Orthodox Christians around the world are waiting to find out what did, or did not, happen in a high-stakes meeting the other day between Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople and Patriarch Kirill of Russia.
The issue was one of the most important, and symbolic, landmines in the history of Orthodox Christianity. That would be Kiev, a city that represents the "Baptism of Rus' " in 988 (click here for background), when Orthodox faith entered the world of the Slavs.
For the massive Russian Orthodox Church, everything begins in Kiev. The presence of the great Kiev Pechersk Lavra -- a monastery founded in 1051 -- only raises the stakes in this struggle for control of holy ground.
The Associated Press ran a feature before this showdown that mixed in spies, hackers and a hint of Donald Trump-era craziness. But before we get into all of that, let me offer a sample of the confusing news -- the word "Byzantine" applies here -- that followed the meeting.
KIEV (Sputnik) -- Reports about the decision to grant autocephaly to an Ukrainian church allegedly taken by the Ecumenical Patriarchate are false and distort the reality, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP) said on Saturday.
On Friday, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow met with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople and the parties discussed "issues of mutual interest." Following the meeting, Ukrainian media reported that Patriarch Bartholomew had allegedly informed Patriarch Kirill of Constantinople's decision to grant Ukrainian church with autocephaly.
What, you ask, does "autocephaly" mean? It literally means "self-headed." Thus, the leader of an autocephalous church does not answer to a higher ranking metropolitan or patriarch.
Currently, the church In Ukraine that most Orthodox believers consider canonical (as opposed to two competing flocks, as I discussed in this 2009 column written in Kiev) is linked to Moscow. Back to that news report: