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Between Two Thieves: KGB, ROC, CIA

Four years ago, in a very telling letter, I was reproached by an old calendarist bishop in the USA for not supporting the CIA. Some may be astonished by this – I certainly was. The mere concept that as a Russian Orthodox priest I should support the CIA because of some delusion about ‘democracy’ seems to me just as extraordinary as the concept that as a Russian Orthodox priest I should support the KGB because of some delusion about nationalism.

True, the KGB used its agents and dupes in the Orthodox Church to support it, as we know from our experience of the Cold War Church in Western Europe; but then the CIA did the same, as we also know from our experience of the Cold War Church in Western Europe.

Both secret services loved to place weak and therefore eminently compromisable individuals in senior positions. Both did their best to undermine the Church, each in its own way. The crimes of the KGB vis a vis the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) are well-known and well-documented. However, those of the CIA vis a vis all the Orthodox Churches are less well-known – no doubt because they continue to this day. What are the origins of its manipulation?

The story goes back not to the US administration, but further back to the British Establishment. This had great influence both before and after the First World War, not only in Russia, where its agents assassinated Rasputin, but also in the Middle and the Near East. For example, there were its activities in Cyprus, Greece, Egypt, Palestine and oil-rich Iraq and Iran, and also in the Patriarchate of Constantinople.

Notably, the Establishment achieved a great coup in recruiting a highly ambitious Greek career-clergyman called Meletios Metaksakis (1871-1935). First, as a young clergyman, he was expelled from the Holy Land in 1908 for ‘activities against the Holy Sepulchre’. Then in 1909, according to the historian Alexander Zervoudakis, an official of the British Ministry of Defence (1944-1950), Meletios visited his next Local Church in Cyprus. There, together with other nominally Orthodox clergy, he became a member of a British masonic lodge. The next year he became a Metropolitan there and then in 1912 tried to become Patriarch of Constantinople. Instead, he became Archbishop of Athens, his third Local Church. Only after being expelled from Greece was he finally installed as Patriarch of Constantinople, his fourth Local Church, in January 1922 after payment of a bribe of £100,000 had been paid by sponsors.

Even as Archbishop of Athens, Meletios set up the ‘Greek Archdiocese of North America’, thus destroying Orthodox jurisdictional unity there. Archbishop Meletios’ foundation of a purely Greek ethnic diocese in America became the first in a whole series of ethnic divisions in the Diaspora. For example, he later extended this policy to Western Europe and Australia and other Local Churches copied the bad example. When still Archbishop of Athens, he also visited Great Britain to conduct talks between the Anglican Church and his Patriarchate. In December 1921 the Greek Ambassador in Washington informed the authorities in Thessaloniki that Archbishop Meletios, vested, had taken part in an Anglican service, bowed with Anglicans in prayer, kissed their altar, preached and later blessed those present.

In 1922 the Synod of his Patriarchate actually issued an encyclical which recognised the validity of Anglican orders - presumably this was in return for the £100,000. Very quickly, in June that year, at Patriarch Meletios’ initiative a ‘Pan-Orthodox Congress’ took place in Istanbul. Here he promoted, among the few who attended, phyletistic Western policies like the adoption of the Catholic/Protestant calendar. He also claimed, as a sort of ‘Eastern Pope’, that all Orthodox churches in the Western world must be under his own (masonic) jurisdiction.

At the same time Patriarch Meletios’ support of the Renovationists in Russia against Patriarch Tikhon and the legitimate Church, could surely only have been imagined by Western secret services. (Parallel to this were the Vatican attacks on the Russian Orthodox Church under their envoy D’Herbigny, which were also taking place then). Why else would the Renovationists also have received support from modernist half-Orthodox splinter groups, namely in Paris and New York?

Patriarch Meletios’ policies caused schisms and bloody clashes in the streets, which he himself did not escape. His modernistic reforms of the Church were not to the taste of the faithful. In Istanbul there were serious incidents, during which the outraged Orthodox population sacked the Patriarch’s apartments and physically beat Patriarch Meletios. Soon after this, in September 1923, he was forced to quit Istanbul and renounce the Patriarchal throne. But the damage had been done.

Such a novel and quite uncanonical policy as that of an Eastern Papacy run from Istanbul must also have been thought up by Western, presumably British, secret services. These agents would have relied on advice from their fellow-freemasons and Establishment employees in the Church of England. It was certainly not thought up by Orthodox canonists. Thus, the Orthodox Churches found themselves squeezed between the masons and atheists. Little wonder that their lives were so hard and disunity was engineered – ‘divide and rule’ - as in the 1920s old calendarist split in Greece and in the Diaspora.

Following the fall of British power after the Second World War, virtually bankrupt, Britain and its secret services handed over the Middle and the Near East, including the Patriarchate of Constantinople, to US influence. Thus it was that the CIA soon began to interfere in the affairs of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, visibly from 1948 on, when it toppled Patriarch Maximos V. Patriarch Maximos had had close ties to the Russian Orthodox Church and did not support American designs in the Balkans (designs which only began to bear fruit in the 1990s, once Russia had been neutralised under the alcoholic Yeltsin).

On the toppling of Patriarch Maximos, westernised Greek clerics at once received CIA support and replaced the rightful Patriarch with the freemason Patriarch Athenagoras (Spyrou), who had been well-trained in American politics, having been the Phanar’s Archbishop in the USA. (Patriarch Maximos himself survived for 24 years after the US-engineered coup d’état, living until 1972 in exile in Switzerland).

In like manner, the CIA started to use other dupes in the 1990s in its strategy to stab the Russian Orthodox Church in the back. First, they sent large numbers of its own sectarian ‘missionaries’ who paid starving ex-Soviet citizens (starving because Yeltsin had privatised, i.e. sold off to his cronies, the jewels of Russian industry) a dollar a time to come and listen to their propaganda. Then it sent proselytisers through the CIA-orchestrated Vatican of the Polish Pope John-Paul II. Here it especially used pro-Nazi Galician Uniats to try to undermine the western Ukraine, which Poland wanted back again. At the same time the CIA had organised the bombing of Serbia by its NATO pawns and later used its EU pawns in Brussels, next door to NATO headquarters, to take over Romania, Bulgaria and Cyprus, just as they had already done with Greece in 1981.

Despite all attempts to manipulate and retard the growth of the Russian Orthodox Church, that is, to do what the CIA had already done with the Patriarchate of Constantinople and its satellites in Finland, France as well as various immigrant groups in the USA, the Russian Church rapidly expanded from 1985 on.

Just as in 1917 Tsar Nicholas II was toppled on the one side by the German enemy and on the other side by his so-called allies, Britain, France and the USA (which were determined to prevent at all costs a Russian victory), so today the Russian Orthodox Church has been menaced both by KGB atheism and CIA atheism.

I support neither the KGB nor the CIA, because I am in the Church. And the Church will always be on the Cross between the two thieves. Whether one of them, or even both of them, will one day repent remains to be seen.

1/15 November 2011
Sts Cosmas and Damian

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