Metropolitan Isaiah of Tamassos, on All Aspects of the Ukrainian Question

An Interview with His Eminence Metropolitan Isaiah of Tamassos and Orinis. Part 1

His Eminence Metropolitan Isaiah of Tamassos and Orinis gave an interview to the Romfea Church news agency, which we have translated into English in three parts, frankly answering all the questions about his position regarding the actions of Constantinople, the West, and Moscow, and also commenting on the behavior of the Archbishop of Cyprus. In the end, Metropolitan Isaiah answered how, in his view, a resolution to the “Ukrainian question” could be reached.

Metropolitan Isaiah of Tamassos Metropolitan Isaiah of Tamassos     

Your Eminence, you are the sole Russian-speaking hierarch of the Church of the Cyprus who has studied theology and served in Russia for many years. Why did you study in Russia and not in Greece like all the other hierarchs of the Cypriot Church?

—I studied in Russia, but also in Greece and in the U.S. Indeed, since 1993, I have developed strong relations with Russia, thanks to my studies and missionary activity within the framework of my obedience to Metropolitan Nikiforos of Kykkos and Tillyria, who was then just the abbot of my monastery, and the ever-memorable Archbishop Chrysostomos I of Cyprus.

I was given so many tasks before leaving for Moscow that when they were described to me, to be honest, I was a little afraid of this huge responsibility I had to take upon myself.

My first goal was studying Russian to have the chance to get a theological education, and also a deep study of Russian Church history and the Russian culture and way of life; getting acquainted with higher and lower Russian clergy and cooperating with them; serving and strengthening our inter-Church relations; establishing contacts between Russian and Cypriot bishops through exchange visits; starting cooperation in ecclesiastical, cultural, and humanitarian spheres, and then developing and planning religious tourism between our countries.

Besides all of that, I had to introduce both Christian and non-Christian Russians to the natural, religious, and cultural values of Cyprus, to tell about their destruction in the occupied territories, and to generally inform the Russian public about Cyprus’ national problem.

Upon returning to Cyprus, with the blessing of my abbot, now Metropolitan Nikiforos of Kykkos and Tillyria, the Archbishop entrusted me with the care of the Russian-speaking Orthodox in Nicosia and asked me to help all the dioceses where some problems arose with the Russians.

For example, for a few years I was officially appointed the spiritual father and confessor of the Russian-speaking prisoners in the central prison, whose number was constantly growing.

I was involved in many types of activities, and have been successfully serving in many spheres for twenty-eight years now.

How did your relations with the Russian Church and familiarity with Russian culture influence your position on the “Ukrainian question?” How do you explain your attitude towards the Ecumenical Patriarchate? Despite your disagreement with its actions, you often say that you respect and honor it.

—As for the question of the schismatic church of Ukraine, after studying the history and culture of our Churches for many years, I can confidently say that the emergence of the “OCU” occurred because of problems that have long existed in the relations between the Ecumenical and Moscow Patriarchates.

After the fall of the Byzantine Empire, the governing structures of the Ecumenical Patriarchate always thought, based on certain experience, that the Russian Empire (and later the Soviet Union and Russian Federation) sought to replace the primacy of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Orthodoxy with the primacy of the Russian Orthodox Church.

All these vicissitudes and difficulties began after the so-called “Third Rome” theory1 arose in the fifteenth century, which manifested itself in various periods of Church history with different forces to a greater or lesser degree.

The realization of Moscow’s ambitions in practice would be a catastrophe for the Ecumenical Patriarchate, because then it would lose its historical privileges that brought it glory and honor, and also the international recognition and influence on the Orthodox Local Churches. Thus, it would become less useful for the West, and, consequently, it would be easier for the Turks to liquidate the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul, and the Ecumenical Patriarch would be forced to take refuge somewhere in the territory of the Greek diaspora.

This gradually created a common platform for negotiations between the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Western governments, which had some common interests, but were driven by different motives.

This platform, thanks to the Greek diaspora, enjoys a great position and favor in America and Europe, where the largest (especially after the Asia Minor catastrophe) and most thriving flock is located. This is where the funding comes from for the Ecumenical Patriarchate, which has significant ties with this diaspora.

Naturally, such cooperation has always been encouraged by the U.S., especially at the time of the atheist regime of the Soviet Union, when the Ecumenical Patriarchate, having influence on all the Local Orthodox Churches, was considered by the United States and the rest of the Western world to be a kind of counterweight to the communist, political, and religious geostrategic expanse in which Orthodox Christians lived.

This fact automatically turned religious differences into a geostrategic conflict of a religious nature, inasmuch as the West has always perceived the Moscow Patriarchate as a serious tool of Russian diplomacy abroad.

Indeed, the Moscow Patriarchate, which had been taken hostage and persecuted by the Soviets, was easily used for foreign diplomacy by the Soviet authorities, even though the communists claimed that religion was the “opium” of the Soviet people and were eager to destroy it.

Although the situation changed dramatically with Perestroika, the often cautious and even hostile attitude of the West towards the Moscow Patriarchate has remained the same.

As some professors close to the Ecumenical Throne explained to me, in the minds and interests of the West, the Russian Federation is still a competitor because of the expansionist policy that the Russian Empire followed in its time, and then, because of communism in the USSR.

Today, the symbol of this competition is the current President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin.

From this, it’s easy to conclude that for the West, everything that improves Mr. Putin’s image and makes him more attractive and therefore more competitive on the international stage should be demonized and devalued in the interests of his rivals.

And they are drawing us Orthodox into it too.

The Moscow Patriarchate is greatly subjected to persecution today because the West believes President Putin uses the ROC-MP to oppose the West in Orthodox countries. Thus, the position of the Church was and remains an important political issue for the implementation of the West’s key geostrategic goals in relation to its competitor—Russia.

You can agree or not with these facts, but this is the reality of the modern geopolitical chess game in which the Local Orthodox Churches are inevitably involved.

In this situation, which can be briefly described by the phrase, “Whoever is not with us is against us,” we, the Orthodox, are called to maintain a delicate balance between the people involved in it, to protect our Local Orthodox Churches as much as possible.

Interested people from various countries perceive and advance the Ecumenical Patriarch as the leader of all Orthodox primates, whom the Russians should also follow.

Regardless of how the Phanar handles this situation from an ecclesiastical point of view, the West, according to its recent statements, is heavily invested in strengthening and imposing the primacy of the Ecumenical Patriarch on all Local Churches.

Russia’s rivals, having good relations with the Phanar, seek to achieve their political goals on a global scale. To do this, they advance the Western concept of the existence of one spiritual leader for all Christians in the West, and, accordingly, one in the East.

To be fair, the Ecumenical Patriarchate has never publicly supported such things or hinted that it accepts them.

In its recent statements, the Ecumenical Patriarchate stated that although some forces agree with it on certain issues, including the Ukrainian problem, that doesn’t mean they have any influence over it.

Now, what do I, a bishop of the Cypriot Orthodox Church, think about all this?

I don’t object to both the West and the East supporting the Ecumenical Patriarchate so it can survive in Turkey.

Every Greek, and indeed every Orthodox should desire and strive for this. I’m not against the support of international institutions dealing with issues of religious freedom (of course, where it’s violated) or cooperation with the U.S., or with Europe and the East to protect the rights of the faithful.

I believe it’s necessary to cooperate both with the U.S. and the European Union, of which Greece is a member, not only in this sphere but in others as well—such as human rights, art, culture, and academia. Both the U.S. and Europe have something to share with other countries in these areas.

In other words, you believe that the U.S. and Europe, in parallel with their interests, can offer something useful for the pastoral care of the faithful of our Church, including defending the rights of believers and defending human rights in general?

—Of course they can if they do it correctly, respecting our history, traditions, and theology.

Orthodox has constructively cooperated and still cooperates with the West in many fields, and there’s no reason this shouldn’t continue.

Here I must emphasize that my pastoral ministry has been greatly enriched thanks to my studies in four U.S. universities offered to the Kykkos Monastery by the U.S. Embassy in early 2000.

As part of the program for religious humanitarian organizations of the then-U.S. President George Bush, as the head of the humanitarian and missionary department of the Kykkos Monastery, I studied modern methods of social protection that could be used by religious organizations to preserve their culture and traditions. This knowledge has been useful to me in many situations.

Probably many remember my humanitarian work on five continents for more than fifteen years, when, as a representative not only of the holy Kykkos Monastery but of all of Cyprus, in at least three cases (Iraq, Sri Lanka [the tsunami], and Lebanon), I was involved in transferring humanitarian aid and worked on implementing a permanent support program in many countries in cooperation with the Doctors of the World organization, whose work in Cyprus was coordinated by Dr. Eleni Theocharous at that time.

Much of what I learned then I have successfully used in my diocese and today—of course, within the framework of Orthodox theology. An example is the creation and activity of the Tamassos Foundation for Social Services in the Field of Public Mutual Assistance, which professionally organized a network of social stores and other humanitarian and psychological support services in Cyprus on behalf of the Church.

Another area in which I use the knowledge I received abroad is cooperation with the KENTHEA center, which provides mental health services and the treatment of various addictions in Cyprus.

Part 2: When You Love Someone, You Tell Him the Truth

Part 3. “Both Russian and Greek Orthodox Christians Are Persecuted by the Godless of This World”

Emil Poligenis spoke with Metropolitan Isaiah (Kykkotis) of Tamassos
Translation from the Russian version by Jesse Dominick


1 The idea of Moscow as the Third Rome, as historians suggest, originated in a letter from the Pskov monk Filofei to Grand Prince Vasily III of Moscow. He wrote: “The first two Romes have fallen, the third will not fall, and there won’t be a fourth.” That all the main Orthodox capitals were under Turkish rule, and Moscow had thrown off the Mongol Yoke and was becoming a strong, central power, led Russian rulers to assume they now had the role of the center of the Christian world, and later to exercise a sort of guardianship of the downtrodden Eastern Orthodox peoples under the Turkish Yoke. This idea was especially supported by the niece of the last Byzantine emperor, Sophia Paleologos, who married Grand Prince Ivan III of Moscow. By the end of the Medieval period in Rus’s this idea had mostly disappeared, but was revived in the late 19th century by some Slavophile philosophers in a purely spiritual, non-political sense. Today, the idea floats around among some Russian Orthodox without any call for concrete action attached other than that Russians themselves preserve their Orthodox faith to the last. It is not interpreted in Russia as a reason to displace the Constantinople Patriarch as the “first among equals” in honor.—O.C.

See also
New Book: Cypriot hierarch’s examination of Ukrainian crisis to be published in English New Book: Cypriot hierarch’s examination of Ukrainian crisis to be published in English New Book: Cypriot hierarch’s examination of Ukrainian crisis to be published in English New Book: Cypriot hierarch’s examination of Ukrainian crisis to be published in English
It is essential reading for all Orthodox believers who want to more fully grasp what the Ukrainian ecclesial crisis means for the future of their Church.
Cypriot Metropolitan Athanasios sends love and prayers to faithful of canonical Ukrainian Church Cypriot Metropolitan Athanasios sends love and prayers to faithful of canonical Ukrainian Church Cypriot Metropolitan Athanasios sends love and prayers to faithful of canonical Ukrainian Church Cypriot Metropolitan Athanasios sends love and prayers to faithful of canonical Ukrainian Church
His Eminence Metropolitan Athanasios of Limassol, one of the most authoritative hierarchs of the Church of Cyprus and of the entire Orthodox Church today, loves the suffering faithful of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church and calls upon them to remain faithful to Christ in His Church under the leadership of His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and All Ukraine.
Cypriot Metropolitan: The Russian Church Was Justified in Breaking Communion with Constantinople Cypriot Metropolitan: The Russian Church Was Justified in Breaking Communion with Constantinople Cypriot Metropolitan: The Russian Church Was Justified in Breaking Communion with Constantinople Cypriot Metropolitan: The Russian Church Was Justified in Breaking Communion with Constantinople
The Conclusions of Metropolitan Nikiforos of Kykkos’ Canonical Study of the Ukrainian Issue
Metropolitan Nikiforos of Kykkos and Tellyria
The witness of Met. Nikiforos and his new book is especially important because it demonstrates that, despite the loud insistences of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, the Ukrainian scandal is not about Russians rejecting the special role of Constantinople and the Greek people within the Church, but rather, it is a question of fidelity to the Orthodox canons and theology.
kfeto8/9/2022 4:22 pm
The EP is in an unnatural state, like a zombie or vampire, without a flock of its own, it has to feed itself with the flesh and blood of other orthodox Churches. The right thing to do would be to abolish itself or accept a downgrade to its real proportions: a diocese of a 1.500 people give or take. It is sheer vanity that makes it clinging to its former state, makes it a easy prey to the machinations of the Americans and us(speaking as a Turk here). God always rewards good deeds and answers sincere prayers. If it had done this years ago and prayed earnestly for it, the Aya Sophia would've even reopened as a church...
sherlock_holmes4/5/2021 10:17 pm
" World politics may also force a solution of a kind---Russian troops on Ukraine's border..." And sooner than later a huge local warming in Istanbul might force the EP to take refugee somewhere else. I have just realized that New York it is not safe according to the saint monk Anthony ( Anatoly ).
Theodoros 4/5/2021 5:43 pm
David, for twenty six years Patriarch Bartholomew was in full agreement that the canonical Church in Ukraine was the Church that is part of the Moscow Patriarchate. He was absolutely clear on this as can be seen by the two letters he sent to Patriarch Alexey II of blessed memory in 1992 and 1997. As recently as 2014, he sent a congratulatory message to the enthronement of Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev affirming the canonicity of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church as the true Church of Ukraine. Patriarch Bartholomew changed his stance in 2018 and has never attempted to address his previous stance on Ukraine and why he changed his position. Your references to Korea and the other areas where he is in conflict with Moscow affirm that he is in fact the cause of the divisions of Orthodoxy. It is not just in Ukraine where he has created division and chaos. I would argue that Moscow is right and that the Ukrainian problem is in fact none of his business. If Patriarch Bartholomew wanted to correct a problem why has he not attempted to resolve the problems in Greece with old calendar-traditionalist Orthodox. He would have been on more legitimate ground here because Constantinople can legitimately claim to be the mother Church of the Church of Greece unlike Ukraine. Considering the cause of this problem created by Meletios Metaxakis his predecessor it would have been right for Patriarch Bartholomew to attempt to heal this schism. But he has not because he does not care about healing schisms, he creates schisms. And Ukraine is in fact none of his business. Consider everything that has happened since 2018. Violence and persecution of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Conflict within the Patriarchate of Alexandria between the hierarchy that recognized the fake Ukrainian church and the native African priests. The Church of Greece has been spiritually and morally compromised as the holy synod blindly obeyed Patriarch Bartholomews dictation which has led to conflicts between some of its hierarchs and theologians with the synod, not to mention that the Church of Greece is effectively being influenced by American foreign policy interests. Mount Athos has been compromised as some of its abbots have concelebrated with Ukrainian lay people dressed up as bishops. The American "Ambassador" to Greece Geoffrey Pyatt made a notorious visit to the holy Mountain as have American consular officials from Thessaloniki to promote their anti Russian agenda demonstrating they have no respect for anything holy. The Church of Cyprus has now become a source of division with the Archbishop choosing to commemorate the lay person Dimenko while disregarding the opinions and wishes of other hierarchs within the Church of Cyprus. Patriarch Bartholomew's Ukrainian venture has been the cause of evil and destruction. Not only has he not ended the Ukrainian schism, he has created further schisms and problems in Orthodoxy most notably between the Greek Churches and the Slavic ones. In fact, he has created tensions between the Greek monks and the slavic monks on the holy mountain. He needs to be deposed for all of the above.
David4/5/2021 1:28 am
Theodoros, As we know, things are not always what they seem. In 2010 the relationship was still cordial at the highest level, but I don't know if I would characterize it as warm (although on the local level it certainly could be and often was), especially considering all of the conflicts happening in the Diaspora and mission lands (China, Indonesia, Korea, et al), the territorial conflict (Estonia), the first Ukrainian issue (the North American Ukrainians, who had the exact same canonical issues as the OCU----and yet the MP accepted them---grudgingly perhaps) as well as the dialogues leading up to the Cretan Council that would become increasingly acrimonious. All was not well, and as I said before, it all built up. I have read those accounts of the Church seizures, a very tragic and horrible (and old) problem in that part of the world. Neighbor against neighbor. Churches are owned by the village, and if the majority of the village decides to switch to the OCU, what is the UOC-MP minority supposed to do (or vice versa)? It is all too easy to just sit back and wring our hands, but those are not "just buildings" to the people there. As the latest article posted on this website shows, the Patriarchate was interested in the Ukraine issue long before. Actually, the Patriarchate wanted to look into the matter more deeply in the late 90s/early 00s but was curtly told by the MP to "mind your own business." Again, some years pass, and again, "Mind your own business." By 2008,it had reached the point that the EP was looking into the "Estonia solution" for the Ukraine problem. The Patriarchate talked to the UOC-MP about it, and was given a hard "No," told that "creating parallel jurisdictions would not solve the schism." I would also say that Akrevia and demanding "repentance" has not solved it either. Rightly or Wrongly, the EP's actions in Ukraine have forced the issue. A Council is not possible now, but it is inevitable. World politics may also force a solution of a kind---Russian troops on Ukraine's border reminds me of an old adage attributed to Napoleon: "You can do anything with a bayonet except sit on it." May Peace prevail on all fronts.
David4/5/2021 12:57 am
Mother Cornelia, I pray so. May your Lent be fruitful as well. I am grateful for the discussion.
Anastasios4/4/2021 11:58 am
I'm very impressed by Theodoros' explanations on the issue.Frankly speaking, EP did very wrong! I'm not either Russian not Greek but for the sake of our Orthodox Church, I saw his mistakes on Ukraine
Theodoros 4/4/2021 4:02 am
David, I used to be active in matters pertaining to the Ecumenical Patriarchate's rights in Turkey. I understand where you are coming from and I respect your support for the Patriarchate. The Patriarchate has had a brutal history in Turkey during the twentieth century and I am very well familiar with the history of the fate of the Greek Orthodox faithful of Asia Minor and Constantinople. The Patriarchate had one thing going for it entering the twenty first century. It could have legitimately claimed to be a martyred Church. Indeed, it has produced Saint Chrysostom and other Greek clerics who died bloody deaths at the hands of the Turks because they were Christians. There was a time when I could say I admired Patriarch Bartholomew who has been the target of several bomb attacks and assassination attempts by Turkish nationalists and Islamic fanatics. I am well aquainted with the Patriarchate's situation. Patriarch Bartholomew for a time seemed to be getting along with the Russian Church. Russian bishops, faithful, and Russian government officials were present at the divine liturgy at the Monastery of Panagia Soumela in Trebizond on the feast of the dormition of the Theotokos in 2010. Russians bishops were there worshipping with Patriarch Bartholomew. There were reports indicating that the Russians in fact helped the Patriarch secure the Monastery (which had been a museum since 1923) for liturgical services to be held once a year. Furthermore, Russian bishops participated in the services that Patriarch Bartholomew presided over in the Churches of the great Cappadocian fathers in the region of Cappadocia. For a brief time it appeared that Constantinople and Moscow were indeed sister Churches and the Russians were helping Constantinople. Unfortunately, Patriarch Bartholomew reverted to being a partisan and resumed promoting factionalism. His top priority became grabbing complete and total power over the whole of Orthodoxy. His decision to intervene in Ukraine in 2018 was nothing more than a complete and total grab for power. His incessant (and irrational) hostility to the Russian Church blinded him into making catastrophic decisions. The Patriarchate has evolved from being a persecuted Church into being an accomplice to the persecution of Ukrainian Orthodox Christians. Are you reading the articles about Ukrainian priests and ordinary faithful being brutally beaten by fanatics who belong to the so called "OCU". The history of the Church of Constantinople cannot and should not be used to excuse the destructive policies and actions of Patriarch Bartholomew. At present, the Patriarchate of Constantinople has very few Greek faithful left in Turkey. The Turkish government has no intention of allowing the Patriarchal Seminary at Halki to open. The American government will do nothing for the Patriarchate. Patriarch Bartholomew should have placed his faith in Christ, not the US government or the European Union. He should have taken inspiration from the miracle of the Russian Church which revived despite the most horrific persecution ever waged against Christianity by the Bolsheviks. What he has done in Ukraine is destruction nothing more. I do not see the point in having a Patriarchate in Constantinople if it does not profess the Orthodox faith.
m. Cornelia4/3/2021 11:17 am
David, I appreciate you telling me a little about your experience. Probably it has motivated you to want to "deescalate" the situation. But the history of our Church shows that when it comes to God's Law and Orthodox doctrine, the only way to resolve a conflict once and for all is through an Ecumenical Council--a real one--which certain people do not want to have in this situation. Steadfastness in our Orthodox faith and holding to God's laws has never hurt anyone but the devil--although those who do so have often suffered from the latter through people. But our martyrs and confessors would not have done it any other way. Pray for the situation, and I wish you a profitable Great Lent.
David4/3/2021 2:37 am
Theodoros, I never said the US was a good or equal partner. It is a power game the US played to keep countries in their orbit. It enabled the Patriarchate's survival and a higher profile in the west, but little more. REALISTICALLY, that is all they were going to get. The US turned a blind eye to many atrocities to secure their alliances during the Cold War. As I said before, a reevaluation of that alliance would be good, but again, realistically, the US alliance is the means for the Patriarchate to remain in Asia Minor and to continue. As for Crete, my own opinions are mixed on it. I don't believe the MP scuttled the Council, but that is what the Patriarchate believes. Understanding is the key to reconciliation. Deposing HAH Bartholomew won't do anything. The relationship between the EP and MP is broken, and shuffling chairs won't solve the problem.
David 4/3/2021 2:23 am
Mother Cornelia, I am not saying that we should tell other people how to feel. I would never say we must tell the heart what to think. Let me also tell you something personal: I served in the Iraq War as part of a UMT (unit ministry team---the Chaplain). I have dealt with soldiers with PTSD and have done suicide intervention. As I said, it is a different thing when a person speaks from pain, and pain has to be processed in different ways. "It's ok to not be ok." Was a maxim I heard then, and it has served me well since. With that said, the people in proximity have a role, and that includes not "fanning the flames" so to speak. It was this experience that I was speaking from, Conflict resolution and my war experience. Perhaps the real reason there is no Council is because nobody is ready to talk yet. My whole point was that de-escalation is not only textbook, but in keeping with the Gospel.
Theodoros 4/2/2021 4:47 pm
David, the Russian Church did not attend the Council of Crete because three other Churches (Antioch, Georgia, Bulgaria) announced they were not going to attend the Council of Crete. The Russian Church pointed out correctly that the decisions of a council in which all Churches were not present could not be binding. The Russian Church did not undermine the Council of Crete. As the Council of Crete was nearing, Patriarch Bartholomew began to demonstrate his desire for more power which alienated many of the local Churches. The Bulgarian Church for example had asked for a postponement of the council so they could have more time to examine the documents. When Patriarch Bartholomew refused, the Bulgarians declared they would not be attending. Moscow did not sabotage the Council as Constantinople claims. Furthermore, Metropolitan Ierotheos of Nafpaktos who did attend the Council of Crete as part of a delegation from Greece said that he was threatened by Metropolitan John Zizioulias into signing the documents that he refused to sign. The Council of Crete was not Orthodox by any means and has not been accepted by the Orthodox Church. The Council of Crete today can be seen as a sinister foreshadowing of what was to come when Patriarch Bartholomew invaded the territory of Ukraine. It was during that time that I started having doubts about Patriarch Bartholomew and his intentions.
m. Cornelia4/2/2021 11:53 am
David, when the same thing happens to us or our loved ones (God forbid), then we can talk about what should or should not be said among the laity. Forgive me, but I am going to say something personal. You, like many converts (I can tell by your comments that you, like me, are a convert to Orthodoxy), judge issues according to human laws. But we are talking here about God's laws. There is an old Russian saying, "You can't tell your heart what to think". Of course you'll say, "We must tell our hearts what to think". But this folk wisdom is about a Christian conscience, firmly rooted in God's laws and Orthodox teaching. Many holy fathers have said that if we don't develop this conscience, we will not recognize the antichrist for who he is. This, I believe, is why so many of the Greek laity are so outraged at what Patriarch Bartholomew is doing. They know the difference in their hearts between a stone and a loaf of bread, a scorpion and a fish. This conscience can't be silenced and won't be, because it comes from God, while human laws are cheap and will be worth nothing at the Last Judgment.
Theodoros 4/2/2021 2:57 am
David, regarding the alliance of the Ecumenical Patriarchate with the US that you refer to and the Patriarchate's survival. Back in September 1955, the Turkish government organized a pogrom against the Greek Orthodox of Constantinople. Churches and Monasteries were desecrated in unspeakable ways, Greek homes and businesses were burned and destroyed. Greeks were beaten and raped while the Turkish police did nothing to intervene to stop the mobs. In the days following many Greeks fled Constantinople in terror (it is not known how many fled but this was the beginning of the end for the Greeks of Constantinople). In the aftermath of the pogroms, the Greek government responded angrily and demanded that the US and NATO act against Turkey. In response, the United States government pressured and bullied GREECE, not Turkey. Athens was told to drop their grievances against Turkey or American aid would stop. The Ecumenical Patriarchate received no support from the United States government. This was during the era of Patriarch Athenagoras who went to Constantinople in 1948 on President Truman's Plane. Patriarch Athenagoras and the Greeks had believed that American support would prevent the persecution of the Patriarchate by the Turks. They were completely wrong. During the 1960's, most of the remaining Greeks were forcibly expelled from Constantinople and the islands of Imbros and Tenedos. Again, no help from America, or NATO. Back in September 1955 after the pogroms the Archbishop of Athens Spyridon was angry both with the Turkish government and the inaction of both the American and Greek governments. When the Archbishop was to go on Greek radio to speak the Greek government tried to prevent him because they feared he would offend the American government. To his credit, Archbishop Spyridon of Athens went on Greek radio to express the emotion and anger that Orthodox Greeks felt and condemned not only Turkey but the United States, the British, and NATO and called them out on their hypocrisy. After this, the American Embassy complained to the Greek Foreign Ministry about the Archbishops comments as if the Archbishop as a citizen of Greece was not entitled to speak his mind. (If the Archbishop of Athens had been like this today!) I mention these incidents because it is indicative of how the American government operated then and continues to operate in Greece. When push came to shove, Washington did nothing for the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Washington's tolerance for Turkish brutality and oppression of the Greek Orthodox of Turkey is a major reason for why Constantinople has such a small flock today. Today, Patriarch Bartholomew collaborates with this State Department whose policies toward Orthodox Christians are the same as they were in 1955. American foreign policy over the years has proceeded to support the Turkish invasion of Cyprus, the destruction of Serbia and the detachment of Kosovo and its holy shrines, and the destructive war in Syria which led to the near extermination of Syrian Christians. Patriarch Bartholomew's collaboration with the State Department is obscene for all these reasons. And collaborating with the US against the sister Church of Russia/Ukraine. Patriarch Bartholomew's actions in Ukraine would be wrong even without all the political turmoil and history. As it is, Patriarch Bartholomew can expect no support from the US in his difficulties with Turkey. They are interested in the Patriarchate only to pursue their anti Russian agenda. Patriarch Bartholomew made decisions in 2018 that have proven disastrous first and foremost for the Ukrainian Church, the universal Orthodox Church, and ultimately his own Patriarchate. It is time for him to be deposed.
David4/2/2021 1:15 am
Sherlock, the EP refuses to leave Asia Minor for the same reason that the Serbs refuse to leave Kosovo.
David4/2/2021 1:13 am
Mother Cornelia, I understand Moscow's position on "First without Equals," although I would also contend that it doesn't mean what the Moscow Patriarchate thinks it means. Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpatkos and Arta has written on this topic--I won't hijack this space and debate about that--for those interested in the ACTUAL Greek position: When there is estrangement, misunderstandings are multiplied and amplified, as we know. By ceasing to call the Ecumenical Patriarch the Ecumenical Patriarch, it has served to further confirm some of the worst suspicions of the Moscow Patriarchate in the Phanar. The Moscow Patriarchate's lack of attendance at Crete was the last straw, as it is widely believed in the Greek world that the Moscow Patriarchate sabotaged the Council. Perhaps that is not true, but I would say that the Moscow Patriarchate should have followed Serbia's lead and attended anyway. Serbia and the EP have also been at odds, but their attendance coupled with the MP's non-attendance further fanned the flames ("if the Serbs could come, why not Russia?"). Again, a broken relationship. I don't begrudge that Matushka her pain, and the EP's intervention in Ukraine did cause problems, however well intentioned it might have been. I will say that "Uncle" is preferable to "Citizen of the Turkish Republic, Mr. Bartholomew." The former comes from a broken heart, and the latter, well....I don't know. I think you would agree with me, Mother Cornelia, that this stuff should not be carried on by the laity, yes?
sherlock_holmes4/1/2021 7:41 pm
@ David "What is fair to say, is that the Ecumenical Patriarchate has made an alliance with the United States to further its own interests----the survival of the Patriarchate being a biggie. Erdogan didn't bat an eye..." But Erdogan doesn't rule in Athens, Alexandria or Nicosia ! If, hypothetically, the EP would move to New York ( in an Avignon style ),would be for better or worse ?
m. Cornelia4/1/2021 6:21 pm
David, I think that the title "Ecumenical Patriarch" has sort of fallen out of use in Russia (albeit not everywhere there) since Patriarch Bartholomew began his claim of "First without equal". It is an abuse of his long-standing status of "First among equals" and smacks of papism. Therefore, I for one have simply cant' get myself to enable him in this by going along with the pretense (though perhaps I'm wrong in this, I don't know). I can understand that out of deep respect for his Patriarchate, people continue to use the title of Ecumencial Patriarch, but that does not negate the plain fact that he is also the Patriarch of Constantinople--also a very good title. There is no "demotion" implied, just a clarification. I suppose it's better than calling him "uncle", as the priest's wife in Ukraine whose husband was beaten and their church and home taken away by the OCU, has called him.
David4/1/2021 10:02 am
Mother Cornelia, you and many Russians may not see it as derogatory, but the Ecumenical Patriarchate and many Greeks certainly do. Because it is not up to the Moscow Patriarchate to "make that call" and abolish the title of Ecumenical Patriarch. I don't see how "Constantinople Patriarchate" can be interpreted as anything other than hostile, particularly considering every other local Church still addresses the EP as the EP. If the Moscow Patriarchate is interested in healing the relationship as you say, that is something that they can do on their end (and yours), by addressing the Ecumenical Patriarchate as the Ecumenical Patriarchate. It is small, but would be very significant, I think I also believe you are mistaken about the West not helping the Patriarchate. It may very well be that Western alliance that through the Grace of God, prevents the expulsion of the Patriarchate from Turkey. If the Turkish government had no qualms about desecrating Hagia Sophia a second time, then they certainly wouldn't care about gruffly expelling everyone in the Phanar under the pretext that they are "enemies of the state." Constantinople does still exist, as the name Istanbul is just a Turkish variation of "The City"----which is what Greeks called and still call Constantinople (I would say etymology and history matters too----I think you and I would agree on that). Asia Minor is just as important to Greeks as Kiev is to Russians, or Kosovo to Serbs. Contrary to the ugly stuff said on the internet, the Ecumenical Patriarchate has worked for years to restore Churches in Turkey, and firmly re-establish the Christian history there. Russians have helped greatly with this, and there are many Russians who make up the Ecumenical Patriarchate's flock in Turkey. Great love and affection has existed in these communities, with no "ethnophyletism" to be found. I 100% agree with you on the bonds shared, but there are also other issues here. The relationship between the EP and MP is broken, and it was broken long before the Ukraine issue. That relationship has to be healed first. Both the MP and EP have hurt each other in different ways. The MP made deals with the Soviet state to ensure its survival, and the EP made deals with the West to do the same. I don't think either should be condemned for that, and yet that is exactly what has happened---with partisans making ugly insinuations and taking advantage of the situation. Perhaps your point is correct in that the Patriarchate should reevaluate that alliance. What can we do but love our Bishops and pray for them? Patriarch Bartholomew and Patriarch Kyrill are good men who bear heavy loads.
David4/1/2021 9:21 am
Theodoros, one can defend the Ecumenical Patriarchate and dissent on particular decisions (as Archbishop Anastasios of Albania and others have). As for HAH Bartholomew not issuing any statements on Greek Independence, such an expectation is grossly unfair. It is akin to asking the Patriarch of Jerusalem to condemn Israeli policies or Patriarch John of Antioch to comment on Islam. It completely discounts the reality that this particular Patriarchate lives in. I think the idea of the CIA controlling the EP is also unfair, just as untrue as those who try to claim that the Moscow Patriarchate is controlled by Putin or that the Antiochian Patriarchate are "apologists for the Assad Regime" (that slur was made at the height of the war). What is fair to say, is that the Ecumenical Patriarchate has made an alliance with the United States to further its own interests----the survival of the Patriarchate being a biggie. Erdogan didn't bat an eye or care when he converted Hagia Sophia. There is nothing to stop him from expelling the Patriarch and every Greek in Istanbul (along with the desecration and destruction of St. George's). If we are honest, American intervention has likely been the reason this has not already happened. I think it is also fair to say that the MP has allied itself with Putin's government to further its interests as well (getting government money for Churches, and expanding its footprint across Russia). I would argue that such alliances are not an evil in themselves (as our Bishops have had to do this since St. Constantine). I would just as staunchly defend the Moscow Patriarchate from unfair characterizations. Greek people are not a monolith, just as Russian people are not.
m. Cornelia4/1/2021 9:08 am
David: Theodoros' comment explains everything best of all. I can only affirm that Russians are in no way aggressive against Greeks, and will always hold them dear because they gave them the most important and precious thing there is: the Orthodox faith. And if you want to call aggression the use of a real title, Constantinople Patriarchate--seen in no way as derogatory--well, there's nothing I can say to that, other than it's a strange argument. Perhaps he prefers Ecumenical (Universal) to Constantinople because there is no Constantinople in today's geography, but that is certainly no fault of the Russians. And mark my words: the West never really helped Constantinople, they don't really now, and they won't in the future.
Theodoros 4/1/2021 3:25 am
Continued from below it was the Russian Ambassador that killed the Annan Plan at the UN Security Council and basically saved over one third of Cyprus from being formally delivered to Turkey. During the years of the Greek economic crisis when Greeks were being ridiculed throughout the western world, the Russian Church was giving support to the Greeks. Patriarch Kyrill of Moscow gave to Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens over $600,000 raised by the faithful of the Russian Church for the people of Greece in their times of crisis. Patriarch Kyrill at the time time offered kind words and moral support as well. When Archbishop Ieronymos and other Greek Bishops recognized the fake Church of Ukraine this was particularly treacherous considering the previous support given to the Greek by the Russian Church during the economic crisis. A question to all apologists of Patriarch Bartholomew? How much money did Patriarch Bartholomew raise for the people of Greece during the economic crisis? In reality, there is no such thing as a Greek-Russian rivalry. Greeks and Russians are brothers who share a common faith in Christ. The recognition of the pseudo church in Ukraine by Patriarch Bartholomew and bishops in Greece is deplorable because they have surrendered the Church that belongs to Christ to the secular interests of the State Department. There are those of us who are Greek who watched the events as they have transpired since 2018 with horror and revulsion. It is not to the benefit of the Greek Churches to participate and support the persecution of our Ukrainian brothers as they have done by concelebrating with the fake bishops and entering into communion with them. There are many more things that could be said here from spiritual, political, and historical viewpoints that would serve to discredit the myth of a Greek-Russian rivalry. In conclusion here, it would be a mistake to believe that the "Greek point of view" is represented by Patriarch Bartholomew or those Greek bishops who entered into communion with schismatics. I believe that my views as an Orthodox Greek have a greater basis in fact and reality than the views of those Greeks who support Patriarch Bartholomew. At least the views of the Greeks opposed to the Phanar are sincerely held and we did not develop them under the influence of the State Department.
David4/1/2021 3:10 am
Mother Cornelia, thank you for the reply. I believe that you are sincere in your position, and appreciate your posting (as well as allowing me to comment). I do have to pushback on your assertion that there has been no aggression against the Ecumenical Patriarchate. My rebuttal consists of only two words: Constantinople Patriarchate. Why does the Moscow Patriarchate insist on using this terminology, which is seen in the Greek world as an epithet and expression of disdain? Every other Local Church addresses the Ecumenical Patriarchate by its proper name, and renders the due respect. The argument has been made that the Byzantine Empire no longer exists, and therefore that title and position should no longer be used. HOWEVER, it is not up to the Moscow Patriarchate to take it upon itself to "demote" the Ecumenical Patriarchate and remove an ancient title unilaterally. That can only be interpreted as a sign of disrespect and contempt. If the Moscow Patriarchate is truly interested in mending fences and increasing understanding (I truly believe you yourself are interested in that), then I think that addressing the Ecumenical Patriarch as the Ecumenical Patriarch (which is what he is) is a good place to start.
Theodoros 4/1/2021 3:06 am
I am of Greek descent and I have absolutely no problem with Russia as the Third Rome. All this means in my interpretation is that Russia is the successor of Byzantium ( a historical fact) and the largest Orthodox country and the largest and strongest of the local Orthodox Churches (also a fact). During the centuries of the Ottoman captivity of the Greek world, the Greeks benefitted from the political and diplomatic protection of Russia. The Patriarchs of Constantinople such as Jeremias II and a few others accepted the diplomatic support of the Russians in exchange for recognizing the autocephaly of the Russian Church and ceding Ukraine to the Russian Church. In reality, there has never been a Greek-Russian rivalry. Talk of Greek-Russian rivalry began during the nineteenth century after Greek independence when the goals of Greek independence were hijacked by the British who worked to destroy any prospective cooperation between the Greeks and the Russians. Those policies of the British are being pursued by the United States in Greece which triggered the schism in Orthodoxy. With all due respect to David all all others who are attempting to defend Patriarch Bartholomew, I have a few points to make. Last week, the Greek world celebrated the two hundredth anniversary of the Greek War of Independence. Patriarch Kyril of Moscow and Metropolitan Onuphry of Ukraine sent messages of congratulations to the Greek President. Both of of them issued wonderful statements praising the Greeks for preserving Orthodoxy during the dark centuries of Turkish rule and praising the Greeks who fought for independence. Guess who did NOT issue any statements or letters on the anniversary of Greek independence? That would be Patriarch Bartholomew who had nothing to say on this anniversary. Just as Patriarch Bartholomew has never had anything to say about the Turkish occupation of Cyprus or the destruction of Greek and Armenian Churches and Monasteries in Turkish occupied Cyprus. After decades of saying nothing about Turkish aggression against Greece and Cyprus, Patriarch Bartholomew discovered that he is Greek hence the chauvinistic statements directed against the Russians. At the end of the day, the Patriarch cares nothing about Greeks just as he cares nothing about the Orthodox Church. He cares only about grabbing complete power over the Orthodox world. In Moscow last week, Metropolitan Hilarion Alfayev presided at a doxology at a Monastery where they offered up prayers for the souls of those Greeks who last their lives in the Greek War of Independence. I was profoundly moved by the doxology and by the warm and brotherly letters released by Patriarch Kyril and Metropolitan Onuphry. Both of these holy men of God have reasons to be angry with the Churches of Constantinople and Greece but they recognize that all Greeks do not support the injustices that have been directed against the canonical Ukrainian Church. I believe David and others who defend Constantinople do so with good intentions. However, they are not defending Greeks or Greece by defending either Patriarch Bartholomew or the Bishops of Greece, Alexandria, and Cyprus that recognize the fake bishops of Ukraine. If there is anything that this entire schism has exposed it is that Greece is an occupied country under American dictation. It is bad enough that Greece is under American influence, it is worse that that American officials openly intervene in Church affairs. The Orthodox Church is led by Jesus Christ and when American diplomats presume to use the Greek Churches as political props in their anti Russian campaign, they are committing acts of blasphemy which should outrage Greeks as it outrages me! I am sympathetic to Russia for spiritual, political, as well as historical reasons. For example, in 2004 when the Bush administration and the Blair government in England tried to legalize the Turkish occupation of Cyprus through the infamous Annam Plan at the United Nations it was
Jesse3/31/2021 12:16 pm
The only time I've seen anyone from the Russian Church talking about it was when Metropolitan Hilarion specifically said it makes no sense to call modern Moscow the Third Rome:
m. Cornelia3/31/2021 10:27 am
David, I don't think anyone in the Russian Church would say that Moscow as the Third Rome was not a "thing". Everyone knows about it and there is no feeling of having to hide it, because people don't see it as a bad thing, like the Greeks do. But it would be helpful for the Greeks to study the subject better so that they can understand that the Russian Church never really considered itself a replacement of the Constantinople Patriarchate as first among equals. The Third Rome theory was and is an understanding of Moscow's responsibility, as free from the Ottoman yoke, to uphold Orthodoxy in its own lands, and protect it as far as possible in the lands where its persecuted. It's understandable that the Greeks, who gave Orthodoxy to Russia and in fact for several hundred years was its governing Church before the Russian Church became autocephalous, would not be happy with the idea of Moscow as the Third Rome. But historically there has never been any aggression from the Moscow Patriarchate against the Constantinople Patriarchate. It is essential that the Greek world understand this. I have been in Russia and in the Russian Church for over 15 years and have never once heard anyone claim that the Moscow Patriarchate should takeover the place of first among equals. In fact, it comes as a great surprise to them when Greeks express their fears to that effect. I think that the Russians would gladly drop the whole idea of Moscow as the Third Rome if they thought it was causing such trouble among the Greeks, and especially if it would make Constantinople cease its aggression against the Russian Church (in Ukraine).
David3/31/2021 7:23 am
A great article which attempts to look at the problem candidly. As for "Third Rome," it is disingenuous (forgive me) to say that the Moscow Patriarchate never taught it, and that it was a fleeting idea that the Greeks are "hung up on." The fact is, that "Third Rome" is the very foundation of the Russian Czardom ("Caesar") and of Imperial Russia in general. The Russian Empire as the "successor state" to the Byzantine Empire, even going so far as to use the fact that the Byzantine Royal family and Rus intermarried as a way to further legitimize the claim. There was no need to proclaim a "doctrine" because it was ubiquitous and believed by all (although they were never as explicit as to say that the Ecumenical Patriarchate had been supplanted----they didn't need to. The Russian Empire was quite content with having the Ecumenical Patriarchate as an ethnarchy they could buy and sell on a whim (as could anybody else). Interestingly enough, the Ottoman Sultans also claimed to be successors of Rome---an Islamicized Rome. The idea of "Romanness" has long been a subject of fascination by historians. Russia was for all purposes "Third Rome," because it was the only Orthodox land free from Islamic rule. You can see this ideal permeating the hagiography of the Czars, as well as the Royal Martyrs. As you can see from this article, there are Greeks in Cyprus (and in the Phanar) who can read and understand Russian and have read this stuff. It didn't just come from nowhere. I think His Eminence respects Russia and at the same time, is trying to help Russian people understand the Greek point of view. We need more of this, and gaslighting the Greek Churches by claiming they are imagining things is not helpful, when "Third Rome" was actually a thing (it still is in the Russian Orthodox internet).
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