The idea of the Russian Orthodox Church to ‘conquer’ Africa is a ‘canonical shot in its own leg’, - expert opinion

27.09.2021, 10:18
The idea of the Russian Orthodox Church to ‘conquer’ Africa is a ‘canonical shot in its own leg’, - expert opinion - фото 1
The decision of the Synod of the Russian Orthodox church to open parishes in Africa in revenge on the patriarch of Alexandria for recognizing the OCU is definitely not a victory. This opinion was expressed by religious expert Dmytro Horyevoy in the Section “Point of View” on Radio Liberty. He gave three arguments why the “conquest” of Africa will not be so easy for the Russian Orthodox Church.

Source: Radio Liberty

“Two years ago, the Russian Orthodox Church threatened to open its parishes in Africa if Alexandria recognizes the OCU. Two years have passed, and Moscow has not moved from threats to actions. Because even the latest decision says that now the Russian Orthodox Church will only consider the requests of African clerics and develop a model. This is entrusted to the special Vicar of the Patriarch – Leonid. But specific discoveries of communities are not yet clearly mentioned. This is a signal and "the last Chinese warning". Moscow is trying to intimidate Alexandria, but it is unlikely to work. Because in the situation with Africa, not everything is so simple.

First, Africa’s territory below Sahara is actually the new canonical territory of the Patriarchate of Alexandria. The latter went there literally in the last century. Moreover, there was an interesting agreement between the patriarchates of Constantinople and Alexandria. The former recognized the whole of Africa after the latter, and the latter recognized all diasporas after the former. Therefore, the blow to Alexandria is also an indirect blow to Constantinople.

Secondly, the Russian Orthodox Church has previously managed to create parallel structures, but it did so exclusively on, so to speak, no man’s territory – that is, in the diaspora. Although Russian priests already serve in Africa at Russian embassies, formally their churches are located on the territory of the Russian Federation (the legislation of the representative country applies on the territory of the embassy), but, in addition, all these churches are officially coordinated with the Patriarchate of Alexandria. Now an attack on the canonical territory of another local church is being schemed. That is an open violation of the canons.

Again, according to Hovorun’s smart comment, Moscow duplicates what it believes Constantinople has done. In this case, either the Phanar and the Russian Orthodox Church did the right thing, or both are to blame. However, it is impossible to conclude from the decisions of the Russian Orthodox Church that Moscow is right, while Constantinople is not. A kind of canonical shot in one’s own leg.

Third, the opening of Russian Orthodox Church parishes in sub-Saharan Africa is definitely not a victory. Yes, of course, it will not be difficult for Moscow to do this, given the military support of various Russian private military units fighting in Africa, and contacts with local authoritarian regimes. However, the reality of tropical Africa’s religious communities is poverty. Almost all parishes receive humanitarian aid from their churches, and the change of denomination is due not to theological searches, but to the amount of this aid,” Dmytro Horyevoy stressed.

He added that the Russian Orthodox church is also involved in serious and rather costly competition with Catholics and Protestants, just to take revenge on the Church of Alexandria.

“I think Patriarch Theodore III of Alexandria is now thinking something like ‘Thank God that these destitute communities are moving from my financial shoulders to others,’” the expert concluded.