Voices from Russia

Saturday, 22 May 2010

The Visit of Patriarch Bartholomew to Russia is Intended to Strengthen Intra-Orthodox Ties

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew Archontonis of Constantinople (1940- ), deplaning at Vnukovo Airport near Moscow on 22 May 2010.

The official visit to the Patriarchate of Moscow and all the Russias by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew Archontonis of Constantinople, traditionally, the first in honour amongst the Orthodox episcopate, will strengthen intra-Orthodox cooperation and, perhaps, advance the cause of a long-awaited Pan-Orthodox Synod, according to our source in the Moscow Patriarchate. On Saturday, the head of the Constantinopolitan Patriarchate will arrive in Moscow at the invitation of Patriarch Kirill Gundyaev of Moscow and all the Russias, and will spend more than a week in Russia. He will visit the Holy Trinity-St Sergius Lavra, which is considered the spiritual centre of Russian Orthodoxy, Transfiguration Monastery in Valaam monastery, which is often called a “Northern Athos”, and religious sites in St Petersburg.

Honour Guard drawn up to welcome the Ecumenical Patriarch

Cooperation and Prayer

“This is not the first visit of Patriarch Bartholomew to our Church in Russia. His first official visit as Ecumenical Patriarch occurred in 1993, it was lengthy and involved visits to Moscow, the Holy Trinity-St Sergius Lavra, and St Petersburg. However, much has changed in the life of our Church and country over the past 17 years”, said Archpriest Nikolai Balashov, the deputy chairman of the Division of External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate, an expert in the field of intra-Orthodox relations, on the eve of Bartholomew’s visit. In his view, it will be interesting for the EP delegation to become familiar with the monastic life in the MP today, especially the restored monastery on Valaam. It will provide our distinguished guests with a “to have a special opportunity during his stay in Russia, to engage not only in formal meetings and negotiations, but also in quiet and focused prayer”. Fr Nikolai went on to say that Patriarch Bartholomew and Patriarch Kirill “have a long-standing friendship”. While still young bishops, they often cooperated in solving problems that confronted former First Hierarchs of Constantinople and Moscow such as Patriarchs  Dimitrios Papadopoulos, Pimen Izvekov, and Aleksei Rediger. In July 2009, the newly-elected Patriarch Kirill, following established Orthodox custom, paid first official visit to Patriarch Bartholomew. This meeting, according to the parties involved, opened a new page in relations between the two Local Churches. Fr Nikolai said, “Patriarch Kirill would like to recreate and deepen the atmosphere of fraternal cooperation and mutual understanding that prevailed during his first official visit to Constantinople (Istanbul) in 2009.

The traditional bread and salt of welcome

Pan-Orthodox Council

Fr Nikolai continued, “The Patriarch of Constantinople is the first of honour in the Orthodox world, whilst the Patriarch of Moscow heads the world’s largest Orthodox Church. The level of mutual understanding, confidence, and cooperation between these two men largely determines the larger issue of pan-Orthodox cooperation, and, in particular, the process of preparing any Pan-Orthodox Council”. He said that many had spoken of the need to undertake such a council “since the first decades of the 20th century”. Preparations for such a conclave began in the 1960s. At that time, Metropolitan Nikodim Rotov, who was then the head of the DECR, led the MP delegation to the Pan-Orthodox meetings convened to prepare for the council. Fr Nikolai said, “In the 1990s, the process of preparation for such a council, which was difficult enough previously (given the differences in the views of the Local Churches on various issues), stalled over the problem caused by the EP’s establishment of a parallel diocesan structure in Estonia, alongside that of the MP”. He said that it was only possible to clear this problem in the last year of Patriarch Aleksei’s life, with the active participation of the current Patriarch Kirill, who then headed the DECR. During the visit of Patriarch Aleksei to Istanbul in 2008 for a summit meeting of all the First Hierarchs and representatives of the Local Orthodox Churches, it was decided that, henceforth, Pan-Orthodox Pre-Conciliar Consultations would involve only autocephalous (fully independent and self-governing) Local Churches. Fr Nikolai said, “Thus, the problem with the status of the Orthodox Church in Estonia was withdrawn from the context of the Pre-Conciliar Consultations, so that we could continue a dialogue on the important issues of our time that require a collective response from the Orthodox Church as a whole”.

Patriarch Bartholomew with Patriarch Kirill Gundyaev of Moscow and all the Russias (1946- ) inspects the honour guard

From the Programme of the Visit

On the Trinity feastday, which this year falls on Sunday 23 May, Patriarch Bartholomew shall serve liturgy at the Holy Trinity-St Sergius Lavra, the most renowned monastery in Russia, which was founded by St Sergius of Radonezh in Sergiev Posad near Moscow. Patriarchs Bartholomew and Kirill will concelebrate in the Cathedral of the Assumption at the Lavra. The next day, on 24 May, the two patriarchs will concelebrate liturgy at the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow. There are several festivities marked on this date, the Day the Holy Spirit, which is the day after Pentecost, the commemoration of the Enlighteners of the Slavs, the brothers Ss Kirill and Mefody, which is traditionally combined with the celebration of the Days of Slavic Written Language and Culture, and the name day of Patriarch Kirill. After completing a festal Divine Liturgy, the patriarchs will attend the opening ceremony of the Days of Slavonic Literature and Culture. In the evening, the EP delegation is scheduled to attend a concert at the State Kremlin Palace. On 25 May, Patriarch Bartholomew will venerate the relics held at the Assumption Cathedral in the Kremlin. In the afternoon, Patriarch Kirill and the EP delegation shall leave for the patriarch’s residence outside Moscow in Peredelkino. The next day, 26 May, Patriarch Bartholomew will meet with Mayor Yuri Luzhkov of Moscow, and with professors and graduate students from throughout the Church, speaking on Ss Kirill and Mefody. Later on in the day, the visitors will venerate relics in Moscow churches and monasteries, and they shall visit the St Dmitri Nursing School. In the evening, the EP delegation, which mainly comprises clerics of Greek origin, will visit the Greek Ambassador to Russia, Michalis Spinellis.

Patriarch Kirill greets Patriarch Bartholomew

On the morning of 27 May, the EP delegation will meet with the Ambassador of Turkey in Russia, Halil Akıncı. Then, Patriarch Bartholomew’s entourage will depart for Transfiguration Monastery in Valaam, where he will stay until the morning of 29 May. At Valaam, the delegation will be the guests of the abbot of the monastery, Bishop Pankraty Zherdev. Patriarch Bartholomew shall arrive in Kronshtadt on 29 May, where he shall inspect the restoration work being done on the Naval Cathedral. Then, the EP delegation will visit the Hermitage, along with churches and monasteries in St Petersburg. That evening, the Metropolia of St Petersburg will hold a reception in honour of the guests from Istanbul. On the feastday of All Saints, 30 May, Patriarchs Kirill and Bartholomew will serve Divine Liturgy together at St Isaac Cathedral, and the members of the MP Holy Synod will concelebrate with them. Following this, Patriarch Bartholomew will examine the restored Holy Synod building. That evening, a reception in the honour of the EP delegation shall be held at the Catherine Palace in Tsarskoe Selo. Patriarch Bartholomew and his delegation will leave Russia and return to Istanbul on 31 May. Accompanying Patriarch Bartholomew on this trip to Russia are Metropolitans Michael Staikos of Vienna and Austria/Hungary, Irinaios Ioannidis of Myriophyton and Peristasis, Emmanuel Adamakis of Paris and all France, Secretary General of the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, and Archimandrite Elpidofor, amongst others.

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew Archontonis (1940-)

A Brief Biography of the Ecumenical Patriarch

The glory of Constantinople, which has existed since the first centuries of Christianity, is connected with the names of Ss Gregory the Theologian, John Chrysostom, and other great teachers of the Church. After the separation (отделения) of the Western church in 1054, the Patriarch of Constantinople was considered “the first in honour” in the Orthodox Church. His actual jurisdiction extends over the Orthodox population in Turkey, northern Greece, and some Aegean islands, as well as the Greek diaspora in various countries.

According to the press service of the MP, His Holiness Bartholomew Archontonis, Archbishop of Constantinople New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch, was born in 1940 on the island of Imvros in Turkey. He became the First Hierarch of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople in 1991. Earlier visits of Patriarch Bartholomew to the canonical territory of the MP were in 1993, when he went to Moscow and St Petersburg, in 1997, when he visited Odessa, in 2003, when he travelled to Baku, and he came twice in 2008, first, he went to Kiev, and then, he came to Moscow for the funeral of Patriarch Aleksei Rediger. Shortly before his death in 2008, Patriarch Aleksei went to Istanbul, where he participated in a meeting bringing together delegates from the autocephalous Local Orthodox Churches around the world. The official visit to the Ecumenical Patriarchate by the newly-elected Patriarch Kirill in July 2009, according to expert analysts, strengthened the fraternal relations between the two Local Churches. The upcoming visit of Patriarch Bartholomew to Russia, obviously, will serve to develop the unity of world Orthodoxy, experts think.

Olga Lipich

21 May 2010



Patriarchal Residence in Lukino in the dacha complex of Peredelkino, southwest of the city of Moscow

Editor’s Note:

Like all official visits, a good deal of this trip is “pressing the flesh” and “kissing babies”, ecclesiastical style. As for my opinion, I believe that the centrepiece of Bart’s and KMG’s palaver shall be in Valaam. It’s quite simple, actually. The patriarch’s summer residence in Lukino, near Peredelkino, which is part of an exclusive dacha area southwest of Moscow, is probably infested with government bugs and paid agents. After all, it IS in close proximity to Moscow, it’s 21 kilometres (@12.5 miles) by elektrichka (30 minutes), and 40 minutes from central Moscow by auto. Therefore, to ensure the maximum security for their most private conversations, they will probably save all the sensitive stuff for the Valaam stopover. It is quite easy to control access to the site, it’s probably been “swept” several times for bugs, and it would be easy to spot any newcomers or eavesdroppers. Trust me, though… the FSB boys probably have some form of listening device somewhere and they have trusted stukachi within the monastery. However, that being said, it is still the most secure site for a private conversation between Bart and KMG.

Bear this in mind… the OCA’s autocephaly is not recognised by the EP… the MP is being bothered by the EP Russians in Paris… the OCA is (stupidly) supporting the EP Parisians. One of the quid pro quos that could emerge is that the MP would trade their rescinding the Tomos of Autocephaly to the OCA in return for the EP dropping the Paris gang. It COULD happen… I’m not saying that it SHALL happen. The EP has dropped the Parisians in the past, you know, and the OCA is nothing but an expendable pawn in the Great Game…

As for the notional “Pan-Orthodox Council”… don’t hold your breath waiting for it. The “preparations” have been going on for nearly 50 years! In any case, who is going to convene it? THAT hasn’t been worked out yet… nor, to speak bluntly, shall it ever. The Chambésy talks are nothing but a chess tourney between the MP and the EP… they are used as a venue for sparring and negotiation. NO ONE TAKES THEM SERIOUSLY… NO ONE. The only people who get worked up about this windfest are pseudo-academics and their hangers-on. Most Orthodox faithful and priests don’t even know that this gabathon is taking place… they’re the wise ones, I think!



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