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Saturday, August 19, 2017
Date Posted:

President Putin

The Story Of The Russian Orthodox Church And Its New Convert, President Putin

Clive Gillis

THE CZARS SECURED Russia’s recognition as an independent Patriachate of the Eastern Church in the 16th century. They then went further and "bribed the Patriarch of Constantinople to recognise Moscow as both equal to and independent of Byzantium (Istanbul)".

During the reign of Czar Ivan’s son, Theodore, the Patriarch of Constantinople, Jeremiah II, came to Moscow seeking help. The Patriarchate of Constantinople had been under the power of the Turks since 1453. It therefore needed powerful allies. This led it to recognise Bishop Job of Moscow as the first Patriarch of All Russia in 1589.


The Counter Reformation in Roman Catholic Poland was then in full swing. Poland was ruled by Sigismund III, a tool of the all-powerful Jesuits who set out to exploit the weakness of the Orthodox at that time. The Jesuits were responsible for the Cibgregatui ori Ecckesua Iruebtake (Congregation for the Eastern Church).

This was a section of the Propaganda fide or Missionary wing of the Vatican, established in 1622. There were many nearby Orthodox Churches in southern Russia around Kiev and the Jesuits proselytised them in a cunning way which has its repercussions to this day.

The Jesuits, as always, achieved their ends by education. Very cleverly, they established the Greek or Uniate College of Saint Athanasios in Rome 1577 to train Orthodox Priests without charge. This was a subterfuge for promoting what is called Uniatism. Uniatism comes from the Latin word unio, meaning union.

Uniatism is the union of Orthodox Christian communities with Rome through their acknowledging the Pope’s universal primacy. These Orthodox communities are subject to papal authority, whilst following their own Orthodox rites in worship.

Simply put, the idea of Uniatism implies that only those Orthodox Christians, who are in communion with, and subject to the authority of the Pope of Rome, are truly Orthodox, at least in Rome’s eyes. The rest of the Orthodox are schismatics. This view was clearly set out in the ‘Decree on the Eastern Churches of the Roman Council’ in 1962-65 (i.e. Vatican II), despite the objections of many eminent Roman Catholic and non-Roman Catholic theologians. The Vatican has until recently held steadfastly to the view that Uniatism is the least painful method of uniting the Orthodox with Roman Catholics.

Sigismund III of Poland gave carte balance to the Society of Jesus to impose Uniatism on the Orthodox slavs, not only in Poland but in Lithuania and the Ukraine, particularly after the despotic Uniate Synod of Brest-Litovsk (1956), during which the Orthodox Archbishop were obliged to sign the union. Those who refused suffered terrible persecution and the Orthodox.

Church Archbishops were obliged to sign the union. Those who refused suffered terrible persecution and the Orthodox Church in Eastern Europe became violently divided. The Russian Orthodox Church has never forgotten this episode. The humiliation of Brest Litovsk is still a virulent political reality today, and exploited by Russian Orthodoxy to the maximum.

II Papa dell’Est

Following the collapse of Communism, John Paul II took the title II Papa dell ‘Est – The Pope of the east. Every eye was on Rome, expecting her to sweep into Russia despite Orthodox objections. Some readers may have seen the BBC2, The New Holy Roman Empire, which showed how, "The fall of Communism … has given the Pope opportunity to spread the word in eastern Europe … But the Russian Orthodox feel they are being invaded". The programme covered the hostility between Rome and the Russian Orthodox churches as it was then, but the subsequent decade has seen an increase in this hostility.

John Paul II, who can boast of so many firsts in relation to Islam and Jewry and who travelled to Communist Cuba in 1998, has still not visited Russia. Rome watches Mother Russia like a hawk, seeking for cracks in the Orthodox monolith. The present writer was first alerted to Putin’s existence through Rome watching, long before Putin was in the popular news. Rome watched her hopes of a "reformer" who would "drive a wedge between himself and the regime that generated him" gradually fade. The Russian Orthodox Church has taken Putin to its bosom, and the President has been pleased to reciprocate, to their mutual advantage. Yet he can still cultivate Rome when it suits him. Rome is ever on the outlook to seize such opportunities.

Putin cultivates the Church

2002 was a year of triumph for Russian Orthodoxy in regard to Putin. "On 6 January (Christmas in the Orthodox calendar) the President made a pilgrimage to Orthodox holy places. He visited the cathedral of the Transfiguration of the Saviour in Pereslavl-Zalessky … The Rector told … Putin … about the history of the Cathedral, which used to be the burial-vault of the Pereslavl Princes in old times.

"In the city of Vladimir the President attended the Christmas Divine service in the Cathedral of the Assumption, one of the oldest churches of Russia decorated with frescos by Andrey Rublyov. Thousands of the city inhabitants prayed together with the Head of State. On the very day of the Nativity of Christ President Putin visited the city of Maloyaroslavets … Archbishop Clement of Kaluga and Borovsk … noted that people have solemnly celebrated the Nativity of Christ from the earliest times and children have had a particular joy.

Many tales and folk songs have been dedicated to the Nativity of Christ. All of them tell us about the triumph of good and the disgrace of evil forces."

Putin was clearly overleaping the Communist era and appealing to the old traditions of Mother Russia in order to awaken the sleeping giant.

Putin’s sermon

On 23 August 2001 Putin visited several Russian Orthodox monasteries including the 15th-century Solovetski monastery whilst on vacation in the northwest of the country. "Situated on the Solovetski archipelago in the western part of the White Sea, the monastery is a point of pilgrimage for many Orthodox believers. Patriarch Aleksei II, leader of the Russian Orthodox Church (with a vehement dislike for the Pope), greeted Putin and showed him around, later presenting the President with a wooden cross. Speaking to the press during his visit, Putin delivered something approaching a sermon on the importance of religion in public life."

To make it clear which religion he was referring to, Putin, "quoted the words of the 11th-century church leader Metropolitan Illarion, who once said God had saved all nations. If so, Putin said, all nations are equal in the eyes of God. This simple truth, he added, has made it possible to build a strong multiethnic state. The President went on to say that without Christianity, Russia would not have become an accomplished state. He said it is important for Russia to return to this source now, at a time when we are finding ourselves again and seeking moral foundations to life. Putin’s heavily religious tone would have come as no surprise to those accustomed to seeing the Russian president in an Orthodox Church or hearing stories of his deep religious faith."

Putin’s ‘conversion’

Putin is said to have undergone a "conversion" after rescuing his two young daughters from a burning dacha four years ago. Another story says that his spiritual journey began after his mother gave him a cross, which he then blessed at a holy site in Jerusalem. In an interview with CNN last year, Putin himself told a story of how workers found the little cross lying in the ashes of his burned-down dacha. He claims to keep it with him at all times. Reliable Andrea Zolotov who covers religious affairs for the Moscow Times, and English-language newspaper, confirms that "Putin is appealing to the notion of Russian history that goes beyond, and is unbroken by, the Soviet period". And that includes the Brest Litovsk factor. Is Rome outmatched this time? We shall see in the next issue DV.

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