Could Filaret team up with Kirill against Bartholomew and OCU? Unfortunately, the option is on the table

According to the Russian Orthodox Chuhrch (ROC), the Meeting of the Primates of Orthodox Churches is set to solve two global tasks: to take over primacy of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and to address the “Ukrainian question”. But even if they succeed to condemn Bartholomew, Moscow won’t resolve the most important issue of the Ukrainian church division. Gundyaev and Alfeyev, in order to realize their evil intentions, are expected to submit at this Pan-Orthodox meeting their “canonical plan” to settle the Ukrainian church issue. The Spiritual Front of Ukraine reflects on the possible steps Moscow could take in this area.

The first and most likely step is to set up a Commission to resolve the “Ukrainian issue”, with the participation of representatives of Ecumenical Local Churches. But as history has shown, there have been several such ROC commissions, and they haven’t been able to achieve anything good over the past 30 years.

In addition, Constantinople will declare such commission, as well as the very meeting of primates, unlawful, or “non-canonical”, as the ROC slang puts it, so it will once again fail to bring any benefit to the Church.

In addition, Constantinople will declare such commission, as well as the very meeting of primates, unlawful, or “non-canonical”, as the ROC slang puts it, so it will once again fail to bring any benefit to the Church.

The second option is to grant autocephaly to the so-called “canonical” Ukrainian Church, led by Metropolitan Onufriy, and to recognize the OCU as a political project of the former Ukrainian authorities, which is “non-canonical.” This option is quite probable, but again, it will face opposition from the Ecumenical Patriarchate, since there is already an autocephalous church in Ukraine, and it’s called the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU). And in general, such an initiative could see a negative reaction on the part of participants in the Jordan meeting: by supporting such an initiative of the ROC, they would undermine the right of the Ecumenical Patriarch to grant autocephaly, thereby questioning their own autocephaly. The ROC understands that such a meeting requires strong arguments. That is why Moscow is now preparing a kind of “nuclear-bomb” argument. This, we should emphasize, is an unlikely option, although it would be bring real disaster, if put into life.

One of these “bombs” could be Honorary Patriarch Filaret, who for the past six months has been slamming criticism, in line with Russian propaganda, on the provisions of the tomos, the OCU, and the Ecumenical Patriarch. Power ambitions of the honorable Patriarch more than ever played into the hands of his opponents. In addition, the media and social networks have repeatedly pointed to Filaret’s support by pro-Russian forces.

Collaboration between Filaret and the ROC might seem unrealistic, but as the folk wisdom says, “the enemy of my enemy is…” By employing Filaret in their scheme, the ROC could strike a heavy blow to the Ecumenical Patriarchate. The thing is that Filaret took as a offense by the Ecumenical Patriarch the status he was given in the new united Church in Ukraine, while the ROC is mad at the Ecumenical Patriarch for granting autocephaly to the OCU, so their positions are the same. In addition, the ROC has a letter of formal repentance by Filaret, which he sent to Patriarch Kirill and ROC top clergy in the fall of 2017. In this letter, Filaret asked to lift his “anathema” and to establish communication between the ROC and the UOC-KP.

Potentially Filaret and the ROC are “allies” who are ready to forgive each other for their own power-oriented ambitions – that’s where the ROC and Filaret’s vectors coincide. Filaret wants to be recognized as a canonical Patriarch in active service, while Patriarch Kirill seeks to become Ecumenical Patriarch. The forthcoming Jordanian Meeting of Primates is a very good chance for both “patriarchs” to make their dreams come true.

For those who are familiar with church history, such a statement seems laughable. But it should not be forgotten that the ROC never left Filaret out of its orbit. With the start of military aggression against Russia in 2014, the ROC considered Filaret as one of the candidates to replace the then head of the UOC MP, Metropolitan Volodymyr Sabodan. To this end, a Russian official was delegated from Moscow to talk with Filaret. Filaret later confirmed this fact to one of the Ukrainian TV channels.

It is also worth mentioning that last summer, in one of his interviews, the odious cleric of the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra and Filaret’s hater Metropolitan Pavlo of UOC-MP declared that their church could accept Filaret, even returning his title to him (previously, Metropolitan Pavlo said Filaret “kissed with the devil”).

And Filaret is also mentally close to the ROC – he spent most of his life as part of it (almost 60 years, including 40 years of worship). He held high and key positions at the ROC. Metropolitan Filaret was a pro-active apologist for the ROC at that time and also supported and took an active part in the fight against Constantinople for primacy in the Orthodox world.

Once the OCU received a tomos of autocephaly, Filaret in private conversations with the clergy emphasized that the ROC was mentally closer to the Ukrainian Church than the Ecumenical Patriarch. Even in his recent interviews, Filaret criticized the OCU for introducing a “Greek tradition” into Ukrainian worship.

Filaret, we should remind, only needs one thing – to be recognized as canonical Patriarch in active service. Will the ROC take that step? They might. For Moscow, the main thing is not about Filaret becoming a recognized Patriarch or not, it’s not about the autocephaly of the Ukrainian Church, but rather about delivering a “devastating” blow at Constantinople and taking the top spot in the diptych. “The objective justifies the means,” as they say in Russia.

Therefore, Moscow only needs to forget about its pride for a while and, promising Filaret the top post in the new Church, to ensure that he flips to their side. How can this help the ROC? Forcing Filaret to repent at a “meeting in Jordan” or at least at a bishops’ council, the ROC immediately strikes a double blow to both Constantinople and the Orthodox Church of Ukraine.

Imagine if an old Patriarch Filaret actually comes to this “meeting” and says, “Forgive me, Holy Fathers, for all my schismatic actions, and accept me, the sinner.” Although Filaret wouldn’t even have to say this because Moscow already has a repentance letter draft, and all Filaret would have to do is to convene a presser and say that the letter and his signature there are valid. After all, no one would be surprised anymore if Filaret (once again) dramatically changed his views and beliefs.

In doing so, Filaret acknowledges the legitimacy of his anathema and, therefore, questions the canonical dignity of practically all OCU bishops. Filaret is rehabilitated as Metropolitan, then the ROC recalls that they had somewhere in back shelves the appeal from the UOC-MP of 1991 for granting autocephaly, and by their own scenario, i.e. with the consent of all Local Churches, they give its subsidiary autocephaly in the status of Patriarchate (it was the Kyiv Patriarchate that was mentioned in the appeal), and they proclaim themselves to be the Ecumenical Patriarchate as fighters for the purity of the Orthodox faith.

Then, given Filaret’s venerable age, he will naturally step down from the Church’s administration, only to be replaced by some Primate loyal to Moscow, who may again abandon Ukrainian autocephaly… But this is a matter of a separate story.

The options mentioned are only our assumptions. The latter of those options requires from the ROC and Patriarch Kirill some great will and spirit. In simple words, Kirill must get over themselves, while honorable Patriarch Filaret must do the same. Any decision of the “meeting” will require canonical evaluation and reception by Orthodox believers. However, any decisions of this “meeting” whatsoever are void and non-canonical, since it is set to be held in a non-canonical manner contrary to the established Orthodox Tradition.

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