Head of Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs Sergei Lavrov is spreading yet another lie about Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, who he claims “destroyed the unity” of the Orthodox Russia and Ukraine. Lavrov says that the ROC and the Russian Foreign Ministry are working together to strengthen unity of ROC believers living abroad with Russia. The Russian top diplomat also counts Russian Orthodox Church believers abroad among Russians who want to maintain ties with Russia.
“We are all very well aware of how the Orthodox Church of Ukraine was founded. This is not just an initiative by Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople – it has been directly dictated by the United States… Destroying the unity of Orthodox Russia and Ukraine, creating a divisive, in fact, disenfranchised church,” said Lavrov, according to the ROC press service.
Russian diplomacy has also criticized the U.S. activity. According to Sergei Lavrov, the Special Envoy for Religious Freedom, appointed under the previous U.S. administration, “did things exactly contrary to his mandate: undermined religious freedom by imposing organizational parameters (in bureaucratic terms) on various local churches.”
Moreover, Sergei Lavrov did not say a word about the persecution of Protestants in Russia or OCU believers in the occupied Crimea. Obviously, freedom in Russian is where Russian occupiers in Crimea force the OCU archbishop to destroy their own temples. Another proof of this “freedom” could be ROC cleric Sergei Romanov, who was thrown behind bars right from the monastery after criticizing Russian President Vladimir Putin.
In an interview, Sergei Lavrov also expressed the unanimity of the Russian Foreign Ministry and the Russian Church on the actions of the Ecumenical Patriarch over the recent years.
“We (ROC and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation – ed.) have a clear understanding that the actions of Constantinople, being directly manipulated from Washington, have nothing to do with the ideals of Orthodoxy, the traditions on which local churches’ cooperation has always been organized,” Lavrov said, adding that the Russian Foreign Ministry fully supports the Russian Orthodox Church.
In addition, Lavrov acknowledged that foreign parishes of the ROC allow “supporting those who seek to keep in touch with their homeland (Russia, – ed.)” And assured that the Russian Foreign Ministry and the ROC work together to maintain the connection of parishioners ROC in other countries with Russia.
“We have many joint projects to work with compatriots (compatriots – ed.). Parishes of the Russian Orthodox Church in other countries engage a large number of parishioners. This is an additional opportunity to support people who want to keep in touch with their homeland, along with what we do in a secular way through our embassies, consulates, and Russian cultural centers abroad, which, among other things, help people keep in touch with the Russian Orthodox Church.
It is worth noting that the ROC in Ukraine has more believers than any other foreign branch of the ROC. Even the Belarusian Exarchate of the ROC has fewer believers with the Moscow Church. Thus, according to Lavrov, the parishes of the ROC in Ukraine exercise influence over Ukrainians (whom Lavrov and Putin consider “Little Russians”) so that they maintain ties with Russia as their alleged homeland.
As can be seen from Lavrov’s statements, all believers with the ROC in Ukraine and elsewhere abroad are automatically considered in Moscow to be “Russians” and “compatriots.” At the same time, Russia’s foreign ministry takes no note of those people’s citizenship status. Russia recognizes its alleged “compatriots” by religion and affiliation with the Russian Church: “Russian means Orthodox” and vice versa.