Moscow patriarchate responds to Constantinople awkwardly over Ukraine


RISU, 10 August 2016


A recent interview by Archbishop Job, a hierarch of the Constantinople church, which explains the attitude of Constantinople toward the church situation in Ukraine and the possibility of its improvement, provoked the impact of an exploding bomb and a week of discussion in news media and social networks, a correspondent of the portal Religiia v Ukraine reports.


The interview was published by the journalist Tatiana Derkach on 1 August on the website of RISU. In it Archbishop Job confirmed that Constantinople considers Ukraine its canonical territory and is considering the question of granting the Ukrainian church canonical autocephaly, which in principle it could grant right now.


On 4 August, the Russian portal Interfax published, under the rubric of "Analytical materials," an article by Archpriest Nikolai Balashov, "On 'Sensational' Journalistic

Fantasies." The author, who is the vice-chairman of the Department of External Church Relations (OVTsS) of the Russian Orthodox Church (RPTs), in unbridled expressions that are uncharacteristic for a clergyman, cast doubt on the authenticity of the archbishop's words, emphasizing that "he gave his interview to a supporter of the schism who is famous in Ukraine and was in the past an activist in the sect of S. Adelaja, 'God's Embassy,' and it was on a news resource that is supported by the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church."


In the opinion of Father Nikolai Balashov, "the words of the Constantinople guest, in the transmission of such a biased listener, are hard to treat with confidence. . . . I do not believe that he really was able to maintain allegedly that 'the territory of Ukraine is the canonical territory of the Constantinople Church.' . . The attempt to deny the legitimacy of the reunification of the Kiev metropolia with the Moscow patriarchate also is more like a journalist's fantasy than a responsible statement of an Orthodox hierarch," and so forth.


Meanwhile, Archbishop Job has already published on his Facebook page links to this interview in versions in three languages, which only confirms the authenticity of his words. Tatiana Derkach herself pointed this out by ironically reminding Fr Nikolai of his "sectarian" past: "The former Baptist declares that the former activist of the Sunday Adelaja sect deceitfully took an interview from a representative of the Constantinople patriarchate who suspected nothing and then distorted his words, after which the representative of the Constantinople patriarchate posted this detestable fake on his Facebook page in three languages."


On 5 August, yet another news article came out on the Interfax website: "Representative of Constantionople church denies rumors about its intention to establish its own metropolia in Ukraine." With a reference to the website Pravoslavnaia Zhizn, which is close to the Kiev metropolia of the UPTsMP, the article maintains that "the Constantinople patriarchate, despite rumors, does not intend to create its own jurisdiction in Ukraine." At the same time it quotes the statement of Archbishop Job, spoken to a journalist of the UPTs: "The ecumenical patriarchate is not planning to create yet another parallel jurisdiction in Ukraine, because such an uncanonical situation would only exacerbate the problem." However in the interview for RISU, Archbishop Job also did not speak about a parallel jurisdiction of Constantinople in Ukraine, speaking of something much larger—the possibility of granting autocephaly to the Ukrainian church. Therefore it is not clear just what rumors Interfax was writing about.


Commenting on the reaction of the RPTs to Vladyka Job's interview, a spokesman for the UPTs of the Kiev patriarchate, Archbishop Evstraty, writes: "It is a clear example of the way leaders of the Moscow patriarchate can calmly call white black and deny obvious facts and give out fantasies for reality."


Users of the Facebook network also called attention to the claim about "the brutal murder by nationalists of Metropolitan of Warsaw Georgy" from the aforementioned article by Archpriest Nikolai Balashov. From the context of the article it is possible to imagine that this murder was committed by Ukrainian nationalists.


In connection with this, Kandidat of Historical Science Irina Prelovskaia notes: "This is simply some kind of on-going nightmare on Russian Orthodox websites! It is a bucket of mud falling on the head of everybody who opens these doors! And the checkpoint in the head of historians: the murder by nationalists (!!!) in Poland of Yuri Yaroshevsky, the metropolitan of Warsaw and all-Poland." Prelovskaia emphasizes that the metropolitan in point of fact was killed by a Russian nationalist, Archimandrite Smaragd Latyshenkov.


Some time later Father Nikolai Balashov's text was corrected and reference to "nationalists" was removed from it, although the original version of the article was preserved in the Google cache.


Observers have noted that the Moscow patriarchate seems to have been unprepared for the revelations of the Constantinople hierarch. Quoting the interview of Archbishop Job, Moscow Archdeacon Andrei Kuraev repeats his thesis about the necessity for the Russian Orthodox Church to head off Constantinople's initiative and finally grant full autocephaly to the Ukrainian Church. (tr. by PDS, posted 14 August 2016)

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