Imperialisms and the Three Romes
Introduction: Secular Imperialisms
Imperialism is in fact a form of idolatry, more precisely national idolatry, the personality cult of the nation. Like all attachments to human organisations, imperialisms are secular in nature, even if sometimes they may be camouflaged in religious guise. And because they are secular, they are often evil. In any case, imperialisms make the countries infected by them disliked and even hated.
Thus, there is today’s American imperialism, Pax Americana, with its legions bankruptingly sent out to defend its many bases all over the world. It leads to hate-filled American flag-burning from Iraq to Afghanistan, from Iran to Cuba, from Venezuela to Saudi Arabia, from North Korea to Vietnam, and the list goes on. Its predecessor, British imperialism, Pax Britannica, also means that the words Britain and British are hated in Ireland, in parts of Scotland, in large parts of Africa, the Middle East and on the Indian subcontinent.
Similarly, Spain and Portugal earned themselves hatred for their imperialism in Latin America, French imperialism brought hatred for France, especially in North Africa and Vietnam. Austro-Hungarian imperialism brought hatred in Central and Eastern Europe, Belgian Imperialism brought hatred in the Belgian Congo, the Netherlands won hatred in the East Indies and Italian Imperialism won hatred for Italy in Libya and Ethiopia. As for Germany, its two European Wars brought it hatred all over Europe and even today, in Greece, Spain, Ireland and other countries, Germany’s economic domination of the EU earns it the name of ‘The Fourth Reich’ and demonstrators against it appear on the streets of Europe.
However, further back in history, long before the ‘Enlightenment’ (by neo-paganism) and the ‘Renaissance’ (of neo-paganism), which gave birth to the arrogance of modern imperialisms, there were ancient imperialisms. Apart from pre-Christian and Non-Christian forms, these include imperialisms brought by the secular into the Christian Church, which attempted to Christianise them – not always successfully.
Thus, in Christian life, Roman Imperialism (a vestige from paganism, though later theologically justified by the barbarian ‘Emperor’ Charlemagne with the indefensible and unBiblical ‘filioque’ doctrine) brought Roman Catholicism into doctrinal and therefore visible and practical compromise. It also brought it undying resistance from the rest of the Christian world. Its crimes, atrocities and massacres, many of them very recent, all stemming from the pagan claims of the Pope of Rome to universal domination, will never be forgotten by the Orthodox, Protestant and secular worlds.
Thus, a victim of barbarianism, the First Rome fell and the Second Rome of Constantinople took its place. A victim of Imperialist nationalism, ‘Hellenism’, condemned by the Apostle Paul and alienating Copts, Semites, Latins and other races, that Empire also fell, though the Church remained doctrinally uncompromised. In its turn it was replaced by the Third Rome in Moscow. And that Empire also fell, a victim of its own imperialism, but again the Church remained doctrinally uncompromised.
The Imperialism of the First and Second Romes
Within the Roman Catholic world, the Imperialistic ideology of the First Rome lives on and is aggressively pursued for want of any viable justification for its existence.
However, the second imperialism also lives on, on the fringes of the Greek Orthodox Church. Megalomania, the unreal fantasy for a diminished Second Rome that disappeared 568 years ago, continues. It pursues its unrealistic, colonialist illusions, for example, in Alexandria and Jerusalem, colonial outposts of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Athens. This imperialism is all the more absurd, in that it is uni-national.
Currently, for instance, the Patriarchate of Constantinople is revoking the autonomy given to parishes in Great Britain which call themselves ‘of the Russian Tradition’ (i. e. those under the Rue Daru jurisdiction in Paris). They now have to go directly under the jurisdiction of the local Greek Archbishop. Presumably, Constantinople will later cast adrift the rest of the parishes on the Continent which are still under the jurisdiction of its ailing last bishop, Archbishop Gabriel. It already did this between 1966 and 1971, and tried again in the 1980s, when its true intention of hellenisation at last became clear to me, then a deacon in Paris. Having experienced the appalling behaviour of Moscow, I had naively thought that Constantinople could behave better.
I can remember in the 1980s how the fear of being cast adrift by Constantinople was the haunting nightmare of its then Archbishop George (Wagner). Indeed, Patriarch Demetrios of Constantinople said at the time that his parishes would indeed have to return to the Russian Church one day, a statement recently repeated by Archim. Placide Deseille. In the early 80s, the Rue Daru group was forbidden to expand its jurisdiction by taking in a former OCA priest in England, who had fallen out with both branches of the Russian Church here. Constantinople’s policy at the time was to remove parishes from the Rue Daru jurisdiction one by one, country by country, and place them directly under its Greek bishops.
Its policy now seems to be to let the last bishop die and so, bishopless, Rue Daru will have to be ‘athenagorised’, or else to die out altogether. The Patriarchate of Constantinople also seems to have backed out of ambitions in the Ukraine and perhaps Estonia. It may also give up its jurisdiction over Ukrainian parishes in the Diaspora. Presumably, all this is in exchange for Russian financial and diplomatic support with the Turkish government and Constantinople’s struggle to reopen its seminary there. There is also the threatening fact that more Russian Orthodox live in Turkey (15,000) than Greek Orthodox (800). Another bargaining counter would be the Russian abandonment of the uncanonical Cold War period autocephaly, embarrassingly given by the Soviet-period Russian Church to a group of parishes in North America and known as the OCA.
Locally, we too have suffered from the empire-building of a tiny new calendarist group, sponsored by the Patriarchate of Constantinople. Some years ago it set itself up on our doorstep and tried to steal both our parishioners and even our music. All this attempted destruction under the pretext of the ‘Pan-Orthodox’ myth, was directed from a military-style map with its drawing-pins.
The Imperialism of the Third Rome
The Third Rome Imperialism of Moscow has been less nationalistic and in some ways more justified than that of the Second Rome. This is for the simple reason that the Russian Empire (most of which now forms the Russian Federation) has always been huge (varying between one seventh and one ninth of the planet). It has also always been multinational, with over 100 nationalities and languages), unlike the Second Rome, which rapidly became narrowly Greek. (I still remember a well-known Cypriot priest and reputed ‘elder’ assuring me 35 years ago how Plato had been Orthodox and that God spoke Greek by preference!).
As a result of its size and variety, the Russian Orthodox Church is less centralised than the Patriarchate of Constantinople. She is made up of a Confederation of autonomous Metropolias and Churches, such as the Ukrainian, Belarussian, Moldovan, Latvian, Kazakhstan, Japanese and Chinese Orthodox Churches and the Church Outside Russia (ROCOR). (This does not include the Autocephalous Orthodox Churches of Poland and the Czech Lands and Slovakia, which in the unspoken reality are also former parts of the Russian Orthodox Church).
However, Russian imperialism still won it many enemies, especially in the Caucasus, the far western Ukraine, Finland and in much of Eastern Europe (Is not Poland the Russian Ireland?) This Russophobia was much reinforced by later Soviet imperialist crimes. The Russian Orthodox antidote to the Third Rome imperialism of the Russian State and its provincial (‘Old Ritualist’) obscurantist nationalism, the construction of the New Jerusalem, was stopped. This came about with the beheading of the Church and the imprisonment of her rightful Patriarch Nikon in the second half of the seventeenth century. Thus, his New Jerusalem complex was not finished until now. This beheading of the Russian Church was achieved by Roman Catholic intriguing, Greek venality and Russian ignorance - three imperialisms conniving together.
After the Russian Revolution of 1917, plotted and greeted by the Western Powers, the Orthodox world fell into chaos. British imperialism began picking at the soft underbelly of the Orthodox world in the Middle and Near East, Greece, Cyprus and even Romania, introducing freemasonry, the ‘new calendar’ and other divisive modernist reforms. They thought that the invention of a ‘Diet Orthodoxy’, an ‘Orthodoxy Lite,’ would be enough to degut, divide by schism and so rule over those Local Churches. Often it used puppet German princelings the Western Powers had placed in the Balkans or else Anglicanism, as its weapon to divide and rule, making especial use of Arab Orthodox bishops acting uncanonically and, on the other hand, the zeal without knowledge of the outraged uneducated.
With the collapse of British imperialism after 1945, American imperialism took up the ignoble task, working to crush the last vestiges of spiritual resistance to its materialist idolatry, its ultimate aim to destroy every trace of spiritual life in the Greek Orthodox world. However, more recently, it has turned its attention to destroying Serbian, Ukrainian and Georgian Orthodoxy, particularly humiliating the Serbian Church in recent months. The EU has now also taken up satan’s cause, infiltrating the Local Churches in Romania, Bulgaria and Cyprus in particular, and working against Serbia too, using its traditional divide and rule method, in order to create an EU-friendly and politically correct pseudo-Orthodoxy, softened up by papal visits.
During the Cold War period, not so long ago, and the appalling moral decadence in parts of the Patriarchal Russian Church in the Diaspora at that time, the KGB only appointed the compromised to positions of responsibility. Thus, it could hold power of them (‘every man has his price’). It also encouraged the personality cults which were so divisive in the Russian Church. Thus, many faithful and clergy fled it for other jurisdictions in the freedom of the Diaspora, though many of them, especially in ROCOR, remained most loyal to the Russian Tradition. Although this has all changed today, we have not forgotten and the wounds are still raw. Many lives were ruined by the Cold War and, sadly ‘distrust’ is still the word which best sums up attitudes to the Patriarchal Russian Church in the Diaspora. Apologies, though decades late, would greatly help.
But what of the Patriarchal Russian Church inside Russia in all this today? To the intense irritation of the US/EU duo, She has revived through the blood of the New Martyrs and the tears of the New Confessors since the fall of Western-imposed Communism. At present the West is hoping that the suicidal and self-imposed mixture of ecological catastrophe, financial corruption (also among the Church elite), abortion and alcoholism will be enough. If Russians want to commit suicide in any of these four ways, it can only be to the benefit of the US/EU power in its so-called ‘secret’ project to install Antichrist in Jerusalem.
Those who are being cast adrift by the Patriarchate of Constantinople today can always return to the Russian Church, either directly to the Patriarchal part or else to the autonomous ROCOR, which now has the most open and understanding Metropolitan in its history. They will be welcomed back. We too suffered before you and understand you. Although you were unable through naivety and inexperience to listen to the warnings which we gave at the time, warnings learned from our own sorry experience, we are still open to you. We must not condemn ourselves never to learn from history.
There are those who, like ourselves, have for decades wanted to see and have worked for an autonomous Orthodox Metropolia for Western Europe, as the basis one day, if God wills, for a local European Orthodox Church. Only this can witness to Christ in the compromised and dying heterodox world. And the fact is that there is only one Church which can establish this Metropolia and has publicly announced its intention to do so. This is the Russian Orthodox Church. Despite Third Rome imperialism, increasingly balanced by the restoration of the New Jerusalem outside Moscow and the re-establishment of the seventeenth century multinational ideal of the Russian Orthodox Church, this Metropolia is viable and is coming.
Cynics may doubt this, given some of the individuals involved, but cynics should remember three things. Firstly, this Metropolia is real - it is not just another uncanonical disincarnate fantasy of Parisian philosophy. Secondly, it is the only offer on the table, for the Patriarchate of Constantinople has never freely granted anyone autonomy, let alone autocephaly, as Dr Basil Osborne told me some 35 years ago. The recent history of the Church of Bulgaria proves this. Finally, cynics should remember that the Church is not governed by men, but by God. It belongs to Him, His Body, not to us. It is God’s Will that we are trying to do, not our own. The recent history of the Russian Church and its miraculous resurrection after the Soviet Golgotha proves this.
To those who seek a safe haven and the uncompromised Orthodox Tradition, we would say: Don’t miss the train. And remember that although man proposes, it is God Who disposes.
Archpriest Andrew Phillips,
25 May/7 June 2011