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Russian Orthodox Church will lose Ukrainian faithful, journalist predicts

January 06, 2016

The former editor of an official Russian Orthodox journal, who was dismissed last week because of disagreements with the Moscow Patriarchate, says that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church is drawing away from Moscow.

Sergei Chapnin, the former editor of the Journal of the Moscow Patriarchate, said that his firing was “the beginning of a settling of accounts,” as Moscow’s Patriarch Kirill consolidates his control over the Russian Orthodox hierarchy.

Chapnin said that Patriarch Kirill’s strategy for growth, which has included a doubling of the number of Russian Orthodox bishops, has produced a rigid, controlled, and bureaucratic structure. In effect the Orthodox Church has become a civic religion, he said: “Orthodoxy without God.”

Years ago, then-Metropolitan Kirill recognized how the Orthodox faith had suffered from identification with the Soviet regime, Chapnin argued. But since coming to power the Patriarch has strongly supported the policies of Russia’s President Putin. “It is dangerous to mix religious and national identity,” he remarked.

In Ukraine, the Moscow Patriarchate’s support for Russia’s territorial claims has alienated many Orthodox believers, Chapnin continued. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church allied with Moscow has lost support to its rival, the independent Orthodox patriarchate of Kiev. The Russian journalist predicted that Patriarch Kirill will go down in history as the Russian Orthodox leader who lost Ukraine.

The loss of Ukrainian Orthodox dioceses and parishes would also be a major setback to Patriarch Kirill’s plans for expansion, Chapnin pointed out, since the Orthodox Church in Ukraine accounts for a large proportion of the active believers counted by the Moscow Patriarchate under its jurisdiction.

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