The attempts to remove the church from politics into a hobby corner had failed, but the most important organisation in human history still didn’t regain the place it had before the Jews and liberals joined the forces against Christendom. The defeat of UkroNazis is the first result of the developments.
The Russian President Vladimir Putin is a churchgoer, a rare bird among leading statesmen. He goes to communion; he has a confessor; he lights candles in some small parish church at feasts, he confers with wise old men in remote monasteries. He follows church politics and keeps engaged. Recently, at the unspecified emergency, after the Russian nuclear submersible had suffered a fatal accident (on July, 1), when VP Pence had been recalled to Washington (on July, 2), Putin went to visit the Pope Francis (on July, 4) and had spent a long time with him in a dramatic tête-à-tête.
Nothing signifies the change of Russian heart more. In 1944, Joseph Stalin famously retorted Churchill’s nudge to consider the views of the Vatican with “How many divisions does the Pope of Rome have?” Now Stalin’s heir respects and considers the opinions of St Peter’s successor while keeping his own Christian Orthodox faith.
Meanwhile, the once-Christian US had turned away from the Church. If a major US newspaper ever refers to the church, it is usually to condemn it for refusal to consecrate the same-sex union, for ‘paedophile priests’ or for failing Jews at the Holocaust. The US makes a point of never defending Christians. Jews, always; Muslims, sometimes; Christians, never.
The Church was slow to respond, but the much-delayed moment arrived. As long as Moscow had been Red and atheist, the Church had no choice but to stick with Washington. Now it makes no sense.
Putin’s meeting with the Pope, his third audience with Pope Francis and the sixth with a supreme pontiff, signified a cardinal change, I was told by Fr. Jeffrey Langan, a priest of Opus Dei, a man close to the Vatican and a philosophy teacher at the Harvard University. The meeting with Putin marks the decision of the Holy See to windup favouring the United States in the global context. The Vatican had sided with Washington for many years, but now Pope Francis apparently decided that enough is enough. The church should stay neutral in international conflicts. In particular it refers to the Ukraine. The Holy See considers the Ukrainian conflict as a proxy war instigated by the CIA, and it wants to stay out of it.
This is a very important decision. The Ukrainians are predominantly Orthodox Christians, but there is a Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, a Catholic church of Byzantine rite. It is strong in the Western Ukraine, the fervently nationalist region with its own traditions. The Western Ukrainians (or Galicians) were predominantly peasant folk, but they moved into cities when the Jews and the Poles were killed or expelled. They had little love for Jews and Poles, their neighbours; after their incorporation in the Soviet Ukraine in 1940 they discovered they dislike the Russians (and the Russified Ukrainians) even more.
During the WWII, their hard-core activists sided with Hitler; after the war, they switched their allegiance to the US. After break-up of the Soviet Union, they became the movers of independent development, or rather de-development, for these recent peasants were deeply suspicious of industry and of city dwellers. They de-industrialised their region, and afterwards they moved en masse into the Central Ukraine where they became standard-bearers of the turning-to-roots cultural movement.
Compare the Ukraine with the South of France. If France were broken up by a French Gorbachev, the South would try to claim the lost traditions of Languedoc; but as few Southerners speak Provencal they would look up to villagers of Pyrenees as the bearers of Southern culture. Likewise, the Ukrainians of the Central and Eastern Ukraine retained little of their original culture and language; after independence in 1991 they felt the need to beef up their Ukrain-ness. The Western Ukrainians fitted the bill. They became prominent in Ukrainian ideology, culture, political structures. And their Church retained much of its influence upon this very active and dynamic population.
Besides, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church is a guiding light for the Ukrainian Protestants. The Protestants, a small but well-educated and influential lot, usually toe the line of the Greek Catholics. It was considered that the Greek Catholic Church is violently anti-Russian.
But the next day after meeting with Putin, on July 5, the Pope had met with the bishops of the Greek Catholic Church and told them to lay off. Stay out of conflict, he instructed the bishops. Drop your anti-Russian rhetoric. The Church should not take sides. This was a revelation for the bishops. For years they had fought against the Russians, and against the main Ukrainian Orthodox Church that is allied to Moscow Patriarchate. And all of a sudden they are told to stop it. They did as they were told, and apparently it had effect: in the parliamentary elections on Sunday July 21st the far right nationalists (our friend Saker calls them ‘UkroNazis’) had been eliminated as a political force, or at least had lost their positions. No more UkroNazis! Kaput! The Brown Revolution is over!
[I predicted this result five years ago; the West always uses and encourages the nationalist far right to remove socialists, but on the next stage the far right gets its kick in the seat. This happened in Croatia, where full-fledged Nazis were used against socialists to dismantle Yugoslavia and fight Serbs, but after their victory, they were flushed down the history drain. Likewise, the UkroNazis did their job of seizing power and starting low-intensity warfare with Russia; afterwards they transferred the power to Soros-supported liberals.]
However, the biggest change in the Ukrainian church politics took place within the Orthodox community. In November 2018, I wrote about the schism within the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. You may wish to refresh it in your memory. In short, two fringe Orthodox nationalist groups were united to overcome the biggest traditional Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which is an autonomous part of the Russian Orthodox Church of Moscow Patriarchate. The two splinters appealed to the Constantinople Patriarch Bartholomew to grant them the Tomos of Autocephaly, in other words to recognise them as an independent church within the Orthodox Church. The Tomos had been granted on 2019, January 5; here is the text; the Patriarch declared, that “Ukrainians could now enjoy the sacred gift of emancipation, independence, and self-governance, becoming free from every external reliance and intervention.”
However, this careful, CIA-fostered plan to finally separate Russia and its sister Ukraine had come to nought within half a year. Ambitions and greed undermined the plans of ungodly.
The key figure in the Ukrainian Orthodoxy is the nonagenarian bishop Filaret. He was a legitimate Metropolitan (Archbishop) of Kiev within the Russian Orthodox Church, but he had a strong ambition to become its Patriarch, the Pope of Moscow. As this ambition had not been fulfilled, he left the mother-church, and declared himself a Patriarch of Kiev, the head of a new Ukrainian Orthodox Church (KP). Moscow defrocked and outlawed him, and all Orthodox Churches followed Moscow. His rather small organisation became the foundation of the new Ukrainian Orthodox Church, but he was too controversial figure for Bartholomew to name him as its head.
A compromise was reached, for a while: Filaret will be the head of the new church in all but title; Bishop Epiphanius will become the primate and the nominal figurehead of the new church, and the new church will be fully independent one. This was the great achievement of Petro Poroshenko, the chocolate king and president of Ukraine. And it was his only achievement, unless you count negative achievements. His wild nationalism, animosity to Russia, endless war in the East of Ukraine, surrender to IMF, opening of markets to Europe and closing the Russian markets made him the figure of hate to impoverished Ukrainians, and he had miserably lost the Presidential elections on April 21, 2019 to a young actor Mr Vladimir Zelensky. Immediately after that, the church he established had collapsed.
Bishop (or Patriarch, if you wish) Filaret said he was cheated. He believed he will be the factual head of the church, but he had zero influence in the new structure. The man he believed would be the figurehead, Bishop Epiphanius, refused to share power with the old man. Moreover, the Tomos didn’t make the new Ukrainian church independent – despite its title of “autocephalous” it became subservient to Constantinople. As I predicted, the Ukrainians have no chance to become fully independent. The Kiev regime could dispense with Moscow, but it became subservient to the West. Its finances are overseen by the IMF, its army by NATO, its foreign policy by the US State Department. Real independence was an elusive goal, beyond the Ukraine’s reach.
As for the Church, the Ukrainians could be under Moscow or under Istanbul, the same choice their ancestors had four hundred years ago. Moscow, with all its faults, had fewer demands upon the Ukrainian bishops. The Russians do not demand tribute; they even can help. Not so Constantinople. The Patriarch Bartholomew demanded to be paid 4000 euro per church per month. That is a lot of money for poor Ukrainians.
Filaret declared the Tomos void, the new church as a fiction, and announced that he still is the Patriarch of the Kiev Patriarchate. Bartholomew declared that Kiev Patriarchate does not exist and never existed. In short, the Ukrainians and the Greeks attempted to trick each other, but God is the best trickster.
A Ukrainian priest summed up the goings of the Ukrainian church in the succinct post that had been reposted thousand times:
Filaret, Epiphanius and Poroshenko agreed to deceive Bartholomew in order to get autocephaly to the church where Filaret will reign and Epiphanius be a frontman. Bartholomew, in turn, deceived all three; giving Tomos on such terms that only name had remained from the promised autocephaly. Poroshenko deceived Simeon [the bishop of Moscow Patriarchate], promising him primacy in the new structure. Simeon deceived his own flock, promising not to go anywhere. The mythical ten bishops of the Moscow Patriarchate had deceived Simeon by failing to appear at the church synod in Sofia Cathedral. The Sofia synod had deceived the Greeks by electing a dubious person, not even a proper priest, to the primacy. The civil society deceived the church, shouting at all corners that all Ukrainians would rush into its ranks at once. The new church has deceived the expectations of civil society, showing that even with the support of the state, it’s just not in the same league as the Moscow Patriarchate. Phanar deceived the Ukrainian church, promising it will be recognised by other Churches; other Churches have deceived the hopes of Phanar, not recognizing the Ukrainian church. And now Filaret claims that he has been deceived by Poroshenko and Epiphanius, just when they were planning together to deceive Bartholomew…
What next? Filaret is an extremely smart and experienced churchman, a master of intrigue, and I won’t bet against him. Meanwhile the whole idea of breaking Ukrainian church away from the Moscow Church seem to have collapsed. Whatever CIA desk deals with religion, probably they didn’t count on such level of mutual deceits. The Ukrainian will cheat the Devil himself, they say.
The church politics is not only, nor mainly intrigue. This article had been written as a result of a conference in Rome, where I listened to views and opinions of priests, bishops and journalists. All of them were interesting and enlightening, and I am particularly grateful to E. Michael Jones, the indomitable American Catholic writer who reminded us that “American, European, Ukrainian and Russian Christians have a unifying beginning – Logos. The strife between us had been caused by anti-Christian forces, by Jews and Neo-Cons who want to destroy the Church.” If we remember that, we shall surely overcome all differences.
Israel Shamir can be reached at [email protected]
This article was first published at The Unz Review