Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard
So much has been written about the future split in Orthodoxy. A lot has already been said about the adventurous plans of the Constantinople Patriarch Bartholomew connected to the granting of “autocephaly“ to the Ukrainian schismatics. At the same time, those who consider this to be an intra-church affair and connect it exclusively to the irrepressible ambitions of Bartholomew or the head of the Ukrainian schismatics Filaret (Denisenko) are mistaken. It is obvious that this is a project that is supervised at the level of the American government. And in recent days, which for certain will become decisive for this adventurous project, these facts become more and more obvious. And already nobody especially hides this.
The recent visit to Kiev of the scandalous Sam Brownback by itself is worth a lot. He not so long ago was literally shoved personally by the US President Donald Trump into the State Department’s staff as the “ambassador on religious freedom” (a former state governor, which Brownback once was, doesn’t often holds such posts).
Receiving him, the president of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko reported to him in detail about the course of the implementation of the “local autocephalous church” project and received full approval from the inspector from the US. And who here still speaks about it being an “intra-church affair”?
But the recent visit to the US of the head of the schismatic structure under the name “Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kiev Patriarchate”, “patriarch” Filaret (Mikhail Denisenko), became even more indicative. It is no secret that the self-proclaimed “patriarch” worked for many years on the “local church” project. And at the most critical moment when it would seem that his presence in Ukraine is especially needed by schismatics, he suddenly left for the US. And he went first of all to this same State Department — this time to the department that directly supervises the region.
It could be possible to build various theories about the purposes and reasons of Filaret’s visit to the US. But he himself unambiguously declared that he came to ask for Washington’s direct participation in the implementation of the next split project. Speaking in the office of the well-known Atlantic Council, the leader of the Ukrainian schismatics directly spoke about his aims.
“The Russian church structure that will remain in Ukraine won’t have a big influence… because it will be so small. That’s why we are grateful to the United States of America for its support for the Ecumenical Patriarch and its intention to give us Tomos of Autocephaly… We hope that the United States of America will help us to bring our church affair over the finish line,” announced Filaret.
He said only a couple of phrases – but just how substantial are they: the main objective of the adventure is frankly specified in these phrases, and they show who first of all its realisation depends on. As you can see, not only and not so much on Patriarch Bartholomew.
And the fact that Filaret urgently went to the US, where he put in such effort – unprecedented for a person of his age and state of health – testifies that he started to worry. It seems that at the finish line he realised that the project that he dedicated several decades of his life to is being prepared in such a way where he won’t be its leader. Moreover, the implementation of the project can even threaten his current position of a “patriarch” recognised by nobody.
Filaret’s speech in the Atlantic Council is indicative not only due to his scandalous and statements that contradict eachother. What’s also indicative is the fact that the very first question that he was asked in the hall sounded from the lips of the very experienced diplomat William Courtney (the former ambassador of the US in Kazakhstan and Georgia), who is nowadays working for the intelligence corporation RAND. The latter asked Filaret to his face: what will happen to the “autocephalous” project if he isn’t elected as its leader? The schismatic answered in an evasive way: “If the sobor elects me, then I won’t refuse”.
But the fact itself that RAND raised the question in this way testifies that for Washington the appointment of the odious Filaret is under big question. And taking into account that schismatics of the Kiev Patriarchate don’t yet see another candidate for the post of the leader of the “local church”, this can complicate the implementation of the Americans and Bartholomew’s project.
In general, Filaret blabbed during his speech in the Atlantic Council so many nonsenses and nasty things that the moderator of the event – the former US ambassador in Ukraine John Herbst (he, by the way, is a parishioner of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia [ROCOR], and that’s why he perfectly understands this question) – sometimes frankly stared and looked shocked. For example, when Filaret started saying that “the war helps” his cause (by the way, this isn’t the first statement he’s made where he actually eulogies war in Donbass). And when he stated that 44% of the population belongs to his “Patriarchate” and only 16% belongs to the canonical Church, in the hall completely frank snickers were heard. One might ask: why go out of your skin for the sake of only 16%?
Filaret categorically stated that a split won’t happen after “Tomos is granted”, and immediately predicted: “If the Ukrainian church is recognised, then the Moscow Patriarchate will decrease in size by half… And then the Moscow Patriarchate will be a daughter church, and the Ukrainian one will be the mother church in relation to the Russian church”.
And on top of all this, the split-inducing “patriarch” openly admitted that he actively cooperated with the KGB, which plunged Herbst sitting next to him into full despondency. I don’t know what was promised as a result to Filaret during his visit to the US, but the revelations of the schismatic (to put it mildly — not very clever revelations) hardly inspired the Americans enough to grant him the “label”. I suspect that these revelations most likely made the Americans have the opposite opinion.
It’s long been an open secret that the young Metropolitan of the Canonical church Aleksandr (Drabinko) is considered to be one of the main applicants for the throne in the future “local church”. And this is understandable when one takes into account Filaret’s odiousness in the Orthodox world and the fact that the main objective of the project after all must be a split in the church of the Moscow Patriarchate – and it is ideal for schismatics to present someone from it as their “posterboy”.
Drabinko actively lobbies the idea of a “local church” and even looks for justifications in advance for the future seizure of temples and violence that the implementation of the adventurous project will surely cause. But everyone understands: Drabinko, like many other priests, isn’t eager to opt for this project and be subordinated to Filaret. A well known supporter of “autocephaly”, Drabinko thus always kept his finger in the wind, making sometimes unimaginable somersaults in his statements. Sometimes he also lunged at schismatics in his brochures. But when the real threat of being defrocked by the church hung over him, he in general said in an interview with the then Kiev journalist Aleksandr Chalenko that he is the real author of the “theory of the Russian world”, which didn’t prevent him in recent years from lunging at the concept of the“Russian world of Putin”. In general, Drabinko is the ideal option for the Americans and Bartholomew, which, of course, can’t but worry Filaret.
And it is this that can explain the full “mistrust of the participants of the autocephalous process towards each other“, which the head of Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate metropolitan Anthony spoke about the other day. Each of them is afraid that they can be abandoned at the last minute, used and thrown out as superfluous — but at the same time everyone rubs their hands together, hoping to participate in the sharing out of church property, which they especially don’t hide.
This same Filaret directly stated in Washington that “there will be separate conflicts” during the seizure of temples, and immediately calmed the audience: apparently, the Cossacks who will protect temples “won’t be numerous enough for all of Ukraine”.
As you can see, they already divide up temples, monasteries, and lavras. In fact, they already draw on the doors of objectionable persons the markings for a future massacre — as it was on the eve of St. Bartholomew’s Day in Paris. They openly prepare, using the hands of Patriarch Bartholomew, a St. Bartholomew’s Day for Ukrainian Orthodoxy…
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