On August 7, Patriarch Theophilos III of Jerusalem met with the Russian Ambassador to Israel, Anatoly Viktorov. However, neither on the official website nor in social media did the church press service report this reception. Also, unlike from any other meeting, no photos were published from this one.
However, the Russian Embassy reported the meeting on the same day.
The diplomatic service reported that Ukraine was at the top of the agenda. In particular, Viktorov handed the patriarch a copy of the report drawn by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia “On illegal actions of the Kyiv regime against the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, its clergy, and parishioners.” The document claims alleged “persecution” of the UOC (MP). Viktorov also told Theofilos in his own words about the “unmotivated violence and aggression” that the clergy and believers of this Church are allegedly facing.
In exchange, the Russian ambassador promised the Jerusalem Patriarch “support and protection of interests”, as well as help in preserving real estate assets of the Patriarchate in the Old City, which nationalist Israeli organizations intend to seize. It is worth noting that the leasing of these lands, as well as tourist services rendered by church-run hotels, bring considerable income to the Jerusalem Patriarchate.
It should be recalled that in August, Patriarch Theofilos twice received delegations from the Russian Orthodox Church: on August 3 and 23. On the 24th, he defended Metropolitan Ioanafan, who was convicted of justifying Russian aggression.
This is not the first time that the Jerusalem Patriarchate holds under the rug its warm relations with the Russian Federation. In April 2022, the Bulgarian religious publication Doxologiainfonews wrote that the press service deleted a photo of Theofilos laughing during his meeting with Russia’s Ambassador Viktorov. Both the primate and the diplomat held glasses with a liquid that was presumably an alcohol beverage. During the meeting, the parties discussed, among other things, the progress of the so-called “special operation” (a propaganda euphemism for a full-scale invasion of Ukraine). The event took place shortly after the deoccupation of Ukrainian cities in Kyiv region, where the fact of mass murders of Ukrainians by Russian troops was confirmed. However, the patriarchate’s press service never mentioned that this topic was brought up in the conversation, instead writing about Theophilos being thankful for the financial assistance Russia had been providing for the construction of the new temple. Due to the indignation of Ukrainians, the press service removed from its official platforms the said photo filled with an overly positive vibe. Since then, the parties have remained in contact, it appears.