Now we can already say the Moscow Church suffered another defeat. Аfter a lengthy and heavily funded information campaign about an anticipated All-Orthodox assembly in Jordan, all the ROC got was another fiasco and yet another blow to its reputation and budget.
In recent weeks, the Kremlin and the ROC have thrown huge resources into this front. The recent meeting of Patriarch Theophilus with Kirill Gundyaev’s aide Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev and the Russian delegation did not help to advance the idea. Nothing new was announced even following the meeting of the Patriarch of Jerusalem with the Kremlin leader, Vladimir Putin.
Recall that the true purpose of this assembly, according to many experts, was not the solution of the “Ukrainian issue”, but Moscow’s desire to snatch primacy in the Orthodox world. The Ukrainian autocephaly was only a pretext for bringing Moscow’s ambitious plans to life.
The very idea of holding such an All-Orthodox assembly was conceived right after Ukraine received a tomos from Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. As we have noted, the main obstacle to setting this meeting up was its non-canonical nature because the established tradition of the Orthodox Churchhas it that it’s only the Ecumenical Patriarch who is entitled to organize and hold such meetings. In Moscow, it was well understood that the Ecumenical Patriarchate would not approve of such an event. And there were no appropriate grounds for holding it, either. In particular, there is no split as such in the Orthodox world. Notwithstanding the allegations of “non-recognition” of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine by Moscow’s satellites, no one except the ROC itself broke the Eucharistic communion with either Constantinople or the churches that recognized the OCU, that is, Alexandria and Hellas. Only the Moscow Patriarchate itself is at odds with the Ecumenical Orthodoxy.
Moscow wasn’t too concerned about their own situation and in every way promoted the theme of the “All-Orthodox assembly”, searching for someone to take responsibility for its organization. For this purpose, in the summer of 2019, Metropolitan Hilarion, the head of the ROC’s Department of External Relations, made a number of visits to the Local Orthodox churches. Meanwhile, Hilarion’s colleagues, both in Russia and Ukraine, were preparing informational grounds for their actions. The first ones to speak about the need for the All-Orthodox assembly were ROC in Ukraine’s talking heads Metropolitan Anthony Pakanych and Archpriest Mykola Danilevich. The latter assured the journalists and the public that any leader of any Local Church could convene such a “meeting”.
However, the very process was a mess because the Local Churches well understood that such a scenario is being peddled by the Moscow Patriarchate not for the sake of good intentions. Even the “assembly” as such could do a lot of damage to Orthodox unity because it would become a kind of “Kharkiv cathedral 2.0”, but this didn’t stop Moscow at all.
Therefore, at the end of November, Moscow instigated Patriarch Theophilus of Jerusalem to go for it. Arriving in Moscow to get his award, Patriarch Theophilus met with Putin, after which he voiced his initiative to hold the “Meeting of the leaders of Orthodox Churches” in his canonical territory, Amman.
Such news, at which only Kirill rejoiced, got a negative response from other Local Churches. In particular, the leaders of the Cyprus and Greek churches have publicly refused to participate in this meeting. Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew was vocal in his negative response to such an “initiative.” However, this also did not scare off Moscow as it is likely that Russian clergymen were ready for such a reaction. The statement by the head of the synodal department of the ROC, Vladimir Legoida, confirmed this. Referring to the publication of a Greek theologian, he stated that the Jerusalem Church has the right to convene and hold the Ecumenical meetings. However, as we can see, such a statement turned out to be just a puff, just as the anticipated “meeting” itself.
It couldn’t be the other way round because it would not, in fact, have resolved the “church division” claimed by Moscow church figures. We have tried to predict ROC’s steps toward resolving the issue. One such scenario was the likely involvement of Honorary Patriarch Filaret, who in his latest press-conference even stated his desire to unite with the Moscow Patriarchate in Ukraine if the latter was granted autocephaly and the status of the Patriarchate. However, the ROC in Ukriane itself criticized such statements by Filaret and hinted that it did not need this. After such statements, we see that the scenario with Filaret is of the table, just as the meeting. After all, it becomes apparent that the ROC is unable to provide a clear action plan to fix this situation, and this meeting is only needed to condemn the Ecumenical Patriarch, who allegedly became a schismatic and a heretic.
The consequence of such a “meeting” could be that the ROC would pull into a split and isolation a part of the Orthodox world, for which Moscow would become the “Third Rome”. It is likely that the Patriarch of Jerusalem also realized this, so he put the issue on brake.
As we can see, for the time being, this whole epic story of the All-Orthodox meeting, in the words of Archpriest Mykola Danilevich, is turning into a “puff”. Some of the words in Mykola’s infamous statement are quite appropriate to illustrate this “initiative”. Quoting the cleric, “it will all boil down to a big puff, as it was many times before. There will be a lot of noise in the media and that’s it.”
In fact, there was a lot of “noise in the media”, a lot of money was spent, but the project of this meeting died in the womb of the ROC. However, everyone must remain vigilant, since the “Ukrainian issue” is a matter of “honor” for Kirill, and failing it can lead to him losing top position. A strange coincidence is that the ROC again made the same mistake it had made before. Let us remind you, Moscow has already failed the attempt of holding the All-Orthodox meeting in 1948, and now, 72 years later, it has failed the second attempt. We may as well see the third one in a few decades…