Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew blasted what he called the “pan-Slavism” of the Russian Church under the leadership of Patriarch Kirill of Moscow in a wide-ranging speech last week in Abu Dhabi.
Speaking at the “World Policy Conference – For a Reasonably Open World”, Bartholomew condemned the support the Russian Orthodox Church offers to President Putin over the invasion of Ukraine.
The Ecumenical Patriarch criticized the role of the Russian Church over the last centuries and especially from the 19th century onwards when “in combination with the doctrine of pan-Slavism, it instrumentalized religious sentiment to achieve political and military purposes alien to the Church.”
Russia wanted to submit the church to its will in its effort to instrumentalize the religious feeling for its political and military ends, he said.
“From the capture of Constantinople by the Ottomans in 1453, Moscow aspired to replace the Ecumenical Patriarchate by proclaiming that Moscow represented ‘the third Rome’. This long-lasting policy of Moscow constitutes a fundamental factor of the division of the Orthodox world,” Bartholomew opined.
Bartholomew: Russian Church instrumentalizes religion
From the 19th century, Moscow instrumentalized religion he added. “Inspired by Pan-Germanism, the new ideology of Pan-Slavism, an organ of Russian foreign policy, acquired a religious component. This is the idea that churches should organize themselves according to the principle of ethnicity, the central marker of which would be language.
“It is this approach that the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople denounced in 1872 as heresy (the heresy of ethnophyletism, a form of ecclesial racism). It is in flagrant contradiction with the universalism of the Gospel message, as well as the principle of territorial governance which defines the organization of our church,” Bartholomew said.
He stressed that following the collapse of Communism, Russia used religion again for ideological purposes. The Russian Orthodox Church has sided with the regime of President Vladimir Putin, especially since the election of Patriarch Kirill in 2009.
“It actively participates in the promotion of the ideology of Rousskii Mir, of the Russian world, according to which language and religion make it possible to define a coherent whole encompassing Russia, Ukraine, Belarus as well as the other territories of the former Soviet Union and the diaspora.
By Tasos Kokkinidis.