An Ecumenical Life: How Patriarch Porfirije’s Ecumenism Led to the Macedonian Reunion

There seems to be surprise, and even random attempts at celebrating, in response to the Patriarch of Serbia officially blessing a schismatic group of 50 years without any noted repentance or restructuring. It would seem that a new model is rising which is taking the form of “giving Constantinople money to say you’re autocephalous and declaring yourself so.” (It worked in Ukraine, after all.) UPDATE: The Patriarch granted the Macedonians autocephaly.

But why would Patriarch Porfirije, known among so many in the West as a “pillar of Orthodoxy,” allow himself to be manipulated in this way? Even the Russian press expected the Serbian Patriarch to say something other than “yes, of course.” So why didn’t he? After all, this wasn’t the previous Patriarch Irenej, an open ecumenist who would be there for every big Chanukah celebration in Belgrade. Patriarch Porfirije wrote books!

The truth is sadly more boring for anyone who was paying attention. The upper echelon of the Serbian hierarchy is completely made up of ecumenists. It’s a stacked deck. All the traditionalism that is assumed of these new ecumenist hierarchs is how seriously they can scowl with a beard, and Patriarch Porfirije is no different than the rest. We can just look at some of his greatest hits over the past six years to prove our point.

Then-Metropolitan Porfirije of Zagreb and Ljubljana at the Week of Christian Unity Prayers in the Zagreb Roman Catholic Cathedral, 2020.

While then-Metropolitan Porfirije caused global scandal by kissing the Pope’s hand in 2016 in Assisi (for which, as Patriarch he basically answered puzzled reporters as to why he did that with “it’s personal”, clerical speak for “none of your business”), less noticed that same year was the award he received from the St. Ignatios Foundation of St. Ignatios College in Sweden, a self-described ecumenical college which collaborates between Orthodox and Non-Chalcedonians.

On January 19, 2020, before becoming Patriarch, Metropolitan Porfirije of Zagreb and Ljubljana took part in ecumenical services to celebrate the feast of Theophany at the Roman Catholic Cathedral, and sat in the altar as the Roman Cardinal led the service. Perhaps here is where the future Patriarch’s heart was opened to reunion: at the same ecumenical prayer service with Roman Catholics and Protestants, a speaker for the Macedonian schism took a turn preaching to the crowd.

A month later, the Metropolitan was a speaker at a Muslim-Christian dialogue conference in Croatia entitled: “Human brotherhood – the foundation of security and peace in the world,” sponsored by the European Union.

And then COVID took the life of Patriarch Irenej, who never met a menorah he wouldn’t light. Metropolitan Porfirije, a big ecumenical flame in the interfaith fireplace, was elected Patriarch.

On the occasion of Eid Al-Fitr in 2021, the new Patriarch addressed Muslims:

I consider it a blessing of God that I have been given the opportunity to send my heartfelt congratulations to the Muslim brothers, who live throughout our homeland, on the occasion of one of the greatest Islamic holidays – Eid al-Fitr, with the desire to celebrate it in joy, peace, love, and well-being.

My joy is all the greater because I do the same thing that Saint Sava did in the thirteenth century when he visited and made friends with the Caliph of Great Babylon, ie Baghdad, and the Sultan of Great Egypt, ie Cairo. Thus, Saint Sava pointed out to future generations of Orthodox Christians that they should build peace, cooperation, and friendship with Muslims.

Building such relationships is especially important in the days and months of temptation due to the pandemic that took many lives, caused suffering and fear, not choosing whether someone is a Christian, a Muslim, or some other faith. But that is why philanthropic actions and mutual help in troubles are more important than mutual joy in times when there are no temptations.

Therefore, I will try, together with the spiritual leaders of Muslims, who are also my dear friends, to participate in building fraternal relations between Orthodox Christians and Muslims. In the name of such relations, I once again cordially congratulate all Muslims living in our homeland on the holiday of Eid al-Fitr.

There is no evidence in the Life of St Sava in the Serbian Patericon of any sustained friendship between St Sava and Muslim leaders. Indeed, the brutal history of Islam towards Serbia doesn’t lend credence to the concept, but we are not hagiographers, so this claim would require more research.

This was followed up by the Patriarch’s Ramadan message for this year:

In the spirit of brotherly love and respect, we extend our heartfelt congratulations to all Muslims and wish them to celebrate the Ramadan Bayram in good health, peace, love and every good.

In the past period, Muslims have been preparing themselves for the celebration of the great Islamic feast – Ramadan Bayram, by fasting, praying and doing good deeds. A true believer knows that he who loves God also loves his neighbor, and our neighbors are all those we meet on our life’s journey, regardless of religion, because we all descended from the same ancestors, Adam and Eve. We greet the Muslim brothers in the love of God with a feeling of sincere friendship and respect,

Serbian Patriarch Porfirije

Of course, His Holiness is no stranger to mishandling ecclesiastical awards, such as handing out the order of St Sava to a former head of the Socialist Party who now runs a soccer club in July of 2021, which was widely ridiculed by Serbs on social media, so it’s not like we can just exclude the Religion of Peace™.

So, with a community so obviously schismatic that most World Orthodoxsources referred to it as “schismatic”until last month, one can guess that between the indifference caused by Patriarch Porfirije’s ecumenism and pressure from the Ecumenical Patriarch to approve the deal, alongside the West’s insistence on balkanizing the Orthodox world as much as possible against Russia, that Patriarch Porfirije simply rubber-stamped the absolute lawlessness the Orthodox world is supposed to receive with celebration, cognitive dissonance notwithstanding.

Which should come as no surprise to anyone, but thanks to partisan myopia does anyway.