- Jul 2011
Armenia’s top religious official has been dragged into a feud between the Russian and Ukrainian churches and appears to have sided with Russia.
Catholicos of All Armenians Karekin II was consecrating a new Armenian church in Novosibirsk, Russia, made from Armenia’s trademark pink tuff stone, when he was asked about the schism that has rocked the Orthodox Christian world. In October, the Russian Orthodox Church announced that it was cutting ties with the Constantinople Patriarchate, following the latter's declaration of support for an independent Ukrainian church.
The Armenian church is not part of the Constantinople Patriarchate and does not have a direct stake in the conflict, unlike many of the other national Orthodox churches that are being forced to take sides in the dispute. Karekin nevertheless weighed in.
“The Armenian Apostolic Church is a supporter of canonicity. And in this regard, one can never welcome steps that are aimed towards division, dismemberment of the church,” Karekin said at the November 19 ceremony.
Both Russians and Ukrainians interpreted that as a vote of support for Moscow. And some Ukrainians said it was a manifestation of Yerevan’s pro-Russia foreign policy. "It’s not the Catholicos of All Armenians who speaks here, but the Kremlin,” analyst Andriy Datsiuk told the Ukrainian TV network Priamyi. “Because today Armenia is politically, economically and militarily dependent on the Russian Federation. Therefore, whatever they say, the statement is dictated by political motives.”
But one senior Ukrainian church official denied that Karekin had taken a side in the dispute. “Some understood the statement as condemnation of the provision of the Tomos to Ukraine. Where did you see any note regarding Tomos in the statement of Karekin II?,” said Archbishop Yevstratiy, a spokesman for the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate, referring to the official granting of autonomy, or autocephaly, to the Ukrainian church.
He added that the Armenian church – the first official church in the world, after Armenia adopted Christianity in 301 – had no direct relation to the Ukrainian or Russian churches. And he blamed Ukrainian journalists for mistakenly reporting the story by following Russians’ lead.
Karekin and other church officials, meanwhile, failed to clarify the church’s official position, and Armenian media have left the story alone.
The Ukrainians can make wishful noises all they want.
But the fact is Karekin will never go against the Kremlin, period
Number one reason being, there are, today, probably more Armenians in Russia, now, than in Armenia itself lol
Just in 2013, Karekin and his local Bishops and Kirill consecrated together the world's largest Armenian cathedral and spiritual complex... in Moscow
There are plenty of wealthy Armenians there, in Moscow, including my own dear uncle, who business (and general well being, frankly) depend on the Armenian government NOT pissing off Putin...
Armenia hosts Russian troops
Russia essentially guarantees Armenia's security against both neighboring Azerbaijan and, by extension, Turkey...
Armenian troops participate in a military parade on Red Square
This year, they've integrated their air defenses too: Russia, Armenia Agree on Integrated Regional Air Defense System for Collective Security
Armenia is also a member of both CSTO and EEU.
In short, Armenia is tied up to Russia in every way, they would never go against Moscow, period.
So, both the governments and the churches will stand together for foreseeable future
Monument to the Holy Brotherhood of the Armenian and Russian Churches at that new cathedral in Moscow
That's just the way it is...
Georgian Patriarch Ilia II, center, at a worship service on October 14. Ilia and the church are being forced to take sides in a dispute between the Ukrainian and Russian Orthodox Churches. (photo: patriarchate.ge)
As the Orthodox world is bracing for its biggest schism in a millennium over a dispute between Russia and Ukraine, the Georgian Orthodox Church is weighing its response.
On October 15, the Russian Orthodox Church announced that it is cutting ties with the Constantinople Patriarchate, following the latter's declaration of support for an independent Ukrainian church. The rift threatens a larger conflict within the Orthodox world, as other national churches – Greek, Serbian, Bulgarian, and Georgian, among others – are being forced to take sides.
Thus far, the Georgian church – the most pro-Russia institution in a heavily anti-Russian country – is keeping quiet.
“We need more time to discuss the arguments of the Russian Orthodox Church, after which the Georgian Orthodox Church will announce its position,” church spokesman Mikhail Botkoveli said following Russian church's announcement, reported RFE/RL.
The lobbying on both sides has been strong. “They [the Georgians] must support us because we are Orthodox Christians – as are they. I don’t see a reason why we shouldn’t be together. Russia attacked both Georgia and Ukraine. We equally suffer and we must pray together. We believe that the Georgian church will join us in this prayer,” Ukrainian Patriarch Filaret told TV channel Rustavi 2.
The chairman of Ukraine's parliament, Andriy Parubiy, visited Tbilisi on October 5, and met with Georgian Patriarch Ilia II. Afterwards, he said he had gotten Ilia's blessing for Ukraine's attempt to break free of the Russian church. “We had a long conversation about the path of autocephaly. He [Patriarch Ilia II] says that this is not an easy path, but he hopes that this path will be passed, and the decision will be positive,” Parubiy said.
The Georgian church, however, said Parubiy had gotten ahead of himself. "The information that the Georgian Orthodox Church allegedly recognized the Ukrainian Church’s autocephaly is not true,” the church said in an October 8 statement. "The Georgian Orthodox Church’s stance on providing autocephaly to the Ukrainian Church has remained unchanged … Until the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Russian Orthodox Church make public their final positions based on the canonical church norms, the Georgian Patriarchate will refrain from assessments and comments on the issue.”
Internally, the Georgian church appears divided.
Some Georgian church officials have come out in favor of Ukraine. “Ukraine is a big country, and of course it has the right to demand autocephaly,” said one influential official, Chorepiscopus Yakob. “But if the Ukrainian church is granted autocephaly, the process could continue in a domino effect.”
But another senior official, Mitropolit Alania, deferred to the Russian church: “First, the mother church should recognize the autocephaly of the Ukrainian church,” he said. “In this case this is the Russian church. If it recognizes it, then of course the rest of churches will recognize it as well.”
One factor in the Georgian church's decision will be the effect on the Abkhazian Orthodox Church, which was formed in 2009 after the Sukhumi-Abkhazian Eparchy declared in 2009 that it was independent of the Georgian church. The Russian Orthodox Church has offered its support to the Georgian church in repairing that schism; the Russians' views could be expected to change if their Georgian counterparts formally support Ukraine.
But one Georgian theologian, Beka Mindiashvili, told JAMnews that Russia already effectively controlled the Abkhazian church, making that autocephaly battle effectively irrelevant.
“The Georgian church does not remember that it was enslaved in the same way by the Russian Empire, at first through the church, and later through the KGB. The patriarchate is betraying the biblical principle of ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you’,” Mindiashvili said.
Georgia is much closer to Europe and America these days and has far less ties to Russia, than Armenia, yet their Church also hesitates to openly challenge Moscow for some similar reasons: they also have a big ethnic Georgian diaspora in Russia, hundreds of thousands of people, between 200,000 by official Census and four times as much by unofficial estimates that include undocumented immigrants and such.
And they remember what happened the last time Georgia got into a big conflict with Russia, in 2008: Russian Georgians suffered for it. The media whipped up an anti-Georgian hysteria to the point that ethnic Georgians got fired from jobs, people boycotted Georgian-owned businesses, ethnic Georgian kids were bullied at school by Russian classmates and interrogated and spied on by teachers (some whose families were suspected by the teachers of sympathies with the Georgian government were actually reported to the authorities!)
Hell, Anna Chakvetazde, a famous Russian-Georgian tennis player, now a commentator
who was born in Moscow, to a Russian mother and Georgian father, who had never been to Georgia, nor speaks Georgian, was actually kicked out, at that time, of her training base (she was still playing actively then), for, basically, her Georgian name and blood, even if nobody officially said so...
Some even also boycotted Bolshoi Ballet back then, because their greatest male star at the time was also a Russian Georgian, Nikolai Tsiskaridze!
Well, the two countries are now more or less at peace again, the hostility has died down years ago, certainly both Chakvetadze and Tsiskaridze have got all their fans back and are doing fine now, though the latter is no longer with Bolshoi but running own ballet company now.
Many Russians also again vacation in Georgia now, which brings much money to their economy
All is good, for now, in other words. But, 2008 could easily happen again...
So, anyhow, yeah, that's the news, so far, on this.
Serbian Church 'Doesn't Recognize' Ukrainian Churches' Leaders Seeking Moscow Split
Of course Serbia will support Russia on this, not only out of brotherly loyalty, but they, as mentioned there, got own similar issues in Macedonia and Montenegro: Will Macedonia's Orthodox Church Also Break Away?
The Czech-Slovak Orthodox Church, who are fairly tight with Moscow, has also issued a statement in support of the pro-Russian Ukrainian Church: “We prayerfully support the Ukrainian Church headed by Met. Onuphry”—Met. Rastislav of Czech Lands and Slovakia
The Polish Orthodox Church backs Russia also:
Church of Poland reportedly rejects Constantinople’s rehabilitation of schismatics
Polish Church publishes official statement: forbids clergy from communion with Constantinople’s Ukrainian schismatics
Meanwhile, the aforementioned pro-Russian Ukrainian Church also cut off relations with Patriarch Bartholomew and Constantinople: Ukrainian Orthodox Church severed ties with Constantinople | Russian news EN