Church economy: Who will finance Ukraine's autocephalous church?

Author : Oleksiy Kushch

Source : 112 Ukraine

Fusion of church and state through hidden informal channels takes place, especially in countries where civil society institutions are either suppressed or are in the anarcho-archaic stage
10:11, 4 June 2018

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As you know, the church in Ukraine is separated from the state – the Constitution says so. For some time, this "separation" was observed at least formally. The members of the Synod did not tell the deputies how to vote, and those, in turn, abstained from advice on how to "thurify" the best. The Metropolitan did not ask the president to grant any territory a special status, and the president did not play "status games" with the church.

But at the present time, the fusion of church and state through hidden informal channels takes place. Especially in countries where civil society institutions are either suppressed (RF) or in the anarcho-archaic stage (Ukraine). In such conditions, the leaders of the nation refer their imperious exaltation to the mercy of God.

Related: Polish Orthodox Church calls for observing canonical norms in matter of Ukrainian Church autocephaly

In April of this year, after a meeting with the heads of parliamentary factions, President Petro Poroshenko stated that he intended to appeal to the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to recognize the autocephaly of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. A few days later, the Verkhovna Rada issued the statement, which only repeated two previous treatment from two years ago. It is noteworthy that neither during the meeting of the president with the deputies nor during the discussion in the parliament, was there any representative presence of the church. Although such an important event meant holding at least parliamentary hearings, not to mention the cathedrals of Orthodox churches that could consider the issue of autocephaly and draw up their appeals to the Ecumenical Patriarch. What does it say? First of all, that the idea was "lowered to the bottom", and not vice versa. The most ardent supporters of autocephaly of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, as a rule, were explicit atheists or representatives of other faiths.

Nevertheless, the signal was given, and "grace" flew on the air. Experts, who yesterday confused a thermos and a Tomos, began to zealously discuss whether Patriarch would allow the autocephaly of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Even the acting chief health officer, Uliana Suprun, noted a selfie with Patriarch Bartholomew at the Istanbul airport, they say, we are working on autocephaly.

Related: Ukrainian Church expresses protest over Moscow's intervention in obtaining autocephaly

The church economy today is a kind of "thing-in-itself", something that you do not see, but it still exists. Replying to the question of the principles of building the ecclesiastical economy, one familiar expert on church history said that "the priest does not have the change." Creation of an autocephalous church without an economic foundation is impossible. Today there are several Orthodox churches in Ukraine, each of them is financed in different ways, including by various political forces and business circles. Economically, these churches depend too little on the believers. Consequently, they are forced to move in the context of both the spiritual and the political mainstream. This is also their spiritual stability: the need to flirt with the believers makes it impossible to indiscriminately support any action of power, and consequently, life inside the churches is still existing. The relationship between the believers and the clergy, but does not stop, however, it has weakened. Creation of an autocephalous church under such conditions will inevitably lead to the emergence of a new ecclesiastical structure, looped to the state. In addition, the autocephalous church, fulfilling the functions of national-state construction "in the world", can no longer depend on any one party. Otherwise, it will be party autocephaly, and the participation of the church in public life will only distort the electoral process in favor of the main sponsor.

Thus, the main question is, who will finance the autocephalous church, if it really is an all-Ukrainian structure that unites the main Orthodox parishes? Not the parishioners, of course. Today's ordinary parishioner can finance only a small fraction of the costs. But after all, the autocephalous church will immediately be given additional functions: educational, patriotic, and social. Only if all these options are fulfilled, an autocephalous church may appear in the country.

But for this, the autocephalous church should receive part of the existing economic system in "temporary use".

Related: We are not afraid: Poroshenko on Russia’s threats over possible Ukrainian church autocephaly

In the Russian Federation, the income structure of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) is as follows: 53% - income from the work of own enterprises, 39% - budgetary subsidies and sponsorship, mostly large businesses, 8% - income from the parishes. Even from this proportion, it can be seen that the ROC is a semi-autonomous economic entity (it depends on the existing model of income distribution in the economy) and on the second half the structure is dependent on the state. This explains why in Russia the church does not carry out deep social penetration, as did the "Muslim Brotherhood" in Egypt, distributing bread to the inhabitants of Cairo, opening mess halls for the homeless. If the Orthodox Church had made a social inversion, it could concentrate up to 40-50% of its population around itself and become the dominant political force in the country.

It is noteworthy how 8% of incomes from parishes are formed. More than 34 thousand parishes give 10-50% of their earnings to 293 dioceses, and those, in turn, give 15% to the highest structures of the ROC administration. At the beginning of the 2000s, the annual average income of the ROC was at least $ 500 million per year. Now, this amount is many times greater. In 2012-2015, the ROC received 225.05 million U.S. dollars in the form of state subventions, and 41 million U.S. dollars rubles were allocated annually for the needs of various church programs. For example, according to the "Culture of Russia" program, the church received 173.61 million U.S. dollars since 2012.

Today, the ROC has the trading houses, telecommunications companies, banks, industrial enterprises, construction firms, hotels. According to RBC, in 2012 to 2016, 270 new objects were registered in the immovable property registers in favor of the church. The church economy in Russia includes such segments of the real sector as the production of medicines, jewelry, rental business and even ritual services throughout the country. Among the areas of investment are innovative projects in Skolkovo and Rosnano.

Related: Why President Poroshenko trumpets the autocephalous church issue?

Cyprus has the somewhat different model of the functioning of the ecclesiastical economy, where, according to the statistical service, almost 90% of the population consider themselves Orthodox and only 4% do not attend divine services. The church economy in Cyprus is based on the fact that the church is one of the largest landowners on the island, and the land is the most expensive resource there. In addition, the church has a share in the tourism business. During the 2008 crisis, the Cyprus Orthodox Church decided to transfer some of its assets as collateral to the state's creditors, and sell part of it in order to invest the proceeds in Cyprus government bonds and help the country overcome the crisis. Before the election, all presidential candidates, including a representative of the Communist Party, meet with the Archbishop in Nicosia. As a rule, the one who sympathizes with the hierarchy wins.

As for the Armenian church, its role is enshrined in the Constitution, according to which "the Republic of Armenia recognizes the exceptional mission of the Armenian Apostolic Holy Church as a national church in the spiritual life of the Armenian people, in the development of its national culture, and preservation of national identity." The state renders substantial support to the church, in exchange it implements educational and socially significant projects and also pursues a policy of consolidating the Armenian diaspora in the political interests of Armenia around the world.

Related: Poroshenko addresses parliament to create Ukrainian autocephaly

Only in these countries, the role of the Orthodox Church extends not only to the spiritual part of the life of society but also to the spectra of national and state construction, including an essential political component. It is on this path that the Ukrainian Autocephalous Church will also have to go if it is created. All other autocephalous churches (Bulgaria, Serbia, Romania) are together with the state system in a state of homeostasis, that is, immobile self-regulation and dynamic equilibrium. These countries do not have an external factor that threatens the imbalance of the whole system, while Armenia and Azerbaijan have the Nagorno-Karabakh problem, Cyprus has Turkey and the problem of the northern part of the island. The Russian Federation has the entire Western world.

Thus, the development of ecclesiastical economy in a country that cannot boast of sustainable development might take place in case of the presence of a part of church economic assets in the overall structure of the economy; a systemic subsidy from the state; creating incentives for sponsorship from big business; the formation of special privileged conditions for conducting economic transactions by church enterprises. Only in this case will the autocephalous church be able to perform its social functions peculiar to it: educational, patriotic, diaspora-related (promotion of national interests in other countries).

Related: Parliament supports Poroshenko’s appeal on creation of Ukrainian autocephaly

It is important to take into account several important introductory notes. First, in a modern secularized world, parishioners can no longer maintain an autocephalous church at their own expense, but the church should have economic assets to help parishioners. The autocephalous church may be unrecognized, but it cannot be poor, otherwise, it will either be marginalized or reduced to a catacomb level. If the state does not have the tools to create a rich autocephalous church, then it is not necessary to begin this process, because these are not games for historical reconstruction.

If all these introductions can be secured, then the state can get a powerful ideological tool. Is it only necessary for Ukraine, in which the traditions of Orthodox brotherhoods and priests of the times of the Cossacks are strong? We have always had a bad experience of joining the church and the state, and there was also no religious leaven that always existed in Cyprus and in Armenia and which ripened there under the conditions of a constant Muslim threat.

Related: Holy Synod begins procedure of granting autocephaly to Ukrainian Orthodox Church

The creation of a police state, coupled with control over a single church, is the fifth element of political stability that has been tested in Russia. Its application in Ukraine is impossible. Moreover, we do not yet have free assets for the effective development of the ecclesiastical economy, as well as there are no sources for state subsidies. But there are territorial communities ready to finance their parishes. But you cannot build an autocephalous church on these resources. Even in terms of a church organization, in Ukraine, decentralization is more effective than any "democratic centralism".

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or 112.International and its owners.

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