The Russian Orthodox Church in Ukraine is set to involve pro-Russian clergy from Serbia and Syria, who are in close contact with Russia, in their festivities marking the day of baptism of Rus-Ukraine. These are the same figures who took part in last year’s non-canonical meeting in Amman, calling out the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s move to grant a tomos of autocephaly to the Orthodox Church of Ukraine.
According to the Moscow Patriarchate’s mouthpiece, Pravblog, “official delegations of the Patriarchates of Antioch and Serbia, as well as the Orthodox Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia” will attend the ROCinU event.
Groups of pilgrims from Montenegro and Georgia are also expected to arrive, the report adds.
The Spiritual Front of Ukraine has looked into why the said Churches decided to side with the Moscow Patriarchate in Ukraine.
As can be seen from the ROCinU’s announcement, they will not enjoy too much of support. Representatives of only two Churches will arrive in Kyiv during the ROCinU event because the Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia has no significant weight in the international Orthodox arena and therefore there’s no need to focus on it.
The Serbian Orthodox Church will help the ROC in Ukraine as the latter helped them keep Montenegro in the path of the Serbian Patriarchate. The head of the Russian Orthodox Church in Ukraine, Metropolitan Onufriy (Berezovsky), personally came to Montenegro to take part in anti-government rallies with the participation of the Serbian Church clergy. Serbian Patriarch Irinej, (late) was also spotted at the non-canonical meeting in Amman. Besides, Russia has been funding the construction of the Serbian Church’s largest cathedral.
With such political arrangements, it is not surprising that bishops from the Serbian Church and faithful pilgrims will be coming from Montenegro to take part in the ROCinU event in Ukraine.
The clergy of the Church of Antioch, although they didn’t come to the Amman meetup, are in constant contact with Russian politicians or masterminds behind the “Russian Spring” project. In particular, Patriarch John X of Antioch received ROCinU ministers in mid-June 2021.
There’s also the fact that, not so long ago, the Patriarch of Antioch met with the leader of the pro-Russian “Anti-Maidan” movement in Ukraine, Dmitry Sablin. He also hosted the “president” of Russian-occupied Abkhazia. After this move, the Georgian Patriarchate demanded explanations from the Patriarch of Antioch. Besides, the Patriarchate of Antioch in early 2020 met with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Thus, the Church of Antioch will support the ROC in Ukraine given the fact that it remains under the effective control from Russia and the President of Syria, who is known to be Russia’s ally.
In early June this year, ROCinU officials also paid a visit to the Georgian Patriarch. Alongside the delegation was a pro-Russian politician from Ukraine, Vadym Novynsky, who went for the visit immediately after Prime Minister of Ukraine Denys Shmyhal talked with Georgian Patriarch Ilya II while on a Georgia visit. The Moscow Patriarchate then sensed they needed to convey to the head of the Georgian Church information about the “real state of Orthodox affairs in Ukraine.”
Interestingly, the Georgian Church will not be sending any clergy official, only pilgrims and believers. In fact, anyone could be called “Georgian pilgrims,” even Russians living in Georgia.
As for the Orthodox Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia, as we have already noted, it should not be dwelled upon in detail as it remains a lightweight in the inter-Orthodox world. It should be noted that this small Church, with under 200 parishes, has also received autocephaly from the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Its head, Metropolitan Rostislav, attended a non-canonical Amman meeting in 2020 to challenge a similar move by Constantinople to grant autocephaly to the Orthodox Church of Ukraine.
However, on November 20, 2019, Bishop Isaiah of Šumperk of the Orthodox Church in the Czech Lands and Slovakia co-served with the head of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, Metropolitan Epifaniy. Later, the Synod of the said Church at its meeting on December 17, 2019, applied no sanctions to the cleric.
Thus, it can be stated that the ROC cannot lure to its side anyone but those who have long been under the control of Russian money or the army, namely in Syria and Serbia. In other cases, the ROC only boasts of pilgrims from the Georgian Church.