Recently, Metropolitan Antoniy (Pakanych), chief of staff at the Russian Orthodox Church in Ukraine (the so-called UOC-MP), gave an extensive interview to Russia’s RIA NOVOSTI, commenting on the August visit to Ukraine of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I. In addition to the visit itself, Pakanych touched upon the topic of inter-Orthodox relations, including the issue so urgent for the ROC regarding the so-called pan-Orthodox condemnation of Constantinople.
As I’ve noted in my previous publications, the latest conference and meeting of the ROC Synod in Moscow were only Act 1 in Russia’s anti-canonical ballet. I also predicted that we would see the denouement at the forthcoming Council of Bishops of the ROC, scheduled for November 15-18, 2021, on the eve of the 75th birthday of ROC head, Patriarch Kirill (Gundyaev).
My predictions are confirmed between the lines of the mentioned interview by Pakanych. The latter stated that “once the Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church completes its work, the Orthodox world will have something to discuss.” He stopped short of elaborating on what exactly he means by that.
Thus, we can assume that the ROC has already prepared an appropriate action plan to condemn the moves by Constantinople and personally Patriarch Bartholomew I, namely, the handing of a tomos of autocephaly to the Orthodox Church of Ukraine.
It isn’t hard to guess that, in order to realize these intentions, Moscow needs to necessary to revive, or rather to “resurrect,” the stillborn Amman format. It is likely that in November 2021, Russian hierarchs will seek justification for the Amman 2.0 meeting.
In order not to be embarrassed yet again and not to “bite the dust,” the Moscow Patriarchate will try to involve as many Local Churches as possible in the next meeting, as the first Amman Church Summit proved unable to unfit to pass any important canonical decisions.
It should be noted that such meetings are not entitled to take such action. After all, as is well known, the prerogative to organize, conduct, and preside over inter-Orthodox events lies with Constantinople. Local Churches are well aware of this fact and therefore the Moscow-proposed initiative was ignored by most of the Primates.
However, Moscow has no plans to abandon its power ambitions. Therefore, it pursues its devious intentions, leveling the age-old tradition of the Orthodox Church. Naturally, Moscow alone, as an interested party, or rather, a party “offended” by Patriarch Bartholomew, cannot single-handedly convene a Council to condemn Constantinople. It is logical, therefore, that a neutral arbitrator be found to resolve the conflict.
As practice has shown, Jerusalem didn’t fit into this role all too well. Although its authority in world Orthodoxy can’t be underestimated, it turned out to be insufficient. Therefore, Moscow probably plans to strengthen it at the expense of the Patriarchate of Antioch – the ancient Church currently ranking third in the Orthodox diptychs.
This opinion was also voiced in the mentioned interview by Pakanych. When asked: “Can Jerusalem and Antioch take over Constantinople’s role,” he gave no direct and unambiguous response but rather latently backed the idea.
To lay out grounds for his position, he cited cases from the history of the Church on “settlement of issues of pan-Orthodox scale without the participation of the Patriarchate of Constantinople.”
In particular, he referred to Patriarch of Jerusalem convening in 1443 the Council of Primates of the Eastern Churches, which condemned the so-called Ferraro-Florentine Union, as well as the Jerusalem Council of 513, which stood against Monophysitism.
However, the cases mentioned by Antoniy are very different from the current situation because they addressed issues of a dogmatic nature, that is, issues of doctrine. But the issue of Ukrainian autocephaly lies beyond this plane, being of a purely administrative nature, as I wrote in one of my previous pieces.
At the same time, it should be noted that these examples are quite contradictory. As we know, Monophysitism was condemned at the 4th Ecumenical Council held in Chalcedon (now one of the oldest and most influential departments of the Patriarchate of Constantinople), while the mentioned union found no support among the Orthodox community and the faithful of Constantinople.
Therefore, such an argument doesn’t seem convincing. In addition, it is worth recalling that there remains an unresolved dispute between the Churches of Jerusalem and Antioch over the jurisdiction in Qatar. Therefore, even in spite of the friendly relations between the ROC and the Church of Antioch, as well as the Russian regime with that of Bashar al-Assad, the Antiochian case for the ROC in intercepting Orthodox supremacy would be a “suitcase without a handle” if Jerusalem isn’t involved.
Perhaps the ROC will try to help Jerusalem and Antioch reconcile on the issue. So far, experts believe, the only possible option is for Jerusalem to relinquish its claims to the entire territory of Qatar, and, as a compromise, the existing parishes will be registered as stauropegia over the canonical territories of the Antioch Church.
There are other options that are not so significant for Moscow. After all, it is extremely important for ROC to enlist both Churches’ support. Only the joint condemnation of the Ecumenical Patriarch could shift the balance in favor of the ROC.
Tactically, the ROC seeks to seize primacy by offering it to the Patriarchs of Antioch and Jerusalem: who, in their opinion, while remaining a sort of a screen, will in fact hand the Moscow Patriarch the levers of leadership in world Orthodoxy. These plans are based on political factors and ROC funding.
It is likely that at the future Council of Bishops, or at the celebrations of Gundyaev’s anniversary, certain consultations will be held to implement this scenario. It is possible that both the Council itself and the celebration will be a projection of Amman 2.0, which has so far remained the only instrument the Moscow Patriarchate has in its arsenal to try to grab primacy in Orthodoxy.
However, such a Council, even if it does take place, may again become an embarrassment to its organizer, the ROC. After all, before condemning someone, it is necessary to at least hear out their position. Even the Ecumenical Councils heard the position of heretics they judged. However, the Danilov Monastery doesn’t need truth. What it needs is to implement an already taken decision, namely, to condemn Constantinople and seize primacy in world Orthodoxy. Most Local Churches are well aware of this and therefore there are in no rush to support Moscow in its dubious endeavors.
In general, if Constantinople unveiled all facts and evidence of Moscow’s violation of the canons, the ROC itself would be condemned at such Amman 2.0 meeting.
In conclusion, we can assume that the Danilov Monastery is preparing a kind of “Trojan horse” for global Orthodoxy. It is likely to be formally showcased during the ROC Council of Bishops. However, it can’t be ruled out that it will ultimately do more harm to Moscow than to those it targets…