Three signs Moscow Patriarch Kirill knows he’s lost on Ukrainian autocephaly


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The Moscow Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC MP) continues to assert that it will be able to block Ukraine’s drive for autocephaly, but three developments which surfaced today suggest that Patriarch Kirill knows that he and his organization have lost and that the Ukrainian church will become autocephalous soon.

First, and most obviously, spokesmen for the Russian Church are now attacking the Universal Patriarch in ever sharper tones, an indication that talks are effectively over and that Moscow has lost. The words of Father Sergii Karmyshev of the Rybinsk bishopric are typical.

According to the Orthodox publicist, “the Constantinople Patriarch is a puppet in the hands of more serious political forces, in the first instance, the Vatican, and in the second, the US.” Thus, the ROC MP has not lost to a churchman with few bishops, priests, and followers but to the usual powerful underground anti-Russian forces.

Second, Patriarch Kirill told a visiting delegation of church leaders from Finland that he and his church are “today free as no one has ever been free in the history of the Russian Church … completely free from any political influence in the country and in an equal dialogue with the authorities.”

“This is a first for all its history,” the patriarch continued, thus making a claim that is undercut by an enormous amount of evidence including Kirill’s own statements in the past in support of Vladimir Putin but that effectively separates the Kremlin leader from the Russian Church’s looming defeat in Constantinople.

And third, in the best traditions of Russian institutions suffering defeat, the ROC MP has announced plans for a dramatic show of bravado — in this case, redesigning the center of Sergiyev Posad, its headquarters, in order to make it a true “Orthodox Vatican.” Even more, the church says that “Vladimir Putin has already agreed to this.”

While the Kremlin leader has given his blessing for the project, those involved say that no final decisions will be made until at least November and that the entire project will only go forward if enough money is found. “If there will be funds, we will do this; if not, perhaps we will do only one street a year over the course of a century,” one involved official says.

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Edited by: A. N.

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