DIASPORA

Vartholomaios: Russian Church ungrateful

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Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomaios has underlined the responsible attitude of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in the ecclesiastical dispute that has erupted with the Moscow Patriarchate. 

Although the Russian Patriarchate has stopped commemorating the Ecumenical Patriarch on the pretext of granting self-determination to the Ukrainian Church, the head of Orthodoxy clarified that the Patriarchate of Constantinople continues to commemorate Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and has advised the leader of the Ukrainian Church to do the same.

Regarding the attitude of the Moscow Patriarchate, Vartholomaios spoke of ingratitude. “As you know, in recent years [the first throne] has been tested by an ignorant attitude of the Russian church towards its mother church. We are the mother church because we gave them Christianity. We gave them the lights. We gave them the Cyrillic alphabet through which we wanted to help them cultivate their civilization. And they, as we say in the ecclesiastical language, started the heel against the benefactor. They were angry with us because we made the Ukrainian church autocephalous,” Vartholomaios said during an event in New York, the last stop on his US tour.

According to church tradition, the granting of autocephaly is a privilege unique to the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Over the centuries, the Ecumenical Patriarchate has granted autonomy several times to local churches, starting with the Russian Church itself in the 16th century. “Why not do it, as we did with Russia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Greece, Poland, Romania, Albania? And it is the exclusive privilege of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to grant the autocephaly. All these churches that I have listed have become self-governing by the Ecumenical Patriarchate, which empties itself because it gives territories under its jurisdiction to become self-governing independent churches,” the Ecumenical Patriarch explained.

In this light, after the crisis that arose between Ukraine and Russia, Patriarch Vartholomaios responded to the request of the people of Ukraine, granting self-determination. In retaliation, the Moscow Patriarchate decided to stop commemorating the Ecumenical Patriarch. The church of Constantinople, remaining faithful to the ecclesiastical order and with a sense of responsibility towards history, did not react to this move and continued to regularly mention Patriarch Kirill.

“So why not do the same with Ukraine with its 40-50 million inhabitants? Our Ukrainian brothers wanted not only now but also much earlier and now even more intensely to have their own church and not to belong to Moscow, not to depend on Moscow, not to be oppressed by Moscow. We did it with a sense of responsibility towards history and towards Ukraine and its people. [The Russian Church] were angered and cut off communion with the Ecumenical Patriarchate. They took the name out of the diptychs and they do not mention me. I couldn’t care less [that they do not mention me]”, said Vartholomaios.

‘Full confidence’ in Elpidophoros

Referring to the recognition reserved for him by his US hosts, he noted that they reflect the high prestige enjoyed by the Ecumenical Patriarchate, which unfortunately is much larger internationally than inside Turkey, its historic headquarters. Regarding US President Joe Biden, he referred to the personal friendship that unites them, but also to the handwritten note that the American president added in the last letter he sent to him, which said “be well because we need your leadership.”

The United States is one of the largest and most important provinces of the Ecumenical Throne. Referring to its importance, the Patriarch praised Archbishop Elpidophoros, saying that in a short time he managed to seek solutions to the three major problems of the Archdiocese, which concerned the completion of the church of St. Nicholas, the Theological School of Boston and the clergy’s retirement fund.

“After 12 years [since his last US visit] I have the blessing of God and I have the pleasure of being close to the Greek community in America. This time I found a new Archbishop, young in age and at the beginning of his term. We in the Patriarchate have full confidence in the person of Mr Elpidophoros and for this reason we elected him unanimously and sent him to lead for as many years as the Lord allows. We chose him because under the current circumstances we could not find anyone better and more suitable for this position. I am glad to see that you embraced him with the same love that he came to you. And the mutual love, trust and vision that you have is the best guarantee for the success of his archdiocese.” [AMNA]