October 22, 2018 Special Dispatch No. 7721

Russian Theologian Andrey Kuraev: There Is An Attempt To 'Smear' The Ukrainian Conflict Over The Entire Ecclesiastical World

October 22, 2018
Russia | Special Dispatch No. 7721

The Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) severed its ties with Constantinople. On October 15, the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church declared it was impossible to continue being in Eucharistic communion with the Constantinople Patriarchate. This was the response to a decision, taken on October 11, by the Ecumenical Patriarchate to grant canonical status to the Kyiv Patriarchate and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church, and recognizing them to be part of the Constantinople church. The decision also included lifting the anathema (excommunication) on the Philaret (i.e. the patriarch of the Kyiv Patriarchate) imposed in the 1990s by the Moscow Patriarchate and planning the creation of an autocephalous Ukrainian church. The ROC has condemned this step by the Istanbul Synod as "legalization of schism".


In his speech during the Synaxis (i.e. assembly) of the Constantinople bishops (September 1-3), the Patriarch Bartholomew already ruled that the Moscow Patriarchate did not have a canonical right to meddle in Ukraine's church affairs, unlike the Patriarchate of Constantinople, since the latter enjoys the status of Mother Church. Archpriest. Andrey Novikov, a member of the Moscow Patriarchate's Bible Theological Commission defined Patriarch Bartholomew's speech as "pure heresy".[1]


On September 7, a few days after the Synaxis in Istanbul, the Patriarchate of Constantinople appointed two exarchs (i.e. ambassadors) in Kyiv, in order to start planning an autocephalous (independent) Orthodox Ukrainian church.


On September 14, the ROC Synod held an extraordinary session in Moscow and deliberated retaliatory measures in response to the appointment by the Patriarchate of Constantinople of its exarchs to Kyiv. At the session, it was decided that the Russian Orthodox churches would no longer mention the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew during service, and bishops of the Moscow Patriarchate would not conduct joint services with the Constantinople ones.[2]


A religious and public figure, theologian Andrey Kuraev, called this situation inside the Orthodox Church "unprecedented" in a live interview to "Ъ FM". In his opinion, the ROC will sooner or later find itself in isolation. He then added that the actual situation is an attempt to 'smear' the Ukrainian conflict over the entire ecclesiastical world. It should be mentioned that Kuraev has been on the outs with the church hierarchy after he outed what he referred to as a "gay lobby" within the church and revealed cases of abuse at the Kazan seminary.


Below are excerpts of the interview with Kuraev:[3]


Andrey Kuraev (Source:


The Russian Orthodox Church Will Isolate Itself

Q: "What does this schism mean, and what can it lead to?"

Kuraev: "I think this is the beginning of a Russian reformation, that is, a serious re-formatting of the very matrix of our Orthodoxy. This is an abrupt, unprecedented step on the part of the Synod, which even obliges lay people to despise the sacraments administered by another patriarch. There is a certain theological logic that follows from it. The so called 'Tenth Apostolic Canon' says: if anybody prays in company with one who has been excommunicated – even at home, not only in a church – he shall be excommunicated himself. Patriarch Kirill, although a man with a Swiss background, is not a Swiss banker. There is a famous joke about a Swiss banker: if you see a Swiss banker jumping out of a skyscraper window, don't think – do the same! Well, not a single local church will jump out of a window after Patriarch Kirill. Nobody will sever all communications with the Constantinople Patriarch [the Russian original says Moscow Patriarchate which MEMRI believes is an error]. That is, they will pray together with him, and that means that the Canon will require us to say 'b' after saying 'a', and then the entire alphabet down to 'z', meaning 'all of you are heretics and our enemies'. We are cutting off our nose to spite our face; that is, the Russian Church will isolate itself."

Q: "Do I understand correctly that all local churches, with the exception of the Moscow Patriarchate, will recognize the primacy of Bartholomew and will follow his words?"

Kuraev: "He does not demand that from anyone. They will not break off ecclesiastical communications, joint prayer and joint sacraments with him. And we will remain all alone. We will have to justify this inconsistency in our actions: why we pronounced an anathema on Patriarch Bartholomew, but those who did not do this did not become anathema to us. For that, we would have to make a serious revision of all our ancient canonical heritage. That is why I am saying that this is the beginning of a reformation."

Q: "What should ordinary Orthodox church-goers do when they find themselves, let's say, not on the territory of the Moscow Patriarchate? Will they be forbidden from entering churches? What will it look like on this level?"

Kuraev: "That's right. There is a huge number of Russians who live abroad — and they will now be forbidden not only from going to pray in Catholic churches but also in the temples of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. This is rather sad, because there are human connections, there is joy from the fact that we all are the Ecumenical Orthodoxy. This was our chief argument in the debate with Ukrainian schismatics and with Protestants in the West. And now all our wonderful, joyful apologetics has received this huge axe blow."

Q: "There was information that the Greek Church may impose a ban on visits to Mount Athos for the ROC members. We know it is very popular among Russians. How probable is this scenario?"[4]

Kuraev: "I am certain that there will be no retaliatory sanctions on the part of Greece and the Constantinople Patriarchate. And when last time, our Synod declared that we refuse to conduct joint services on the level of bishops – Patriarch Kirill stopped receiving his Constantinople counterpart – Bartholomew did not respond in kind; he calmly continues to mention Patriarch Kirill in the list of Orthodox patriarchs. I am certain it will continue in this vein."

Q: "That is, it is the Moscow Patriarchate that will forbid its church members to enter other churches?"

Kuraev: "Exactly."

Q: "And the other party will not try to impose prohibitions?"

Kuraev: "Of course not, they will be received with joy. That is why Patriarch Kirill tellingly spilled the beans on October 8, during the service at the Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius, when he said: 'we went for a break-up'. It must be understood precisely that we were the ones who initiated the schism."

Q: "What will be the attitude of the Moscow Patriarchate towards people who will enter other churches?"

Kuraev: "I think a lot of angry words will be said in their direction. But it is a fundamentally important theological and theistic problem, important enough not to accept this, not to agree. The bishops have quarreled – it is your business. I understand that if you are angry at another person, you should not go together to Christ's chalice, until you make peace with each other. But I have no anger towards some Greek, why can't I pray together with him? Because my Patriarch is offended? Very strange."

Q: "Can the Moscow Patriarchate minimize the damage in any way? What should be done to avoid bringing the situation to the point of absurdity?"

Kuraev: "It has already been brought there. Now one can only revoke the decision. The formula I proposed for Ukraine is very simple; it consists of two parts. Part one is allowing people to move freely into this new structure created by Constantinople. Part two: if a person remains within the framework of the Russian church in Ukraine, it should not be a crime. If everybody agreed to that, it would be a step towards civil peace in Ukraine. What we have now is an attempt to 'smear' the Ukrainian conflict over the entire ecclesiastical world."



[1], September 6, 2018.

[3], October 15, 2018. Marat Kashin talked to Russian Theologian Andrey Kuraev.

[4] On September 8, it was reported that the Chancellor of Moscow Patriarchate, Metropolitan Varsonofy of St. Petersburg and Ladoga has been refused a Greek visa. "For many years the archbishop would go on a pilgrimage to [Mount] Athos; however, this time he could not get the Greek visa," the chancellery stated., September 8, 2018.

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