Tuesday, February 09, 2016

A Game of Thrones

I was rather pleased that the Holy Father is at last meeting the Patriarch of Moscow in Cuba. During previous Pontificates this has simply not been countenced by Moscow.

Russia Orthodox friends think it will good to sort out the problem with the Ukranians and the 'Uniates'. Ukranians and Greek Rite Catholics in Communion with Rome are a bit more wary. The Greek Orthodox are perhaps more anxious, I think that many are concerned with anything that Moscow does. As a Cypriot friend said Pope Francis must realise "Moscow might well affirm the Symbols of the Ecumenical Councils of the Church but the primary creed of the patriarchate is: first Rome has fallen, second Rome has fallen and Moscow is the New Rome". It is worth asking why is it Moscow now feels a meeting is felicitous. What does Moscow gain?

A great deal has been happening in the Orthodox world in the build up to the expected Pan-Orthodox Council which should happen later this year around Pentecost. Non-Russian Orthodox are a little concerned that the Church and the Putin Government are working hand-in-hand  to further Russian interests, not only in the Orthodox world but also in former Russian territory, not only in the Ukraine built also in the Baltic and the Balkans, in Asia and even in the Americas; Cuba, a former Russian dependency is perhaps so neutral a meeting place.
Tsaro-Patriarchism is so dead in Russia as is Caesaro-Papalism in the West. Putin has used the Holy Russia narrative to rebuild post-Communist Russia, giving identity and roots that go beyond the 1917 Revolution and the Communist era. In many ways he seems to be now using the Orthodox Church on an international level, the old alliance between Russia and Syria to protect Christians is but one example

Pope Francis at times seems to be an astute politician cloaked in naivety in the meeting in Cuba he will meet with Patriarch Kirill who will be backed up by the whole apparatus of the Russian State.
For many Greeks the Pan-Orthodox Council is primarily about a game of thrones. Whose throne is higher or more central or more directly before the icon of Christ is of importance. The real question is has Moscow indeed taken the place of Second Rome? One instance is where, in practice and in fact, is the Russian Patriarch on the table of Orthodox precedence (see below).

Some might argue that Constantinople, apart from the honour and political support given it by the Catholic Church and the West has indeed virtually disappeared. There are less than 3,000 Orthodox living in the Istanbul, there are far more Catholics, and even the territory on mainland Greece controlled by the Phanar (the territories in the North, including Athos in the population exchange by Greece and Turkey in 1924) in practice tends to look to Athens which has a more definite relationship to the Greek state.

With the death of each Patriarch the survival of the Church in Constantinople becomes more tenuous, and possibly the depth of the gene pool becomes more limited. The Patriarch of Constantinople has to be a Turkish citizen and his nomination cleared by the Turkish government, with the growing Islamification of Turkey, it is quite possible that the Turkish government could simply put so many obstacles in its way that Patriarchate can barely function. Moscow on the other hand not only has much more wealth and political clout than Second Rome could ever have but with the Bishop of Rome's support Second Rome could simply be ignored.

The video shows the Junior Patriarch of Moscow con-celebrating the Liturgy with the second most senior Byzantine Patriarch Theodore of Alexandria and all Africa 

Four Ancient Patriarchates
Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople
Greek Orthodox Church of Alexandria
Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch
Greek Orthodox Church of Jerusalem

Junior Patriarchates
Russian Orthodox Church (1448, recognized in 1589)
Georgian Orthodox and Apostolic Church (486)
Bulgarian Orthodox Church (870)
Serbian Orthodox Church (1219)
Romanian Orthodox Church (1872, recognized in 1885)

Autocephalous Archbishoprics
Church of Cyprus (431, recognized in 478)
Church of Greece (1833, recognized in 1850)
Albanian Orthodox Church (1922, recognized in 1937)
Polish Orthodox Church (1924)
Czech and Slovak Orthodox Church (1951,1988)
Orthodox Church in America (1970, autocephaly not universally recognised)


Bob said...

Moscow sees itself as the
3rd Rome
, not 2nd.

"Two Romes fell. A third, Moscow, stands. Never shall there be a fourth."

M. L'abbé Rafael Gonzalez said...

There is a huge a problem with the Russian Orthodox: the validity of their orders.
Many a bishop came out of Soviet concentration camps claiming to have been ordained by a known bishop who was imprisoned there. However, this cannot be verified. Among those claiming orders there were certainly KGB agents. This is why Rome is somewhat wary when they speak to the "Russian Church".

JARay said...

This is a very interesting run through the problems facing the Orthodox. My only contact with Turkey was a couple of years ago when I was on a Pilgrimage which included the steps of St. Paul. The "cathedral" in Istabul is indeed stunning and each of our preceding Popes have made significant appearances there and I believe that each visit was to try and do something about the split between the Orthodox and ourselves.
Maybe this meeting will be more productive! Who Knows?

Anil Wang said...

It's unlikely that the Church of Constantinople will die even if a successor isn't allowed by the Turkish government, for three reasons:

* the Orthodox Churches are split between their support of Russian and Constantinople. Constantinople has the support of the older Churches many of which are suspicious of Russian.

* while the Church in Turkey is small, the number of "diaspora" parishes of Constantinople is large

* the head of the Church of Constantinople can simply relocate. After all, if the "Bishop of Rome" can relocate to Avignon, so can the "Bishop of Constantinople" locate (most likely to Greece which is very much in favour of preserving Hellenism).

WRT of the validity of Russian orders, that isn't more an issue than in any other periods of persecution. The consecration of bishops requires three bishops, for a very important reason. Even if a half of all Russian bishops were invalid today, after a generation or two, most orders would be valid and eventually all would be.

Jacobi said...


We must remember that the Church commenced with the Risen Christ in 33 AD and Peter as his successors and Keeper of the Keys. Constantine was three hundred years later. There had already been 27 Popes.

Constantinople was a function of the unmanageable size of the then Roman empire. It was not religious, but was to prove a great and quite unforeseen problem for Christianity.

The Russian Patriarch whatever his relation with Mother Russia, is now the most powerful Patriarch. That is a fact. We should forget this association of Russia with Putin or or Shoigu or any other individual.

Russia is now and will be in the future probably the major player for Christianity on the Eurasian Continent, the only one that will stand up to the third Hijra of Islam. (see Bieszad, and + Schneider).

Two profound tragedies have afflicted Christianity. First was the appearance of Islam some 600 years after Christ and second the tragedy of the Protestant Reformation which weakened and diminished Christianity and caused so much suffering. Protestantism is now evaporating away but Islam is into its third Hijra and the effete secularised Western Europe is in no position to resist it.

Ecumenism means only one thing now. That is a reconciliation with Orthodoxy in the face of this latest threat, and Pope Francis somehow has started this with the coming meeting with the Patriarch of Moscow in Cuba.

I wonder if in say 100 years, Pope Francis 1 will remembered most importantly as the Pope who commenced this profound reconciliation.

Pelerin said...

Apologies for being off topic but has anyone else had difficulty reading articles on the Catholic Herald website?

A window opened stating that 'Visiting this website may harm your computer' and each article tried fails to appear but instead shows a red window stating 'Reported as an attack.' Very odd.

Matthew Roth said...

Hellenism has costs the Greeks, who until the 19th c. in Greece and the last in modern Turkey referred to themselves as Romans.

I would think 3 bishops is a matter of tradition (with great auctoritas!!!) and liceity but not validity per se.

Nicolas Bellord said...

Pelerin: I have had the same problem using the Google browser but not with Edge or Internet Explorer.

William Tighe said...

"A window opened stating that 'Visiting this website may harm your computer' and each article tried fails to appear but instead shows a red window stating 'Reported as an attack.' Very odd."

I have had the same experience over the past three days as well.

Gungarius said...

The way things are going at the moment the situation of Moscow vs Constantinople may have been resolved by the time another patriarch of Constantinople is appointed, by Constantinople having gone the same was as Crimea and being a Russian city.

Palincor IG said...

I think a reunified Christianity - ie the whole of christendom that has valid orders - will confront protestants with a challenge as to why a christendom that has grown organically from the Apostles and is one, and of which no protestant beliefs were recorded, even at the very beginning - is valid. Such a reunion would then open the way for a real dealing with protestantism. No doubt that's looking far ahead instead of at the here and now, but it seems a real prospect, I wonder what others think, without getting off topic ?

Jacobi said...

@ William. Watch it! Report as an attack will almost certainly ask you for your details!

Pelerin said...

Mr Bellord and Mr Tighe - perhaps it is a plot to make us buy the Herald instead of reading the articles on the net!

Nicolas Bellord said...

Catholic Herald say on their website that they are aware of the problem and have tried to fix it.

Jacobi said...

Fr. Blake,

If I may and please feel free not to publish this since I don't want to draw you in, but I am having endless problems with my comments being blocked on the Catholic Herald. Now you know my style can be direct but it is always orthodox Catholicism and in line with the CCC.

What in Heavens name is going on!

Pelerin said...

Thanks Mr Bellord for that information. I had not tried since. It is always gratifying to know that I am not the only one - a warning such as the one I was getting is so disconcerting - I am always convinced that I must have pressed the wrong button somewhere!

Pelerin said...

Thanks again Mr Bellord for letting me know it wasn't my fault. The mere sight of a red window appearing with the word WARNING is enough to frighten this old granny! If it had been a porn site I would have understood - but the Catholic Herald?!!!!

Am pleased to say that all has returned to normal now and I have been able to read those articles which interested me.

Nicolas Bellord said...

Jacobi: I wonder whether your problem is with the use of certain words. I think they have a computer program which automatically checks for certain words and either deletes the comment immediately or elsewhere refers it to a moderator who slavishly follows what the computer has said. I say this because some comments are immediately flagged as 'awaiting moderation' and others are not and I can only believe that the computer is inserting the flag. One of the words they pick on is the legal term for homosexual intercourse which begins with a 'b'.

Nicolas Bellord said...

But now McAfee is warning me on Edge, Internet Explorer and Google Chrome not to go to Dr Oddie's comment on the American election process. I wonder whom the Devil is inspiring to make these attacks?

Jacobi said...


Don't use such words. System appears much more sensitive than that!

Hugh McLoughlin said...

Fr Ray, I know this will seem trivial but I find your listing of "Four Ancient Patriarchates" problematical. My understanding is that there were three: Rome, Antioch and Alexandri. Later, Jerusalem was added (Council of Nicaea, 325ad) and later again Constantinople (Council of Constantinople 381ad). However, as to this latter, the Popes Damasus and Gregory the Great did not ratify the appropriate canon: "The Bishop of Constantinople shall have the primacy of honour after the Bishop of Rome, because it is New Rome" (can. iii). However, this status was confirmed at the Council of Chalcedon (451ad).

As to the subject matter, I also find the Pope's meeting with the Russian Patriarch problematical. The Russian Orthodox are seriously tainted with their actions, and inactions, under the Soviet regime and particular in relation to their role in the suppression both of the Greek Catholic Church of the Ukraine and of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. More recently, their warmongering in behalf of Putin is both unsavoury and unChristian. I do not believe for one minute that Patriarch Kirril is motivated by any earnest desire in the way of Ecumenism. I believe he wants to usurp Patriarch Bartholemew.