More than three years after his unsuccessful attempt to keep the Serbian Church away from the Pan-Orthodox Council of Crete by leading it to a specific group of the Church of Russia, Metropolitan Irinej of Backa launched an unprecedented attack on Ecumenical Patriarchate by accusing it of temptation of papacy.
In an interview with the Serbian magazine “Печат” (Pečat), the Metropolitan accused the Phanar of attempting, on the dictates of the United States, to disrupt the Orthodox Church. He claimed once again that the Ecumenical Patriarchate had a “primacy of honour”, while the Jerusalem Patriarchate had a “primacy of grace”, as it was it the “Mother Church”. He said, “If the Ecumenical Patriarch does not want to convene a meeting, there are others who might want to.”
Metropolitan Irinej of Backa added, “The initiative [of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem] is literally divine inspiration and salvation. Our Church has consistently and unequivocally supported this idea since the crisis started. Most churches are in favour. The problem is that the Patriarch of Constantinople refuses to convene such a meeting, knowing that he will not have a majority vote. Some Greek-speaking Churches – in Greece and Cyprus, for example – do not want to participate in a Pan-Orthodox meeting that has not been convened by the Ecumenical Patriarch, as he is the First in Orthodox Churches. I personally find such an attitude unjustified. It is quite simple: if he doesn’t want to convene a meeting, there might be someone else who wants to do it! I must point out that none of the Ecumenical Councils of the past, two of which took place in Constantinople, was led by the Patriarch of Constantinople”.
Moreover, he reiterated the arguments of the Moscow Patriarchate that the Ecumenical Patriarch, the Patriarch of Jerusalem, and the Archbishop of Greece took the decision on the Ukrainian autocephaly issue at the instigation of the United States.
He said, “American officials visit Orthodox Hierarchs and openly urge them to support the Patriarchate of Constantinople in order to provoke the ‘collapse’ of the structure and canonical order of the Orthodox Church. It seems that their targets have been met since the Patriarchate of Alexandria and the Church of Greece recognised the non-canonical ‘Church of Ukraine’. Unfortunately, there might be other local Churches to support them as well.”
He continued, “Greed is the only religion [of the powerful]. The truth is that they, regardless of their power and wealth, could not create such a crisis in the Orthodox world if they did not have the appropriate ‘insiders’, that is partners who are hungry for more power.”
It remains to be seen which will be the stance of the Patriarch Irinej of Serbia and whether he agrees or not with Metropolitan of Backa, who is underestimating the important role of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the way the Orthodox Church operates. However, the Serbian Church has not made until now any public statement on the initiative of the Patriarch of Jerusalem.