The recognition of the Kyiv Church independence by the Patriarchate of Constantinople highlighted the fault lines in the Orthodox Christian world, which dates back to the 15th century. Even at that time, the Moscow Church called itself the third Rome, and this desire is in fact consistent with the ideas of the Kremlin, which has long wished to return Russia to the status of a world power. The teacher of the of Mimar Sinan University historical department, Professor İlyas Kemaloğlu follows the historical traces of this deep schism ...
With the recognition of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church by the Patriarchate of Constantinople, the process of independence of this church acquired a completely different dimension. The Russian Orthodox Church declared the Patriarchate of Constantinople to be schismatic. The Orthodox world has faced one of the biggest crises, not only in recent decades, but throughout its entire history. In addition, this crisis seems to affect political relations both between the countries involved and between some states in the region and in the world.
In reality, the struggle between Moscow and Constantinople in the religious sphere did not begin recently. This struggle dates back to the end of the 16th century, when the Moscow Church was elevated to the dignity of the patriarchate. Although the Patriarchate of Constantinople is considered the “first among equals” and even unofficially the “ecumenical patriarchy”, the fact that the majority of the Orthodox population lives in Russia and the Moscow Patriarchate has such a powerful state as Russia makes the Russian Orthodox Church very strong. The location of the Patriarchate of Constantinople on the territory of a Muslim country and the marriage of Russian Tsar Ivan III to the daughter of the last Byzantine emperor, Sofya (the niece of the last Byzantine emperor Constantine XI), were the factors that strengthened the status and position of Moscow, and Moscow starting from the XV century, declared itself the third Rome.
These claims of Moscow have always been preserved except, perhaps, only during the Soviet period. Since in Soviet times, religion was considered the most important obstacle to the spread of Soviet ideology, atheistic propaganda was launched, and all religious institutions, including the Russian Church, suffered great damage. Therefore, during this period, the influence of the Moscow Patriarchate decreased, and the Patriarchate of Constantinople, on the contrary, strengthened its position in the Orthodox world, which earlier was weakened with the conquest of Constantinople by the Turks. But over the past 27 years since the collapse of the USSR, the Moscow Patriarchate regained its former strength and influence. At the same time, we see that the influence and jurisdiction of the Russian Church unofficially spread over the post-Soviet space, and it took a new mission: to be a unifying element between the post-Soviet republics and to preserve the domination of Moscow in these territories in the religious sphere. But, like the Kremlin, the Russian Orthodox Church does not want to dwell on the status of "regional power." While the Kremlin is opposed to the unipolar world order of the United States, the Moscow Patriarchate does not want to recognize the Patriarchate of Constantinople as "the first among equals". One of the main indicators of this is the fact that the Moscow Patriarch Kirill did not participate in the Pan-Orthodox Council convened by Patriarch Bartholomew in 2016 on the island of Crete, which have been prepared for 55 years. Obviously, Kirill didn’t make all these decisions alone, because, like the previous patriarchs, he also has close relations with the Kremlin. Although in Russia religion is separated from the state, the history of the Russian church is intertwined with politics.
The Russian step against the independence of the Ukrainian church, the demonstrated reaction is entirely political in nature. Despite the tensions that exist today in relations between Russia and Ukraine, Russians and Ukrainians descend from the same race, and in such doctrines and projects of the Kremlin as the "Slavic Union," the "Orthodox Union," and "Third Rome" Ukraine plays an important role. After Russian land, the Slavic Orthodox population most of all lives in the territory of fraternal Ukraine. These ideas may never be realized, but this "unity" plays an important role in the existence of the Russian state, in maintaining the nationalist feelings of the people and, finally, in making it "feel special." Another reason why Moscow does not want to lose Ukraine is this: Russian history is closely intertwined with Ukraine. The first state of Russians was Kievan Rus, one of the first capitals was Kyiv, the first metropolis was established in Kyiv, Kyiv is considered the "mother of Russian cities" - all this and other things make Kyiv and Ukraine important from the point of view of Russian history and Russia's place in the Orthodox and Slavic world. Now, Moscow faces the risk of losing all this, while it made the Russian people believe that the “third Rome” will stand forever and will never fall.
At the same time, we can say that the position of the "opposite side" is also political. President of Ukraine Poroshenko, seeking to ensure the acquisition of an independent church, wants to sever all ties with Russia after Crimea joined the Russian Federation. This step can also be regarded as the strongest blow that Kyiv inflicts on Moscow. And the Patriarchate of Constantinople took the side of Ukraine. Because regardless of whether it recognizes such its right or, according to Moscow, acts outside the canonical field, this step of the Constantinople Patriarchate in any case harms its position and image in the Orthodox world. As noted above, despite the "equality" in the hierarchy, Constantinople has a special position. And now the Moscow Patriarchate, which unites more than half of the Orthodox population of the world, has severed all ties with Constantinople and accused the patriarch of splitting. In addition, the Orthodox in Russia also considered Constantinople to be an important religious center. Moreover, in recent years, the number of visits made by Orthodox believers in Russia with the aim of visiting Orthodox religious structures in Turkey has increased, or, in other words, religious tourism has even begun to develop.
Russians calls political step the recognition of the Ukrainian church by the Patriarchate of Constantinople, despite the fact that lately relations between the Moscow and Constantinople patriarchs were at a good level. Voicing this point of view, Russian experts proceed from several circumstances. First, this crisis comes at a time of tension in relations between Moscow and Athens. Secondly, the Patriarchate of Constantinople sent clergymen from the USA and Canada to Ukraine as representatives. And the Russian authorities openly say that the United States is behind this process, and their goal is to harm Russia's interests in the religious sphere, as well as in the political and economic spheres. According to those who wish to further confuse the problem, one of the reasons for this process is the desire to harm the Turkish-Russian relations, which, after the plane crash, again went up the mountain. Again, in this context, suggestions are being made that the Kremlin allegedly asked Ankara for support in this matter and called on the Turkish authorities to put pressure on the Patriarchate of Constantinople in order to force it to reconsider its move. At the same time, Ankara, on the agenda of which there are many internal and external problems, does not want to interfere in this matter.
As can be seen, this “religious” problem of the Orthodox world, which has its roots in the “historical” past, has a very multifaceted “political” dimension. And this creates a big obstacle in order to continue to solve the problem in a different way than now. Thus, the Orthodox world received a serious blow. After this step of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, the Russian Church decided to impose sanctions. The Moscow Patriarchate forbade not only its priests to hold services in the churches of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, but also their parishioners to pray in these churches. And most importantly, the Russian Orthodox Church declared Patriarch Bartholomew a "schismatic."
Against the background of these events, other churches will be forced, albeit implicitly, to support one of the parties. The Polish, Serbian, Antiochian churches are already taking the side of the Russian Church. Moreover, Russia also announced that it did not recognize the decisions of Constantinople, and the Russian Church will continue to remain in Ukraine. And this shows that the struggle and the redistribution of property between the churches in Ukraine will continue. In the long term, even if Ukraine acquires a “national church,” all this will further intensify the struggle in political and other spheres in this country, further aggravate Ukraine-Russia relations and, accordingly, negatively affect relations between Russia and the EU and the United States. In other words, it is impossible to say that any political or religious side of this problem will benefit. And while pointing to the West as the culprit of all problems is erroneous, the real fact is that this problem in the political sense will benefit the USA, and in the religious sense – it will benefit the Protestants and Catholics in Europe.
Read the original article at Karar