Kiev, January 11, 2019
The Russian Orthodox Church fears the self-identity of its flock and His Eminence Metropolitan Pavel of Minsk and Zaslavl fears the spiritual growth of his flock, according to Archbishop Daniel of Pamphylia, one of the two Constantinople Exarchs to Kiev who helped prepare for December 15’s “unification council.”
While speaking about Ukraine in an interview with the BBC, Abp. Daniel also addressed the possibility of autocephaly in several other countries.
The BBC notes that after “solving” the Ukraine issue, the question of of Montenegrin and Macedonian autocephaly could be dealt with next, asking: “Is this fragmentation of world Orthodoxy a harmful separatism or a good feature of today.”
The Constantinople-Ukrainian hierarch used the question as an opportunity to instead criticize the Russian Church, claiming: “The ROC is afraid of the will of Orthodox peoples for their self-identity; they want control of the former 15 republics of the former USSR.”
Abp. Daniel adds that he supports the notion that every nation has the right to ask for and receive its own autocephalous Church, “Including when it comes to Macedonia and Montenegro.”
After initially claiming that he would solve the problem of the schismatic “Macedonian Orthodox Church,” Patriarch Bartholomew later said that he would not interfere there, as it is the canonical territory of the Serbian Orthodox Church. However, Pat. Bartholomew also used to say he would not interfere in Ukraine, the canonical territory of the Russian Orthodox Church. He told a delegation of the canonical Ukrainian Church as much in late June, a full two months after Constantinople had already decided it was going to grant autocephaly in Ukraine.
Turning to the countries of the former USSR, the interviewer quotes the primate of the Belarusian Church, an Exarchate of the Russian Church, Met. Pavel of Minsk who recently said: “In Belarus today, there is no such desire for autocephaly. Sometimes some voices are heard: ‘Aren’t you going to ask for it in Belarus?’ But you know, I must say, completely frankly and openly: If it is a terrible tragedy for Ukraine … then if it happens in Belarus, it will mean death for the Belarusian Orthodox Church. The Belarusian Orthodox Church would be doomed to destruction.”
“Hearing such statements is sad and funny at the same time,” Abp. Daniel responded, adding an insult to Met. Pavel: “People who fear the spiritual growth of their own flock can speak this way.”
He adds that people should be free, independent, and able to pray in their native language.
Asked if the scheme for Belarus receiving autocephaly would be the same as for Ukraine, the Constantinople Exarch said it would be the same—requiring an appeal from the people, the government, and the clergy (although neither the Ukrainian people nor clergy asked for autocephaly).
And ironically echoing what is happening in Ukraine today thanks to Constantinople’s interference, he adds: “Otherwise, it will be the creation of some kind of religious war, of a rebellion in the state or Church.”
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has also called questions of Belarusian autocephaly “stupid and far-fetched.”
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