Constantinople ahead of Russia in church diplomacy game
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and the first persons of other Local Orthodox Churches have ignored the invitation of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) of the Moscow Patriarchate (MP) to celebrate the 1030th anniversary of Baptism of Rus-Ukraine. However, he accepted the invitation by the president of Ukraine, and the delegation from the Mother Church does plan to arrive to attend the celebrations.
Other Local Orthodox Churches are sending at the Moscow Patriarchate's invitation their lowest-possible level delegations simply to stick to long-established "church diplomatic protocol," according to a Ukraine-based religious expert Oleksandr Sahan, LB.ua reports.
The anticipation of Constantinople possibly granting Ukraine church a tomos on autocephaly thus ensuring independence from Russia by July 28, the 1030th anniversary of Baptism of Rus-Ukraine, earlier hinted at by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, led to full mobilization of pro-Moscow forces opposing the move.
Pro-Russian Ukrainian MP Vadym Novinsky seems to perceive almost literally the calls from the Moscow Metropolity "to fight autocephaly to blood." Thousands of believers will be brought to Kyiv not only from across Ukraine, but also from Russia, all under the pretext of their "pilgrimage" to the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra.
However, the fact that the Tomos is not yet being granted by the said date has breached Moscow's plans, the expert believes, as "it turns out that there is nothing to fight with."
The Patriarchate of Constantinople put the issue on a reasonable pause: on the one hand, it would allow them seeing the actual level of public countering of Tomos within Ukraine. On the other hand, Constantinople will see how other local Orthodox churches will respond to the position of the Ecumenical Patriarch on the Ukrainian issue. The indicators are very clear: the number of participants in religious processions and possible provocations, as well as the number and level of representation of the delegations of the Orthodox Churches that will come to Kyiv on the invitation of the UOC MP.
According to the expert, as of July 23, the following churches confirmed the sending of their representatives to the holiday: Jerusalem's, Romanian, Polish, Cyprus OC, and the Orthodox Church of the Czech lands and Slovakia.
Meanwhile, the leadership of the UOC MP is trying to "compensate" for the small number of foreign delegations and the extremely low level of their representation.
As UNIAN reported earlier, on the following day after the "Moscow-promoted" procession, namely July 28, a meeting of representatives of the embassies of Russia, Belarus, Moldova, Georgia, Greece, Cyprus, Serbia, Macedonia, Bulgaria and Romania is scheduled on the territory of the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra. And to enhance the "mass" effect, there will be also representatives of the Serbian, Macedonian, Bulgarian, Georgian, Belorussian and American Orthodox Churches.
Almost all church members are either part of the Moscow Patriarchate (Belarusian and American Orthodox Churches), or the Churches remaining under the considerable influence of the Moscow Patriarchate (Serbian and Bulgarian).
The agenda is rather predictable: "the situation with granting Tomos to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church". The main messages to be channeled at the meeting are also rather obvious on the Moscow part: "split in world Orthodoxy", "bloody confrontation on religious grounds," etc.
As a result, attendees will be called to "unite" around the Moscow Orthodoxy (actually provoking that very "split" in world Orthodoxy, against which Russia is allegedly warning).
"Summing up, it is possible to state that the number and level of church delegations that will visit Kyiv during the 1030th anniversary of the baptism of Rus-Ukraine, as well as the list of countries that generally responded to the invitation of the UOC MP, testify to the strategic victory of the Constantinople Patriarchate over Moscow's Church diplomacy," the expert concludes. "This means that the idea of Tomos for the Ukrainian Orthodoxy 'has matured' not only in Constantinople and Kyiv, but also in other Orthodox 'diptychial' Churches."