In January 2014, I was sitting in the lobby of the Patriarch of Kiev along with other bishops, waiting for the Synod to end so that I could meet with Patriarch Filaret. It was snowing and freezing outside and the revolution was well underway in the country!
It was 2011 when I last met Patriarch Filaret, I was accompanying a delegation of the Anglican Church on a visit to Kiev. The delegation included the Bishop of Wakefield, Stephen Platten, the Chaplain to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Jonathan Goodall, and a renowned Anglican canonist and expert of orthodox liturgy, Hugh Wybrew. The Patriarch was very pleased about our visit. He treated us well. He awarded me and the Rt Revd Stephen Platten with the Order of Saint Vladimir, whilst Jonathan Goodall and Hugh Wybrew received the Order of Saint George. He also gave Panagias to me and Stephen Platten. When handing a Panagia to me he turned to the other attendees and, with sparkling eyes, told them: “the Rt Revd Malkhaz Songulashvili is the Orthodox Baptist.” Back then, the Patriarch was in high spirits.
That visit to Kiev drove the Moscow Patriarchate mad. Letters of condemnation were immediately sent to Lambeth Palace, the official London residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury. One letter was written by Metropolitan Hilarion, the chairman of the Department of External Church Relations of the Russian Orthodox Church, whilst another was authored by a British Orthodox Christian Metropolitan who falls under the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Constantinople. Both metropolitans did not mince their words in criticizing the Church of England and its leader, rebuking the Archbishop for daring to send a delegation to Ukraine without first seeking the consent of the Patriarchate of Moscow. Rowan Williams, the then Archbishop of Canterbury, sent the irritated metropolitans a stern response, doing so calmly, without emotion. After this incident, Bishop of Wakefield Stephen Platten continued his relations with the head of the Ukrainian Church as usual, as well as with his representative to Great Britain, Abbot Kirion Inasaridze.
(To be continued.)