Getting to the Essence. A Look at the Schism Through the Eyes of Professor Osipov

The following is a translated transcript of a Spas (Savior) Orthodox TV channel special edition of their program, “Straight to the essence”. In these extremely disturbing times, people want to hear a familiar, trusted voice of experience and sound theology. Professor Osipov is that voice. We would like to present to our readers what he has to say about the schism, Constantinople, and the measures that the Russian Church has taken so far.

I won’t hesitate to say that today in our studio we have one of the most well known theologians of our country. Hundreds of thousands of people listen attentively to his opinions and assessments, and of course during this complicated time for our Church we cannot but ask for help in getting to the essence of what is going on. Alexei Ilyich Osipov, Professor of the Moscow Theological Academy. Alexei Ilyich, good evening.

—Good evening.

Of course, many of our faithful are very disturbed by what is happening today and by the recent actions coming from the Constantinople Patriarchate, their decision to accept the Ukrainian schismatics, the so-called Kievan Patriarchate and the other schismatic church. What is going on? How could they just go and make a self-willed decision to accept a schism that has existed for many years and which has scandalized hundreds of thousands of people in Ukraine?

—Unfortunately, this event, although it sounds shocking to all of us, in fact has its prehistory. We have seen these attempts already a long time ago by the Constantinople patriarch, and I am not talking about Bartholomew but the all patriarchs taken together in this case—attempts to view the Constantinople patriarch as something akin to the Roman primate. There are many such instances, and if we just take a look at history then we are left with no doubts. Therefore, now the first thing is: How can we explain this fact, and the second is: What will it lead to? How we can explain it. Unfortunately we pay very little attention to human passions, which give no peace—neither to specific individuals, nor to nations, nor to societies, nor—alas!—to churches. Here we are regrettably up against this manifestation. We well know that in the eleventh century a tragic schism occureed in the Western-Eastern Churches—in fact this is not a reliable way to express it; in fact, we should say more precisely: There was a true falling away of the Western Church, first in the person of Rome, and then naturally in all the churches and Christians subject to him. And there is a sufficient amount of literature, copious, and convincing literature written about this. So, what was the reason for this at that time? Not the hidden, but to the contrary the pronounced—decisively pronounced—ambition (love of power) of Rome. “You must submit to my authority!” it said, and that’s all there is to it. You know, this was marvelously illustrated at the First Vatican Council of 1870. Of course, this [papal primacy and infallibility] was already generally accepted [by Roman Catholics], but it was simply illustrated and enshrined, if you will, by such a grandiose event as a council. It was then stated right out that when the Roman high priest makes a statement as the teacher of all Christians, the chief teacher of all Christians, his decisions are infallible with that infallibility (and just listen to the words they used!), which the Lord gave to His Church. Where [in Scripture] is this written? Where? Nowhere. But just imagine—his voice possesses infallibility, and therefore everything he says is irreversible. There you have it—that same main point, if you like, that same main reason, the same source from which such disasters flow. Just as it was 1000 years ago, so now has it sprung up barefaced—precisely barefaced—with the Constantinople Patriarch Bartholomew. This is very unfortunate. Although, there were already things leading up to it.

You mentioned Rome and the actions of the Roman popes. So, it turns out that we can draw parallels with what happened 1000 years ago, and that today Patriarch Bartholomew is, let’s say, sinning by his ambition for his own infallibility, that he is repeating the logic of the popes, becoming or claiming to occupy the position of a sort of Eastern pope within the Orthodox world.

—That’s absolutely right. I am speaking precisely of that. And he is not ashamed to say this. The press informs us that in Patriarch Bartholomew’s reaction to the decision of our Synod, he is not ashamed to say that the Russians will accept [what he has done in Ukraine], that they have no choice, that he’ll force them to do so, and so on! Already! You know, there is no greater sin in the Church than pride. A person can make a mistake about doctrine. Well, I made a mistake, it was explained to me, and that’s it! I repented. But where there is pride, then its, “I say that two times two is three and a half. Period!” That is the most terrible thing.

Yes, Patriarch Bartholomew’s words really are amazing. One get’s the feeling that he has no inclination whatsoever for dialogue with us, and aims only at the logic of subjecting his “brother Slavs”, as he calls us, to his own will.

—Yes, “brother Slavs”. Absolutely, brothers (laughs).

I would like to ask you to comment separately on these words, when he said that our Slavic brothers cannot accept the primacy of the Ecumenical Patriarch and “our people” or “race”—the Greek text has been variously translated—in this case in Orthodoxy. How should we understand this? What is this pretension for Greek hegemony in the Orthodox Church?

Note: The website Orthodox Synaxis posted a translated transcript of a speech given by Patriarch Bartholomew that shows clearly, in black and white, that Patriarch Bartholomew firmly believes in the Greek race’s hegemony in the Orthodox Word. It is a speech that smacks with pride and Greek ethnophyletism:

This can be seen on display in a recent speech by Patriarch Bartholomew to an audience of parishioners from Istanbul. In it, he speaks of the preeminence of their common genos in the Orthodox Church and triumphalistically mocks ‘Slavic’ attempts at usurping it. The language that Patriarch Bartholomew uses is somewhat difficult to translate into English precisely because his is a post-imperial ideology rather than a nationalist one of the sort that we are more familiar with. That is, where one might use Hellenismos to describe the nationalism of the Greek nation-state (ethnos), Romiosyne describes a concept of Greekness that transcends nation-states and is centered more on the role of Greeks in the Orthodox Church than in worldly politics. The key term in this speech is the word genos, which is the origin of the word “genus” and could be translated as ‘race’, ‘kind’, ‘sort’ or, as we’ve chosen to translate it below, ‘people’, though it is noteworthy (not to say alarming) that in this speech Patriarch Bartholomew uses the term phyle (‘tribe’ or ‘race’) as a synonym of genos.”

[From the transcript:] “The Romiosyne of the City [i.e., Constantinople] is a part, a section, of world-Romiosyne, among which we are numbered. However, we are in no way simply a piece of world-Romiosyne. We are, I would say, even if we are speaking about ourselves, a select piece of world-Romiosyne, for here beats the heart of our people [γένος]. It is the womb of our people. It is our Ecumenical Patriarchate. From here extend the ideals and values of our people, the glory of our people, the sufferings and martyrdoms of our people, their source is here. From here we serve worldwide Orthodoxy, we contribute to pan-Christian unity, we contribute to the peace of the whole world”...

At this time our Patriarchate is working hard to solve the ecclesiastical matter of the Ukraine and displays the privileges and rights which it has from the canons of the Ecumenical Councils. And these canons of the Ecumenical Councils—and, indeed, that of Chalcedon [*gesturing towards the Metropolitan of Chalcedon*], the fourth Ecumenical Council, which gives the specific privileges of appeal to the Ecumenical Patriarchate—these canons are binding for the whole of Orthodoxy. Whether or not our Russian friends like it, sooner or later, they will follow the solution that the Ecumenical Patriarchate will provide, because they do not have another option”...

The dark propaganda of the Russians has as its object, as its ‘victim’, if you like—in their eyes, for we ourselves are never victims—in their eyes, it has as its aim the Ecumenical Patriarchate, because our Slav brothers can’t stand the precedence that our Ecumenical Patriarchate has, nor, consequently, our people in worldwide Orthodoxy.

I am made proud by this, I keep this in mind, and I try in my everyday struggle to maintain these privileges and these rights, with which God’s providence, through the decisions of the Ecumenical Councils, has crowned the all-august Ecumenical Throne, the first-seated church of Orthodoxy”...

[On articles written against what he’s doing:] “God gave us two ears [*laughter*]: these things come in one ear and go out the other. Glory to God.”

—You know, this phrase very unpleasantly slipped out. One simply doesn’t want to believe that he is riding on some sort of nationalism. Because that is just what is behind it. I simply don’t want to believe it. But I will tell you that truly and regrettably, the Greeks really do have this idea, which they brood over like a hen on her egg, that we gave you the faith, you received Christianity from us, we enlightened you. I can’t help recalling our wonderful grandfather, Ivan Andreyevich Krylov1: “Well, our ancestors saved Rome.” With him [Patriarch Bartholomew] this sounds very stupid, as, incidentally, any passion does. Any passion is stupid. And it’s the same thing here. They do have this idea, and I have been forced to become convinced of this dozens of times.

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You know, vainglory is one thing. We are all vainglorious—what can we do? It’s another matter when this concerns not separate individuals, or even when it concerns just Patriarch Bartholomew. This is in fact what the Synod stated—that is, the Local Council of the Constantinople Church. They stated it on October 11 [2018]. This is not just a personal opinion or a personal sin, but since the synod stated it, then it would follow that all who consider themselves members of the Constantinople Church are in agreement with all these decisions, they accept this and it becomes their belief, their conviction. This is the danger. It is very dangerous when a man on such a high level says such things that have been long ago condemned by everyone, by the whole of world society as they say. God preserve us from nationalism. And now it’s suddenly slipped out. He couldn’t restrain himself. This note came out. This is very sad, I’ll tell you.

​—And in your perception, how should the other Local Churches now react to this? After all, essentially the behavior of the Phanar and Patriarch Bartholomew is among other things a challenge and threat to all the other Orthodox Churches. After all, similar things could happen to them. They could be told, “This is your place. We are the first in the Orthodox world, listen to us.”

—Well, first of all, now is only the beginning. And we of course will see. Certain primates and representatives of Churches have already declared what any reasonable person understands—that the relationship between the Churches, especially Local Churches of varying significance, can only regard each other as he himself expressed it, fraternally. And a brother does not lord it over a brother. Christ Himself said that, “you call me teacher, but I have washed your feet. You do the same.” What “lording” can there be here? Such a thing was not even mentioned [in the Gospels]. So, what I think is that if Christianity still exists in our minds and hearts, then in the final analysis, despite this slow reaction, all must in one form or another express their negative regard for what Constantinople is doing. They must. And several have already expressed it. If we follow the order of the dyptichs, then even the Alexandria patriarch recognizes only Metropolitan Onuphry as primate [of the Ukrainian Orthodox Chruch]. The Antiochian Patriarch, too. And the Serbian Patriarch, yes… You can also see this with certain Greek hierarchs, and the Polish Church. A process has already begun, and I will suppose that in the end everyone or at least almost everyone will express the same opinion on this. Otherwise there will be a schism, a terrible schism. It will be a schism comparable in nature only with the eleventh century schism.

That is, we can’t avoid drawing that parallel in this case?

—The situation, the tendency, in any case is the same.

Alexei Ilyich, what do you think, is there any point in… well, obviously we can’t give advice to our higher clergy, but… can the Moscow Patriarchate organize or initiate a meeting of the primates of the Local Churches in order to discuss this synodically? So that we would not be making a solitary answer to the other side, but calling for a truly brotherly discussion of the disaster that is happening.

—Well, His Holiness Patriarch Kirill already called for this, from the very beginning. This is truly a natural step. When such complicated problems arise, all the primates need to gather and discuss it in a brotherly manner. Especially since Constantinople’s claims are completely unfounded. There is no foundation—not dogmatic, which is especially important, nor moral, which is absolutely obvious. No canonical foundation either. I mean on a level, so to speak, because even what Constantinople at times wants to cite is no foundation. I am talking about canon 28 of the Fourth Ecumenical Council. What is written there is very interesting. It is written there in black and white that the Constantinople patriarch can appoint or appoints metropolitans in only three regions. Three regions are named: The Pontus, Asia Minor, and Phrygia. He can appoint bishops and metropolitans only there, and that’s all, that’s the whole geography. This is the Fourth Ecumenical Council, a very high canonical level to appeal to. This is not to mention the other councils, Local councils, which forbid a bishop from one Church to interfere in the affairs of another diocese. This is straightforward. And just think: Where then is the basis for what the current Constantinople patriarch is doing? There is none. Niether doctrinal, nor moral, nor canonical. Therefore, if the heads of all the Churches would gather, I suppose that even with all the relationships that certain Local Churches have with Constantinople, they would be forced after all, it seems to me, to speak honestly about this matter. This would be very beneficial.

In this case, how should we properly understand this primacy of the patriarch, the title of Ecumenical itself? What does this really mean? If he is ecumenical [universal], then supposedly his authority extends over all, universal Orthodoxy. How should we view this?

—A confusion of terms has taken place here. Alright, if we are going to call it ecumenical, then let’s take a look at the Greek word. Oh, so it’s “ecumenical”? So that means ecumenism? This term was taken from the time of the Roman Empire, and this Roman Empire was the “oecumeni”. Well, that’s understandable. Rome was proud. It was huge, it subdued peoples, and became a gigantic empire. And it proudly called itself “ecumenical”, that is, “universal”. That is where that term came from; it’s purely geographical and nothing more. And of course, it was political. So what happened then? What was Rome, in fact? Later when the division came between the eastern and western parts of the empire, the emperor naturally assumed that title. That is where that term came from. It has no relationship, absolutely no relationship and no idea that would extend the authority, even the canonical authority of the Constantinople patriarch over all the other Churches.


Apparently Patriarch Bartholomew wants to be the bishop of the New Rome, and claims that it has inherited this tradition of Rome’s.

—Yes, that’s it. In general I’ll say that these claims look ridiculous. Why did Constantinople possess this prerogative? Only because it was a capital city. But what relationship does a capital city have to religion? It is a political reality. It has no relationship whatsoever. But if we’re going to talk about a religious, or I would say Christian significance, then we should gather together at an Ecumenical Council and say, “We’ve had enough!” It’s not Rome, or Constantinople, or Moscow, or Sophia, or any other. Jerusalem—that is the source of Christianity, and so let it be the first. There is the source! By the way, it’s perfectly clear where, if you want, primacy of honor should be. Primacy of honor, but in no way of authority; this is what Christ spoke of at the Last Supper when He said, “I am the teacher and I washed your feet, and you do the same.” Just look at the political realities and prerogatives that they’ve transferred to the Church. How sad! What does this signify? I would call it “worldlification”, and nothing else.

To return to the situation with the schismatics. How can we explain to our viewers what is happening with the church that has accepted and recognized a schism in this manner? After all, a schism is not simply a graceless situation. Does this schism cast a shadow, from the sacral point of view, over Constantinople? Now allegories are being put forth that a schism is like a “virus” if accepted self-willfully, which can among other things spiritually infect those who have agreed to associate with it.

—I remember the words of St. Barsanuphius of Optina, who wrote that in reading the holy fathers he suddenly came across a thought that stunned him. As it turns out, the passions are infectious. Yes, of course, especially the passion of love of power—this is one of the cruelest passions, which infects many people. The wise old Russian proverb is right, which says, “If you want to know what a man is really like, give him power.” He seemed to be a normal person, but they raised him up a step, made him a corporal. Hard to tell whether he’s an officer or a soldier. But look at what happens to him! Therefore without the Christian principles of life, without an understanding of the very principles of spiritual life—which the holy fathers have laid out very clearly based on the Gospel—then this is definitely an infectious disease. And it can lay many people low. For now this is on a lower level. It is not as terrible—not that it’s good, but only not as terrible. But when it becomes Church doctrine, then it has become a complete perversion of the very nature of a Local Church. This is what happened with Rome. There is a reason why I cited the decision of the First Vatican Council of 1870. You know that at the Second Vatican Council this dogma [of papal infallibility] was not only not dampened a bit, but was stated in an even stronger form. There you have a terrible passion, which became a dogma of the Catholic church. This is the worst disaster, because then people are involuntarily infected by this spirit. Passions really are infectious. And God forbid that these schismatic actions that Constantinople is now committing should begin to take hold spiritually. Canonically it all seems clear, and dogmatically everything seems defined. But God forbid that it become spiritual! You know how it can be when the air is pure and suddenly poisonous gas is released. That would truly be a disaster. Such a distortion of the Church in and of itself can happen not just locally, but on a more significant scale.

One gets the impression that this “poisonous gas” is now beginning to enter the minds of our Orthodox society. Today, concerning the cutting off of Eucharistic communion between Moscow and Constantinople, we encounter the opinion that the most important thing is the Sacrament of the Eucharist, and these bans that our hierarchs are forcing on us are nothing more than ecclesiastical squabbles. They say, “If I happen to be in a church of the Constantinople Patriarchate and the priest comes out with the Chalice, with the Holy Gifts, why shouldn’t I receive Communion? After all, this is highest thing for us.” How do you view that logic?

—Apparently that is what people say who do not know the history of the Church, never mind its doctrine. Here is the essence of the matter. I would say to such people: Have you ever heard of the “Arians”? That was in the fourth century. Have you heard of them? Well, an Arian comes out with a chalice. Are you going to go and receive Communion from him? Have you heard of the Nestorians? My God, there have been so many of them. Don’t you understand that when a schism happens—and it could happen as a result—there are two main manifestations coming from one and the same cause. What are they? It can happen because of a violation of Church doctrine. We call this heresy. That is what Arianism was. It can happen because of moral causes, when there is love of power, pride. It’s not important how. They are equal in their influence on the nature of the entire teaching and nature of the whole Church, which is caught up in this manifestation.

God resists the proud, writes the apostle Peter, and gives grace to the humble. Well, when this happens, when there is conscious opposition—be it on the path of doctrine or moral life—a conscious opposition to what is truly the teaching of the Church; that is, when a person consciously falls into pride, love of power, then we have to understand: What spirit of God can there be there? Just look at what the saints write even regarding one person. When is Baptism valid? When a person is dipped three times and a formula is pronounced? St. Cyril of Jerusalem writes that if you are being hypocritical about your Baptism, the Holy Spirit will not baptize you. What does that mean? Mark the Ascetic writes the same thing—that the Holy Spirit is given immediately at baptism to those with firm faith, but it is not given at baptism to those who do not believe or who believe wrongly. And Saint Seraphim of Sarov said straight out on this subject: On earth you received communion, but in heaven you remain uncommuned. St. Seraphim put it mildly, while the apostle Paul writes up front: “From this, many of you are sick and dying.” That is what it means to just come and receive Communion. When false doctrine, love of power, or heresy seizes a Church, then everyone who then communes there enters into mystical communion with this, including through Communion. What happens? At best [the communicant] receives nothing. At worst, “That is why many of you are sick and die.”2 Then the Lord said straightly, in part condemning the sin of fornication, that whoever unites himself with a harlot becomes of one body with her. Do you understand? And through the Eucharist the same unification takes place. If a church has distorted its teaching, demands power, demands submission, and demands primacy for itself. That is, if it violates the main Christian commandment of love, with whom are we communing there? We have to understand what the Eucharist means in its original sense. And if you know, and nevertheless you approach the chalice, then you are going against the truth, you are sinning. With what are you uniting? With what the apostle Paul wrote: “What communion hath Christ with Belial, and light with darkness?” This is an enormous danger. I am not talking about those who do not understand yet and do not know better. This is a completely different question. We have to talk about this separately. But those who know perfectly well why the schism happened, know what has happened, and nonetheless say, “They’ve brought out the chalice and I’m ready to receive communion”? Then, forgive me, you are going directly against the Spirit of truth. What is that sin called? Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.

Alexei Ilyich, then it turns out that this whole situation that our Church is now experiencing is as if a test of faithfulness to the Church for practically each one of us. And perhaps this is almost the first time we have stood before such a choice, as to whether we are ready to share the burden of this crisis situation with our Church, or is it more important to us that we be able to receive communion in Parisian churches for example, of which we are essentially deprived today—about which many grieve.

St. Maximos the Greek. Photo: St. Maximos the Greek. Photo: —Yes, you are right. For many this is already becoming an everyday, difficult reality of life, because this has in fact happened. There is a church right near you, and you can’t receive communion there? Well we have to understand what it means to receive Communion. That is what we are talking about now. We have to make a choice. Throughout human history we have always had a choice before us—whether we should commit one or another sin, or in the present case [go against the directive of our Church]. So, we have to have patience. What about when people are in prison for a year, or ten years? Take St. Maximos the Greek, for example. He was in prison for years, and begged to be given Communion but they wouldn’t give it to him. Just imagine that. But here we have people saying, “How is it that I can’t have Communion?” This is just not serious. The essence of the matter is that where the Spirit of God is not present, there can be no true Eucharist, because God resists the proud. So we shouldn’t try to justify ourselves.

So it turns out to be a sort of inconvenience that makes many indignant—“How could you, the Church, cause me this inconvenience?”

—Yes, you’ve said it well. There is everyday comfort, and there is religious comfort. “Why can’t I?” they say. You can! The Church does not forbid anything. It only warns. God Himself does not forbid anything. God’s commandments are not a ban; man still has his own free will. God only warns: Don’t walk on nails or you’ll get very hurt! Don’t jump from the third floor window—go down the stairs, or you’ll break your arms and legs! This is what the commandments and Church recommendations mean. But if someone nevertheless, regardless of all warnings, goes ahead and does it, then he is pushing himself out and that is all. They say, “Don’t walk on nails!” but I go and walk on them. Well, as you wish! But there will be consequences...

Alexei Ilyich, you have talked much today about the passion of love of power, which we are unfortunately seeing here. Doesn’t it seem to you that it matches up with the direct love of power of politicians? That is, secular people are actively trying control the situation. And in general, what is your feeling on this, how strong is the interference of external political powers, which are trying to resolve their own political interests at the expense of the Church, in this conflict?

—I think that without a doubt, this is happening. I simply have not said anything about it; I just didn’t want to talk only about that. But that political motives and even actions, intentions, aims, and influences are present here, there can be no doubt. This is perfectly obvious. But I am afraid that it could go even deeper than the political. Remember the behavior of even the Constantinople patriarch Metaxis, how he behaved himself during the Revolution in Russia, the civil war, and the emergence of renovationism, when our Church was bleeding real blood. He supported the renovationists, and even rejected our Church. I repeat: the Church was bleeding real blood. And instead of sympathy, what did it get? That was not even politics, it was something worse. One even gets the impression that he was working for some dark forces that were warring against Christianity. This is perfectly clear. Or take Athenagoras—the same thing—when in 1975 the Constantinople Patriarch Athenagoras, suddenly in the same unilateral fashion “removed the anathema”, as they put it, from Pope Paul XVI. What was that? When these anathemas were placed there was no such manner. In this case, almost no other autocephalous Church was included in this decision. Can such serious actions be taken unilaterally? What is going on here? What sort of childish game is this? No, unfortunately, these people were not children. We cannot but believe that there are hidden forces that are obviously just trying to destroy Christianity in any way possible, including through such schisms and actions that destroy the Church from within.

For some reason it is generally not accepted to openly recognize the existence of these forces; this is laughed at, and those who do so are mocked for trying to see the influence of these forces in such situations.

—Well, this is not surprising. This has gone on throughout history. A wise man walks through Alexandria at midday with a torch. The sun is hot. I don’t remember his name, perhaps Diogenes. They ask him, “Why are you walking around with a torch?” “I am looking for a man.” “Ha-ha-ha, for a man! There are people everywhere and he’s carrying a torch, to look for a man.” Really, what a fool, right? Smarties everywhere. No, it’s not so simple to find a man. It’s the same thing here. A tree is known by its fruits. And when we see such actions that are openly destroying Christianity from without and within, then we have to think: Why is this happening?

Today there are voices being published from the opposite flank by some very zealous Orthodox people. They are calling for the anathematization of Patriarch Bartholomew. What position do you think should be dominant? Should he be anathematized, or should we just be praying that the Constantinople primate be brought to reason?

Professor Alexei Osipov Professor Alexei Osipov —Extreme measures are just that—extreme. And that is why they are taken in extraordinary circumstances, especially as regards such things as this. We cannot do this. In order to anathematize any primate or individual in Local Churches, a council is needed, and not just of one Church. If individual Churches start anathematizing each other, what will it all turn into? This is simply some kind of unreasonableness. We love extremes, unfortunately. And we wave them around like no one’s business. No, you said it right—we have to pray. Pray, but what actions should we take? We have to act according to God’s will. How do we act according to God’s will? This means acting reasonably and according to our conscience. And in the present situation, it seems to me that the decision of the Synod that was held here on October 15 [2018] bears that character. It only did not explain what the breaking of Eucharistic communion is. It doesn’t explain it, but it is perfectly understandable what they are talking about. They are not saying that they forbid us to receive Communion. Who is usually excommunicated? Someone who had committed serious sins. But we did not sin. That means that is about something else—about how we mustn’t approach that chalice, so that what the apostle Paul spoke about will not happen to us. We mustn’t play with such things. In the Eucharist, all become one body. And if instead of becoming of one body in Christ we find ourselves in one body with those who are directly and openly going against Christ’s commandments? That is the crux of the matter. It is dangerous; we mustn’t do it. This will bring disaster upon the person who starts receiving Communion within a church or community that is seriously sinning at the moment. Repentance is needed. But as you see, there is no repentance whatsoever, absolutely none. Nothing but stubbornness. This is frightening.

Certain secular commentators who have suddenly become great experts on Orthodox theology, journalists and polemicists who are totally worldly, some even atheist, are now telling us all about the Church. They say that the Russian Church instigated the schism in world Orthodoxy, and secondly, the Russian Church is dooming itself to isolation; that this isolation is very terrible and we’ll end up all alone in the Orthodox world, that we are cutting ourselves off. Is this distorted logic?

—How clairvoyant they all are! Do you see how many primates have already announced their condemnation of Constantinople? Yes, and we can suppose that their numbers are increasing. I think that soon Constantinople will find itself isolated, and not us. That’s first. Secondly, you know that the truth is not tolerant. And furthermore it [isolation] is not important. At one time the Jerusalem Church was concentrated in a section of Jerusalem. That was not a problem. And when they tore Orthodoxy apart, when the separation happened with Rome, what do you think—how should we have acted? We say Rome, but in fact how many Western churches were there? There were the Italian, the French, the Spanish, the Portuguese, the German, the English... And yes, there was a break with all of them. What can be done? Furthermore, I’ll repeat: Truth does not tolerate untruth. Two times two is not three and a billion tenths, but four and only four. It’s the same here; it’s a situation of that order. So there is nothing bad about it even if some sort of isolation really does come about. God only grant that we preserve the truth. We are not preserving ourselves, but the true teaching, the true understanding, the true life, if you will. This is very important. This is extremely important, and we have nothing to fear, even if this were to happen in some part. This could possibly happen, because someone will obviously stick with Constantinople. And I think that those forces about which you and I spoke earlier are working precisely to this end, so that there would be a schism in Orthodoxy itself. It’s no accident that Bartholomew is constantly in Rome. He’s meeting with the Roman pope. The poor man, that’s not so easy. After all, we do not commune with the Catholics. No. So what are we so afraid of now? Yes, there are some with whom we cannot commune. The Eucharist is the pinnacle of all the sacraments, and it must be cherished as a great treasure. And therefore independently of whether we are left all alone or not alone, we have to preserve this treasure uninjured, and not look at it in terms of, “Oh my God, what will Princess Maria Alexeyevna say.”

I would like to ask in conclusion: Many Ukrainian faithful watch us, and they are very grateful to us for discussing these topics very attentively. What would be your parting words or spiritual counsel to them—specifically to the Ukrainian flock that is remaining faithful to the Moscow Patriarchate under today’s very complicated circumstances?

—I think that such counsel is being given now. And His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry gave a very good homily. He said that difficult times have come, and this is a very positive sign for the Church. Perhaps he didn’t mention it, but there is a remarkable homily by St. John Chrysostom: “The worst persecution is no persecution.” Why is it the worst? Because then we settle into nice warm water and begin to dissolve. But under a cold shower... Apparently we need that. From time to time, it’s necessary. And now of course over there it’s a cold shower. But may God grant them courage, patience, and a true Christian life. One has not only to endure, but to live rightly, because if there is no true Christian life, no striving for a life according to the commandments, if there is no prayer about our sins, then I think that there will be little benefit from endurance. After all we have to know the great truth that everything sorrowful that happens to us is not some kind of punishment from God, as some insensible people think. Absolutely not. It is the consequence of our incorrect spiritual life, and it shows us that it is not too late to change. That is why in history whenever something difficult would happen to our people, what would they say? That we have to repent. We have sinned. This is not God’s punishment, but a warning, a bringing to our senses; it, if you will, shows us what sin is. And what is it? It is a wound. And a wound has to be healed. How? By sincere repentance in our lives.

Alexei Ilyich, I thank you with all my heart for today’s talk and I am sure that your words will help many of our viewers to make sense of what is happening in the Church today.

—Thank you very much.

Dear friends, this has been a special edition of the program, “Straight to the Essence” with Professor Alexei Osipov of the Moscow Theological Academy. Thank your for being with us, and all the best to you.

* * *

Editor’s note: We have translated below some of the comments that appeared under the YouTube video of this talk.

Better alone with Christ than with everyone and the demons!

It’s not hundreds of thousands who listen to Osipov, but millions.

Almost 2 million listen and the absolute majority are thankful. May God preserve our respected AI.

Dear Alexei Ilyich! I am writing to you from Ukraine. Thank you very much for your wisdom and profound knowledge, which you give to us all and which helps us to make sense of what is going on; for your instruction and support. And thank you Elena for giving us the opportunity to see and listen to you. May the Lord save you!

May the Lord save you! The truth is with us and that means that God is with us. From Ukraine, from Volhynia itself!

Alexei Ilyich is the mind, honor, and conscience of our age and our Church!

Finally! Only why do you call it, “Through the eyes of Osipov”? What’s that fear—to call a spade a spade? What Professor Osipov is saying here is not, “through the eyes of Osipov” It’s theology 101.

Christ save you! Alexei Ilyich, as always, clear and precise. In simple and accessible language. But unfortunately very few people are listening at all to the voice of God, the voice of the Church, and the voice of the Church’s enlighteners. All are trying only to show their “smartness”. May God Grant many, prosperous years to Alexei Ilyich, health and help from God and blessings to continue many more years to help people properly learn Orthodoxy and make sense of all the ecclesiastical and fringe-ecclesiastical questions!

We Orthodox Ukrainians are proud of our pastors, headed by His Beatitude Onuphry. They have not betrayed Christ. They are standing in the faith and Truth of Christ. Even if the Judases take away our church buildings we’ll pray under the open skies. O Lord, give strength unto Thy people.” Grant us all to know and do Thy will. Amen.

Thank you, Alexei Ilyich, for your support for us Ukrainian Orthodox.

Professor Alexei Osipov
Translation by



1 The famous author of Krylov’s Fables (1769—1844). This is a reference to the fable, “Geese” (1811). In that fable, the geese, who a “long tall, twiggy-thin muzhik chased the geese to the city for sale”, started complaining to the passersby that the muzhik is persecuting them as if they where ordinary birds, when he should be treating them with respect. “Our illustrious ancestry traces back to those Geese to whom Rome should be thankful for being saved.” This refers to the ancient tradition that when the geese of Rome one night heard foreigners approaching the city they started cackling and woke the guards of the Capitolia—the fortress in the center of Rome. The Gallic warriors ranks were broken, the storm was unsuccessful, and Rome was not taken. It is an ironic fable about people who have done nothing themselves but are always boasting of their ancestors’ merits (from—OC.

2 Prof. Osipov is not stating here that the by cutting off Eucharistic communion Moscow Patiarchate is declaring the Constintinople Patriarchate graceless. He is providing a hypothetical situation. But since the MP has taken this action, members of it churches are not receiving Communion in EP churches, and the MP is not giving Communion to members of the EP or concelebrating with its clergy.—OC.

See also
A Canonical Crisis in the Orthodox Church A Canonical Crisis in the Orthodox Church
Met. Jonah (Paffhausen)
A Canonical Crisis in the Orthodox Church A Canonical Crisis in the Orthodox Church
Primacy, Conciliarity and the Ecumenical Patriarchate
Metropolitan Jonah (Paffhausen)
The actions of the Patriarchate of Constantinople (EP) in its process of granting a Tomos of autocephaly to the schismatic groups in Ukraine have created a canonical crisis.
How the Phanar Decieved the Ukrainians How the Phanar Decieved the Ukrainians
Fr. George Maximov
How the Phanar Decieved the Ukrainians How the Phanar Decieved the Ukrainians
Priest George Maximov
It kind of makes sense now why Constantinople did it and why they wouldn’t listen to any pleas from other Churches not to do it. It was a low-hanging fruit, so “pleasing to the eye” and so easy for picking.
Synodality and Primacy in the Orthodox Church Synodality and Primacy in the Orthodox Church
Met. Kallistos (Ware)
Synodality and Primacy in the Orthodox Church Synodality and Primacy in the Orthodox Church
From the Keynote Address by Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware of Diokleia) at the IOTA Inaugural Conference, 9-12 January 2019 in Iasi, Romania
Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware)
What is the aim of every council? It is, through the exercise of collective discernment, to attain a common mind. Yet this common mind is not simply the sum total of the convictions of the various participants.
Political Freedom or Spiritual Freedom? Political Freedom or Spiritual Freedom?
Anna Stickles
Political Freedom or Spiritual Freedom? Political Freedom or Spiritual Freedom?
Anna Stickles
Political or cultural independence is not bad in itself, but we can tell that something has become an idol in the Christian’s heart when Christian virtue, love, obedience and harmony are sacrificed in order to obtain whatever is desired.
“Chaos Awaits Us”. On Patriarch Bartholomew’s Granting of Autocephaly to the “Orthodox Church of Ukraine” “Chaos Awaits Us”. On Patriarch Bartholomew’s Granting of Autocephaly to the “Orthodox Church of Ukraine”
Met. Sawa of Warsaw and All Poland
“Chaos Awaits Us”. On Patriarch Bartholomew’s Granting of Autocephaly to the “Orthodox Church of Ukraine” “Chaos Awaits Us”
On Patriarch Bartholomew’s Granting of Autocephaly to the “Orthodox Church of Ukraine”
Metropolitan Sawa of Warsaw and All Poland
More and more I think this matter is in God’s hands alone. Otherwise, we’ll never get out of this situation created by satan.
The Profane and the Sacred The Profane and the Sacred
Fr. Nectarios Trevino
The Profane and the Sacred The Profane and the Sacred
Fr. Nectarios Trevino
The present crisis in the news did not begin today. Its roots began in the nineteenth century—if not earlier, continued into the twentieth century, and are maturing in the twenty-first century with a new fervor into an unprecedented form of authority and authenticity—perhaps trusting that God and His people are not looking.
Philemon Castro9/15/2021 4:24 pm
Quite revealing the wisdom of Orthodoxy over Ukrainian crisis through the mouth of Professor Osipov. As a pioneering native Orthodox priest who served under EP for 25 years,I was relieved of all those ordeals of Hellenism and corruption! But when the revival of quasi-Papism of EP in Ukraine, I have sought refuge to the Moscow Patriarchate. Joyfully our humble pioneering Orthodox community in the Philippines, after having endured patiently, is now canonically working with Metropolitan Pavel of the Russian Orthodox Diocese of Manila and Hanoi. Our humble parish is The Orthodox Church of The Exaltation of the Precious and Life-creating Cross of the Lord in my native town of Siniloan, Laguna. There's providential parallelism with the archpastoral care of Saint John Maximovitch for his 5000 Russian refugees on Tubabao island in Samar sometime in 1950. Now, we have committed a lot property where Saint John Maximovitch Monastery will soon shine the light of Orthodoxy in the Philippines thru the patriarchal love of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow. Glory to Jesus Christ. Glory forever.
Mavra Patropulos 12/3/2019 6:53 am
Professor Osipov, thank you for your simplistic and thorough explanation of the Byzantine supremacy. The Ukraine inappropriate interference by Bartholomew is not exactly the cause for a schism. It has to be resolved in Love and Humility, following in Jesus’s footsteps. Dividing our Lord’s Body causes great pain to our Lord. If we love Him, as we profess we do, then we must die to ourselves, and our egos. We must work diligently to unite His Body not divide it again. Jesus said to His Apostles not to imitate the Pharisees, who lord over others, but to be imitators of Me, the Ultimate Humility and Love. THE DEVIL MUST BE DEFEATED THIS TIME, THE HIERARCHY MUST NOT ALLOW HIM TO TAKE FOOTHOLD! Special services and intersections to the Virgin Mary should be said in all the churches. We are not happy that many of our hierarchy say one thing and do another. But let us not forget that they are just as human as everyone else, I’m sure they try to keep God’s precepts but many temptations surround them and they fall, just like everyone else. Only prayer can elevate the soul to withstand the external and internal attacks. The evil one is attacking us none stop. Elevating them in prayer is most important so that God’s Grace will surround them and guide them to the truth. The first division of the Church was in 1054, the devils attack on the Body of Christ. The sin of arrogance is the devil’s trait. The Church fell under his dominion and hasn’t recovered since. Yes, the faith is continuing but the sin of division is still there and has multiplied in splinters. The Body of Christ is broken, and who is that brave holy soul that would attempt to unite the Lord’s Body? Is there anyone out there who loves the Lord beyond himself and is willing to suffer for the sake of uniting His Body? Let us not forget that those who work for the Lord’s interest will be guided by Him until it is accomplished. Those that were the cause of the division will answer to the Lord for their disobedience. The Lord says to pray for them but not criticize them, so that we don’t fall into sin. God is One and blesses all those who keep His Covenant and remember His Laws and obey them. When we do what Jesus commanded His Apostles to do, the practices and traditions, we are honoring Him. Let us not forget, that Jesus is the High Priest of the Church. He has never left the Church. Every Sunday He is officiating in the Liturgy and the priest, though sinful they maybe, are His visible Presence. He is feeding His faithful of His Body and Blood to divinize and unite with His members, to help them achieve holiness, in preparation of the Kingdom to come. Our allegiance is not to the Patriarch of Byzantium, the Pope of Rome, or the Patriarch of Russia, but to Jesus Christ. He is the Head of the Church and the King of Kings. He died on the Cross to give us eternal salvation. No one has the right to deny an Orthodox of receiving the Lord. We are all judged individually not collectively. If the Patriarch sinned, he will be judged accordingly, if he doesn’t repent. He has nothing to do whether I’m saved or not. When Judas sinned for betraying the Lord, the rest of the disciples were not effected by his actions. They continued being with the Lord until death. Therefore, we the members of Christ should continue to follow in the Lord’s footsteps. Where is the number?
Afanassy11/26/2019 10:41 pm
This split is long overdue. In the short term, the issues are not reconcilable. The psychology and mentality of modernism and accommodation are now embedded in America and the modern world generally. It's the ZeitGeist, the "sprit of the age". Some Old Calendar Greek jurisdictions, whom we term "non-canonical", have been saying precisely that for years. This was the 4th obvious time, in our own memory, that the Ecumenical Patriarch has sought to act as a mini-Pope, and violate the conciliar and canonical protocols of true Orthodoxy: 1) The acquisition of the Church of Estonia, within the canonical Territory of the MP; 2) The unauthorized change in the Agenda for the Great Council of 2016, invalidating it; 3) The assignment of clergy to the Czech Republic, in violation of the Church developing there; 4) The attempted legitimization the non-canonical "Church" of Ukraine. Where does it stop? When does true Orthodoxy say, "enough"? Well, the Moscow Patriarchate (MP) has said, "enough", and done so properly. We have had "Two Orthodoxies" for a long time, and have failed to realize it or acknowledge it (for many reasons). These Two Orthodoxies" cannot be "In Communion" with each other, any more than the heretical so-called "Roman Catholics" can be "In Communion" with true Orthodoxy. Any other conclusion would make hash out of the Canons and the Councils of the historic Orthodox Church. The time for οἰκονομία has run out: the time for ἀκρίβεια has begun.
Haeul3/17/2019 4:30 pm
The actions of Bartholomew and his cabal of Phanariotes can simply no longer be tolerated. The Church episcopate must act, or it will be as culpable for the new Great Schism, that looms large on the horizon, as those who originated it. Phanar has turned into a snake pit or the most vile form of ethnophyletism, which verges on open racism. It "sows discord among brothers" (Proverbs 6:19) and is so utterly devoid of Christian spirit that it is an affront to God. "Behold, I give unto you power to trample on serpents and scorpions" (Luke 10:19), and trample on them we must, lest we be consumed by them. We must put a stop to this before it grows.
Myron Gregory Jonathan Andre2/20/2019 6:48 pm
Many Years to the blessed Professor Osipov ! Let the Lord of Hosts, the Holy Life-Giving Trinity speaks through him everywhere, as The Wisdom of God has shown forth from his Godly answers ! I also believe that not all of Orthodox Greeks are in a common ground with the Phanar ! As even the Archbishop of Athens has stood up against the Ecumenical Patriarchate that it brought such delight that our Greek siblings in the Lord have stood against such unlawful and ungodly decisions of the Ecumenical Patriarchate! For the Heavenly Commandments and Statutes, Laws, of Dogmas, Teachings, Tradition, and the one and only Truth of the Lord through His Holy Eternal Church shall prevail unto all ages, Amen.
Gary Cox 2/5/2019 2:11 pm
I do agree that it seems that Constantinople has fallen by the wayside. May the Patriarchs of the Church make the right decision in this and related matters. And Russia IS the third Rome. Let's keep the prayers going along with our own repentance.
Anthony1/23/2019 8:52 pm
Dearly beloveds! May we please not forget that Patrik I. Bartholomeos is in fact a turkish citizen (and acts much the same way as his nation - arrogant and aggressive trying to steal and usurp that which is not his). He is (like our entire political class) what we term psefto-romaiko. False Greeks. As Ayios Paisios said: no matter if a gypsy wears a foustanella, that will never make him an evzonas. And if you look at Patrik I's behaviour, and you have studied the spiritual causes of the destruction of Byzantium, they are one and the same. That is why today we Hellenes have ended up being humbled. Because of this type of behaviour.
Paok1/23/2019 7:46 pm
Dear Theodoros, it is very clear to us that PB is attempting to use the Greek people, and Greek nationalism as a tool to gather support. He has no allegiance to the Greek people, Orthodoxy or the Church. His allegiance is to the highest bidder with the most lavish promises! The true Orthoodx Greeks see right through his demagoguery, and we will not be fooled!!! Christ, and Orthodoxy first, and everything else second. It is clear to all of us that Russia is the third and final Rome and the only country that is free to follow Christ without the godless influence of the west and for this reason we should all support her.
RC Anthony Clark1/23/2019 6:59 pm
It is very sad for us, as we ourselves continually struggle against our own passions, grieve, repent, confess, and are restored, when we look upon those we hoped to have been (we had hoped) already tried by ascetic struggle to overcome the passions and thus become our leaders, to see these bold manifestations of pride among any of the Bishops of the Church, whether they be in Rome or Constantinople. So perhaps then, this is sign for us, not to become outraged at the scandal, but that we need to redouble our own efforts and vigilance in personal piety, in prayer, in obedience to His statutes/commandments, and repentance.
Theodoros1/23/2019 3:14 am
As a Greek, I hope that the Orthodox world distinguishes between most of us and the Phanar. The
Phanar's actions in Ukraine are immoral, uncanonical, and schismatic. The Phanariots have discovered their
Greek roots suddenly so that they can split the Orthodox Churches between the Greek and non Greek Churches.
Most of us Greeks will not be fooled by Phanariots who bless Turkish tanks and work against the largest Orthodox
Country in the world which is Holy Russia, the Third Rome.

For what it is worth I am pro Russian and believe that Greece and Cyprus should leave the west and align itself with
Holy Russia. Russia is the last Christian nation.
Paok1/22/2019 11:21 pm
Very good interview. I think that the Professor covers all of the issues related to the schism, and the EP's behavior.

May God give our people strength to do what is right. I pray Mount Athos, Crete, and the Monasteries under Elder Ephraim in the USA will do the right thing and leave the EP, before it gets worse. It is a dangerous situation for them, and for all those that commune in their churches and monasteries.
Gary Cox1/22/2019 7:40 pm
As lay members of the Orthodox Church we can pray for our leaders to make the right decision. If even one turns from God it is a tragedy. If that happens then we have to make a decision personally on staying with someone who leaves the Church or finding one that stays true. I think God will guide us in the right direction if we but listen.
J.P.1/22/2019 7:22 pm
Many thanks to Professor Osipov.
May Gob be with him!
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