21 January 2020, 21:33
Russian Church dismisses criticism about seeking to seize leadership of Orthodox world
Moscow, January 21, Interfax - The Moscow Patriarchate has disagreed with accusations that it was denying premiership of to the Church of Constantinople and trying to displace it in the Orthodox world.
"Indeed, there have been accusations recently from the Greek-language church about the Russian Church ostensibly denying the Patriarchate of Constantinople premiership in the Orthodox World and seeking to take its place. However, I have yet to hear a single convincing argument which would prove the fairness of these accusations," Metropolitan Hilarion, head of the Synodal Department for External Church Relations, told Interfax on Tuesday.
The way the Russian Church understands premiership in the Church and whom it recognizes as its holder can be gleaned from a document, approved by the Synod in December 2013, entitled "The position of the Moscow Patriarchate on the question of premiership in the Universal Church," he said.
"It says expressly that after the Great Schism of 1054 the premiership of honor in the Orthodox Church passed to the Patriarch of Constantinople. As a matter of fact, the Russian Church is one of the few local Churches, perhaps the only one, to have recognized Constantinople's premiership not only in words but by a special Synodal document."
The Russian church has never challenged Constantinople's premiership, the issue here is how this should be understood, the metropolitan said.
"The canonical tradition and Orthodox ecclesiology attribute the premiership of honor to the leader of the Roman church after 1054 to the Church of Constantinople. The first primate on the diptych is referred to as 'first among equals.' However, in the past 100 years the Patriarchate of Constantinople has developed a teaching about premiership, effectively emulating the Roman-Catholic model of church structure," Metropolitan Hilarion said.
In his view, this teaching is most vividly presented in an article by Metropolitan Elpidophoros (Lambriniadis), entitled "First Among Equals," which was published on the website of the Patriarchate of Constantinople. It asserts that the Patriarchate of Constantinople possesses exclusive powers which other primates neither have nor may have in principle.
"Of course, the Russian Church rejects such understanding of the 'premiership' of the Constantinople chair as one that does not correspond to the Tradition of the Church nor to the Orthodox ecclesiology. But, unfortunately, it is this understanding of premiership which prevailed in Fener and led to the intrusion in Ukraine. This resulted in our having to cut all communion with the Church of Constantinople," the Russian Orthodox Church representative said.