Staunton, February 20 – Deacon Andrey Kurayev, a Russian Orthodox commentator who is often provocative but whose ideas equally often reflect thinking in the Moscow Patriarchate, says that Moscow should give autocephaly to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church before the Universal Patriarchate does and thus limit Russia’s losses in Ukraine.
In a post on his Livejournal.com page, Kurayev points out that a year from now, an All-Orthodox assembly is to take place in Constantinople and that one of the decisions it is expected to take is to adopt new rules on autocephaly and how it can be granted.
In that event, he suggests, the Moscow Patriarchate could lose control over the process in Ukraine and therefore the best course for the Russian church now is to consider granting autocephaly to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church so that Moscow and not the Universal Patriarch can define its terms.
If it acts unilaterally, Kurayev says, Moscow could define the borders of the Ukrainian church, determine the mechanisms for decision making in each bishopric and congregation, keep in its hands the power of being the court of last appeal, and ensure that the Moscow Patriarchate would have a voice in the adoption of all the most important decisions of the Ukrainian church.
“Maintaining the current situation via a policy based on the principle of ‘all or nothing,’” he writes, “could lead precisely to the loss of ‘everything.’” Moscow needs to behave as England did with Australia rather than the way Mikhail Gorbachev did with Eastern Europe if it is to maintain its influence in Ukraine.
Kurayev’s argument is important in at least two respects. On the one hand, it is an indication that a growing number of churchmen and others in Moscow see that they are rapidly losing ground in Ukraine and need to do something dramatic, even if it appears to involve the loss of some of their positions, in order to save others.
And on the other, it may set the stage for a new Moscow campaign, one that some in Ukraine and the West would welcome because they would not recognize what is behind it: a desire to maintain imperial control, rather than to allow the Ukrainian Orthodox to have their own church.