Russian Orthodox Church on a collision course with allies about Ukraine


Eastern Europe


Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk. Photo AFP, Vasily Maximov

The Russian Orthodox Church wants to establish an exarchate (church province) in Africa while not ruling out the establishment of an exarchate in Turkey. This is creating tensions in both the African and the Turkish patriarchies.

On Thursday, the Moscow Patriarchate accepted 102 priests from the African Patriarchate of Alexandria. The head of the media department of the Russian Church, Vladimir Legoida, stated that the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church could no longer refuse to accept the clergy of the Orthodox Church of Alexandria under the jurisdiction of the Russian Church. According to Legoida, the clergy submitted applications to join the Russian Orthodox Church. This was reported by the Orthodox Times.

Patriarch Theodore of Alexandria. Photo Wikimedia

A heated response of the Patriarchate of Alexandria, the patriarchate of all of Africa, did not take long to arrive. An official statement posted on the patriarchate's website expressed the patriarchate's "deepest sorrow". It stressed that the Synod of the Patriarchate would discuss how to respond to Moscow's decision at its next meeting. The Orthodox Times quoted patriarch Theodore of Alexandria with the words "May God forgive them".


According to the Catholic Austrian news portal Kathpress, all these tensions are about Ukraine. "Moscow is on an open course of confrontation with the Patriarchate of Alexandria because Patriarch Theodoros of Alexandria sided with Constantinople in the inner-Orthodox church conflict over Ukraine and officially recognised the Orthodox Church of Ukraine." This conflict is also known as the 2018 Moscow–Constantinople schism.

According to Metropolitan Hilarion, the Russian Orthodox Church "could not say no to the clergymen of the Patriarchate of Alexandria who realised the false position of their Patriarch", as was reported by the Orthodox Times.

That might also explain why Metropolitan Hilarion of Moscow explicitly did not want to rule out the establishment of an exarchate in Turkey as well. In an interview with the Russian state-owned news agency RIA Novosti, the bishop said that he "cannot deny the Orthodox believers of Turkey in pastoral care in conditions when the Patriarch of Constantinople took the side of the schism."

As of yet, the Patriarchate of Constantinople has not reacted to the statements made by bishop Hilarion.



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