Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew

It's hard to cover bitter tensions in Kiev, Moscow and Constantinople while ignoring church history

It's hard to cover bitter tensions in Kiev, Moscow and Constantinople while ignoring church history

It is hard to evaluate the journalistic quality of a New York Times report about a complicated, emotional religious dispute with 1,000 years worth of history when the report — when push comes to shove — is a one-sided look at its contemporary political implications.

Once again, politics trumps church history and doctrine. Surprised?

I am referring to the clash in Ukraine between Orthodox Christians who back centuries of ecclessiastical ties between Kiev and Moscow and those who support the bid by President Petro O. Poroshenko, with the backing of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, to create an independent, canonical Ukrainian church. Here’s the overture for the recent report in the Times:

MOSCOW — Ukraine took a major step on Saturday toward establishing its own, autonomous Orthodox Church, setting the stage for increased tensions with Russia by altering a centuries-old religious tradition under which the Kiev church answered to Moscow.

Some 190 bishops, priests and other church figures spent the day closeted in St. Sophia’s Cathedral in downtown Kiev to elect the newly unified Ukrainian church’s head, Metropolitan Epiphanius. He is scheduled to travel in January to Istanbul, the historical seat of the Eastern Orthodox Church, to receive an official order granting autonomy.

Hundreds of supporters of the move cheered and some wept as President Petro O. Poroshenko, who had attended the session, emerged from the cathedral to announce that Ukraine had a new church leader.

Quoting from the national poet, Taras Shevchenko, Mr. Poroshenko said that “Ukraine will no longer drink Moscow poison from the Moscow cup,” and he called on supporters to remember the day’s events as “the final acquisition of independence from Russia.”

The assumption here is, of course, that (a) the tiny, endangered church in Constantinople has the power — there is no Vatican in Orthodox polity — to create an “autocephalous” Ukrainian church that will be recognized as valid by Orthodox churches around the world. Oh, and (b), the heart of this story is a conflict between Russian President Vladimir Putin and modern Europe, representing the free world.

Political sizzle always trumps church history.

Please respect our Commenting Policy

'Like a beautiful dream': Francis' rescue mission for Syrian refugees gets graceful coverage

'Like a beautiful dream': Francis' rescue mission for Syrian refugees gets graceful coverage

Pope Francis surprised news media yet again when he flew back from an ecumenical meeting last weekend with 12 new passengers: three families of Syrian refugees.

Francis said the Vatican would sponsor the families and get them settled in Italy, in a clear object lesson for other nations.  And the lesson was not lost on mainstream media, which covered the story with grace, sensitivity and intelligence. At least, when they got over being caught off guard again.

Francis came to the Aegean island of Lesbos to visit refugees from the war-ravaged Middle East along with two Eastern Orthodox leaders: Bartholomew I, patriarch of all Orthodoxy, and Ieronymos II, the archbishop of Greece.  But as NBC News and other media report, the pope got a last-minute idea to do more: to sponsor three families directly and set an example for the world.

Says NBC:

The religious leaders had lunch with eight refugees to hear their stories of fleeing war, conflict and poverty and their hopes for a better life in Europe. Then they prayed together, tossing a floral wreath into the sea in memory of those who didn't make it.
The pope vowed to continue helping refugees.
"Refugees are not numbers, they are people who have faces, names, stories, and need to be treated as such," he tweeted Saturday.

Video clips tell the story even more vividly. One from Euronews shows a man falling at Francis' feet, sobbing "Thank you, thank you." On CNN, a little girl clutches his ankles, apparently in overwhelming gratitude. He then gently lifts her to her feet.

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Need a new religion-related angle for Earth Day? Here's how to get started

Need a new religion-related angle for Earth Day? Here's how to get started

If you pay attention to news about climate change you're undoubtedly aware that the warnings about the potential catastrophes facing human civilization are increasingly dire. I pay close attention to the subject and its clear to me that the warnings are coming in greater volume and getting ever-more threatening.

I'm crawling toward my mid-70s so I'm probably too old for the worst of the predictions to manifest fully during my lifetime. But I can't help but think that my children and certainly my grandchildren will experience climate events that could upend human life as we know it.

Just last week, for example, saw coverage that the massive ice sheets covering Antarctica appear to be collapsing faster than previously thought. That means a steeper rise in sea levels, which is terrible news for coastal populations worldwide. Click here to read how The New York Times covered the story.

Of course I'm aware that not everyone agrees about the reality of climate change or to what degree, if any, it's human-caused. But this post is not about arguing the issue's merits.

Like the preponderance of scientists who study the issue, I believe that climate change is a real threat and that the increased levels of atmospheric heat-trapping gases result directly from humanity's continued reliance on fossil fuels, in particular coal and petroleum.

Disagree? Think liberal media has blown the issue out of proportion? Say so in the comment section below. Give us some mainstream URLs for your facts and claims.

Please respect our Commenting Policy