The other day, the RIA Novosti agency published a rather succinct interview with the head of the newly formed “African Exarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church,” Archbishop Leonid, about the set-up and activities of this organization.
From the interview’s opening, it became clear that Russia’s main “educator of the African continent” has no plans to change his place of residence, let alone move from Moscow to Africa to preach “Russian World” among the locals.
According to Leonid Gorbachev, “the core of the exarchate will be forged in Moscow.” To paraphrase, the bishop plans to “reign over Africa” from a more convenient spot in Moscow rather than deploy on the ground. In fact, it will be a rather ridiculous and absurd show to see a the “Exarch of All Africa” sitting in his Moscow office.
The immediate location of the “African smithy” HQ will be the former courtyard of the Patriarchate of Alexandria at the ROC, the Church of All Saints in Kulishki, which, according to the spokesman of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, Archbishop Yevstratiy (Zorya), is nearby Putin’s Administration and the Security Council offices.
I won’t delve into conspiracy theories or reflect on the symbolism of the selected location, although I should note that placing the decision-making center of the “African Exarchate” in Moscow instead of choosing a place anywhere across the targeted continent is another clear indication that the purpose of the newly formed structure is not to fight for purity of Orthodoxy bur a lame showoff of what the offended Moscow church is capable of, and what opportunities it has available.
Obviously, had the ROC really cared about the clergy and flocks who sought to remain faithful to “canonical Orthodoxy,” they would send an envoy there who would hear them out 24/7. After all, it is quite natural that any organization, including the church, won’t be able to operate at full swing without a leader who’s constantly on the ground.
It remains unclear what the clerics should do whenever some issue arises that needs to be settled or at least addressed immediately by their superior, including holy oil shortages or conflicts within clerical circles.
Due to the high cost of air tickets and the financial situation of African-Russian clerics, it will be impossible for them to fly to Moscow on a regular basis. Should Leonid himself take a charter and fly to Africa? Anyway, the lack of unity of command will inevitably lead to chaos and anarchy.
It would be a logical move for the head of the newly formed ROC structure in Africa to at least permanently deploy his deputy or authorize a local priest – someone among those 102 the ROC scrambled across the continent. However, probably none of them is worthy of bearing such responsibility, which once again confirms their poor professional level.
Let me remind you that theologian Mamuka Putkaradze earlier said the vast majority of those flip-coat clerics are old-stylers who are in a schism with world Orthodoxy, as well as various violators of canonical norms who had been previously banned from service or sacked from their position.
In my previous pieces, I noted that their actions were merely motivated by a financial reward from the Moscow Patriarchate.
In his interview, Archbishop Leonid admits that the urgent problem of the newly formed structure is staff shortage. According to my personal sources, the Moscow Patriarchate is currently looking for a Greek-speaking archimandrite, who is familiar with Africa, to ordain him a bishop and put him on the ground. However, there are not so many people willing to take up this post. The HR crisis testifies to the incapacity of this project, which is pretty much stillborn.
So the statements by Archbishop Leonid, as well as by other ROC spokesmen, about the flock of 102 parishes across Africa are nothing but empty words. After all, as I have already noted, they are all subsidized. The only thing that the ROC is hoping for is that at least one hierarch of the Patriarchate of Alexandria will join this “exarchate,” as Gorbachev himself mentioned in the interview.
As noted in the previous articles released by the Spiritual Front of Ukraine, the ROC, using generous financial rewards, is trying to enlist the support of four to six bishops of the Church of Alexandria. With their help, the ROC had planned to strengthen the established structure, and thus create opposition directly to Patriarch Theodore. The ultimate goal of this opposition, as well as of the entire “exarchate” thing, is sacking the patriarch with the subsequent election of a Moscow protégé or at least someone loyal to the ROC.
However, so far the ROC intervention in Africa has yielded no desired result for Moscow, instead leading to reputational damage. After all, by its brazen moves, the Moscow Patriarchate invaded another’s canonical territory, thereby violating a number of Church canons, including those adopted by the Ecumenical Councils. Of course, none of this will be forgotten and the ROC will eventually be held accountable.
At the same time, such moves only unite the anti-Moscow church coalition. It is unlikely that after such “showoff revenge” any of the heads of the Local Churches will want to support the idea of an “Amman 2.0” meeting. Naturally, each of them may assume that Moscow is just as able to defiantly encroach on the territory of any other Church, should the target refuse to dance to its tune.
In addition, we shouldn’t forget about the enormous financial losses Moscow is suffering due to the need to invest in bribing clerics of dubious reputation, who at the same time fail to deliver any significant benefit. Of course, such arrogant actions will also bring tragic consequences for government-church relations both within Russia and in the international arena.
I keep following the developments in Moscow’s African endeavor. For now, I would like to emphasize that Moscow loses more than it gains. I believe that this ROC project will bring nothing good, only leading to the shaming of the Moscow Patriarchate. There was a song in some old Soviet cartoon: “Don’t go to Africa, kids!” I’m sure the Moscow clerics are well aware of that one…
Source: Religious expert Oleksandr Yefremenko