Sunday, October 11, 2009

Role of the Russian Church

There is an interesting article here on the influence of the Russian Orthodox, its rise from ashes to its becoming the most influential body in Russian society. I think there are parallels here with what Pope Benedict hopes will happen in the West.

The difference is of course Russia was capable of admitting that society was broken, and the Church had never compromised itself with contemporary culture or turned its back on its own culture.


Anagnostis said...

Thanks for the link, Father. It's quite a strange article - perhaps it has suffered a little in translation - but I wonder if the author is herself a believer?

"The Russian faith, like the Russian revolution and like life in Russia itself, never condescends to the individual."

Hmmm. This is very misleading, if not outright wrong. Orthodoxy insists on a "particular love" for every individual human being, as opposed, precisely, to the "love of humanity" in the abstract, which leads (inevitably and repeatedly) to the horrors of the revolution. And it is precisely the intrinsic, inalienable "conservatism" of the Tradition that makes possible the flexibility of oikonomia.

berenike said...

Err, but shame about the collaboration ...

Fr Francis Marsden said...

Much of the article is very good, except where it impinges upon Ukraine, which is no longer a Soviet or a Tsarist colony. In Ukraine, Orthodoxy is split three ways - the remnant of the Moscow patriarchate under Metropolitan Volodymyr Sabodan, the Kyivan Patriarchate under metropolitan Filaret, who broke away from Moscow, and the Autocephalous Orthodox, who broke away in 1919 and were eliminated by Stalin but survived abroad.
The Muscovite church only gained jurisdiction over Ukraine in 1686 by bribing the Turkish Sultan with sable furs and gold, to put pressure on the Patriarch of Constantinople to surrender his jurisdiction over Kyiv. The patriarch gave in, but his action was condemned by a Council one year later. Moreover, at one time, just after the Union of brest-Litovsk, the majority of central and western Ukraine, and all Belarus, were in communion with the Holy See, but wherever the Tsar gained control, Greek Catholics were forced into submission to the Moscow patriarchate. These are historical wrongs which need to be recognised.

Even today the canonical situation of the various Kyivan Orthodox churches is still a live issue.

Moreover the 6 million eastern-rite Catholics of west Ukraine (rather more than the tens of thousands who turned out to welcome Patriarch Kirill) suffered terribly for 44 years under communist persecution, and have no wish to submit to any pretended "authority" Moscow may claim over them, spiritual or political - which was only based on the 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop pact anyway.
We should pray that the Russian Orthodox Church, which suffered in its millions under communist persecution, may overcome any tendency to xenophobia and hostility to Catholicism. There is much that we westerners can learn from the Byzantine tradition, and there are new hopeful signs of increased cooperation. On the other hand, we have no right to sell out on the thousands of Catholic martyrs of Ukraine for the sake of ecumenical rapprochement with Russia.

Paul,bedfordshire said...

Those, prayers after Mass for the conversion of Russia, were answered, and how. Perhaps we should reinstate them for the intention of the conversion of the rest of Europe and unity with the Orthodox.

The comments about the Orthodox liturgy in that article were most interesting.

gemoftheocean said...

I hate to dissappoint you Father, but uunfortunately before ccommunism had been overthrown MANY in the upper clergy HAD cooperated with the KGB.

Fr Ray Blake said...

Precisely, Berenike, hence I say "...the Church had never compromised itself with contemporary culture or turned its back on its own culture.

The Irenical nature, as far as the state is concerned, of Orthodoxy made it a welcome bedfellow with Islam and Communism.

Michael Petek said...

Father, your suggestion that Orthodoxy is a natural bedfellow of Islam and Communism needs some comment.

The rupture between the Western and Eastern Churches was temporarily healed at the Council of Florence in the 15th century. All the Eastern Bishops except for the Bishop of Ephesus supported the Union, as did the Emperor John VIII Palaiologos.

Bishop Mark of Ephesus and the general Christian population of the East opposed the Union, and it is not difficult to see why.

The Eastern Roman Empire had been reduced to no more than the city Constantinople and a few other bits and pieces. Most eastern Christians were living as dhimmis under Islamic rule. The Sultans regarded political and supreme religious authority as being only for Muslims and would not easily have tolerated Christians who recognised the supreme authority of the Pope.

When the Turks conquered Constantinople they appointed Gennadios as Patriarch, and he restored the schism from Rome.

One particularly remarkable fact about the siege of the city was that the Turks deployed Serbian sappers to undermine the walls. History records an epic undergound battle between them and the Greek defenders.

Anagnostis said...

Okay, show me a "collaborator" and I'll show you a thousand martyrs and confessors.

Of course, no Roman prelate or priest under communism ever "collaborated".


The amazing thing about the fall of communism was the immediate appearance of large-scale icons of St Tikhon, the Holy Royal Martyrs, Saints Elizabeth and Barbara, etc, etc, together with armies of secret monks, nuns and priests. So much for "collaboration".

old believer said...

The Russian Church suffered some terrible consequences from imposing liturgical reforms in the sixteenth century.

All the troubles the RCC suffered under Pius X, Pius XII and Paul VI at least did not result in people being burnt which, alas, happened in Russia.

Let us pray that soon the situation in the Ukraine is resolved and all Orthodox there are soon in full canonical communion with HH Patriarch Kyrill.

Jacobi said...

"with what Benedict hopes will happen in the West"

A small comment Father. Russia is part of Christendom as we in the "West" are, or used to be, and hopefully will be again in the future.

Ecumenism is still alive and the Holy Father is pursuing it. But I suspect the Orthodox Churches are more in his sights than the Anglican or other Protestant churches

Anonymous said...

Moretben said...

"The amazing thing about the fall of communism was the immediate appearance of large-scale icons of St Tikhon, the Holy Royal Martyrs, Saints Elizabeth and Barbara, etc, etc"

Very frequently, the revival of the religious life in Russia has rather ugly forms. These include widespread extreme nationalism, common superstitions and all kinds of ridiculous orthodox magics, etc. As to icons, did not you see icons of Stalin? yes, they also appeared.

Anagnostis said...

Michael's narrative of the failure of Florence - political rejection of a spiritual union - is interesting insofar as it's a direct reversal of the truth. It was the "False Union" itself that was politically motivated from start to finish. The Orthodox people wanted nothing to do with it, and held their bishops to account by deserting the churches of the "Union". Almost all the signatories repudiated it subsequently. Those wishing to improve relations with the Orthodox today really need to think about the sufficiency of re-telling themselves the story "from the Roman side", which can't win you any friends among the heirs of those who endured 400 years of Turkocratia in preference to buying a precarious protection for their bodies from the Latin powers. Florence failed because nobody on the Orthodox side wanted it, for Orthodox reasons. The same is equally true today.

Father Francis repeats the often-asserted view that the West has "much to learn" from the Orthodox witness. Unfortunately, the "lesson" consists essentially of the very things "the west" will never consent to hear.

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