Moscow, November 18, 2020
Those primates and hierarchs from various Local Orthodox Churches who have recognized the schismatic “Orthodox Church of Ukraine” (OCU) unfortunately confused personal ambitions with the good of the Church, Archbishop Leonid of Vladikavkaz and Alan of the Russian Orthodox Church believes.
Abp. Leonid, the Deputy Chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations (DECR), recently spoke about the reasons prompting the recognition of the OCU by several primates on the Tsargrad TV channel.
The Archbishop recalled that in February 2019, the Holy Synod of the Church of Cyprus expressed its serious doubts that the illegitimately consecrated hierarchs could serve as the foundation for a new autocephalous Church. Although the situation with the OCU hierarchs did not change in the intervening year and a half, Abp. Chrysostomos decided to recognize and enter into communion with the schismatics anyways, Abp. Leonid emphasized.
The Russian Church is always ready for dialogue, the DECR representative stressed, but those who recognize the OCU do not respond constructively.
“Our opponents don’t explain anything to us, saying, ‘Oh, you know, the Foreign Ministry forced me,’ they dug up some dirt on another one, and the third is taking orders from the State Department,” Abp. Leonid explained.
It’s all a test of strength, the Russian hierarch is sure, “and I don’t doubt for a second that we will pass this test with dignity.”
Last year, after Abp. Chrysostomos of Cyprus declared that he would not commemorate Epiphany Dumenko, the schismatic primate, in the Divine services, and after the Cypriot Holy Synod refused to recognize the OCU and strongly questioned its legitimacy, the Cypriot media began to report on a 2015 scandal involving the Archbishop helping the fugitive Malaysian businessman Jho Low obtain a Cypriot passport. See this November 2019 report from Cyprus Mail, for example.
Concerning Pat. Theodoros of Alexandria, the Patriarchate is heavily dependent upon the Greek Foreign Ministry for funding and diplomatic help, and it is widely believed that Pat. Theodoros recognized the schismatics under severe press from the Greek state and Greek hierarchs within his own Patriarchate.
It is also well known that Pat. Bartholomew created the OCU with the backing of the U.S. State Department. Having met with Pat. Bartholomew in Istanbul just yesterday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke of the Patriarchate of Constantinople as the “leader of the Orthodox world” and one of the U.S.’s “key partners.”
Nevertheless, “we are always ready for dialogue,” Abp. Leonid assured, “but we are not ready for betrayal.”
If the consecrations of the bishops in Ukraine are valid, and recognition of them is lawful, then those who recognize should make their case, Abp. Leonid said, “but they don’t say anything. They say, ‘I decided to do this.’ Then our question is: ‘On what basis did you decide to do this?’”
“The Church isn’t just a circle of interests; it’s a society of believers in Jesus Christ united by the Mysteries of Christ, on the basis of the canons,” the Archbishop stressed, adding that “it is necessary to observe the canons and not confuse personal interests and ambitions with the benefit of the Mother Church.”
In another recent interview, Abp. Leonid also spoke about how hundreds of African clergy have expressed a desire to join the Russian Orthodox Church because of Patriarch Theodoros’ lawless recognition of the Ukrainian schismatics.