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The Russo-Orthodox Church in 2016 [and] The pan-Orthodox Synod #414871 02/08/16 09:47 AM
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The Russian Orthodox Church in 2016. The pan-Orthodox Synod (Part One)

Sergei Chapnin
8 February 2016
http://www.asianews.it/news-en/Sergei-Chapnin:-The-Russian-Orthodox-Church-in-2016.-The-pan-Orthodox-Synod-(Part-One)-36621.html

June’s much anticipated gathering of all the Orthodox Churches is the first in 1300 years. The differences between Kirill and Bartholomew, between Moscow and Constantinople. On the eve of the meeting between Kirill and Francis, an outline of the open challenges facing the Russian Church. The first part of a study penned by Sergei Chapnin, former editor of the Moscow Patriarchate magazine.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - On February 12, Pope Francis will meet Patriarch Kirill of Moscow in Cuba and both will become protagonists of a historical event, when for the first time in centuries the Pope of Rome and the Patriarch of Moscow meet. To gain a deeper understanding of the life of the Russian Orthodox Church, even before the announced meeting between the two leaders, AsiaNews had asked the reporter Serghei Chapnin to outline the challenges that his Church faces this year. Although dismissed last December from the post of Editor of the Moscow Patriarchate Magazine - in open conflict with the leaders of the Russian Church - Chapnin remains one of the most attentive minds to the developments of the Russian Orthodox Church. In his analysis for AsiaNews, he outlines the Moscow Patriarchate’s relations with the other Orthodox Churches ahead of the pan-Orthodox Synod; the economic crisis that hit Russia and its reflection in the relations between the Patriarchate and the diocese; the loss of trust of the faithful in the church hierarchy and more generally the authoritarian leadership of the Church of the Primate Kirill, who this year celebrates his seventh at the helm of the Patriarchate.

Chapnin, 48, is married and has two children. He is the author of several essays including "The Church in post-Soviet Russia", in which he argues that the problem of Russia today - from society to politics, to the faith - is that it has not yet freed itself of Soviet mentality. He also edited the publications of the Patriarchate and had started a small revolution, in 2014, with a monthly magazine "The Russian temple in the XXI century" that for the first time addressed the issue of architecture of modern Orthodox the churches. In fact he is currently working in the field of contemporary Christian. In December, the first "Almanac of contemporary Christian culture" was published, an independent project in which he critiques the contribution of today’s artists, filmmakers, sculptors to Russian culture. Also in December, at the exhibition hall of the 'Imperial Tower' in Kazan station in Moscow, he opened an exhibition which for the first time brought together the works of contemporary artists of sacred art in Russia of a different kind: from icons and mosaics to sculptures.


It is safe to assume that the challenges faced by the Russian Orthodox Church in recent months will not resolve themselves in 2016. What seems to be a mere external difficulty Is in fact closely related to the outstanding issues of the so-called Church Revival period when it was easier to leave a problem for the future rather than tackle it. Late 2015/early 2016 saw many of those problems resurface. However, the context has changed radically, as the credit of trust that the Church in Russia had back in the 90s and 2000s has been largely spent by today. The tensions with the Ecumenical Patriarchate have become more tangible. The economic crisis can intensify the discord between the dioceses and the central administration of the Moscow Patriarchate.

Ecclesiology and Church diplomacy

Potentially the most high-profile event of 2016, the Pan-Orthodox Council will gather Orthodox bishops from across the globe for the first time in 1300 years. The word ‘potentially’ was used deliberately, as even though there are a mere four months left until 19 June 2016, Pentecost Day, which would have been a very symbolic date for the opening of the Council, the final arrangements have not been agreed upon.

Even the very fact of the Council being convened causes controversy. Preparations for the Council began almost 50 years ago and with varying intensity have proceeded ever since. On the one hand, the Council can become the obvious and visible manifestation of the unity and like-mindedness of the local Orthodox Churches. Yet, on the other hand, the antagonisms between the Churches mounting up for centuries naturally heightened on the eve of the Council. Is there a hope to overcome those? If not, the Council stands a good chance of becoming a gathering for the sake of a nice group photo.

For this scepsis one should thank the excessive entwinement of ecclesiological and diplomatic issues. Though the strife between the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and the Moscow Patriarch Kirill is far from being the only problem here, it is still the most obvious. This opposition is more than merely testing one another’s strength. It is based on different ecclesiological models, which have not been explicitly articulated yet, but their general outline is already clear.

The Moscow Patriarchate takes the coming Council too instrumentally. Patriarch Kirill practically fights for specific documents and insists on prompt approval of their drafts, the more the better. In his turn, Patriarch Bartholomew sees the Pan-Orthodox Council not as a set of documents but as a process. In that paradigm, attesting to one’s own genuine longing for unity is most important. Since the conciliar process provides for regular meetings every 5, 7 or 10 years, it is not a tragedy if some of the documents are not approved in 2016. The work on those drafts can continue.

Which of the two positions prevails remains to be seen. Yet, the instrumental approach is by far more open to objection. In Russia itself, that criticism is of harsh and even apocalyptic nature. I believe, Patriarch Kirill is bound to at least bear in mind the voices coming from the Church right that have started calling the Pan- Orthodox Council ‘a Pan-Orthodox shame’ long ago. In this camp, concerns that heretical decisions harming ‘the purity of the Orthodox faith’ may be adopted are extremely strong.

Patriarch Kirill reckons that earliest possible publication of those document drafts to be considered by the Council may help him dispose of such radical accusations. It may happen however that these opposing voices are nothing but an isolated case of a general mistrust in Church hierarchy as such on the part of the Orthodox-monarchist and Orthodox-patriotic groups. For those circles, any attempt to formulate and solve any up-to-date problems is heretical, so the accusations will not go anywhere.

According to their mantra, ‘the Holy Fathers have repeatedly said that everything one needed for salvation had been formulated at the seven Ecumenical Councils, and we need no more.’ In other words, no matter what happens at the Council and what documents are adopted, these groups condemn the very fact of its convening. Is Patriarch Kirill aware that there is no sense to enter into polemics with bearers of this mythologized mentality? Discussion of modern challenges and changing modes of living will hardly command any sympathy on the part of the remote critics of the Council.

Another important question is what the position of other local Orthodox Churches will be. Clearly, the ‘Greek’ Churches, despite all their discord, will speak with one voice. What is the state of affairs before the Council among the ‘Slavic’ Churches? Does the Russian Church have allies and loyal friends in its confrontation with the Phanar? The answer is far from being obvious, and so is the power balance. In January, the Ecumenical Patriarch secured an impressive victory by brokering a long-awaited peace for the Orthodox Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia. Under the pressure of Patriarch Bartholomew, Metropolitan Rostislav had to accept concessions that run counter to the policy endorsed in recent years by the Moscow Patriarchate. Its hard-line stance turned out to be counterproductive.

(This article was written before the publication of the official decisions of the January Synaxis of the Heads of Local Orthodox Churches in Chambesy)

Re: The Russo-Orthodox Church in 2016 [and] The pan-Orthodox Synod [Re: Tomassus] #414872 02/08/16 12:01 PM
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Chapnin's commentary is always worth reading. I think his closeness to the considerable problems in the MP might be leading him to overlook some of the ugliness of the Phanar, though. The recent situation in the Czech/ Slovak church was actually quite an embarrassment for the EP, since the video leaked of Met Rostislav and his fellow bishops voicing what everyone thinks about the Phanariots but is afraid to say: "I can't agree with behavior and interests of Greek bishops. They accuse other Churches of nationalism, but what they do is just fascism in the scope of the Orthodox world...They (bishops of EP) are titular bishops with no clergy, no faithful and no actual seats...You know, when you read all those names in Tomos, it looks really beautiful and noble, but in reality they are people who sit in an office and their church politics also looks accordingly. Why should we have inferiority complex in comparison to these people?...The Phanariot-it's an offensive name in the East."

Met Rostislav later issued an apology to the EP, but the fact is, he- and not the EP's chosen bishop- was recognized as the primate. So I'm not sure how this could be called a victory for the EP.

Last edited by SwanOfEndlessTales; 02/08/16 12:01 PM.
Re: The Russo-Orthodox Church in 2016 [and] The pan-Orthodox Synod [Re: SwanOfEndlessTales] #414873 02/08/16 03:18 PM
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I'd categorize the settlement as more reflective of the Slovaks telling the Russians, thanks but no thanks. The images of 1967 and 1948 are still vivid not only in the Greek Catholics of Eastern Slovakia, but the Orthodox faithful as well. The 1948 Tomos of Autocephaly granted by Moscow was tainted by the forced liquidation of the Greek Catholics and the Orthodox of today are well aware of the relatively light hand the Phanar has exercised over the decades with respect to both the Rusyns of ACROD and the Ukrainians of the UOCUSA. So...its geopolitics at work, and the position of the Russians in Slovakia certainly has not been enhanced since the outbreak of the
Ukrainian crisis in 2014.

Re: The Russo-Orthodox Church in 2016 [and] The pan-Orthodox Synod [Re: DMD] #414880 02/09/16 01:37 PM
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Hopefully, the beginnings of something good will come out of this Council for Orthodoxy.

That someone like Chapnin can articulate such criticisms of the MP is already a victory of sorts. The situation with Ukrainian Orthodoxy and the movement toward full canonical autocephaly there will doubtless have to work itself out in the coming months and years as the Council will keep as far away from that as possible - for now.

The Orthodox monarchists that are mentioned are an interesting group - I was once invited to come to Russia to work with them in a building that was formerly used by the KGB to torture and imprison people - I was going to go but a family tragedy prevented me at that time (I'm a monarchist myself).

Russian Orthodox monarchism really does have an amazing appeal to many there. It is an ingenious blend of traditional East Slavic Orthodoxy, Russian nationalism and an almost "messianic" approach to Tsarism. Its rich symbolism seizes the imagination of the people and in terms of being a source of solid inspiration - there is nothing that can compare to it.

Alex

Re: The Russo-Orthodox Church in 2016 [and] The pan-Orthodox Synod [Re: Tomassus] #414881 02/09/16 04:35 PM
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Tsarism is utterly repugnant in all forms. In those saints who espoused it, it is a fault to be overlooked in light of their times, but today it is at best a harmless, silly form of political roleplaying and at worst an inexcusable vice.

The Soviet Union should be considered more a fruit than an antithesis of the spiritual rot engendered by Tsarism.

Re: The Russo-Orthodox Church in 2016 [and] The pan-Orthodox Synod [Re: SwanOfEndlessTales] #414884 02/09/16 10:39 PM
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Tsarism was bad for the most part - yes.

But the Bolsheviks destroyed it - and martyred the Orthodox Church of Russia - simply because under St Nicholas II Tsarism was moving in the direction of reform, even if ever so slowly.

What the USSR brought was much, much worse than what Tsarism could ever concoct.

I've met Russian generals at the government level, all of whom were trained under the USSR.

You would be surprised to see how much support for the ideals of Tsarism they have - and also other Russians who today are rejecting the old liberal lies about their history and how Bolshevism was somehow a "fruit" of that - as you say in that same mistaken, misguided spirit.

I was a socialist of the Marxist-Leninist variety for 15 years. The historical revisionism and paradigms of that thought which infected, and continues to infect, Western intellectual thought is just nonsense.

I'm sorry you haven't grown out of that yet.

Alex

Last edited by Orthodox Catholic; 02/10/16 02:00 PM.
Re: The Russo-Orthodox Church in 2016 [and] The pan-Orthodox Synod [Re: Orthodox Catholic] #414887 02/10/16 08:08 AM
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Nicholas II was a holy man, according to contemporary accounts. Unfortunately, he was inept as a ruler. He led the country into, IIRC, three disastrous wars, losing all of them. I recall watching original footage on a History Channel series on World War I. Nicholas was shown rejoicing over winning a very minor battle - he only lost 200,000 men in that battle. The man was quite removed from reality. Losing that last war brought about his downfall and helped usher Lenin and company into power.

In short, he looked grand in the finery that went with the office, and lived in splendid and privileged isolation from reality. All the romantics can glory over the pomp and ceremony. However, as a ruler, he was a disaster for the country.

Re: The Russo-Orthodox Church in 2016 [and] The pan-Orthodox Synod [Re: byzanTN] #414890 02/10/16 10:16 AM
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Dearest Charles smile

In fact, this is a tale of two Russias. Urbanization and the misery it brought is what disaffected the masses there. In the countryside - people lived as they had always lived and were NEVER against the Tsar etc.

What they were afraid of was the terrorist bully tactics of the Bosheviks who won the battle for ascendancy in the midst of the confusion of the Russian revolution. The same bully tactics that have returned to the Russia of Vladimir Putin.

(And Lenin, as the chief such bully of his time, was ushered in ONLY by a Germany that wanted to bring Russia to its knees and had kept Lenin, that demonic monster, in prison only to release him as a dangerous cancer into a war-torn Russia - World War I was disastrous for the West too, sir, and its aftermath led to World War II. It was Germany that caused the rise of Bolshevism in Russia when Russia was at its lowest ebb and then Germany that developed the Nazi movement that received its ideological fuel from hatred against the Allies who continued to economically punish Deutschland for years after WWI).

The Bolsheviks took Russia by force. The idea that the masses somehow spontaneously combusted to take out an oppressive system - that is simply BS (not "Byzantine Silliness").

That is what my colleagues and I were constantly fed by way of an ideological diet by our liberal and left-wing professors in university. Some of us, like me, believed this. But by and large the Left controlled social and political thought at the university level - and you had better fall into line or else etc.

St Nicholas Romanov was a disaster only because he had none of the barbarism of his ancestors in his character. His father thought of him as a weakling who only liked going to the theatre and to museums - in fact, his father couldn't stand being with him, let alone train him for the art of government in a Russia that has always been used to a strong, despotic and threatening leader. Many Russians are content with Putin for the same reason - they actually want and need their new pugnacious, strong tsar.

Having such a strong leader kept elements like the Bolsheviks at bay. But they capitalized on St Nicholas Romanov's weakness in that department and used military weapons and terror to take Russia over.

St Nicholas Romanov was too much a product of western European civilization of the day. His government was not run by him and in fact he was blamed for things he never would have dreamed doing. Very much like King Louis was blamed for things in Paris that were not his fault (e.g. the problems caused by poor management of the cemetery system - oh yes, something our western, "with it" history books never talk about).

At the turn of the century, Russia had come of age and its new Tsar, St Nicholas II, wanted to begin the process of reform - including, as discussed in the Western press at the time with interviews directly given by the Tsar, giving freedoms to the constiuent nations within the Russian empire with the view to their complete emancipation in time. The same view with respect to Orthodox church autocephaly was held by Patriarch St Tikhon the Confessor. Both men (and saints) were way ahead of their time.

There are a lot of myths about history that we in the West have come to believe to be the Gospel truth - especially positivist mythology i.e. that what happened via revolutions was in the "natural course of events." In fact, revolution can be a positive thing as a last course of action. The point is that socialist revolutions acted in the name of the people without ever having asked the people.

The Romanov family was martyred by the Bolsheviks NOT because they were bad rulers. There are still idiots in the West who believe that - and I admit that I was one of them.

They were martyred because St Nicholas began to move to introduce the reforms needed to transform a feudal Russia that had become unmanageable and whose oppression of all sorts of groups, including the Old Believers, had worn thin on the hearts and minds of the people (the first thing St Nicholas Romanov did was to call in the Old Believer leadership to assure them about his guarantees for their complete freedom of worship etc.).

The Russian aristocrats were not despots. They were pious and noble people, the pinnacle really of the best that Orthodox Russia developed. My grandparents protected Russian aristocrats in their flight from the Bolsheviks and I knew the nephew of the last sister of St Nicholas II who worked with my aunt here. A more cultured, Christian person one could not imagine.

So forgive me if I respond sharply to anyone who repeats what I came to know as lib-left propaganda and historical revisionism of the worst order in this regard.

ROCOR and then the MP did the right thing in glorifying the Romanov Martyrs as Saints. In fact, that glorification already took place in the hearts and minds of Orthodox Russians long ago - which is part of the process of Orthodox canonization, as we know.

Today, one can pick up posters of St Nicholas Romanov at subway stops to take home for framing and enshrining. His icon and that of his martyred family figure very prominently all over Russia.

If he was such a terrible despot, certainly the people of Russia would not have such an attachment and devotion to him.

You won't believe this perhaps, but the religious/national figure of St Nicholas II is today not only the embodiment of an ancient image of "Holy Tsarist Russia" but even more importantly of the same spirit of reform that Nicholas tried to begin that Russia needs badly today under its current despotic ruler.

I was ready to go and work for the return of the Tsar in Russia. I still am.

Alex

Last edited by Orthodox Catholic; 02/10/16 10:20 AM.
Re: The Russo-Orthodox Church in 2016 [and] The pan-Orthodox Synod [Re: Orthodox Catholic] #414892 02/10/16 10:25 AM
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Alex, I didn't say he wasn't holy - in fact, I did say that. I said he was inept as a ruler, and he was. Despite reforms, he was still supreme leader of the military and it was he who led them into WWI. He was also inept as a military commander.

Re: The Russo-Orthodox Church in 2016 [and] The pan-Orthodox Synod [Re: byzanTN] #414901 02/10/16 01:57 PM
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Dearest Charles,

I didn't say you didn't say he wasn't holy . . . (does that make sense?) smile

The Russian military wasn't in a good state at that time - no matter who was leading, they would have been slaughtered as the Russians were in 1941 when out of 24,000 Russian tanks against Nazi Germany's 2400 tanks, 17,500 Russian tanks were destroyed in three months.

But I don't think the main point here is about how well St Nicholas II commanded armies or not, but about Tsarism itself.

The Tsars didn't believe in pussy-footing around with anyone for the most part and were despotics rulers. Yet, Russia under the Tsars didn't suffer what it did under the Bolsheviks and its rigid form of government would have evolved into something approximating a constitutional form of government in due time.

The Bolsheviks brought in a despotic police state that murdered millions of people - that never occurred under the Tsars. I've met and talked with more than twenty Russian army generals at the government level and I've always asked them about what they think of the Tsars and/or a return to a form of Tsarism.

They have always responded most positively and said that against the backdrop of Bolshevism, they prefer the worst excesses of Tsarist despotism.

Again, we are living in North America and take for granted much that the Russians could never. But even in the Middle East where the USA wishes to export its form of democracy - to what purpose?

There are political cultures, and Russia is certainly one of them, where a strong, even iron-fisted leadership is preferable to a weak one. To think that every bad thing the Tsars did in Russia was somehow a strike against the entire institution would be, I would say, naive in the worst possible way.

But I'm not saying you are naive - or that you are not holy . . . smile

Alex

Last edited by Orthodox Catholic; 02/10/16 01:59 PM.
Re: The Russo-Orthodox Church in 2016 [and] The pan-Orthodox Synod [Re: Orthodox Catholic] #414907 02/10/16 09:44 PM
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"But I'm not saying you are naive - or that you are not holy . . . smile "

Alex, I wouldn't lose sleep over anything you ever said. LOL. I am far less romantic than you and tend to take a very hard look at most things.

It is interesting that another holy leader, Karl of Austria, was inexperienced and not a strong leader. What a coincidence that two major countries had weak leaders at the same time, during a major war. Bad timing, or just bad luck? Who knows?

Re: The Russo-Orthodox Church in 2016 [and] The pan-Orthodox Synod [Re: byzanTN] #414909 02/10/16 11:41 PM
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Very good point Charles!

When our time comes, the Church won't look to our military prowess or government administrative skills to seek evidence that we may be candidates for sainthood! smile

Have a great night!

Alex

Re: The Russo-Orthodox Church in 2016 [and] The pan-Orthodox Synod [Re: Orthodox Catholic] #414917 02/11/16 02:31 AM
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The Russian Orthodox Church in 2016, and its economic failures (Part Two)

Sergei Chapnin
9 February 2016
http://www.asianews.it/news-en/Sergei-Chapnin:-The-Russian-Orthodox-Church-in-2016,-and-its-economic-failures-(Part-Two)-36636.html

Like the rest of Russian society, the Church too is in recession, suffering from financial losses and bank closures. Problems afflict the monasteries of Trinity-St Sergius Lavra and St Daniel. Lack of financial transparency is an issue whilst parishes are reduced to poverty. A gap exists in the lifestyle of city and country priests.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - We publish below the second part of a study by the former editor of the Journal of the Moscow Patriarchate.

2. Economy and Church Administration

Besides inter-Orthodox relations’ challenges, in 2016 the Russian Orthodox Church will face economic grievances due to the economy of Russia undergoing a profound crisis.

Judging from the fact that the Holy Synod called the late 2015 merging of two minor Synodal Departments numbering several dozens of staff members an optimization, the Russian Church still does not grasp the real scale of the economic crisis. Undoubtedly, the relevant decision was purely political. There are no benefits in terms of cost saving or introducing new management models behind this measure.

In the meantime, 2016 will see the recession giving a serious blow to the activities of the ecclesial bodies. The first indications are already there. This refers to the direct losses caused by the closing of Ergobank and Vneshprombank, two banks that used to be most closely connected to the Russian Orthodox Church. Revoking Ergobank’s licence had a negative impact on 61 Orthodox organisations, including such major monasteries as the Trinity-St Sergius Lavra and St Daniel Monastery.

However, the exact sum lost can hardly be calculated. In the case of Vneshprombank, the losses of the administration of the Moscow Patriarchate were estimated at 1.5 billion roubles.

3. Poor Church

The crisis his not only in the Church administration. Deep recession will have its effect on all levels of Church life. As likely as no, we may soon hear of bankrupt parishes incapable of maintaining their churches.

During the so-called Church Revival period, churches were opened spontaneously and chaotically. Bishops and priests rarely considered the chances of the community to sustain it. Even less consideration was given to the parish paying wages to its rector.

As a result, we now have multitudes of churches in once-populous villages with 5 to 10 parishioners today who will never be able to maintain it. Ends meet only because of the parish rector’s good relations with the local authorities and his private sponsors. In view of growing shortage of funds, the sponsors will leave and the rector will remain alone to struggle with upkeep of the church and paying for the utility services.

Isolated cases of such parishes shutting down are known. Yet, it is entirely possible for this trend to grow into an epidemic. Certainly, no one will use the word ‘bankruptcy’ when describing these problems, but the core of it remains the same.

In crisis times, calls to make the financial statements of parishes, monasteries, dioceses and the central administration of the Moscow Patriarchate transparent will be repeated with ever-increasing frequency. There is virtually nobody today who knows how much it costs to maintain a church, how big is a diocesan budget and what it takes to upkeep the dozen of Patriarch’s residences that he visits once or twice a year. Those supporting the Church financially can’t help having these questions and trying to understand whether their donations are spent in a befitting way or not.

For the moment, such transparency is rather an exception. It exists in real parish communities where the clergy and the laymen see the upkeep of the church and its clergy as a direct duty of parishioners. Yet again, such communities are scarce, and their financial statements are available to members alone and are not published in any way.

Until recently, any mentioning of the possible disclosure of the Church’s budget were seen as attacks on something sacred. How can one distrust those managing the finances of the Church even though there are no reports? Who can dare to cast doubt on their diligence and how to do it? Orthodox widely believe that only outsiders, impious people can ask questions about Church finances. There is even a joke: a regular churchgoer can be distinguished by his ability to avoid asking questions on the expenditures but continue donating money to the Church.

However, it is important to remember that persecutions against the Church are part of the very recent history. And the memory of communists closing churches down still lingers on. Any repeat of churches closure, even if the reasons are economic, will cause a serious psychological trauma for many. Associations with times of persecution will be made involuntarily. Yet, apparently, this is a trial that cannot be avoided.

Things are made worse by the financial stratification of the Church that became even more obvious after Patriarch Kirill had launched the process of partitioning dioceses.

The commonplace truth that a bishop should be closer to his flock and to his clergy is only one side of the coin. While commenting on the process of dividing large dioceses into smaller ones, it has always been in the spotlight. Meanwhile, elevation of poor areas to independent dioceses causes problems that nobody has ever thought of. How are they to maintain themselves? How much money will be needed to support hundreds of new diocesan administrations? How will the financial load on the priests grow?

These are the questions that are being asked only now.

Living standards of clergy in big cities and major monasteries are several times higher than those of countryside priests. The hierarchy and the senior Church leaders have paid no regard to this problem, but the coming times will change that.

The truth is that besides some of the clergy there are now some of bishops who find themselves below the poverty line. They do not have much experience in leading dioceses, but clearly in most of the cases their expectations were not realized. Will they keep silent? Quite possibly, they might start asking their questions to Patriarch Kirill very soon.

Re: The Russo-Orthodox Church in 2016 [and] The pan-Orthodox Synod [Re: Tomassus] #414918 02/11/16 02:36 AM
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The Russian Orthodox Church in 2016. The problem of understanding and credibility. Part Three

Sergei Chapnin
10 February 2016
http://www.asianews.it/news-en/Sergei-Chapnin:-The-Russian-Orthodox-Church-in-2016.-The-problem-of-understanding-and-credibility.-Part-Three-36648.html

The attentive Russian analyst points to some contradictions enveloping the Patriarchate, unable to understand the situation of the poor and of Russian society. Another problem: the traditional "collegiality" has given way to a top-down management.

Moscow (AsiaNews) – Below, we publish the third part of an analysis by Sergei Chapnin, former editor of the Moscow Patriarchate magazine, on the situation of the Russian Orthodox Church, on the eve of Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill’s meeting in Cuba next February 12th.

Patriarch Kirill. Problem of Understanding and Credibility

In a Christmas interview to one of the leading Russian TV channels, Patriarch Kirill stated that he saw no problems in curtailing of consumption. Without any doubt, most of the viewers could not understand those words, as they already live below the poverty line and are constrained in virtually every way possible.

“In general, there is no tragedy today in the country. It is the faint of heart, the inwardly weak, empty people who are disillusioned. If you associate your wellbeing with money alone, if your wellbeing is measured by the quality of your vacations or material living conditions, then a slightest decrease in consumption may seem a hideous tragedy.” (http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/4327642.html)

It is hard to imagine to whom the Patriarch was actually addressing these words of admonition, as, according to the Russian Federal State Statistics Service, in January- September 2015 14.1% of Russian population had means below the poverty line, while in the same period of 2014 this number stood at 12.6% (http://www.vedomosti.ru/economics/articles/2016/01/13/623856-kudrin-krug). The problem is not in the reducing of consumption, which can be a trouble for the middle class in big cities, but in the fact that recent months saw 2.3 million people move below the poverty line.

Is this the situation the Patriarch refuses to call a tragedy? Of course, later the Patriarch goes on to say: “The only thing that we should fight against, prevent at any cost and eradicate is extreme poverty.” (http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/4327642.html).

The trouble is these words sound too detached, they are merely a theory. How can one eradicate poverty in the times of crisis? One could speak of social insecurity, fulfilling social obligations, caring for those suffering, without a job or means of subsistence. Yet, the Patriarch chose otherwise. He preferred to deliver platitudes that neither show any sympathy to those below the poverty line nor call for the state to take a better care of these people.

All of this fits in the tendency of the last years: The Patriarch’s credibility is generally coming down. He utters nice, but unrelated words. He understands a lot, but he tries to show his familiarity with the authorities and with the people at the same time. As a result, both the former and the latter hold him at less and less value with every day.

It is hard to admit this. Since the Church Council of 1917/18, the patriarchy has been seen as the only acceptable model of Church governance. There are no serious discussions on returning to so-called ‘synodal model’ or even its partial use. However, some of the clergy and laity have become interested in the debates of early 20th century and want to take a closer look at the arguments of those against the patriarchy model.

Some 6-7 years ago, many put their hopes for the further development of Church life in Patriarch Kirill. And it is in no way easy to admit that those hopes have failed.

While direct criticism aimed at the Patriarch comes only from those were pushed out of the official structures – Protodeacon Andrei Kuraev (fired from the Moscow Spiritual Academy in December 2013) and Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin (head of the Synodal Department of Church and Society Relations until December 2015), general confusion is in fact much wider.

What are the tools the administration of the Russian Orthodox Church should use to see the mentioned problems from a perspective other than political, diplomatic or administrative? Institutes of practical conciliarity in the Church such as the Inter- Council Presence, the Bishops’ Council etc. have found themselves rigidly subordinate to the hierarchy vertical and fully controlled by the administration of Patriarch Kirill. Which means that in one way or another they all pursue the policy set personally by the Patriarch. Over the seven years of his ‘pontificate’, Patriarch Kirill managed to take the Russian Church into ‘the manual steering mode’. This does not come as a surprise, since all he had to do is to copy the model used by the current Russian state. In effect, this is the practical realization of ‘the symphony’ between the spiritual and secular authorities that Orthodox fundamentalists are so fond of. The trouble is, I am afraid, neither the symphony nor will help the Russian Church to see it through the end of the crisis.


Moderated by  Father Anthony 

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