The next domino – Belarusian Orthodox hope for autocephaly

Archbishop Sviatoslau Lohin, Primate of the Belarusian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (Image: belapc.org)

Archbishop Sviatoslau Lohin, Primate of the Belarusian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (Image: belapc.org) 

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Archbishop Sviatoslau Lohin, head of the émigré Belarusian Autocephalous Church, says that his denomination supports autocephaly for Ukrainian Orthodox and hopes to achieve the same recognition for itself in its homeland from the Universal Patriarchate.

“If the Ukrainian Church is recognized,” the Belarusian religious leader says, “then the next steps should be with the Belarusian church. This gives us an example and shows that the situation is developing according to canon law. That law, as is well-known, requires for each Orthodox people a separate Church (radiosvoboda.org and spzh.news).

Specifically, the New York-based archbishop says, “this is the 34th apostolic rule. And canon laws are not subject to discussion but rather must be fulfilled. The fact that Belarus as an Orthodox state does not have its own independent first hierarch is a violation of canon law and a violation of the historical status of our Belarusian Church.”

The pursuit of such status, however, requires the expression of a desire for that status by both believers and the authorities, Archbishop Sviatoslau says; and under the current authorities, the processes of the legalization of the Belarusian Church in Belarus, its further growth and its receipt of autocephaly are hardly possible.”

“The current power there is economically, politically and spiritually subordinate to Moscow,” he continues.

If Belarusian Orthodox are only dreaming about autocephaly for themselves, some Russian commentators are suggesting that after Ukraine receives the tomos of autocephaly, the situation will change and Belarusian Orthodox will be the next to demand that status, along with the Orthodox in Moldova.

In a comment to Echo Moskvy, Russian publicist Aleksandr Nevzorov says that Ukraine is days away from receiving recognition as an autocephalous church and will then be “hierarchically higher” than the Russian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate because it will have a tomos as the ROC MP does not.

Once that happens, the commentator continues, Orthodox in Belarus and Moldova will follow the same course, gain autocephaly and thus become independent of Moscow in religious terms, steps that will complete their separation from the Moscow-centric reality they have been part only as a result of state actions, not religious ones.

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Edited by: A. N.

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