On December 29, the Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church convened to pass a decision establishing an exarchate on the territory of the Patriarchate of Alexandria (Journal No.100). As predicted, Deputy Head of the ROC’s External Church Relations Department, Archbishop Leonid (Gorbachev) of Yerevan was appointed to lead this unprofitable and shameful (without exaggeration) structure. He will henceforth become Metropolitan of Klin, Patriarchal Exarch of Africa and stand at the helm of North African and South African dioceses), which will include 102 clerics, as ruled by the same Synod.
Thus, the Moscow Patriarchate took another fatal step, and continued its dramatic plunge into the abyss of self-isolation. Such an act on the part of the Russian clergy is nothing but personal revenge to the Patriarch of Alexandria, Theodore II, for his recognition of the autocephaly of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, as I have already noted in my previous posts.
That this is revenge is proven by several details. I’d like to point out that the Moscow Patriarchate made no similar synodal decisions on establishing own structures in the territory of other Local Churches that have recognized the OCU, limiting itself to declaring communication with those hierarchs who haven’t recognized the OCU. ROC representatives co-serve with such hierarchs, and circulate their sensationalist and provocative statements targeting the OCU and personally Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I.
It’s logical to assume that with such loyal church figures it would be easier for the ROC to form a separate structure, say, somewhere in Greece or Cyprus, which could be supported by Russian moguls. At the same time, it would be at least geographically closer and have fewer staffing issues. However, this is not the case. Instead, it’s in Africa, a distant continent, where Moscow is forming an entire exarchate!
It is also worth noting that it doesn’t include a single bishop of the Church of Alexandria, consisting only of “hundreds” of clerics, of whom pretty much nothing is known. I’d like to emphasize that throughout the year, as Moscow was hatching its plan, the ROC failed to reveal to the media (as Russian church and secular propaganda often tend to do) at least one of these “African defenders of Orthodoxy.” Also, the ROC Synod’s resolution refers to these figures rather vaguely and ambiguously.
In the opening part, it is noted about the incoming “multiple” requests from the clergy of the Patriarchate of Alexandria, with no further details provided on the actual names of the applicants, their dioceses and hometowns. The memo further notes “part of the clergy” who allegedly disagreed with the decisions of Patriarch Theodore II. According to the leaders of the Moscow Patriarchate, there were “at least a hundred” such parishes, while the final decision states that there are as many as 102.
On how they found themselves in the ROC bosom, I wrote in my previous piece. Let me recall once again that the newly appointed head of the exarchate, Archbishop Leonid, along with other clergymen of the Russian Orthodox Church, Andrei Novikov and Georgy Maksimov, repeatedly traveled to Africa to find such dissenting priests, bribing individual clerics into siding with Russia. As noted earlier, Novikov personally revealed a peculiar detail, describing on Facebook the devastating situation of the local clerics, bribed by the ROC. He said the Patriarchate of Alexandria is well aware that the only reason behind those clergymen’s move to withdraw from its ranks was ROC’s financial reward.
The territories that fell under the “canonical responsibility of the exarchate” were also chosen not by chance. Africa is far from Russia, therefore being too costly. So the ROC intends to link the newly created dioceses to the structures run by Yevgeny Prigozhin, chief of Russia’s Wagner PMC bases in Africa, which will grant the ROC access to local governments, financial flows and physical security.
However, this won’t help the newly formed religious structure as it’s simply doomed to failure. After all, it was created in violation of the canons that Moscow is usually so passionate to defend. However, it’s ok for the ROC to accuse others while caring little about own violations. I’d like to note that these African clerics turned coats without proper letters of resignation being approved by their superiors. The only document they filed was the relevant request with the ROC. Another interesting detail: it’s unclear by what procedure the parishes led by these clerics acceded to the Moscow Patriarchate. If it also happened upon their own will and with the relevant request, then why is the ROC opposing such transitions by parishes in Ukraine which voluntarily decided to quit the Moscow Patriarchate and join the OCU? Thus, the ROC once again contradicts itself and its declared principles.
In addition, the ROC unlawfully encroached on the canonical territory of another Church, with which it has no common historical roots whatsoever. For this alone Moscow is already subject to appropriate canonical sanctions. What is the purpose of such obviously anti-canonical and senseless moves on the part of the ROC? The answer is simple and obvious – to show both Patriarch Theodore II and all Orthodoxy what the ROC is capable of doing in their fight against Constantinople and the OCU.
At the same time, it is a deliberate provocation aimed to deepen the schism, or rather create it. After all, it is natural that such actions will not go unnoticed by both Alexandria and the whole Ecumenical Orthodoxy. In fact, Moscow is forcing Alexandria to sever Eucharistic communion with it. If this happens, the next Synod will once again “regret that the schism has intensified” and something needs to be done about it. But we must not forget that the schism “intensifies” only due to the actions of the Danilov Monastery.
It is probable that the Russian Orthodox Church is counting precisely on such developments. It would l give them the opportunity to pursue similar scenarios for other Local Churches. However, as I have repeatedly said earlier, this would lead to the ultimate defeat of the Russian Church, which would eventually lose its position in world Orthodoxy.
Why has Patriarch Theodore II become a target of Moscow terror? The answer is also quite obvious, as Moscow considered him “their guy” in the struggle for primacy in world Orthodoxy. As you know, Patriarch Theodore II served in Odesa for a certain period, and had long had rather warm relations with Russian patriarchs. At the same time, his second place in the diptych and the historical context plays a very important role in world Orthodoxy. In the Danilov Monastery, they hoped that with Alexandria’s support, the ROC would be able to easily intercept supremacy. However, such ambitious plans were never meant to materialize.
Alexandria remained on the side of the holy canons and age-old traditions of the Orthodox Church rather than siding with Moscow. That is why Patriarch Theodore II, in fact, acted rather heroically. Despite all threats and blackmail, he recognized the OCU’s tomos on autocephaly and fixated this recognition this summer by co-serving with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I and the head of the Ukrainian Church, Metropolitan Epifaniy.
Such a bold act dealt a painful blow to Moscow’s reputation, which led it to take such destructive steps, thus once again exposing itself to ridicule and burying what’s left of its authority.
Source: Religious expert Oleksandr Yefremenko