The pandemic may be the main topic of discussion, especially because of Easter, and the focus is on what will happen with of the churches and the possible gatherings of believers in the churchyards during the Holy Week. However, there is another huge crisis at the heart of Orthodoxy which will most likely reach its peak immediately after curbing the coronavirus pandemic with the “post-coronavirus” reality.
The theological dimensions of the crisis are inherent in the broader, prehistoric, political and geostrategic goals and competition for domination in the Orthodox world. There is a conflict between the Greek-speaking part of Orthodoxy, which is both historically and theologically dominant, and the Slavic-speaking/Russian-speaking part of Orthodoxy, which, based on the population data, wants to take the religious helm and influence the wider developments to the fullest extent.
We are talking about a crisis, a “war” according to others, essentially, between the Patriarchate of Moscow and the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, behind which, according to those who know, the Kremlin and its aspirations lie – not always in an indirect way. It is an open conflict that takes place with interposed persons and representatives, inside and outside Orthodoxy, inside and outside Greece.
It is a conflict with tracer bullets or with direct shots and blows with the Ukrainian autocephaly being the cause so far. The “special” pilgrimage tourism of the Russian faithful is the “vehicle,” a multi-million business for the… church collection box and local communities. While Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, the ‘Foreign Minister of the Moscow Patriarchate,’ being the orchestrator of this supposed “theological strategy with geopolitical tentacles, economic implications and a lot of money,” as a high authority says. It is a ‘war,’ as it seems, with even the succession of Archbishop Ieronymos and the election of the new head of the Church of Greece being a “battlefield,” whenever it takes place.
In this context, within the Church of Greece, and despite the Holy Synod being the first to decide on the recognition of the Ukrainian autocephaly – a decision that came after the relevant proposals of the relevant synodal committees proposed by Archbishop Ieronymos himself – according to information, “a (pro-Russian) bloc is to be established, even within the Hierarchy, that is, the “heart of Orthodoxy,” while attacking Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and that Phanar, which is the “soul of Orthodoxy.”
There are various ongoing processes towards the aforementioned direction: the election of the Metropolitan who will guide this effort, as well as his counterparts, religious “lieutenants and captains,” who will undertake individual “dynamic enterprises,” with the aim of further harming the current Archbishop of Athens, who sided with Bartholomew from the very start in the Ukrainian autocephaly, and especially the Ecumenical Patriarch. These people can be found within the Holy Synod – in addition to those who have “undertaken relevant television contracts” for a long time – who will attempt, from the pulpit or via the media (in return for what?), to orientate the congregation “to the North.”
More than 35 Metropolitans, including Metropolitans of Nafpaktos, of Langadas, of Goumenissa, of Peristeri, of Kastoria, of Ioannina, of Korinthos, of Maroneia, of Veroia, of Hydra, of Ierissos and many others, have already referred explicitly to the pressure, even blackmail, exerted by ecclesiastical circles from Russia.
There are more Metropolitan who join the chorus of this potential “pro-Russian” bloc within the Hierarchy arising from the same ecclesiastical circles: the “conservative” Metropolitans, such as Metropolitan Seraphim of Kythira, who opened the churches amid the coronavirus outbreak, Metropolitan Kosmas of Aitolia and Akarnania, who called the faithful to “normally receive the Holy Communion because Christ does not transmit diseases,” Metropolitan Andreas of Dryinoupolis and Konitsa, Metropolitan Germanos of Ilia, Metropolitan Nektarios of Corfu, who, despite the experts’ instructions and the prime minister’s address, urged the faithful to issue a false certificate in order to come to the church. It is worth noting the ambiguous position of Metropolitan Chrysostomos of Patras, who, on the one hand, favor the “diplomatic route” with the Patriarchate of Moscow through the transfer of the relics, and, on the other hand, he takes an oath of allegiance to the Phanar.
Metropolitan Nikolaos of Mesogaia is in the same bloc, who, in the context of the preventive measures related to the church attendance, claimed that even under state atheism the Divine Liturgy had never been forbidden, knowing that this was not the issue. Although “educated in the USA,” the Metropolitan seems to have “developed a close relationship with Moscow,” thus claiming that, as regards the Ukrainian autocephaly, “the risk is great, so let’s decide when the conditions are right.”
In fact, for these hierarchs, the issue is also wrapped in an “ideological” cloak, as, it is said, they believe that the Patriarchate of Constantinople is based on the ecumenism and, therefore, they want to be closer to the more Orthodox Moscow, and to roots and the writings of the “pure” Eastern Orthodoxy.
The same synodal circles also recall the statement of Panos Kammenos, who, in December 2019, speaking at a scientific conference of the Institute of Geopolitical Studies (sic) on geopolitical developments in the eastern Mediterranean, openly attacked the Hierarchy, claiming that “the Archbishop and the Hierarchs of the Holy Synod committed a crime when they first recognized the illegal Church of Ukraine before the other Patriarchates did so.” With blatant geopolitical aspirations, he added: “The decision made to be liked by the Phanar and to give in to the pressure from some American circles has put Russia against us. Russia lifts the guarantees on non-occupation of any Greek island based on the accords concluded with Russia.” However, Metropolitan Doretheos of Syros sent a clear message to all, “The Church of Greece is neither threatened by anyone, nor blackmailed by anyone, nor accepted orders, nor manipulated.”
*The article was published in Phileleftheros released on April 11