Orthodoxy vs "religion of the future": four speeches of Phanar head in Kyiv

Patriarch Bartholomew made several speeches in Kyiv. Photo: UOJ

While in Kyiv, Patriarch Bartholomew made several speeches. Their analysis leads to unexpected results.

During his visit to Ukraine, Patriarch Bartholomew made several speeches, which were somewhat overshadowed by his meetings with politicians. Meanwhile, having analyzed the "Kyiv" speeches of Patriarch Bartholomew, one can understand the tendencies that exist in the Patriarchate of Constantinople, and where they are ultimately directed. The Local Church of Constantinople, despite the rupture of Eucharistic communion, still remains a part of Orthodoxy, and what happens in it somehow leaves its mark on everyone. Phanar formulates an agenda for the further development of Orthodoxy and proposes (imposes) it on others. You can agree with it, you can reject it, but first you need to understand what it is.

There are several forms of statements by which one can judge the position of a particular subject. One of them is speech. This form most fully reveals the position of the speaker since it is prepared in advance and is designed for the audience in front of which it is pronounced. There were several such speeches by Patriarch Bartholomew in Kyiv, but we will single out four:

  • August 21, at the St. Michael's Golden-Domed Monastery during the so-called doxology;
  • August 22, at the St. Sophia of Kyiv during the liturgy;
  • August 23, during a reception at the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy;
  • August 23, an address to the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations.

Now let's talk about everything in order.

Speech at the St. Michael's Golden-Domed Monastery

It was a welcoming speech on the second day of the visit, logically it is divided into two parts:

  • praise to the Patriarchate of Constantinople,
  • praise to Sergei Dumenko.

Already in the first words, after thanking God for the honour to come to Kyiv, Patriarch Bartholomew focuses on the fact that Prince Vladimir took the faith precisely from the “Great Church of Constantinople and the State of New Rome”.

Phanariots often criticize harshly the theory "Moscow – the third Rome", which was quite popular in the 16th-17th centuries. But at present in Russia, this theory is mentioned only as a historical fact, but the Patriarchate of Constantinople puts the idea "Constantinople – a new (second) Rome" at the foundation of its own modern identity. And this despite the fact that, firstly, this “second Rome” has been on the territory of a Muslim state for more than 500 years, and secondly, the theories of the second, third and other “Romes” are not fundamentally different from each other, but thirdly, these theories have no basis in the New Testament. At best, they are a pious attempt to comprehend the form of government under the dominance of the Christian religion.

Further, "His All-Holiness" once again reminds us that "the Kyiv Metropolis, despite the fact that they trumpet about the opposite, was an integral canonical territory and the metropolis under the leadership of our Most Holy Apostolic and Patriarchal Throne" (with this, of course, no one argues, and even more so, trumpets about it) and lists those Local Churches that arose due to the Patriarchate of Constantinople. At the same time, Patriarch Bartholomew claims that Phanar "never remembers the days of great grief, slaps, grievances and nails, but always follows the path of forgiveness, beneficence and healing of all its children, without exception". In these words, we can see a hint that the UOC grieved "His All-Holiness" by refusing to obey the unlawful orders to recognize the schismatics. If Constantinople always follows the path of forgiveness and beneficence for everyone, why then did Patriarch Bartholomew refuse to go out to the believers of the UOC who were waiting for him near the Verkhovna Rada? Why did he not want to do them good? Or are they not his children?

If Constantinople always follows the path of forgiveness and beneficence for everyone, why then did Patriarch Bartholomew refuse to go out to the believers of the UOC who were waiting for him near the Verkhovna Rada? Why did he not want to do them good? Or are they not his children?

Next comes a rather interesting statement that “from the very beginning, the Ecumenical Patriarchate was a reliable guardian of the good of the Church, and although in times of prosperity and great power it could have established the pyramidal form of the structure of the Eastern Orthodox Church, it rejected this idea with disgust and did not back down from the ecclesiology transferred to him nor from the system of the Pentarchy consecrated by the Councils”.

First, if earlier Constantinople rejected the idea of building the Church with itself at its head, then why is it promoting this idea today? Secondly, the Ecumenical Councils did not at all consecrate the system of the Pentarchy (five patriarchates) in the sense that they did not attach any sacred significance to it. It was simply the system of the administrative structure of the Church in the Middle Ages. Thirdly, Patriarch Bartholomew focuses on the fact that the Patriarchate of Constantinople is responsible for the Orthodox ecclesiology, which was "transferred to him". However, we do not know the fact of such a transfer; this ecclesiology belongs to all Local Churches, without exception.

Further, it is said that "the Ecumenical Patriarchate never, using the existing imperial power, choose the path of cultural and linguistic assimilation of nationalities that came to the Evangelical faith".

This is true only for the initial period of Christianization of the Slavic peoples, when, through the works of the saints Equal to the Apostles Cyril and Methodius, as well as their disciples, our peoples got the opportunity to get acquainted with the Holy Scriptures and perform divine services in their native language. But when the Bulgarians, Serbs, Romanians and other peoples fell under the political power of the Byzantine Empire or the Ottoman Empire that replaced it, then violent Hellenization took place, which was expressed in the fact that ethnic Greeks were appointed to episcopal and other important positions, Greek customs, and sometimes the Greek language of worship were imposed on the local peoples. This explains the fact that these peoples, freed from the Ottoman yoke, immediately demanded independence from the Patriarchate of Constantinople. By the way, a similar situation of the dominance of Hellenism can be observed today, for example, in the Jerusalem and Alexandria Churches, where the flock are Arabs and Africans, and almost all the bishops are Greeks. Not to go far, the "clergy" of the OCU at the liturgy with the Phanar head at St. Sofia’s was forbidden to wear mitres, only Greek kamelaukions were allowed.

After that, Patriarch Bartholomew said that the Church (one must understand Constantinople) acts in the "spirit of reconciliation of oppositions, the unity of the torn, mutual existence of differences", and that this explains the "concern of the Great Church for the unity of Orthodoxy in Ukraine and for the well-being of the entire Ukrainian people".

If earlier Constantinople rejected the idea of building the Church with itself at its head, then why is it promoting this idea today?

As they say, it would be funny if it were not so sad. Indeed, after the intervention of Patriarch Bartholomew in Ukrainian church affairs, the division in Ukrainian society not only did not disappear, but significantly intensified, religious confrontation acquired more cruel and irreconcilable forms, and the schism that had existed before spread to the entire Orthodox Church. Moreover, the same Filaret, whom Phanar called the legitimate bishop, organized a new schism in the OCU. What kind of unity can we talk about?

This was followed by clearly flattering and feigned praises addressed to the head of the OCU Sergei Dumenko, which we will not dwell on. We only note that from the perspective of the existing confrontation between the “hierarchs” of the OCU for influence within this organization, the Phanar head’s praises are rather a call to end all internal squabbles and unite around Sergei Dumenko.

Speech at the St. Sophia of Kyiv

Since this speech was delivered within the framework of the liturgy, it contained both quotations from the Gospel and separate references to Christianity itself. But, unfortunately, all this turned out to be just a prelude to the main theme of the speech: "Constantinople – Mother Church". Having said once again how Phanar loves and takes care of all its children, Patriarch Bartholomew decided to touch upon the topic of “healing” the Ukrainian church schism and the granting of “autocephaly” to the OCU. At the same time, “His All-Holiness”, without hesitation, appropriated for himself the right to administer court in the entire Orthodox Church: “The duty of the court, the solution of controversial issues, is precisely the main Cross of every humble Bishop of Constantinople, the most precious and most sacred for each of us.” Generally speaking, the most precious and sacred for a bishop should be the preaching of Christ and uniting people with God, but in the understanding of the Phanar head, this is a judicial function.

Patriarch Bartholomew: “The restoration of ecclesiastical communion of сhurch units, which existed in the absence of order since they appeared as a result of a non-canonical and healthy process, was not a reckless, insignificant, deliberate or ecclesiastical decision. On the contrary, it was founded on the reliable cornerstone of the Church, our Lord Jesus Christ."

It is interesting how Patriarch Bartholomew calls the Ukrainian schismatics - "the church units that existed in the absence of order since they appeared as a result of a non-canonical and healthy process". Canon law does not know such a definition at all. St. Basil the Great, in his First Canonical Epistle to Amphilochius, Bishop of Iconium, systematically considers the issue of various degrees of separation from the Church. These three ways affecting Christian unity were said to be heresy, schism and parasynagogue.

According to this classification, the Philaret schism at its inception (when the former Metropolitan of Kyiv did not submit to the Council of Bishops) fell under the definition of an unauthorized gathering (parasynagogue): “If someone (deacon, priest or bishop) has been found in error (πταίσματι: ‘fault,’ ‘sin’) and has been asked to cease from liturgical functions but has not submitted to the canons of the Church but instead has granted to himself priestly functions and some persons abandon the Church and join him, this is parasynagogue." And even in this relatively easy case, Saint Basil prescribes repentance as the only means of healing separation. However, very quickly, as soon as Filaret, being banned from the priesthood and excommunicated, began to "ordain" "bishops", his activity fell under the definition – schism, which even more presupposes repentance for returning to the Church.

Well, the word "repentance" is present in the speech of Patriarch Bartholomew, but it is mentioned in passing: "The expectations of the Great Church of Christ, in the hope of repentance, return and cure of a painful deviation, cannot be interpreted with reproach and condemnation."

In other words, Patriarch Bartholomew expected repentance from the schismatics, but since it did not appear, he decided to legalize them and so on. This logic is very reminiscent of an episode from the book by Ilf and Petrov "The Twelve Chairs": "The superintendent was sitting at the entrance. He strictly demanded a pass from all those who entered, but if they didn’t give him a pass, then he let them in like that.”

But the most outrageous thing is that Patriarch Bartholomew declared "Christ-based" the decision to recognize Ukrainian schismatics and accept them into communion without repentance. Is ignoring repentance as a sacrament for reunification with the Church “Christ-based”? Is the celebration of the Divine Liturgy with non-ordained persons “Christ-based”? Are church seizures and violence against believers “Christ-based”? Why didn’t Patriarch Bartholomew come out to the believers of the UOC, who had been expelled from their churches, suffered beatings and humiliation, were insulted and persecuted, to say that all this was “Christ-based”? In truth, this statement borders on blasphemy, as well as the statement that the Phanar heals schisms "wisely, judiciously, patiently and with love thanks to the Life-Giving Spirit, and not a dead letter ...".

The most outrageous thing is that Patriarch Bartholomew declared "Christ-based" the decision to recognize the Ukrainian schismatics and accept them into communion without repentance.

Then Patriarch Bartholomew speculated about autocephaly and autonomies, complaining that “dangerous ecclesiological views are being expressed regarding the fact that what was established by the Saints and Ecumenical Councils is allegedly irrelevant, anachronistic, unauthorized, and in one word dead. It is proclaimed that the significance of the Archbishop of Constantinople is reduced to the level of a museum exhibit."

It is very strange to hear this from the lips of a person who just a few minutes ago said that he heals schisms "thanks to the Life-Giving Spirit, and not a dead letter ...". That is, the requirement of the church canons for schismatics to repent is "a dead letter", according to Patriarch Bartholomew, while the fact that Constantinople is no longer a "reigning city" and not "the city of the king and synclite" is "a dangerous ecclesiological view".

Speech at the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy

This speech was delivered by "His All-Holiness" during a gala reception on the occasion of conferring on him the title of Honorary Doctor. It consisted of three parts:

  • the creation of the OCU and the granting of "autocephaly" to it;
  • environmental protection;
  • interreligious dialogue.

Patriarch Bartholomew called his lawless and anti-canonical decisions on the creation of the OCU “pastoral care for spiritual justice and freedom”, stating that “the granting of autocephaly was critical for the healing of schisms in the local Church”, and also expressed confidence that “after all, the granting of autocephaly will help to resolve the issues of unity". If we didn’t know that the functionaries of the US Department of State are behind the whole project of the OCU, then one could believe in Patriarch Bartholomew’s sincerity.

It is interesting how the Phanar head speaks about the activities of the schismatics, whose anathematization he had recently admitted and assured everyone that he had no intention to enter into communion with them: “Until recently, most Ukrainians have been alienated from the rest of the Orthodox world, and although they sought autocephaly, their efforts did not contradict the essence of unity but corresponded to the correct path to the unity of the Church." What should be highlighted here?

Firstly, under the words “the majority of Ukrainians were alienated from the rest of the Orthodox world”, the head of the Phanar clearly means supporters of the UOC-KP (until 2018). But in reality, most Ukrainians belong to the UOC. This can be understood by the number of UOC communities, which are twice as many in the canonical Church as in the OCU, and you can see it with your own eyes at the Great Cross Procession in Kyiv where hundreds of thousands of people gather at once. The temples of the OCU are half-empty, and they have practically no religious processions at all.

Secondly, how to understand the words that the actions of Ukrainian schismatics "correspond to the correct path to the unity of the Church"? It turns out that church schism, which has always been considered a mortal sin, is now the path to unity? How can you not remember George Orwell’s words: “War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is power”?

How to understand the words that the actions of Ukrainian schismatics "correspond to the correct path to the unity of the Church"? It turns out that church schism, which has always been considered a mortal sin, is now the path to unity? How can you not remember George Orwell’s words: “War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is power”?

Patriarch Bartholomew rejects any accusations of claims to the primacy in the Church and at the same time declares that "the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the only Throne in the Orthodox world, is responsible for the canonical granting of autocephalous status". It's time to read the definition of cognitive dissonance again.

Patriarch Bartholomew said nothing new on the issue of environmental protection and the "green ethos". It is worth paying attention to how the head of the Phanar interprets the feast of the Transfiguration in an original way: “The Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord <...> emphasizes the holiness of all creation, which receives and gives a premonition of the final resurrection and restoration of everything in the next century. As the body of the Lord was glorified on Mount Tabor, so we, people, and all creation will be redeemed and made into the Kingdom of God."

This is nothing more than a description of the theory of apocatastasis, according to which hellish torments are not eternal and, in the end, all creation will be restored by God in the original sinless form in which it was created. Despite the fact that similar views can be found in the works of some Holy Fathers, the Church rejected the theory of apocatastasis as contradicting the clear and clear words of the Lord: “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life” (Matthew 25:46) and She even imposed an anathema on those who adhere to such a theory: "To those who reject the immortality of the soul, the end of the century, future judgment and eternal retribution for virtues in heaven, and condemnation for sins, anathema!" (The Rite of the Anathema on Sunday of the Triumph of Orthodoxy).

Speaking about interreligious dialogue, Patriarch Bartholomew also did not say anything new: we need to communicate more, get to know each other, and dispel prejudices. “There is no doubt that religions can greatly contribute to world peace. True faith expands the worldview, liberates the forces of love and breaks the fetters of sterile egocentrism,” said the Phanar head.

Address to the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations

This address was almost entirely devoted to the topic of interreligious dialogue. Skillfully manipulating the minds of his listeners, Patriarch Bartholomew conditioned the need for ecumenical rapprochement with the horrors of the wars of the 20th century and especially the Second World War: “Despite the horrors of the 20th century, the most brutal era in human history, our understanding of dialogue is becoming a more significant tool for building bridges and reconciliation. This movement of rapprochement and reconciliation in our world is clearly confirmed by the involvement of Christians in ecumenical dialogue."

The Phanar head separately mentioned the mutual lifting of the anathemas of 1054, which was announced in 1965 by Patriarch Athenagoras of Constantinople and Pope Paul VI, expressing the hope that this would ultimately lead to the restoration of Eucharistic communion. This and other messages about the imminent unification of the Vatican and the Phanar, made during the visit of Patriarch Bartholomew to Kyiv, deserve separate consideration, but here we would like to draw attention to the following: Patriarch Bartholomew is trying to convince his listeners that ecumenism corresponds to the essence of Orthodoxy, and rejection of it is a manifestation of hatred of extremism, i.e. something that opposes the commandment to love one's neighbour.

Patriarch Bartholomew: "For the Orthodox Church, interfaith dialogue from the very beginning is of fundamental importance for the sake of the influence of Orthodoxy itself on the religious-pluralistic environment." Here it is necessary to stop and explain. In the statements of Orthodox hierarchs and even in official documents of the Local Orthodox Churches, including the Russian one, participation in ecumenical organizations, and ecumenical contacts in general, are explained by a simple necessity – the need to testify to Orthodoxy as a single true religion before the heterodox world and other religions. The Phanar head sounds deceitful because before the appearance of ecumenism in its modern form, i.e. after the Second World War, participation in joint prayers with the heterodox and non-believers, the adoption of joint statements and other forms of ecumenism were never considered by Orthodoxy as a way of testifying to the Truth. On the contrary, joint prayers were considered a sin, a canonical crime and were usually punished by canonical restraints.

However, now they prefer to close their eyes to all this since ecumenism has become a rather fashionable topic, and most importantly, it is fully supported by "the powers that be". And if at the dawn of ecumenism it was still possible to speak of some potential testimony of Orthodoxy before the whole world, today, after many decades, it can be unambiguously asserted that there is NO influence of Orthodoxy on the “religious-pluralistic environment”. On the contrary, there is an erosion of the Orthodox consciousness in the direction of refusing to be faithful to Orthodox dogmas or belittling their significance. Therefore, in many Local Churches, the idea of rejecting ecumenism is gaining more and more supporters both among believers and the episcopate. And this is perceived by supporters of ecumenism as a direct threat, they are trying to present faithfulness to the Orthodox faith and morality as obscurantism and fundamentalism.

Patriarch Bartholomew: “However, we feel some very strong reactions against interfaith dialogue. The growth of religious fundamentalism and extremism, hatred and ethnophyletism are phenomena that cancel out all religious traditions, giving rise to self-isolation, narrow-mindedness and rejection of otherness ... Extremism and hatred seek to privatize truth by promoting an ethos of mutual exclusivity."

If we declare that Orthodoxy is the only true religion, and the Church is the only ark of salvation, then we, according to “His All-Holiness,” are privatizing the Truth, cultivating hatred and an “ethos of exclusivity”. If this is not a deviation from Orthodoxy, then what is this?!

If we declare that Orthodoxy is the only true religion, and the Church is the only ark of salvation, then we, according to “His All-Holiness,” are privatizing the Truth, cultivating hatred and an “ethos of exclusivity”. If this is not a deviation from Orthodoxy, then what is this?!

Conclusions

From all of the above, we can single out the main topics on the agenda of the Patriarchate of Constantinople. These are: Phanar's privileges, its status of “Mother Church” and care about all its “daughters”, issues of canonical territory, autocephaly, Hellenism, environmental protection and interreligious dialogue.

But what is not in the speeches of "His All-Holiness" is the sermon about Christ, His commandments, repentance and the Kingdom of God. Even if Patriarch Bartholomew mentions any religious theses, it is only in order to lead his listeners to speculations about the role of the Patriarchate of Constantinople. If he mentions the commandment to love one's neighbour, it is only in the context of justifying his exclusive privileges. To understand the difference between a true shepherd of Christ's flock and a person who cares about the greatness of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, it is enough to compare the words of His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry at the Liturgy on August 22 at the Kyiv Caves Lavra and the speech of Patriarch Bartholomew on the same day at the Liturgy at the St. Sophia of Kyiv. The word of Metropolitan Onuphry was EXCLUSIVELY about Christ, true faith, and the fact that we must fear God, and then we will not fear anything. That a person should walk on the waves of the sea of life with trust in Christ and fulfill His commands, no matter what. We strongly recommend that you follow the link and see for yourself that Metropolitan Onuphry is preaching Christ while Patriarch Bartholomew is trying to justify his interference in Ukrainian church affairs and also convince everyone that he is not a museum exhibit.

The Lord commanded his apostles: “... go, teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything that I have commanded you; and behold, I am with you all the days until the end of the age. Amen” (Matthew 28: 19,20). But instead, Patriarch Bartholomew invites his listeners to focus on issues of primacy, privileges, autocephaly, and the like. By and large, this is all quarrelsome wandering in the nuances of canon law and the practice of its application, endless clarification of what “Mother Church” is, and who has what privileges, who can grant autocephaly and who cannot. All this discredits Orthodoxy itself. From the living and active Body of Christ, the Church turns into some kind of vestige of the Middle Ages, anxious so that someone does not suddenly get ahead of someone in the Diptych or appropriates other people's privileges. People need clean water of the Orthodox teaching, and not the dregs of constant sorting out of relations. “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink,” (John 7:37) said Christ. What can one drink from Patriarch Bartholomew’s speeches? What can one learn? To honour the Patriarchate of Constantinople and carry out all its decisions, no matter how lawless they may be?

This is where the main danger emanating from the Phanar lies – it presents Orthodoxy as the religion of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, where an imperceptible substitution takes place – Christ fades into the background, and the main focus is on the greatness of Constantinople. The speeches of the Phanar head, their themes and content clearly indicate that believers are encouraged not to think too much about Christ, repentance, the struggle with passions, the Kingdom of God and the path to it. Instead, a different agenda is proposed – the greatness of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, the “wisdom” of its decisions, environmental protection and interreligious dialogue. God gave man freedom, and each person can choose what he/she reads as needed.

Separately, we should dwell on ecumenical moments. Patriarch Bartholomew declares the need for interreligious dialogue and condemns everyone who opposes ecumenism as fundamentalists. He also once again hints at an imminent unification with the Vatican. Thus, the direction of the development of Orthodoxy, proposed by Patriarch Bartholomew, is the restoration of Eucharistic communion with Catholics and further rapprochement with other confessions and religions. What this can lead to is not difficult to guess. One American hieromonk Seraphim Rose wrote a very useful book about this: Orthodoxy and the Religion of the Future. And it seems that Patriarch Bartholomew intends to put us before such a choice – either Orthodoxy or this very "religion of the future".

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