By Paul Goble
The Archbishopric of Russian Orthodox Churches in Western Europe by a vote of 119 to 15 rejected the call by the Ecumenical Patriarch in Constantinople to subordinate themselves to it, but despite the calls of some and much pressure from Russia, they postponed any decision to join the Moscow Patriarchate (credo.press/223086/).
There is no question that this is a slap in the face of Constantinople which increasingly has positioned itself as a kind of Eastern papacy, but the fact that it has not led the European archbishopric immediately to subordinate itself to Moscow suggests that any move in that direction is likely to be a long time in coming and may in fact never happen.
What seems more likely is that the Orthodox Church in Western Europe will itself divide along national lines, something that may ultimately allow Moscow to gain some support in particular cases but that will work against the possibility of supra-national “canonical” territories of the kind Moscow talks about.
That will likely put paid to Moscow Patriarch Kirill’s efforts to position himself as an alternative to Constantinople as the center of Orthodoxy and encourage other Orthodox communities to move in the direction of forming national churches as Ukraine has done rather that feel they must choose between Moscow and Constantinople.
This decision in Paris is thus something that works for the Ukrainian church and for all the Orthodox churches in the former Soviet space as well as elsewhere and represents yet another defeat for Kirill, something he can ill afford after the debacle for Moscow in Ukraine, a debacle that has increased speculation in Moscow that Putin will replace him.