hybrid recognition" of the OCU, at least, risks stopping for many years.
Thirdly, acting under the guise of the concept of "religious freedom", the State Department is promoting various beneficial projects for itself, among which the OCU is not the last. Recall that almost immediately after the appearance of this structure, the US Department of States announced that the creation of the OCU "was a historic event for Ukraine" and the US "continues to strongly support Ukraine and believe that freedom of religion should not be impeded from outside".
Hence, it is clear that the goal of the State Department in relation to the OCU is not to guarantee the "right" of some Ukrainians to pray in this "Church" (by and large, no one takes this right away from them), but to weaken the Russian Church at the pan-Orthodox level and force it and other Churches to be more compliant in those issues, the promotion of which the United States is interested in.
Moreover, the recognition of the OCU has a mutual benefit: the Phanar strengthens its position in the Orthodox world and actually subjugates the Orthodox Local Churches, and the State Department receives a powerful weapon to implement its plans regarding Eastern Europe, the Balkans and Russia.
In other words, Pompeo's last voyage in the Middle East shows that the United States continues to put pressure on the Local Churches to recognize the OCU. And the longer they fail to do this, the more radical measures they have to resort to – from blackmail by "tomoses" to political pressure or outright intimidation. But no matter how much the rope twists, the end will come. In other words, at present more and more Orthodox Christians understand that the Ukrainian schism is a purely political project that has nothing to do with faith in God and the Church.