Caveat lector: you may find this intensely dull.
I hope to explain below the parallel war being waged against the Orthodox church and how it impacts on the events in Ukraine. It is a long tale but worth telling.
To start, I need to explain the structure of the Orthodox Church. The structure revolves around Bishops. Bishops are necessary, they are considered (by election) direct descendants of the original Apostles. The faith itself is considered that which was handed down from the apostles both in writing and through tradition. It is a living tradition and whilst is adapts to the times, it is not beholden to them (Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever- to quote scripture). Bishops are central to the spiritual and administrative hierarchy. In the Orthodox church they only come from the ranks of monastics. Without monasticism, Orthodoxy does not exist. Of old there were 5 key Bishoprics: Jerusalem, Rome, Antioch, Alexandria and Constantinople. Rome left the party officially in 1054 but it had been getting too big for its boots long before then.
The key bishoprics are called Patriarchates and each has a chief Bishop called a Patriarch. Where there are other important centres of population within a Patriarchate, there will be less high-ranking bishops called Metropolitans. As Christianity grew, it became necessary to raise some of these Metropolitans to the rank of Patriarch to govern areas with a common cultural/ethnic heritage. This is the process of Autocephaly (Serbia granted autocephaly 1219, Moscow 1589, for example). A Patriarch is not like the Pope, he does not micromanage the church, and his jurisdiction only extends for his geographical/ethnic location. Sometimes the different Patriarchates get together for councils, these can be notoriously bad-tempered affairs: Orthodox unity is not gentlemanly. The Patriarchs do however need to agree which churches are Orthodox and which are not (ie those which are in schism). This is necessary so that if one travels from one Patriarchate to another, one can still attend the services and the rituals are as they should be, the priests are valid and there is nothing heterodox in the teaching. Because Patriarchates don’t always line up with state borders, the geopolitical and spiritual will clash and this has been exploited big time by the Empire of Lies. America very much holds to the Brzezinski doctrine named after the rabid anti-Communist Polish-American Catholic Zbigniew Brzezinski who was so influential if US foreign affairs for much of the 1970s and 1980s. His hatred of Communism was matched by his hatred of Russians period. Russia, whatever its politics is a threat and must be weakened at all costs.
Normally the US is very fond of using Christianity as a soft power in its global empire. Vast amounts of money are poured into various Protestant denominations and well meaning ‘missionaries’ travel to far flung areas to build schools, medical clinics etc and spread the good news about the US (Jesus is simply their marketing tool). The Catholic Church, due to the massive Catholic diaspora in the US, and due to their mutual rabid anti-Communism adds some gravitas to its endeavours not afforded by the Protestant denominations. The Orthodox church has been harder for them to crack. Since the fall of the Eastern Bloc, they have sweet talked the Orthodox patriarchates by spending a lot of money helping repair infrastructure and build new churches. They have also tried to influence the choice of Patriarch in several jurisdictions: preferring Western educated men with liberal tendencies. US Ambassadors and the Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom work their way into the governance of the Orthodox Churches. Geoffrey Pyatt: ambassador to Ukraine during the Maidan and then ambassador to Greece is one such sleazeball. He has crippled the independent functioning of the church in Greece and the damage he did in Ukraine is horrific.
Before we concentrate on Ukraine. An honourable mention must be made regarding the havoc they tried to impose on the Serbian Orthodox church by trying to set up a fake Orthodox church in Montenegro independent of the Serbian Patriarchate. All that did was increase the religiosity of the Montenegrins and make them more devoted to the Serbian Patriarchate! Also in Moldova, where two Metropolitanates exist, vast sums of money have bee poured into the more pliant Romanian Orthodox church in an attempt to oust the Russian Orthodox Church. It has not succeeded and the two churches are on good terms and refuse to play along.
Back to Ukraine. The US developed a trope that the canonical, legitimate church of Ukraine, led by Metropolitan Onuphry and under the Patriarchate of Moscow, was just Putin’s puppet. This is not the case, the Kiev Metropolitanate is largely autonomous and exercises a large degree of freedom. Anyway, lies never got in the way of geopolitics, so with the help of the pliant and compromised Patriarch of Constantinople (massive amounts of money owed to the US), an ‘independent’ (independent of Moscow), autocephalous church was created. It needed a Patriarch (Philaret Denyshenko) who had previously been defrocked by the Orthodox community in a rare show of unanimity! And that wasn’t the only thing wrong with it. The canons of Orthodoxy do not allow for Constantinople to make a decision about autocephaly independently of the rest of the Orthodox world. The rest of the Orthodox world was less than enamoured with this decision and even Orthodox churches which are not so enamoured of Moscow refused to recognise this entity. Many Orthodox churches think that Moscow swallowed a lot of Catholic teaching and practices (which is true enough) and many loathe its delusions of grandeur as the ‘Third Rome’, so support for Moscow isn’t a given. Support for the canons of Orthodoxy and Orthodox due process are what has united the churches.
This autocephalous, US backed Ukrainian church has become the de facto church of the Ukrainian state and it should come as no surprise that it has been showing its fascist credentials from the very beginning. Churches have been confiscated from the legitimate church, ‘priests’ have led their support to the Nazi regiments, real worshippers intimidated (intimidation assisted by Eastern Rite Catholics), churches firebombed, clergy threatened (faeces thrown through the window of a priest’s house is a lovely Nazi touch). It has been spectacularly unsuccessful at recruiting people away from the canonical church, though there has been some success in the West of the country. This US backed church is big on ecumenicism and works happily with the Catholics. In the West it is viewed as legitimate by the ignorant and support for it is growing. Sadly, the Patriarchate of Alexandria also caved in and recognised it. This has led to massive problems throughout Africa with defections of clergy from Alexandria to Moscow (the only other patriarchate in the area) by priests who refuse to recognise the fascist church. These priests are being fined and persecuted, but they know the truth.
I think the US was expecting more support for its venture from the likes of Albania, Romania and Georgia, but it has not been forthcoming. It was certainly hoping for more disunity and more pro-Western sentiment. Orthodoxy is just about holding out for now and is wise to the game. The sad thing is Metropolitan Onuphry in Kiev is in a very difficult position, he is pastorally responsible for all the Orthodox peoples of Ukraine in its pre 2014 boundaries; Donbass and Crimea are not directly under Moscow but are under Kiev. This is an opportunity for the West to inflict even more havoc in the coming months, watch this space. Remember that Kiev is the spiritual home of the Rus, Moscow may be the Patriarchate but Kiev is the heart and Orthodox Russians will not want to see it given over entirely to Fascists.