Constantinople comes into conflict with Ankara

Daniel Bootman
5 min readJul 24, 2018

Will the bloody and tragic split of Orthodoxy come? The Christian studies embracement became one of the major events in the history of our country which substantially has predetermined Russia’s future.

It was in far 988th year when Prince Vladimir converted to Christianity with the bodyguard at walls of ancient Korsun (Tauric Chersonese) and then christened the residents of Kiev in waters of the Dnieper. Paying tribute to the great governor, the date of the Christianization of Kievan Rus’ is intended to be Equal Apostles Prince Vladimir’s memorial day which is on July 28 on new style. It isn’t difficult to count up that the Orthodox world will celebrate the 1030th anniversary of this major religious and historical event this year. Unfortunately, some political forces try to use the anniversary for immediate vested interests’ realization.

In April, 2018 the president of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko, the Verkhovna Rada and two apocryphal church structures — the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyivan Patriarchate and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church have appealed to the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to consider a question of “Ukrainian united local church” creation and granting the autocephaly to it, that is the independence of the Moscow patriarchy.

Petro Poroshenko has declared in that regard: “Today Ukraine is very close to emergence of own Autocephalous Local Orthodox Church. I hope this decision will be made prior to the 1030th anniversary of the Christianization of Kievan Rus’ — Ukraine”.

Earlier the Ukrainians addressed to the Ecumenical Patriarch with similar petition. However, according to well- informed sources, they really can receive the church hierarchy consent from Istanbul this time.

The Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew has adopted the appeal of the Ukrainian authorities and gave a hint that Constantinople: “… didn’t recognize the branches of the Kiev Metropolitan Church and its dependent Orthodox Churches of Lithuania and Poland and their accession to the Moscow Church, that has been carried out against canons …”.

Having confirming the spirit gravity of the Ecumenical Patriarch, his representatives have arrived to Moscow, who have held the closed meeting with St. Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia Kirill. The Patriarch’s press secretary Alexander Volkov has refused to tell the negotiations details to journalists: “This meeting is outside of official public service of the Patriarch, it is closed”.

At the same time, the press secretary didn’t begin to deny that the Ukrainian autocephaly was the main agenda item. As for the Russian Orthodox Church’s position on this issue, according to Volkov, lately it “hasn’t undergone any changes and the autocephaly granting to the church apocryphal structures, operating in the territory of Ukraine, is an absurd and will have the most negative consequences for all world Orthodoxy”.

All given facts demonstrate that there are no chances of autocephaly to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

The most probable scenario is the tension growth in the orthodox community of Ukraine.

Apparently, the considerable part of parishioners from east regions of the country won’t make the decision on autocephaly and will keep loyalty to the Moscow Patriarchy. On the other hand, it is very probable the most tenacious defenders of autocephaly will claim the property now belonging to the Moscow Patriarchy.

As the events of the 90th of the 20th century have shown, it almost inevitably will lead to the new conflicts between supporters and opponents of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church separation from the Moscow Patriarchy. Besides, the autocephaly announcement will become the real gift for radicals on both sides of the front in the east of Ukraine. Political slogans will receive additional religious coloring. For certain, there will be those who try to turn opposition on Donbass into “war for faith” that will make the conflict in the Ukrainian society absolutely insuperable.

The main and obvious beneficiary of similar development is Petro Poroshenko who, for certain,will try to apply the autocephaly decision as a political trump card in fight for a presidency in 2019 year. The USA will benefit from it and will receive the additional leverage upon Russia through contradictions starting between the Orthodox believers of Eastern Europe.

The Ukrainian people, Russia and the church hierarchy of Constantinople are the main losers. It is no secret that Ukraine’s autocephaly isn’t favorable to the Moscow Patriarchy and Russia in general.

Growth of religious opposition in Ukraine is categorically not necessary to the Kremlin as it objectively weakens the positions of Russia in the Orthodox world, involving it in new conflicts. However, Russia can’t leave the supporters and brothers in faith in Ukraine.

For this reason, whether the Russian authorities want or not, but they should join the Ukrainian religious political processes more actively. However, if the situation creates only new risks for Russia, then it can turn back a real crash for Ukraine. For the sake of immediate political benefit, the Kiev officials involve the Ukrainian people in new civil opposition instead of society conciliation.

However, the biggest puzzle in this story is the position of church hierarchy of Constantinople. The environment of the Ecumenical Patriarch can be at no loss that autocephaly of Ukraine will start the largest conflict in the Orthodox World since the Union.

The relations of Moscow and Constantinople will enter the deepest crisis, the consequence of which is hardly foreseen. I wouldn’t like to think the Patriarch Bartholomew wishes to be one of the key authors of a new large-scale religious and political conflict.

Really, is the favor of the weak Ukrainian president worth to turn the world’s largest Orthodox power against himself?

Apparently, what the probable recognition of the Ukrainian autocephaly, conflict between Moscow and Constaninople, Turkish president have in common?

To put it mildly, Recep Tayyip Erdogan doesn’t go mad about the activity of the Patriarch Bartholomew for a long time, in particular, his role in failed military coup in 2016. Also the Patriarch of Ecumenical Church Bartholomew I of Constantinople was among the suspects.

The daily newspaper Aksam has told about “triad” which has prepared a plot against the legitimate Turkish government: preacher Gülen, CIA and… Constantinople Patriarchy.

Though the patriarchy had also refuted the suggestions, however, Recep Erdogan felt really bad, undoubtedly.