Orthodox Patriarch explains bid for Ukrainian autonomy
September 05, 2018
At a gathering of Orthodox leaders last week, Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople insisted that he, as Ecumenical Patriarch, has the authority to approve a bid for autocephaly (self-governance) by the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
However, a spokesman for the Patriarchate of Moscow warned that if Constantinople makes the decision to grant autonomy to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, that decision “will be accepted only by a handful of schismatics, while the schism will thus be legitimized.”
Patriarch Bartholomew, in his address to an August 31 summit meeting of Orthodox prelates, said that the bid for Ukrainian autonomy was not a new development. On the contrary, he said, the Orthodox Church in Kiev—which was established before the Orthodox Church in Moscow—has frequently requested such a move:
Already from the early 14th century, when the See of the Kievan Metropolis was moved—without the canonical permission of the Mother Church—to Moscow, there have been tireless efforts on the part of our Kievan brothers for independence from ecclesiastical control by the Moscow center.
Patriarch Bartholomew said that the history of the Orthodox Church in Ukraine “does not justify any intervention whatsoever by the Church of Russia.” He added that “Russia, as the one responsible for the current painful situation in Ukraine, is unable to solve the problem.” Therefore, he said, the Ecumenical Patriarchate has taken the initiative to resolve the question.
Speaking for the Moscow patriarchate, Metropolitan Hilarion, the chief ecumencial spokesman for the Russian Orthodox Church, warned that if Constantinople recognizes an autonomous Ukrainian Orthodox Church, “it will divide the whole body of world Orthodoxy.” He claimed that a clear majority of Orthodox faithful in Ukraine would oppose autocephaly.
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