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Moscow’s greatest fear about Orthodox Church in Belarus may be about to come true

2020: Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church elevates Bishop Veniamin, “newly elected Patriarchal Exarch of All Belarus,” to the church rank of Metropolitan. Photo:
Moscow’s greatest fear about Orthodox Church in Belarus may be about to come true

Over the last three years, Moscow has had three fears about the Orthodox Church in Belarus: that it may gain autocephaly under Lukashenka’s control, that it may lose its membership to the Roman Catholics, or that it may dissolve with priests and laity deserting the Moscow church and Minsk’s control at one and the same time.

The first two of these fears – see Moscow worried about possible moves to Orthodox autocephaly in Belarus and Moldova, and Protests May Lead More Orthodox in Belarus to Shift to Roman Catholicism, Experts Say – now appear to have been eclipsed by the third, given the actions of two prominent Belarusian Orthodox priests and those of the Universal Patriarch in Lithuania.

Constantinople could grant autocephaly to Belarusian Orthodox Church next, Gorbik says

That is because the exit of Orthodoxy in Belarus from under Russian control as the result of actions by Constantinople abroad and by those of priests and laity in Belarus from below would strike a mortal blow to Putin’s vision of a Russian world by eliminating Moscow’s domination over the last Orthodox majority country in the region.

That Moscow is worried about what Constantinople has been doing in Lithuania is no surprise (Vilnius Expects Constantinople to Establish an Exarchate in Lithuania Soon and Constantinople Patriarch Moves against ROC MP in Lithuania and Belarus). But what may be even more alarming for the Russian capital is the enthusiasm of Belarusians for it.

The Christian Vision telegram channel says that Constantinople’s involvement in Lithuania is important not only for that country but for Belarusians and Orthodox elsewhere because it will allow the faithful to follow their consciences and their church to develop naturally rather than on orders from abroad.

And in confirmation of that general hope has come the acceptance of two Belarusian priests, Georgy Roy and Aleksandr Kukhta, who have been forced to flee their country into Lithuania but have now been taken under the wing of the Ecumenical Patriarch.

While there are only two of them so far, they form what may become the nucleus of a Belarusian Orthodox church independent of Moscow and loyal to Constantinople, and could even in the coming months lead to the formation, likely initially abroad rather than in Belarus, of an exarchate for such an independent church.

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