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Moscow’s Expansionism Is Destroying Orthodox Church Unity

In this insightful article published in the influential Washington D.C.-based Providence Magazine, Archon Evagelos Sotiropoulos describes how the actions of the Moscow Patriarchate — including its obsessive ethnophyletism and expansionism — is negatively impacting the unity of the Orthodox Church. Written before the unprovoked and unjustified invasion of Ukraine by Russia, the article discusses how autocephalous churches can respond to Moscow, including by formally recognizing the Orthodox Church in Ukraine and His Beatitude Metropolitan Epiphanios of Kyiv and all Ukraine. Archon Sotiropoulos is the editor of “The Ecumenical Patriarchate and Ukraine Autocephaly: Historical, Canonical, and Pastoral Perspectives” published by the Order of Saint Andrew, as well as the author of “Witnessing History: The Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church.”

Moscow’s Expansionism Is Destroying Orthodox Church Unity

By Evagelos Sotiropoulos

on February 17, 2022

“Appeasement,” Winston Churchill once said, “is feeding the crocodile, hoping he will eat you last.” It is this approach—one of appeasement and concession—that Orthodox primates have applied to the ecclesiastical ambitions of the Moscow Patriarchate.

While the 2019 granting of autocephaly, or self-governing status, to the Orthodox Church in Ukraine (OCU) by the Holy and Sacred Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate made intra-Orthodox tensions more public, the root cause of today’s growing disunity is decades in the making.

Moscow’s obsessive ethnophyletism and promotion of its Russkiy Mir agenda were quietly acknowledged but mostly ignored for the sake of peace. Recent Moscow aggression, however, requires a broad-based and decisive response from Orthodox hierarchs. Failure to address the Moscow Patriarchate’s expansionism will only embolden and encourage even more aggressive behavior in the future.

On December 29, 2021, Moscow’s ruling synod adopted a resolution establishing an exarchate in Africa on what is the undisputed canonical territory of the Ancient Patriarchate of Alexandria—second in order of precedence after Constantinople of the fifteen local Orthodox churches (Moscow is fifth).

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