How Recognizing Autocephalous Church Of Ukraine Will Affect Future Of Hellenism – OpEd


The hierarchs of the Church of Greece will gather at the Synod on October 7-11. They will elect three metropolitans and two vicar bishops, as well as discuss important issues. In particular, since the Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Ieronymos II refused to decide on the recognition of the Autocephalous Church of Ukraine, the Synod of Hierarchy may consider this issue, though beyond the agenda.

If the Church of Greece establishes communion with the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, as Patriarch Bartholomew expected in his interview with Ukrainian journalists, it will be a precedent for any church or pseudo-church group in the territory of any Local Church to be recognized as an “autocephalous” but in fact controlled by the Ecumenical patriarchate.

In particular, the role of the New Lands as a lever of pressure on the Greek Church will increase. Similar threats will arise for many other Local Churches. That is, the acceptance of ‘hierarchs’ with no canonical ordinations into the Orthodox Church will not only undermine the canonical foundations of the church and destabilize it, as is shown by the Metropolitan Seraphim of Piraeus, but also bring the Ecumenical Patriarch one step closer to “Eastern papism”.

In such new conditions, weak churches will not be able to resist Phanar’s course of rapprochement with the Vatican. Since the creation of the Autocephalous Church of Ukraine was supported by the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church and Petro Poroshenko who relies on the Greek-Catholic electorate, the Autocephalous Church of Ukraine will enter the Unia first. Thanks to new levers of pressure on the Local Churches, Constantinople will ensure the recognition of this step, and then, leaving aside the differences in canons and dogmas, His All-Holiness Bartholomew himself will enter into communion with the Pope.

It is obvious that immediately after the official recognition of the Ukrainian schismatics by the Synod of Hierarchy, the Russian Orthodox Church will extend measures taken in response to the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s actions (i.e. cessation of Eucharistic communion) to the Church of Greece. The absence of Eucharistic communion with the ROC and the rapprochement of the Greek Church with the Phanar, which is becoming increasingly closer to the Vatican, will destroy practically the only factor of commonality between Russia and Greece. As an Orthodox Christian belonging to the Moscow Patriarchate, Russian President Vladimir Putin can regard this decision of the Greek Church as an unfriendly step and change his view of Greek-Russian relations. Earlier, he had already expressed his opinion about the role of Constantinople in solving the Ukrainian issue and even accused the Ecumenical Patriarchate of receiving bribes for granting autocephaly to Ukraine. Of course, the possibility of extending the Turkish Stream to Greece then will have to be completely forgotten.

It is believed that the recognition of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine by the Greek Church will become a catalyst for recognition by other Greek Patriarchates and Churches. But this is not obvious. In one form or another, the Russian Orthodox Church has been already supported by the Serbian, Polish and Albanian Orthodox Churches, the Orthodox Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia, as well as the Antioch and Jerusalem Patriarchates, where the sympathetic to Russia Arab community has strong influence. Recently, the Jerusalem Patriarch bluntly stated that he recognizes only one Orthodox Church in Ukraine, headed by Metropolitan Onufry, i.e. of the Moscow Patriarchate. The Bulgarian Patriarchate did not speak out, but there is strong reason to doubt that he will support Patriarch Bartholomew on the Ukrainian issue.

In general, the Orthodox world will split into the Greek and the “Russian” groups. This split will grow and acquire more and more nationalistic features. Greece will lose the honorable and extremely advantageous status of the real guarantor and leader of the Orthodox unity. Ultimately, we have a risk of spoiling relations with our closest neighbors, Serbia and Bulgaria.

The Church of Cyprus will cease its role as arbiter and moderator of inter-church conflicts, which Archbishop Chrysostomos II claims, and also ruin his Church’s relations with Russians, a significant factor in the country’s development.

Within the Greek local churches, pressure from Constantinople will cause disorder and division. Due to opponents of the recognition of the Autocephalous Church of Ukraine, Greek old calendarists will strengthen. This will create an extra cause of instability in the canonical Greek Church and deprive it of the support of a conservative part of the faithful. The clergymen may join the schism too, and as a recently published letter from the Greek clergy against the recognition of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine shows, their numbers are big and will only grow.

Similarly to the situation in Turkey, under the pretext of spiritual care for the Russian-speaking diaspora in Greece, parishes of the Russian Orthodox Church can be opened. Hierarchs, clergy and believers of the Greek Orthodox Church who disagree with the recognition of the Autocephalous Church of Ukraine will also find a refuge there. In the future, contacts of the old calendarist schism with the Russians, its support and strengthening from Russia may gain momentum

All this will damage the reputation of the Greek Church in the Orthodox world and hit the financial situation of the Greek churches, make them dependent on American patrons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Being unable to question them, the church will lose its independent voice, its ability to defend Christian values and mitigate conflicts, calling for peace and mercy.

At a time when American and Turkish interests may clash over new mineral discoveries in the Mediterranean, it will be extremely difficult for Greece to stay on the sidelines. Therefore, it is important for Greece and the Greek Church to focus on improving their relations with Russia rather than worsening them. For example, they might use the Ukrainian church issue as a bargain with Moscow to limit Turkey’s military support.

Without believers, means, being divided over the actions of Patriarch Bartholomew, all Greek Orthodoxy will decay. The church will lose its authority; it will not be able to fulfill either a charitable or a pastoral function. In turn, this will lead the nation to decline.

It seems that the Archbishop Ieronymos and a significant part of the episcopate are well aware of the need to prevent this. Having communion with the Autocephalous Church of Ukraine will benefit neither the Church of Greece nor the nation. Not deciding or just abstaining from decision for a while will benefit a lot.

*Sophia Iliadi is a freelance journalist from Greece

7 thoughts on “How Recognizing Autocephalous Church Of Ukraine Will Affect Future Of Hellenism – OpEd

  • October 6, 2019 at 1:06 pm

    Extremely biased – the Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon granted “isa presbeia” or equal status to the bishop of Constantinople with that of Rome and that Constantinople has jurisdiction over the eastern Churches… some respect to the mother church!

    • October 8, 2019 at 11:34 am

      If so, why don’t you just follow the Roman Pope?

    • October 9, 2019 at 3:41 am

      The canons (particularly canon 28) of the Fourth Ecumenical Council addressed the particular situation of Constantinople in the Roman Empire. That situation ceased to exist entirely in 1453. Furthermore, the relative “presveia” of ANY of the local Orthodox Churches – for that matter their inclusion in the diptychs, is necessarily conditioned upon fidelity to the canonical and dogmatic Tradition of the Church. It is not, and cannot be a matter of any one local church or any one bishop being owed honor just by reason of the office. THAT is a Roman Catholic notion utterly alien to Orthodoxy. Finally, if any local church among the Orthodox churches is truly the “mother church” it is Jerusalem. This is proclaimed in the stikhera for Saturday evening Vespers in tone 8: “Rejoice, O holy Zion, mother of the churches, the abode of God.

  • October 8, 2019 at 12:06 am

    Someone should have said this a long time ago, for it is all true.

    • October 9, 2019 at 3:53 am

      Yes, someone should have woken up the primates – all of the primates – to the silliness of resting on the laurels of a bygone empire. Now the Orthodox Church is paying for that mistake as it is held hostage to competing nationalism and geopolitical powers outside of the Church. Fr Thomas Hopko (may his memory be eternal!) was once asked what the Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church should be prepared to give up for the sake of genuine (not fake) unity. On the RC side he mentioned doctrines, on the Orthodox side he said, basically, everything else. Having been his student I am quite confident that he understood what needed to be preserved along with specific doctrines would be the liturgical and ascetic life of the Church – but not the Byzantine imperial trappings. Let hierarchs vest in the phelonion instead of the imperial sakkos – as they are depicted in older ikons. If the Orthodox Church is to have any real role in the future of the world, it must be realistic about its own place in relationship to the world in the current century.

  • October 8, 2019 at 6:26 am

    Ideally one should not judge an issue such as this on the basis of its possible geo-political consequences, but rather on the basis of the standards of the Church, viz. love and canonical order. The actions of the patriarchate of Constantinople in the Ukraine were and are clearly wrong on all accounts, both moral and canonical, and that should be sufficient for the Church of Greece to simply say: sorry, but OXI (i.e NO). Not difficult.

  • October 9, 2019 at 2:57 pm

    Bartholomew should be deposed along with the bishops who support him. As a
    Greek I am stunned that the bishops of
    Greece are behaving like pushovers. I
    Do believe cyprus, Jerusalem, and
    Alexandria will remain orthodox and
    Not recognize the schismatics.

    One thing that has disturbed me is no
    Orthodox Christians are challenging the us
    Intervention in church affairs. In greece
    The bishops should lead the faithful in
    Demonstrations outside the us embassy
    And tell the us to keep its hands off of
    Christs church.

    Even mount athos has been rolling over!
    Where are the bishops, priests, and
    Monastics to follow the lead of Saint
    Mark of Ephesus?!!!

    More than ever it is clear russia is
    The leader of orthodoxy.


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