Thursday, December 6, 2018

Orthodox Synaxis on the Problem of Romiosyne

The must-read blog Orthodox Synaxis has posted a translation of a speech by Patriarch Bartholomew where he speaks of the "precedence" of his people in Orthodoxy and as the center of "Romiosyne". Because this ideology lies at the heart of the Greek occupation of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem, readers of this blog should take note of how His Holiness speaks off cuff on such issues.

 The introduction states:

In addressing the ongoing political and ecclesiastical conflict in Ukraine, many have rightly brought up the Russkiy Mir (“Russian world”) ideology promoted by many in the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church. This ideology, concocted as a reaction to the loss of Russian control over Ukraine and Belarus after the fall of the Soviet Union, seeks to assert a spiritual and cultural unity of the peoples descended from the Kievan Rus, presumably under Russian leadership. Perhaps not totally unexpectedly, there has been much less analysis of the dominant ideology of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, the concept of Romiosyne. This culturally and ecclesiastically irredentist ideology seeks to regain the preeminence in the Orthodox world that the Greeks of Constantinople enjoyed under the Ottomans, just as the Russkiy Mir attempts to regain the preeminence that Russia held under the Soviets.

The 75-year period of Soviet rule left an inescapable mark on the leadership of the Church in Russia, Ukraine and the other former-Soviet states and similarly the 500 years of Ottoman rule inevitably left its enduring mark on the worldview of the leadership of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. We can see this in the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s reliance on Ottoman-era documents to assert territorial claims in Ukraine and the way that recent statements (e.g., Patriarch Bartholomew’s 1 September address) borrow from the rhetoric of this period to speak of the Patriarchate of Constantinople as the “source” and “beginning” of the Orthodox churches.

The Ecumenical Patriarchate’s ideology of Romiosyne is a no less desperate attempt to cling to a bygone empire than Russia’s Russkiy Mir ideology even if, in the absence of military strength to back it up, its field of action is largely ecclesiastical. This can be seen on display in a recent speech by Patriarch Bartholomew to an audience of parishioners from Istanbul. In it, he speaks of the preeminence of their common genos in the Orthodox Church and triumphalistically mocks “Slavic” attempts at usurping it. The language that Patriarch Bartholomew uses is somewhat difficult to translate into English precisely because his is a post-imperial ideology rather than a nationalist one of the sort that we are more familiar with. That is, where one might use Hellenismos to describe the nationalism of the Greek nation-state (ethnos), Romiosyne describes a concept of Greekness that transcends nation-states and is centered more on the role of Greeks in the Orthodox Church than in worldly politics. The key term in this speech is the word genos, which is the origin of the word ‘genus’ and could be translated as ‘race’, ‘kind’, ‘sort’ or, as we’ve chosen to translate it below, ‘people’, though it is noteworthy (not to say alarming) that in this speech Patriarch Bartholomew uses the term phyle (‘tribe’ or ‘race’) as a synonym of genos.

Read the speech itself here.

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