Hierarchs and leaders of Orthodox Churches around the world converged on Kiev, Ukraine to mark the July 28 (OS) Feast of St. Vladimir and to pay their respects to the beloved First Hierarch of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Volodymr on his 20th anniversary as the Head of the Orthodox in the Ukraine.
Coverage of the celebrations were marked well by both the Russian Orthodox Church and the Church in the Ukraine. Other Churches also reported on the events but not a word on it from the Orthodox Church in America. Nothing said by the OCA who sent Bishop Alexander (Golitzin) of Toledo and Archpriest Leonid “Lefty” Kishkovsky.
As already reported, the OCA was not mentioned during the commemorations during the Divine Liturgy on July 28 in Kiev led by Patriarch Kirill of Russia. Some say that such a non-commemoration could be normal since the OCA is without (another) Primate. Others have noted that in the past when the OCA was without a Primate the Locum Tenens, or temporary placeholder, was commemorated as a sign of continued recognition of that Church.
Given the very uncertain times in the OCA the oversight was not missed and we know that Bishop Alexander and Fr. Leonid went to Kiev because an invitation was originally extended to Metropolitan Jonah as Primate of the Orthodox Church in America. In the absence of a Metropolitan, Archbishop Nathaniel sent Bp Alexander the Episcopal head of the OCA Department of External Affairs and Kishkovsky, the real head of the DEA to represent the OCA.
Their trip had another purpose besides sending greetings to Moscow and Kiev, it was to try and explain the recent events in the OCA.
Because the OCA Synod went “all in” by removing Metropolitan Jonah on the grounds he was not mentally stable, it was up to Alexander and Kishkovsky to try and convince Moscow and the Ecumenical Patriarchate – also invited to the St Vladimir Day celebration – that the actions of the OCA Synod were correct and justified. It appears their efforts were not met by sympathetic ears and they failed in their diplomatic mission.
We now know what was done in public (the non-commemoration of the OCA) was equally expressed in private. Was the private dressing-down as scathing as is rumored? If so, then the entire botched ouster is only getting worse for Syosset. Did the delegation try to enlist Moscow’s help to exile Jonah deep into a remote Russian Orthodox Church monastery while still keeping him a bishop in the OCA?
We don’t know the answers to these questions but subsequent events here in the USA confirm that Moscow is not eager to help the OCA out of its messy situation. If so, then the situation is indeed desperate for Syosset.
Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev –the head of the ROC Department of External Affairs–was scheduled to celebrate the Divine Liturgy in the OCA Diocesan Cathedral of Archbishop Benjamin in San Francisco after events marking the Russian Orthodox Church’s missionary efforts in the New World at Fort Ross, California later in August. Although Hilarion will be at Fort Ross he will now not serve with Archbishop Benjamin in San Francisco as originally planned. Is this another signal of Moscow’s attitude?
The lack of OCA news on their website on the Ukraine trip can be further explained since Kishkovsky’s attempts to improve OCA relations with Constantinople made no progress in Kiev. Was a request for a meeting with Patriarch Bartholomew rejected? Was Constantinople sending a signal to the OCA? Are there more signs from Constantinople on the way?
The double whammy of witnessing the displeasure of Moscow and the cold shoulder of Constantinople in Kiev certainly makes the recent trip of Bishop Alexander and Archpriest Leonid Kishkovsky a Not So Excellent Adventure.
Church diplomacy requires that Moscow and Constantinople will be careful not to publicly interfere in the internal affairs of the OCA, but Moscow is upset and will balance her diplomatic duties with her genuine concern for how her missionary efforts in this country begun in Alaska in 1794 and symbolized at Fort Ross are now being lived out by the OCA administration.
However, we shall wait for the OCA to finally say something about the Kiev trip but you can be sure that unlike the old days, what really happened will not not be so easily nuanced away by the Syosset Spinmeisters.