10 January 2019, The Tablet

The dangers of schism: the new Cold War within Orthodoxy


 

Religion and nationalism can be a dangerous combination. Western Christianity therefore should react cautiously to the drastic breach between the Ukrainian and Russian Orthodox Churches. It culminated with the propagation on the Orthodox Christmas Day of a decree, or tomos, which confirmed the autocephalous status of the Ukrainian Church. It thus became independent from the jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate, which governs the Russian Orthodox Church. So both Ukrainian and Russian nationalism have thereby gained a new cause célèbre – if not yet a new casus belli – in a region of the world that is already trigger-happy.

It is certainly a blow to President Vladimir Putin’s desire to re-establish Russian hegemony over the states on his borders. For all its denials to the contrary, the Moscow Patriarchate shows every indication of operating in accordance with the strategic aims of the Kremlin, and that includes trying to pull the Ukraine away from the sphere of influence of the European Union and Nato.

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