Is the Tail Wagging the Dog?

Recently, it has come to my attention that regarding the internecine Constantinople/Moscow rivalry (which is coming to a head in Ukraine), we were too quick to criticize the State Department and other Western actors. That is to say that it was the West which backed the Ecumenical Patriarchate into a corner and forced it to interfere in an uncanonical fashion in Ukraine.

To be honest, it never occurred to Yours Truly that the arrow of causation was not from Washington to Istanbul but perhaps the other way around.

Gail Sheppard, one of our most trusted researchers, decided to do some searching in the Wikileaks trove of archives. The results were stunning. Below are just a fraction of Wikileaks documents going all the way back to 2004. From what we can read for ourselves, the present Ecumenical Patriarch has long worried about Russia and its growing influence in the Orthodox world. Particularly galling was the whole “Third Rome” narrative that was gaining traction, to the detriment of Constantinople which was the Second Rome.

Of particular interest is item #7 below, in which we are reminded that the United States heavily pressured Patriarch Bartholomew to not accept Fidel Castro’s invitation to open up a cathedral in Havana. Bartholomew went anyway in violation of the State Department’s express wishes.

The United States subtly rebuked Bartholomew a year later when the newly-elected President Obama refused to visit him at the Phanar. The EP was allowed to visit the American President at his hotel room in Istanbul instead, a diplomatic humiliation of sorts. Regardless, the EP carefully bided his time and carefully laid plans to finally make a grand play for Ukraine, striking a blow as it were, into the very heart of the Russian Church’s growing hegemony.

This, of course, is one way of looking at things as they are currently playing out in Ukraine. On the other hand, the optics of this entire rivalry as it is presently unfolding vindicate the prior view. That is to say that it is the State Department which holds the whip hand. There are various reasons proffered, mainly that the EP is being forced by circumstances to interfere in Ukraine because of criminal malfeasance perpetrated by high-level officials in the GOA. Word on the street is that the Department of Justice will “look the other way” when it comes to prosecuting those involved in fraud and embezzlement.

At the end of the day, however, we cannot overlook the fact that the present EP’s end game has not been Ukraine per se but to heal the Great Schism between Latin West and Greek East. Ukraine is the bridge which will allow the long-coveted unia to take place. This could not happen under the auspices of the current Metropolitan of Kiev, Onuphriy, who sits on the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church. The only way forward, therefore, was to deconstruct the present canonical Ukrainian Church and replace it with a more agreeable anti-Russian ecclesial structure, even if it is headed by a “metropolitan” of dubious ordination. And who may be compromised as well.

In any event, Your Truly thanks Gail for her diligent research. More to follow in due time.


G. HAVANA 1227
I. 03 ISTANBUL 760

Classified By: Consul General David Arnett for Reasons 1.4 (b&d)

1. (sbu) Summary: In addition to the struggle to maintain
Istanbul as a viable seat for the Ecumenical Patriarchate,
Bartholomew faces a rising challenge for moral and
ecclesiastical authority within the Orthodox world from
Moscow-based Russian Patriarch Alexy II. End Summary.

2. (sbu) Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the first among
equals among Orthodox leaders worldwide, faces two challenges
that, left unresolved, threaten the very future of this
venerable, 1500-year old institution. The first is the
viability of Istanbul as a patriarchal seat. The Patriarch
traces his religious authority back to when Istanbul (then
Constantinople) was the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire
and Christianity was adopted as the state religion. Today,
however, the Patriarch’s once-vibrant flock of millions of
Greek Orthodox has fled (less than 3,000 remain) the
trappings of its historical legacy, including the Hagia
Sophia (the physical seat of the Patriarchate for almost a
millennium but now a museum), and the Halki Seminary (where
several generations of Orthodox priests were trained), and
countless other properties have been expropriated or shut
down. Patriarchate officials tell us that unless they reopen
the seminary, regain properties, and break free from the
burden of Turkish regulations (particularly the requirement
that the Patriarch be a Turkish citizen), the institution
will die along with the last dozen or so of its surviving
septuagenarian Metropolitans (see refs a-d and previous
cables for reporting on these issues).

3. (sbu) Even assuming that the Patriarch can secure the
viability of its Istanbul seat, however, Bartholomew faces
another major challenge from Moscow-based Russian Patriarch
Alexy II for ecclesiastical authority in the wider Orthodox
world. Styling itself as the “Third Rome,” Moscow claims
that it assumed authority within the Orthodox community
beginning in the 15th century with the fall of
Constantinople, the Byzantine Empire, and much of the
Orthodox Balkans to the Ottoman Muslims and the subsequent
elevation of Metropolitan Job of Moscow to the rank of
Patriarch. Although temporarily suspended by the Soviet
regime’s oppression of the Russian Orthodox Church for much
of the 20th century, the Moscow church’s efforts to extend
its influence beyond its geographic jurisdiction have
continued unabated. With abundant sources of income among
its vibrant community of over 100 million faithful, three
seminaries in which to train new generations of clergy, and
open political support from the Russian government, Alexy is
well-placed to challenge Bartholomew on a number of fronts.

Shot Across the Bow: Estonia
4. (sbu) The first open dispute between Moscow and Istanbul
in recent years was over Estonia, where 50,000 Orthodox
Christians, mostly Russians, make their home. Although the
Estonian Church had placed itself under the jurisdiction of
the Istanbul-based Ecumenical Patriarch during its brief
independence from Russia between 1923 and 1944, Moscow had
since reasserted its control. After regaining independence
in 1991, at the request of Estonian Orthodox activists, and
with the approval of the Estonian government, Bartholomew
reasserted his jurisdiction over the Orthodox community and
installed an Archbishop in 1996. Alexy, who had previously
served himself as the Metropolitan for Estonia during the
later Soviet period, responded by temporarily severing formal
ties, or in Church parlance, “breaking communion” with
Bartholomew. After months of negotiation, both sides agreed
to allow the Estonians to choose for themselves (most
parishes chose Bartholomew, but most of the Russian Orthodox
population remains loyal to Moscow).

Struggle for the Heartland: Ukraine
5. (sbu) Looming large in comparison to the skirmish for
influence over Estonia is the impending struggle for the
loyalty of 40 million Ukrainian Orthodox faithful in Ukraine,
the original heartland of Eastern Slavic Orthodoxy.
Ukrainian Orthodox Christians are currently divided. The
Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP)
has the most parishes, followed by the Ukrainian Orthodox
Church of the Kyivan Patriarchate (UOC-KP), and the Ukrainian
Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC). Poll suggests,
however, that most of the population is loyal to the smaller
UOC-KP. (Note: In addition some 5 million Ukrainians
identify themselves as members of the Ukrainian Eastern-Rite
Catholic church, a church that is loyal to Pope John Paul II
in Rome, but continues to maintain Orthodox traditions (the
existence of these churches remains a major source of
friction between the Orthodox and Catholics Churches, see refs

6. (sbu)The UOC-KP and the UAOC have appealed to Bartholomew
to help unite the fragmented Ukrainian Church and help it
obtain independence from Moscow. Motivated by a combination
of altruism and a desire to regain authority assumed by
Moscow in the 17th century (but never recognized by
Istanbul), Bartholomew has dispatched envoys to mediate
between the various Churches. Moscow, meanwhile, is
reluctant to surrender its authority over a jurisdiction
which includes as many as a quarter of its total parishes and
has provided up to two-thirds of its clergy. Bartholomew’s
point-man on this issue, Metropolitan Meliton of
Philadelphia, the Secretary of the Holy Synod of the
Ecumenical Patriarchate, told poloff that the negotiation
process will likely take years, but that he hopes some
formula can be found whereby a unified Ukrainian Church is
granted autocephalous status under Istanbul, perhaps with an
understanding that Moscow will select or vet the appointments
of the senior-most clergy.

Orthodox in Havana?
7. (sbu) The most recent chapter in this ongoing rivalry took
place far from Moscow and Istanbul earlier this year in
Havana, Cuba. In a deliberate snub to his former superpower
patron, Fidel Castro offered to donate a church to the
Ecumenical Patriarchate and invited Bartholomew to visit to
celebrate the occasion. Despite considerable pressure from
the U.S. government (and this Consulate) to refuse the
invitation, Bartholomew told us that his ongoing struggle
with Alexy for influence in the Orthodox world compelled him
to accept; if he refused, Castro would simply offer the
Church to Alexy instead. Despite the small size of the
Orthodox community and the likely prospect that Castro would
seek to manipulate the visit to his own advantage,
Bartholomew visited in January, spent four days with Castro,
and gladly accepted the new church (see ref g-h).

Worldwide Battle for Hearts and Souls
8. (c) The Russian Patriarchate has not confined its ambitions to its immediate neighbors and one-time client states. In a much more conciliatory fashion, Moscow has
reached out to Orthodox communities in Western Europe, the
United States, and, most recently, in Asia. The Russian
Orthodox Church has long had a presence in Western Europe,
but has moved to open new churches and parishes throughout the region. Last year, Alexy wrote to several Orthodox
Bishops in Europe offering them more autonomy if they were to
forsake Constantinople’s authority for his own (ref i) and
has opened new churches throughout Europe. According to
Metropolitan Meliton, Moscow’s established dioceses in
Austria, Belgium, France, Great Britain, Germany, Hungary,
and the Netherlands are in direct violation of the Ecumenical
Patriarchate’s authority. Metropolitan Meliton told poloff
that he is also increasingly alarmed by similar moves into
India, Japan, Korea, Singapore, Australia, and even the
Seychelles. The Patriarchate believes that these
expansionary efforts have the full support of the Russian
government. As Bartholomew himself told the CG earlier this
year, “the Russians constantly pursue political ends through
religion.” Meliton told poloff that he has heard reports
that the Russian Foreign Ministry had concluded an agreement
with Alexy to allow the Russian Orthodox Church to open
chapels in its Embassies and Consulates around the world.
Meliton even expects Russian President Putin, who postponed
an official trip to Turkey earlier this month, to petition
the Turkish government for permission to open one or more of
their own churches under the very nose of the Ecumenical
Patriarchate (Note: Currently, Bartholomew permits Russian
priests to perform services in churches under his control,
but the Russians have long sought their own churches).

9. (sbu) Although these venerable religious institutions are
primarily engaged in providing spiritual services and
guidance to millions of devoted followers, much of their
institutional tension and international rivalries center on
more mundane issues, such as possession of churches and
control of territory. As recently as mid-August,
Metropolitan Meliton and Metropolitan Demetrios of America
traveled to Jerusalem in an effot to resolve a dispute over
control of soe arihe in Caifonia. The fact that the
Patriarchate spends considerable time on such issues is an
indication that t clearly sees its very survival as
depending ona successful defense of its canonical privileges
and moral authority in the Orthodox world.

10 (c) This rivalry may also have unfortunate implicaions
for the Patriarchate’s continuing efforts t secure its
status here in Istanbul. Erol Muterimler, an influential
academic, suggested to us ecently that resistance among the
Turkish militay and bureaucracy to acknowledging the
Patriarch’ ecumenical status nd eopening the Halki
seminry ay ste from desir to move closer to Russiaand
aoid an involement in what they see as a roxy rivalry
between Washington and Moscow. A psitive Turkish response
to a Putin request for Rusian churches to be opened in
Turkey (see para 7 might be an indication that such thinking
has sme currency in Ankara.

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Visit Con-Gen Istanbul’s Classified Website:

You can also access this site through the State Department’s
Classified SIPRNET website.
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  1. Constantinos says

    Dear Gail,
    Thank you for all the research and hard work you do. Your contributions to our learning are vast. I find these shenanigans to be detrimental to my walk with the Lord. How can I honestly say that I am the “worst of sinners” when these people are 100,000 times worse than I could ever dream of being? They sin more in a day than most of us do in ten years. Not to be overly pessimistic, but this strikes me as the death knell of Orthodoxy in America. Who would ever want to convert to Orthodoxy with all this going on? I guess it’s too much to ask for character and integrity from the Ecumenical Patriarch.
    Gail, this isn’t any criticism directed toward you. On the contrary, there is nothing worse than burying one’s head in the sand. I’m truly disgusted with the malfeasance of the Ecumenical Patriarch. Yes, I believe he belongs in a US prison for the rest of his pathetic life. Thank you again, Gail, for your extensive research and discovering the truth.
    Gail, George has stated that the Ecumenical Patriarch wants to join forces with Rome. Why would he want to be subservient to the Pope when he already has aspirations to become the Eastern Pope? It seems like a megalomaniac like him couldn’t stand playing second fiddle to anyone. Thank you.

    • Fr. Philip (Speranza) says

      Dear Constantinos,

      You ask how you can call yourself “‘the worst of sinners’ when these people are 100,000 times worse than I could ever dream of being.” The answer lies in the Parable of the Publican and the Pharisee. The Pharisee looks around and sees everyone except himself as a sinner. The publican looks into his relationship with God and, in that two-person universe, sees only one sinner. Contrary to our English translations, the Greek text actually has the publican praying “God, be merciful to me, THE sinner.” Whether other people are objectively better or worse than I in moral terms is irrelevant to my salvation, because this isn’t some sort of competition. Augustine of Hippo said that “God loves each one of us as if there were only one of us to love.” The corollary is that God deals with us and judges us individually and without reference to other people, as if there were only us to deal with and judge. In the universe composed only of you and God, you are not only the worst sinner; you are the only sinner. Same goes for me and for everybody else.

      • In the context of spiritual warfare, humility is the simple act that you are no match for temptation served up by demons and the devil, served up and aided by the world and flesh. It’s admitting your total dependence on God’s enabling power to resist sin. God’s Grace will follow.

        Saint Paul suffered an on going bodily spiritual attack, a thorn in the flesh, to keep him from becoming conceited. He knew how to cast out demons, with others, and yet did not perform self-deliverence. Instead he asked God to remove the thorn-in the flesh, and was told,”My Grace is sufficient for you.” Paul humbly submitted and replied.”When I am weak, then I am strong.”(2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

        Pride is natural to all humans and fallen angels. True humility will surprise everyone, especially yourself. After which, then open your eyes and watch the enemy flee.

        • Constantinos says

          Peter M,
          I lack humility in many ways. First of all, I’m very conceited. I don’t say conceited things; I just think them. I’m also afflicted with deep skepticism, and cynicism. The first thing I do when I meet someone is look for their weaknesses, and their ulterior motives. Perhaps, it’s from my guilty pleasure of watching ID, and Dateline.
          I’m also extremely manipulative. I use tactics on people. For example, I always say to someone ” It’s good to see you,” whether I really mean it or not. I also flirt with women constantly unless I know they are married. I mean my flirtation is really bad. On Facebook, I sent a private message to a woman I’ve known since I was nineteen and had a relationship with for a long time,” I was looking at some of your pictures, and all I can say is Wow! You’re still the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen. Poets could write a million words about your radiant beauty.” I meant it, but I knew the effect it would have on her. She was flattered beyond belief. Her big weakness is she is very pouty when she is angry.
          I have always suffered from OCD to the point it drives me crazy some times. My whole family suffers from this affliction. My grandfather’s grandfather would stand on a chair when he put his pants on. If I see anything out of place or crooked, it drives me crazy. One of my brothers would irk me when I was growing up because after I used the bathroom, he would flip the light switch on with a toothbrush if he had to use it after me. I’m addicted to chocolate and nuts. Okay, now that I’ve told you my good points…..

        • Alitheia1875 says

          Without humility none of the virtues are attainable.

      • Constantinos says

        Thank you Father Speranza,
        Your post makes eminently good sense to me. I appreciate it.

  2. Fascinating.

    Thanks to Gail!

    It seems as if the dogs of war have already been unleashed and the battles have only seemed subdued on the surface. This actually brings me some comfort. I knew Bartholomew was waging war as fiercely as he dared. What seems to be the case from the excerpts is that Moscow is aware of this and has declared full war in return. The impression I have had in the past is that Moscow just worked to expand the Church and since the result offends the Phanar’s Hellenistic sensibilities, they lose it and do stupid things.

    But there is more afoot here. Of course, we must reject the Phanar’s claims of near universal jurisdiction which cause it to bristle at the expansion of the ROC. However, lulling other communities over to the ROC is a different matter, if that part of the information is true. But it is hard to say since the sources (ex: Met. Meliton) are so hopelessly biased. Don’t get me wrong. Russia would be justified in moving to get Ankara to shut down the CP in Turkey. Constantinople’s actions have been consistently egregious and arrogant for many decades.

    What is tragic is that petty jealousy divides the two. Constantinople is hopelessly jealous of the ROC’s status in Russia and international presence in as much as it represents half or more of world Orthodoxy. That is poison to the Greeks in the Phanar. It should be them.

    Pride cometh before a fall.

  3. anonimus per Scorilo says

    Come on, the writers of these wikileaks are just incompetent state department employees, who cannot even check on Wikipedia that the Russian Orthodox Church has way more than

    three seminaries in which to train new generations of clergy


  4. John Sakelaris says

    The relatively small Orthodox Christian presence in the US consists mostly of members of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. Some of the Greek Archdiocese are converts (God bless them), but most of their members still have a family connection to the two significant waves of Greek immigration to the US, in 1890-1921 and 1945-1965. Other Orthodox jurisdictions in the US are small by comparison. This fact must be faced by the people commenting on this board.

    It seems to me that so far the Greek Archdiocese clergy have either stayed out of the Constantinople-Russia fuss or they have been somewhat supportive of the Constantinople Patriarch. And the laity in these churches is mostly unaware or uninterested in this matter.

    Oh, sure, we can criticize members of the Greek Orthodox parishes for being sometimes too interested in their ethic connection to Greece and that indeed is a valid criticism. But real Christianity is nevertheless preached in these churches.

    Correct me if I am wrong, but I have the definite impression that most of the folks commenting on here would like to see an end to the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Amrica, with its people moving to parishes in the Orthodox Church of America. Certainly, a small number of individual Greek Americans have already made that move, George Michalopulos being among them.

    But although some of the remaining members of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese do criticize their leadership these days over some other matters, I just do not see them changing parishes in significant numbers, nor do I see any move among them to switch their parish’s affiliations to that of the Orthodox Church in America. They are not dumb people, but they are not likely to be moved by any of the legal arguments made on here about autocephaly. That is the reality that must be accepted by this blog’s participants.

    • Constantinos says

      Dear John,
      Do you ever read Orthodox Christian Laity? They are overwhelmingly comprised of Greek Orthodox Christians and their only raison d’etre is one autocephalous American Orthodox Church. We need to break the Ecumenical Patriarch’s spine.
      One thing I can’t stand is this whole hyphenated American crap. We’ve got Greek Americans, Asian Americans, African Americans, etc. My first and only loyalty is to the United States of America. I’m not a Greek American; I’m an American, period.

      • John Sakelaris says

        Yes, I monitor the Orthodox Christian Laity site. They present a variety of views.

        However, my point about the bulk of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese members in the US remains valid. Most of them are not interested in these matters at this time. Maybe they should become interested, but please be careful about your language and attitude. Saying that “we need to break the Ecumenical Patriarch’s spine” will not be the best way to begin communication.

    • For many of us still technically members of GOA parishes, this latest schism-creating activity of Bartholomew may we’ll be the last straw. At least for people who care about the canons and the proper relations between Orthodox Churches. For many more of us, it started long earlier and is a gradual process.
      For our family it started about five years ago on the Feast if the Dormition. During his sermon our GOA priest described the beautiful funeral of the Theotokos in Jerusalem. Then he said, “but of course every good story has its bad apples. The evil people who want to ruin things. And of course, in this story, it was the Jews.” His sermon was more a polemic against Jews than explaining the brilliance of the Church’s theology for this feast. Things were set in stone a few weeks later when we took a large amount of food to the food pantry. A Church employee quietly told us we should take it to Catholic Charities because the parish council regularly helped themselves to anything left that cost more than a few dollars. Is this a Church that anyone believes is Christ filled and truly wants to be a part of? Or do we remain because it’s our parents church and grandparents church?
      The GOA will die on its own as more people see and feel the lack of Christ in its midst. I hope those people find other branches of Orthodoxy. We have a beautiful authentic ancient faith. The GOA has traded that for filthy lucre.

      • Greatly Saddened says

        In my humble opinion and as time passes. I continue to sense the true lack of “Christ” in the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. How unfortunate and extremely sad!

        Christ, has been, is, and always will be the head of the Church. No matter what!

        • Greatly Saddened: “Christ, has been, is, and always will be the head of the Church.”

          Are you saying that we do not need Vicar of Christ to take his place?

          I start to appreciate Luther even more. 😉

      • John Sakelaris says

        Michael, your comment merits a respectful reply. Yes, there are those in the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America who do not exhibit much Christianity in their lives. I could tell stories about my parish as well. But there will be such tendencies in all churches.

        Is improper conduct more common in the Greek parishes? Then maybe your best move is to try to stay and make things better. Remember that Christ stayed around the sinners.

        • Constantinos says

          Dear John,
          I consider you to be an intelligent man, but why is it Michael’s responsibility to stay where he isn’t getting fed? There are many Orthodox Christians including priests who change jurisdictions for various reasons. My own personal opinion is the best Orthodoxy is found in the Greek Orthodox Churches despite the ethnophyletism.
          Personally, I’m not overly enthralled with Russian Orthodoxy. It’s too alien for me as an American. I believe the most intelligent Orthodox Christians are found in
          the Greek Orthodox Church. Vladimir Putin uses the Russian Orthodox Church for his own nefarious ends. In my opinion, Russia is a worthless, useless, third world country armed to the teeth with nuclear weapons. When the Cold War ended, Russia should have been forced to beat their swords into plough shares. The world is a much more dangerous place with a resurgent Russia.

          • John Sakelaris says

            Constantinos: By all means, if an individual Orthodox Christian (or someone aspiring to become an Orthodox Christian) feels more drawn to one Orthodox parish than another, by all means, that person should go to the parish he or she prefers. Yet for many of us that will still be a Greek Orthodox Archdiocese parish.

            Having said that, I must add that, as a Greek Orthodox parish member, I do enjoy the occasional pan-Orthodox activities we have with nearby OCA and Antiochian parishes.

            If you consider the OCA to be very “Russian,” I must say that I have not sensed that during my visits to that OCA parish.

            The negative comments you made about the nation of Russia, however, take us into an area that probably merits much additional discussion. Perhaps George could start a page on how we Orthodox Christians in the US should view Russia and its leader Putin.

            I will not argue that Putin is a saint. But there are many saints who have suffered for the faith in Russia. I am not as negative on Russia as you are. That nation has suffered a lot over the last hundred years, whether from its own leadership or from invaders. We need to pray for peace with Russia.

            So George Michalopulos, how about it? A page please where we all can share views specifically on Russia, please.

            • Tim R. Mortiss says

              If there was an OCA church in the heart of my city, I would probably have gone there, rather than to the Greek church. The OCA church in our rural exurbs has a really fine priest whom I have known since his installation 25 years ago. Our own GOA priest is both devout and charismatic.

              To an Anglo Yankee who started going to GOA and OCA services 35 years ago, it was obvious that the OCA is far less ethnic than the Greek church. It does not feel Russian, at least never to me. True, it is clear the original tradition is Russian, but that’s it. There is no “alien” feel at all.

              Certainly nobody goes about talking about Russia all the time, setting up Russian language classes, doing half the service in Russian/Slavonic, or talking about Russian culture or the “principles of Russianism”!

              I could spend all day talking about the superiority of English culture, its great literature and poetry, its traditions of moderation and empiricism, its lack of tiresome ideologies, its tremendous tradition of law, due process, and liberty; its stability down the centuries, and the fact that the English ruled the seas and half of the world with a light
              hand. On and on. But these things have no place whatever in church!

              Indeed, if I went on and on in that vein, people might start to think that I protest too much, or….that I have an inferiority complex….

              • Tim R. Mortiss: “the service in Russian/Slavonic”

                One correction. Slavonic or Church Slavonic is different language from Russian. Was formed long before Baptism of Rus, and several centuries before Russian language took its modern form.

                Church Slavonic is in such relation to the modern Slavic languages as Church Latin to French, Italian, Romanian etc … Only much closer and relatively easy to understand for the Slavic speakers.

                As a language formed specifically for liturgical use, has great beauty, depth and power.

                • Tim R. Mortiss says

                  I get that. If I had said “Russian” only, somebody would tell me that I should have said “Slavonic”. Just covering the bases, but it doesn’t always work!

                • Nikos stone says

                  Here in Bulgaria as now in Serbia the vernacuar is used although some hymns still in slavonic. Church slavonic was old bulgarian actually.
                  The problem,and with church greek is not so much lack of understanding, although DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE THAT , but THE CHANGE OF MEANING in words.

                  • Tim R. Mortiss says

                    Interesting, your last point, Nikos. I have asked numerous Greek or Greek-descended at my church how much of the ecclesiastical Greek they actually understand.

                    I have never gotten a real clear answer, which is interesting. My impression is: some. But I can never tell how much.

                    It would seem to me that if you understand modern Greek, and attend GOA services all of your life, that you’d learn to understand an awful lot of Koine. But, I just don’t know.

                    Does anybody here have a good answer to this simple question?

                    • Tim, the majority of choir members can’t read Greek so they sing Greek using English phonetics. Understanding is not relevant to many in the GOA. The primary goal is to preserve the language not worship Christ.

                    • Pere LaChaise says

                      The liturgical Greek used in GOA parishes, besides that of the Epistle and Gospel is not Koine but a later Byzantine Greek far richer in vocabulary and rooted in ancient Attic. I highly doubt most laymen understand much of it, even among those who speak modern Demotic Greek. It’s further removed from their spoken and written language than Slavonic is from even post-Soviet Russian – which is saying a lot.
                      I do not believe it serves a church very well at all to have services largely sung in a language far removed from modern speech. The Romanians, Serbs, Bulgarians and Ukrainians, and let us not forget Americans (as well as many Western Europeans, Asians and Africans) are doing a great job of presenting Orthodoxy in modern language that does not present a barrier to comprehension. I would say that the burden of classicalism exacts a heavy cost in Greek and Russian churches. The reason you can’t get a clear answer from Greek as to their comprehension, well, there’s your answer right there.
                      As to piety among Greek clergy as opposed to OCA, I will state flatly that there is a night and day contrast. GOA priests I observe in the sanctuary nearly uniformly exhibit a lack of fear of God while serving and their conversation is vapid, often depressingly unenlightened. What I see is a steady fascination among GOA clergy with the accoutrements of the liturgical services, the style and performance of singing, the prerogatives of priests and hierarchs, politics, and venal pursuits. The fish rots from the head down, and the Big Boys in GOARCH and Fener exude a palpable emptiness and spiritual void. To quote Gertrude Stein’s rude comment about Oakland, “there is no THERE there.”
                      I am sure you could find many examples of impious OCA clergy _ Bob Kondratic, Metr. Herman, Nicholas Soraic and Uncle Fester come readily to mind, but these men represent outliers to the norms of piety and seriousness of intent you find among most OCA clergy, who model that intensity to their parishioners joyfully. As a result, as Alexei Krindach’s reports to the Patr. Athenagoras Orthodox Institute detail, is that OCA parishioners, numerically a 1/3 of GOA gross membership, put in more total man-hours in Orthodox worship.
                      The GOA is a hollow shell pretending to still be the Church, and arrogating to itself all the attention it can muster by every clever means, while the OCA is worshipping God in the American catacombs of your local strip mall.

                    • Tim I would agree with you about familiarity.
                      I understand 85% of Liturgy and 70% about or less of Great Week fully . Many people more, many less and many I think in diaspora NONE . I knew a doctor from Athens who said he understood nothing almost..
                      It’s made worse that ancient greek not taught now in school now and that katherevousa or formal official greek not used since time of Papandreou, with demotic only. The dreaded language question.!!!!
                      We Kalamarades all looked down and laughed at cypriot greek but in truth it’s lexicon as use of Lalei, το speak, found in Gospels, which in modern greek means to Sing. The verb to break ( bread) in liturgy, in modern greek is to break wind!. In my life time modern greek has got more distant from church greek. My late mum would say I spoke gutter greek!!

                      Church greek is somewhere between Chaucer and Shakespeare or like a bulgarian and russian communication. I have friends in Moscow who whatsapp me in Russian and me them in bulgarian and we sort of understanding well.
                      I am emotionally ties to worship in greek, or slavonic / Bulgarian as here in Bulgaria I worship now in slavonic and bulgarian. They ask me to say the Our Father in greek after it’s said by all in bulgarian.

                      My feeling and I THIBK same problems with slavonic, would be to keep but to up date where meaning has altered

                      However I do believe the Gospels and Epistle should be in GOOD MODERN GREEK ETC as here meaning is all
                      What we do not need is a decent to the BANAL trashy language of much western worship whose trivia is mind insulting.

                    • Fils Lachaise says

                      Père Lachaise (of the Parisian cemetery?),

                      Thank you for your post. I really want to live in reality and not simply believe what I want to believe about the state of our Orthodox Churches in the USA and Canada.

                      I want to hear from GOA clergy who believe in Christ, who strive to live and spread that radical relationship with God that our Church allows us to have, and who believe strongly in what Patriarch Bartholomew has done to the Orthodox Church worldwide and who believe in what he has done in Ukraine.

                      I really want to hear from honest, Christ-centered GOA clergy who support him.

                      So far, all we’ve heard from are bureaucratic shills for the Istanbul Church who recount the party line. As Fr Alexander Schmemann used to say about the Communists, “they cannot help they fact that they always lie.”

                      Or are there any GOA clergy who desperately want to get out of the Istanbul jurisdiction because of what Patriarch Bartholomew has done and because they no longer feel like they serve Christ, but they are stuck and can’t get out?

                      Honesty. Real feelings. Authenticity. Truth. That is what is needed.

                  • Nikos: “Here in Bulgaria as now in Serbia the vernacuar is used”

                    Did it increase number of people participating in services? For the Catholics replacing Latin with the vernacular did not. Do they got new insights from understanding better the translation?

                    I wonder if in the religious matters the vernacular that can be “understood” is so helpful. Would replacing Sanskrit with Telugu help Hindus, or Hebrew with everyday English help the Jews?

                    • As the Council of 20 in Soviet times that ran by law each Parish church after 1961 changes, depriving priest of any rights, voted often to close said Church.

                    • Martin you raise good points and I do not have a total answer because it’s complicated. Does using vernacular produce miracle. ? NO. But should people understand?, Yes.
                      In general craddle Orthodox as me,, do not have this obscession to follow every word with ten books in our hand, yes I exagerate but make a point. I have frequently attended Romanian and Slav services,and had no problem following. Interesting that when i had a Greek friend with me that she complained( in Romanian church) that she did not understand. Facinating as byzantine music with same melodies was being used but she is not regular church goes and this is key.

                      Does using vernacular increase numbers?. For Bulgaria i do not not know and bar is low anyway but Romanian church is most active and numbers highest.
                      I think that in West it was the level of 1960s english that was used and the soul destroying lack of poetry and reducing to utility and banality. We do not have to go there do we?
                      So i would say Gospels and Epistle in modern language but good modern language and church greek etc updated to take account of changed meanings.
                      Re GOCA, some of the problem is a greek laid back attitude without the hands clasped piety typical in West as was, but yes also indifference. I know some very good USA greek clergy but those that can happily worship with electric harmonium and clean shaven dog collared beaurocrats, what can one say?

      • Tim R. Mortiss says

        Michael, I would say the problem is in your parish. Nothing of this sort is to be found in my GOA parish.

    • Tim R. Mortiss says

      As a convert in a GOA parish, I agree with a lot of what Mr. Sakelaris says.

      I will say this: there are a lot of converts in our parish. I think I’ll try to roughly add them up one of these days. Part of the reason perhaps is that while there is an OCA parish in the rural exurbs of our city, the GOA church is in the center of town, with a relatively prominent and historical building. A big reason I am in this parish is precisely because it is the only Orthodox church in the city, and I strongly wish to attend a church in my city itself, as I always had before my conversion to Orthodoxy. I am 4 minutes away by car and 25 by foot.

      And, as I’ve often said, our priest is a convert– from Hinduism. I venture to say we are the only Greek Orthodox church which can say that, though I would be interested and happy to be proved wrong!

    • You are quite right. People’s motives are complex as in Ukraine

  5. Antiochene Son says

    There has been a terrorist attack at a canonical UOC-MP church during Theophany services today. Thankfully there didn’t appear to be any injuries, but the narthex was damaged by the bombing.

    Bartholomew poured gasoline on a civil war that was starting to die down. And he has done nothing to silence the rhetoric of Poroshenko or his schismatic clergy, which has whipped up crazies into a frenzy. And since Bartholomew triggered all this, it is ultimately his fault. It won’t be long until there is blood on his hands.

    Was this earthly power grab worth his eternal soul? I guess he will find out. He’s 78 years old, after all.

  6. Curious Russophile says

    As inheritor of the throne of New Rome (Constantinople) does the Patriarch think he by rights should be Pope of all Christendom?

  7. Joseph Lipper says

    “‘Those who decide to stay with the Russian church should not feel any kind of pressure. These parishes should have equal rights with those belonging to the Orthodox Church of Ukraine,’ he [Metropolitan Epiphany] said.”

    • George Michalopulos says

      I’m not going to hold my breath on that one. Regardless, he is not a real bishop nor does he head a real church. His words are empty even if they are well meaning.

      That would be like me saying “You can have access to your property even though I have seized it”.

      • Joseph Lipper says

        If at least two-thirds of a parish vote to leave the Moscow Patriarchate and take the property with them to the OCU, does that constitute property seizure?

        Realizing that government corruption is rampant in Ukraine, I wouldn’t necessarily trust what the government says there. Still, when they say that 100 parishes have transferred to the OCU, I’m assuming that all of these had at least a two-thirds majority vote to transfer.

        • Joseph Lipper: “If at least two-thirds of a parish vote to leave the Moscow Patriarchate and take the property with them to the OCU, does that constitute property seizure? ”

          It was like that before. Now the assembly (gromada) of “parishioners” ie people claiming to be the members, helpful Uniates, local government officials, patriotic visitors from other towns etc can outvote the smaller community of the real churchgoers.

          • As the Council of 20 in Soviet times that ran by law each Parish church after 1961 changes, depriving priest of any rights, voted often to close said Church.

    • It is NOT the russisn church please. BUT AUTONOMOUS Ukrainian church with more freedom than what Bart’s creatinine has and with good and decent bishops

  8. Tim I would agree with you about familiarity.
    I understand 85% of Liturgy and 70% about or less of Great Week fully . Many people more, many less and many I think in diaspora NONE . I knew a doctor from Athens who said he understood nothing almost..
    It’s made worse that ancient greek not taught now in school now and that katherevousa or formal official greek not used since time of Papandreou, with demotic only. The dreaded language question.!!!!
    We Kalamarades all looked down and laughed at cypriot greek but in truth it’s lexicon as use of Lalei, το speak, found in Gospels, which in modern greek means to Sing. The verb to break ( bread) in liturgy, in modern greek is to break wind!. In my life time modern greek has got more distant from church greek. My late mum would say I spoke gutter greek!!

    Church greek is somewhere between Chaucer and Shakespeare or like a bulgarian and russian communication. I have friends in Moscow who whatsapp me in Russian and me them in bulgarian and we sort of understanding well.
    I am emotionally ties to worship in greek, or slavonic / Bulgarian as here in Bulgaria I worship now in slavonic and bulgarian. They ask me to say the Our Father in greek after it’s said by all in bulgarian.

    My feeling and I THIBK same problems with slavonic, would be to keep but to up date where meaning has altered

    However I do believe the Gospels and Epistle should be in GOOD MODERN GREEK ETC as here meaning is all
    What we do not need is a decent to the BANAL trashy language of much western worship whose trivia is mind insulting.

    • Nikos,

      This is hilarious to me!

      The verb to break ( bread) in liturgy, in modern Greek is to break wind!. So what I would hear is something like this (in English)…

      …on the night in which He was betrayed, He took bread in His holy, pure, and blameless hands, and blessed it, hallowed it, and farted,

      Forgive the the indiscretion. I mean no disrespect whatsoever. It just struck me as hysterical.

  9. As the Council of 20 in Soviet times that ran by law each Parish church after 1961 changes, depriving priest of any rights, voted often to close said Church.