Bishop Irinej of Bačka expresses his hopes for the Ukrainian issue
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Please find here below the full text of the interview given by Bishop Irinej of Bačka (Serbian Orthodox Church) to the Belgrade daily “Politika”, on September 23, 2018:

– After the decision of the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to appoint two “exarchs” in Kyiv, is the entire Orthodox world in danger, as indicated by the warning of the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church? It even seems this danger is actually already a reality, since in the same communiqué of the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church, we find the words, “the process [of autocephaly], according to the declarations of the Ecumenical Patriarch, is irreversible and will be carried on”.

– The answer is partly given in your question. Actually, for the first time in the history of the Orthodox Church, there is a real danger of a new great schism.  Not between Eastern and Western Christians this time, but among Eastern Christians themselves. If we ever come to that, and in spite of everything I hope it will not be the case, it would be the biggest and most serious schism of all the previous schisms in the history of the Church, even more quantitatively than the one that occurred in 1054, if you take into account the current number of local Orthodox Churches and the people they reach.
By the way, let me give a brief clarification on the arrival of the two “exarchs” sent by Constantinople to Kyiv. They have not been appointed there, but sent there for a time, with the concrete mission of implementing the plan of granting autocephaly to Ukrainian schismatics of all kinds. And this against the will of the legal and canonical Church in the Ukraine, the only real Orthodox Church in this country, recognized by all the Churches, beginning with the Patriarchate of Constantinople itself.
The word “exarch” has different meanings depending on the context. Here, it simply means emissary, legate, representative. In order to understand what this is about, let’s imagine the following situation: a delegation from the banks of the Bosphorus [i.e. from Phanar] comes to Skopje in order to examine the mode and procedure of granting autocephaly to the Church of this country, a Church which is in schism with all the Churches, including the Patriarchate of Constantinople. The delegation silently bypasses the canonical Church and its primate, Archbishop Jovan, namely the only one who is recognized by all, including the delegation mentioned and those who sent it.
You can imagine an even greater oxymoron: a similar delegation arrives in Cetinje, Montenegro, settles there for some time and begins to develop the procedure for granting autocephaly to Miraš Dedeić (the so-called “Metropolitan Mihailo”) and to his schismatic sect, even though the Patriarchate of Constantinople himself defrocked him  because of his canonical offenses.
In the meantime, the legal bishop, Metropolitan Amphilochios, well known in Constantinople and in the Orthodox world in general, didn’t receive any visit or greeting. But in the newspapers or on TV, he hears about this “pacifying” and “unifying” operation…
At the end of your question, you ask if the process in Kyiv is irreversible. I am aware of such statements, but I believe that in history there are no irreversible processes, even when they are completed, and even more so when they are in progress and have yet to be finalized. I repeat: my hope in God and, with the overwhelming majority of Orthodox Christians in the world, I hope that the Patriarchate of Constantinople, which is from a historical point of view the Mother of all Slavic Churches, will not cross the Rubicon and that he will place Church unity the above the “primacies” of this world, above its antagonisms, interests, and influences.

– Will the Serbian Orthodox Church take side in regards to these events and decisions related to the Ukraine? Many media are already “bidding” about which side the Serbian Church will choose: Moscow or Constantinople…

– Media outbidding is meaningless. The Serbian Orthodox Church does not accept the existence of two different orthodoxies that are moreover in bad terms with each other, one “for the Phanar” and the other “for Moscow”. We believe in the Church of Christ which is One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic. We do all we can in the service of the unity of the Church, namely for peace and love between local Churches. We are determined by the predominant voice in politics, ideology, and so-called interests. In short: we are not for Moscow, but for the full respect of the centuries-old canonical order. And we are not against Constantinople, but against any initiative that, regardless of good intentions, would certainly cause earthquakes and divisions more serious than those we already have. Our goal is to chase forever the evil spirit from our House, in which he settled without having been invited and plans to install seven worse spirits in it (cf. Matthew 12:43-45 and Luc 9:24-26).

– The Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church is calling the primates of local Orthodox Churches to initiate a pan-Orthodox fraternal discussion on the church situation in the Ukraine. How feasible is that? Is the Serbian Orthodox Church considering doing it? Are you in contact with other local Orthodox Churches on this issue?

– A Pan-orthodox consultation on this issue is not possible, because such a meeting should be convened by the ecumenical patriarch, as the primate of the first Church according to honor and rank.
And he now argues that he alone has the right, with only his Synod, and without the participation of the other sister Churches, to settle problems anywhere in Orthodoxy, regardless of the jurisdiction and positions of the autocephalous Churches. Personally, I am convinced that his claim will not be accepted by any Orthodox Church at all).
In my opinion, such a consultation is not even useful, as all the Orthodox patriarchs and synods, and even the general public in the Orthodox world, know what this is all about, both on the basis of official interviews with the delegations of the Patriarchate of Constantinople and of Moscow, and on the basis of information accessible to all.

– If non-canonical ecclesiastical structures in the Ukraine receive autocephaly in this way, could something similar happen in Macedonia, where there is also a canonical church and other unrecognized structures?

– If this happens in the Ukraine (and it cannot happen but with unimaginable consequences), it will happen not only in Macedonia (I believe they now call themselves “Northern Macedonia” ), but also in Montenegro, in Abkhazia, and wherever there are promoters and implementers of these ideas, perhaps even in Greece. I pray to God and call your Orthodox readers to pray that He will save us from such an ordeal.

Source in Serbian

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About the Author

Emma Cazabonne

Emma Cazabonne

Emma Cazabonne was born and raised in France. She taught English before entering the Cistercian Order. She translated and published articles relevant to her interest in Cistercian spirituality, the Middle Ages, and Orthodoxy. She moved to the United States in 2001, converted to Orthodoxy in 2008, and married. Her husband is an Orthodox priest. She continued to publish articles, a Cistercian texts anthology, then finally launched her career in literary translation, while teaching French. If you are interested in having your book translated into French, she can be contacted here Newsletter

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