America shows preference for Constantinople in Orthodox dispute


RIA Novosti, 13 September 2019


The head of the new church of Ukraine, Epifany Dumenko, will visit the U.S.A. in October on the invitation of the Order of Archons of the patriarchate of Constantinople, where it is intended to celebrate his "contribution to the unity of Orthodoxy," a source in the American archdiocese told RIA Novosti. "Epifany was invited to the annual meeting of the archons. It will be held on 19 October under the chairmanship of Father Alexandros Karloutsos," the news agency's source said.


"Archon" is an honorary title given by the patriarch for various services to the church. The Order of Archons belongs to the ecumenical patriarch. Karloutsos is called the "unofficial minister of foreign affairs of the patriarchate of Constantinople." He maintains communication of the patriarch of Constantinople with the archdiocese and is closely acquainted with influential personalities from the White House and the Department of State, former presidents of the U.S.A., and prominent figures of the Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches.


"Epifany will be honored at the meeting on 19 October for his contribution to the unity of Orthodoxy," the new agency's source said. He said that a very large reception will be arranged. He said that Archbishop of America Elpidophoros and Father Karloutsos will speak at the festive dinner.


"The reception will be held in the Hilton Hotel and there will be more than 1,000 invited guests from all around America," he said.


Epifany will also celebrate the liturgy along with Elpidophoros.


"The American archdiocese, which belongs to the patriarch of Constantinople, is very greatly involved in the Ukrainian problem," the news agency's interlocutor said.


In December 2018 in Kiev, the new church of Ukraine was formed. This happened as the result of the merger of two uncanonical church structures that were operating in Ukraine. Metropolitan Epifany became the head of the new "autocephalous church." The canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which is headed by Metropolitan Onufry, refused to participate in this event. The Russian Orthodox Church has called the canonical significance of the gathering in Kiev negligible and the possibility of the recognition of Epifany by other local churches hardly a done deal.


A commission of the Greek Orthodox Church spoke out against the new church of Ukraine, the interlocutor said. Soon even Kiev refused to recognize it, religious studies scholar Roman Silantiev concludes. He expressed his opinion in a broadcast of Radio Sputnik. Soon after this, Filaret declared that the structure headed by him is separating from the new church of Ukraine. In addition, at its meeting it ruled that the "tomos concerning autocephaly" of the new church does not comport with the status of autocephalous churches and thus places it in dependence upon Constantinople. The synod of the new church deprived Filaret of his rights to administer the Kiev diocese, while leaving him in the status of a bishop.


The news agency's source also said that it is not likely that there will be a trip to American by Patriarch Bartholomew. A trip had been planned for July. Bartholomew has not been in America for ten years.


"Bartholomew has an invitation from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Bartholomew was supposed to give a speech on peace among religions. But the visit hung in the air. It was postponed several times, to May, to July, then to October. But even for October they did not manage to agree on a schedule for the patriarch's visit. And there is no money for the trip and no single metropolis wanted to participate financially in arranging the trip, and not because of the Ukrainian problem but for other reasons," the news agency's interlocutor said.


He said that such trips of the patriarch are very expensive. "Nothing happens without money. Every trip of the patriarch to the U.S.A. costs at least five million dollars. He stays in the best hotels, and he does not come alone. He has ten to fifteen persons with him and this is expensive," he explained.


"Now it is being discussed whether Pompeo can meet with Bartholomew during his trip to Greece. Pompeo will be in Athens on 6 to 8 October, in order to discuss various matters with the Greek government. It is being investigated whether he will meet with Bartholomew within the context of the trip in Thessaloniki or in Athens," the news agency's interlocutor said. (tr. by PDS, posted 14 September 2019)

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