giovedì 3 febbraio 2022

Russian Church's strong areas in Africa & other Orthodox news

(Peter Anderson), which is an English-language website associated with the Sretensky Monastery in Moscow, has posted an article entitled, “Kenya: Overwhelming Majority Kisumu Diocese Priests Join Russian Church.”  (link)  Kisumu is the third largest city in Kenya and is located on the shores of Lake Victoria.  It is the seat of the Patriarchate of Alexandria’s Diocese of Kisumu and West Kenya.  The diocese is headed by one of the Patriarchate’s newest bishops, Bishop Marcos (Theodosi), who was born in  in Johannesburg to Greek Cypriot parents.  (link)  It appears that most of the parishes of the diocese are located in the countryside of West Kenya and not in Kisumu.

The operators of the Orthochristian website have direct communications with some African priests.  The article states:

According to the Russian Patriarchal Exarch in Africa, Metropolitan Leonid of Klin, the number of African priests who joined the Exarchate had already grown to 150 from the initial 102 as of early last week. And that number continues to steadily grow, the Metropolitan has said.   According to sources in Africa, a large number of those priests come from the Kisumu Diocese (Kenya) of the Patriarchate of Alexandria.  OrthoChristian was initially informed that 53 of the diocese’s 71 priests have joined the Moscow Patriarchate.  While that exact number is unconfirmed, several other sources on the ground have confirmed that an overwhelming majority of Kisumu priests have switched.  “Almost all the priests will switch to Moscow.  Very many priests are asking for the oath to sign,” writes one priest.   Another source reports: “I don't know how many, but yes, almost the entire diocese of Kisumu.”  During the writing of this article, another Kenyan priest told OrthoChristian that more than 60 Kisumu priests have joined the Russian Church.

As you may recall, Metropolitan Leonid, the Moscow Patriarchate’s exarch for Africa, signed a week ago 115 antimins (antimensions) for the parishes of the newly created Russian Exarchate in Africa.  It appears that perhaps half of these antimins were intended for parishes within the Kisumu Diocese.  This indicates that the strength of the Moscow Patriarchate may be concentrated in certain specific areas of Africa and is not evenly distributed among African clergy of the entire African continent.

The article explains that Bishop Marcos was the successor to Bishop Athanasius (a very beloved native African bishop who was only 48 years old when he died in January 2019 from a rare blood disease).  The article states: “The local clergy were frustrated that a greatly beloved African hierarch was replaced by a Greek bishop who took four months to visit the diocese.”  The article also pointed out that the Holy Synod of the Alexandrian Patriarchate had delayed nine months in appointing Marcos so that the priests of the diocese were without a local bishop for a year.  For me at least, this indicates that local discontent among the clergy, especially with respect to their relationship with their own bishop, may be a crucial factor in determining whether the clergy of a certain area will decide to come under the jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate.

Father Georgy Maksimov of the Synodal Missionary Department of the Moscow Patriarchate is now in the diocese of Kisumu distributing the antimensions signed by Metropolitan Leonid.  You can follow Father Georgy’s daily activities and the Russian activities in Africa generally at (link). This is a very active Facebook page with multiple postings every day.  On January 20, Father Georgy celebrated the Divine Liturgy with 24 African priests from the Kakamega and Vihiga districts (located northeast of Kisumu). (link)  It was the first Liturgy of the new exarchate in Africa.  Today, February 3, he is the town of Migori (south of Kisumu) to open an administrative center to coordinate clergy and humanitarian aid.  (See Facebook page)  While Father Georgy is working in Kenya, Father Andrei Novikov is working in Tanzania.  See Father Andrei’s biography at  (link).  On February 2, Father Andrei and 5 African priest celebrated the first Liturgy of the Exarchate in Tanzania at the Russian house in Dar es Salaam. The five priests were given their antimensions. (SeeFacebook)   The Alexandrian Patriarch now has no native African bishops in Tanzania after the transfer of Metropolitan Ieronymos to Uganda in January.

However, the Patriarchate of Alexandria ordained a native African, Archimandrite Chariton Musungai, as Metropolitan of Kananga (Democratic Republic of the Congo).  (link)  The position was previously held by a Greek.  According to, the remarks of the new metropolitan included the following:

He referred with regret to the predatory invasion of the Orthodox Church, to the regular jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Alexandria, emphasizing that they did not respect the sacrifices and efforts of so many missionaries who gave themselves for the evangelization of the Africans.  He promised that he would never become a second Judas Iscariot and would work with all his might, defending the rights and privileges of the Throne of Alexandria.  He will strive to inspire and teach the clergy and the people of his diocese and especially the young people that they must have devotion, trust and respect to the ancient Patriarchate of Alexandria and all Africa, the mother Church of the African continent.

In other news, Izvestia posted on January 29 a significant interview by its reporter of Patriarch Theophilos of Jerusalem.  (link)  When asked about “the issue of overcoming the schism caused by the signing of the tomos on autocephaly of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine,” the Patriarch stated in part:

I have long believed that communication provides the best solution to our biggest problems.  In the Orthodox Churches, it is vital that we continue to meet each other in a spirit of Christian love and brotherhood and discuss issues that too easily divide us.  By living hospitably and sharing everything, we invite the Holy Spirit to unite us.  I have been very encouraged by the leaders' willingness to meet and look forward to more opportunities to share my thoughts with them in the coming months.

Much of the Russian media has construed these remarks to mean that Theophilos plans to call a second Amman-type meeting.  However, these remarks are not totally clear and could also refer to a meeting called by the Ecumenical Patriarch with the primates of Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem, and Cyprus to discuss the Moscow Patriarchate’s actions in Africa.  At this meeting, Theophilos could also share his thoughts with respect to Ukraine.  We will simply have to wait to see what develops.  In the interview, Theophilos also had some kind words about Pope Francis.  He stated: “He is an inspiring leader and true friend to many of us around the world.  He is also a shining example of true Christian leadership in a diverse and divided world. “

The Razumkov Centre in Kyiv has published its report on “Religion and Church in Ukrainian Society in 2020-2021.”  The Centre has published similar reports since 2000.  This report, financed with the support of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, is available both in Ukrainian and English.  The entire English-language report, which runs 127 pages, can be accessed at (link) . The report reached some interesting, and sometimes surprising, results.

At page 42, there is a graph showing the specific church to which respondents who identify themselves as Orthodox belong.  It shows both the results for the current 2021 survey and for the previous survey in 2020.  The most significant changes from 2020 to 2021 are that the “Just Orthodox” decreased approximately 10% while the OCU increased by approximately 10% (see below).

2021  OCU 40.6%      UOC-MP  20.1%       UOC-KP  4.5%     Just Orthodox 33.0%      Don’t know  1.9%

2020  OCU 29.8%      UOC-MP  21.7%       UOC-KP  3.7%     Just Orthodox  43.3%     Don’t know  1.5%    

How does one reconcile the 2021 finding that twice as many respondents stated that they belonged to the OCU as compared to the UOC-MP when the UOC-MP undisputedly has far more parishes and priests than the OCU?  One explanation might be that the survey includes those who consider themselves Orthodox but who seldom go to church.   On page 46 of the survey, it shows that 25.8% of those who identify with the OCU state that they are members of a “certain religious community (parish),” while 36.1 % of the those who identified with the UOC-MP stated that they are members of a certain community (parish).    This provides a partial explanation for the difference.  If one considers only those respondents that state that they are members of a certain community (parish), the members of the OCU are only 44% more numerous rather than twice as numerous.  If one considers only those who regularly support the church financially (see page 56), the OCU would only be 32% more numerous than the UOC-MP.  Another possible explanation for the discrepancy between the number of parishes and the survey results is that there may be respondents who identify with the OCU but go to a parish of the UOC-MP because of convenience and other factors.  It should also be remembered that the survey only covered geographic areas that are under the present control of Ukraine.  If one includes the Crimea and certain areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, the figures for the UOC-MP would doubtlessly improve somewhat further.  

I found most surprising the results on page 65 to the question, “Do you trust the following hierarchs of churches?”  The following (I trust him % / I don’t trust him %) are some of the answers to this question:

Epifany                   OCU  79.9/2.8       UOC-MP  44.7/34.8       Simply Orthodox  44.4/7.5

Onufry                    OCU  33.3/44.4     UOC-MP  70.7/7.0         Simply Orthodox  34.1/15.8

Kirill                        OCU 15.4/54.7      UOC-MP  50.4/20.9       Simply Orthodox 20.6/29.3

Bartholomew       OCU 41.3/10.0      UOC-MP  37.4/22.2       Simply Orthodox 28.3/9.8

With respect to those who identify with the UOC-MP, 44.7% trust Epifany while 34.8% do not trust him.  Similarly, there is greater trust than distrust of Bartholomew among those who identify with the UOC-MP.  Among those who identify with the OCU, one-third trust Onufry.  If all of this is true, our preconceptions and stereotypes may be faulty.  Other interesting findings can be read at page 115 (how various age groups “feel” -positive or negative- about the OCU and the UOC-MP) and at page 124 (tensions between various churches in the respondent’s area).

I have been interested in seeing what the reaction of the UOC-MP has been to this Razumkov report.  So far the UOC-MP seems to be treating it as a serious report, and not as propaganda.  The very pro-Moscow Union of Orthodox Journalists in Kyiv has a positive article about the report’s finding of increased church attendance and provides a link to the complete report. (link) A metropolitan of the UOC-MP participated in a roundtable sponsored by the Centre to discuss the report. (link) So far, I have not seen any allegation that the report was not professionally done. 

Peter Anderson, Seattle USA