Le New York Times pose la question de l'isolement du Patriarcat Œcuménique de Constantinople
A serious rift in the church could have big consequences in Ukraine, Russia and Greece.
Russia’s effort to keep Ukraine under its thumb prompted a revolution in 2014 and a war that has claimed more than 10,000 lives. It also prompted, on Monday, what may be one of the most serious splits in Christendom since the Great Schism between Rome and Constantinople in 1054 and the Protestant Reformation 500 years ago. This new crisis has deep historical roots, and could shape religious and secular ties among many countries for years to come.
Here’s what happened: The Church of Russia announced this week that it was breaking ties with the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, which has primacy in Orthodoxy and which has decided to give autonomy to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. This decision stems directly from Moscow’s annexation of Crimea and its support for separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine, although Ukrainians had long been unhappy about their church remaining subordinate to Russia’s, as it had been since 1686. This year, their president, Parliament and religious leaders petitioned the leader of the Constantinople Patriarchate, Bartholomew, to grant their church independence — or autocephaly, as it is known in the church.
These developments will have serious implications within Ukraine. Its mostly Orthodox population is divided among three main churches; the newly independent Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kiev Patriarchate would gain influence and most likely seek to take over houses of worship and other property from the church under Moscow’s jurisdiction, which, until now, was the largest in Ukraine and the only one recognized by other churches.
This will further strain relations between Ukraine and Russia. Also, the break in relations between Moscow and the Ecumenical Patriarchate could weaken the latter if other Orthodox churches follow Russia in rejecting Constantinople’s primacy. The shock waves would affect relations between churches that find themselves on either side of the divide, forcing them, too, to sever ties. The churches of Poland, Serbia and Antioch (Syria) have already come out on Russia’s side.
The Church of Greece could also be shaken, as a number of Greek clergymen may support Moscow against Bartholomew. Russian claims to leadership of the Orthodox Christians have appealed to many since Constantinople fell to the Ottoman Turks in 1453 and the patriarchs became subordinate to Muslim sultans. Furthermore, the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s dialogue with other faiths, including the Roman Catholic Church, is deeply unpopular with hard-line Orthodox priests and monks.
Many monks in northern Greece’s self-governing monastic community of Mount Athos — regarded as the jewel in the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s crown — have pro-Russian tendencies. President Vladimir Putin has emphasized his nation’s interest in Athos, and has visited it twice. One of Athos’s 20 monasteries, Agios Panteleimon, is home to some 60 Ukrainian and Russian monks, with a Russian abbot.