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The excommunication of Archbishop Christodoulos of Athens by Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople and his Synod on 30 April has shocked the Orthodox world. In fact it is only the latest in a series of actions taken by Patriarch Bartholomew since his enthronement as Patriarch of Constantinople in 1991.

This latest event came about through a dispute over territorial jurisdiction in northern Greece. Before this there had been Patriarch Bartholomew's intervention in the Church affairs of the Baltic States and the Ukraine after the collapse of the Soviet Union. This led to a schism between the Patriarchate of Constantinople and the Russian Church and it also concerned extending the Patriarch's jurisdiction to new areas. Then there was his battle against the Patriarchate of Jerusalem in Australia. This affair, which was very expensive for Constantinople, also concerned the question of Patriarch Bartholomew's jurisdiction over the Greek diaspora.

Then, for similar reasons, there were the violent incidents on the Holy Mountain in which the use of secular police led to the death of a dissident monk. There are also still unresolved tensions with his own Greek diaspora in the USA and especially Australia. Here the Greek Archbishop, Stylianos, Archbishop in Australia for thirty years, has publicly denounced Patriarch Bartholomew, even issuing a long and vehement document on the Internet. Patriarch Bartholomew certainly has made many enemies for himself. All these affairs have concerned questions of Constantinople's jurisdiction. What lies behind them?

The fact is that ever since the fall of Imperial Russia in 1917, the Patriarchate of Constantinople has been striving to present itself, in the words of a twentieth-century Serbian saint, St Justin of Chelije, as 'an Eastern Papacy'. Thus, in the 1920s the notorious Patriarch Meliton Metaksakis steamrollered opposition and introduced the Catholic (new) calendar), which he dubbed the 'Melitian calendar'. In 1924 he also refused to recognize the martyred Russian Church and instead recognized the renovationist movement in Russia which was a puppet of the atheist Communists. He was then controversially involved with Orthodox in Poland and Finland. In the latter country he installed the very controversial Estonian, German Aav, as Archbishop. Patriarch Meliton was revealed to be a freemason on his death in 1935, as also was one of his later successors, Patriarch Athenagoras (1886-1972).

The fact is that the Patriarchate of Constantinople was in the forefront of ecumenism and modernism in the twentieth century. However, the latest move of excommunicating the Archbishop of Athens, is quite breathtaking. For now Patriarch Bartholomew risks isolating himself from the Orthodox world, including most of his own clergy and people in the diaspora, whose origins are in Greece.

In addition to these events, the Patriarchate of Constantinople has taken a decisively anti-Moscow stance through its Exarchate in Paris. At its Diocesan Assembly on 30 April and 1 May, this Exarchate, headed by an Archbishop and with one elderly Russian bishop, cut itself off from its Russian roots and its majority of Russian parishioners. Elections to its Diocesan Council have effectively rejected members who wished to see an Autonomous Metropolia in Western Europe under the Russian Church. This would have been set up under the Patriarchate of Moscow, according to the suggestions of Patriarch Alexis last April and become the basis for a new Local Orthodox Church in Western Europe.

A Committee set up on 31 March this year by a prominent Paris layman, Seraphim Rehbinder, in support of the establishment of such a Metropolia and the movement towards a Local Western European Orthodox Church is now in disarray. There are threats of schism. As regards the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow, if one day it demands that the Russian Cathedral properties in Paris and Nice be returned to it, where then will the Paris Exarchate be left? Former parishes of the Exarchate in Rome, Clamart (a suburb of Paris) and Charleroi (in Belgium) have in recent times already left the jurisdiction of the Exarchate to return to the Russian Church. And the Russian Church is expanding throughout Western Europe, making the small Exarchate seem even smaller.

Moreover, the local canonization of certain members of the Archdiocese by Archbishop Gabriel, with the support of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, is also highly controversial. The Jewish connections of three of these canonized individuals suggest to some that this canonization may have more to do with political correctness than proven holiness or miracles. It is notable that on 2 May the Roman Catholic Cardinal Lustiger of Paris, himself a former Jew, assisted at the Liturgy in the Paris Cathedral of this Archdiocese in person. Some Orthodox refuse to revere these individuals as saints.

All these developments come at a time when the Patriarchate of Moscow is returning to Orthodoxy after the compromises of the past. Such is the mood of repentance that it is now urgently seeking to enter into eucharistic communion with the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia. This is the part of the Russian Church, which outside Russia grouped the vast majority of the worldwide Russian emigration and its missions. It always refused to make compromises with the atheist rulers of the former Soviet Union. Its self-sacrificing faithfulness to Orthodox Tradition, despite persecution and slanders from others in the past, is now seen by many to be justified. President Putin has himself expressed the wish to see unity between the two parts of the Russian Church.

On 18 May this year, a ROCOR delegation together with its head, Metropolitan Laurus of New York, will meet Patriarch Alexis in Moscow. In an interview in March Metropolitan Laurus said the following of these developments:

'Unification with the Russian Church Outside Russia, which kept both its external and internal spiritual freedom, will bring a strong and fresh current to the Church in Russia. Russia is vast, and the people there have various attitudes towards faith and the Church, there are many who are indifferent and lukewarm, who are hypocritically self-serving, but there is a small flock, the chosen troops, who, like candles, burn before God with pure, pious lives. These people publish and distribute Orthodox books and journals, they build and adorn churches, establish schools, visit prisons and hospitals, orphans, the elderly, the poor and the homeless, each serving God where he is called. We have many self-sacrificing people devoted to the Orthodox Church as well. And when all artificial barriers between these people fall, mistrust, suspicion, slander, calumnies, when all people of good will join forces, then, I believe, the prophecies of St. Seraphim of Sarov and St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco will come to pass - Holy Russia will rise, if only for a short time! I think that the reunification of the two parts of the Russian Church will hasten the full and final rebirth of Russia, Orthodox Russia will assume her proper place in the family of nations and may even restore political and moral balance to the whole world'.

Thus, on the one hand, we witness the coming together of the Russian Church worldwide, but division among the Greek Churches. As the Patriarchate of Constantinople appears to be isolated, there are some who foresee the moral leadership of the worldwide Orthodox Church passing to Moscow. This may or may not be the case. Certainly the Russian Orthodox Church will have to make efforts to return to its multinational and multilingual heritage from before the catastrophe of 1917. If a renewed and united Russian Orthodox Church is to take over responsibility for the diaspora, missionary work and the setting up of new local Churches, then it will have to prove that it is genuinely open to Non-Russians and genuine about its return to the practices of the Orthodox Tradition. It will have to abandon certain modernistic and ecumenistic compromises in its churches in countries like England, Holland and Portugal, which the Patriarchate of Moscow permitted in the decadent past and still permits.

Let us see all its churches return to the Russian Orthodox liturgical tradition and calendar. Let a united Russian Orthodox Church prove that it commands the spiritual and moral high ground of the Orthodox Church in the diaspora and people will follow all over the world. Until that is done, there will be no unity within the diaspora, only unnecessary squabbles. The decadent twentieth century is over; communism is dead. Now let us see that old-fashioned ecumenism and modernism are also dead. The time of decadence is over, let us move on to revival. Those of us who have been waiting for thirty years for this will continue to wait, but the world will not forgive those who do not do their duty and obey Orthodox consciences.

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