Russian Orthodox Church cuts off all ties with Patriarchate of Constantinople

Frederick Owens
October 18, 2018

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The break comes in response to the decision of Bartholomew I, Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople and the "first among equals" leader of the global Orthodox Church, to issue a statement October 11 confirming plans for an independent Ukrainian Orthodox Church and restoring ties with the previously schismatic Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyivan Patriarchate.

Earlier in October, in an effort to unify the Orthodox in Ukraine, the ecumenical patriarchate's synod recognized both independent churches as canonical churches and reinstated the heads of both as bishops in good standing.

As reported, on 11 October, the Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate chose to grant the Tomos of autocephaly of the Orthodox Church in Ukraine. Calls for the Ukrainian church's independence have increased since Moscow's 2014 annexation of the Crimean Peninsula and its support of separatist rebels fighting in eastern Ukraine. Patriarch Kirill's press secretary, priest Alexander Volkov, has pointed out that Mount Athos is in the Moscow Patriarchate's jurisdiction "with all the same consequences".

Mr Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the Kremlin would defend "the interests of Russians and Russian speakers and the interests of the Orthodox", but only by using "political and diplomatic measures".

They say that is what he did when he granted canonical recognition to two independent Ukrainian Orthodox churches.

Russia sees Kiev as the historic cradle of the Russian Orthodox Church and the Church now fears losing many of its 12,000 parishes in Ukraine.

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The various Orthodox churches are already divided on the issue.

Serbien Patriarch Irinej said: "We don't think in terms of "for" and "against".

And it reversed the excommunication (anathema) by the Russian Church of two top Ukrainian clerics, who lead the until now unrecognised churches in Ukraine. "If it takes sides with the Patriarchate of Constantinople and allows pro-Filaret dissenters pray at Christ's tomb in its other churches, then we will have to stop concelebration, and thus our pilgrims won't even have the canonical right to make communion at these church services", the hegumen said.

The Moldovan Orthodox Church has strong ties with Russian Federation and all its heads are obedient to Moscow. Three days later, the Russian Orthodox Church suspended Eucharistic communion with the Constantinople Patriarchate, but ties were reestablished after a few months, when everything was restored. However, Russians rarely go on holiday there, Yakimchuk stressed.

Monday will enter Orthodox history as "one of its darkest days", wrote Izvestia.

The front-page article referenced the Protestant Reformation of 1517 sparked by German theologian Martin Luther, and the schism between the Eastern and Western Christian Churches in 1054. The ecumenical patriarch reconstituted a church there over the wishes of the Russian Orthodox Church.

RBK business daily warned of a "war between (Holy) Synods" on its front page, referring to the Churches' ruling bodies.

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