Paul Goble reports:
In its drive to build a tight power vertical in the Russian Orthodox Church, the Moscow Patriarchate has crossed another and dangerous line, employing for the first time the language it has traditionally used for religious sectarians to describe a Russian Orthodox prelate whose only “crime” is his refusal to subordinate himself and his flock to Moscow.
A press release from the Odessa bishopric of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, described the Orthodox community of the Synod led by Metropolitan Agafangel, who has broken with the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia now that the latter has established ties with Moscow in truly ugly ways.
The release said that “the assembly in Odessa [under Agafangel] has the very same relationship to the Orthodox Church Abroad as darkness has to light and as the devil has to Christ.” Indeed, it added, his services recall “Woland’s satanic ball in Bulgakov’s ‘Master and Margarita.’”
In its report on this May 2nd development, the Religiopolis.org portal notes that this comment is more typical of the ways that the Moscow Patriarchate describes “cult” groups than the way it has typically described Russian Orthodox groups that have so far refused to accept its supremacy. Until now, the Religiopolis.org report says, “toward the activity of such groups, the Moscow Patriarchate and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church” which is subordinate to it “had not launched an anti-religious campaign in relation to other religious communities and even more to Orthodox organizations of other jurisdictions.”
Metropolitan Agafangel’s Russian Orthodox Church Abroad “includes the community of Orthodox believers and priests who refused in October 2006 to accept the Act on Canonical Communion with the Russian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate as signed later by Metropolitan Lavrov.” Agafangel said at the time that “we have not separated from the Synod led by Metropolitan Lavrov” but that he and many other Orthodox believers abroad could not accept communion with the Moscow Patriarchate. That was too much for Lavrov whose supporters accused Agafangel of links to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.
Metropolitan Agafangel and his supporters subsequently formed a Provisional Higher Church Administration of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, which currently is supported by approximately a third of the priests and bishops of the so-called “émigré” church and which seeks to convene a fifth “all-abroad assembly” to define the future. Agafangel has expressed concerns in messages to his flock that he may be subject to physical attack from the Moscow Patriarchate because of his leadership role in this movement. The vicious commentary from the Odessa bishopric this week suggests that his fears may be all too justified.