giovedì 25 agosto 2022

Reciprocal cancellation by Kirill & actions by Russian Synod

(Peter Anderson)
As has been widely reported by the media, Metropolitan Anthony of Volokolamsk, the new head of the Department of External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate, has stated in an interview by RIA Novosti that Patriarch Kirill will not be attending the VII Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions to be held in Nur Sultan, Kazakhstan, September 14-15. (link) There had been previous reliable reports that Patriarch Kirill had indeed accepted an invitation to attend.  See (link); (link) (Patriarch confirmed his attendance in a meeting with the Kazakhstan ambassador on May 1).  Therefore, this is not simply a decision not to attend, but a cancellation of a prior commitment to attend.  On August 1, the Vatican had officially announced that the Pope would be attending the Congress. (link) On August 2, the Vatican had announced the details of the Pope’s visit including a general reference to “private meetings with various religious leaders.” (link) Metropolitan Anthony had a long meeting with Pope Francis on August 5, and nothing was said by either side after the meeting that the Patriarch would not be going to Kazakhstan.  It is my personal opinion that the primary reason for the Pope attending the Congress in the first place was the prospect of a meeting with Patriarch Kirill.

In the interview Metropolitan Anthony also referred to the previous plans for the Patriarch and Pope to meet in Jerusalem on June 14, 2022.  In this regard, the Novosti article states:  “First of all, I would like to note that quite recently, preparations were underway for the second meeting of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Rus' and Pope Francis.  The first such meeting took place, as is known, in February 2016 in Havana, Cuba.  However, this spring, to our deep surprise, the Vatican unilaterally publicly announced that preparations for the meeting were suspended and that the meeting itself would not take place," Metropolitan Anthony recalled.  The Pope had first announced his intention not to meet with Patriarch Kirill in Jerusalem in an interview with Argentine newspaper La Nación that was posted on April 22.  Immediately afterwards, Metropolitan Hilarion had issued a face-saving explanation:  The events of the last two months forced us to make adjustments to the plans and postpone the meeting.  Too many difficulties would arise right now in its preparation.  This concerns security, logistics, and public coverage of the meeting.  We will wait for a more favorable time for this event. (link) Now, the candid answer of Metropolitan Anthony acknowledges that the cancellation by Pope Francis was unilateral and caused “deep surprise” on the part of the Moscow Patriarchate.  Perhaps, the sudden cancellation by Patriarch Kirill of his attendance at the Congress has an element of “tit for tat.”

For a meeting to occur, Metropolitan Anthony stressed that it “should be most carefully prepared, its agenda must be agreed upon, its resultant document must be thought out in advance.”  In this regard, he referred to the final document issued by Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill at the conclusion of their Havana meeting in February 2016.  In my opinion, any final document prepared at this time would need to include the subject of Ukraine, and agreement on the terms of such a document would be very difficult to achieve.  If agreement on a joint document is a condition for a future meeting between the Patriarch and the Pope, such a meeting in the near future is highly unlikely. The cancellation of the Patriarch’s attendance at the Congress is probably a relief to many in Ukraine who oppose any meeting between the Pope and Patriarch.  The cancellation will also lessen the pressure on Pope Francis to visit Ukraine prior to the trip to Kazakhstan.

Today, August 25, the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate met in Moscow.  The minutes of the meeting have been posted at (link).  Four of the participants were physically present while the remainder participated by video link.  There is nothing in the minutes concerning the resignation of Metropolitan Onufry of Kyiv and All Ukraine (his resignation is reported at  (link), and there is no identification of those who participated by video link. 

In Journal entry 62, the Holy Synod decided to “recognize the Macedonian Orthodox Church - the Archdiocese of Ohrid as an autocephalous Sister Church and inscribe the name of its Primate, His Beatitude Archbishop Stefan of Ohrid and Macedonia, in the sacred diptychs.”  The preface to the resolution includes the following recital:

On June 5, 2022, at the Cathedral Church of St. Michael the Archangel in Belgrade, His Holiness Patriarch Porfirije of Serbia and His Beatitude Archbishop Stefan of Ohrid and Macedonia celebrated the Divine Liturgy, co-served by the hierarchs of the Serbian Orthodox Church and the Macedonian Orthodox Church — Ohrid Archdiocese.  At the end of the Liturgy, His Holiness Patriarch Porfirije, fulfilling the decision of the Council of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church, solemnly presented His Beatitude Archbishop Stefan of Ohrid and Macedonia with the Tomos, confirming the autocephaly of the Macedonian Orthodox Church - the Ohrid Archdiocese.  His Holiness Patriarch Porfirije of Serbia informed His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Rus' about the event in a letter dated August 8, 2022, expressing his wish and request to the Russian Orthodox Church “that you also accept the completely canonical Church already mentioned as the youngest sister autocephalous Orthodox Church, setting an example in this way for the rest of the Local Orthodox Churches.”

This is an interesting development as Archbishop Stefan has made it very clear that he did not consider the document presented to him on June 5 as a tomos of autocephaly and that such a document can only be issued by the Ecumenical Patriarchate. (link) Also this represents a change of strategy by the Serbian Orthodox Church.  On June 5 Patriarch Porfirije stated: “In order for this to manifest itself formally, we are obliged to send our decision to other local Churches, so that each, according to the canonical order, can express its position….” (link) Thus, it appears that Patriarch Porfirije has appealed to the Russian Church in his letter of August 8 prior to receiving the “position” of any of the Local Orthodox Churches that are higher in the canonical order than Russia, namely Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem.  At least there has been no news of the higher patriarchates taking any action on a Serbian letter.

In Journal entry 66, the Holy Synod decided that the future Bishops’ Council will continue to be postponed due to the international situation and that the Holy Synod would consider the matter again at its December meeting.  In Journal entry 87, paragraph 4, there is the following entry: “Satisfy the request of Archpriest Nikolai Balashov to be relieved of the post of Deputy Chairman of the Department for External Church Relations, expressing gratitude to him for his work, and bless him to continue his activities in the field of external church relations as an adviser to the Patriarch of Moscow and All Rus.”  The Orthodox commentator, Sergei Chapnin, had reported in his Facebook page a few days after the decision transferring Metropolitan Hilarion to Budapest, that Father Nikolai had submitted his resignation to Patriarch Kirill. (link)  In my opinion the resignation of Father Nikolai is sad news.  There are also other interesting items in the minutes.

Lastly, a good friend has kindly submitted to me an exact translation of Metropolitan Hilarion’s video remarks concerning his presence at the death of Metropolitan Kallistos.  See (link) It is much more complete and better than the version which I used in my report yesterday.  The correct translation is as follows:  “Dear Brothers and Sisters.  On the night of 23-24 August 2022, Metropolitan Kallistos of Diokleia passed away at his home in Oxford in his 88th year.  I was with him for the last two days of his earthly life.  On the morning of 23 August, I celebrated the Divine Liturgy at his bedside.  He received the Holy Sacrament of Christ in full consciousness and with great gratitude.  A few hours later he fell into a state of coma and he died at 1:00 in the night on 24 August.  Together with Father Stephen Platt, the Rector of the Diocese of Sourozh of the Russian Orthodox Church in Oxford, and some people close to Metropolitan Kallistos, I celebrated the first Panikhida.  May God grant his faithful servant rest where there is no sickness, no sorrow, no grief, but eternal life.  It is incumbent upon all of us to pray for Metropolitan Kallistos who has just passed away.”  The English website of the Moscow Patriarch has also mentioned the presence of Metropolitan Hilarion at the death of Metropolitan Kallistos including giving him communion. (link) However, the Russian website has now been modified so as to refer simply to visits by Hilarion without further details. (link) For another very nice tribute to Metropolitan Kallistos, I would recommend the following article by Archdeacon John Chryssavgis, a well-known student of the deceased. (link)  Funeral arrangements have not yet been announced by the Archdiocese of Thyateira & Great Britain (Ecumenical Patriarchate).

Peter Anderson, Seattle USA