Tanzania hierarch accuses: Russian Church is lying about its motives in Africa

Arusha, Tanzania, February 10, 2022

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Metropolitan Agathonikos of Arusha and Central Tanzania is the latest hierarch of the Patriarchate of Alexandria to issue a statement about the new Russian Exarchate.

His “Open letter to all those involved in the issue of the Russian invasion of the Patriarchate of Alexandria” is published by the Constantinople outlet Fos Fanariou and other sites.

The Alexandrian hierarch begins by recounting the story of King David when he impregnated Bathsheba, had her husband killed, and took her as his wife, which was evil in the sight of the Lord. Nathan the Prophet then told the King a story, comparing him to a rich shepherd who already had much but took what little a poor shepherd had (2 Sam./2 Kg. 12).

The parallels with the “immoral invasion by the Russians” are clear, the Metropolitan says. The Apostles and Fathers laid down rules at the Councils precisely to erect moral barriers to “savage wolves” (Acts 20:29) and their greed, he adds.

As a hierarch, he protests against the actions of the Russian Church, which bear no ecclesiastical character.

The Russian Church and Russian politicians sometimes exchange medals, which makes it seem like the Patriarchate is merely an “outpost of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs,” Met. Agathonikos says.

His point, however, is unclear, given that this is a common practice in Orthodox countries, and that Patriarch Theodoros himself has awarded and been awarded by politicians.

The Metropolitan then poses a number of rhetorical questions to the Russian Church:

  1. Who gave autocephaly to the Churches that are now protesting Ukrainian autocephaly? Was it not Constantinople?
  2. Are African priests really leaving because of Ukraine, or is it for financial benefits?

Met. Agathonikos claims there is a list being circulated of promised benefits to priests who join the Russian Exarchate: high salaries, privileged staff positions, a 5-door car for every priest, health care, priestly seminars, priests’ children will study in Moscow universities, and so on. OrthoChristian has been unable to confirm the existence of such a document.

“Who in their right mind,” the Metropolitan asks, “would believe you that the African Clerics called you to ‘protect’ them from the evil Greeks, when if you ask any African cleric where Ukraine is on the map, he can’t answer you?”

Thus, who actually stirred up the African priests and why? he asks.

  1. How can an Orthodox Synod make such hostile decisions on the basis of the Gospel of Christ, thereby “abolishing all the holy canons of the Apostolic and Ecumenical Councils?”

The Alexandrian hierarch believes that the Russian claim that Africa is now open territory because Alexandria has fallen into schism is but a pretext for expansionism and imperialism, and that the Russian Synod is shooting itself in the foot by violating Tradition.

  1. Met. Agathonikos claims that the majority of clerics he sees in pictures with the Russian “agents” are actually defrocked or self-ordained clerics. Thus, how can the Russian Church reject the so-called “Orthodox Church of Ukraine” on the grounds that its clergy are defrocked and schismatic?

Several African hierarchs have made this argument, though without providing specific names. Incidentally, OrthoChristian was recently contacted by an African priest of the schismatic “Genuine Orthodox Church of Greece” who was told by Fr. George Maximov of the Russian Church that his ordination is unrecognized and that he could only be received into the Church as a layman.

The Russian Church should stop lying, Met. Agathonikos says, because its actual purpose is simply to create a worldwide Patriarchate.

According to him, the Russian Church follows and is financed by President Putin, and thus is guilty of secularism and ethnophyletism.

Recall that both political and ecclesiastical figures publicly acknowledge that the “Orthodox Church of Ukraine” was a joint project between the Patriarchate of Constantinople and the U.S. and Ukrainian governments. It’s also an open secret that Pat. Theodoros recognized the schismatics under pressure from the Greek state, upon which the Alexandrian Patriarchate is financially dependent.

In conclusion, Met. Agathonikos tells Metropolitan Hilarion of the Russian Church’s Department for External Church Relations that African Christians aren’t in need of Russian protection (as Met. Hilarion said recently), but the Russian Church needs them to institutionalize its lawlessness.

However, it will achieve nothing but global outrage, the Alexandrian hierarch concludes.

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Mikhail2/23/2022 12:05 am
I am sorry David, but there is nothing to be determined when one of the parties is a group of unrepentant schsimatic laymen. Blessed Triodion to you as well.
David2/18/2022 1:44 am
Sister Cornelia: I think everyone is praying for a peaceful resolution to this situation. You say it has to start with HAH Bartholomew, but I would humbly submit you are mistaken about that. Reconciliation is an action that involves everybody in different ways. That is the stated goal here, right? The EP and MP are brothers who are thoroughly estranged and at odds (with Alexandria sadly drawn into it). I know a little about that, as I was estranged from my own brother for years. We were not speaking for over a decade, and we did things that hurt one another deeply. There was real resentment and bitterness there. My brother stole from me, lied to me, and caused great pain to myself and our mother. Who reached out first? I DID. Even though family members (including my mother) told me that I had "nothing to apologize for" and I wasn't "the one to blame." On reflection, there were things that I had done to cause him to react against me. It doesn't excuse anything, but the key point here is that I put aside blame, and didn't place obstacles to prevent reconciliation. This Russian Exarchate is a very big obstacle to reconciliation and healing. I reject the politics, Sister. I reject the abstractions (Canonical legalist arguments), and see it on the human level. I greatly sympathized with the UOC-MP and still do, but I also sympathize with the OCU, because they have their stories as well. Ukraine is a divided land. The EP and MP have both hurt each other in different ways over the years. "It's all the EP's fault!" is not going to heal the wounds. The MP says they want to heal. I want to believe that, but their actions contradict this. Mikail: Ukraine is disputed territory in every conceivable way. Ukrainian autocephaly is inevitable, it is just a question of what form it will take. The OCU Tomos is not necessarily the last word, and that is why "TBD" is my answer. I am grateful for the opportunity for this exchange. A Blessed Triodion to you.
Mikhail2/17/2022 5:41 pm
David said: If someone asks me who the Bishop of Ukraine is, my answer is "TBD." Really!?! To be determined?!? It is a delusion to think that anyone other than Metropolitan Onuphriy is the Bishop of Ukraine.
nun Cornelia2/17/2022 11:24 am
David, also with respect, but your comments sound more like the street gang scenario. We should rather be praying for a resolution to all of this, because God can resolve it as He has done many times in the past. But what you don't seem to be seeing is that since it began with Pat. Bartholomew, it may have to end with him. The Christian approach is to be the first to ask forgiveness, and not to be hard-hearted and stiffnecked.
David2/17/2022 1:10 am
Sister Cornelia: With all due respect----the Church is not a street gang. I don't have "blind support" for Patriarch Bartholomew. He is my Patriarch, but he isn't always right. I have said multiple times (in multiple places) that the EP may very well have been wrong, and that the Tomos was a mistake (which I have come to believe). If someone asks me who the Bishop of Ukraine is, my answer is "TBD." (which neither "side" would like) My issue here, is that this isn't a game of Risk. The Moscow Patriarchate has not only struck at Patriarch Theodoros, but everyone in the Alexandria Patriarchate by acting like they are a "non-entity" (which last I checked, is not the Canonical or Christian response) The same thing with the EP. Is the MP going to dissolve the Exarchate and tell those priests to go back to Alexandria when this is over? Doubtful. This is why I can't take the MP's speeches about "healing Orthodoxy" seriously, when their actions say the opposite. This is not a healing move, this is a Russian "offensive." And all the MP can do when Metropolitan Seraphim of Zimbabwe and others caught in the crossfire raise their voices is cluck their jaws and say "Yes, Yes, it is sad....Patriarch Bartholomew!" The only other thing I will say on this, is that if HAH Bartholomew is in the dock for crimes against Church unity, he isn't alone. "He made me do it!" is a very poor defense, both in the world and before the Judgement Seat.
Theodoros2/16/2022 9:00 pm
To David, In response to your question as to who gave Moscow the right to act unilaterally. Moscow had the right to enter Africa since they have broken communion with Alexandria. Since Alexandria is no longer recognized by The Russians there is no barrier to their establishing an exarchate in Africa. You say that one church cannot declare another Church non existent. Isn’t that what Constantinople did when it entered Ukraine and set up a fake Church? Constantinople recognized the canonical Church in Ukraine until 2018. Constantinople declared the canonical Church nonexistent and with no justification or explanation. The Russians have acted against the hostile and uncanonical actions of Alexandria. There are major differences between the actions of Constantinople and Moscow. It is also not accurate to say I have disdain for Constantinople. I happened to think that Constantinople’s actions are uncanonical and reflect a desire for complete power and authority. I have formed my opinions on the basis of evidence and the facts.
Mikhail2/16/2022 3:37 pm
Apples and oranges, David. Bartholomew created a new Church from a group of defrocked unrepentant layman. Russia gave a home to a group of scandalized priests who were betrayed by their Patriarch because he validated the defrocked unrepentant layman.
nun Cornelia2/16/2022 1:55 pm
David: Your blind support for Patriarch Bartholomew is blinding you to reality. You can go back and forth ad nauseum about two wrongs not making a right, but the fact is the healing has to start with him, because he got us all into this mess. May God enlighten him and soften his heart.
David2/16/2022 10:58 am
HAH Bartholomew didn't make the Russians do this, they decided to do it on their own. Those priests petitions could have been politely rejected. Father Andrew Phillips had his petition to join Rue Daru chucked out the window (rescinded, actually). Not everything a priest asks a bishop for has merit or is canonical. Using that sort of reasoning, the EP was right in accepting Filaret and the OCU because "they kept asking." Two wrongs don't make a right is something we learn in Grade School. I honestly don't understand why this maxim has been chucked out the window, especially when we are supposed to be Christians. Even if the EP is wrong (and a strong argument can and has been made), that doesn't give the MP license to do whatever they want. That isn't how the Church functions. You are ignoring my main point: WHO GAVE THE MOSCOW PATRIARCHATE THE RIGHT TO ACT UNILATERALLY IN THIS WAY? The MP can't just declare a Church "non-existent," which is what they are claiming they can do here. Your disdain for the EP is blinding you to the serious wrong that is going on here.
Theodoros 2/15/2022 11:20 pm
David, Patriarch Bartholomew unilaterally made the decision to invade Ukraine and grant autocephaly to fake bishops. The Russian church paused before responding with measures of their own. They then suggested setting up committees to study the history of the Ukrainian Church. Patriarch Bartholomew refused to have any discussion . Patriarch Kyril wrote to Patrisrch Bartholomew before the issuance of the Tomos to the fake church assuring him it was not too late to reverse himself. Also, it should be remembered that in June 2018 a delegation from the canonical church of Ukraine visited Constantinople. Patriarch Bartholomew assured them he would not recognize the schismatics. He lied. Patriarch Kyril flew to Constantinople to ask Patrisrch Bartholomew not to recognize the schismatics. There is no comparison between the conduct of the Russian church and that of Constantinople. Patriarch Theodore’s behavior is arguably worse than that of Patriarch Bartholomew. Patriarch Theodore supported the canonical church, changed his position, and now makes ugly accusations toward the Russians as do his bishops. The long suffering Russian Church has done nothing wrong in Africa. Africa and Turkey are open territory in my opinion. I do think the Russians should NOT enter Greece or Cyprus for various reasons. But Africa and Turkey are legitimate places for the Russians to enter. I am Greek and frankly I would love to see the Russians in Constantinople and Asia Minor. Patriarch Bartholomew has embraced the US foreign policy establishment whose past policies made it possible for the Turks to ethnically cleanse the Greek population. The Russians in Turkey would revive Orthodoxy in the lands of the eastern fathers and the ecumenical councils. If Patriarch Bartholomew thought in terms of the good of the Church instead of his own power he would view the Russians as brothers and as friends. Instead, he views them as competitors. Entering Ukraine was nothing more than an act of destruction. Destruction of church unity and the poisoning of relations between the Greeks and the rest of Orthodoxy. In the end Orthodoxy will recover. The Church of Constantinople probably will not.
Mikhail2/15/2022 9:17 pm
You are wrong David. You continue to ignore the fact that more than 100 African priests feel betrayed and abandoned by their Patriarch for recognizing and concelebrating with schismatics. They begged Russia to give them a canonical home, and Russia was very gracious in doing so. Russia did not do this hastily. They waited for about two years for Alexandria to repent and reverse their tragic decision. But it is quite evident now that Alexandria is a slave to Constantinople (along with the Archbishop of Greece and Cyprus). That is why Russia will have no choice but to set up an Exarchate in Istanbul, Greece, and Cyprus. May it be blessed.
David2/15/2022 3:18 am
Theodoros: The Moscow Patriarchate can't unilaterally decide that the the EP and Alexandria are illegitimate. If the other Churches had broken communion as well, THEN an argument could be made to that effect. As for the Tomos, I have come to see its issuance in as a tragic (even if well intentioned) mistake. HOWEVER, that doesn't give Moscow the right to throw away the canonical order and unilaterally decide to make the situation worse. Breaking Communion with a Sister Church doesn't mean that this Sister Church "ceases to exist." That is insanity, and a gross canonical crime, on par with anything that the EP may have done in Ukraine. The Moscow Patriarchate is perpetrating the very thing that they claim they seek to prevent. So many here and elsewhere are allowing their antipathy for the EP to blind them to what is going on here. Conversely, this crisis has caused some of the antipathy towards the MP to be aired by some in Alexandria and Constantinople. This is politics, and has nothing to do with Christ.
Theodoros2/14/2022 10:01 pm
To David, The Russian Church has broken communion with and does not recognize Alexandria. On that basis The Russian church is consistent and is conducting missionary work on territory that is not part of a Church in good standing with the universal Church. You say that two wrongs don’t make a right. Does that mean you acknowledge Constantinople and Alexandria were wrong to establish communion with schismatics in Ukraine? A reversal of policies in Ukraine by those who recognized the fake Church then there may be reconciliation. Until Constantinople and Alexandria repent the Russians have no obligation to curb their activities in Africa.
Mikhail2/13/2022 3:42 pm
I am looking forward to a Russian Exarchate in Greece, Cyprus, and Istanbul.
David2/12/2022 3:29 am
Theodoros: The MP denounces the unilateral attempt by the EP to render the UOC-MP illegitimate, so how in the next breath can it UNILATERALLY declare the Alexandria Patriarchate illegitimate? "Two wrongs don't make a right" isn't just for the playground. This continued deflection to the EP is not a convincing cover for the MP's actions here, which also are a gross violation of the Canons. Let me repeat again: THE MP HAS NO RIGHT TO UNILATERALLY DECLARE A CHURCH SCHISMATIC. That they act like they do is no different than the EP's "Papalism." TO PAUL: This isn't about greed (I would also with respect push back on that also). Many of these priests and communities are living on charity, with salaries paid sporadically if at all, and they have a lot of material needs. For years, I have seen these priests on social media soliciting donations. It is a terrible situation, and I don't blame them for being tempted to turn to Moscow for the chance to remedy this situation. The issue here, is that the MP is wrong for using their destitution as a means to lure them away.
Theodoros 2/11/2022 9:33 pm
To David, The Russian Church gave Alexandria two years to reverse their position on the Ukrainian schismatics. Over one hundred African priests asked to join the Russian Church and Moscow refused hoping that the Synod of Alexandria would repent. Alexandria has not repented. Their bishops behave arrogantly and behave as if Alexandria has been wronged. They know that the Russian Church has been wronged in Ukraine because Patriarch Theodore used to support the synod of Metropolitan Onuphry. These bishops and their Patriarch are not acting in good faith and they are being very dishonest about the roots of the problem. It is fairly obvious that Patriarch Theodore is a lackey of Patriarch Bartholomew. What does it say about the bishops of Constantinople and Alexandria that they are not only indifferent to but are active participants in the destruction of Orthodox unity? Patriarch Bartholomews power over the Churches of Alexandria, Greece, and Cyprus is very troubling and I believe he along with his chief henchman Archbishop Elpidophoros need to be deposed. These “Greek” bishops in Alexandria and Constantinople are not doing Greeks any favors with their racist and chauvinistic attitudes. As a Greek American I am sickened by their attitudes and public statements. The Russian Church is free and has done nothing wrong in Africa. Alexandria forfeited it’s authority by abandoning its principled stance and backing the power hungry Patriarch of Constantinople. The Russian Church is in the right oin both Ukraine and Africa. The solution to this crisis can come about with the departure of the Patriarchs of Constantinople and Alexandria and the Greek Archbishop of America. Perhaps more bishops in this synods may need to go but it still not clear as to which bishops support the schism or if any of them are in opposition.
Paul2/11/2022 6:30 pm
So let's get this straight, Met. Agathonikos: -your priests are all liars who claim to take a principled stand on Church politics, when really they're out for material gain -your priests are a bunch of greedy crooks who jump ship the moment someone else offers them more money than you give them -your priests are all uneducated dolts who can't point out Ukraine on a map despite claiming to be concerned about it -a Church receiving money from a secular government is wrong, except for when THE ENTIRE GREEK ORTHODOX CHURCH receives a salary from the secular government of Greece -ethnophyletism is wrong, except for when the Greeks do it (they constantly reference "Orthodoxy and Hellenism" as if the two are somehow equal) -obeying canon law is absolutely critical, except for when... wait for it, wait for it... except for when the Greeks decide to disobey canon law Did I get all that right?
David2/11/2022 10:51 am
"Bartholomew made me do it!" is wearing very thin at this point. While His Eminence's "They can't find Ukraine on a map" is ugly and he was wrong to say it (even if it is true, which I don't think it is), his other points are not. Even if you think the EP set the Church on fire, that doesn't excuse the MP pouring kerosine and gunpowder on the flames. As I said elsewhere, this special pleading and whataboutism that the MP is engaging in illustrates the weakness of their position. They know it "looks bad" and that there is opposition in places which used to be firmly on the MP's side, so they are trying to "explain" the situation and justify themselves. Since when is better financing and logistical support a canonical reason for a priest to bail without a release? Was Father Andrew right to ditch ROCOR for Rue Daru? As I asked on another article: What sort of Ethos is the Moscow Patriarchate cultivating?
Cat2/11/2022 10:16 am
If the bishops continue to intimidate their priests and treat them with contempt, then the majority may join the Russian Exarchate as it will grow. As for the benefits... may they receive whatever benefits and material help they need and let Faith arise and bloom in the entire region.
Michael2/11/2022 1:01 am
Why do Greek hierarchs keep insulting their own priests? "If you ask any African cleric where Ukraine is on the map, he can’t answer you"? Really? So you're saying that it's possible to graduate from one of your seminaries without even knowing the location of the second largest Orthodox country in the world? This is a strange way to persuade Africans to stay with you, by arguing that they are ignorant of the outside world and therefore have no reason to care what happens in Ukraine.
Craig Mouldey2/10/2022 10:09 pm
This metropolitan should understand that those who live in glass houses should not throw stones. I have not heard any official from the Russian Patriarchate using slanderous language to beat down those who oppose them. They try simply to lay down the facts of the ongoing debacle in Ukraine which has been blown into a crisis for world Orthodoxy because both the NAZI/Schismatic elements in the Ukraine and the Patriarchate of Istanbul are both under the direction of the U.S. Department of State, The CIA and Freemasons. This should have been dealt with by a synod of the sleepy Bishops of world Orthodoxy already and not let it get to this point. Were they hoping if they did nothing it would all go away? Well, it hasn't gone away. It has gotten worse. Many of them, especially in the west have had their hands full submitting to governments demanding we alter our Holy Liturgy and trying to push Christians to be injected with a poisonous brew, also pushed by those same governments. Shame on the lot of them.
Alex2/10/2022 8:17 pm
Metropolitan Agathonikos, and his gang, speak with a forked tongue!
Michael 2/10/2022 7:07 pm
The Patriarchs of Constantinople and Alexandria have brought these calamities down upon their own heads.

In particular Bartholomew's arrogance and greed have sown division and disunity in the Orthodox Churches. He won’t call a counsel because he knows not even those of us who are Greek still support him. He should stop calling himself the leader of 300 million Orthodox Christians. It is probably less than 10 million. I am Greek American and he is not my leader! He is a heresiarch and divider.

And all this to protect his “joint venture” with the US State Department, his primary funder I am sure.

Time to depose him and the rest of the Greek bishops who will not repent of what they have done in Ukraine to the canonical Church under Metropolitan Onuphry.

Basil2/10/2022 6:10 pm
These Greek hierarchs have very low opinions of their clergy. Can't point out Ukraine on a map? He's basically saying that his native clergy are a bunch of little children and ignoramuses.
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