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Archbishop Leo of Helsinki: “Not a trace of Orthodoxy left in the Patriarchate of Moscow”

Having recently announced his intention to retire, His Beatitude Archbishop Leo of Helsinki and All Finland delivered a powerful speech to representatives at his church’s General Assembly on 7th June 2024. Among other things he commented on the activities of the Patriarchate of Moscow.

The speech was centred around the parable of the Good Samaritan.

“We all meet with people who are suffering at some time or other, and there are increasingly more of them in our society nowadays. The decision whether to take those lying by the wayside along with us or to ignore them can, of course, be used as a criterion for evaluating any economic, political, social or religious undertaking. We have to decide every day whether we are to be Good Samaritans or disinterested passers-by, and if we broaden our horizons to consider our whole lives or the history of the world at large, we are, or have been at some time, all of the characters in the parable. We all carry in us something of the wounded man, something of the robber, something of the passer-by and something of the Samaritan.”

The Archbishop emphasised that the parable should not be interpreted too narrowly. It is not simply a matter of choices within the religious sphere:

“We can see quite clearly that the lack of social and political activity is leaving some parts of our world deserted and uninhabitable. We can see how national and international controversies can leave large numbers of people in marginal areas by the wayside.”

He also pointed out that there are nowadays many other instances that can fulfil the same role in the world as Christians:

“One detail stands out particularly clearly in the parable, namely that the passers-by were religious people. We cannot ignore this fact. Paradoxically, it is often the case that those who claim not to be religious fulfil the will of God in their actions better than do those who are believers.”

Not a trace of Orthodoxy left in the Patriarchate of Moscow

Archbishop Leo also referred in his speech to the current state of the worldwide Orthodox Church:

“The Orthodox family of churches is at present in crisis and badly divided. Our modern age has given rise to a new totalitarian myth and ideology in the guise of Orthodoxy which does not in reality represent Christianity at all. A few years ago I was still able to recognise some vestiges of Orthodoxy in the Patriarchate of Moscow, but they have now been replaced by a blend of Russian Messianism, Orthodox fascism and ethnophyletism. The last-mentioned heresy was condemned by the local synod of Constantinople 152 years ago.

Russia now looks on itself as the only force for good in the world, with the task of opposing the West, which has lapsed into evil. This in turn represents a Manichean heresy in which the world is divided into opposites: light and darkness, good and evil, and so on.”

These changes in religious policy have had repercussions in Finland:

“I am naturally worried that the canonical territory our local church may have been affected to some degree by the current Russian expansionism, that the “robber” of our day and age, to quote the parable, may have found allies in those who pass by and cast their gaze elsewhere. Only unfortunately, in this case it is not merely a matter of passing by, for as we know, the invasion of Ukraine has received the church’s blessing and has even been declared a ‘Holy War’.

Archbishop Leo ended his speech by stressing the unity of the church as a point of departure for Christian action: “The standards of integrity that the Gospel lays down for our actions are stringent, and we cannot hope to attain them by ourselves, but we are allowed to speak about them, and indeed we are obliged to speak about them. But we cannot act in an entirely Christian manner on our own. We can do so only when we join together in Christ to form one church, which will always be stronger than the sum of individual isolated members that are wrapped up in their own affairs.”