Russian Orthodox Church 'rupturing' ties with the Constantinople over Ukraine split

Clay Curtis
October 16, 2018

Sergey Chaplin, a church publicist and former executive editor of Moscow Patriarchate Magazine, told Meduza that all local Orthodox churches recognize the primacy of the Constantinople Patriarchate, including his right to overrule decisions by the heads of other local churches and to grant independence to new branches.

Alexander Volkov, spokesman for Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill, said the Holy Synod of the Church would "express its position" on Sunday during a meeting in Minsk, without elaborating on what measures it might take. "Members of the Holy Synod found it impossible to continue the eucharistic communication with the Patriarchate of Constantinople", reads the statement.

The Russian Orthodox Church has traditionally seen parishes in Ukraine as under its jurisdiction.

Ukrainian Orthodox Church Archbishop Yevstratiy denounced the Holy Synod's decision to sever ties with the Orthodox Church leader regarded as a "first among equals" as a move toward "self-isolation".

The move comes days after the Synod of the Constantinople Patriarchate made a decision to eventually grant the so-called autocephaly to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, thus making the clerical organization, which earlier enjoyed a broad autonomy within the Moscow Patriarchate, fully independent.

On September 25, the UOC-MP declared that it was demanding that the Patriarchate of Constantinople withdraw its exarchs from Ukraine.

Hilarion said the decision by Constantinople to pronounce the entirety of Ukrainian churches as independent from Moscow "goes against historical truth" as the Kievan Metropolis of the 17th century corresponded to a different geographical area.

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Ilarion said that Constantinople's decision to back what the Russian Orthodox Church considers a schismatic church is "illegal and canonically worthless", and effectively drives it into a schism. Ukraine today is more unified, more nationalist, more oriented toward Europe and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and the West than it has even been true before, and that's a direct result of Russia's intervention in Ukraine and killing of Ukrainians, ' he said as quoted by EUObserver.

And it reversed the excommunication (anathema) by the Russian Church of two top Ukrainian clerics, who lead the until now unrecognised churches in Ukraine.

President Petro Poroshenko said the Church's independence went hand-in-hand with Ukrainian independence, adding: "It's an issue of Ukrainian national security".

In practical terms, the concern now is over what happens to the thousands of sites in Ukraine where services by the Moscow Patriarchate are held. "It's an issue of Ukrainian statehood", he said.

Ukraine became independent in 1991, with the dissolution of the Soviet Union, but Russia's support for separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine has poisoned relations with its neighbour.

The Moscow Patriarchate has denied being a tool of the Kremlin and says it has tried to bring about peace in eastern Ukraine.

A talk show on the Rossiya1 warned that "radicals" may start seizing churches as soon as Moscow's control weakened.

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