Jelena Rakocevic – Specialist in Eastern Orthodox Affairs – OCP News Service – 8/6/19
On June 11, Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens and All Greece will celebrate Patriarch Bartholomew’s name day in Istanbul. Right after the celebrations, the Hierarchs’ Council of the Church of Greece shall be convened to discuss the recognition of the Autocephalous Church in Ukraine, which was established by the Ecumenical Patriarchate earlier this year.
The new Church was created in collaboration with former Ukrainian president Poroshenko and the existence of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate headed by Metropolitan Onufriy was ignored. This disrupted the ties between Constantinople and Moscow and pushed the Orthodox world to a possible historic schism. None of the Local Churches has decided to recognize the new Church yet. Now the Ecumenical Patriarch is exerting pressure on the Archbishop of Athens in order to convince him to recognize the Autocephalous Church of Ukraine, which currently witnesses a fierce conflict between its Primate Metropolitan Epiphanius and Honorary Patriarch of Kyiv Filaret; both struggling for power.
For saving his political project in Ukraine, Patriarch Bartholomew is ready to sacrifice the reputation of the Church of Greece and its relations with other Local Churches. If Athens decide to obey, the next step will be to ask the Church of Greece to recognize the FYROM Church which is in schism.
According to available information on negotiations between uncanonical Skopje hierarchs and Constantinople, Patriarch Bartholomew is forced by external political groups to eventually recognize the uncanonical FYROM hierarchy. First of all, this goal is pursued by those who want FYROM to join NATO. But what is the benefit for the Greek people and Greece?
The recognition of uncanonical organizations in Ukraine and FYROM are important for NATO’s expansion and the growth of American influence in Europe. However, a division between Greeks and Orthodox Ukrainians and Russians is not what they’d want. The recognition of the uncanonical FYROM Church is a great blow for Greek interests and can pave a way for a schism with the Church of Serbia. The first step for the recognition is holding divine services in the so-called “Macedonian dialect”. Archbishop Ieronymos understands it well.
When Archbishop Ieronymos seeks compromise in the relations between the Greek Orthodox Church and the Ecumenical Patriarchate, some say that unlike his predecessor he lacks firmness. But here is a document that shows – the Archbishop is unwavering while dealing with the issues important for the Church and Nation.
Archbishop Ieronymos’ letter No. 1308 dated March 28, 2018, addressed to Patriarch Bartholomew commented on the plea of the “Macedonian-speaking” communities of Northern Greece so that they will be allowed to hold divine services in the so-called “Macedonian language”. On behalf of the Holy Synod, the Archbishop expressed his concern and objection against the request being fulfilled. Archbishop Ieronymos called a spade a spade: the “Macedonian language” is a “new Slavic Bulgarian-Serbian dialect – a false construction designed to serve dubious political ambitions and goals”. He warned the Ecumenical Patriarch of the consequences of an “inconsiderate decision” on the issue and suggested that it should be jointly studied.
The Orthodox world can only hope that there are enough Greek hierarchs who are rational and brave as Archbishop Ieronymos to prevent the Church of Greece from getting involved in dangerous political games.
Jelena Rakocevic- OCP News Service