by Andreas Loudaros*
Historically, the Church of Constantinople is the only Church that has the right to set up new Autocephalous Churches because of the inability to convene an Ecumenical Council. With the exception of the Church of Cyprus and, of course, all the Ancient Patriarchates, all other Autocephalous Churches and Patriarchates were “born” in Constantinople.
For the first time in the history of the Eastern Orthodox Church, that was about to change when the Phanar took the decision – deemed as astonishing even today – to share that prerogative with the other Churches.
Simply put, by that time the issue of autocephaly was handled exclusively by the Phanar without the slightest consent of other Churches. Under the new regulation, the Phanar had to obtain their consensus. Eventually, the Tomos of Autocephaly would be issued by consensus not only of the Ecumenical Patriarchate but also of all the other Churches and Patriarchates.
However, by that time Constantinople was “giving birth” and had to “introduce” the new sister Church to the Orthodox family. From now on, under the new system, the family’s consensus had to precede the birth.
Now it is time to talk about the signature process. The final text foresaw that the Patriarchal Tomos would be issued by the Phanar with the signature of the Ecumenical Patriarch, as has been the case for centuries, and for the first time, the other primates could also subscribe.
Based on the above-mentioned agreement, the Tomoi issued after this regulation would have been as follows: The Patriarch of Constantinople decides, the Patriarch of Alexandria jointly decides, the Patriarch of Antioch jointly decides, and so on.
And it was there that a historic agreement has been consigned to the wastepaper bin. Even though everyone had reached an agreement, Moscow disagreed on how to sign it. The Russian Church did not want the differentiation of the Ecumenical Patriarch over the others. The Russian Church proposed that all signatures should be equal without distinguishing the signature of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. The reason is clear, I think. We do not need any explanation.
So, this would have been the new way of granting autocephaly if Moscow had consented. Since this has not happened on this occasion, the old way remained.
Why do I have to remind you of this old story?
It is evident that the so-called “battle” Moscow is fighting so intensely for Ukraine is a smokescreen, which is being used as a very cleverly camouflaged “siege” of Constantinople.
In the context of the current situation we have in the Orthodox Church for decades, the new regulation would make it nearly impossible for Ukraine to achieve autocephaly. There would never be the necessary pan-orthodox consensus required by the regulation and the issue of autocephaly will be nothing more than an unsatisfied demand. In the centuries of centuries…
But why did Moscow not agree? Why did it undermine this effort which was the only way to solve its problem once and for all? Would it be because Ukraine is not the real problem?
If we look at the facts as they are, the answer becomes clear: obviously not! The problem of the Russian Church is not Kiev but Constantinople. After having given priority to the questioning of the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s rights and prerogatives, Moscow preferred to sacrifice Kiev rather than even acknowledge a “modified” prerogative to Constantinople. Even though this prerogative made the Russian Church an Autocephalous Church and Patriarchate.
That is why the Russian Church used the Ukrainian issue to challenge other prerogatives once and for all, such the right to hear appeals, even the mere reference to “Ecumenical Patriarchate.”
Pressures on the other Churches not to recognise the Church of Ukraine and its primate, in fact, target the Throne of Constantinople and its prerogatives. My point is that: the construction or deconstruction of the Third Rome passes through Kiev.
*The article was originally published in Greek by orthodoxia.info