Dialogue Setback?

(NFTUROCOR-United, the ROCOR-Moscow Patriarchate’s unofficial blog/propaganda machine/bulletin board, reported gleefully on the latest setback to True Orthodox dialogue– a short interview with Metropolitan Valentine expressing reservation concerning dialogue with Metropolitan Agafangel of ROCOR-A. Indeed, we wonder if they are even bigger fans of Metropolitan Agafangel than we are. Of course, they might also be covering it because people actually look for stories on Metropolitan Agafangel’s work to protect the Church as opposed to stories about Metropolitan Hilarion sending namesday greetings, since it seems the good Metropolitan’s official job now is to stand and take pictures.

For the sake of the readership, we are posting the short interview between Vladimir Oyvin and Metropolitan Valentine from Portal-Credo, which ROCOR-United didn’t actually do:

— “Portal-Credo. Ru”: Metropolitan Agafangel (Pashkovsky) of ROCOR (A), took the initiative to start negotiations with the three largest jurisdictions of True Orthodox tradition – ROAC, ROCA (V) and RTOC in order to ascertain and clarify their differences together.
Metropolitan Valentin: The initiative is good, healthy. But just who does it help? To start a union “without preconditions” is not very correct, because we in Council condemned Cyprianism [See report of Bp Andrei of Pavlovskoe and response, 2008 Sobor], and now proponents of this theory want to unite. How can we do that if we have condemned it as heresy? So, if they want to unite with us – they have to abandon the heresy of Cyprianism. That’s all. As for the trip to Odessa – certainly, I did not intend [to go]. Age and health don’t make it possible. In addition, we have our own challenges here all the time. I think about it at all yet too early to speak. We are not yet ready to participate in the conference, proposed by Bishop Agafangel. —

While this is a general setback it is far from as clear cut as “Metropolitan Valentine says NO to Agafangel” as ROCOR-United presents it. Metropolitan Agafangel was recently in Moscow (about four hours from Suzdal), and when asked by a clergyman of the ROAC on his LiveJournal why he didn’t go to visit the Metropolitan of ROAC, he was informed by Metropolitan Agafangel that he was on a very tight schedule and was only there three days. Frankly, the forward nature of the request was bound to take Metropolitan Valentine aback to begin with. How often are dialogues started between traditionalist jurisdictions– and how often are four jurisdictions addressed in discussion in one swoop?

This initial reticence leads us to believe that while Metropolitan Valentine does not leave Suzdal much, he can still meet with Metropolitan Agafangel in Suzdal. Furthermore, it is unclear whether the results of the dialogues between the Cyprianites and the Synod of Archbishop Chrysostom of Athens, which clarified a number of eccelesiological terms in the resistance documents, will have any effect on potential dialogue between the Russian jurisdictions.

As usual, politics will dominate these dialogues. The idea that these dialogues are having a poor ending ignores the fact that Bishops, parishes and people are reaching out to each other in the jurisdictions of True Orthodoxy, and in a public fashion. The fact that a Patriarchate blog that puts usually puts up stories like Bishop Hilarion Alfayev defends women in pants or one of the “Metropolitan Hilarion has sent a letter saying hello to Fr. X” has taken time out of its busy schedule to write up an article about an interview with Metropolitan Valentine that’s three times its size (and doesn’t include the interview) tells us that even the fact that these Bishops are communicating is horrifying for the Patriarchate– and its loyal drones.