Archbishop Elpidophoros – Leading Proponent of Religious Peace in Ukraine?

Archbishop Elpidophoros – Leading Proponent of Religious Peace in Ukraine?

by Kyriakos Katsikas

Archbishop Elpidophoros called for the U.S. Intelligence Community to step up its support for Ukraine in fighting Moscow's military and religious aggression.

Recently, an address of Archbishop Elpidophoros of America to the National Intelligence University, which took place on April 24 this year, has been published on Edocr.

His Eminence devoted his speech to Moscow's aggression in Ukraine and sharply criticised Russia's military and religious aggression expressing support for the Ukrainian people who have been suffering from the war for more than 18 months.

The GOARCH's leader paid special attention to the history of the conflict in Ukraine and the role of religion in it.

As Archbishop Elpidophoros rightly noted, the current tragedy was caused by a combination of factors: the emergence of the Ukrainian national identity, Moscow's attempt to keep the Ukrainians under its thumb, and the imperialist concept of the so-called Russkii Mir ("Russian World") promoted by President Putin and the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill.

According to it, there exists a transnational Russian sphere or civilisation called Holy Russia or Holy Rus', which includes Russia, Ukraine and Belarus (and sometimes Moldova and Kazakhstan), as well as ethnic Russians and Russian-speaking people throughout the world. This "Russian World" has a common political centre (Moscow), a common spiritual centre (Kyiv as the "mother of all Rus"), a common language (Russian), a common church (the Russian Orthodox Church), and a common patriarch, its primate, who works in 'symphony' with a common secular leader.

The main threat for the Russkii Mir is the West, led by the United States and Western European nations, and its values like "liberalism", "globalisation", "Christianophobia", "homosexual rights" etc.

The "Russian World" serves as a principal justification for the Russian Orthodox Church's expansion, and its current leadership has done a lot to make today's tragedy happen. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Moscow Patriarchate strives to restore its influence, and the main goal is Ukraine – the cradle of Slavic Christianity.

Since the modern Ukrainian Nation emerged in 1991, the ROC has tried to retain the Ukrainian believers in a semblance of submission or vassalage, which, however, allowed them to have some degree of autonomy. Meanwhile, Moscow and politicians under its control continued repressions against national self-consciousness, culture and language.

At the same time, the Patriarchate of Constantinople, which brought Orthodoxy to the East Slavic lands, maintained its spiritual care for the Ukrainian believers and in 2019 answered their prayers by creating an independent Ukrainian church – the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU), which brought back into communion millions of Ukrainians who sought independence, declined the omophorion of the Moscow Patriarch and were excluded from canonical order for almost three decades, though no fault by their own.

Then a significant role in the OCU's creation was played by Archbishop Elpidophoros as one of the most experienced and wise hierarchs of Constantinople.

For Moscow, religion has been a weapon since the Soviet times: the ROC was completely under the control of the KGB, and its structures abroad were actively used for espionage.

Today, Patriarch Kirill is blessing the Russian soldiers who are going to kill, rape and rob Ukrainians.

In May last year, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC), led by Metropolitan Onuphrios, which has been under uncovered and covert influence of Moscow for a long time, took a step towards independence by ceasing all relations with the Russian Orthodox Church and refusing to commemorate Patriarch Kirill. According to Archbishop Elpidophoros, this is only a half-measure but anyway it expresses the desire of the Ukrainian people to have nothing in common with the aggressor.

Eventually, this path should lead to the creation of a unified Ukrainian Church but, for now, Metropolitan Onuphrios refuses to dialogue with the head of the OCU, Metropolitan Epiphanios.

Archbishop Elpidophoros openly advocates the reconciliation of the two Ukrainian churches, although he admits that the clergy and hierarchy of the UOC still have extensive ties with Moscow. At the same time, he appreciates the desire of the UOC to free itself from the Moscow Church, condemns attacks on it by the authorities and tries to protect it appealing to the need to respect freedom of religion in Ukraine.

The GOARCH's primate is very conscious of the Ukrainian religious crisis and understands very well its parties. He is deeply aware of the issue and was one of the first and most active hierarchs through whom Constantinople extended a helping hand to Ukrainian believers.

Perhaps such a wise and experienced hierarch could lead the Ukrainians to the long-awaited unification of Ukrainian Orthodoxy…

Archbishop Elpidophoros is not afraid to speak publicly about the Kremlin's aggression and its weapon – the Patriarchate of Moscow that is now actively trying to expand its influence in Africa attempting to attract to its side the Local Churches, to denigrate the independent Ukrainian Orthodoxy and the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

At the same time, the leader of the Archdiocese of America not only talks, but acts. And his efforts make us remember how much the situation in the GOARCH has improved since Elpidophoros took charge of it in 2019. The Archdiocese was on the verge of bankruptcy, torn apart by internal contradictions, and the previous leadership could do nothing about it not really caring about the fate of its flock.

With the arrival of the new Archbishop, most of the problems were solved, and the GOARCH clergy and parishioners stopped worrying about their future.

The voice of Archbishop Elpidophoros is the loudest among the hierarchs of the Phanar, and he undoubtedly enjoys the support of Patriarch Bartholomew, as the Ecumenical Patriarch himself constantly condemns the Russian invasion in his speeches and calls for an end to the bloodshed.

Perhaps the April speech of Archbishop Elpidophoros was one of the signals of the spiritual leader of the Ecumenical Orthodox Church to the Ukrainian Сhurches, sent through one of his most trusted hierarchs – stop the enmity, seek peace, because you have the common enemy, and it is outside the country.

The views expressed in the above article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the stance or opinions of Greek City Times.

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