Geopolitics of schism
US government reveals its relations with Phanar
The situation of the Russian Orthodox Church in Ukrainian territory is already well known. Persecutions take on more and more tragic contours day after day, due to collaboration between the pro-Western government and the nationalist schismatics. The absurd decision taken by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I to grant “autocephaly” to Ukrainian schismatics greatly aggravated the situation that was already terrible, allowing the creation of a “Ukrainian national church”, certified by the State, instituting an official anti-Russian religion, justifying all barbarian acts perpetrated by the nazi-liberal government, which is now trying to nationalize all the possessions of the Moscow Patriarchate in Ukraine, vilifying and taking over parishes, cathedrals and monasteries.
The relations between the Ecumenical Patriarch's decision and Western geopolitical plans for the region are clear and known. Early in the Ukrainian ecclesiastical crisis, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made a public note on the case, supporting the schismatics. In his words: "(we, Americans) urge the church and the country's authorities to move towards the creation of a Ukrainian Orthodox church with autocephaly. The United States reiterates its support for religious freedom and the freedom of religious groups, including Orthodox in Ukraine” However, the relations of the Washington-Kiev-Istanbul axis are older than they seemed until then.
Last month, CIA revealed some previously confidential documents on links between the United States and the Ecumenical Patriarchate, more specifically, with the late Patriarch Athenagoras. In 1948, Athenagoras assumed the throne of Constantinople, replacing then Patriarch Maxim V. During his jurisdiction, His Holiness Maxim V was accused of “pro-Soviet feelings” for the simple fact of having approached the Russian Church, which the Westerners believed to be a “collaborator” of communism and “controlled by the Kremlin”. The official version of Patriarch Maxim V's resignation is said to have been due to health problems, however, the thesis that His Holiness resigned due to the political pressure erected against his name is very well accepted by most scholars. Now, with the disclosure of the CIA, such pressure is almost undeniable.
Athenagoras, a Greek by birth, lived and served as a bishop in the United States, being responsible for the American diocese of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Unlike the then patriarch, Athenagoras was notorious not only for his staunch anti-communism but also for his total alignment with the ideology and projects of the country where he lived. Among the published documents are some ones from the US Office of Strategic Services, the CIA's predecessor intelligence agency. In particular, in a note dated March 26, 1942, an intelligence agent named Ulius L. Amoss writes to another agent named David Burns that the archbishop was very happy to meet him. Most impressive, however, are the words of the hierarch himself: "He told me that all the possibilities of his organization are at our disposal. He expressed it with the following words: 'I have three bishops, 300 priests and a large and extensive organization. Everyone who is at my disposal is at your disposal. You can request any service you need. No questions will be asked there and your instructions will be followed correctly. Tell Mr. Burns that it is so."
A month after the declaration, the Greek archbishop, impressively, tried to join the American Armed Forces, but was rejected. His notes are: "I am ready to take any responsibility and make all possible sacrifices for the good of our beloved country, which is fighting for freedom and universal justice and for a new day". With the end of World War II, Washington began the so-called “Operation Athenagoras”, which consisted in a series of secret maneuvers that raised political and ecclesiastical pressure around the Ecumenical Patriarch with the aim of forcing him to resign.
As a Greek, Athenagoras was then unfit for election around Constantinople because of Turkish law. However, an agreement between Americans and Turks allowed the election of the hierarch to be carried out, being the first Ecumenical Patriarch not born in Turkey since the Fall of Constantinople. Athenagoras was transported from the United States to Istanbul on the presidential plane assigned to him by Harry Truman himself. Its jurisdiction was marked by an extreme approach to the United States in the context of the Cold War, in addition to strong signs of ecumenism. It was Athenagoras who held a historic meeting with Pope Paul VI in Jerusalem in 1964, in which they signed a “revocation of excommunications” agreement - which had been in force since the Great Western Schism in 1054. Fortunately, the “revocation” was not accepted by the other bishops of the Orthodox Church.
Liberalism, ecumenism and theological neglect marked Athenagoras' legacy, not ceasing with his death, but continuing as a cancer installed in the Ecumenical Patriarchate, which we can also contemplate today.
However, the problems with Constantinople did not begin in Athenagoras. The CIA documents reveal a small part of secret relationships that existed long before Athenagoras - and that continued to exist after him. As Metropolitan Hilarion, head of foreign affairs of the Moscow Patriarchate, reminds, “in 1924, when the Patriarchate of Constantinople offered the Polish Church autocephaly, he made a lot of money in sterling. If I'm not mistaken, about £ 12,000, a very high sum for the time".
Bringing controversy to our times, the fruits of this alignment between Constantinople and the West are clear: the rapprochement between Petro Poroshenko, Bartholomew I and Pompeo caused the political-ecclesiastical crisis in Ukraine, whose aim is to socially destabilize the country, creating a polarization between Ukrainians and Russians. The ethnic persecutions that started with the Donbass conflicts have now reached a religious dimension against the Russian Church on the entire Ukrainian soil. In a few decades, CIA will reveal its participation in the Ukrainian crisis in the same way that it now reveals its participation in the election of Athenagoras. The topic is important to remind us that religion is also a geopolitical issue.