ISSN 2330-717X

Moscow Using Non-Church Members To Block Shift Of Parishes From Russian Church To Autocephalous Ukrainian One – OpEd

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Ever more congregations formerly subordinate to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate are shifting to the newly autocephalous Orthodox Church of Ukraine. (For a map of these that is updated daily, see google.com/maps/d/u/0/viewer?mid=1XQR0sfHFFiiXyGiVYqI1mNylJ9fFPdnh&ll=49.40279846208503%2C27.02496023437493&z=7&fbclid=IwAR0tZD7PJmR8Fz4pQJG_EZtiz1E_md2nc6dOanWsURfdlejbLCH5l2LJu-o.)

Most of these transitions have occurred as the result of a vote by parishioners, and to try to stop this trend, the Russian church has adopted a tactic that if it becomes widely known may have the effect of leading ever more genuine Orthodox believers in Ukraine to believe that their proper home is the OCU.

What the Russian church is doing is bring into parish meetings where these decisions are made people with little or no connection to the church and demanding that they be allowed to have a vote alongside real parishioners.  Efforts by Ukrainians to block this have been shouted down (ahilla.ru/perehod-hramov-iz-upts-v-ptsu-kak-otvetka-na-150-millionov-veruyushhih-rpts/).

However, in at least one case, this Russian move ran into trouble. Parishioners, the Akhila portal says, “understanding what decision would be taken at the assembly of residents of the village, the absolute majority of whom come to church in the best case on Easter for kulich and eggs, appealed to the Vinnitsa bishopric of the OCU.”

Its representative, Father Petr Chaplinsky, told these people that they shouldn’t be making decisions about the subordination of the church if they have no idea about what the church stands for. Study a little, he said, and then you can vote on this.  But some non-parishioners objected arguing that they should have the right to vote regardless.

In some ways, of course, this reflects what is a widespread confusion among Russians between Orthodoxy as a religion and Orthodoxy as a national identifier, a confusion Patriarch Kirill and the Russian government have encouraged. (On this phenomenon, see windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2019/01/i-am-atheist-orthodox-and-other.html.)

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Paul Goble

Paul Goble

Paul Goble is a longtime specialist on ethnic and religious questions in Eurasia. Most recently, he was director of research and publications at the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy. Earlier, he served as vice dean for the social sciences and humanities at Audentes University in Tallinn and a senior research associate at the EuroCollege of the University of Tartu in Estonia. He has served in various capacities in the U.S. State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and the International Broadcasting Bureau as well as at the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Mr. Goble maintains the Window on Eurasia blog and can be contacted directly at [email protected] .

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