Peter Anderson berichtet aus der orthodoxen Welt

Seit vielen Jahren verfolgt Peter Anderson aus Seattle USA die Entwicklungen in der orthodoxen Welt. Nicht im Auftrag einer Zeitung, sondern aus persönlicher Liebe zu den Ostkirchen und im Einsatz für die Communio von Ost und West gibt er Einblicke in neue Entwicklungen. Mit Zustimmung von Peter Anderson werden seine E-mail-Nachrichten auf der Homepage des Zentrums St. Nikolaus dokumentiert.

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NEWS 2019

  • 12 February 2019: News from Mt. Athos

    Very early this morning (1:07 a.m.), the very popular Greek website,, posted an article by its founder, Emilios Polygenis.  Polygenis is often the first to break news on important developments in the Orthodox world, and he is generally very reliable.   He is also a good friend of Metropolitan Hilarion.  In fact, Metropolitan Hilarion almost always uses Polygenis for interviews intended primarily to a Greek-speaking audience, such as the following major interview that he gave to Polygenis just five days ago.   Therefore, the article posted today was not written by a person hostile to Moscow, but just the opposite. has launched in the last few days an English-language website,, so today’s article is now available in English as well as Greek.  The following is an excerpt of much of today’s article:

    “We remain on the side of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and we will not tolerate its humiliation,” the members of the Holy Community of Mount Athos said on Monday on the occasion of the recent developments in Ukraine and the granting of Autocephaly to the local Church.

    At the meeting held behind closed doors and without any publicity, much was said about the issue that has sparked controversy among the leaders of the Orthodox Churches.  The Athonites emphasized that this particular issue should make them feel proud.  “It has been clear in this case too,” they noted, “that Hellenism and the Ecumenical Patriarchate have the Primacy in Orthodoxy,” while they agreed that everyone should stand by the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

    They even agreed that it is preferable for the Holy Community to be silenced at this time so as not to create misinterpretations.  They suggested waiting for the conditions to mature more. “Besides,” they said, “we are not a Church, and we are not called upon to make a decision on recognition.”

    “What is important is to maintain the unity of the Holy Monasteries and to send in every direction a clear message that no one will be allowed ‘to instrumentalize’ Mount Athos.  Because Mount Athos concerns everyone,” all those present argued unanimously.

    The English-language website associated with Moscow’s Sretensky Monastery,, posted today an article which raises questions with respect to the foregoing report.    It is true that prior to this, Mt. Athos has been sending mixed signals.

    Yesterday’s meeting occurred in the context of a visit to Mt. Athos by a delegation from the new Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU).  The delegation is led by 39-year-old Bishop Pavlo of Odessa and Balta.  The delegation is visiting Mt. Athos at the invitation of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.  Pavlo has only been a bishop for one year and was apparently chosen because he had previously been a monk at the St. Michael's Golden-Domed Monastery in Kyiv.    The delegation was well received by the Xenophontos,  Pantokratoros, New Esphigmenou and Vatopedi Monasteries.   They were reportedly barred by the St. Panteleimon (Russian), Zograf (Bulgarian), and Dokhiar Monasteries.  There are indications that the visit of the delegation to Mt. Athos is now completed.  It should be noted that there are no reporters at the scene to cover these visits and that reports are based primarily on contacts made by individuals with persons that they know at Mt. Athos.  Accordingly, there may have been more visits that those mentioned above, and there may be inaccuracies in the reports.

    Today marks the third anniversary of the historic Havana meeting between Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill.  To mark this anniversary, an international conference on the subject of ““Death and dying in a technological society” was held in Moscow today.  Speakers included Metropolitan Hilarion, Cardinal Kurt Koch (president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity), and Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia (President of the Pontifical Academy for Life).  The text of Metropolitan Hilarion’s address can be read at .   

    The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Croatia has made public its letter, dated November 18, 2018, to Patriarch Irinej of Serbia.  The following is an English translation of the long and detailed letter:  The letter relates to “frequent statements and reproaches in the public appearances and the media by the highest representatives of the Serbian Orthodox Church directed at the Catholic Church and bishops in the Republic of Croatia,” especially during the last year.  After discussing the various statements, the letter proposes regular meetings between representatives of the Catholic Church in Croatia and the Serbian Orthodox Church “on issues that relate to the two Churches and their activity.”  The Serbian Orthodox Church has now issued a press release by Bishop Irinej of Backa stating that the Church’s responses will be made in due course.    The release also states that it was unacceptable to make official correspondence public, but in view of the publication by the Conference, the Serbian response will also be made public.  On a more positive note, the Catholic bishops in Croatia and the Serbian Orthodox bishops in Croatia released last month an excellent joint statement.  (English text of statement)  The statement includes the following:

    Therefore, we pray that we may heed Jesus’ words: “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” (Lk 6:36), so that with our forgiveness we may be greater than the evil committed, which has humiliated us, and without thoughts of vengeance or hatred, in pure remembrance safeguard the memory of our innocent victims, heal wounded souls, promote trust and understanding among individuals and nations and, thereby, through the path of evangelization establish firm foundations for a better and more just future in our homeland for every person.

    Other news: (1) The Church of Cyprus will further discuss the issues relating to autocephaly for the Church of Ukraine at an extraordinary meeting on February 18. 

    (2) As you recall, a general assembly of the Archdiocese of Russian Orthodox Churches in Western Europe (Ecumenical Patriarchate) will be held in Paris on February 23 to decide what action to take after the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate decided to eliminate its existence as a separate exarchate and to integrate the parishes into the metropolitan sees of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in the countries in which they are located.  Metropolitan Emmanuel of France has now written a letter to certain priests of the Archdiocese offering to establish a vicarate to preserve the Russian traditions in his metropolis.  

    (3)  The Church of Greece has appointed a new member to the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches.  He is Archimandrite Amphilochios (Miltos) from Volos.  He is a well-known scholar who did his doctoral thesis on Catholic collegiality and Orthodox synodality.

    (4) Pope Francis sent Patriarch Kirill a letter congratulating him on the 10th anniversary of his enthronement.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 5 February 2019: New Synod - Orthodox Church of Ukraine

    The Holy Synod of the new Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU) held its first meeting today, Tuesday.  The most important news was the composition of the Holy Synod itself.  In accordance with the statue of the OCU, the three permanent members, for this “transition period,” are Filaret (primate of the former UOC-KP), Makary (primate of the former OAOC), and Simeon (formerly of the UOC-MP).  That leaves nine Synod members who are serving for one year.  The names were posted on the website of the OCU as well as photos of the meeting.     Of the nine, eight were previously members of the UOC-KP.  The only exception was Archbishop Herman of Chernivtsi and Khotynsky, a bishop of the former UAOC.  Of the eight who were previously members of the UOC-KP, six had been permanent members of the Holy Synod of the UOC-KP.  Metropolitan Michael of Lutsk, who had been one of the three finalists in the election for primate, was not chosen to be a member of the Holy Synod.  Filaret, who had been too ill to attend the enthronement of Epifany, was present at today’s meeting.

    It is clear that the initial appointment of non-permanent Synod members was not made based on their dates of priestly ordination.  However, under the statute, their appointments can only be for one year.  Presumably, their replacements at the end of their term must be selected based on the dates of their priestly ordination. 

    The decisions made by the Holy Synod are described on the OCU’s website.  Metropolitan Simeon of Vinnitsa was chosen to be the Chief Secretary of the Holy Synod.  With respect to the selection of a person to head the Department of External Church Relations, the posting states: “Taking into account the special importance of the direction of development of external church relations -- the leadership of the Department of External Church Relations was kept by the Primate.”   Religious organizations that were a part of a diocese prior to December 15, 2018, remain part of that diocese.  It was decided that parishes and priests cannot be transferred between dioceses without the consent of both the sending and receiving bishops.  Filaret maintains responsible for those parishes and monasteries of Kyiv (except St. Michael’s Monastery) which were subordinate to him prior to December 15, 2018.  A model statute for dioceses was approved.  A new rector for the Kyiv Theological Academy, to replace Epifany, was appointed.  Appointments were also made to head certain departments, such as military chaplaincy, social services, and a new organization, "Orthodox mission to assist victims of human rights violations and persons deprived of their liberty."

    It appears that Epifany now has the power to appoint individuals within the DECR.  Presumably, he will select persons whom he hopes will be effective in dealing with the various Local Orthodox Churches.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 4 February 2019: Enthronements - anniversary & actual

    The celebration of the tenth anniversary of the enthronement of Patriarch Kirill occurred on Thursday and Friday.  It was very impressive.  On Thursday, the “solemn act” was held in the Great Hall of the State Kremlin Palace, which seats up to 6,000 people.  From photos and videos, it appears that the huge hall was filled to capacity.  President Putin spoke first.  The official English translation of his speech can be read at, and a video of his speech can be seen at .   With respect to Ukraine, the President stated:

    Of course, we hope that the Russian Orthodox Church will remain an effective force for peace, promote friendship and neighbourliness, and support our compatriots and people belonging to Orthodox culture.  Brotherly interchurch ties have historically united nations and served to promote equitable relations between Russia and many foreign countries.

    Unfortunately, we can see other examples as well where speculation, politicking and parasitism on matters of religious life have led to disunity among people and provoked anger and intolerance.  Precisely such a project that is unrelated to faith and is false through and through, focusing on the struggle for power, is unfolding in Ukraine.  Regrettably, the Patriarchate of Constantinople got dragged into it.  In fact, we are witnessing flagrant interference in church life.  Its initiators seem to have taken after the godless people of the previous century, who expelled believers from churches and attacked and persecuted the clergy.

    To reiterate, the state, the Russian authorities consider any interference in church affairs to be absolutely intolerable.  We have and will always have respect for the independence of church life, all the more so in a neighbouring sovereign country.  Nevertheless, we reserve the right to respond and do our best to protect human rights, including freedom of religion.

    Patriarch Kirill was the next speaker.  The official English translation of his address can be read at , and a video of his address can be seen at .  In his 28-minute address, only one paragraph was devoted to Ukraine.  Instead, the Patriarch focused on the challenges facing the Church, such as the efforts to limit the Church’s influence on man and society, especially with respect to the family, and the assumption that science can solve any human problem.  He referred to the virtues needed such as “the internal unity in brotherly love, kindness to those around us and to the outer world without any concessions in what concerns the truth of the Gospel, and, finally, the joyful sense of nearness of the eternal Kingdom of Christ and of everyone’s resurrection.”

    The audience also enjoyed a 16-minute film, “The Way,” relating to the Russian Orthodox Church in the last ten years.  You can watch the entire film at .  It is worth watching even if you do not understand the Russian words.  It relates to the efforts of the Russian Orthodox Church to reach out to and help people throughout the world.  The film even shows Patriarch Kirill greeting Pope Francis at the Havana airport with the triple kiss.  The audience was also treated to a marvelous concert with 700 singers, 24 choirs, and famous soloists.  An interesting collection of photos of the event can be seen at  You can see President Putin in the front row center with Patriarch Kirill on his right and Patriarch John X of Antioch and then Patriarch Irinej of Serbia on his left.  In one photo, you can see Archbishop Celestino Migliore, apostolic nuncio to the Russian Federation, in the audience.  The Moscow Patriarchate also issued a very extensive report documenting the great growth and advances in the Church in the last ten years. 

    There were primates from four Orthodox churches at the celebration:  Antioch, Serbia, Czech Lands and Slovakia as well as the OCA.  Interestingly, all of these four churches have made statements favoring the Moscow Patriarch’s position in the Ukraine crisis.  On January 28, the OCA had issued an archpastoral letter, which, among other things, stated that it would “ withhold, with several of our sister Churches, recognition of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine.”  Metropolitan Rostislav, primate of the Church of Czech Lands and Slovakia, disclosed on Friday that the Holy Synod of his church (consisting of four bishops) had instructed him on Wednesday to appeal to all Orthodox Churches to hold a pan-Orthodox meeting on the Ukrainian matter.  He also emphasized that a schism can only be healed by repentance and a return to the canonical church. 

    For the celebrations, the following Local Orthodox Churches were not represented by their primates, but rather sent delegations: Alexandria, Romania, Bulgaria, Georgia, and Poland.  There were no delegations from the following Local Orthodox Churches:  Greece, Albania, Cyprus, Jerusalem (however,  the archimandrite who represents the Jerusalem Patriarchate in Moscow was there), and of course, Constantinople.  On Friday, the Divine Liturgy, in which the primates and many others participated, was held in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior.  A video of the entire 3-hour liturgy can be watched at .

    On Friday evening, there was distressing news from Kyiv, that Archimandrite Ephraim, who is the abbot of the famous Vatopedi Monastery at Mt. Athos and who had come to Kyiv as part of the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s delegation for the enthronement of Epifany, had been hospitalized.  A popular English-language Orthodox website in Moscow reported that Abbot Ephraim had suffered a heart attack.  From “a reliable source,” it stated that “Archimandrite Ephraim was given an ultimatum by Pat. Bartholomew to attend the enthronement or be suspended from clerical duties.”  On Saturday, Abbot Ephraim was visited at the hospital by Metropolitan Epifany.  The following article shows photos of the two together for what appears to be a very warm encounter.   The UOC-MP reported that there was a telephone conversation between some of its hierarchs and the abbot.  It also stated that the abbot has now been transported to a foreign (apparently Geneva) clinic for treatment.

    Metropolitan Epifany was enthroned this morning in the historic St. Sophia Cathedral in Kyiv.  A three-hour video of the entire ceremony and liturgy is available at .  As previously announced, none of the Local Orthodox Churches sent representatives except for Constantinople.  Patriarch Kirill’s press secretary referred to the ceremony as a “pitiful sight.”  As stated above, some of the Local Orthodox Churches had expressly rejected recognition of the OCU.  However, eight have not yet made a decision and are still considering the matter.  For example, on January 30, Metropolitan Emmanuel (Ecumenical Patriarchate) met with Patriarch Ilia and the Holy Synod of the Georgian Patriarchate on the subject of Ukraine.  It appears that Georgia is still considering the matter and is in no rush to make a decision. 

    At the ceremony today, Metropolitan Emmanuel and Metropolitan Makary (head of the former UAOC) performed the enthronement.  Some of the members of the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s delegation included Metropolitan Amphilochios of Adrianople and Archimandrite Alexios (abbot of the Xenophontos Monastery of Mt. Athos).  There were also hierarchs from the Ukrainian Orthodox Churches of Canada and the USA.  Those attending from the Catholic Church in Ukraine were Major Archbishop Svyatoslav (Shevchuk)(primate of the UGCC), Latin-rite Archbishop Mieczysław Mokrzycki of Lviv, and Bishop Bronislav Bernatsky (chairmen of the Ukrainian Catholic Bishops’ Conference).  It appears that Archbishop Claudio Gugerotti, the apostolic nuncio to Ukraine, did not attend.   The primate of the former UOC-KP Filaret did not attend because of some serious health issues.   

    It was also announced today that the first meeting of the Holy Synod of the OCU will occur tomorrow, Monday.   Under the statue of the OCU, the 12 members of the Holy Synod are diocesan (not vicar) bishops appointed for a limited term of one year.  This is similar to the Church of Greece.  It stands in contrast to the Moscow Patriarchate and the UOC-MP where a majority of the Synod consists of “permanent members” who remain on the Synod year after year and who effectively control it.  The OCU will use staggered terms where half of the synod members are appointed every six months.  Also for a limited “transition period,” the Holy Synod of the OCU will have three permanent members – Filaret, Makary, and Simeon.  Synod members are appointed by Epifany on a rotational basis from bishops ranked on the basis of their dates of priestly ordination. (complete text of statute)

    The Synod will need to make some very important decisions, such who will hold various key posts in the church’s administration. It will be interesting to see if the Synod give any responsibilities to some of the more progressive voices such as Archimandrite Cyril Hovorun or Father Georgy Kovalenko.   These two priests were among the signers of a just-posted document, entitled “ten theses,” which describes principles that should govern the new church.   Assuming that Filaret will also be too ill to attend tomorrow’s meeting, one wonders what effect his absence will have on the decisions made.

    The absence of delegations from the other Local Orthodox Churches at today’s enthronement should send a stark message to the OCU that it must work very hard to obtain the respect of the various Local Orthodox Churches.  On the other hand, the OCU is probably encouraged by the number of parishes that have continued on a daily basis to transfer to it.  The latest total since December 17 is 216 (still only 1.75 % of the UOC-MP parishes), with 16 parishes added today.   On January 30 the OCU was officially registered as a legal entity by the state, and this may facilitate transfers.  The OCU may also be encouraged by a poll that has just been released.  Of the Orthodox polled, 43.9% stated that they are members of the OCU under Metropolitan Epifany, 15.2% are members of the UOC-MP under Metropolitan Onufry, and 38.4% responded, “I am simply Orthodox, not inclined to one confession.”


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 29 January 2019: Ukraine & Panama

    Today, Monday, President Poroshenko signed Bill No. 2148-d, which establishes a procedure for a religious community to change religious affiliation.   On January 17, the Ukrainian parliament (Rada) had passed the bill, with a vote of 229 to 35.  The complete text of the bill, No. 2148-d, can be read at .  I am sure that the primary motivation of the bill was to regulate the movement of parishes from the UOC-MP to the OCU, but by its terms the bill relates to any religious community regardless of faith or denomination.  As I understand existing Ukrainian law, religious buildings are the property of the local religious community – perhaps a holdover from the old Soviet system.

    According to the bill, a decision to change affiliation must be made at “the general meeting of the religious community.”  With respect to who is a member of the religious community eligible to vote, the bill simply refers to the existing rules of that community as to who is a member.  A two-thirds majority is required to change affiliation.  If this majority is obtained, those who supported the change must sign a document.  Presumably, the latter is intended to be a safeguard to show that the voters are actually local church members.  Although this procedure may seem straightforward, there may still be confusion.  For example, what will happen if the local religious community does not have existing rules with respect to membership?  If the community now desires to establish for the first time a membership rule, the bill provides that any amendment of the religious community’s rules requires a two-thirds approval at a general meeting.  Who will be eligible to vote at a general meeting to adopt a rule which defines for the first time who is a member of the religious community???  Comments by the UOC-MP with respect to the new bill can be read at  Although the UOC-MP is critical of this bill, it appears to be substantially less upset about this bill than the law that would require it to change its name to reflect its Moscow affiliation.

    As I have previously mentioned, the following website claims to chronicle all of the transfers from the UOC-MP to the OCU.   The website has now added a table which shows the number of UOC-MP parishes in each region (oblast) and the number in that region that have transferred.  It shows that the latest total number of transfers is 162 parishes since December 17.  According to the website, this total constitutes 1.31% of the UOC-MP parishes – still a very minimal number.  However, the numbers continue to increase – on last Sunday, 21 parishes transferred.  The UOC-MP has posted on its website many article relating to various parishes rejecting the OCU.  Accordingly, there is most likely a dispute as to correctness of the number 162.  It is possible that the passage of the new law will accelerate the rate of transfers to the OCU.

    Aside from Serbia, Antioch, and Poland, the other Local Orthodox Churches have not yet expressed their views as to whether they will recognize the OCU.  Clearly, they are not in a rush to do so.  The issues are complex.  Also the bishops within a Local Orthodox Church may be divided among themselves on the issues.  This may be illustrated by the case of Bulgaria, which is normally considered to be closely aligned to the Moscow Patriarchate.  According to one report, the Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Patriarchate discussed the Ukraine issue at a meeting held January 22-24.  The report named the seven members who supported the Moscow Patriarchate at the meeting, and the eight, including the Patriarch Neofit, who supported the Ecumenical Patriarchate.  The majority referred the matter to its commission that is studying the matter.  Today, reports that the head of the commission, Metropolitan Cyprian, has stated that a decision has not yet been reached by the Synod as the issues are still being studied.   There also appears to be division in the Patriarchate of Georgia.  It is reported that ten bishops support autocephaly for Ukraine.  On the other hand, there appears to be some who are sympathetic to Moscow’s position.  Even with respect to the Serbian Patriarchate, Bishop Maksim of Western America has stated:  “But the part of the Church which is in that territory already found in the fullness of the life of the Church should not be indifferent but prayerfully recognize the opportunity for compatriots in a different way to enter into the graced space of the same Church.” 

    Metropolitan Epifany has stated that he expects that his enthronement as primate of the OCU will occur on next Sunday, February 3, which is also his 40th birthday.  However, he made clear that this was not an official announcement.  As far as I can determine, the official announcement still has not been made.  This raises the possibility that it may actually occur on a later date.  So far, none of the other Local Orthodox Churches (aside from the Ecumenical Patriarchate) has indicated that they will attend.  Today,, in an exclusive report states that it has information that the monasteries at Mt. Athos (part of the Ecumenical Patriarchate) met today and only seven of the 20 monasteries were in favor of sending a delegation to the enthronement.  The report concludes that Mt. Athos will not send a delegation.  However, it also shows that the monasteries are divided on this issue  -- as is true for bishops within some individual Local Orthodox Churches.

    The Ukrainian issue continues to the subject of discussions between the Local Orthodox Churches.  On January 10, Metropolitan Hilarion met with Patriarch Theophilos III of Jerusalem.  Metropolitan Emmanuel of France (Ecumenical Patriarchate) has met with Metropolitan Sawa, primate of the Church of Poland.   Archbishop Anastasios, primate of the Albanian Church, met with Archbishop Ieronymos, primate of the Church of Greece.  Metropolitan Elpidophoros (Ecumenical Patriarchate) met with Archbishop Chrysostomos, primate of the Church of Cyprus. 

    On this Friday, March 1, Patriarch Kirill will celebrate the tenth anniversary of his enthronement as patriarch.  It has been announced that the primates of the Serbian, Antiochian, Polish, and OCA Churches will attend as well as delegations from other Local Orthodox Churches.  According to Father Nikolai Balashov of the Moscow Patriarchate’s DECR, the situation of Orthodox Christians in Ukraine will be the central issue at meetings between Patriarch Kirill and the primates and delegations.  I imagine that there is also the possibility of a joint communique being issued.  Interestingly, Father Alexander Volkov, spokesperson for Patriarch Kirill, stated today that a delegation from the Ecumenical Patriarchate would be welcome to attend as well.  Father Alexander also stated that Olav Tveit, general secretary of the WCC, as well as delegations from the Armenian, Catholic, and Protestant churches will attend.  At the same press conference today, Father Alexander stated:  “The Church of Constantinople has fallen into heresy and delusion.  All Orthodox churches should think about how to help the Church of Constantinople to get out of these harmful delusions.” 

    I was requested by the Catholic magazine Inside the Vatican to write a feature article relating to the Ukraine situation.  In the event you have any interest, I have attached the text of my article which has now appeared in the January issue of the magazine.  After discussing the three rights asserted by the Ecumenical Patriarch (considering appeals from other Churches, asserting canonical jurisdiction over Ukraine, and granting autocephaly), I discuss how this claimed exercise by Constantinople of primacy on the universal level involves a critical issue in the international Catholic – Orthodox theological dialogue.

    On a different subject, Pope Francis completed yesterday his pilgrimage to Panama for the celebration of World Youth Day.  On the flight to Panama, the Pope spoke with great emotion about the recent death of TASS journalist Alexei Bukalov, who had headed the TASS Rome office since 1991 and who had been present during many papal flights.  In the following two-minute video, with English subtitles, you can see how the Pope almost lost his composure while talking about his love for this great Russian journalist.  At the end, the Pope asked for a moment of silence and then concluded with the recitation of the Our Father for him.  I can personally remember that Alexei Bukalov was one the journalists who was requested by Pope John Paul II to write the mediations for the stations of the cross for Good Friday 2002.  In his second station meditation, Bukalov had included the following petition: “Lord Jesus, in our divisions, the bitter fruit of sin, show us the way to unity….”

    At the papal Mass at the Cathedral in Panama City on January 26, Metropolitan Athenagoras (Aneste) of Mexico (Ecumenical Patriarchate) received special attention from Pope Francis.  This can be seen at 12:15 and 1:54:40 in the following video of the Mass:  

    Finally, the following are some additional interesting links:  (1) an excellent interview of the rector of the Catholic seminary in St. Petersburg, Russia, including good relations with the Orthodox Academy -- ; (2) a concert by the Moscow Synodal Choir in the Lateran Basilica in Rome in honor of the famous icon writer Andrei Rublev -- ; (3) an article by Bishop Brian Farrell, secretary of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, including some observations relating to Ukraine -- ; (4) a video posted by Father Vsevolod Chaplin showing Father Alexei Dikarev of the DECR saying the Our Father with heretics at the service last week in the Catholic Cathedral in Moscow on the occasion of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity --; (5) the Orthodox church in San Remo, Italy has voted to leave the Ecumenical Patriarchate and join the ROCOR --  .


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 12 January 2019: Pope to Romania & Ukraine developments

    The Press Office of the Holy See announced today (Friday) that Pope Francis will visit Romania from May 31 to June 3, 2019.  Thus, the Romania trip will occur approximately three weeks after the Pope’s May  5-7 visit to Bulgaria and the FYROM.  The announcement was as follows:

    In response to the invitation issued by the President, the state authorities and the Catholic Church of Romania, His Holiness Francis will make an apostolic trip to the country from 31 May to 2 June 2019, to visit the cities of Bucharest, Iaşi and Blaj, and the Marian shrine of Şumuleu Ciuc.

    Vasile Bănescu, a spokesperson for the Romanian Orthodox Patriarchate, also made a statement today.  The statement reads in part as follows:

    We are glad that the visit was confirmed in view of the long and good relationship between the Romanian Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church, strengthened by the visit of Pope John Paul II in 1999 and renewed now by Pope Francis's visit.  He will be received by His Beatitude Patriarch Daniel at a meeting whose program is to be announced.  The good relations between the two Churches were and are manifested through the hospitality enjoyed by the Romanian communities in many countries, where many of the Romanian parishes hold religious services in churches made available by the local Catholic communities.

    Iaşi (located near the border with Moldova) is the Romanian city with the greatest concentration of Roman Catholics, and the pope will meet primarily with this group.  In Blaj (Transylvania) he will meet with the Romanian Greek Catholics.  At the Marian shrine of Şumuleu Ciuc (Transylvania), he will meet primarily with Hungarian-speaking Catholics. 

    With respect to Ukraine, the full text of the December 31 letter from Patriarch John X of Antioch to the Ecumenical Patriarch has now been translated into English and posted.  The letter is very respectful of the Ecumenical Patriarch, but urges him to suspend his actions in Ukraine, to call a meeting of all of the primates, and to seek a pan-Orthodox solution for Ukraine.  In an interview with the Greek website, Archbishop Chrysostomos II, primate of the Church of Cyprus, denied reports that he supported the new OCU. ;  According to the article, the Archbishop said that the major issue now was not autocephaly but preventing a division of Orthodoxy.  Although not a quotation, the article indicates that the Archbishop stated that he did not mention the new head [of the OCU] in the Divine Liturgy and will not.

    Metropolitan Sawa, primate of Poland, gave an interview to the Polish magazine Polityka on January 6.,1, ;  He confirmed his view that Epifany was only a layman as Constantinople did not have canonical authority to restore the Ukrainian separatists, but only Moscow.  He also states:  “It cannot be ruled out that in Poland, where more than one million Ukrainians live, a group of faithful will appear, for whom Filaret will try to organize his parishes in Poland.”  In this regard, he states, “Chaos awaits us.”  As you recall, the tomos expressly prohibited the OCU from having parishes outside of Ukraine.  However, according to an interesting article in RIA Novesti, the UOC-KP has 44 parishes in Western Europe, 15 parishes in the US and Canada, and about 10 in Australia.  The article also states that the UOC-KP has been very active in Poland in recent years and suggests that this may be one of the reasons why Metropolitan Sawa has been so outspoken against the UOC-KP.  If those parishes now agree to be under the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, as required by the tomos, will the threat to the Church of Poland be reduced? 

    Archbishop Daniel, one of the two exarchs appointed by the Ecumenical Patriarchate, has for the first time given a long interview to the media, namely the Ukrainian-language service of the BBC.   The interview was posted today at .  This interview will provoke a great deal of discussion.  It really should be read in its entirety.  For example, he predicts that Romania and Greece will be the first churches to recognize the OCU.  He says that the exarchs secretly met with 18 hierarchs of the UOC-MP, and most of them are ready to join the OCU.  He expresses his personal opinion that every nation that desires its own Orthodox Church should have a right to establish it, including Montenegro and Macedonia.  I am not sure that Constantinople would agree with all of the views expressed.  Anyway, it makes for very interesting reading.

    Lastly, the results of a Ukrainian opinion poll of views relating to the new OCU have just been released.  The survey was conducted by  the sociological service of the Razumkov Center from December 19 to 25.  The results show that there is a great difference of views depending upon the location in Ukraine.  I have pasted these results below.   These results are consistent with the reports on the location of parishes now seeking to leave the UOC-MP and join the OCU.  Only one of the 54 parishes are in the east or south.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA


    How do you feel about the creation of a local Autocephalous Orthodox Church in Ukraine, depending on the region,%







    I support





    I do not support





    I do not care about it, I do not care





    Difficult to answer







  • 9 January 2019: Official text of tomos & more

    Although the tomos granting autocephaly to the church in Ukraine was signed by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew on January 5, it was not until today (Wednesday) that it was signed by the members of the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate who are now meeting at the Phanar.  The original tomos was returned from Kyiv to Istanbul for the purpose of obtaining these additional signatures, and the tomos will now be returned to Kyiv where it will remain.  As I understand it, the tomos was not legally effective until these signatures were obtained.  With the tomos now completely signed, the Ecumenical Patriarchate has released the text of the tomos in Greek, Ukrainian, and English.  The following is the English text:

    One of the provisions of the tomos that may give rise to considerable discussion is the following:

    In the case of major issues of ecclesiastical, doctrinal and canonical nature, His Beatitude the Metropolitan of Kiev and all Ukraine must, on behalf of the Holy Synod of his Church, address our most holy Patriarchal and Ecumenical Throne, seeking its authoritative opinion and conclusive support, while the prerogatives of the Ecumenical Throne over the Exarchate and Sacred Stavropegial institutions in Ukraine shall be preserved unmitigated.

    A question could be raised as to whether the obligation of the Metropolitan of Kyiv to seek the “authoritative opinion and conclusive support” of the Ecumenical Patriarch in “the case of major issues of ecclesiastical, doctrinal and canonical nature” means that the views of the Ecumenical Patriarch must not only be sought but must be followed as well.  The use of the adjective “conclusive” seems to imply that the advice must be followed.  On the other hand, the fact that the word “seeking” is used, rather than “obtaining,” implies that the views of the Ecumenical Patriarch are not binding and need not be followed.  To me, the sentence seems ambiguous. 

    I anticipate that arguments will be made that the tomos does not grant full independence to the new church.  It would be interesting to compare the language of this tomos with the earlier ones granted to Greece, Albania, and Czech Lands and Slovakia.  I also assume that counter-arguments will be made that the UOC-MP does not have complete independence and must follow all of the decisions made by a bishops’ council of the Moscow Patriarchate.  For example, one analysis (which may be biased) comparing the independence of the UOC-MP to the OCU has just been posted. 

    Most of the attention now is not focused on Kyiv, but on what, if anything, the various Local Orthodox Churches will do with respect to recognition of the new OCU.  Even if none of the other Local Orthodox Churches recognizes the new church, I believe that it is very unlikely that Constantinople will withdraw the tomos.  Rather, it is likely that Constantinople will hope that with the passage of time (perhaps even decades), things will change and recognition will be granted.  However, a large scale rejection by the other Local Orthodox Churches now will hurt the prestige of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and will substantially diminish enthusiasm for the new church among Orthodox faithful in Ukraine.

    On January 5, the Moscow Patriarchate posted an article which quotes parts of a letter from Patriarch John X of Antioch to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.  With respect to the quotations, the major points seems to be “to stop and postpone this process until the Ukrainian problem is studied and a pan-Orthodox solution is found” and  “not to take any decisions that are not based on the consensus of the Autocephalous Orthodox Churches.”  On January 8, the Permanent Holy Synod of the Church of Greece decided to refer the issue of Ukraine to a meeting of the entire hierarchy.  A date for this meeting has not yet been set.  Patriarch Irinej of Serbia on January 5 gave a Christmas interview in which he was very critical of the actions of Constantinople in Ukraine. 

    On January 7, Metropolitan Epifany of the OCU celebrated the Christmas liturgy in St. Sophia Cathedral in Kyiv.  (this is the new website of the OCU)  I found it interesting that one of the celebrants in the Liturgy was Archpriest Georgy Kovalenko, who was the press secretary for Metropolitan Vladimir, the previous and now deceased primate of the UOC-MP.  It is conceivable that Kovalenko could be chosen as the new spokesperson of the OCU. 


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 5 January 2019: Tomos signed & much more news

    Depending on one’s point of view, today is either a “black day” or a “great day.”  Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew signed today (Saturday) the tomos granting autocephaly to the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU).  The official text of the tomos has not yet been released.  However, the ambassador of Ukraine to Turkey has released an unofficial Ukrainian translation of the complete text.  The Google translation tool works fairly well with the exception that it omits the last part of at least one important sentence.  TASS has pointed out certain provisions in the tomos which supposedly limit the independence of the new church.       A video of the entire ceremony can be watched at .   As expected, the Moscow Patriarchate has stated today that the tomos violated the canons and is therefore without any canonical force. 

    President Poroshenko played a prominent role in the ceremony.  He presented the Ecumenical Patriarch with Ukraine’s Order of Merit of the First Degree ( ) and invited the Ecumenical Patriarch to visit Ukraine (  The text of the address by Metropolitan Epifany, the new primate, can be seen at .  Epifany, who had studied for a period of time in Greece, delivered some of his remarks in Greek.  It was interesting to see who the member of Epifany’s delegation were.  A number of photos of the delegation are found on the website of Metropolitan Simeon (Shostaksky).  The members included: Metropolitan Simeon (Shostaksky) and Alexander (Drabinko), both formerly of the UOC-MP; Metropolitan Mikhail (Zinkevich)(one of the three finalist, who withdrew his name in the final round of voting), Metropolitan Dimitry (Rudyuk) of Lviv (formerly UOC-KP),  and Archbishop Yevstratiy (Zorya)(spokesperson of the former UOC-KP); Metropolitan Andrew  (Abramchuk)(formerly UAOC).  Significantly, neither of the two former primates, Filaret and Makary, was present at the Phanar.

    Tomorrow (Sunday), Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew will celebrated the Divine Liturgy at the Phanar and will present the tomos to Metropolitan Epifany.  On January 7, Christmas on the Julian calendar, Metropolitan Epifany will celebrate the Liturgy in St. Sophia Cathedral in Kyiv.  Also on Monday, the tomos will be on display for the public at the refectory church of St. Sophia. 

    There have also been a number of other important developments that have occurred in the last week or so.  It is reported that the Ecumenical Patriarch sent a letter towards the end of December to the primates of all of the Local Orthodox Churches.  After describing the recent events in Ukraine and the expected grant of a tomos on January 6, the Ecumenical Patriarch requested that the primates recognize the new church in Ukraine as autocephalous.  Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew stressed:

    Should we choose to ignore our brethren [presumably, the members of the former UOC-KP and UAOC] who are experiencing moments of agony in Ukraine, we will not have any justification [to give] on the Day of Judgment before the fearsome, single, and just throne of the Judge of the souls and hearts of all people, our just Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

    On December 31, the Moscow Patriarchate posted the reply of Patriarch Kirill to a letter sent by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, presumably the letter discussed above.  The official English translation of the entire letter by Patriarch Kirill can be read at .   Although the letter should be read in its entirety, one of the major points relates to the recent evidence that “the overwhelming majority of the clergy and laity, the true church people of Ukraine” [namely those of the UOC-MP] rejected participation in the council.  The letter discusses one point that has received relatively little attention to date – the facts relating to the invalidity of the episcopal ordinations of the UAOC.  Like many of the prior statements made by Metropolitan Hilarion, the letter focuses on the person of Ecumenical Patriarchate Bartholomew.  One wonders if placing the debate on such a very personal level helps or hurts the prospects of obtaining a reconciliation between Constantinople and Moscow.  The conclusion of Patriarch Kirill’s letter includes the following paragraph:

    Yet, if you will act in keeping with intentions enunciated in your letter, you will forever lose an opportunity to serve to the unity of the holy Churches of God, will cease being the First in the Orthodox world which numbers hundreds of millions of believers, and the sufferings that you have inflicted upon Orthodox Ukrainians will follow you to the Last Judgment of our Lord who judges all people impartially and will testify against you before Him.

    It has been reported that Metropolitan Sawa, the primate of the Orthodox Church of Poland, has also responded to the Ecumenical Patriarch’s letter.   Unfortunately, the UOC-MP has not released the entire text.  However, it has quoted many parts of the letter.  The letter is very much in favor of Moscow’s position.  For example, it states that “according to our ancient Church traditions, a ban is lifted by the one who imposed it.”  This seems to imply that a ban cannot be lifted by any higher authority.  He also states  that “we have not seen remorse, repentance, or humility, which normally precede the lifting of bans, in Filaret or his followers!”    Because Filaret was reduced to a layman and then “ordained” his followers, Metropolitan Sawa concludes that the “so called” Metropolitan Epifany is “in fact a secular person.” 

    The report by (above) acknowledges that the Church of Poland replied “no” to the Ecumenical Patriarch’s letter and Antioch expressed “reservations.”  I have not seen any further information concerning Antioch’s response.

    The Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate held its final meeting of the year on December 28. (complete minutes of meeting)  Two of the most important items were the establishment of an exarchate in Western Europe and an exarchate in Southeast Asia.   Father Alexander Volkov, the press secretary for Patriarch Kirill, subsequently stated: These are actions taken by the Holy Synod in response to the anti-canonical decisions made by the Constantinople Patriarchate.   On the evening of December 28, Metropolitan Hilarion stated on the television program Church in the World that Constantinople does not have an exclusive right to minister to the diaspora.  He stated that “we will now create our parishes, dioceses and structures in the non-CIS countries without any regard for Constantinople.”

    The establishment of an exarchate for Western Europe may also be related to the Archdiocese of the Russian Orthodox Churches in Western Europe (Ecumenical Patriarchate), which will be holding an extraordinary general assembly on February 23 to decide whether to leave the Ecumenical Patriarchate.  Both the Archdiocese and the Exarchate cover Western Europe with a center in Paris.  If the Archdiocese wishes to become a part of the Moscow Patriarchate, it is questionable whether Moscow would desire that the Archdiocese continue side-by-side with the Exarchate.  It is more likely that Moscow would wish to merge the parishes of the Archdiocese into the Exarchate.  The Holy Synod has already appointed Bishop Ioann of Bogorodsk to head the new Exarchate.  In the event of a merger, it is not clear what would happen to Archbishop Jean of Charioupolis, who now heads the Archdiocese.

    The transfer of parishes from the UOC-MP to the OCU continues at a very slow rate.  The following website monitors the situation on a daily basis and lists the parishes that have supposedly transferred.  At the present time it lists 35 parishes that have supposedly transferred to the OCU.  The following article questions the validity of some of these transfers. (in English)

    The Holy Synod of the Georgian Patriarchate met on December 27.  The “tense situation” in Ukraine was discussed, and it was decided to continue the discussion at the next meeting of the Synod.   It was reported that after the December 27 meeting, Metropolitan Zosime (Shioshvili), who usually acts as the spokesperson of the Synod, informed reporters that the Church of Georgia supports autocephaly in Ukraine, but that the final decision will be made in January after the granting of the tomos.  Time will tell whether this is correct.

    The following is the Christmas message of Metropolitan Epifany.  With respect to the December 15 Council, he states:

    All of you know that on December 15, 2018, in St. Sophia of Kyiv, the Unity Council, which laid the foundation for restoring the unity of Ukrainian Orthodoxy, took place. The doors of our only local Orthodox Church of Ukraine are open to all who wish to serve in it together with God and its people.  Ahead is much work together to strengthen this unity.  First of all, we must continue to pray for the Church, for overcoming hostility and for multiplying love. We also have to put aside our past confrontations, alienation and hostility, because only through forgiveness we can truly establish a single local Autocephalous Ukrainian Orthodox Church.  Let's be on our guard: the calls for inciting hostility or violence we will reject, but those that serve love and peace - we will accept. 

    It remains to be seen whether this call for peace will be followed by the new church.  How, it is a sign of hope.  Regardless whether one believes that the new church is canonical or not, if it avoids a course of “confrontations, alienation and hostility,” that will be an improvement over the past.

    For those of you who are celebrating the feast of Christmas on January 7, I wish you a very blessed and joyful Nativity of Our Lord.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA