Thursday, 31 July 2008
Russian Patriarch shakes Orthodox boat.
Athens- The Orthodox Christian Church has come under threat of schism for the first time in 954 years. The cause is Moscow Patriarch Alexy, who in an act of unprecedented aggression against Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew has raised the threat of a major schism in a letter sent to all church primates.
The Moscow Patriarchate has for many years sought to play the leading role among Orthodox churches. The present attempt comes in connection with events in Kiev on July 26th and 27th to celebrate 1020 years since the Christianization of the city’s population by Vladimir the Great. The Ecumenical Patriarch was among those officially invited to the events, to be attended by Ukraine President Victor Yushchenko, and of course Kiev Patriarch and Patriarch Alexy.
But in a sudden development on July 20th, Patriarch Alexy sent a letter to all heads of churches accusing Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of ties with the Kiev Patriarchate and threatening the former with a schism “comparable to the events of 1054”, i.e. the Great Schism between Rome and Constantinople.
It should be noted that Archbishop of Albania Anastasios was the first to express his full support for the Ecumenical Patriarch – unlike Archbishop of Cyprus Chrysostomos, who was among the first to side with Patriarch Alexy.
In a leading article under the heading “Towards a New Schism!”, respected Greek newspaper To Vima says, “A downturn in relations between the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople and the Patriarchate of Moscow are threatening the Orthodox Church with a new schism. What makes this possibility a dramatic one is that the schism is not the result of potentially worthwhile differences in dogma. Rather, the schism that is shaking the foundations of the Orthodox Church comes from administrative differences over the Church of Ukraine. May the Holy Spirit enlighten them and lead them towards agreement”.