US Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback has visited Ukraine. On Sept. 11 he was received by President Poroshenko. The ambassador seized the opportunity to offer assurances that Washington would continue to support the idea of an independent Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC), despite the fact that that institution is currently under the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Moscow. The UAOC has asked for a separation and to be granted autocephalous status, thus recognizing its ecclesiastical independence. Last April Ukrainian lawmakers reaffirmed Kiev's traditional links to the Patriarchate of Constantinople.
On September 2, the Council of Bishops of the Church of Constantinople confirmed that the Constantinople Patriarchate, the first among equals in Orthodox Christianity, may grant autocephaly without obtaining prior approval. That council began the procedure to enable the Church of Ukraine to be recognized as autocephalous without delay. Shortly after the confirmation, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew appointed two representatives as exarchs, or envoys, to prepare for the autocephaly of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. His position is clear and he did not hesitate to take this action that brings a declaration of ecclesiastical independence for the Church in Ukraine one step closer. Bishop Illarion and Bishop Daniel who were chosen for the mission are known for their anti-Russian views.
This is a flagrant violation of the canonical domain of the Moscow Patriarchy. The Greek Patriarchate did not even inform Moscow of the decision. A third of the Russian Orthodox Church’s 35,000 parishes are in Ukraine. Obviously this move will create an enormous schism in Orthodox Christianity, comparable to the rupture between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches in 1054 (the East-West schism). Some Orthodox Churches will recognize the independence of Ukraine’s Church, while others will reject it.
Actually, there will now be three Orthodox Churches in Ukraine: the Kiev Patriarchate, the Ukrainian Autocephalous Church, and the Moscow Patriarchate, in addition to the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, which has many followers in the western part of the country. All of Ukraine will be divided along religious lines just to make it easier for the US to accomplish its goal of subjugating that nation through a “divide and rule’ policy.
The schism will not be limited just to Russia and Ukraine. If the decision to separate the Churches is implemented, the Russian Church may have no choice but to sever relations with Constantinople. The entire Greek Orthodox world would be divided.
The intentions of the Holy Synod of Constantinople are understandable. The Russian Orthodox Church is the biggest in the world. The Holy Synod has seized this opportunity to weaken its rival and to assert itself as the leader of the Orthodox world. Ambassador Brownback’s visit confirms the fact that the US wants this schism to take place. This is one way to weaken the influence of the Russian Orthodox Church among the Slavic nations and to create an alternative to it in Kiev, thus sidelining the Russian Church in the Orthodox world. Washington wants to see a rollback of Moscow on all fronts.
This is happening at a time when US policy is shifting in favor of expanding military assistance to Ukraine. US Special Envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker confirmed this US commitment before his visit to Ukraine on Sept. 13. He arrived right after Mr. Brownback. Kiev is playing host to one US envoy after another. The very frequency of these visits is curious. Evidently something’s cooking.
All this is added to the US support of Ukraine at a time of heightened tensions, as the situation in the Azov Sea, a real tinderbox, keeps on deteriorating. Ukraine has just boosted its military presence there. Ukrainian Ground Forces Commander Colonel General Serhiy Popko brought this up on Sept. 11. Ukraine has a foreign military presence on its soil, as well as an official NATO status. The US is using Ukraine for its own economic and political ends. Ukrainian President Poroshenko has just tabled a bill to amend the constitution paving the way for NATO and EU membership. He wants it sealed and the parliament is to consider the amendments next week.
Washington is looking for ways to slow Russia’s growing strength, independence, and influence. A large country that is openly hostile to Moscow while sharing a long border with Russia fits that bill nicely. This policy will hardly help Ukraine become more prosperous or secure. Seizing each and every opportunity to emphasize its independence, Kiev is happily playing the role of a marionette being controlled by Washington.