PATRIARCH CYRIL I IN POLAND
GRZEGORZ JACEK PELICA
On 15-20 August 2012 the Moscow patriarch and whole Rus Cyril I is paying an official visit in Poland
It will be the first trip of the patriarch to our country in history and one of the most important events for the Polish Unaided Orthodox Church in 2012. Who is the Superior of the Russian Orthodox Church when being accused of being a ‘secret cardinal of Vatican’ during the pontificate of John Paul II, after the death of the patriarch Aleksy II he is an unquestionable authority in Russia and many orthodox countries? Despite the destructive criticism from mass media, on 1 February 20089 he was elected a patriarch and holds the superior authority in the biggest religious institution in Russia.
The orthodox church in Russia
Apart from Russia, the structure of the Russian Orthodox Church comprises over 30 countries in the world: 12 metropolis, 115 bishops, 500 monasteries, over 20 thousand parishes, about 18 thousand presbyteries and over 80 million believers. The contemporary periodization of the Russian Orthodox Church divides its history into the periods: I – period of Kiev before the Mongols, II – Moscow period from the participation in 1469, III – Moscow period till the establishment of patriarchy in 1587, IV – Russian period of the south-west orthodox church till Brzesko union, V – Moscow-Kiev patriarchs (1589-1700), VI – synod period (1700-1917), VII – renewed patriarchy and martyrology of XX century and VIII – the contemporary period. From X to V century the Orthodox Church in Russia was a Russian ecclesiastical province of patriarchy in Constantinople. The first superiors of the orthodox Church in the metropolitan period were the Greek – from Izydor Rusin, Cyril and Maxim in XVIII century. One of the metropolitans – Philip (1570-69) refused to give a blessing to the tsar’s prince and murderer Ivan IV the Terrible for which he was killed (martyr’s canonization - -1652). The title ‘Moscow and whole Rus patriarch’ was given to eleven lords, from Hiob (1589 – 1605) to Adrian (1690 – 1700). The conflict of the tsar Alexei Michajlowicz and patriarch Nikon, concerning the subordination of the Church to the tsar, permanently shook the relations between the Orthodox Church – the state. Peter I the Great, seeing the examples of caesaropapism in protestant Europe, liquidated patriarchy, imposing the holy synod onto tsar’s ober-prosecutor from 1721, abolished the autonomy of a parish and restricted the activity of monasteries. Catherine II introduced the secularization of church property and other tsars caused the impoverishment of clergy, by treating hierarchs as a support of autocracy. Nicholas I was trying to change the situation of the Orthodox Church by tolerance in 1905 but at that time it turned out that among religious communities in Russia only the Russian Orthodox Church was deprived of its own spiritual authority. It made it easier for the Bolsheviks and communists to fight orthodoxy (Golgota of the East of XX century) from Lenin, Stalin to Chruszczow and Breżniew. In the years 1917-57 millions of believers were murdered, including bishops in the rank of metropolitan over 180 and nearly 20 thousand of orthodox priests.
His Holiness Cyril comes into a dialogue with the latest philosophical-social tendencies, reveals the weaknesses of the contemporary ‘democracy’, showing the Church and Christianity as values necessary for the contemporary world and not contradicting with the so-called basic human rights. In the threshold of 2008 the chairman of the commission for foreign contacts the metropolitan Cyril (Kiryl) in whom ‘well-informed centres) saw a candidate for a successor of Alexei II, was proclaimed ‘homophobic’ and backward patriarch – mainly because of the popular interview for the German magazine ‘Der Spiegel’. When asked: ‘How do homo-sexual people parading in Moscow disturb the hierarch?’ the future patriarch answered: ‘The bible calls homo-sexuality a sin. Why would we promote the sin in Russia? The homo-sexual parade is an obvious manifestation of sodomy. In this case we should promote any other sins which can be seen on TV. It destroys public morality. The task of the Church is called the sin of sins. Otherwise, the Church will not be doing its task any more. Unfortunately, in the contemporary world freedom of choice is emphasized, but the freedom from a sin is completely forgotten. Rampant instincts are a sphere of animals world’. The patriarch who predecessors were priests and his father spent many years in exile, does not hide a negative and deepened evaluation of totalitarisms. He warns against a totalitarian system of liberals who ‘want us to believe that morality is relative. And this is a complete untruth. Communists stated that good is what is good for the working class. It was a relative morality – 60 million people were killed. Hitler kept on saying that good is what is good for powerful Germany. It also cost the life of millions of people. Morality is absolute, not relative or it does not exist at all. Do you evaluate homosexuality? Why not pedophilia? In a few years someone will say that twelve-year-olds used to be children but now they are more mature. Today many people wish there was logic thinking like: everything I want is excused and good’. There were attempts of introducing religious education in schools in Russia under the influence of the patriarch, but the educational authorities agreed only on the subject ‘spiritual-moral culture’ and ‘secular ethics’ for children from non-religious families. Due to the annual visit in Russia by Pope Benedict XVI who on the following day, after the enthronement, gave a private audience to the metropolitan Cyril, the patriarch admitted that ‘many Russians do not trust the Catholics. It is a result of wars, proselytizing existing in XVII and XVIII centuries’.
More about Cyril I and his book
It is worth recommending a book of the patriarch entitled: ‘Freedom and responsibility. In the search of a harmony’ to readers who would like to find out about the opinions and messages of Cyril’s decision. The book was translated into Polish and published in the beginning of 2012. Those who are interested in the issue of identifying Cyril with Blessed John Paul II, will find there many parallel statements, like: ‘Building the society of the general welfare will never bring happiness to the humankind, if the welfare outside the context of spiritual human needs is searched for. Christian religions are marked with civilizational and cultural codes, and if they are breached, then the whole human culture can be breached generally. I do not understand why Christian churches do not feel safety and are doing nothing in order to oppose liberal anthropocentrism which practically removes Christianity from Europe’. (see p. 72-80).