The patriarchs go pummelling

WHEN it comes to having a good old-fashioned argument, nobody goes for it in quite the style of the Eastern Orthodox Church.

Concealed behind a frieze of ornate language redolent of their incense- filled churches, the two grand patriarchs of the Orthodox world are pummelling each other in one of their biggest spats for more than 1,000 years.

Moscow, and by implication the biggest body of faithful among the 250- 300 million Eastern Orthodox Christians, has unilaterally split with the ecumenical patriarchate in old Constantinople, now known by its Turkish name of Istanbul.

Superficially, the row is over the way the 100,000-strong ethnic Estonian church broke for freedom from the Russians, with support from Istanbul. But at heart this is also struggle for power between patriarchs Bartholomew I and Alexy II, the heirs of Byzantium and of Muscovy respectively, and between the second Rome that is old Constantinople and an aspirant third Rome in Moscow.

"We hope to solve this by dialogue. We feel there has been a break in the ice," said a spokesman for the Holy and Sacred Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, still based in a sanctuary on the Golden Horn.

The Constantinople Patriarchate said it was particularly worried that an attempt was being made to present the church as either Greek or Slavonic, a split which, it said, "would prove most disastrous for Orthodoxy".

Bartholomew I added that if he did not take the Estonian Church into his arms, the Estonians might go over to "other Christian Churches". The hint referred to the ever-eager recruiter in Rome, Pope John Paul II, with whose Catholic Church the more traditional Greek Orthodox split in 1054.

The latest round of arguments started on 20 February when Constantinople issued a sacred codex giving ethnic Estonians back the right to have their own church. This was to be under the "spiritual protection of ... the Most Holy Church of Constantinople".

The church supported its case with colourfully-worded arguments, referring to precedents dating back to the 5th century Council of Chalcedon. But the cold kernel of the case was clear. Stalin had annexed Estonia and its church in the 1940s. The clergy had fled and kept the flame of the independent Estonian church alive in Sweden. Estonia was now free and it rightly wanted its old church back.

All the talk of a "tender Mother" and precedents set by "ever-memorable" former patriarchs did little, however, to smooth the ruffled feathers of His Holiness Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and All Russia - himself a Russian-speaking Estonian.

On 23 February, Alexy dropped Bartholomew's name from the Divine Liturgy for the first time in the 1008-year-long history of the Russian Orthodox Church. The Moscow patriarch issued a statement regretting the "invasion into the territory of another Local Orthodox Church " as shattering of the ages-long Orthodox unity ... the consequences of which are difficult to imagine."

Alexy II then sent a telegram breaking with the Finnish Orthodox church, since Bartholomew of Constantinople had appointed Archbishop John of Karelia and all Finland as "Locum Tenens" of the restored Estonian church.

Bartholomew retaliated with an "exuberant greeting" from "our Modesty" to his "most beloved and dear brother in Christ God and concelebrant". But the message suggested that Alexy was allowing his Estonian background to overrule his common sense. "We justify Your personal opposition, Beatitude and brother, on this issue, as being due to Your emotional bond with Your own homeland of Estonia," Bartholomew said, while subtly critisising Alexy's demotion of Constantinople from "Mother" to the status of "Elder Sister" church.

"The Ecumenical Church can never forget that from it the great race of the Russians received the light of Christ and saving baptism," said Bartholomew, whose ambition is to re-unite the oriental Orthodox in one communion. "The Mother never stops loving her children, even when the children deny the Mother."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
News
REX/Eye Candy
science
News
A photo of Charles Belk being detained by police on Friday 22 August
news
News
i100
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates after scoring his first goal for Arsenal in the Champions League qualifier against Besiktas
sportChilean's first goal for the club secures place in draw for Champions League group stages
Arts and Entertainment
Amis: 'The racial situation in the US is as bad as it’s been since the Civil War'
booksAuthor says he might come back across Atlantic after all
Extras
indybest
Life and Style
Google Doodle celebrates the 200th birthday of Irish writer Sheridan Le Fanu
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
News
i100
News
In Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind Jim Carrey and Kate Winslett medically erase each other from their memories
scienceTechnique successfully used to ‘reverse’ bad memories in rodents could be used on trauma victims
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Pixie Lott will take part in Strictly Come Dancing 2014, the BBC has confirmed
tv
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

C# Developer (C#, ASP.NET Developer, SQL, MVC, WPF, Real-Time F

£40000 - £48000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: C# Devel...

C# Swift Payment Developer (C#, ASP.NET, .NET, MVC, Authorize.N

£45000 - £60000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: C# Swift...

Front-End Developer (JavaScript, HTML5, CSS3, C#, GUI)

£55000 - £70000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Front-End Deve...

Graduate C# Developer (.NET, WPF, SQL, Agile, C++) - London

£30000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Graduate C# De...

Day In a Page

Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone
Amazon is buying Twitch for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?

What is the appeal of Twitch?

Amazon is buying the video-game-themed online streaming site for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?
Tip-tapping typewriters, ripe pongs and slides in the office: Bosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder

How bosses are making us work harder

As it is revealed that one newspaper office pumps out the sound of typewriters to increase productivity, Gillian Orr explores the other devices designed to motivate staff
Manufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl records

Hard pressed: Resurgence in vinyl records

As the resurgence in vinyl records continues, manufacturers and their outdated machinery are struggling to keep up with the demand
Tony Jordan: 'I turned down the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series nine times ... then I found a kindred spirit'

A tale of two writers

Offered the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series, Tony Jordan turned it down. Nine times. The man behind EastEnders and Life on Mars didn’t feel right for the job. Finally, he gave in - and found an unexpected kindred spirit
Could a later start to the school day be the most useful educational reform of all?

Should pupils get a lie in?

Doctors want a later start to the school day so that pupils can sleep later. Not because teenagers are lazy, explains Simon Usborne - it's all down to their circadian rhythms
Prepare for Jewish jokes – as Jewish comedians get their own festival

Prepare for Jewish jokes...

... as Jewish comedians get their own festival
SJ Watson: 'I still can't quite believe that Before I Go to Sleep started in my head'

A dream come true for SJ Watson

Watson was working part time in the NHS when his debut novel, Before I Go to Sleep, became a bestseller. Now it's a Hollywood movie, too. Here he recalls the whirlwind journey from children’s ward to A-list film set
10 best cycling bags for commuters

10 best cycling bags for commuters

Gear up for next week’s National Cycle to Work day with one of these practical backpacks and messenger bags
Paul Scholes: Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United

Paul Scholes column

Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United
Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

The science of herding is cracked

Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

This tyrant doesn’t rule

It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?