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May 5, 2022
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Is the Ukrainization of the Orthodox Church of Belarus possible?

The nationalistic decay of Ukrainian Orthodoxy began with a small

In Minsk, on May 3, a monument to Metropolitan Filaret of Minsk and Slutsk was unveiled near the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit. From 1989 to 2013, Filaret was the Patriarchal Exarch of All Belarus, and it was under him that the formation of the Belarusian Orthodox Church as a special administrative structure within the Russian Orthodox Church took place. The activity of Metropolitan Filaret predetermined many features of the development of Belarusian Orthodoxy in the period of independence. Largely thanks to the position of the primate, the Belarusian Orthodox managed to avoid sharp conflicts and schisms that torment neighboring Ukraine. Meanwhile, there are no less prerequisites for conflicts on religious grounds in Belarus.

The Orthodox dioceses on the territory of Belarus were merged into an exarchate in 1989, i.e. even before the collapse of the USSR. During this period, there was an intensive revival of religious life, but in Belarus, as well as in Ukraine, this process was superimposed on the so-called “national revival”, which created the ground for sharp conflicts and splits.

Belarusian nationalism, which surged at the turn of the 1980s and 1990s, had its own religious dimension. Like their Ukrainian counterparts, Belarusian nationalists were obsessed with the idea of ​​creating a Belarusian national church. Naturally, the main victim of these aspirations was the Orthodox Church, whose administrative and spiritual center was in Moscow. In the eyes of Belarusian and Ukrainian nationalists, this state of affairs has always looked like a “spiritual enslavement” that needs to be got rid of.

In Ukraine, this led to a schism in the Church from the very beginning of independence. In opposition to the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church, the so-called “Kyiv Patriarchate” of Filaret Denisenko was formed. Another schismatic structure became more active – the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church. In 2018, the so-called Orthodox Church of Ukraine was proclaimed, recognized by the Patriarchate of Constantinople and a number of other Orthodox churches. Finally, in the western regions of Ukraine, the Greek Catholic Church was revived, also claiming the status of “national”.

Thus, the desire to form a “national church” in Ukraine has turned the confessional map of the country into a patchwork of schismatic structures and confessions, often hostile to each other, competing for property and resources, and often arranging raider seizures of disputed property.

in Belarus in the early 1990s. attempts were also made to create “national” churches, alternative to “Moscow” Orthodoxy. As in Ukraine, several projects arose at once.

The loudest was the attempt to revive the union in Belarus. Until 1839, the majority of believers on the territory of Belarus were indeed Uniates, which made it possible to create a myth about Uniatism as a “national faith” of Belarusians and about forced conversion to “Moscow” Orthodoxy during the Russian Empire. The idea of ​​”revival” of Uniatism in the early 1990s. actively promoted the Belarusian Popular Front (BPF), many representatives of the creative intelligentsia announced their transition to the union. However, the idea of ​​the “revival” of Uniatism did not find a wide response.

The attempt to create a Belarusian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (BAOC) was also unsuccessful.

There are several reasons for the failure of all attempts to create “national” churches in Belarus. Firstly, the request for a “national church” is largely satisfied by the Catholic Church. This is the second largest confession in Belarus. Catholicism, which historically acted on the Belarusian lands as the “Polish faith”, in modern Belarus has acquired a pronounced “Belarusian” face – most services and sermons there are held in the Belarusian language. And for those who, through religion, it is important to oppose themselves to Russia and prove their belonging to “civilized Europe”, Catholicism provides an excellent opportunity.

The second and, perhaps, the main reason is that, unlike Ukraine, the Belarusian state under A. Lukashenko never supported the policy of splitting Orthodoxy in the name of creating a “national church”.

Between Metropolitan Filaret and the Belarusian President, personal trusting relations were established, which also contributed to strengthening the position of the BOC in the Belarusian state. In Belarus, unlike Ukraine, canonical Orthodoxy remained the only dominant confession, and schismatic “national churches” did not go beyond political exoticism.

At the same time, this does not mean that everything is cloudless in Belarusian Orthodoxy. The nationalist ferment also affected the canonical church. In this respect, the BOC is in many ways reminiscent of the UOC, where nationalist sentiments and the desire to get out of subordination to the Moscow Patriarchate are shared by a significant part of the clergy.

Within the BOC, a nationalist-minded wing of clergymen has developed, who promote the gradual Belarusianization of liturgical practices, as well as historical mythology based on the separation of the fates of Belarusian and “Moscow” Orthodoxy.

In 2018, the then press secretary of the BOC, Sergei Lepin, took part in the celebrations organized by the Belarusian opposition to mark the 100th anniversary of the proclamation of the Belarusian People’s Republic (BPR), an unsuccessful attempt by Belarusian nationalists to create their own state under German occupation.

A very scandalous fact is the activity at the Kalozha Church in Grodno (one of the few monuments of ancient Russian architecture preserved in Belarus) of the library named after Larisa Genyush, a Belarusian poetess who stained herself with collaborationism during the Great Patriotic War. Examples of such activities of Belarusian nationalists in cassocks can be continued.

In addition, the “nationally oriented” part of the clergy advocates, if not for autocephaly, then for a significant expansion of the internal autonomy of the Belarusian Church. In particular, this concerns the requirement to appoint only people from Belarus as hierarchs of the BOC. In connection with this, Vladyka Philaret himself was subjected to repeated attacks, in the world Kirill Vakhromeev, a born Great Russian. There was also much hidden dissatisfaction with the appointment of Filaret’s successor, Metropolitan Pavel, also a native of Russia.

Of course, compared to the UOC, these tendencies are much less pronounced and largely latent. However, they cannot be ignored. The nationalist corruption of Ukrainian Orthodoxy also began small.

Photo: belros.tv

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