Alexandria, January 21, 2022
Despite his many statements of love and support for the place of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church within the Moscow Patriarchate over the years, Patriarch Theodoros of Alexandria now preaches that the Russian Church, in fact, violently “enslaved” the Ukrainian Orthodox faithful.
On December 29, the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church announced its African Exarchate. The Alexandrian Holy Synod responded earlier this month, after which Pat. Theodoros issued an “Encyclical to the holy clergy and pious people of our ancient Patriarchate of Alexandria and All Africa.”
The hierarchs of the Alexandrian Patriarchate have called the people of Africa to Christ, but now there are “false prophets” and “savage wolves that come in among you and will not spare the flock,” Pat. Theodoros warns, referring to the Russian Synod’s decision, which “threatens to drown the humble Evangelical work of our Apostolic Patriarchate, which has been done with effort, sacrifice and blood for many decades.”
Under the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires, the Church was divided into the Patriarchates of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem, and the Church of Cyprus, Pat. Theodoros writes, and any issues were always resolved by them.
But in modern times, new states began to ask for their own Church, and “One of them is the Russian Church (Moscow Patriarchate) which became Autocephalous only in 1589, which due to the State in which it was located (Russian Empire) gained great economic power and strength and this created many problems as to how it perceived its role and mission.”
According to the Alexandrian primate, the Russian Church went on to “enslave” many other Churches: “The Russian Church, wanting to increase its power and prestige in the Orthodox World, using secular power and -sometimes- violence, began to trample and ‘enslave’ neighboring Orthodox Churches, as it did with the Metropolis of Kiev in the country of Ukraine, a Metropolis that has always belonged to the Ecumenical Patriarchate.”
This position represents a stark departure from that which he previously held for many decades.
Meeting with Patriarch Kirill in Moscow on August 28, 2015, Pat. Theodoros told the Russian primate:
I know the Ukrainian people and Ukraine well, because I have been to different cities many times, including those where the war is now going on. I ate the same bread that these people eat, stayed in their modest homes. I was in monasteries, talked with their inhabitants, sang with them. Believe me, Your Holiness, my heart is full of pain. I know the true Ukrainian people: they steadfastly adhere to Orthodoxy and remain faithful to their Mother, the Russian Church…
I would like to assure you that the ancient Patriarchate of Alexandria, the Church of Alexandria follows the ancient established order: We always support the canonical Primate, His Beatitude Metropolitan Onufry. And if in the future you need our help, you will definitely receive it, because in our Church we adhere to the canonical order. We must respect and keep this order if we want the Lord to shed His love upon us. Politicians come and go, but Orthodoxy and our faith remain. We are writing history
Following another visit to Russia the next year, Pat. Theodoros stated in an interview:
From the very beginning, when the problem of the Church schism had only just arisen, the Alexandrian Patriarchate and I, as its representative, have taken the position that the Ukrainian Church is an integral part of the Russian Orthodox Church… The ancient Alexandrian Church formulates its position thus: We stand before God together with the Russian Orthodox Church and call for the Orthodox Church to be one and undivided, as it always has been. There is no place for politics in Church matters. Politicians come and go, but the Church abides unto the ages of ages.
And as the suffering Ukrainian Orthodox themselves well remember, after Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople began preaching the new history that the Kiev Metropolis had supposedly always belonged to Constantinople and after it became known that he intended to create a new “church” in Ukraine, Pat. Theodoros personally flew to Ukraine to meet with and show support to the faithful. He entreated them at that time:
I have come here to tell you: Remain in the Orthodox faith, in the canonical Church. The Apostle Peter saw the tunic of Christ torn in the first century. This tunic was bloodstained for many years, and we must carry this tunic in our hearts. There have been very difficult times in the history of our Church. In these difficult days in Ukraine there is a canonical Church, headed by His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry—a blessed man of God and a true monk.
In his new encyclical, Pat. Theodoros continues that after the fall of the USSR, the Russian Church refused autocephaly to “the Ukrainians,” and Constantinople finally stepped in in 2019.
Pat. Theodoros writes that, “Our Patriarchate also agreed with this act of the Ecumenical Patriarchate,” although, in fact, the Alexandrian Synod never took a decision on the matter.
The Russian Church then created the African Exarchate as a means of retaliation, inspired by “colonialism,” the Patriarch writes.