Moscow always full of revenge, says head of Ukrainian church


Eastern Europe


Russia has always been an enemy for the Russian church, the head of the Ukrainian church says. In May 2021, Metropolitan Ephiphanius (left) met the American Minister Blinken (right). Photo AFP, Efrem Lukatsky

The head of the Orthodox Church in Ukraine (OCU), Metropolitan Epiphanius, says the Russian church is only interested in power and revenge.

He writes that in a letter to his colleague in Africa, Patriarch Theodore II of Alexandria. Theodore watched that the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) was setting up a new church province in Africa at the end of December. However, this is seen as the “canonical territory” of the Alexandria Patriarchate.

The reason for this was that 102 priests in Africa had conscientious objections against the decision of Theodore to recognise the autonomy of the Ukrainian OCU. That autonomy was granted in early 2019 by the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, the religious centre of the Orthodox Church family.

No Christan motives

Epiphanius, who was by the way diagnosed with Covid-19 last Saturday, speaks about a “lawless, wicked and impious” decision by the Moscow Patriarchate. The Metropolitan of Kyiv sees no “Christian motive” for it but thinks this is solely based on “revenge” against Theodore’s decision to recognise the Ukrainian church.

Epiphanius says that Ukrainians had never experienced anything else from Moscow other than inappropriate actions for centuries. He refers to “invasions” from Moscow into Kyiv’s church territory that started in the 17th century and still go on. Only the autonomy given in 2019 blocked these actions.

He even says that the Moscow Patriarchate has been trying to create for itself the “equivalent of a Catholic Pope and turn Orthodoxy itself into an ethnocentric Russian sect”. This is a sensitive point in the Orthodox world since these churches aim to work together as equals instead of working under central governance, as the Roman Catholic Church.

US is critical of Russia

The American State Department said in a statement that the Kremlin is using the church for its political goals. A spokesperson said: “Russia is engaged in covert and overtly malicious attempts to instrumentalise Orthodox identity to promote its own geopolitical interests, with the support of certain Orthodox Churches and other leaders, while undermining other Churches.”

The Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sergey Lavrov, said he sees the hand of the Americans in the crisis in Orthodoxy, Ria Novosti reports. According to Mr Lavrov, diplomats are supposed not to interfere with church issues. But the Americans would have financed specific programs in the Constantinople Patriarchate that led to the so-called autocephaly of the Ukrainian church.



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