29 June 2016

The Bishop of Rome and Byzantine Politics


The media is focusing on the Turkish-Armenian relationship and the politics of the 1915 genocide.

It's an interesting issue for a pope to tackle, especially considering one of his predecessors as almost assassinated by a Right-wing Turk affiliated with the Grey Wolves. The story of the assassination attempt on John Paul II is fraught with controversy. The Bulgarian-KGB story is riddled with problems but that's for another discussion.

Actually by agitating Ankara, Francis will likely cause difficulties for some of the Christian communities within Turkey. The goals of the great Orthodox Council (already in jeopardy of failure) won't be helped by the Latin Pope interfering in the region. Francis for his part is trying to reach out to the Orthodox world and score points as it were. The Armenians are somewhat unique in that as Monophysites they actually fall outside the mainstream Orthodox orbit.

But I think the real reason behind the visit is Russia. While on the one hand Moscow will enjoy Turkey's irritation they are likely a little apprehensive about the Roman pontiff visiting the region, a nation in which they have military bases. Armenia is within the Russian orbit and yet the two nations have not been entirely pleased with each other as of late. Anti-Russian sentiment is generally low in Armenia but it has been growing. I'm sure the West is funneling money into these causes and its leadership. The Caucasus have always been filled with intrigue but it's especially intense at present. American money and agents are flooding the region. Armenia is something of a wild card with a large expatriate population in the United States. And yet the politics are tricky. The US needs Turkey and Azerbaijan. And then there's the Chechens...

The Pope's visit may come with some incentives and he may be acting as something of a go-between, trying to reach out and possibly set up some diplomatic initiatives. It wouldn't be the first time he's done so.

It's not likely that Yerevan will be wooed away from the Russian orbit but the West is trying to do all it can to build support and establish contacts in the region. I'm sure the CIA is also utilising members of the expatriate community in the United States to foster these relationships.  It wouldn't be anything new. 

While the present Pope is often decried as a Leftist and some would think of him as anti-American this is not the case. Bergoglio and his background have been misunderstood. This is in addition to a woeful ignorance of Washington's very deep relationship with the Vatican. It didn't start with John Paul II.

Turkey is an essential NATO ally but Washington would rather see Erdogan gone and is working against him on many fronts. Pardon the cliché but 'Byzantine' accurately describes the politics of the region. It's a complicated tangle of history, theological claims and modern geopolitics.

I also find it interesting that Francis met with Russian Patriarch Kirill back in February. While in some ways it looks like he's on an ecumenical barnstorm, in fact Francis is now starting to poke around in Kirill's backyard.


  1. In some ways, I think Francis is rearticulating the Vatican's relationship with the US. I'm not sure how much power the US has over a figure like the Pope, who is a diplomatic-political figure, but also can retreat into the realm of the spiritual. He can always play a game of mirrors and shadows, however, unlike previous Pontiffs who could assert at least a semblance of power over the Roman parishioners, he has to maintain authority vis. the global media and popularity. Francis has done an amazing job in this regard.

    We may differ on this, but at least on the face of it, I'm impressed that Francis can walk into Congress and reprimand law-makers for being bad stewards of the Earth. I don't know what that will do, but it makes the relationship between the Pope and the US more complicated. It might signal the shift towards the Global South, but it's far too early to tell. Perhaps if Rome ever elects an African pope then things will get really interesting.

    Also, the politics in Orthodoxy is intriguing. Moscow is asserting a lot of sway, but then there's the Ecumenical Patriarch in Instanbul. I've read around the web (nothing credible) that he's a mason and has connections to corporate interests. I don't know if that's paranoid mud-slinging from those who don't like his Green agenda. But as Eastern Europe and the Levant are opened up by global markets, it'll be interesting if Orthodoxy can maintain any semblance of survive. Perhaps Orthodoxy will become a ghetto religion, as it remained in places like Egypt. Some people want the Ecumenical Patriarch to become, essentially, a Pope, but many conservative Orthodox are horrified at such a suggestion.

    If corporate interests are involved, a relatively weak seat like Constantinople would be easily swayed. Then Orthodoxy becomes a battleground between Anglo-American corporate globalism and Russia-driven BRICS-esque international nationalism. And all it will take is something like a new Filioque (not that the doctrine is not important, but how it becomes co-opted) to ignite some division. I haven't been following the Pan-Orthodox council, do you know why it might fail?

    It's all fascinating as a spectator, but it makes me sad as a Christian.


    1. Historically the US has wielded tremendous power with regard to the Popes...at least since the end of WWII.

      Francis has some dark history back in Argentina related to the US backed fascist regime and OP Condor.

      Has he really turned away from all of that? Maybe somewhat.

      I agree in some respects Francis has been impressive. He's still an antichrist but in terms of one evil vis-a'-vis another... very interesting indeed.

      The Patriarch in Constantinople/Istanbul is pretty weak. It's the Patriarch of the Third Rome (Moscow) that wields all the power in the Orthodox world and he's corrupt and tied to Putin. The Orthodox world has always succumbed (it would seem) to Caesaropapism... the emperor runs the Church. The Moscow Patriarchs have (for the most part) kept up this tradition... even under the USSR.

      The council has largely failed because the Russians and others didn't show up. It's kind of like Kyoto without the US... pointless.

      But the fact that Francis is sniffing around on the periphery of the Orthodox world, in a Russian allied state and amidst all the tensions with Turkey etc... is pretty interesting.

      The Armenians were getting a big boost and getting worked up just as their ally Putin is shaking hands with Erdogan.

      Erdogan is furious... with the West... but then Istanbul blows up.

      The jury is still out on Francis and the Vatican Bank, the paedophilia/homosexual culture within the RCC etc...

      It might be that his contribution to reform is re-shaping the Curia. He won't bring about the changes but in a generation or so the Vatican will be run by different people.... perhaps.

    2. Regarding Francis & Rome: Do you have any articles on his "dark" past? I'd be curious for my own perusing. I'm intrigued at the figure he cuts, confounding both "conservatives" and "liberals". I don't quite understand him, but then again, I don't really understand Vatican politics. I know he's not revolutionary (as some fear), nor is he steeped in the profundity of the Nouveau Theologie as per the Communio people (Woltija, Ratzinger, von Balthasar, etc). In some ways I admire Rome's ecumenical vision, but it's enmeshed in really dark history. I wonder how much Rome's relatively recent evangelical burst is involved in Francis' visit to Armenia. Or is it all politics? Or both? Who knows. Also, do you have any suggested reading for the Pope's connection with US power?

      Regarding Orthodoxy: That's interesting. Who else besides Russia didn't show up? Bulgaria? Ukraine? Romania? Also do you have any articles about Kirill's relationship with Putin?

      Regarding Turkey: When I heard about the bomb, I wondered if this was "allowed" in order to further undermine Erdogan. I can't for a second believe that ISIS recklessly would attack Turkey, at least not without the Military apparatus not being aware. It doesn't even make any sense, except in a convoluted, perhaps provoked sense. This can only benefit the Kemalists.


    3. Do a search on 'Bergoglio collaboration with Fascists' and a lot of stuff comes up. There was some criticism of him even before he was elected Pope. It paints quite a different picture.

      Granted... he may have changed. It's possible. Maybe he's atoning for past sins.


      Was he actively supporting the regime... or just passively supporting it?
      Either way his record isn't real good.

      The Jesuits in general were the 'bad guys' in Rome by that time... the liberals etc... The conservatives (including Gelli, Washington and the CIA) were looking to Opus Dei and other elements within the curia. The Jesuits were the bad 'Liberation Theology' guys.

      Did Bergoglio try to take a moderate stance or was he Rome's enforcer to get the Latin American Jesuits in line?