Russian Orthodox Church breaks with Constantinople in row over Ukraine

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They revoked an 1686 letter which allows the Patriarch of Moscow to ordain the Metropolitan of Kiev, made the head of Ukrainian church answerable straight to Constantinople and not Russian Federation and also lifted the anathema on two church leaders from non-canonical churches, which breaks orthodox rules. In response to the latest decision on the Ukrainian Church, Moscow has broken with the Universal Patriarch, charged him with being an American agent, and even sought to have Ankara expel him from Istanbul (Gazeta.ru, October 15).

"The Russian Orthodox Church doesn't recognize those decisions and won't fulfill them", Hilarion said in Belarus after a meeting of the synod of the Russian Orthodox Church.

The rupture on Monday came after the Istanbul-based clerics agreed to launch the process of recognising the independence of the Ukrainian Church, a move Russian Federation has long campaigned against.

"We can not maintain contact with a church that is now in a situation of schism", he said.

"While lawless and anticanonical solutions from the point of view of Constantinople remains in force, we will not be able to fellowship with this Church who are now in schism", said he.

The Russia-Ukraine church split is a geopolitical rift, too, according to the publication. The patriarch - now Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople - has always been recognized as first among equals, with the authority to organize pan-Orthodox activities like global dialogue with the Catholics.

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Moreover, the Synod lifted an anathema from the heads of two non-canonical churches in Ukraine - Filaret of the Kiev Patriarchate, and Makary of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Church. In the first half of 2018 alone, Ukraine witnessed 10 new attacks on Russian Orthodox Churches. It has now said it is impossible to continue being in "Eucharistic communion" with the Istanbul-based Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. It's an issue of Ukrainian national security.

The announcement is of concern to Kiev, as Moscow has justified its annexation of Crimea and backing of separatists in eastern Ukraine by saying it is acting to protect ethnic Russians.

"With the obvious order of the Kremlin, the leadership of the aggressor country, the Russian church authorities fully dependent on it declared a breakup of Christian communion with the Mother Church of Constantinople. It's an issue of Ukrainian statehood". But the Moscow Patriarchate argues that it has legal authority over the Ukrainian Church, dating back to 1686, and that Kiev was the birthplace of the Russian Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church is Christianity's third largest grouping after Roman Catholics and Protestants.

"Russia's use of culture in foreign policy is very important - the sense of identity, of being part of a bigger Orthodox world".

Among the backers of Constantinople's move are Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, who is running for re-election in March 2019.

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