« ForrigeFortsæt »
despotism, enslaving the Greek Church, has ruled in the palace of the Eastern Cæsars.
On the contrary, the Latin Church was saved by Pepin from the grasp of the barbarian invader, was nourished by the favor of Charlemagne, and has grown up to its present stature by the royal patronage of the West.
But what the Greek Church has needed to place her in favorable competition with the Latin, namely, national protection, is now supplied by Russia. If the Eastern Church by its prevailing history and literature is Greek, numerically and politically it is to-day Sclavonic. Russia is the great national protector of the Greek Church; and Russia is "the coming nation" of Europe. No European nation compares with it in extent of territory, in population, in the variety and amplitude of its resources. In Northwestern America, in Europe and in Asia, are vast dominions of the Russian Czar, and the steady march of his empire south and eastward does by no means escape the eagle glance or anxious regard of Napoleon, whom the Latin Church flatters with the title which she conferred upon Clovis, and ever since upon the faithful kings of France, "eldest son of the Church," and in whom she would fain behold a second Charlemagne. This competition has been developing gradually and significantly in the East since 1850. It is easy to see, from what has been already said, how Russia would feel disposed toward Turkey and the East. More than two hundred years ago, "Alexis, the Czar, was formally addressed as the New Cæsar of the Empire of Orthodoxy." (Travels of Macarius, p. 770.) The Greek Church everywhere is willing to regard the Czar as the champion. Herein is unvailed the great secret of the prompt support which he has recently received throughout Russia in subduing the Roman Catholic rebellion in Poland. This rebellion was a renewal of the old strife for mastery between the Greek and Roman Churches in Poland and Russia, more than two centuries ago. Toward Turkey not only imperial pride and pecuniary interest prompt the Russian Czar, but also a twofold historic and religious interest. The Moslem invasion of Russia in the fourteenth century, which proved well nigh successful, can never be forgotten by the nation. Indeed, to the present day, the memory is preserved by a Greek cross planted on a crescent
on the top of every Russian church, in every town which was subjected to the Moslem yoke of the Tartar. (King's Greek Church in Russia, p. 24.) Russia cannot forget that once the Moslems despoiled Astrakan and Kasan and the Crimea, and for long years made them tributaries; that as early as the ninth century, Russia stretched to the Euxine, "and the future site of Sebastopol became Russian ground in the days of the first Christian Czar;" that when in the sixteenth century Ivan IV., "John the Terrible," lifted up the degraded empire, and broke the power of the old masters, he could recover only Astrakan and Kasan, and that another great struggle was necessary to regain the Crimea.
Impressed by these memories, Russia can never contemplate with satisfaction the Moslem possession of Turkey. But more than this, Russia received her national religion from Constantinople, a city then recognized as the head of all Eastern Christendom. And now Constantinople is a Moslem capital! St. Sophia, the glory of all Eastern Christendom, seemed a paradise to the surprised and enraptured representatives whom Vladimir commissioned to examine the Greek faith and report. And now St. Sophia is a Mohammedan mosque! But more than this, Ivan III., Czar of Russia, married, in 1467, Sophia "the fair," daughter of the last Palæologus, and so inherited not only the ceremonial of the Byzantine empire, but valid pretension to the throne of the Eastern Cæsar; and now that throne is occupied by a usurper, at once a Turk and an Infidel!
In addition to this, the Greek Church of Constantinople would naturally look to Russia for protection. The importance of this great metropolis tempts the ambition and the cupidity of Russia, as well as of France and England. Since Gibbon's enthusiastic description, thrice repeated, every student is familiar with the unrivaled situation of Constantinople; and no traveler can visit it without confirming, by his own observation, the truthfulness of the historian: "The prospect of beauty, of safety, and of wealth, united in a single spot, was sufficient to justify the choice of Constantine. Standing upon two continents, approached by two gateways, the Bosphorus and the Hellespont, the prince who shall possess these important passages can always shut them against a naval enemy and open them to the fleets of commerce." (Gibbon,
chap. xvii.) One can scarcely behold it and not feel, in the language of a more recent historian, that "the spot is destined to be, what it seems more and more likely to be, both historically and politically, the Gordian knot of the world." This is well understood by the Russian Czar, as well as the Western Powers of Europe. Hence it is most naturally an inviting field for European politics. The traveler is not surprised at seeing the national emblems of the great powers displayed in "Stambul" of the Turks, "aç Tη поλη” of the Greeks, " a city whose history is by no means yet concluded." It is easy to see how, out of this, grew the recent war of the Crimea.
Again, Constantinople has an immediate and important relation with Syria and Egypt, and they with the more distant East. By some strange but mighty attraction, nations west and east are drawn toward Jerusalem. Here, no less than at Constantinople, European politicians are active and watchful: doubtless for this reason among others, that Jerusalem, prior to the Mohammedan conquest, possessed a history of profound interest to all Christendom; an interest revived by the holy wars which Europe maintained for four hundred years, at the sacrifice of millions of lives and treasure, to regain the Holy Sepulcher, and deliver the Holy Land from infidel oppression; an interest magnified by the belief of European nations that there is in store for the Holy City and for Palestine a future of profound moment to the world. With this, unquestionably, there is an ecclesiastical element intimately related, which, in such a city and such a country, could not be otherwise than effective. This element is valued by statesmen now as highly as in the times of the Crusades; and state policy in the north and in the west is ambitious to gain control of this, that it may wield the ecclesiastical influence in behalf of the State and the Church. Russia is represented as the head of the Greek Church in Jerusalem; France represents the Latin. Throughout Syria the Greeks, who are the most numerous of the Christian sects, look to Russia as their national protector. Russian influence is exercised everywhere, and "Russian gold is profusely expended in the erection and decoration of their sacred edifices, and in the support of schools." (Murray, vol. i, xliv.)
On the other hand there exists in Paris an "Association for
establishing Christian Schools in the East," displaying a particular zeal, and in which not only the Roman priests, but also prominent French statesmen, take an active part. An organization also has been established called "The Association of the Holy Sepulcher," for supporting the Roman Missions in Palestine. Long ago the Maronites were secured by the Roman Church. These later missions have been employed in proselyting among the Greeks and Jacobites, and forming papal schismatic Churches, called the Greek Catholic and Syrian Catholic. These Jesuitic missionaries have been much more anxious to secure nominal submission to the Pope, than to effect a change of faith and practice. Each influence, the Frank and the Russian, is earnestly exerted to promote the interest of the Church and the State which it represents. How steadily and sternly the conflict has been waged for years, every observant traveler and reader very well knows. While the war in the Crimea continued, this conflict between the Greeks and the Latins in Palestine was suspended. Had Russia conquered, it is believed by many statesmen, and by Englishmen sometimes openly asserted, that "the Syrian crisis would have been precipitated, and European influence would have rapidly ebbed from Jerusalem." But the Crimean war was not decisive for Constantinople or Jerusalem, and at its close the strife in the Holy Land was renewed. As an illustration: before the war, as early as 1853, the dome of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher was in a ruinous condition. The Greeks and the Latins own each a part of the church. The question arose, Who should repair the dome? In the East, he who repairs a building acquires a claim almost amounting to the right of property. Hence Russia and France each demanded the privilege, the one in behalf of the Greek Church, the other in behalf of the Latin. Neither would yield to the other. Turkey offered to end the strife by doing it herself; but neither would yield to Turkey. The Crimean war broke out, some say, from this strife; doubtless involving it. The disputants at Jerusalem quietly awaited the result. When the war ended indecisively the dispute revived, and the dome was not repaired; and so it continued at least when we saw it, a year after the close of the Crimean contest. The French Governernment through its envoy, M. de Thouvenel, renewed the
Latin claim to the cupola. The Russian agent reasserted the claim of the Greek Church. Who can believe that the mere repair of this church dome is the ultimate thought with either nation or either Church? Who does not believe that the dispute looks much further? But the inquiry will readily arise, Why should England incline toward France rather than Russia in this rivalry, which really involves so much ecclesiastically and politically? Let an Englishman furnish the reply: "The preponderance of the Greek Church is the preponderance of Russia in the East; and the first exercise of Russian supremacy in the East would be to bar out England from India. Better then that any other power than Russia should have sway in Syria and Egypt." (North British Rev., 1858.)
This answer immediately throws light upon a number of movements which have had a politico-ecclesiastical bearing, and which otherwise would seem inexplicable: The Western sympathy and support of Turkey, the Crimean war, the Western alliance against Russia, the Western policy in Syria and Egypt, the Western sympathy for Poland against Russia, the Western jealousy of Russia in her friendship toward the United States, and the Western policy in Greece. Greece, it is well known, had revolted against Mohammedan Turkey, gained her civil freedom, and finally her ecclesiastical independence. Three parties exist among the people. The English party esteems the personal merits of the royal family of England, and believe that any English prince would readily admit the Ionian Islands into the kingdom of Greece; the French party admires Napoleon, and would sooner trust his policy and ability; while the third party, which holds the faith of the Greek Church, and is the most numerous, looks to the Russian empire for support, and, like the orthodox Greeks everywhere in the East, would hail the Russian Czar as their protector. But here again the Western alliance foiled the wish of the Russian party by the choice of Otho as king. England, caring, as usual, for material interest chiefly, and but slightly for religious consequences, allowed a prince to be selected who was a Roman Catholic, and from his boyhood had been intended for a cardinal, till a more immediate good fortune met him in the way and diverted his course. It is unquestionable that but for the military protection of the French emperor