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Belarusian Orthodox Turning Away From Moscow-Imposed Metropolitan – OpEd

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Some hierarchs of the Belarusian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate are following the laity and condemning their Moscow-imposed metropolitan, Pavel, who ever more people are pointing out can’t serve in Belarus because he is not a Belarusian citizen as is required by Belarusian law. 

Statements by these hierarchs and by the laity mean three things. First, Pavel now remains in place only because Alyaksandr Lukashenka supports him. Unless the Belarusian dictator decides he has to go, this works against both men, with the opponents of each having ever more reason to be opponents of the other.

Second, it is rapidly becoming too late for the Moscow Patriarchate to salvage the situation by replacing Pavel. If it sacks him, that will be viewed as weakness; but if it keeps him in place, it will almost certainly provoke calls for a new independent Belarusian autocephalous Orthodox church

And third, those calls will intensify if Lukashenka is ousted or if he somehow clings to power. If he is ousted, many Belarusians will remember that only the Moscow church backed his stealing of the election and demand a wholesale change in religious life; and if he somehow remains in power, they will turn from the church as his agent, weakening it still further.

Three comments, one by an Orthodox believer, one by an archbishop, and one by someone who has already broken with the Moscow church in Belarus (ng.ru/ng_religii/2020-08-18/9_492_belorussia.html and credo.press/232531/) justify these conclusions:

In words that have gone viral, Anasastiya Nekrashevich, who calls herself an Orthodox believer, says in comments directed at Pavel: “After your speeches, I personally do not want your blessing on any account. My patriarch, my metropolitan and my president is Jesus Christ. I want to live by his commandments and I will defend them to the end.”

“We cannot hope for the powers which is now killing us; we cannot hope for you because you support this power and greet it. Personally, I now hope only in God and in his mercy to us … I am ashamed of your Orthodox church. Its priests are afraid” of standing up for its values and against the use of force.

Second, despite the obedience to the metropolitan that his position requires, Archbishop Artemiy of Grodno and Volkovyssk denounced Pavel’s position both in a statement and in a sermon, making it clear that he believes that his position as an Orthodox leader requires no less of him and other.

And third, Aleksandr Sharmko, a former priest who has broken with Pavel’s church, says that the current metropolitan remains in place only because Lukashenka supports him and he supports Lukashenka. Thus, those who oppose the one should be opposing the other.

In commenting on these remarks for Nezavisimaya gazeta, political analyst Andrey Okara suggests that what is happening in Belarus is a revolutionary situation in which the hierarchy is trying to navigate between its commitments to elites and the changing attitudes of the population, typically lagging behind the latter and thus putting itself at great risk.

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] .

2 thoughts on “Belarusian Orthodox Turning Away From Moscow-Imposed Metropolitan – OpEd

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    August 24, 2020 at 4:25 am
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    The Belarusian Orthodox Church (MP) has already come out and condemned violence against protesters, it has visited them in prison, it has spoken out against repressions. Have you not heard? The article you linked even mentions that. Everybody should actually read the article linked in this article.

    When Lukashenko was declared the official winner, the same type of dry congratulatory letter was issued by Met. Pavel that goes to every single head of state, everywhere in the world where there is an Orthodox Church. Metropolitans are not tasked with certifying that a fair election was had. Nor do they get into political debates often. They just pray that whoever wins does good things and not bad things.

    If Ms. Nekrashevich (who calls herself an “Orthodox believer”) is “ashamed of the Orthodox Church” then she is ashamed of Christ. A lot of these people are angry because they don’t give a damn about Orthodoxy, and expect the Church to parrot their message and speak to the politics that they like.

    What we see in this and similar articles are more heterodox westerners trying to sabotage the Orthodox Church because they want to do what they accuse Moscow of doing: turning it into a tool of their soft power, promoting their ideas. God will judge you for what you are doing to His Church.

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