Schism in the Church

Falling from Grace, Rendition of Phaethon, a tondo by Hendrick Goltzius after Cornelisz van Haarlem

One of our favorite commentors, Katherine, asked a legitimate question which deserves an answer.  With regard to schismatics she asked:  “How is grace withdrawn and how do we know if it has been?”

There is a simple answer: Grace is withdrawn when you leave the Church.  You know its been withdrawn because it’s so painful.

I happened to run across the following story which illustrates this point.  It’s about a man named John Bodnarchuk who went into schism and set up the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church.  (This is one of the schismatic “churches” Bartholomew rolled up into the OCU.)

He wrote a letter addressed to His Holiness Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and All Russia on 15th January 1993, and begged to be let back into the canonical Church.  His concluding words, written in his own hand, evoke sincere compassion: “I ask you, Your Holiness, and I mercifully entreat you to hasten my case. I am in great need of this. I cannot take it any more. No so much as any more as any longer.  – John.” 

Such pain can only have been endured by someone who had earlier lived in the Church, was aware of her grace and had been deprived of it.

Between 1992 and 1993 John Bodnarchuk wrote no less than ten such letters of repentance and petitions to Patriarch Alexy II and the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church. In them he directly recognizes the absence within himself of episcopal grace after being deprived of his holy orders, the non-canonical nature of the ‘hierarchy’ that had been set up by him and Vikenty Chekalin of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church, and tearfully requests that he be received back into the canonical Church.

In particular, in an earlier petition on 8th April 1992 addressed to His Holiness Patriarch Alexy II he: 

(A) Calls himself the ‘former bishop of Zhitomir John’ and recognizes that he is outside of the Church. “For more than two and a half years I have been out of the bosom of the Church and find myself beyond the confines of the Church, which I bitterly regret.”
(B) Appreciates greatly the reunion with the canonical Church of five false bishops of the Ukrainian schism (“You have rendered a great service to the Ukrainian Church and the Ukrainian people”) and regrets that he can no longer be numbered among them.
(C) Expresses his willingness to declare publicly that the “hierarchy” of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church is not canonical: “Regarding the non-canonical nature of the hierarchy of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church, I will prepare everything and tell any journalist from any newspaper at any time when you invite me to do so on this occasion before Moscow.”
(D) Complains of the blackmail and threats from his former colleagues who found out about his intention to return to the canonical Church: “I am now being persecuted and blackmailed, and have received threats by telephone. Someone from the Patriarchate had said that I was in Moscow and had tried to meet with you,”
(E) Promises to “put an end to the non-canonical autocephalous movement” and to be guided henceforth “solely by the advice” of His Holiness the Patriarch.

Unfortunately, the Russian Orthodox Church was unable to accept John Bodnarchuk’s repentance. The Holy Synod believed that “a resolution to the issue of the possible restoration to holy orders of a canonically deposed bishop exceeded its powers and entrusted the next Episcopal Council of the Russian Orthodox Church with examining the matter.”

Here, I’m going to briefly interrupt the story because I want to point something out to you.   When you break ties with the canonical Church, it leaves you vulnerable to more sin, as was the case with Bodnarchuk.  He sadly made yet another poor decision.  In 1993 he joined the non-canonical “Kievan Patriarchate” under Philaret Denisenko which is the other “church” Bartholomew rolled up into the OCU. 

“In 1994 Bodnarchuk died in a car accident in very strange circumstances. Those around him have repeatedly hinted that the car crash was no accident and that John had died as a result of an attempt on his life. There is nothing whatsoever surprising about this. There have been quite a few strange deaths among the figures involved with the Ukrainian schism…

From his own letters it is evident that John Bodnarchuk was a very contradictory man, prone to adventurism and ultimately a very unhappy man in both his life and death. Clear testimony of this is the curious and little-known document of the inventory of John Bodnarchuk after he had repented before the Russian Orthodox Church. Each page contains the verifying signature of the person who signed. On pages 13, 14 and 15 of the document John Bodnarchuk in detail relates how he and his supporters forged the same “certificate of consecration” which has now been published on the site The details which it contains, the peculiarities of speech and multiple signatures of John Bodnarchuk leave no doubt that the document is genuine.

According to John Bodnarchuk, he, entrusted to do so by Mstislav Skrypnik, the future “patriarch of Kiev and All Ukraine,” sought out a bishop in order to create a hierarchy for the new “autocephalous church.” In February 1990 the bishop of Pochaev Jacob (Panchuk), who later went into schism with Philaret Denisenko, promised him that he would participate in the “consecration,” but then declined. John was forced to set up the “hierarchy” of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church along with Vikenty Chekalin, intending later to “legitimize this consecration with the canonical episcopate of the Russian Orthodox Church.” Jacob Panchuk “several times promised” John that he would “help legitimize the consecration” (that is, re-ordain candidates or formally put his signature to their consecration post factum), but he never did this. The document contains a blank line.

At the end of May 1990, soon after the setting up of the “hierarchy” of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Church, Mstislav Skrypnik received from the Russian Church Abroad information that Vikenty Chekalin was a “schemer with no legitimate episcopal authority.” He informed John Bodnarchuk of this, who found himself at a dead end: the “hierarchy” of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church was expanding and there had already been “ordinations” of clergy… The way out of the solution was quite unusual: Bodnarchuk secretly and “in person” celebrated the “rite of laying on of hands” (?!), and on this basis told Skrypnik and others that he had “taken part in the consecration of Vikenty Chekalin.”

But this was not sufficient and John Bodnarchuk, with the knowledge of the other participants of the Chekalin “consecrations,” forged the signature of the canonical archbishop Barlaam (Ilyuschenko), who reposed on 17th September 1990. As John Bodnarchuk admits, he “copied” the signature from archbishop’s Barlaam’s letters of congratulations: “We prepared a ‘certificate of consecration,’ but left one line blank as Jacob (Panchuk) could not be present. When we came to the village of Mikhailovichi we waited for a long time, and then it became apparent that he (Jacob Panchuk) would not be there, and so we decided to ‘consecrate’ Vasily Bodnarchuk only with the participation of Vikenty Chekalin. As I intended to legitimize this ‘consecration’ with a canonical bishop of the Russian Orthodox Church, the ‘certificate of consecration’ had a line left blank in it. Then he (Jacob Panchuk) repeatedly promised me that he would legitimize with me this ‘consecration,’ but never did this… Closer to autumn of 1990 I realized that I could not longer persuade bishops within the Russian Orthodox Church who were acquainted with me to take part in these ‘consecrations,’ and ‘patriarch’ Mstislav was demanding a full report on the first ‘consecration.’ And in September 1990 I learnt of the death of archbishop Barlaam (Ilyuschenko). He would have been ideal, as he was the archbishop of Volhynia and Rovno, and I had in my possession seasonal greetings from him with his signature. This is why I included his name on the ‘certificate of consecration’ and said so to ‘patriarch’ Mstislav and a number of other bishops of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church. We got together (those of us who were present at the first ‘consecration’) and took this decision.”

At least two of the four signatories of the document – John and Vasily Bodnarchuk – knew of the forgery of the signature on Vasily’s “certificate” and had an interest in concealing the truth. The elder and younger Sas-Zhurakovskys, father and son, belonged to the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church and cannot be considered reliable witnesses. The video recording of the “consecration” which they mention did indeed exist. But if it is one day found, we will see on it the same Bodnarchuk brothers and Vikenty Chekalin, and not the aforementioned archbishop Barlaam (Ilyuschenko). Archbishop Barlaam, in spite of being slandered to the contrary, remained loyal to the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

The “bishops” of the former “Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church,” which has become part of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine [Ed note: which is presently headed by “Epiphany” Dumenko], originated from a former bishop who was legitimately deposed of his priestly rank and who in writing admitted that he had “left the bosom of the Church” and had “found himself beyond the confines of the Church,” with the connivance (in all probability for a financial consideration) of a former deacon, fraudster and schemer, and molester of small boys passing himself off as (depending on the circumstances) a “bishop of the True Orthodox Church,” a “Catholic bishop,” a “secret Anglican bishop” and a psychiatrist who had graduated from a “KGB school.” [Emphases added.]

It is with such “bishops” that the true bishops of the Holy Churches of God are now supposed to “concelebrate” as brothers. After this, will anyone ever again enquire as to why the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church considers it impossible to continue concelebration with those who at the stroke of a pen received these “hierarchs” into “canonical communion”?

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  1. Gail, thanks for writing this story. Thanks to what you have revealed, there is no way any Cpolitan hierarch or cleric can say “I didn’t know.” It is now plain for all to see.

    I must say, speaking for myself, I am aghast at the provenance of the OCU. No matter how much lipstick you put on a pig, it’s still a pig.

    Honestly, I don’t know how any bishop associated with Cpole can in good conscience concelebrate any liturgical service with a representative from the OCU. If I were one, I would worry about losing the grace which was bestowed to my upon my own ordination.

    • Katherine says

      God Bless you, George and Gail. Gail, your reply to my question is so simple and full of truth that I actually gasped. God is great and his Grace is active where His people are and where His people are, there is the Church.

      • I’m glad it resonated with you. If you can keep what you just said in your heart and in your mind, you will never lose sight of what it means to be Orthodox.

  2. George, thanks for summarizing this information, and for the very, very valid points!

  3. Peter Chaplain says

    Thanks for telling us how we can tell when grace is withdrawn. How can we tell when grace is present? Even a person like me who has a way to go in spiritual development, can clearly see grace present in the people demonstrating at the Kiev Caves Monastery. In the behavior, fervor, and demeanor of these faithful, I recognize many of the fruits of the Holy Spirit that St. Paul lists. I see the living expressions of the Beatitudes. I am mystified as to why Patriarch Bartholemew and the many Greek Churches he convinced to support the schismatic entity don’t now recognize the righteousness
    of Metropolitan Onuphrios and the faithful in his Church, and give him their badly needed support.
    May God move all Orthodox people to speak up and support His Church and His people.

    • We see through a glass darkly. And pride. And probably a few other of the deadly sins.

  4. O Bartholomew, what hast thou wrought?

  5. The look on this little girl’s face breaks my heart:

    • God bless little Dasha.

    • The media (or whoever they are questioning her) Reminds me of this little episode Matt 21:

      15 But when the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things he did and the children shouting in the temple courts, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they were indignant.

      16 “Do you hear what these children are saying?” they asked him.
      “Yes,” replied Jesus, “have you never read,
      “‘From the lips of children and infants
      you, Lord, have called forth your praise’?”

  6. Grace is withdrawn when you leave the Church.

    This is a clear and concise way to put it Gail.

    We know (or at least can presume to know) when an individual looses Grace (I.e. when they have left the Church), but, when does the entire Patriarchate lose Grace as well? Did the Patriarchate of Rome lose Grace automatically, or, did it lose it over time? That helps to answer the question on whether or not the various eparchies of the EP have lost Grace, or if it’s just those individuals within the EP that have celebrated with laymen disguised as clergy.

    I’m considering writing a post called The Orthodox World has rejected Patriarch Bartholomew, because in all reality the Church has indeed rejected Bartholomew, not just on the recent rebukes of what is happening to the Lavra, or with the OCU, but also with his failure to call a council of the Ancient patriarchates, the entire Church (minus some Greeks) in accepting the OCU, and more.

    Even if the Church hasn’t officially condemned Bartholomew, he has been all but anathematized by the faithful.

    • I would encourage you to do so!

      • Will do!

        It will probably be pretty lengthy, and as always I ask you and George to critique/edit it as you see fit.

        Because of the content I really would like to try and have it translated into Greek, Russian, Arabic, Serbian, etc., since this is not an American-specific writing. Any help y’all could provide with that would be great.

  7. Thank you for this very distinct explanation.
    It brought to mind the talk given by Bl. Archimandrite George Kapsanis titled-
    ‘Genuine and False Experiences of the Grace of God’ which can be found here:

    “A recorded speech of Blessed Archimandrite George [of thrice-blessed memory] of our Holy Monastery of Saint Gregory of the Holy Mountain at Stratoni of Halkidiki, on 14/27 January 1989, at the invitation of the Most Reverend Nikodemos, Metropolitan of Hierissou, of the Holy Mountain and Ardameri.”
    Doxa to Theo, John

  8. Just a dad says

    Regardless of how the question was intended, Katherine’s inquiry “How is grace withdrawn and how do we know if it has been?” reminded me of a conversation I had last weekend.

    If you are a parishioner, particularly one who is relatively new to Orthodoxy, and you are doing your best to live your faith from day-to-day in your local parish, how do you know whether or not you are in a parish that is drifting away and eventually gets so far astray that it becomes separated from the main branch of the orthodox church?

    Whether the parish is Antiochian, OCA, Greek, etc. – if a parishioner trusts and follows his/her parish priest, what if the priest is one who drifts (intentionally or not) towards ecumanism, compromise, trust in government and pseudo-science, etc. Would the new convert parishioner recognize that in time to pull the ripcord and eject? Or would the parishioner cling to his/her trust in their local priest – leading to God knows what outcome? When and how, without asking parishioners to get on the internet and do their own research, can they know when their local leadership can no longer be trusted and obeyed and, instead, the time has come to part ways?

    • Think of it this way. Imagine you have found the girl of your dreams and you marry her. You are new to her family. You come home and she tells you her mother was arrested in a store for shoplifting. Your father-in-law is bailing her out and the family has decided to get her the help she needs.

      As a newly married husband, it is not up to you to get involved in what is now your family through your wife. Your job is to be a comfort to your wife, their daughter, and start a family of your own. There may be a time in the future when your wife’s family needs you to get involved but as a newly married man, it’s not now.

      Those who are new to the Church don’t need to worry about this stuff. If the Church wasn’t completely worth it, we wouldn’t be doing this so you don’t need to be concerned about that either. Human “leadership” is always flawed. But that’s OK because Christ is the leader of the Orthodox Church.

      New people are absolutely in the right place, meaning the Church. God, Himself, led you here. It is your job to focus on your journey.

      If you’re in a canonical Church, you’re fine. When your priest puts on those cuffs, God’s grace comes though his hands. There is nothing new people need to worry about in this regard. Even if you have the worst priest on the planet, the grace is there! (Most of them are not anywhere close to being the worst so it’s unlikely you’re going to run into a truly intolerable situation. Personally, I have yet to meet a bad priest.)

      I don’t know if you’ve noticed or not, but even our priests don’t fight these battles as a rule. They bring them to us. Priests have a different mission in the Church. By giving the problems to us, we can bring attention to them. George is a cradle Orthodox and I’ve been Orthodox for 20 years so we are spiritually better prepared to handle “the fight” so to speak. We don’t have a parish we need to manage and neither one of us is going to leave the Church so it’s easier for us to do the heavy lifting in terms of what we talk about here.

      A new convert parishioner should not “pull the ripcord and eject.” Absolutely cling to your trust in your local priest. One of the beautiful things about the Church is it’s a very large family and we all have different roles. Your role (if you’re speaking of yourself) is to get your “sea legs” in the Church. There may be a time when God will ask you to fight off the wolves, but it won’t be now.

      • Athanasia says

        This is so beautifully explained Gail. Though I have been in The Church for 20 years this coming September, your words give me encouragement and what to say to inquirers and new converts as they navigate these feelings.

        • Oh, thank you, Athanasia!

          • George Michalopulos says

            As I said last night at supper: “excellent analogy my dear!”

            Athanasia, Justadad, et al: now is not the time to give up the ship in your respective parishes but to fight back and hard. Even if your bishop and/or local synod goes into heresy make them feel it before you shake the dust off your feet and leave.

            And say a prayer thanking the Good Lord that there’s no jurisdictional unity in America at present. Not under these circumstances. Until the modernist, Fordhamite and globalists elements are thoroughly denounced, “unity” would be catastrophic.

      • Just a dad says

        It’s a thoughtful and sweet answer, which I appreciate, and I am hopeful it applies to the vast majority of situations where a parishioner isn’t sure if he/she is in the right place. Very well said, thank you.

        What I was thinking of, however might be a bit different? Let’s say you attend a small/moderate parish with a single priest who seems very “down the middle” Orthodox. Maybe some quirks here and there, but generally pretty good. Do you stay? Of course.

        What if the small/moderate parish has a single priest who starts preaching about inclusiveness, the need for us to be understanding and welcoming, and then starts issuing blessings and baptisms for same sex couples. Do you stay, if there are other parishes (in the same or other canonical jurisdictions) nearby? Probably not.

        So if that represents a spectrum but you are not at the far end (latter scenario), where in that spectrum do you decide to “pull the ripcord and eject”, meaning head to a different parish in a canonical jurisdiction? Or is it never correct? My family found themselves in this very situation during Covid. We left and never looked back. But I do feel bad and do pray for those we left behind, they cling to the hope they are not in a sinking ship. I fear they are.

        • Well, so you’re not asking a question of grace. You’re asking what do you do if you don’t like you’re priest’s politics. You won’t be “pulling the ripcord and ejecting” to go to another canonical Church where you feel more comfortable. People do it all the time.

        • What if the small/moderate parish has a single priest who starts preaching about inclusiveness, the need for us to be understanding and welcoming, and then starts issuing blessings and baptisms for same sex couples.

          To add to, or rather correct if I may, Gail’s reply. Such a case as you describe it is not a matter of a differing political opinion (which is both tolerable and to be expected), it is a matter of radical departure from the Church’s moral teaching and discipline. One should express his disagreement to the priest. If that leads nowhere (as it usually does with such people), carefully document it and report it to his bishop. If nothing changes within a reasonable period of time, run like the wind. Such people are masters of manipulation and deceit, and far too many bishops are too removed and therefore inclined to believe what the priest says, not actually seeing what he does.

          This is not to say that the Sacraments administered by such a priest lack grace. It is to say that every other aspect of his ministry most assuredly will.

          • In the context of someone new to the Church, this might be a lot to ask. In any case, it’s not something someone new to the Faith should be taking on, in my opinion. I would rather new converts focus on falling in love with the Church.

            If they come to us, Monomakhos, you, me and the rest of us can take this on because you’re absolutely right. This should not be happening.

            • Just a dad says

              Thanks both. In our case, we are somewhat new but not brand new. And the situation was not as dire as the extreme example I raised – but it was bad. So we did what Brian said, ran like the wind (after expressing our concerns to the priest and someone above him in the diocese). We never doubted the grace of the sacraments, but the spiritual leadership was definitely headed in a downward trajectory and we knew it was a matter of time before we would start to question our own faith.

              We can’t be more thankful to God for illuminating our hearts just enough to let us see it was time to go. I do feel bad for those that are still there, and the new inquirers/converts that don’t know yet the extent of the quagmire they’ve stumbled into. We can only pray for them, and for the priest, and let God’s mercy take it from there.

    • Fr Tom Hopko used to tell a story about how when he was a seminarian in the early days of SVS in the 1950s, he went with his family to a summer event at Jordanville. A ROCOR bishop whom he met at Jordanville asked him where he was in seminary, and he replied at SVS. The bishop then informed him that the Russian Metropolia (the OCA as it was known then) has no grace.

      Thank God those days are gone, but this story is illustrative that where one thinks grace exists and does not exist can vary with time and situation. Don’t know of anyone in ROCOR today who would state that the OCA has no grace, and vice versa. Thank God that schism is healed.

      • Jeff Moss says


        Fr. Seraphim Rose (a hieromonk of ROCOR, and no ecumenist!) drew fire from the conservative wing of ROCOR for his insistence that the Moscow Patriarchate still had grace in her sacraments, even during the darkest years of Soviet domination of that Church. He made a point of highlighting the faithful ministry of Fr. Dimitry Dudko, a priest of the Moscow Patriarchate who remained there in order to have the widest scope of ministry to Russian believers, although Fr. Dimitry suffered constantly for the stands he took against the Communist authorities.

        At the same time, Fr. Seraphim also praised the faithfulness of the Russian Catacomb Church. For him, it didn’t have to be either/or.

  9. One of the major problems we have in American Orthodoxy is the likes of the Ephremites, presumably trying justify remaining in full communion/submission to Bartholomew, telling people to simply continue to attend the local ecumenist parish for the Eucharist (while confessing to an Ephremite priest, and having their faulty baptisms fixed by ROCOR). The EP is “in communion” with Rome, as the Pope gets commemorated in first place when they serve together. You don’t commemorate or serve with someone if you don’t recognize them as “part of the Church”. The EP makes no secret that it does recognize the Vatican 2 religious entity as part of the Church. Of course, the Ephremites are also in communion with the OCU, like it or not. Ecclesiology 101.

    • They are ecclesiastically and contractually tied to the Geeks but they operate quite independently which is why they were open during Pascha and Holy Week during the COVID ordeal even though the Greeks had closed their parishes. They’re not “justifying” anything. It’s just the way things are. Nor are they “telling people to continue to attend the local ecumenist parish for the Eucharist while confessing to an Ephremite priest.” I have no idea what you even mean by “having their faulty baptisms fixed by ROCOR.”

      This is pretty much all nonsense.

    • Antiochene Son says

      Look up David Erhan’s video “The Communion Line” to know why so much of this is wrong.

    • EcuManiacal, not sure what you’re trying to insinuate that the Elder Ephraim monasteries being in communion with Bartholomew negates them. Mount Athos, half of Greece, all of their eparchies and…all of the Orthodox World minus the Church of Russia are still in communion with the EP

      When do the EP and the pope concelebrate together? That’s news to me

  10. You admit the Ephremites are ecclesiastically and contractually tied to the Greeks. You’re absolutely right about this and it’s the exact reason why they do not baptize because they have been forbidden to do so by the EP hierarchs who are responding to EP parish priests who protest the monasteries’ perceived infringement on parish life. If you are not aware that – because of this – they send people who have only been Chrismated to ROCOR priests who are willing to perform “corrective baptisms”, then you are now. It’s a fact! If you’re not aware of the problems this is causing at the local parishes then I’m sorry to have to inform you of this reality. Also: the Ephremites do NOT tell people to stop attending their ecumenist EP parishes. EP parish priests who are ecumenists aren’t happy about their parishioners even attending the Ephremite monasteries and confessing to the monks, and have complained to the hierarchs about this. This is an established fact spoken about on this very blog! As such, they do tell their spiritual children to continue to commune locally at these EP parishes but continue to confess to them. I know this from speaking to these very people. What do you think the EP hierarchs would say if the Ephremites started telling EP parishioners to stop attending and supporting their local Greek parishes!?!?! You know the answer to that already. Lastly, if you don’t think that the Ephremites, being in full communion with Bartholomew (their own Patriarch!) does not put them in communion with the OCU then please explain for us how that works since you’ve already admitted that they are ecclesiastically and contractually tied to the Greeks (EP).

    • You’re mistaken that they don’t baptize. They most certainly do. The man who brought me into the Church was baptized at a monastery. I’m sure if the Greek mucky-mucks found out about it they would consider it a “corrective baptism.” The monks don’t care. They do what God tells them to do.

      The Greek committees they’ve set up over the years have long complained that these practices take money out of their pockets. Again, the monks don’t care. They take their direction from their abbot. They don’t baptize the way the parishes do. They might receive nominal donations but I’m guessing it’s not much comparatively. I’ve seen baptisms at monasteries. If these particular people were able to pay anything, I would be surprised. The real donors are the very wealthy whom I would guess, go there to recharge their batteries. They have a right to spend their money any way they want. They probably give a ridiculous amount to the Greek Archdiocese and the Ecumenical Patriarchate, as well. They’re not all Greek. So some wouldn’t.

      Why would they send people who have only been Chrismated to ROCOR priests who are willing to perform “corrective baptisms?” You’re going to have to show me some evidence of this.

      Of course, the monks don’t tell people to stop attending their parishes. And please stop calling them “Ephremites.” The fact you use this terms puts you into the Pokrov/Ross category of people who and have never stepped foot in a monastery yet claim to know everything about them.

      The Greek parishes don’t get money for confessions and from what I understand, the Greeks don’t go to confession all that much, anyway.

      No monk is going to tell you not to commune at your local parish, as long as it’s canonical. There is no prohibition against this. They don’t even ask you what parish you go to!

      You’ve acknowledge you’re getting your information from “speaking to people.” But I know from practice. I have gone to a monastery for confession and I’ve also had a spiritual mother attached to a monastery so I know what I’m talking about first hand.

      I never said the Ephraim monasteries are not in communion with the Ecumenical Patriarchate. But I suspect the monasteries, like the majority on Mt. Athos, do not agree with the Ecumenical Patriarch’s decisions with respect to the OCU. There is a lot of freedom in the Orthodox Church. If you don’t like something a hierarch does, you don’t have to participate.

      You need to rachet this down a bit.

      • ROCOR layman says

        Here is a short clip of a ROCOR hieromonk talking about corrective baptism, etc. He says they do it for pastoral considerations, which would obviously include people troubled by being received by chrismation, etc., possibly in GOARCH.

        I wouldn’t put it past Elder Ephraim’s monasteries (how I hate the term “Ephraimite,” it sounds cultish) to send people to ROCOR – who do corrective baptisms – as the GOARCH hierarchy would come down hard on them if they did it themselves. The hieromonk in the clip even says that “rebaptism” would get a priest defrocked, so if GOARCH erroneously consider receiving Roman Catholics by baptism to be “rebaptism,” then no wonder the more traditional Greek clergy are cautious and use ROCOR to lend a hand.

        • I can’t see them sending anyone anywhere to do anything. They might mention that unlike some of the other jurisdictions, ROCOR being an example, they can’t do corrective baptisms. But send them to ROCOR? I can’t see it. They have many people coming through their gates every year. Some of them are Antiochian. They know about the chrismation thing. I can’t see them taking exception with it simply because it’s not their purview.

          However, if someone came to them, lets say a would-be monk, for example, then they might have a discussion about it. Perhaps in those cases they do send people ROCOR but the guy I knew, who had lived at one of the monasteries for almost 2 years (I suspect they thought he would be a monk), did receive a corrected baptism, but it wasn’t at the monastery. However, it was done by one their monks.

          I also think GOARCH doesn’t necessarily know what the monasteries do. Like during the whole COVID thing. The metropolitans said everything would be closed but the monasteries (some of them, anyway) stayed open. Across the board (all jurisdictions) some of the monasteries said they’d be closed, but stayed open.

          As my grandmother used to say, “Say yes and saw wood.”

          The monasteries give money to GOARCH. They take nothing in return. Why would a baptism here or there be such an issue? The ones I’ve attended were for people who didn’t have family there. Just a friend or two. They wouldn’t have been able to pay a parish anything anyway.

          The Greeks hate the fact that the monasteries are so independent. The committees they have formed in the past, at least under Jerry Dimitriou, the former executive director of the archdiocese whom I believe may be in jail, were terrible. They accused the monasteries of lying to them. They wanted more money from them because they said they were taking money out of their pockets. The thing is, people don’t want to go to their parishes for a variety of reasons. One being their increasing wok agenda. Too many parishes have drifted away from the tenets of the Church.

          Like the Metropolitan who wished women who’ve had an abortion a happy Mother’s Day “because they were mothers for a brief time, too” or something inane like that. I suspect this would make all women cringe, even the women who’ve had an abortion. Many are pushed into it and they certainly wouldn’t want to remember it or celebrate it on Mother’s Day!

  11. Joseph Lipper says

    Because of this Vikenty Chekalin, the “Kievan Patriarchate” (KP) refused to have anything to do with the “Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church” (UAOC). The UAOC was formed in 1990, and the KP was later formed in 1992. The KP was never in communion with the UAOC.

    The KP meticulously followed the exact same order and rubrics of the Moscow Patriarchate. Yet the UAOC had mistakenly not fulfilled that order in the very instance of the episcopal ordination of Vasily Bodnarchuk by his brother, the former Bishop John Bodnarchuk of the Moscow Patriarchate, done along with the non-ordained Vikenty Chekalin who was secretly posing as a second bishop.

    An episcopal ordination in the Orthodox Church canonically requires at least two bishops. After realizing he had been duped by the con-man Vikenty, John Bodnarchuk sought to re-ordain his brother, but his brother refused re-ordination. This one-time canonical deficiency of not having at least two bishops involved in an episcopal ordination is precisely why the KP would refuse to be in communion with UAOC.

    When the Ecumenical Patriarchate later sought to unify the schismatic UAOC and KP in 2018 into the present OCU, that schism had to be overcome. In order to do this, the EP accepted by economia the singular instance of Vasily Bodnarchuk being ordained a bishop by his brother, the former Bishop John Bodnarchuk of the Moscow Patriarchate.

    A singular bishop ordaining a bishop is not considered a canonical practice. However, there are accepted historical examples of this in the Church, such as with the episcopal ordination of Saint Gregory the Wonderworker by a singular bishop. The Apostles also singularly ordained bishops. With the accepted historical exceptions to the canonical rule, apostolic succession is still accepted and preserved. For reasons of economia, the EP decided to make such an exception.

    Of course any “episcopal” ordinations made by both the KP and the UAOC were previously considered graceless and without apostolic succession by the Ecumenical Patriarchate, that is until they were reconciled to the EP, and then grace and apostolic succession was restored. The restoration of grace and apostolic succession to the Macedonian Orthodox Church by the mere swipe of a pen, and after a much longer 50 years of being schismatic, is also an example of this.

    • Joseph,

      The essential difference between the MOC and the schismatic OCU is that the MOC offered repentance…Repentance (and all that comes with it) is what revivifies, not a stroke of a pen.

      There is nothing but a hell-bent doubling down of nationalism within the schismatic OCU that is contributing to the deterioration of the people of Ukraine, both physically and spiritually.

      • Joseph Lipper says

        Leo, please describe the repentance of the Macedonian Orthodox Church.

        • Will this do?
          The repentance of the Macedonian Orthodox Church
          was offered to and accepted by the Serbian Orthodox Church

          • Joseph Lipper says

            Brendan, let’s say the MOC’s “repentance” was their conditional and temporary willingness to accept autonomous status under the Serbian Patriarchate.

            On May 16, 2022, the Serbian Holy Synod accepted the MOC as an autonomous branch of the Serbian Patriarchate.

            Three days later, the Serbian Patriarch concelebrates with MOC hierarchy who make it clear to him that their actual intention is to be autocephalous.

            Five days later, the Serbian Patriarch once again concelebrates with the MOC hierarchy and joyfully announces that the Serbian Holy Synod has unanimously agreed to recognize the MOC as an autocephalous sister church.

            Total time as a “repented” autonomous church of the Serbian Patriarchate? Oh, I guess about 8 days total.

            On June 5, 2022, the Serbian Patriarch officially gives them their promised tomos of autocephaly.

            • So what?

              First there was a schism
              then there was no schism.
              Then a daughter church was born
              rather than ripped untimely from the womb.

              Why should this be cause
              for quibble and not joy?

              • I must agree with you Brendan, and at the same time, ask a question of Joseph.

                Firstly to Brendan’s point. I do not understand why only 8 days of repentance as an autonomous church is an issue. What number of days would have been sufficient for Joseph and where does he get that number from? This is surely only a matter between the SOC and the MOC, not unlike, I suppose, a spiritual father’s relationship to his flock – who else has the right to meddle in the repentance he’s willing to accept?

                Now to Joseph. Joseph, what exactly are you saying? That the MOC has no grace? If so, can you explain that for me?

                As I see it, the MOC, for all intents and purposes, is in communion with every jurisdiction, and I’d have thought that in itself was enough to not doubt it. If you disagree, however, would you be able to say more on that, including pointing out any precedent?

                • Joseph Lipper says

                  John S, my point about the eight days (MOC accepted in communion with the Serbs as autonomous on May 16, and MOC autocephaly recognized eight days later by them on May 24) is that the MOC had no real intention of “repenting” of their self-claimed autocephaly and being an autonomous branch of the Serbian Patriarchate.

                  It wasn’t so much “repentance” as it was merely a technical “hoop” they were jumping through to concelebrate and get autocephaly. The Serbs knew it. Everyone knew it. When they first concelebrated with the Serbian Patriarch last May 19th, the MOC hierarchs made it clear that their intention was not to be autonomous, but rather to be fully recognized as an autocephalous Orthodox Church.

                  Preceding all this, on May 9th, the EP entered into communion with the MOC, thereby recognizing within her both the fullness of grace and the apostolic succession of the Orthodox Church. The EP also advised the Serbian Patriarchate to resolve any administrative issues with the MOC. Essentially, this was telling them both to reconcile. The EP wasn’t going to pretend anymore along with the Serbs that the MOC was actually “schismatic”.

                  • Joseph, there is a fairytale like quality in what you’re saying as if you’re trying to paint the EP as the hero of this story.

                    First of all it wasn’t the Macedonian Church that approached the EP. It was North Macedonian President, Stevo Pendarovski and Prime Minister Zoran Zaev who called upon Pat. Bartholomew and the Patriarchate of Constantinople to intervene and grant autocephaly to the MOC. Very much like what Poroshenko did in Ukraine.

                    What happened was very well documented. The MOC did not want to go to Serbia for a solution. They were all about avoiding Serbia and going to the EP until His Grace Bishop Irinej of Bačka, one of the most authoritative hierarchs of the Serbian Orthodox Church today, warned them, “. . . I would—honestly, truly, fraternally—ask the hierarchy in the Skopje schism a question: Have you learned anything from the Church situation in Ukraine? Do you understand what the Moscow Patriarchate gave to its Church in Ukraine, and what the Patriarchate of Constantinople gave to it—and took away?!”

                    Bp. Irinej was referring to the varying degrees of independence granted to the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) and the schismatic “Orthodox Church of Ukraine” (OCU). The UOC enjoys complete autonomy within the Moscow Patriarchate, free to make all of its own decisions for itself without having to seek approval from the MP. On the other hand, the OCU, although officially autocephalous, enjoys less freedom, as Constantinople granted itself rights to intervene in the affairs of the OCU in the tomos granted in 2019.

                    Bp. Irinej went on to say, “Do you understand what the Serbian Church gave you with the Niš Agreement, and what the Patriarchate of Constantinople will offer you? Do you understand that you will have to hand over some holy sites to Constantinople as stavropegia, because in reality they are Greek, Byzantine shrines, such as the Nerezi Monastery near Skopje, as well as some other, including Nemanjić, Serbian sites? Do you realize that, in the end, you will have to cede all your dioceses and church communities in the diaspora to Constantinople? (Note that the Niš Agreement, that is, the love and understanding of the Serbian Church, recognizes your jurisdiction in the diaspora.)

                    For the OCU to receive autocephaly, Ukraine had to hand the historic St. Andrew’s Cathedral in Kiev over to Constantinople, which has made it the base of its Exarchate in Ukraine, headed by Bp. Michael (Anischenko). Former President Poroshenko also promised several other sites to Constantinople, though he was unable to fulfill this promise before losing the presidency to Vladimir Zelensky. Moreover, the OCU tomos dictates that all parishes abroad had to move under the jurisdiction of Constantinople—a stipulation that has proved rather controversial with these communities.

                    In addition to dialogue, Bp. Irinej continued, the other side must be free from secular pressure and instructions, and it must be ready to accept a solution that abides by the canonical tradition of the Church—not necessarily the solution they want.

                    The Synod of the MOC had already made its intentions quite clear, however. In December, one MOC hierarch publicly stated that a conciliar solution is needed to resolve its canonical status. The Synod responded by distancing itself from the bishop’s statement, reaffirming its intention to receive autocephaly from Constantinople.

                    And turning to the problem in Ukraine, Bp Irinej stated that, again, dialogue is needed to resolve the situation. Talks in the format of the Amman gathering must continue, although Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople refuses to initiate or join such a meeting, considering himself the only one who can call a council. However, this position is far too similar to Rome’s Papal pretensions and has no foundation in Church theology or history, the Serbian hierarch says.

                    True primacy, he says, must not override conciliarity.

                    However, despite Constantinople’s anti-canonical actions in Ukraine, it has not lost its status as the first among equals, Bp. Irinej believes. It has, however, lost its reputation and trust throughout the Orthodox world. But Pat Bartholomew could redeem himself “in the blink of an eye,” Bp. Irinej believes, were he to admit his mistake in Ukraine—that he was the victim of schismatic misinformation—and revoke the OCU’s tomos of autocephaly.

                    “Such a gesture of his would show everyone in the world what the meaning of primacy is according to the Orthodox understanding: It is uncompromising service to the unity of the Church, whereby the First-Throne Church has the role of inspirer, mediator and coordinator, not of sole commander,” His Grace affirmed.

                    Macedonia changed their minds about the EP, abandoning the arrangement they had made with him the previous May. To this day, the EP only recognizes their canonicity, but not their autocephaly.

                    The EP is not in a position to advise the Serbian Patriarchate to resolve anything, let alone tell them to address their “administrative issues.” He never saw this coming. He was totally shocked and for a long time wouldn’t accept the fact that Macedonia had gone to Serbia after he thought they had a deal.

                    He still thinks they have a deal which was based on the agreement that they would exclude the term “Macedonian” and any other derivative of the word “Macedonia.” And yet, Archbishop Stefan is the fifth Archbishop of Ohrid and Macedonia, metropolitan of Skopje, primate and spiritual leader of the Macedonian Orthodox Church.

                    IMO, it was the involvement of the EP that motivated Serbia to intervene and Macedonia to reconsider their options. Nobody wanted another Ukraine.

                    • Speaking of government involvement, on July 9, 2019, Russian pranksters Vovan and Lexus published a recording of a conversation in which they, posing as Phanar representatives, asked Zoran Zaev for a bribe of €100,000 for Patriarch Bartholomew to obtain autocephaly for the Macedonian Orthodox Church. During the conversation, the politician agreed to the bribe. Z. Zayev confirmed the fact of the conversation, but the bribe he said was a set up.

                      Also reeks of a Poroshenko moment.

                    • A clear historical analysis. Thank you Gail.
                      I await Joseph’s response with interest,
                      while noting he has not answered my question.

                    • Alexander II says

                      For reasons that I’ve already explained, you make too much of the Ghetto inspiring Serbia to act. At its heart, it was a Serbian initiative that was push by the new Patriarch.

                  • So Joseph you’re saying that the MOC should repent of wanting autocephaly?

                    I thought the situation was one where it simply needed to repent of its self-proclaimed autocephaly, which I see that it did

                    • Joseph Lipper says

                      John S, no, not at all.

                      I’ve been trying to point out that this schism was not about a need for the MOC’s repentance. That’s what the EP was basically saying when they entered into communion with the MOC on last May 9th. In other words, the EP was saying it’s not right to hold a church hostage in schism simply because of the political circumstances of North Macedonian independence.

                      Remember, the Serbs were still in schism with the MOC at that time. Why? The EP’s same statement (of May 9th) also said that the Serbs needed to resolve any administrative issues with the MOC.

                      That should be highlighted, because that was precisely the reason for the schism: The SOC needed to resolve administrative issues with the MOC. Sure, the resolution of those administrative issues by the Serbs was already happening at that point, but come on, this schism dragged on for 55 years.

                    • RE: “Remember, the Serbs were still in schism with the MOC at that time.”

                      Joseph, the Serbs were never in schism with Macedonia! The Serbs were/are the CANONICAL Church. It is NOT POSSIBLE for the canonical Church to be in schism with a daughter church who unilaterally declares her own autocephaly. NOT POSSIBLE.

                      When a schismatic church (Macedonia), wants to reunite with their Mother Church (Serbia), they do it through r-e-p-e-n-t-a-n-c-e. This is Orthodoxy 101.

                      What you think the EP was “basically trying to say” matters NOT AT ALL, as the Ecumenical Patriarchate is not part of the relationship between the Macedonians and the Serbians.

                      The Serbs were NOT trying to hold anyone hostage. The Serbian Church welcomed Macedonia back and gave them complete autocephaly without asking them to make any concessions.

                      It was the EP who asked for the concession. He was the one who wanted to leverage them to give up their sovereignty in Macedonia in exchange for bringing them into the Church under him. Why? Because it was good for the Greeks. He wanted “a little sumthing sumthing” from them. That’s what a hostage situation looks like. The Serbs, on the other hand, gave them total autocephaly without expecting anything in return which is why there were smiles all the way around.

                      NO ONE wants the EP to speak for or have control over anything in the Church, Joseph. Even many of the Greeks in the GOA feel this way. They weren’t thrilled when he shoved Elpi down their throats, completely ignoring their constitution by not giving them an opportunity to even express an opinion. How they felt didn’t matter to the EP which he told them.

                      The EP is self-serving narcissist who LIES just like he did on February 2, 2016 when he said, “We all recognize that Metropolitan Onufry is the only canonical head of Orthodoxy in Ukraine.” ONE OF MANY of his “pants on fire” moments. No one wants him in control of anything.

                      What you’re trying to “highlight” is yet another “moment.” The only thing the EP had to do with the Serbs bringing Macedonia back into the fold and granting them autocephaly was the abject fear that Macedonia would be something the EP could use to bolster his opinion that he can meddle where he doesn’t belong, especially now that he has two schismatic churches under his belt and a group of defrocked clergy with bishops in some cases who aren’t even ordained. (They “ordained” themselves when they were kicked out of the Church after it was discovered their bishops had illegitimate families!)

                      If the EP doesn’t know the Church feels this way it is because he is completely deluded at this point. The Church views him as a liability and has for awhile now. If Serbia seemed to jump after 55 years it was because the entire Church (90+%) said, “SERBIA, PLEASE DO WHAT YOU HAVE TO DO TO TAKE THIS OUT OF THE EP’S HANDS! GIVE MACEDONIA WHATEVER THEY WANT!”

                      I will not publish anymore of your posts on the matter. You’ve brought this up a number of times.

                    • To be effective, most lies must contain a modicum of truth.

                      eg: ‘ The EP…LIES just like he did on February 2, 2016
                      when he said, “We all recognize that Metropolitan Onufry
                      is the only canonical head of Orthodoxy in Ukraine.” ‘

                      This is the kernel of truth: “Metropolitan Onufry is
                      the only canonical head of Orthodoxy in Ukraine.”

                    • Indeed. Metropolitan Onufry is the only canonical head of Orthodoxy in Ukraine

                    • …and the dodgy bit is: ” We all recognize that…”

                      Well, perhaps ‘we all‘ included him when he said it then,
                      but as the weather has changed, so has his recognition.

                      As Marx [Groucho] said: “These are my principles
                      and if you don’t like them, I have others.”

                  • Alexander II says

                    Oh, Good God.

                    You are missing so much of actually happened and what was going on. It stems from an over exaggerated sense of what Istanbul does, can do, and should do, what other Local Churches think about that, and getting caught up in the timing of paper shuffles to demonstrate who was calling the shots.

                    Nothing about the SOC/MOC resolution demonstrated that Istanbul is the master of the universe as they want people to believe. If anything, how things unfolded demonstrates Istanbul’s utter irrelevance.

                    I’d hazard a good guess that the SOC (and perhaps even the MOC) leadership would howl with laughter at your contrivances.

                    This was less about the MOC’s “repentance” if there ever was any, fake, real, contrived or papered over in a span of eight days or sixty years.

                    This is all about the current SOC leadership’s forgiveness and recognition that in the end, the pastoral care of the souls in the defined territory of Macedonia and its “diaspora” was best left to the Macedonian leadership. The SOC gave them everything, unconditionally.

                    I’m done.

        • Joseph,

          Officially, the SOC severed communion with the MOC due to the MOC no longer being content with autonomy granted by the SOC and subsequently pronouncing autocephaly in the late 60s, which the SOC saw as a fruit of state pressure and the unhealthy kind of nationalism.

          As you can read in the link below, one of the first administrative steps in the reconciliatory process was for the MOC to reaccept the “autonomy” granted by the SOC thereby meaning they accepted that their self-proclaimed autocephaly was null. Hard pill to swallow considering the Macedonian’s firmness in this regard over the past 60 years, but they did it for the good of their people’s souls. Sounds a lot like repentance to me.

  12. Alexander II says

    Let’s try this one more time.

    The SOC and MOC “schism” was ADMINISTRATIVE. It never involved an issue of the Gospels, Tradition, or theology. The MOC bishops had maintained apostolic succession. Many were educated in Belgrade.

    This is NOT COMPARABLE to the heresies of His Intergalacticness and minions.

    • Joseph Lipper says

      Alexander II, yes I agree the schism between the SOC and the MoC was administrative.

      Are you saying that despite the schism, the MOC still retained the fullness of grace and apostolic succession of the Orthodox Church while being in schism?

      Furthermore, who repented of that schism? There was some nasty stuff that went down in the past 50 years.

      • All schisms are “administrative” but if you’re outside the canonical Church you lose apostolic succession, whether you do all the same things or not.

        In 1967, the Macedonian Holy Synod unilaterally announced its independence from the Serbian Orthodox Church. The Serbian Synod denounced the decision and condemned the clergy as schismatic. MOC obviously had to repent to renew their relationship with the Serbian Church which they did.

        This is the best write-up of the situation:

        • Joseph Lipper says

          Gail, I mean what exactly did the MOC repent of? Metropolitan Seraphim of Piraeus claims they didn’t actually repent of anything. He had this to say about the MOC from November 11, 2022:

          “these Skopje ‘clergy,’ such as their alleged ‘Archbishop’ Stefan, can’t be the Church of Christ, and for this very reason it’s manifestly incorrect for our Ecumenical Patriarchate to accept them without repentance into Church communion, and of course the attribution of ‘Autocephaly’ to this formation by the Serbian Patriarchate and its recognition by the Russian Patriarchate is criminal, anti-canonical, anti-evangelical, and unacceptable.”

          • That Macedonia was at odds with the Serbian Church is a fact. That this problem was resolved to their mutual satisfaction is also a fact. (We call this repentance.) That the Ecumenical Patriarchate accepted the MOC into communion and was willing to recognized North Macedonia as its canonical territory is yet another fact.

            That Metropolitan Seraphim of Piraeus doesn’t like any of this, possibly for legitimate reasons, matters not at all. Not at this point.

            The Church is a mess of human frailties and were it to try to take a linear path 100% of the time it would fail outright. What it comes down to is: “For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us . . .” And for whatever reason, it did.

          • “…what exactly did the MOC repent of?”


            • Joseph Lipper says

              The MOC wasn’t in schism with the Serbian Orthodox Church. It was the other way around.

              Since all the other Orthodox churches recognized Serbia’s jurisdiction over the MOC, they abided by Serbia’s ruling of them as “schismatic” and didn’t commune with them.

              When the MOC requested autonomy under the Serbian Patriarchate last year (the EP told the MOC to do that by the way), it was merely an understood pathway to having the Serbian Patriarchate finally recognize their autocephaly. Everyone knew this.

              So what then caused the Serbian Patriarchate to suddenly change it’s mind (repent) about recognizing autocephaly for the MOC? I don’t know for sure. The answer probably has to do with contemporary Balkan politics.

              The failed “Nis Draft Agreement” in 2002 didn’t offer autocephaly, and that was ultimately the reason for it’s failure. So why did the Serbian Patriarchate wait another twenty years? Offering autocephaly in 2002 would have avoided a lot of nasty events that followed.

              • Joseph, you can’t rewrite history. In 1967, on the bicentennial anniversary of the abolition of the Archbishopric of Ohrid, the Macedonian Holy Synod unilaterally announced its independence from the Serbian Orthodox Church. The Serbian Synod denounced the decision and condemned the clergy as schismatic. The entire Orthdox Church saw them as schismatic. They had to repent to move forward. Had Macedonia not gone into schism in the first place they could have “avoided a lot of nasty events!”

                So what caused the Serbian Patriarchate to want to bring the MOC out of schism and grant them autocephaly? I would say the involvement of the Ecumenical Patriarch, who wanted to remove Macedonia’s ecclesiastical jurisdiction over North Macedonia and the Macedonian diaspora.

                The EP’s involvement, which was precipitated by the state like in Ukraine, was unwelcomed.

                The EP did not tell the MOC to request autonomy from the SOC. If that had been the case, he would recognize the MOC’s autocephaly which he doesn’t. He only recognizes their canonicity.

                Bartholomew was quite upset when the MOC went to the SOC because they could avoid his stipulation that the Macedonian Church can only be called the “Ohrid Archbishopric” and that it cannot have any dioceses or churches outside the territory of the Republic of North Macedonia, which would cut the Church off from its four dioceses in North America, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand. But because the MOC went to the Mother Church of the Macedonian Church, the Serbian Patriarchate, no such stipulations exists.

                SOC did not need or want Bartholomew in the middle of their Church given the mess in Ukraine so they decided to resolve the situation internally by giving the MOC autocephaly.

                • Alexander II says

                  “So what caused the Serbian Patriarchate to want to bring the MOC out of schism and grant them autocephaly? I would say the involvement of the Ecumenical Patriarch, who wanted to remove Macedonia’s ecclesiastical jurisdiction over North Macedonia and the Macedonian diaspora.”


                  The Istanbul Ghetto got caught flat footed, miscalculated, and misfired. They have always been happy with the MOC/SOC status. It was nice and neat. Their hegemonic pretenses were preserved. As long as the MOC was officially estranged from the SOC, everything in the home of Zeus, Alexander the Great, Greek Fests and Windex the Elixir was copacetic.

                  Patriarch Porfirije and the SOC bishops, including those in the SOC’s “Archbishopric of Ohrid,” wanted to resolve this wound. There was no point to the fight any longer. They were well on their way to fixing this very quietly behind the scenes. SOC Bishop Photius in a recorded sermon, let the cat out of the bag, about a week too soon. The Istanbul whack jobs were scared about being perceived as somehow ceding authority to the SOC.

                  Istanbul panicked. It misunderstood the status of the SOC/MOC negotiations and mistakenly believed that if they “recognized” the MOC on Istanbul’s terms, that the MOC would come running to them, abandoning whatever efforts were going on with the SOC. This would redouble the whole primacy of Constantinople malarkey. They would be the “mother church” of Macedonia. It would box the MOC into being named what Istanbul wanted them to be named. It would reinforce the idea that MOC could not independently declare autocephaly, nor that its “mother church,” Serbia could declare the MOC’s autocephaly. Most importantly, Istanbul would contort it as some sort of precedent in Ukraine. They never imagined the SOC granting the Macedonians complete, unfettered, true autocephaly.

                  It is a happy accident that Istanbul got the wrong end of everything. By shooting ahead of the bird and “recognizing” the canonicity of the MOC, they were stuck with it. They could not retract it without appearing to be what they are, utter fools. And then, once “everyone” recognized the MOC’s canonicity, the SOC’s already intended grant of autocephaly was a free throw. No one could object that the episcopacy of the MOC was not legit so recognition, let alone autocephaly, was impossible.

                  Other than Istanbul, Athens, Cyprus and maybe Alexandria, the remaining Local Churches understood that all along the Macedonian issue was exclusively an internal SOC matter. Even the Bulgarians, who have their beef over the name “Ohrid” were on board, subject to their reservation on the name.

                  I do not believe that the SOC was shadow boxing with Istanbul. If it was, then “checkmate.”

                  P.S. You cannot underestimate the importance of personalities and personal relationships of the players here. This was made possible in large part by a new cadre of SOC bishops, including the Patriarch, who had very good relations with many MOC counterparts. Plus, Amfilohije of the Black Rock was dead and Patriarch Irinej, and his Cold War mentality was also dead.

                  • I appreciate your input. My asking questions should in no way be interpreted as not appreciating what you have to say.

                    Why did SOC wait until Bartholomew made a move before granting Macedonia autocephaly? Surely they knew they wanted it. In videos after the fact, there appeared to be no acrimony between them. They were all celebrating.

                    • Alexander II says

                      I need to go back to the timeline to be sure, but we tracked it here in real time.

                      First, Bishop Photius lets the cat out of the bag in a homily that the SOC and MOC are close to a resolution. Whether it was on purpose or simply the result of the bishop not expecting some comment making it beyond the four walls of the church, I dunno.

                      Second, the Ghetto panicked, “preemptively” recognizing the North Macedonian canonicity. They have nothing better to do. They have no real dioceses to run.

                      Third, the SOC formally acknowledged restoration of full communion with the MOC, status quo ante 1959. The SOC and MOC concelebrate in Belgrade. And shortly thereafter, they concelebrate in Skopje, during which time Belgrade hints at autocephaly for the Macedonians.

                      Fourth, in a very short time thereafter, during a SOC bishops assembly, they resolve to grant full autocephaly, which is promulgated thereafter in Belgrade.

                      The SOC was not tied to a Ghetto time line.

                      If you mean “wait so long,” after the Nish failure, that’s complicated. Nish was the product of some old, quite literal political baggage. They whole Autonomous Archbishopric of Ohrid experiment with Archbishop Jovan was a half answer that tried to thread several incongruous needles and simply did not work out. It almost killed him, and very sadly has messed him up for the rest of his days.

                      Porfirije made this a priority of his nascent patriarchy. He and the synod could only move so fast after his predecessor Irinej and Metropolitan Amfilohije died. (Amfilohije was closely tied to Istanbul through his nephew, who is a “bishop of the throne.”) Pure Byzantine intrigue.

                      And Kosovo is a topic that will suck the oxygen out of any conversation involving the SOC. If a church mouse squeaks in Kosovo, it’s all hands on deck. Nothing else matters. That will mess up and delay any SOC project.

                      The other “institutional shoe” that needed to drop was Irinej of Bachka. That Irinej is Porfirije’s spiritual father and, in pure Machiavellian terms, his sponsor and a powerful member of the SOC leadership. Irinej was transformative in the mass awakening of an entire generation of younger adults coming of age in the 1990’s, renewing Orthodoxy throughout Serbia, including Porfirije himself as a 20-something.

                      The “problem” was that concurrently this Irinej was exceedingly pro-Phanar, for reasons that remain an unsolved mystery to me. So naturally, he was not inclined to honk off Istanbul. There were some “novel” theologically complicated Greek inspired ideas, with which he was familiar and, apparently sympathetic. This caused a bit of a rift in the SOC rank and file. Then he shut it down, seemingly after piecing together the bigger Phanar game plan behind the Cretan Great and Holy Paper Shuffle.

                      Independently, Porfirije was enthroned as the Metropolitan of Zagreb and Ljubljana, a position he still holds “in locum tenens” as administrator pending election of new diocesan bishop. During his time there, he became keenly sensitive to the enormous challenges the SOC located outside of Serbia and the Republika Srpska (Bosnia) faces.

                      The Macedonian solution of the previous leadership, was just unworkable, as sad as the near martyrdom of Archbishop Jovan at the hands of the Macedonian government was.

                      Also, some of these SOC/MOC bishops are friends and, and if I have it right, classmates. Hence the visual signals of no acrimony. It was the Macedonian government that was making all the problems.

                      In short, this was the SOC’s work, not – at least specifically – some gamesmanship with the Ghetto. Ironically enough, that’s how it seems to have played out.

                    • I would have never figured Bishop Irinej of Bačka as being exceedingly pro-Phanar but what happened in Ukraine could definitely change anyone. – Thanks for the back story!

                  • Joseph Lipper says

                    Alexander II, you’re quite right that the SOC and MOC were already reconciling before the EP told them to do so. However, the relationship between the MOC and Patriarch Bartholomew predates this. It predates the death of Patriarch Irenej.

                    Patriarch Bartholomew was involved with this as early as 2018:


                    North Macedonia’s government sent a formal letter requesting autocephaly in September 2020:


                    • Bingo! The government was brokering the relationship just like in Ukraine.

                    • Joseph Lipper says

                      Gail, when the government is “brokering the relationship”, the church should really listen. When the government says, we want an autocephalous Orthodox church, that’s a big, big clue that anything else will probably fail.

                      The 2002 “Nis Draft Agreement” failed because it came short of autocephaly. The main culprit behind its failure was the North Macedonian government.

                      Autocephaly is a mechanism of the Orthodox Church that intentionally maintains the unity of the Orthodox Church while countering the forces of nationalism that prevail in a country. The more nationalistic a country is, the more likely that the Church there will need autocephaly to survive. That’s what we are seeing now in Ukraine.

                    • Joseph, I have PTSD at this point. What’s going on in Ukraine has taken up residency in my hypothalamus. If I see any parallels in other Churches to what’s happening in and to Ukraine, warning bells go off in my head: “Danger, Will Robinson.” “I cannot accept that option.” “Does not compute.”

                      – Don’t like governments initiating anything with respect to the Church.
                      – Don’t like the EP (err, I mean the State Department) period.
                      – Don’t like the Church being used as a vehicle to further anyone’s political aspirations.

                    • Alexander II says

                      Yes, they were playing footsie for a very long time – years and years before 2018. The MOC was flailing and grasping. They even flirted with the Vatican.

                      But none of it was ever going anywhere. No traction. As a practical matter there was the name thing, which trumps everything for the Ghetto and, to be sure, was/is almost just important to the MOC itself.

                      Second, the MOC has always had no cards to play in this game. Trapped by its “Mother Church” and trapped by all other Local Churches deferring to the SOC.

                      So, they allowed the Macedonian government to pay hard ball at the inspiration of the US State Department, something that did not work. Those letters by the Macedonian government was a classic “monkey see, monkey do” mimicking of the Ukraine playbook.

                      What the Macedonian government did to Archbishop Jovan with the tacit and sometimes express support of the MOC was a tragedy. On a certain level, it was his willingness to forgive them that allowed this to happen.

                      The Ghetto pulled back after the SOC changed its mind and attended the Great and Holy Paper Shuffle. But then the Ghetto was reconsidering after the fall out.

                      You folks think in short terms. These are much longer games – decades. There was a desire to wrap this up before and after the 1992 fix of the US split. But the Balkan Wars got in the way.

                      As between the MOC and the Ghetto, it was a never ending series of tic-tac-toe. There could never be a winning scenario for either side.

                      And finally, there’s the Russian angle to all of this, which is another multi-planer analysis in an of itself.

                    • RE: “You folks think in short terms. These are much longer games – decades.”

                      Which is why we’re struggling.

                  • Alexander II,

                    Note that some saw the MOC v SOC schism as beyond administrative, and tainted with heresy on the Macedonian
                    side (ethnophylitism + a sort of succumbing to state pressure). It seems the re-acceptance of the autonomous status was a sort of humble display of repentance for their prior schismatic actions.

                    Furthermore, it surprises me to see you speak of Met Amfilohije of blessed memory in what appears to be a somewhat disdainful way. He was beloved by many and considered by many consider to be a holy man. He desired the repentance of the MOC and proper reconciliation with the SOC…

                    • Alexander II says


                      Of course some viewed this differently. It’s not neat and easy. Take a look at another response in this thread. The notion of a Macedonian nationality was at one point a political contrivance that, whether we want to admit it or not, whether “right” or “wrong,” is now a reality. But, let’s remember that St. Sava secured the original autocephaly of the SOC based on the desire that the Serbian people govern their own ecclesiastical affairs – not “Greece” or Constantinople. Times, they really don’t change.

                      (BTW – A French website is reporting that a delegation of Macedonian clerics visited with Istanbul whack jobs in Greece. The report indicates that the Ghetto is willing to consider granting the MOC autocephaly “under certain conditions.” Likely the same conditions written on the fancy parchment Arhondonis handed to Dumenko. Let’s hope the Macedonians are smart and do not wreck the Cadillac their father just gave them.)

                      Autocephalies will come and go.

                      As to Metropolitan Amfilohije, your assessment of my sentiment, and indeed animus, is accurate. I found him to be an arrogant man, preoccupied by purely political matters in Montenegro, in a fashion completely unbecoming of a bishop. He gave himself titles that the whole of the SOC did not confer upon him, i.e. “Archbishop of Cetinje.” He was personally unwelcoming, abrasive, and at times, when serving, a liturgical tyrant.

                      He thought himself a “Prince-Bishop,” in the spirit of the poet ruler Njegos, whom he inappropriately pushed for glorification as a saint, but was squarely rejected by the SOC Holy Assembly of Bishops.

                      His role in pushing the SOC to reconsider and to attend the Great and Holy Cretan Paper Shuffle was duplicitous.

                      During the time between Patriarch Pavle’s death and Patriarch Irinej’s election, he posited himself as the de facto patriarch, publishing encyclicals on behalf of the entire SOC episcopacy in his own name.

                      But the most distasteful thing about him however was how he handled the death of Milovan Djilas, a fellow Montenegrin, WWII communist of the grandest kind, a militant atheist, and a man responsible for the murder of tens of thousands of people in the name of revolution. (Though the darling of the Western elites and State Department swamp creatures given his fallout with Tito, the Soviets, and the publication of his “classic” book, “The New Class.”)

                      Given the politics of Yugoslavia/Montenegro/Serbia, over time, Amfilohije developed a relationship of sorts with Djilas.

                      Amfilohije visited Djilas as Djilas neared death. He asked Djilas if he would accept Christ. Djilas flatly and boldly rejected God. Djilas died unrepentant to the end. How do I know this? Amfilohije unabashedly told me and others.

                      Amfilohije, however, for purposes of political optics, ordered two priests to bury Djilas. Why? Montenegrin politics. When I asked him in a private setting three times – once in English, once in Serbian, and once through a requested translation using a Montenegrin dialect – “since when did the Orthodox Church consider Djilas” to be a ‘Servant of God’,” as a decedent would be described during an Orthodox funeral, he stammered his way through an utterly evasive and unresponsive answer, realizing that all who were listening were not Montenegrin apologists.

                      He was a creature of intrigue, power, and prestige.

                      And in my outspoken view, a complete charlatan.

          • George Michalopulos says

            Joseph, as much as I admire the Bishop of Pireaus, one must keep in mind his own nationalistic biases, specifically against the name “Macedonian.” As has been known for years now, the Greek government has vociferously apposed the “Macedonian” nomenclature for this former breakaway Yugoslav republic.

            They called themselves “Macedonia” but the Greeks called them FYROM (the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia). Eventually both sides compromised and it’s now called “North Macedonia.” (There is a Macedonia in Greece, Thessalonica is its capital.)

            Anyway, the name Macedonia sticks in the craw of most Greeks, so this bias must be taken into account.

            • Joseph Lipper says

              George, I should probably express here that I find these comments of Metropolitan Seraphim of Piraeus regarding the MOC to be quite humorous. Evidently, he believes otherwise.

              Schisms regarding administrative disagreements don’t always seem to require repentance per se. For example, I don’t think the Church of Greece repented of their demand for autocephaly. Am I wrong?
              Rather, I believe the EP just finally gave in to their demand.

              Schisms are always tragic and even dangerous. The important thing is that there was reconciliation, thank God. Unfortunately, sometimes reconciliation takes quite a long time, as with the Serbs and the MOC.

              • Joseph, what you say about the Church of Greece’s request for autocephaly is correct. The Greeks demanded it in 1830 and was recognized finally in 1850 by the EP. Interestingly, the Russians, being one of the guarantors of Greece’s political independence, agreed with the EP who originally turned a deaf ear to the Greeks’ demands.

              • My problem with the MOC autocephaly is twofold. First I find it ridiculous that with balkanization comes autocephaly. Tiny Balkan area all these nationalities seeking their own micro-churches. And it’s not over with Montenegro if the powers that be have their way in fact I don’t think the MOC is resolved as I do t see this country surviving too long. My second concern is how they handled the issue with Archbishop Jovan. Archbishop Jovan had apostolic succession these guys didn’t. The canons such as Nicea has never allowed the schismatic bishop to usurp the Orthodox bishop. Novation clergy coming back to the church can retain their rank and remain bishop in areas where there were no Orthodox bishop. It makes clear you do not get rid of the Orthodox bishop for the schismatic one. What was the procedure,? Am I to expect archbishop Jovan was NEVER bishop? Does the MOC count him as their first bishop and have repented for being in schism with him for all these years?

                • Alexander II says

                  Look, we tend to get really fixated on the concept of autocephaly. What ever happened to the Church at Corinth?

                  The whole idea is that a group of bishops, by commonality of indigenous history, shared small “t” traditions, and contiguity of dioceses, are grouped together for purposes of self governance. And among themselves, they elect a first hierarch. These groupings over history will be configured and reconfigured. The “Ancient” patriarchates get a lot of air time because at the time of the council they had clout; their status frozen in time because there haven’t been councils.

                  The idea of Macedonian Church was at one point a pure contrivance. It corresponded to, and was a reflection of, and an imposition of, the Yugoslav communist idea to “de-Serbianize” Yugoslavia. Most charitably stated, it is as an argument to reconfigure a grouping of “Serbian” bishops into a self governing unit.

                  Even the idea of Macedonian was a bit of a contrivance. Not Serbian, not Greek, not Bulgarian, not Wallachian, not Arnaut, not a bunch of others. The historical justifications that there always was a distinct nationality – or not – and why so or why not abound. But, over time, these mutts self identified differently from their ancestors. Rightfully; wrongfully; “organically”; or as a result of insidious propaganda and social engineering.

                  In the end, ie last year, the SOC realized that ministering to the flock there was beyond its realistic competency. So they gave them everything, unconditionally. It gave them jurisdiction over the very place where Serbian emperors were crowned by eventual Serbian Saints. The place of monasteries and churches built by Serbian kings, nobles and people. It gave them the relics of saints; the sacred icons. All of it.

                  In centuries to come, this configuration too will change.

                  • Re: “The “Ancient” patriarchates get a lot of air time because at the time of the council they had clout; their status frozen in time because there haven’t been councils.”

                    Oh, there are (informal) councils. Just because the EP doesn’t call them or show up when they’re called doesn’t mean they aren’t happening.

                    Re: “Even the idea of Macedonian was a bit of a contrivance. Not Serbian, not Greek, not Bulgarian, not Wallachian, not Arnaut, not a bunch of others.”

                    Go back to 1966.

                    Re: “In the end, ie last year, the SOC realized that ministering to the flock there was beyond its realistic competency.”

                    The suddenness of their decision had nothing to do with a last minute “ah ha” moment on their end about their competency!

                    • Alexander II says

                      Go back to 1876. Go back to 1900. Go back to 1912 and 1920. Go back to 1929. Go back to 1934. Go back to 1941. Go back to 1945. Go back to 1959. Go back to 1967. Go back to the late 1980’s. Go back to 1992. Go back to last May.

                      On Montenegro – the SOC has declared those self appointed whatever’s outside of the Church. There’s no schism. They are make believe and if Arhondonis did anything there, it would be logically parallel to what he’s done in Ukraine.

                      As to “micro-churches,” the micro-est of them was Istanbul before its repeated apostasy and heresy in the last decade or so. The Church of the Sinai. The Churches of the Stan’s have more faithful than the “plentitude” of Arhondonis’ operation. Moldova, Belarus, the list goes on.

                      Yeah, the Great Entrance at a service celebrated by a Patriarch would require a pencil and scorecard to keep the batting order of first hierarchs straight. But in the context of the 2000 year history of the Church, this is a fairly new practice anyway.

                      (I’m reminded of the joke about a Roman priest and an Orthodox priest arguing about papal infallibility. The Roman priest eventually relented, saying yes, we have an infallible Pope. But at least we have only one – everyone of your bishops thinks he’s infallible.”)

                      Macedonia has been an issue the SOC has tried to grapple with for a very long time. The communists really screwed them up from 1945 to 1990 or so.

                      There was nothing “sudden” about the decision of the SOC. The suddenness of reaction was from the panicked Ghetto.

                      Look, I know many people here seem to think the panoply of primates and all of the bishops of the Church should convene a Great and Holy Microsoft Teams Meeting every time some problem or issue arises. I agree that they need to work on many things with a greater sense of expediency than what they do. But fortunately and unfortunately that is not how the Church works.

                    • Re: “Macedonia has been an issue the SOC has tried to grapple with for a very long time. The communists really screwed them up from 1945 to 1990 or so.”

                      Macedonia is a very small place. The Macedonia church left the SOC in 1967. In what way would this situation keep them up at night? To me, it seems like things was copesetic (for decades) until Bartholomew started talking to them about bringing them in under him which no one wants. The people in the SOC had a relationship with the people in the MOC. You can see that on their faces when they reunited.

                      Serbia put this together in record time. If it wasn’t because of Bartholomew, how would one explain the rush after all those years?

                      The Ghetto had no idea the whole Serbia thing was happening. They thought they already had agreement with Macedonia. Why would they be panicking? After several decades of grappling, for Serbia to ride in and save save the day suggests to me they were trying to sew things up before Bartholomew had time to react.

                      I don’t think anyone has said there should have been a Great and Holy Microsoft Teams Meeting. Why would that be necessary? It was perfectly within Macedonia’s providence to go back to Serbia and mend fences. Everyone is happy about it.

                      Except maybe Bartholomew.

                • Alexander II says

                  Archbishop Jovan was and is a bishop. He was nearly martyred for his work and ministry. The idea of an Autonomous Archbishopric of Ohrid was, again, an awkward effort to address a difficult circumstance. It did not work. The SOC a recognized that basic fact.

                  Read what Jovan said. He welcomed this.

                  • I read what Archbishop Jovan said and seems to be on the same length as when bishops are removed for “health reasons” and give a scripted response as to how they have to go away. At the very least these balkanized autocephalous micro churches should be named after their major cities as the unifying center. This way once a new ethnos occupies it we won’t have to reinvent the wheel .

                    • Alexander II says

                      No, as to Jovan. There you are plain wrong.

                      So how many patriarchates should there be? One? Five? 13? 15? 25?

                      As to the naming, I think you are right. The whole monicker of a “patriarch,” “metropolitan,” “archbishop,” is silly in my view. Just sign, “Bishop of Moscow,” “Bishop of Bucharest” and be done with it.

                    • Alexander II: ‘ The whole monicker of a “patriarch,”
                      “metropolitan,” “archbishop,” is silly in my view. ‘

                      In every henhouse, there is a pecking-order…

                  • Alexander II says


                    As evidenced by the fact that replies are no longer possible on this thread, it looks like we’ve neared the bottom of this rabbit hole. So, I stuck this hopefully last comment here. Also, it appears that we are talking past one another.

                    If you start with the with the premise that the Serbs were at this for a very long time, as I do, and then the premise that Istanbul was oblivious to what the Serbs were doing, – as I do – when Istanbul catches wind of the fact the Serb forgiveness of Macedonia is serious, that is where the panic in Istanbul sets in. They are the ones that moved in record time. Istanbul scrambles to preempt Serbia. I do not believe that the Ghetto appreciated the seriousness of where the SOC and MOC discussions had reached. I know that the SOC was seriously looking at this for a long time.

                    The next piece is that Istanbul does not fathom that Serbia would grant autocephaly, something Istanbul would never think or want to do. And that is what trapped Istanbul. They panicked and played the “recognition” card to appear to resolve this before the Serbs. This legitimized the MOC hierarchy in exchange for really nothing.

                    In the end, you and I see this differently. You seem to perceive that Istanbul pushed this. I assert that Serbia was the prime mover on this development.

                    (Or, you and I are wrong and Macedonia played them both! Insert smiley emoji here.)

                    I was imprecise with the Microsoft Teams quip. I didn’t mean to suggest that a council was necessary for this specific issue. It was a snarky comment aimed at my perception of others’ impatience with a lack of resolution of some issues by the entire Church “promptly” or quickly. All things considered I think that we are past due – way past due – for a real council addressing heady issues.

                    Hristos voskrese.

                    • RE: “As evidenced by the fact that replies are no longer possible on this thread, it looks like we’ve neared the bottom of this rabbit hole. So, I stuck this hopefully last comment here. Also, it appears that we are talking past one another.”

                      Sorry you feel that way. We enjoyed having you and you will be missed. Have blessed Pascha, my friend.

                    • Alexander II says

                      Didn’t intend to give you the wrong impression.

                      I’m not leaving for good. I just thought our conversation on the SOC/MOC subject had run its course.

                      This site and its discussions have helped me keep my sanity.

                  • Alexander II says

                    Brendan: “In every henhouse, there is a pecking-order…”

                    The whole “some are more equal than others” logic eventually turns out to be the Arhondonis heresy. Reductio ad absurdum.

                    Yeah, union shop rules. If you have ever served in an altar with several bishops and priests unaccustomed to serving together, I’m guessing that you too find it kind of funny how they all jostle and line up to organize themselves based on dates of consecration (bishops) or ordination (priests).

                    • The Orthodox Church doesn’t think like that. It’s not about being “equal.” No one finds our services funny nor is painting the Church in a bad light something I want to entertain on my blog because, like me, many of my readers find all this insulting. – Find something other than your problem with the Orthodox Church to talk about and you’ll be fine. 🙂

                    • “I’m guessing that you too find it kind of funny…”

                      I do and I don’t. It’s all part of life’s rich tapestry;
                      BUT: there must be a clear chain of command
                      in any complex operation – otherwise it will fail.
                      Priority of seniority offers an instant and clear rule,
                      without getting lost in arguments of personal merit.

                      The film Zulu depicts a scene at Rorke’s Drift Mission Station;
                      where 141 Brits await the arrival of a 4,000 strong Zulu impi.
                      Lt Chard (Stanley Baker) and Lt Bromhead (Michael Caine)
                      contest who has command in a desperate situation.
                      The decision is clear. There is no power struggle
                      and there is no vaccuum of authority.

        • Alexander II says

          Yeah, I don’t know about that.

          In the fifth and sixth centuries, the “Lesser” churches – the Nestorians of Persia, and the Monophysites of Armenia, Syria, Ethiopia, and India – became divided from the main body of Christians based on differences in understanding and defining the divinity of Christ. The Nestorians and Monophysites asserted that Christ’s humanity and divinity were distinct, a proposition deemed to be a heresy at the Council of Ephesus in 431 and again at the Council of Chalcedon in 451. The next schism, of the Great Schism is conventionally and famously understood to have taken place in 1054 — and we all know what that one entailed.

          No one doubts that these two schisms — “Great Schisms” — were predicated on fundamental theological issues. We Orthodox have no doubt that the Nestorians, Monophysites, and Latin episcopacy ceased to have apostolic succession given their heresies. Yes, these schisms necessarily had an “administrative,” component. But infinitely more importantly, they were “dogmatic,” utterly irreconcilable differences. The same can be said of smaller schisms, such as the Union of Brest. The cleaving away of the “Uniates” eliminated any pretense of continued apostolic succession.

          Fairly recently, there have been “schisms” between Local Churches. For example, there is the Jerusalem and Antioch silliness over a chapel in Qatar. And for another example, there is the 1990’s Moscow Istanbul thing with Estonia. I do not believe any Local Church contends (or contended) that the opposite Local Church in these disputes lost apostolic succession over this argument. Does anyone seriously contend that there was a “loss of grace,” depriving them of apostolic succession?

          In the last century or so, there have been numerous other “schisms” occurring within Local Churches, e.g. the Russian Church Outside Russia, the Macedonian, and as indicated in another comment, the SOC split in the USA. Unquestionably, there were times of pretty serious nastiness. But, none of these internal-to-a Local Church divisions were predicated on theological disputes. No one disputed, for example, Orthodox Christology.

          Are the “Old Calendarist” schisms “theological”? To those who idolatrize the calendar subject, they sure seem to be “theological.” As we all know from reading here, this issue can be a third rail, and it is far from tidy. Other than the calendar, there does not appear to be a “theological” difference on the core Orthodox theology. But from the “Who Cares What You Think Department,” I consider these “administrative” schisms because among the totality of Local Churches, unquestionably “canonical” Churches — at least thus far — there is no agreement on the issue. It admittedly gets tricky when the “Old Calendarists” pick up some dubious free agent clerics and their steady stridency on “ecumenism,” whatever that really means.

          But back to the point. When there is an “intra-” Local Church issue, the other Local Churches extend a “professional courtesy,” and acknowledge the rift and typically do not concelebrate with the bishops separated from the Local Church. Sure, there are exceptions — notably, for example the nod and the wink between ROCOR, the SOC, and the ROC following the Russian Revolution. Did the ROCOR bishops lose apostolic succession? Did they “repent” of something before re-joining the Moscow Patriarchate?

          This is what makes the perniciousness of the Istanbul Ghetto’s attack vector these days schismatic, in the sense of the “Great Schism” of 1054 or that of the Fifth Century. Sure, His Intergalacticness’ primus sin paribus is an ecclesiological topic, but it so fundamentally redefines the very nature of the Orthodox episcopacy that it is a heresy. Arhondonis’ unilateral dalliances with Rome — and his quadruple speak justifications — are heresies that reject fundamental Orthodox theology. His acceptance of admittedly anathamized and defrocked bishops of a sister church is heresy. His acceptance of “made up” bishops is heresy. More fundamentally, Arhondonis et al.’s not so subtle redefinition of Orthodox anthropology is heretical. These are uncontroverted events that deprive HIM, and the “bishops” of his former local church who do not object, of their apostolic succession. Indeed, this is the Next “Great Schism,” coming right on the 500 year cycle defined by Bishop Kallistos (Ware).

          Again, none of this fits into nice scholastic, bow tied, legalistic boxes. Though I stand to be corrected by more competent and knowledgeable people than I, I would submit, in the instance of the MOC, as terribly nasty as it got between Skopje and Belgrade and the involvement of the Macedonian government in persecuting the Belgrade bishops, there was never a question of the continuation of apostolic success of the MOC episcopacy.

          • You bring up an interesting point. But I would think there’s is something that is afforded by virtue of being in the fold, regardless of all the twists and turns one might have taken to get there. Once there, if you leave, I would assume something would be lost.

            So it may not be about the specific lineage of an entity so much as the linage afforded by virtue of being in the canonical Church that determines apostolic succession.

            In other words, it is the Church that has apostolic succession.

          • More fundamentally, Arhondonis et al.’s not so subtle redefinition of Orthodox anthropology is heretical.

            Could you say more about this?

            • Alexander II says

              In short, it’s the endorsement of the homosexual agenda’s redefinition of man, woman and family. It’s the implications of his New World Order green agenda and the conceptualization of humanity’s dominion over nature. It’s the implication of his politics on the relationship of the person to his government. And pretty much anything the Fordamites spew.

          • Indeed, this is the Next “Great Schism….”

            TBH if another “Great Schism” were to occur (remember it’s not set in stone), it would not be on the same size or scale as the OG Great Schism.


            Because “New Rome” is in no way, shape or form even remotely close to Old Rome. Old Rome was an entire empire encompassing most all of Western Europe, massive population, massive army, etc.

            “New Rome” is in a Muslim city, with a miniscule population and far flung diaspora, and a majority of its monasteries on Athos & abroad that do not agree with it, etc. The majority of its laity are actually within the country of Greece in the “new lands,” which if a schism occurs will likely rejoin the Church of Greece.

            Not only that, but, we do not live in 1054 anymore. Information spreads instantaneously, the second something happens in Istanbul we know about it within seconds or minutes here in the U.S and around the world.

            During the OG Great Schism the laity did not have that luxury. Also, don’t forget that Latin Catholics were still communed in Orthodox Churches until I think(?) sometime between the 1200-1400’s when it became very apparent they no longer shared the same Faith with the Orthodox.

            What I imagine will end up being the case if this schism does occur is it will look more like what happened after the council of Ferrera-Florence. Whatever bishops have hitched their wagon to Patriarch Bartholomew will apostatize with him, and it will be rejected by the majority of laity. It would be a mistake to equate the majority of laity within the Churches of Greece, Cyprus & Alexandria with their wayward Patriarchs/hierarchs.

            Because we live in a totally different world, different circumstances, different technology, etc., is why this will not be another Great Schism. Will it be unfortunate? Sure. But, it will not be on the scale of the original one.

            I’m more than happy to take critiques on this but that’s essentially how I see it. I think we give the EP way more credit than it deserves in equating it with Old Rome of 1054.

            • I think you may have the rights of it,
              though time will tell – as always.

            • Petros, I don’t disagree with what you wrote.

              However, despite the speed of information in our time, one thing that 1054 does have in common with the current nascent schism (may God quickly bring it to an end!) is how slowly and gradually it’s developing—without bright lines in many of the places where people want to see them.

              You may be aware of the very interesting episode in 1190 where Patriarch Mark III of Alexandria wrote to the Patriarch of Antioch and canonist, Theodore IV Balsamon, asking for his judgment on whether Latins should continue to be received to Holy Communion in the Church of Alexandria. (Of course, this was in the midst of the Crusades, and plenty of Westerners had come to Egypt.) Patriarch Theodore responded with a strong negative. However, Patriarch Mark ultimately continued the practice of communing Latins, and even of commemorating the Pope of Rome in the diptychs.

              • is how slowly and gradually it’s developing—without bright lines in many of the places where people want to see them.

                True, but that schism happened at a glacial pace starting in the 8th century(?) and culminating in 1054, this was as the empire grew apart both politically and doctrinally and in isolation due to various invasions in the Western Empire.
                This schism isn’t happening over centuries but over a period of a few years and though to an extent there is a doctrinal element to it, it’s also largely a political schism. Should this schism unfortunately unfold over a period of centuries I think we can be well assured that the “biological solution” will have long since solved the problem since the Greek population in Istanbul will be extinct (sadly) exponentially sooner…like in the next 10-30 years. Whoever the EP is at that point they will be alone in a muslim country, in a muslim city, they already are but at least now they have a flock, however elderly and minute it may be.

                Either they admit defeat and move to Athos or somewhere in Greece like Antioch did when they moved to Damascus, or, they will be even more irrelevant to world Orthodox than they already are. What they *should* do is merge the Patriarchate of Constantinople with the Church of Greece covering both Greece & Turkey and having the Patriarchal throne be in Athos or Thessaloniki or somewhere. I understand the hold that Greeks have on Constantinople, but its long since gone and if they want to be a functioning Patriarchate like Antioch they need to adapt.

                You may be aware of the very interesting episode in 1190 where Patriarch Mark III of Alexandria wrote to the Patriarch of Antioch and canonist, Theodore IV Balsamon, asking for his judgment on whether Latins should continue to be received to Holy Communion in the Church of Alexandria. (Of course, this was in the midst of the Crusades, and plenty of Westerners had come to Egypt.) Patriarch Theodore responded with a strong negative. However, Patriarch Mark ultimately continued the practice of communing Latins, and even of commemorating the Pope of Rome in the diptychs.

                Yep the break in communion between the East & West wasn’t as instantaneous as I think many people believe. It originally started out as just a schism between the Patriarchates of Rome & Constantinople (which is why I think people associate it with the current Moscow-Constantinople schism), but, it took time and further development of heresy (doctrine) in Roman Catholicism for it to be obvious for the rest of the Orthodox world to realize they no longer shared the same Faith and that Rome had moved past the point of no return and gradually the rest of the Patriarchates fell out of communion with them.

      • Alexander II says

        I did not have a chance to ask Patriarch Porfirije variations of the very question that you (Joseph) raise when he visited the USA several weeks ago.

        I do know that resolution of the (1963 – 1992) “administrative schism” that existed between the Patriarchate of Belgrade and what was then known as the “Free Serbian Orthodox Church,” or the “New Gracanica Metropolitanate,” did not involve “repentance” of schism or otherwise.

        To be sure, there were bishops of the SOC, most notably Metropolitan Christopher, who steadfastly referred to the NGM as “schismatic,” a position that he maintained until his bitter demise. But neither St. Justin of Celije, the saintly Patriarch Pavle, prominent members of the Synod such as then Bishop (later Metropolitan of Montenegro) Amfilohije, or even Bishop Sava of Shumadia, or Belgrade Theological Faculty such as Archimandrite, later Bishop, Atanasije (Jevtic) referred to, or considered the NGM as “schismatic,” in the sense that word is being used in this discussion. The predicate there was that the SOC understood and confirmed that the bishops of the NGM had the fullness of apostolic succession. There was no “re-consecration” of the existing NGM episcopacy.

        Here is another instance where our Western predilections for nice neat legalisms fails to work neatly.

  13. Blessed Palm Sunday to everyone on Monomakhos

    I pray everyone has a blessed Holy Week and Pascha ☦️

  14. Patriarch Kiril explained everything.
    There is no English translation except from the web but is not bad.
    “The moment of truth is coming and, probably, it has already come, because everything has fallen into place – the masks have been torn off, the false diplomacy of the era of detente is gone. Because the task was set to take us with bare hands, without any war, to fool us, to draw us into their world, to instill in us their values. But our people and our leadership realized that these values contradict ours, because Holy Rus’, thank God, preserves Christian values, which were included in the system of national values.

    When it became clear that there was nothing in common anymore, all this led to a military confrontation. And we must remember that our current battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spirits of wickedness in high places (see Eph. 6:12). I say this boldly, with full confidence that Russia is on the side of the world. And this can be easily proved, because Russia does not seek to become richer, does not seek to seize other countries, does not seek to subdue anyone. Russia simply seeks to preserve its identity, its faith, its system of values. Isn’t that what the holy noble Prince Alexander Nevsky fought for? Isn’t that what our great predecessors fought for on the Kulikovo field?

    This is not the first time Russia has entered into such a confrontation, and it is very important that we are not driven by either the desire for power, especially world power, or the desire for easy prey. We do not associate anything material with this confrontation, and this is evidence of the correctness of our position. We defend our faith, our moral system of values. We don’t want parents number 1 and number 2. We don’t want the distinction between the sexes to be lost. We do not want depravity to become the norm. Russia has found the strength to resist evil, which means that our holy predecessors do not leave the Russian land with their prayers. Otherwise, it is impossible to explain how the current generation of politicians, born in the Soviet and even post-Soviet times, came to the defense of the primordial Orthodox Rus’ – of course, by the grace of God. And the Lord does not leave our land, and God forbid that the Orthodox faith be preserved in our people.

    And for it to be so, the service of our Church must be special, truly sacrificial. And this is not just rhetoric – these are hard-won words. Because it is only through sacrificial service that we will endure and overcome everything. And today my special word is to our priesthood. New times have come when the Church bears an enormous responsibility for the fate of the country. Our generation remembers how our fathers withstood the trials that fell to their lot and did not break — thanks to this, we have preserved both our faith and our Church. And what lies ahead for us? No one knows – everything is in the hands of God. But among us there should not be those who are ready to give up sacrificial service for the sake of personal well-being. Today we must mobilize all our forces not for show, but because the future of our country depends on our labors and prayers. And again, these are not loud words, because the Church is the leaven and salt of the whole society, of the whole people. And if the salt loses its power, who else will give this power?

    Once again I will say: our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against the spirits of wickedness in high places. And these spirits do not retreat, do not give up – they fight. Therefore, we must, each in his own place, serve wholeheartedly, preach the word of God with boldness, educate our youth and all our people, not be afraid to go into secular groups that are not yet connected with the Church in any way, but which so need the word of God. This also applies to our Armed Forces, the entire power bloc, which today, more than many other segments of our society, is opening up to meet the Church.

    In this difficult time, you and I have a lot to do in order to help the Fatherland maintain its independence, true independence, in order to strengthen our people in the Orthodox faith and, through the feat of sincere, devoted service to the Lord, renew our vocation. And may the Lord help us all in this way, and not otherwise, to serve the Lord and our Savior, our Church and our Fatherland.”

    • I pray, “Lord make me worthy to fight this battle. Help me succeed on behalf of the Church. Nothing is more important. Nothing.”

  15. Joseph Lipper says

    The pre-OCA “Metropolia” was considered schismatic by the Russian Church, even after World War II. The ROC considered the Metropolia to be schismatic up until her autocephaly was agreed upon in 1970. It was the agreement of autocephaly that reconciled the two churches and ended the Metropolia’s schismatic status.

    The OCA’s Metropolitan Theodosius would later recount how his own ordination as bishop in 1967 drew the wrath of the ROC. It happened that the Metropolia previously had good relations with the Greek Archdiocese. Theodosius’ ordination even involved two bishops under the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Yet as a result of this, Moscow complained to Constantinople of interference in Moscow’s jurisdiction and essentially involving themselves in ordaining a schismatic bishop:

    “In fact, my own consecration became a source of friction between the two Patriarchates. At the conclusion of that Presanctified Liturgy in 1967, at the luncheon which followed, Metropolitan Ireney asked Archbishop Iakovos—through Father Schmemann—if he would participate in my consecration or, if not, at least send a representative. The Archbishop unfortunately could not attend due to a schedule conflict—it was to be Saturday of Bright Week, the sixth of May, but sent Metropolitan Silas, who was then Bishop Silas, as his representative.

    “As it turned out, Bishop Silas, the representative of Archbishop Iakovos, and Bishop Mark (Lipa) of the Albanian Diocese took part in my consecration—both bishops being under the omophorion of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. After my consecration the Russian Church wrote a violent protest to Constantinople for interfering in the internal life of the parishes belonging to the Moscow Patriarchate. Even though the Metropolia was not under the jurisdiction of the Church of Russia, the Russian Church claimed jurisdiction in North America. Our contacts with the Greek Archdiocese and the other SCOBA churches was one of the prime complaints from the Russian Church. And in June 1967—just one month after my consecration—the Patriarch of Constantinople ordered Archbishop Iakovos to suspend communion with the Metropolia.”

    From then on, the Greek Archdiocese suspended communion with the Metropolia, that is until the newly formed OCA emerged as a church and fully reconciled with the Moscow Patriarchate. The schismatic status of the Metropolia wasn’t because of anything they did wrong, but rather it had to do with an administrative disagreement. The Ecumenical Patriarchate and the other Local Churches also broke communion with the Metropolia as a result. This was simply acknowledging that the ROC considered the Metropolia to be schismatic, and thereby not interfering.

    Fortunately, the Metropolia wasn’t held hostage in schism for very long, just about three years.