Minsk, September 14, 2020
There is no need for autocephaly for the Belarusian Church, though the topic is being imposed upon the Belarusian people from secular people outside the Church who want to advance their own ideas, believes His Eminence Metropolitan Benjamin of Minsk, the newly-appointed head of the Belarusian Exarchate.
His Eminence addressed the topic in a recent interview with RT.
“The history of the previous century shows that when this topic arises, as a rule, the autocephalists were backed by a group of people who couldn’t manage to prove themselves here in the homeland, and in general, it’s some kind of church organization that wasn’t supported or recognized at that time,” Met. Benjamin explained.
His Eminence recalled that during World War II, the Nazi occupation authorities and Belarusian collaborators tried to force the clergy to proclaim autocephaly for the Belarusian Church.
According to the Metropolitan, “this topic is more remembered by secular people who want to advance their own ideas and desires. But there is absolutely no need for this now.” In this regard, it’s important to remain vigilant and “avoid any feeble efforts to raise this topic in one form or another.”
Schismatics in both Ukraine and Belarus are taking advantage of the unfortunate situation of unrest in Belarus to try to further divide the Moscow Patriarchate by inciting the Belarusian people towards a demand for autocephaly. Recall that the schismatic “Orthodox Church of Ukraine” was and is an unrecognized group that called for autocephaly, as Met. Benjamin describes in his interview.
Though there is some nationalist sentiment in Belarus right now, it is not a deciding factor for the Belarusian Church, Met. Benjamin continued.
“There is a demand in our society for more Belarusian language, that our national consciousness should develop more, but it is not so great that it should be put at the forefront. I don’t think it would be a good prospect for the Church if only the national sign prevails,” he said.
What matters most is adherence to the teachings of the Orthodox Church, the Metropolitan added.
Meanwhile, clergy in both the Belarusian and Ukrainian Churches are concerned that the Patriarchate of Constantinople has already laid the groundwork for declaring Belarusian autocephaly, as it did with the schismatic OCU in Ukraine.
Archimandrite Savva of the St. Nicholas Monastery in Gomel, Belarus recalls that the Patriarchate of Constantinople has declared the territory of Belarus a zone of influence, “and certain canonical preparations are already underway to establish either autocephaly or a Belarusian exarchate of the Patriarchate of Constantinople. In any case, we are expecting a Church schism.”
In the summer of 2018, in the lead-up to the final creation of the schismatic “Orthodox Church of Ukraine,” the Patriarchate of Constantinople suddenly declared the 1686 act that transferred the Kiev Metropolis to the Russian Orthodox Church null and void, claiming the territory had always been under the jurisdiction of Constantinople. The historical territory of the Kiev Metropolis includes parts of Belarus today.
Met. Benjamin also spoke of relations between the Russian, Ukrainian, and Belarusian peoples, noting that, in general, they are close, fraternal peoples, though division has been forced on them from outside on political grounds.
“We did not have the wisdom of our previous generations to resist this division,” he commented.