Source: Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
The Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate met in Moscow on December 27, 2023. The minutes of the meeting can be read at link. There were some important decisions made. The most important decision is that the Synod created a new diocese, carving it out of the existing Kherson diocese of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC). In this regard, Journal Entry 120 includes the following decision: “1. To form, within the administrative boundaries of the left bank [eastern side of the Dnipro River]districts of the Kherson region: Aleshkinsky, Golopristansky, Kalanchaksky, Skadovsky, Chaplynsky, the Skadovsky diocese with its cathedral center in the city of Skadovsk, separating it from the Kherson diocese.” Since a government reorganization in 2020, these districts no longer exist in the Region. However, they are the districts still used by UOC in its administration of the diocese. The following is a listing of the districts in the diocese and the parishes in each of them (link). The five districts encompass the southwestern part of the Kherson Region and are occupied by the Russian Federation. The city of Kherson is now again under Ukrainian control. The Kherson Region is one of the four Ukrainian regions which Russia purportedly “annexed” on September 30, 2023.
The preamble to the decision reads as follows:
Due to the actual impossibility of His Grace Metropolitan John of Kherson and Tauride to manage the parishes and monastery of the Kherson diocese located on the left bank of the Dnieper [Dnipro],
Due to the lack of opportunity for a smooth resolution of this situation by the Synod of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church,
Taking into account also the need for legal regulation of the situation of the mentioned parishes and the monastery,
In response to the appeal of the majority of the clergy of the left bank parishes of the Kherson diocese, as well as all the nuns of the Nikolaevsky convent of the Skadovsky district of the Kherson diocese:
Metropolitan John, age 59, is presently very active in the parts of his diocese which are not under Russian control. See the website of the diocese at link. The last part of the decision of the Moscow Synod provides: “4. If the external situation changes, consider the possible restoration of the Kherson diocese within its current borders.” Perhaps this is intended to cover a possible situation where the entire Kherson Region comes under Russian occupation. So far, I have seen no reaction from the UOC concerning this decision. The Holy Synod of UOC did meet on the prior day, December 26 (link).
At Journal Entry 129 the Holy Synod decided to release “His Grace Metropolitan Leonid of Klin from the temporary administration of the Yerevan-Armenian Diocese and to retire.” As you recall, he was relieved of his position of Patriarchal Exarch of Africa by a decision of the Holy Synod on October 11, 2023. Now his fall from grace seems to be complete with his forced retirement at age 55. It is extremely doubtful that this fall is due to poor job performance. It is much more likely that it was due to the activities of Leonid as one of the leaders of the ultra-conservative wing of the Moscow Patriarchate. In commenting on the decision, Andrey Kuraev stated: “This means that the stock of Anthony (head of the DECR) and Nestor (Exarch of Western Europe) went up.” (Link)
You may recall that in November, Metropolitan Vladimir, primate of the Moldovan Orthodox Church (MOC), stated that he would go to Moscow in three weeks to discuss with Patriarch Kirill the status of the MOC. The MOC has been seeking greater independence from Moscow. It is also reported that he stated his intention to call a meeting of the archpastors of the MOC following the meeting with Kirill to make a final decision with respect to the status of the MOC (link). As a permanent member of the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate, Metropolitan Vladimir attended the Synod’s meeting in Moscow on December 27 (link). There is thus the opportunity for Metropolitan Vladimir to discuss the status of the MOC with the Patriarch. Metropolitan Vladimir gave an interview on December 22 but did not touch on the issue of the relationship of the MOC to Moscow (link).
In my last newsletter, I discussed the Vatican’s Declaration Fiducia supplicans which approves the possibility of blessing couples in irregular situations and same-sex couples with certain stated restrictions. Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev) of Budapest has now become the first prominent Orthodox hierarch, as far as I know, to comment on the Declaration. His comments are especially significant as he has met with Pope Francis on 12 or more occasions and has worked closely with the Vatican with respect to such projects as the Havana meeting between Patriarch Kirill and the Pope. His views on Fiducia supplicans are expressed in a 43-minute English-language video posted on YouTube (link). The video involves a conversation between the Metropolitan and Rod Dreher, who converted to Orthodoxy from Catholicism and who now lives in Budapest. In the video Metropolitan Hilarion stated that his reaction after reading the full text of the Declaration was “a kind of a shock.” He then describes in the video his reasons for his very negative reaction. He also believes that Fiducia supplicans will create new problems between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches. The UGCC has taken the position that the Declaration does not apply to the Eastern Catholic Churches, such as the UGCC (link). A growing number of Catholic bishops in Africa have indicated that the Declaration will not be applied in their territories (link).
CORRECTION: In my last newsletter I quoted from the blog of Andrey Kuraev that he had decided to move to the Exarchate of the Netherlands and Luxembourg of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Although it appeared to me in my first reading of the blog that Kuraev was referring to himself, he was in fact referring to another person.
I wish all of you a very HAPPY NEW YEAR and pray that 2024 will bring you many blessings!
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA