Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Is Eastern Orthodoxy's view of the Church tearing them apart? (Autocephaly & Patriarchate)

As many probably know, there was a schism within Eastern Orthodoxy in 2018/2019, when the Russian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) held a synod which decided to sever ties with the Patriarchate of Constantinople (Ecumenical Patriarchate). The cause was that the EP believed it had the authority to grant "Autocephaly" to the churches in Ukraine (which the MP claims is Russian territory), while the MP said the EP did not have such unilateral authority. While we shouldn't be happy about such events, it does provide for some Catholic apologetics material when dealing with Eastern Orthodox. Here are some things to ponder.

First of all, what does it really mean to have a 'schism' within the EO 'Church'? Most of the Eastern Orthodox Churches (EOCs) are basically divided along national borders, and effectively run themselves separately, such that each is basically it's own independent national/regional Church. (Should we really even be calling them a "Church" rather than "Churches," since they aren't technically a single Body?) Within the EO system, by this Ukrainian schism and others in their history, it seems that it is possible for a Christian group to believe basically the same things, and yet not be in Communion. But not being in Communion shouldn't sit right with Christians, because schism is condemned in Scripture and Tradition. So schism is serious and it has to mean something. But what? It seems Orthodoxy cannot explain this, especially when it comes to believers in nations that have separated from their former nation.

To further complicate things, not all the other Eastern Orthodox Churches have taken sides in this 2018 schism, so all these other EOCs remain in Communion with both the EP and MP. So, again, what does 'schism' really even mean within the EO paradigm? Apparently, these other EOCs see the bigger problem for Eastern Orthodoxy that would result if they decided to take sides: another 'great schism' of sorts, which at this point looks to be turning the "Eastern Orthodoxy" into an emerging Northeastern Orthodoxy versus Southeastern Orthodoxy.

From this, the Catholic realizes that the Papacy isn't just about teaching Doctrine, but a source of Unity as well. We can know what schism is precisely based upon who is in communion with the Head, the Pope. Without a head, there can be no 'schism' in any meaningful sense. With no visible uniting principle that crosses national borders, we can thus see a glaring error with the EO understanding of "Church".

Second, what is a Patriarchate and Autocephaly? The EO definition of Patriarchate is an "independent" national/regional Church with their head bishop (Patriarch) that doesn't answer to any other Patriarch. Holding this 'independent self-governing' status is called Autocephaly in the EO world, with Patriarchate status being the more advanced status of Autocephaly. But the EO notion of Autocephaly is full of many problems and inconsistencies, and I would argue isn't even a valid concept, and nowhere officially taught in the Early Church. For one, how does a Church basically get 'set free' like this, such that they are no longer subject to their 'parent'? It doesn't fit the very notion of Patriarchy in the Bible, wherein the head father was always the head of the family, no matter how old and "independent" his sons got or the size of their families. It gets more troublesome when we realize these "Churches" are established along national borders, meaning that they are highly impacted by politics, particularly when one nation goes to war with another, when borders are redrawn, etc. If you look at the map of each Autocephalous Church, most of which are relatively small in land area, the map is basically a break-away from an original larger Patriarchate. How does this fragmentation really testify to the Unity of the one Church? The traditional, historic view of the Patriarchate is that the Pope delegates certain bishops to head certain regions. Thus, the actual historic Patriarchate never held the notion of being 'set free' to govern itself without having to answer to nor be bound to anything higher (e.g. the Pope).

Third, how has Autocephaly historically taken place? The most obvious problem with Autocephaly is that the EO cannot agree on how it comes about, especially who has 'the authority to grant autocephaly'. Some say a Council is required. But where does a Council say this, and is it an Ecumenical Council or just a local? If you look at the history of autocephaly in Orthodox history, it is seemingly always granted by just one Patriarch, rarely by a major Council. But even then there's a dirty little secret going on that nobody really talks about. First of all, most of the Autocephalous Churches were created only within the last few centuries, meaning that no Ecumenical Council was even involved. They typically were created when a part of an existing Patriarchate's territory was taken over by a new government, causing a new sovereign nation to form. Within that new nation, since Church and State were often intimately tied, it meant the new State needed a loyal Church to be in union with: thus that new Church declared itself Autocephalous (independent from its former church/nation), and sometimes invented a new Patriarchate for these new national borders - and quite often forced the parent/original Patriarchate to accept the new conditions or else get ignored. Since the original/parent Patriarchate had no real basis to oppose, and since they wanted to maintain some semblance of unity, the parent/original Patriarchate reluctantly agreed to autocephaly/patriarchate, often decades later.

Consider this Wiki list of the major Orthodox Churches and when they were established:

Bulgarian Orthodox Church (927AD) wikipedia page says:
Following Bulgaria's two decisive victories over the Byzantines at Acheloos, the government declared the autonomous Bulgarian Archbishopric as autocephalous and elevated it to the rank of Patriarchate at an ecclesiastical and national council held in 919. After Bulgaria and the Byzantine Empire signed a peace treaty in 927 that concluded the 20-year-long war between them, the Patriarchate of Constantinople recognised the autocephalous status of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church and acknowledged its patriarchal dignity. The Bulgarian Patriarchate was the first autocephalous Slavic Orthodox Church, preceding the autocephaly of the Serbian Orthodox Church (1219) by 300 years and of the Russian Orthodox Church (1596) by some 600 years. It was the sixth Patriarchate after the Pentarchy Patriarchates of Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem.
What is fascinating about this "first case" of Autocephaly in Eastern Europe is that it was founded on schism and war. The Patriarchate of Constantinople did not want to lose territory, nor did the Byzantine Empire, and only after losing a 20 war was the parent forced to 'recognize' the fact Bulgaria declared itself independent from Constantinople. Note even the passive language of "recognize" and "acknowledge" rather than granting original permission. This is a far cry from the peaceful image that we've all been accustomed to think, wherein the Eastern Orthodox loved one another so much that they couldn't wait for one regional church to mature so that the parent could set it free to flourish on its own.

But even that isn't the full story, the wiki article goes onto note a turbulent history for the BOC:
  • In 1018, the Byzantines re-conquered Bulgaria, and stripped them of the title of Patriarch.
  • In 1185, the Second Bulgarian Empire was established by two brothers revolting from the Byzantines. Following the "principle that the sovereignty of the state is inextricably linked to the autocephaly of the Church, the two brothers immediately took steps to restore the Bulgarian Patriarchate."
  • Because they couldn't attain the status of Patriarchate by going to Constantinople, they decided to enter into union with Rome, to grant them elevated status. From 1203-1235, they were in union with Rome, until the EO offered them a better deal, and thus Constantinople and other Eastern Patriarchs granted them Patriarch status. Thus Bulgaria broke union with Rome.
  • In 1393, the Ottoman Empire conquered Bulgaria, terminating the autocephaly of Bulgaria, and subordinated Bulgaria to the Patriarch of Constantinople. This was done so the Ottomans could more easily control the Churches.  
  • In 1870, the Ottomans granted the Bulgarians an interesting Patriarchal status called "Bulgarian Exarchate," which the Patriarch of Constantinople promptly declared a schismatic and heretical act by the Bulgarians. 
  • In 1913, as World War 1 had ended the Ottoman Empire and divided up its lands, national lines were once again redrawn. By 1953, the end of World War 2, the Patriarch of Constantinople lifted the schism and recognized the autocephaly of the Bulgarians.
  • Under Communism (1944-1989), the Communist party occupied 11 of 15 seats of the Synod of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, and it was they who pushed for the most recent Patriarchal status.
I know some people will object that Wikipedia is not reliable, but I think that the majority of it is reliable. As you can see even on the BOC website (here), various wars and power grabs have taken place in this territory, resulting in the rise and fall of various "editions" of the BOC, each time having different national borders and capital cities.

From this it is also clear how the State was able to drag the BOC in whatever direction it wanted to. The Ottomans used the Patriarch of Constantinople as their tool to subjugate the captured Bulgarian territory, and shortly after the Ottoman Empire fell in World War 1, the Communists then take over, and they push for a new Autocephaly, no doubt as a way to influence/control the EO world indirectly.

Georgian Orthodox Church (1010) wikipedia page says:
  • In the 4th and 5th centuries, was strictly subordinate to the Patriarch of Antioch.
  • In 1010, the Archbishop of Iberia was elevated to the honor of Patriarch.
  • In 1811, the Russian Empire invaded and abolished autocephaly, and became subject to the Russian Orthodox Church.
  • In 1917, the Communist Revolution caused a crisis throughout the Empire, causing Georgia's bishops to unilaterally declare autocephaly that same year. These changes were not accepted by the Russian Orthodox Church. 
  • In 1943, the Russian Orthodox Church recognized the independence of the Georgian Church, noting "this move was ordered by Stalin as part of the war-time more tolerant policy towards Christianity in the Soviet Union". New anti-religious campaigns took place after WW2, with corruption and infiltration by the Communists within the Georgian Church.
  • In 1990, the Patriarch of Constantinople recognized and approved the autocephaly of the Georgian Orthodox Church (which had in practice been exercised or at least claimed since the 5th century). Georgia's subsequent independence in 1991 saw a major revival in the fortunes of the Georgian Orthodox Church.
This wiki history leaves out a lot of details, so it's not clear what happened in 1010 to elevate them to a Patriarchate, but the history page indicates this was a time when a unified kingdom arose after a civil war. That said, there were clearly periods of abolition of their Autocephaly, with a similar Communist infiltration-push for independence as well. It is not clear what happened in 1990 for the Patriarch of Constantinople to "approve the autocephaly," but it was apparently linked with the national independence in 1991. The lesson to draw from this is that autocephaly/patriarchate status is quite messy, often unilateral, and strongly tied to politics.

Serbian Orthodox Church (1219, 1346) wikipedia page says
  • In 1219, the Serbian Church achieved autocephaly by the Patriarch of Constantinople. Details are not given, but it seems to have been peaceful and orderly. 
  • In 1346, after the rise of the Serbian Kingdom, along with it's political power, the SOC declared itself a Patriarchate, apparently through political maneuvering, without the permission of Constantinople.  
  • By 1350, the SOC had enough political power that it took over Mt Athos and the Greek territories, leading to excommunication by the Patriarch of Constantinople.
  • In 1459, the Ottomans conquered the Serbian Kingdom, and when the Patriarch died a few years later, a successor was never appointed, effectively ending the Patriarchate. Jurisdiction then eventually passed onto Constantinople (as the Ottoman's preferred).
  • In 1557, through political maneuvering, the Patriarchate was restored.
  • In 1766, the Serbians rose against the Ottomans, causing the Ottomans to again abolish the Patriarchate, again returning jurisdiction back to Constantinople. 
  • In 1920, after WWI and dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, the various church bodies in Serbia were united under a new Patriarchate, which continues to this day. 
While the details are not given about the original Autocephaly of the SOC, it seems that this is one of the few that came about through purely peaceful means, and got permission from the parent Patriarchate of Constantinople first. But becoming a Patriarchate clearly was contentious, involved what appears to be a power grab of Mt Athos and Greece, and was not approved by Constantinople. As with the other eastern Churches, they were conquered by the Ottomans and subjected to the Patriarch of Constantinople, who could then rule them as the Ottomans desired. It's not clear how or if the Patriarch of Constantinople ratified the 1920 Patriarchate of Serbia, but during this time Communism had also taken over the region and infiltrated, just as with the other EO bodies.

Russian Orthodox Church (1448, 1589) wikipedia page says:
  • The Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) originated in Kiev (Ukraine) as a junior metropolitan of the Patriarchate of Constantinople. Due to the Mongol invasion, Metropolitan Peter moved the residence from Kiev to Moscow in 1325.
  • In 1439, at the Council of Florence, some Orthodox hierarchs from Byzantium (including Patriarch of Constantinople) as well as Metropolitan Isidore of Moscow, signed a union with the Roman Church. However, the Moscow Prince Vasili II rejected the Council of Florence and so Isidore was removed from his position as an apostate. The Russian metropolitanate remained vacant due largely to the dominance of Uniates in Constantinople then.
  • In 1448, Jonas was installed as Metropolitan by the Council of Russian bishops without the consent from Constantinople. This occurred five years prior to the fall of Constantinople in 1453 and signified the beginning of an effectively independent church structure in the Moscow part of the Russian Church.
  • Tsar Fyodor contacted the Ecumenical Patriarch, who "was much embarrassed for want of funds," to establish a patriarchal see in Moscow. As a result, Metropolitan Job of Moscow became in 1589 the first Patriarch of Moscow, also making the Russian Church autocephalous.
  • In 1686, the Ottomans pressured the Patriarch of Constantinople into transferring the Metropolis of Kiev from the jurisdiction of Constantinople to that of Moscow. The handover brought millions of Ukrainian faithful under the administration of the Patriarch of Moscow. The exact terms and conditions of the handover of the Kiev Metropolis is a contested issue.
  • Tsar Peter the Great (1682–1725) had an agenda of radical modernization of Russia. He made Russia a formidable political power. Peter was not religious and had a low regard for the Church, so he put it under tight governmental control. He replaced the Patriarch with a Holy Synod and the Tsar appointed all bishops.
  • In 1700, after Patriarch Adrian's death, Peter the Great prevented a successor from being named. This remained the situation until the Russian Revolution of 1917, when the Local Council (more than half of its members being lay persons) adopted the decision to restore the Patriarchy. Metropolitan Tikhon of Moscow was selected as the first Russian Patriarch after about 250 years of the Synodal rule.
  • When Patriarch Tikhon died in 1925, the Soviet authorities forbade patriarchal election. Stand-in patriarch, Metropolitan Sergius in 1927 issued a declaration accepting the Soviet authority over the church as legitimate, pledging the church's cooperation with the government. This led to a split with the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) and the Russian True Orthodox Church (Russian Catacomb Church) within the Soviet Union. Due to this canonical disagreement it is disputed which church has been the legitimate successor to the Russian Orthodox Church that had existed before 1925.
  • After Nazi Germany's attack on the Soviet Union in 1941, Joseph Stalin revived the Russian Orthodox Church to intensify patriotic support for the war effort. A council in 1943 elected Sergius Patriarch of Moscow. This is considered by some as violation of the 30th Apostolic canon, as no church hierarch could be consecrated by secular authorities. In 1959 Nikita Khrushchev initiated a campaign against the ROC and forced the closure of about 12,000 churches. By 1985 fewer than 7,000 churches remained active. Members of the church hierarchy were jailed or forced out, their places taken by docile clergy, many of whom had ties with the KGB.
  • In 2017, Security Service of Ukraine lifted classified documents revealing that the KGB were engaged in the selection of candidates for participation in the 1945 Local Council. In the letter sent in September 1944, it was emphasized: "It is important to ensure that the number of nominated candidates is dominated by the agents of the KGB, capable of holding the line that we need at the Council". In 1991, Patriarch Alexy II acknowledged that compromises were made with the Soviet government by bishops of the Moscow Patriarchate, himself included, and publicly repented of these compromises.
  • The Moscow Patriarchate's traditional rivalry with Constantinople led to the ROC's non-attendance of the Holy Great Council [in 2016] that had been prepared by all the Orthodox Churches for decades. (It is now disputed among the EO as to whether the Council of Crete 2016 is even binding at all, with Constantinople insisting that it is binding on all Orthodox, while many Orthodox ignore Crete.)
  • The Holy Synod of the ROC, at its session on 15 October 2018, severed full communion with the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople due to the PoC granting autocephaly to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church without ROC permission.
  • The ROC claims its exclusive jurisdiction over the Orthodox Christians who reside in the former member republics of the Soviet Union. It also exercises ecclesiastical jurisdiction over Japan and China. 
  • The ROC is now (since 2019) in schism with the Patriarch of Alexandria (as well as schism with the Orthodox Church of Greece and Orthodox Church of Crete) for supporting the Patriarch of Constantinople. The ROC is even setting up mission churches in Africa and telling Alexandrian priests to come under the authority of Moscow. This is very big news.
As with most of the other Patriarchates, the Russian Orthodox Church has their own long, tangled story. Basically, the ROC came about when the Russian politicians refused to accept the Council of Florence in 1439 and so began appointing their own leaders. Shortly after Florence, Constantinople fell to the Ottomans, so the Patriarch of Constantinople could no longer easily rule over Eastern Europe. With Constantinople incapacitated, this basically allowed the ROC even more room to do as they pleased, including some kind of financial bribery for Constantinople to grant autocephaly in 1589. By 1686, the Ottomans pressured Constantinople to give up it's jurisdiction over Kiev/Ukraine, thus ceding millions in Ukrainian Church over to the ROC, which was a very controversial decision especially now. The history of the ROC is a good example of why the Autocephaly doctrine is a disaster, illogical, and not part of true Christianity. This subjugation to the Ottoman leaders is why Constantinople went from originally being in control of all Eastern Europe (by order and power of the Byzantine Emperor) to now gradually having lost all this territory, reducing its reach to only 1% of it's original jurisdiction.

And like the other Eastern Orthodox Churches, we can see just how much power the State has had in deciding policy, especially reunification efforts. Just like the Patriarch of Constantinople being a tool of the Ottoman rulers for many centuries, the ROC has been heavily subjugated under the Russian Tsars and especially under Soviet rule. 

Romanian Orthodox Church (1925) wiki page says:
  • The territory of Romania was under the authority of Constantinople until 1865, when the political authorities of Romania claimed independence from Constantinople and confiscated the churches in Romania. 
  • Following the international recognition of independence as a nation, Romania was then able to get the Patriarch of Constantinople to grant them Autocephaly in 1885 (details not given), and after World War 1 was raised to the status of Patriarchate in 1925 (details not given).
  • After World War 1 released much of Eastern Europe from Ottoman rule and left many regions to declare independence, Romania increased its national borders, and also captured/absorbed those churches in the newly acquired territories. This shows how much the EO are tied to national borders and modern pushes for "national independence". 
  • In 1948, after Romania was taken over by the Soviets, they outlawed and absorbed 2,500 church buildings belonging to the Eastern Catholic Romanians, and thus largely ended the Catholic presence within Romania. That's very disheartening to hear, that thousands of Eastern Catholic parishes were basically stolen and apparently never set free (here), though in fairness most of the nation had become atheist or was severely persecuted due to Soviet occupation.
  •  Romanian clerics have admitted to cooperating with the Soviets
This narrative of the Romanians seems to follow the typical Autocephaly/Patriarchy narrative of the other EO bodies.

The Wiki page counts the above five as "Junior Patriarchates," in contrast to the senior patriarchates which are the original Five (Four) Patriarchs of the early Ecumenical Councils. The Wiki list then goes onto list Autocephalous EO Churches that are not (yet) Patriarchates:
  • Orthodox Church of Cyprus, claims to be autocephalous from Antioch since 431 AD by decree of Ecumenical Council of Ephesus, but this is ambiguous as to whether Antioch was ever in charge, and to what extent it is autocephalous from any other body.

  • Greek Orthodox Church, in 1883 the political leaders formed the nation of Greece and broke away from Constantinople and declared itself autocephalous. In 1850, wiki says Constantinople "finally recognized" the autocephalous status "under compromise conditions". This sounds like the typical narrative of (a) new nation forms and declares itself and local church "independent" from the former authorities, (b) demands to be recognized as "autocephalous" and lives as such even if the parent refuses, and (c) eventually gets "recognized" as autocephalous due to some political strategic reason.

  • Albanian Orthodox Church, after national independence in 1912, the Orthodox Church of Albania declared itself autocephalous in 1922 by breaking away from Constantinople, and Constantinople recognized this in 1937. No details are given, but this certainly follows the standard narrative. The region known as Albania was originally under the jurisdiction of Rome, until being transferred to Constintinople in 732. In the mid-1800s, the Ottomans were in charge of Albania and forced mandatory military service on non-Muslims, which encouraged most of Albania to convert to Islam so they didn't have to fight in wars. 

  • Polish Orthodox Church, the Polish government declared itself ruler of the Polish Church in 1922, effectively making the Polish Orthodox autocephalous following Poland's independence as was typical after WW1. This region was originally under the authority of Russia, but during the 1920s the Russian Orthodox Church was being severely persecuted by the Soviets, and thus left the Orthodox Christians in the Polish region somewhat orphaned. The Patriarch of Moscow did not accept the breaking away of the Polish Orthodox Church. It was the Patriarch of Constantinople that saw itself as the authority in Ukraine and these Eastern European regions, and so Constantinople declared it to be autocephalous in 1924, but this rejected by Moscow. This situation is very similar to the current schism over the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in 2018. In 1948, after the Soviet Union took over Poland, then the Russian Orthodox recognized its autocephaly.

  • Orthodox Church of Czech/Slovakia, following the typical narrative of national lines changing following World War 2 and the rise of the USSR in this area, the Patriarch of Moscow granted autocephaly in 1951, but the Patriarch of Constantinople claimed authority in this region and did not recognize autocephaly until 1998. In 1950, the Communists came to power in this region and forced the Catholic churches to abandon Rome and come under the authority of the Patriarch of Moscow. During the Soviet era, many have accused the Patriarch of Moscow as being a puppet tool of the Soviets.

  • Orthodox Church in America, originated with Russian Orthodox missionaries crossing over into Alaska in the mid 1700s, and the Russian Orthodox Church claimed authority over all of the United States through the Unite States buying Alaska in 1867. The first Orthodox parish in the Unite States was in San Francisco in 1868. The ROC granted the "Orthodox Church in America" autocephaly in 1970, while the Soviet KGB was in control of the ROC. Some of the Eastern Orthodox Churches, including especially the Patriarch of Constantinople, do not recognize this autocephaly. Tragically, due to certain Latin Bishops in the Unite States mistreating Eastern Catholics in the Unite States in the 1800s/1900s, many Eastern Catholics left Rome and joined Orthodoxy. If it had not been for bad behavior of Roman Bishops like John in Minnesota, we would not have 100,000 of Eastern Catholics in the USA to join Eastern Orthodoxy in the USA.

  • Orthodox Church in Ukraine, the most recent and most contested of all, recognized as autocephalous in 2018 by Patriarch of Constantinople, and by Church of Greece and Patriarch of Alexandria in 2019, and Church of Cyprus in 2020. The Patriarch of Moscow is the biggest opponent of this, and has excommunicated anyone who accepts the autocephaly of Ukraine. The issue was very likely based on geo-politics, especially the USA interfering with Russia, as well as the Patriarch of Constantinople upset at Russia for Russia boycotting the 2016 Council of Crete. While prior similar situations have happened, this is by far the most impactful, as the ROC has lost millions of members by losing Ukraine. If the standard narrative holds true, the ROC will eventually come around to "recognizing" the autocephaly of Ukraine. 
Finally, Wiki has entries on the various "autonomous" Eastern Orthodox Churches, also divided along national lines. Autonomous churches are one step shy of being Autocephalous, and many of the articles suggest granting autonomy is a way to pacify that nation from demanding autocephaly. Some noteworthy autonomous churches of Eastern Orthodoxy include:
  • Orthodox Church of Estonia, a small former Soviet Republic, after national independence in 1993 and in 1996 was declared autonomous by Constantinople (and under Constantinople authority), but denied by Moscow. This led to Moscow excommunicating Constantinople in 1996, with similar reasoning as the current Ukrainian schism.

  • Orthodox Church of Finland, after declaring national and church independence from the ROC and USSR in 1917, it was in 1923 declared autonomous by Constantinople (and under Constantinople authority), but denied by Moscow though apparently approved in 1957.

  • Orthodox Churches of China, Japan, and Korea - each nation's autonomy is granted in the 1900s by either Moscow or Constantinople, while opposed by the other.
From this survey, I see four significant themes in play with the autocephaly debate: (1) how these movements are largely politically driven, especially along national borders, usually following declarations of independence; (2) how the granting of autocephaly and patriarchy are often not done until years later by the 'parent' neighboring church, once it is apparent the break-away group isn't going to obey the parent; (3) how recent in history most of these autocephalous bodies have come about, mostly within the last 200 years and especially following WW1 and the influence of the USSR; and (4) how many of these situations are really proxy battles between the EP and MP. I would add that how few if any of these autocephaly situations are based upon any actual rules or canons from the Early Church or Ecumenical Councils.

It seems to me that the USSR would like to encourage Moscow to grant autocephaly, as autocephaly is effectively a splintering of Eastern European Christianity into small factions, with the members psychologically conditioned to prioritize national/ethnic identity over that of Byzantine Christianity. Meanwhile, Constantinople would like to be granting autocephaly in former Soviet territories as a way to reduce the massive size and influence of the ROC over Eastern Orthodoxy, both as a flex of power over Moscow and (legitimate) concerns that the Soviets are using the Moscow Patriarchate to have undo influence in Eastern European Christianity. It seems that both the flexing of the EP and MP are also to encourage their egos, so that each will appear as a Pope-like figure within Eastern Orthodoxy. This splintering has also weakened the voice of Christianity within the world, as has the increasing bad behavior of the Papacy in recent decades. So which side is right in the Ukraine situation?

It seems that we are being conditioned by both the EP and MP to think of this as a battle of which Patriarch has the authority to grant autocephaly. Both sides desperately wanting us to ignore the fact that autocephaly is historically and typically driven by what the local national church/politicians wants done. In other words, the reality is, the ROC itself originally broke away and declared autocephaly without first getting permission, and by this same logic any nation should be allowed to break away and declare themself autocephalous as well. Really, what's stopping them? The EP and MP apparently don't want anyone asking this question, since it will blow the lid off of things. As of now, following the liberation of Eastern Europe, including the MP and EP following the World Wars and dissolving of the USSR, the Eastern Orthodox are somewhat unraveling, and it is hard to see what force can bring them back together, short of maybe the EP Bartholomew getting removed and a pro-MP leader replacing Bartholomew in Constantinople.

I think another big lesson here is that, with such obvious political manipulation the last few centuries, including the Eastern Orthodox largely being under the dominance of the Ottoman Turks from the 1450s until them being taken over by the Communists until 1990, we can certainly credibly propose that a leading reason there has been no reunion with Rome is because these political powers wouldn't allow these Eastern Orthodox to be on friendly relations with Rome. Secular authorities, especially those hostile to Christianity, can see the problem a truly united East and West Church poses for the Kingdom of God. And now with the EO splintering, it only makes reunion with Rome all the more difficult, as now you have to deal with more opinions and demands. Worst of all a lot of lost credibility for Christianity (similar to how the US has promoted denominations in the US to weaken Protestantism and make it irrelevant).

Wiki: autocephalous/auton EO churches

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