Orthodox Church and mass protests in Belarus-2

  • Belarus
  • 23.Aug ‘20
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Commentary by the Head of the Religious Office of the Tsargrad TV Channel Mikhail Tyurenkov for Religion Today

“Religion Today”: Mikhail Anatolyevich, how do you assess the fact that an increasing number of clergy and parishioners of the Belarusian Orthodox Church are being drawn into the protest movement? Do you think that clergy and laity can join the opposition movement if they believe that the current government ignores the will of the people? Naturally, we mean that participation in the opposition movement is peaceful and non-violent.

Mikhail Tyurenkov: To begin with, I would like to thank the Religion Today channel for being indifferent to the current religious and political situation in Belarus, which is extremely important and, I must say, extremely dangerous for the Russian Orthodox Church and in general for the historical fate of the entire Russian civilization.

Unfortunately, these are not big words: although the analogy with Ukraine is not 100%, the final goal is the same: not only to change the ruling regime to a more “democratic ” one, but also to change the foreign policy vector through the dissatisfaction of the common people with the current government and a really very difficult socio-economic situation in the republic.

As for the Belarusian Exarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church, first I would like to note that its self-name “Belarusian Orthodox Church”, used in Belarus almost as the only one, should not be misleading. This is not only non-autocephalous, but also is not self-governing or even autonomous Church. This is the exarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church on the territory of Belarus, with minimal autonomy. Nevertheless, part of the clergy of the Belarusian Exarchate has been striving for a self-governing status for many years, following the example of the same canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church. I would repeat this is only a part, albeit very active and politicized, of the Belarusian clergy. It is the people who do everything to make the Belarusian exarchate get “belarusianized” slowly but surely.

It is this extremely active and politicized minority of the clergy of the Belarusian Exarchate who takes part or simply supports the current protest actions. Formally and legally, there is nothing illegal in the latter. Nevertheless, you need to understand that these are not just situational statements against personally Lukashenko and his regime, but a clear value, and I would even say a civilizational position, which, if very much simplified, can be reduced to the following formulation: “Belarusians are not Russians”. Following this policy, the condition of the Belarusian Exarchate in the Moscow Patriarchate is considered as a temporary phenomenon. Of course, even the most liberal, most pro-Western clerics of Belarus do not yet openly demand autocephaly according to the Ukrainian scenario, but one does not need to be a prophet to predict this in the near future.

It is clear that representatives of the hierarchy are often connected and often dependent on secular rulers. However, this should not interfere with the preaching of the Word of God, including those moments when it denounces officials and their lawlessness. Another thing is that it should be just a sermon, and not political slogans and calls from the lips of clergymen covered by the Gospel and patristic quotations.

At the same time, I am absolutely convinced that our bishops should more often fulfill their duty of sorrow to the secular authorities about the urgent problems and needs of their flock. To be closer to the people, that is, to be true fathers, ready to listen and support, and not by kind of “teaching Church”, called only to teach, “to bind and loose.” This is by no means “democratization”, not liberal renovationism, but the original conciliar, communal principle of church life.

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