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Moscow Patriarchate says it has churches in 19 African countries, angering Orthodox world but giving FSB expanded possibilities

russian priest clerics russian orthodox church africa
Priest Georgy Maximov at a pastoral meeting in the city of Meru (Eastern Province of Kenya), with priests from two deaneries of the Diocese of Nyeri of the Alexandrian Orthodox Church (Central Meru Deanery and North Meru Deanery)/ Source: Telegram channel of Leonid Gorbachev, Metropolitan of Klin, Patriarchal Exarch of Africa
Moscow Patriarchate says it has churches in 19 African countries, angering Orthodox world but giving FSB expanded possibilities
Edited by: Kate Ryabchiy
In response to the Patriarch of Alexandria’s recognition of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church’s autocephaly, the Russian Orthodox exarchate has established its administrative center in Kampala, Uganda. It claims to have parishes in 19 African countries. If true, the ROC MP could rival Alexandria in Africa. However, the initiative’s approval by Russian officials, especially the FSB, suggests the Russian church could be a front for expanding intelligence activities on the continent.

At the end of 2019, the Patriarch of Alexandria, whose canonical territory encompasses all of Africa, recognized the autocephaly of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine. In response, Moscow announced it would disregard Alexandria’s claim. It would both seek to poach congregants from existing Orthodox churches in Africa and set up its own.

Moscow Patriarchate moved into Africa to provide cover for FSB officers and PMCs, not to punish anyone over Ukraine, Horyevoy says

Moscow’s action infuriated the Alexandrian patriarchate and the entire Orthodox world, which has a long tradition of respecting the canonical territories of each recognized patriarchate. However, it was welcomed by Russian officials and especially by the FSB, which saw it as a means of expanding intelligence operations in Africa.

russian orthodox church midrand south africa
Russian Orthodox Church of St. Sergius of Radonezh, Midrand, South Africa/ Source: Facebook

In the months since the Russian church has won over 200 priests, often by providing them with generous subsidies, intensifying anger at Moscow among the Orthodox world and further isolating the ROC MP from other leaders of that religious denomination.

However, with the support of the Russian government, the Russian Orthodox exarchate has taken the next step by establishing an administrative center in Kampala, Uganda, and claiming to have parishes in 19 African countries.

If true, the ROC MP has emerged as a genuine competitor of Alexandria in Africa; if not, and as the Russian exarch admits that there is bad blood between the two churches, this expansion suggests that the Russian church may be providing cover for Moscow’s intelligence and subversive activities on the continent.

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Edited by: Kate Ryabchiy
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