Patriarch Bartholomew Will Visit Russia in May

It’s no secret that Moscow doesn’t take kindly to Pat. Bartholomew’s claims of universal authority (see: A Letter To The Ecumenical Patriarch Concerning The Situation Of The Diaspora by Patriarch Alexios written in 2005) so the sentence below “within the canonical order that was installed over centuries of church tradition” (quotes in Russian original) undoubtedly references this difference in ecclesiological understanding. This should be interesting.


His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew

On 20 May, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew is scheduled to arrive in Russia for an official visit. At a press conference in Moscow on Tuesday, Archbishop Hilarion Alfeyev of Volokolamsk, the head of the Department of External Church Relations of the MP, said that Patriarch Bartholomew, in particular, intends to visit Moscow, St Petersburg, Vladimir, and Suzdal. In July 2009, Patriarch Kirill Gundyaev of Moscow and all the Russias went to Turkey, his first official visit to another Local Orthodox Church as the First Hierarch of the MP. Then, at a meeting with Patriarch Kirill in Istanbul, Bartholomew expressed a willingness to work together with him “within the canonical order that was installed over centuries of church tradition. We extend to you the right hand of sincere and unfeigned love”, Patriarch Bartholomew said, noting that Patriarch Kirill always showed himself “an outstanding scholar and an honest labourer for the Gospel” and the Russian people were “pious and blessed by the Lord”. Patriarch Bartholomew also noted that “clouds” from time to time arose in the relations between the two “fraternal Churches”, but that they were only “temporary” and “quickly dissipated”. He emphasised, “No one can deprive us of the unity that we have in the common chalice”.


  1. It looks as if there will be no rearranging of the dyptichs to put Moscow closer to the top (i.e., ahead of Alexandria, Antioch or Jerusalem). There’s no great problem with that as long as the conciliarity between the Orthodox Churches is focused on as much as the primacy among them.

  2. George Michalopulos :

    the entire order of the diptychs is arbitrary anyway. It’s based on statute, not necessarily chronological precedence. Otherwise, Jerusalem would be first, Antioch second, Alexandria third (or possibly Rome. Istanbul would be fifth, Cyprus sixth, then Georgia, Bulgaria, Serbia, etc. I myself would be gratified to see the MP move up the list.

  3. Guys,

    Let’s face it…as long as most of the Orthodox world remained trapped behind the Iron Curtain, the anachronistic mythology of the “order of the diptychs” could be maintained…the only people who were likely to complain were essentially incarcerated.

    Fast forward to today. Look at the list you just presented. Of the top four ranking patriarchates (C’nople, Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem), only Alexandria is arguably a live church…the others are extinct in every way but money.

    And along come the previously incarcerated patriarchates: Moscow, Sofia, Belgrade, Bucharest, even Georgia….all with LIVE churches. Look at the statistics for the Russian Church sometime…their diocese in Moscow is bigger than all of American Orthodoxy.

    How long is anyone going to care what the top four think? I can understand honoring them because of the past, but the rubber hits the road and the wheels fall off the bus when they (the dead Old World churches)want to go “left” and the live churches want to go “right” (e.g. relations with the Roman Catholic Church). There is simply no way the leaders of the dead Old World churches, with their parochial outlooks (centered on maintaining their positions) will be able to relate to the concerns of leaders of LIVE churches (with all the corresponding concerns).

    This mythology is in the process of being dismantled…before our eyes. I believe the trip of the Russian patriarch to Turkey may have been a watershed – and a much needed dose of reality.

    Regardless of the “order of the diptychs”, I doubt we will any longer see the EP acting as a free agent, or as an Eastern pope. The numerical and the political strength of the other, once communist patriarchates, will no longer permit it.

    I think this may be the real force behind the sudden interest in solving the issues of the Omogenia…i.e. the EP recognizes that it is stronger now, relative to its peers, than it is likely to be 10 years from now. Hence the interest in “cutting a deal” now.

    Time is not on the side of the EP. They are fighting an organized retreat, and I think they know it. Meanwhile, the Russians are being smart enough not to overtly challenge something which is going away anyway…why bother? Treat the elder See with all the respect and deference you can stomach…and then, go do what you wanted to do to begin with.

    The power in the Orthodox world has shifted, and we have yet to see all the dominoes which will shift with it. I suspect that anyone clinging to a strict adherence of the “order of the diptychs” is likely to be sorely disappointed in this day of Twitter, Facebook, You Tube, and the internet.

    I think that’s what we are witnessing…

    Just my humble opinion.

    Best Regards,

  4. George Michalopulos :

    Dean, excellent analysis. What is sad though is that if the EP had acted with alacrity in 1994 and went with the Ligonier Conference (when he was actually far stronger in relation to the former Iron Curtain patriarchates), he would have had so much more moral authority. And more love and deservedly earned respect from the Orthodox world, because he would have been seen acting in a humble, far-sighted and strategically sound manner. So I guess that’s my only quibble.

    Thinking aloud here, my lesser nature comes to the fore and reminds me that perhaps the Phanar is not capable of this type of strategic thinking, so IMHO, the EP’s trip to Moscow may be just a photo-op. I don’t think they’re capable of “managing the decline” or retreat as you state. I hope I’m wrong on this, but I honestly think that it’s bred into the Byzantine bone to be just delusional enough to hope that just when things like the direst, someone (the Crusaders, the Greek king, the Russians, whoever) will come pull their chestnuts out of the fire.

    God forgive me for being so cynical but the entire history of that patriarchate for the better part of a millenium (even before the Turks) leads me to the unalterable conclusion that they can’t act any other way. Like I said, I hope I’m wrong.

  5. George,

    You might very well be right. “Delusional” is a good adjective. That’s what I saw in my limited experience with people from Phanar (Metropolitan Panteleimon). And that aptly describes others’ experiences that I’ve been told about.

    We are witnessing the death of a living system…it’s never a pretty sight.

    To be honest, they are no more delusional than guys that I’ve heard in the boardrooms of companies going out of business…like the Kmart CEO 6-7 years ago – forget his name – that Italian guy. The guys in the board rooms just look more normal (with the suits and all). Take away the suits, give them kalamafi’s and a foreign accent, and there really wouldn’t be much difference…same “Wizard of Oz” mentality.

    Anyway…”delusional” is a good way to describe it.

    Best Regards,

  6. cynthia curran :

    Well, that’s true the Russian church has grown faster, that why I belive they have nothing to fear from a small group of protestants in their country. On the other hand, there are probably a lot of good orthodox in Greec but as stated before there is too much about agruing about Macedonia calling itself that even from a old Roman Map that called it Macedonia that I once come across. The Greeks agrued that modern Macedonians are slavs,it doesn’t matter to me if modern macedonians are related to ancient macedonians or Illyrians.

  7. George Williams :

    The reason for his visit is to seal a deal. Pat. Bartholomew truly wants to push his agenda of “ECUMENICAL PATRIARCH.” This title is ridiculous. Maybe it was appropriate when the Byzantine Empire existed, but certainly not today. In the words of the late Protopresbyter John Meyendorff, “The term ‘first among equals’ only means that he runs the meetings when all the patriarchs gather. He chairs the meetings; that’s it.” “Primacy of honor” is something Pat. Bartholomew wants to push forward, like the Pope of Rome, to have real teeth and authority over all Orthodox worldwide.

    This is a very dangerous road for Orthodox to travel down. This is not of our tradition, it is not canonical, and it does not follow how the Holy Apostles established local churches.

    So, why is he going to Russia? To tell the Patriarch of Moscow that he will not interfere in the Ukraine if Moscow will fully support his initiatives of making himself a true “Ecumenical Patriarch” with real authority over all churches worldwide, except maybe Russia.

    This is a very dangerous time with the destruction of Orthodoxy at hand.

    • Michael Bauman :

      “The gates of Hell will not prevail against the Church”

      The Church cannot and will not be destroyed. What can and will be detroyed is our malformed, anthropocentric, ideological conceptions of the Church.

      IMO if current trends hold we will see an offical Orthodox Church and an authentic one which will be labeled schismatic and uncanonical by the official Church. The authentic Church will be small, widely dispersed, poor and invisible on the poltical stage. It will not be within any of the current ‘jurisdictions’.

      The Patriarchal super structure is a dying remnant of the Byzantine Empire during which the Church was seduced into thinking more in worldly terms than we ought. Combined with the persecution of the Muslims and the Soviets and we have developed a completely unrealistic, unsustainable idea of what it means to be “The Church”.

      If we want local churches within an authentic hierarchical structure, we have to build from the bottom up, not expect our current hierarchs to voluntarily lay down their ‘perogatives’ to rule.

      While those perogatives have substance and reality, they cannot be founded in wealth, prestige and power as they are now. They must be founded in ascetic discipline, prayer and pastoral care and the building of vibrant communities focused on the sacramental life and service to others. Spiritual formation must be given priority over ‘growth’, visibility, and political/cultural influence.

      It is quite likely that the Church most be broken before it can live. That should not surprise us since the Cross is at the heart of what it means to be both Christian and the Church.

      However, being broken does not connote or imply being destroyed. Certainly, our numbers will initially decrease as we learn what it means to really be a Christian in this world, eschewing all of the trappings of bishop worship, pseudo-monastic ‘holiness’, jargon spewing ‘theology’, and the gnostic-like quest for individual spiritual enlightenment.

      It will mean learning to both live and convey the Holy Tradition with simplicty and humility–but is that not what we all really want?

      • IMO if current trends hold we will see an official Orthodox Church and an authentic one which will be labeled schismatic and uncanonical by the official Church. The authentic Church will be small, widely dispersed, poor and invisible on the political stage. It will not be within any of the current ‘jurisdictions’.

        I have to say that this is more than a mere opinion, it is what has been foretold by the Holy Fathers.

        Those very few preserved by God through the atheist/communist madness wrote about what we are to expect.

        From Great Anthony and contemporary ecumenism:

        (Saint Anthony) interrupted twice his lengthy absence from the world, in order to struggle for and contribute in the rescue of Orthodoxy, which as now, so was then, in peril from both external and more so from internal enemies. Christianity was never present in conversations and negotiations “on equal terms” with the other religions, […] but as the sole truth, the only way to salvation, the true light which replaced not the weaker lights but the darkness of fallacy and ignorance of God.

        Today, Orthodoxy appear to be at peril mainly due to internal enemies. I am not talking only about evil-intended enemies. The most corrosive factor is the worldliness and the ignorance of some of those in charge (perhaps specially appointed there).

  8. I don’t think canon law would back up the idea that a primate or primes inter patres merely “runs the meetings… He chairs the meetings; that’s it.” There was a school of thought that saw the local church alone as properly Church, but there has been a greater recognition of the different sorts of canonical and traditional primacies that have been and are exercised within the Orthodox Churches, before, during and after Muslim and Communist domination.

    There is a great deal of distance between a primacy that ‘runs meetings’ and an ‘Eastern papacy’.

    Within different local Churches (of today and the past) that primacy is expressed differently. For instance, the Patriarch of Moscow has enormous, unilateral power within the dioceses of the Russian Church; by contrast, the Patriarch of Serbia has very little power even within the Synod of Serbian Church much less beyond his own diocese. Likewise, the Patriarch of Constantinople was granted specific rights within the Eastern Church before the Great Schism and before the Turkish Yoke. That is, the Ecumenical Patriarch – a pre-Schism title – fills a sort of “court of appeal” among the Eastern Patriarchates, too. More vague is the role the Patriarch of Constantinople plays in ‘coordinating’, ‘initiating, and in territories beyond the established boundaries of the other local churches (e.g., the Tomos of autocephaly for the Russian Church officially limited its jurisdiction to the territory of the Russian Empire).

    Between local churches, there has yet to be defined how the primacy of Constantinople is to be expressed. The recent meetings in Chambesy seem to be getting at a consensus on this topic, though – and it is a consensus different than that perhaps underlying in the Meyendorff comment provided. Given that, I would suggest greater restraint in rhetoric regarding an ‘Eastern papacy’, and greater familiarity with the concept and practice of primacy within the Orthodox Church of today and in the past at various times and places.

  9. I don’t know why you italicize “before the Great Schism and before the Turkish Yoke.” Before the Great Schism and before the Turkish Yoke, Constantinople contained the seat of the empire, and the Fathers were explicit in stating that they were thinking of the emperor and captical when they gave the EP (an inmperial title btw) his priviledges. Now Constantinople serves as the capital of nothing, no emperor and no empire.

    • Hi Isa,

      I’m just curious about your “take” on what’s going on here?

      I just can’t see what is motivating all of this (i.e. the sudden jump to warp speed in the Inter Orthodox Preparatory talks, this visit, Patriarch Kyrill’s visit to Istanbul).

      The closest thing I’ve read is this article, which comes from an unlikely source – which i posted on the St Andrew House Forum:

      Hope all is well with you.

      Best Regards,

      • Things are returning to what they were in the Orthodox World in 1914, except Constantinople no longer has a large base to play from.

        For a varieity of reasons I do not think the Patriarchate of Moscow will supplant the EP. For one thing, his Church is too big-bigger than the rest combined-to make the other local Churches comfortable.

        Moscow will, however, be setting the agenda this century.

        • George Michalopulos :

          Isa, I think you’re right. The center of gravity has definitely switched to Moscow. Certainly a case could be made that from 1918 to the present, C’pole has been in a twilight period enchanted by novel teachings, egged on by a quasi-papalist envy. As such, this shift to Moscow should be welcomed.

          Let me go out on a limb here. Tell me what you think: Although I do not look for the MP to arrogate the title of EP to itself, I don’t think it has to. I fully believe that within this century, the see of C’pole will be occupied by ethnic Russians. That’s one reason for Moscow to let it stay there.

          • I’m not sure that a Russian EP would change things much: after all, as Patriarch he would be no doubt taken by being THE successor of SS. Andrew, Gregory Nazianzus, John Chrysostom, Photius, etc. which would counterbalance nationalist tendencies. In the previous centuries, the Russians supported Photios of Jerusalem as Pope of Alexandria: Egypt was the protectorate of Britain (and hence Russia had no interests there), and promoting him there would get him, one of the most virolent Phanariots, out of their hair in Palestine and Syria. The Phanar was delighted to have its own promoted to the second see, but soon learned to regret it. Pope Photios forbade the EP from having a legate set foot in Egypt, and when it was pointed out that Alexandria depended on C’pole for her bishops, Photios revived the Holy Synod, and Alexandria has been independent de facto as de jure ever since.

            Which may segway into the issue of Orthodox politics this century. Alexandria is a wild card: it is the only place free (including the Mother Churches) of jurisdictional problems, and that throughout a whole continent, where Orthodoxy and Christianity are spreading: Muslim clerics wail on al-Jazeerah that millions of Muslims are converting. If the reunion with the Oriental Orthodox comes to pass, it will go overnight to be one of the largest Orthodox Churches, with world wide jurisdictions (the Copts are on every continent now), and with the view that Ethiopia and Eritrea Oriental Orhtodox look to Alexandria, and the EO there are under Alexandria, and given the demographics of the continent, Alexandria would even rival Russia, particularly if Ukraine becomes Autocephalous, and particularly if Greece’s control of Alexandria lessens. Or rather, native control comes to power. I do not think Alexandria will be able to or inclined to take Russia on, but it will change the Orthodox landscape, in particular in Orthodoxy in the Third World.

            Before any of that, there will be the issue of Ukraine, which should (I believe) and will become Autocephalous. In time, hopefully, there will develop the same relationship with Moscow as between CoG and C’ple. That will be a loss for Russia, but by no means a fatal or even crippling blow. There is no chance Urkaine will go under C’ple. The question is what happends with the Ukrainians in their diaspora with an autocephalous Ukraine:my guess Kiev, or the local Orthodox authority, perhaps in that order.

            Tha era of colonialism will end, and with it C’ple’s means to play Vatican. North America and perhaps Austrialia/NZ will become autocephalous, South America and Western Europe at least autonomous. If the OO and EO reunite, India will have her own Church. China is difficult to ascertain.

            I’ll go out on a limb and bring up the issue of the Muslim World: despite lethal persecusion, the Church and other Christians are spreading. Once the Islamists have spent themselves (and I don’t think the rise of Eurabia is going to prevent that), there is going to be vacuum.

            In the context of all that, the issue of a Russian EP becomes less of an issue. The big question is what happens after the present EP, who I expect to last another decade. If he lasts that long or longer, I think the Turks will have no choice but to allow a successor: the dynamics will have created a vested interest by World Orthodoxy. Vs. Islamism and Secularism, I think Moscow is going to join forces with the Vatican, although she is not going to submit to Ecumenism. In that context, the Orthodox led by Russia will depend on the prestige on the continued existence of the ancient patriarchates to bolster our claims (Alexandria, in any case, will be viable, as will Antioch but less so. Jerusalem is going to be viable but divided: conversions among the Jews have now created a Hebrew majority, Jordan is still viable, and then there’s the Russian presence). The EP will go back to what he was in the first millenium, with Russia and perhaps Alexandria leading the other Churches in enforcing conciliarity.

            One thing that the Russian colony is going to do is make the Church viable in Turkey. And conversions among the Turks are small but steady.

        • Hi Isa,

          As usual, your perspective is genius.

          That’s quite an interesting way to look at it, that “things are returning to what they were in the Orthodox World in 1914.” Had honestly never thought about it that way.

          But it makes all the sense in the world, as does your conclusion that Moscow will be setting the agenda. You are right on the mark with that one, for sure.

          Let me think more about what the other implies…I’m sure it will be more than currently meets the eye.

          Best Regards

  10. George Michalopulos :

    Isa, right on! All one has to do is read Norwich, Meyendorff, etc. to realize that when John the Faster (fifth century) first used the title “ecumenical,” he was roundly criticized by Pope Gregory the Great. John apologized all over himself and explained that “ecumenical” did not mean “universal” but merely “imperial.” Indeed, the obnoxiousness of this title was never used again in foreign correspondence. It wasn’t picked up until after the Fourth Crusade (1204) when a patriarch used it in a letter to the Metropolitan of Nicaea, a man who had previously served in the patriarchal court in C’pole. When this metropolitan read it, he commented that he had “never heard of this title before.” It appears that it was only later and much more gradually (i.e. insidiously) that it was acknowleded.

    Of course, Istanbul plays the same double-game today, trying to have it both ways. And since clearly un-Christlike behavior, it will fail.

  11. cynthia curran :

    Well,since Moscow is in Putin land, I wonder if the modern orthodox church in Russia can change the course of the country. Russia failed in 1914 and the first WWI period with very poor economic condtions probably caused the communists to take power. Granted, Putin is not as strong as either the old czars or the Soviet dictators though.

    • Cynthia

      Given the recent experience in Washington, maybe we should be worrying about whether the church can change the course of history in THIS country.

      Just a thought, provoked by your comment….and Isa’s.

      Best Regards,

      • Scott Pennington :

        It might be more accurate to say that the Russian Orthodox Church has a better chance of christianizing Russia than any church does of christianizing America or the West, but not in ways that democrats [small ‘d’} would approve. If change means “democratization”, then I pray God it does not take hold there.

        Because of the fact that Russia has, practically speaking, a more authoritarian government, there is greater potential for the Church to influence the culture through that government. Those who deplore the disadvantages that Catholic and Protestant churches encounter in Russia are simply transposing the Amerian model of the religious marketplace on Russia. This is not an Orthodox idea but a late product of the “Enlightenment”. If truth is truth then there need be no marketplace. If man is the measure of all things, then all ideas are equal, to be judged by the masses. “Vox Populi, Vox Dei”.

        Orthodoxy has been taught in public schools for some time now. Because of the population problem, abortion is beginning to be discouraged by government health professionals.

        Fr. Jacobse is right about the communist takeover of Russia. There were two revolutions in 1918. One in February which installed a provisional government run be people we might call “social democrats”. The Bolsheviks, after a short period, endorsed this government at the same time they worked to undermine it. These “social democrats” were indecisive and weak and refused to suppress the Bolsheviks. At one point, they even armed the Bolsheviks to assist against a possible Royalist resurgency. Lenin’s party, of course, never returned the arms to the government.

        Later, in October, the Bolsheviks seized power. An election had already been scheduled though. So after the election was over and the new Duma first met in November, after a couple of days Lenin sent in troops to dissolve it since he thought it was not going to recognize the authority of the communist party. For several months in 1918, Russia was one of the most free states in Europe.

        Putin has ruled more wisely than many Orthodox rulers through history. The fact that he isn’t really a democrat isn’t something I hold against him. Look how moral democracy has made America and Western Europe. Democracy isn’t the test.

        “Moscow, February 2, Interfax – For the recent year, the Moscow Patriarchate has opened 900 new parishes, while total number of clerics has grown for more than 1,5 thousand people.

        Patriarch Kirill voiced the statistical data on the Russian Orthodox Church on Tuesday at a Bishops’ Meeting in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior.

        Today the Russian Church has 30 142 parishes (in December 2008 their number equaled to 29 263), 160 dioceses (compared to 157 last year), 207 bishops (compared to 203), total number of clerics is 32 266 people (compared to 30 670.)

        When the 1000th anniversary of Russia’s Baptism was celebrated in 1988, the Moscow Patriarchate had 6893 parishes, 76 dioceses, 74 hierarchs and total number of clerics made 7397 people. ”

        Much of this was done with the assistance of Putin. The government has restored many confiscated churches and assisted in any number of other ways.

        • Scott Pennington :

          Correction, in my post 11.1.1 above, the events I referred to were in 1917 rather than 1918. Also, by the Western calendar, the two revolutions occured in March and November, respectively.

          • George Michalopulos :

            I applaud what Putin has done. It would be wrong however to blame “democracy” for the collapse of Christendom in the West. I believe that the Reformation had started the undermining of Christianity in the West even before the Enlightenment. It’s rationalism that led to the Reformation IMO and it was rationalism that foisted the “higher criticism” of Scripture on the Protestant seminaries going on 300 years now.

  12. Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

    Cynthia, the Communists took power by a naked power grab. Lenin took over the Dumas by brute force.

  13. cynthia curran :

    Well, I didn’t say that the communists didn’t use force to get into power but bad conditions helped the communists with getting support. Communists usually don’t win when economic conditions are good. In this country their biggest support was during the 1930’s. As for Putin, no one can predict what he will do, he isn’t ideological.

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