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
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)
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)
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