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October 18, 2018 No.
7716

Russian Orthodox Church Splits From Constantinople After Patriarchate Grants Ukrainian Church Independence From Moscow, FM Lavrov Blasts Patriarch Bartholomew Of Constantinople For Conniving With Washington

What Happened

On October 15, the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church broke ties with the Patriarchate of Constantinople.

On October 11, the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, under the leadership of Patriarch Bartholomew, decided to grant canonical status to the Kyiv Patriarchate and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church, and recognized them to be part of the Constantinople church. (See APPENDIX I)

Before this decision, the Kyiv Patriarchate and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church were not recognized by the 14 official Orthodox churches. Only the bishops of the Moscow Patriarchate in Ukraine were recognized.

The decision of the Patriarchate of Constantinople involved:

Lifting the "anathema" (excommunication) on the Philaret (i.e. the patriarch of the Kyiv Patriarchate) and on Makariy (i.e. the metropolitan of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church).

Revoking the effect of its tomos issued around 300 years ago, in the year 1686, which entitled the Patriarch of Moscow to ordain the Metropolitan of Kiev.

Approving the authority of the Constantinople Patriarchate in Ukraine.

Creating a stauropegion in Kyiv (i.e. an entity constituted of churches/monasteries, subordinated to the patriarch, and not to local bishops)

Planning the creation of an autocephalous Ukrainian church.

In the beginning of September, in his speech during the Synaxis (i.e. assembly) of the Constantinople bishops, Patriarch Bartholomew already ruled that the Moscow Patriarchate did not have a canonical right to meddle in Ukraine's church affairs, unlike the Patriarchate of Constantinople, since the latter enjoys the status of Mother Church. (See APPENDIX II).

Unification Assembly For A Single Local Ukrainian Church

The Kyiv Patriarchate and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church would want to merge with bishops of the Moscow Patriarchate, who support the Patriarchate of Constantinople's decision, into an autocephalous Ukrainian church. The Synod should recognize the independence of the Ukrainian church from the Constantinople church.[1]

On October 12, the Kyiv Patriarchate called for starting preparations for a unification assembly, with a view to creating a single local Ukrainian church.

The Kyiv Patriarchate's statement read:

"The Kyiv Patriarchate calls on the hierarchs of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church and the hierarchs of the Moscow Patriarchate involved in the process of unification in Ukraine to begin preparations for an emergency unification assembly. The purpose of this assembly is to make a decision on church unity, elect the primate of a single local autocephalous Ukrainian Orthodox Church, who on its behalf will receive a Patriarchal and Synodal Tomos about the autocephaly of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church."

The Kyiv Patriarchate also called on the episcopate, the clergy and the faithful of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church, and of the Moscow Patriarchate, to support the unification of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.[2]

The Kyiv Patriarchate also clarified:

"Those hierarchs, clergy and laity who, despite all the circumstances, will continue to obey the Moscow Patriarchate, have the right to so. The Russian Orthodox Church in Ukraine will coexist on equal terms with all other churches and religious organizations, as guaranteed by the Constitution and laws of ours state and international law."

On September 7, the Patriarchate of Constantinople appointed two exarchs (i.e. ambassadors) in Kyiv, in order to start planning an independent Ukrainian church.


Patriarch Bartholomew (Source: Russian.rt.com)

The Kyiv Patriarchate

It should be noted that the Philaret was deprived of ecclesiastical status by the Russian Orthodox Church in 1992. He was excommunicated by the Moscow Patriarchate in 1997.

The Philaret later appealed to the Patriarch of Constantinople to cancel the anathema.

In 1992, the Philaret co-founded the Kyiv Patriarchate and became the patriarch of Kyiv in 1995.

Before the anathema, the Philaret was the metropolitan of Kyiv as part of the Moscow Patriarchate from1968 to 1992), and the locum tenens (i.e. acting head) of the Russian Orthodox Church. In 1990, the Philaret competed for the position of Patriarch of Moscow.

The Kyiv Patriarchate has around 5,000 parishes.[3]


Philaret (Source: Kyivpost.com)

The Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church

The Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church was founded in 1919, after the collapse of the Russian Empire, during which Ukraine enjoyed a short period of independence (1917–1921).

The Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church has around 2,000 parishes.

It should be noted that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate has more than 12,000 parishes in Ukraine.[4]

The Ukrainian Government's Reactions


Petro Poroshenko (Source: Vesti.ru)

The Ukrainian government welcomed the decision made by the Patriarchate of Constantinople.

Ukrainian President Pyotr Poroshenko stressed that Ukraine will never be a canonical territory of the Russian Orthodox Church, and that the independence of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church is a matter of national security.

Poroshenko gave his interpretation of the decision: "The Ecumenical Patriarchate has definitively outlawed the annexation of the Kiev metropolitanate by Moscow that took place in late 17th century. It said clearly and unequivocally that the Russian Orthodox Church has no canonic title to the Orthodox Church in Ukraine [...] that our Orthodox Church is not subordinate to the Russian Orthodox Church. And Ukraine never was and never will be a canonic territory of the Russian Church."

Poroshenko then added: "The issue of tomos and autocephaly goes far beyond the boundaries of church life. It is a question of our independence, a question of our national security, a question of our statehood. This is a question of the world's geopolitics. And if it isn't, why on earth the decision that the Ecumenical Patriarch [Bartholomew of Constantinople] issued the day before yesterday was discussed by the Security Council of the Russian Federation at a meeting presided by Putin?"[5]

Ukraine's Foreign Minister Pavel Klimkin wrote on his blog on the Ukrainskaya Pravda website that the Moscow Patriarchate has no business in Ukraine, and stressed that the Ukrainian Church has never ceased being a canonical territory of the Patriarchate of Constantinople.

Klimkin echoed Poroshenko: "The Moscow Patriarchate has absolutely no business in Ukraine, because this is the canonical territory of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church [of the Moscow Patriarchate], historically, was based on violation of the law and is the result of usurpation."

Citing archival material published under the name "The Ecumenical See and the Church of Ukraine: Documents Speak," Klimkin said that, de jure, the Ukrainian Church never ceased being a canonical territory of the Patriarchate of Constantinople.

Klimkin then added: "We as a people have lived for three centuries in a false reality, perceiving as normal what in reality was the result of deception and usurpation, seeing ourselves not as what we are."[6]

The Russian Orthodox Church Reacts


Metropolitan Hilarion (Credo.pro)

The government of Russia and the Russian Orthodox Church condemned the decision by the Patriarch of Constantinople as a provocation that will splinter the Orthodox world.

Soon after the Synod's decision, the Archpriest Igor Yakimchuk, the Moscow Patriarchate's external relations secretary in charge of inter-Orthodox relations, told the Rossiya-24 TV channel: "Our response will be very decisive and tough, it will be adequate to the current situation."[7]

The Russian Orthodox Church's spokesman Vladimir Legoyda stated that the Patriarchate of Constantinople's wants to destroy the structure of the Orthodox Church. Legoyda said: "The unprecedented anti-canonical act by the Patriarchate of Constantinople constitutes an attempt to destroy the very foundations of the canonical structure of the Orthodox Church. It is hard to assess otherwise the announcement by Constantinople's Synod to enter into canonical communion with schismatics and a man excommunicated from the Church."[8]

Metropolitan Hilarion, the head of the Moscow Patriarchate Department for External Church Relations, stated that the Constantinople Patriarchate usurped the powers of the Russian Church. Metropolitan Hilarion stated: "This decision was to be expected. The whole logic behind Constantinople's actions starting from April led to it. Church canons have been trampled upon, unity within the Orthodox world has been disrupted, the Constantinople Patriarchate's invasion into the canonical boundaries of the Russian Church has been formalized."[9]

Metropolitan Hilarion, in a program aired by the television channel Rossiya 24 (All-Russia State Television and Radio Broadcasting), then announced the break with the Constantinople Patriarchate as its decision rendered impossible the Russian Orthodox Church's continued unity with it. He explained: "The Constantinople Patriarch has recognized the leaders of the split, thus legitimating the split that existed for over quarter of a century, and therefore has made it impossible for us to stay united with the Constantinople Patriarchate."

He then added:

"I cannot describe the actions of Patriarch Bartholomew other than predatory; it is clear to us that they will lead to the split of the Orthodox World. The situation can be cured only if he or any of his successors step back from those encroachments and claims for other's canonical territory."[10]

Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia stated that he hopes the Orthodox Church will preserve its unity. Patriarch Kirill said: "I hope the Orthodox Church will find strength to overcome the existing crises and preserve its unity."[11]

Ukrainian Orthodox Church Of The Moscow Patriarchate's Reactions

Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate said that it won't participate in the unification assembly initiated by the Kyiv Patriarchate.

Vasily Anisimov, the head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate's press service, said:

"We are already a canonical local church. Why should we participate in the creation of another [church], especially with people whom we have suspended from service for various crimes? … Our church is fully accomplishing its saving mission on Ukrainian soil and no one questions this mission, including other Orthodox churches of the world, Catholics, and even the schismatics themselves."

He then added: "If you have a cow that gives you milk, and this cow is good, you don't rush to get a different one." Anisimov also defined the call for a "unification assembly" in Ukraine as "a purely political initiative."[12]

Russian Government's Reaction


Putin meetswith permanent members of the Security Council (Source: Kremlin.ru)

Also the Russian government's reaction was strong against the Patriarchate of Constantinople's decision.

On October 12, Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed the Synod's decision during a meeting with permanent members of the Security Council.[13]

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said that Moscow may respond to decision, if there is an unlawful turn to the events. Peskov said: "If the events that are developing take an unlawful turn, then, of course, just as Russia defends the interests of Russians and Russian-speaking people everywhere, in the same way, and Putin has spoken repeatedly about this, Russia defends the interests of Orthodox Christians."[14]

In taking questions from RT France, Paris Match, and Le Figaro, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stated: that the Patriarchate of Constatinople's decision is a provocation backed by the West: "The Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate is against those provocations that Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople is plotting now with Washington's direct public support."

Lavrov added: "This provocation has been designed to make use of two uncanonical schismatic churches in Ukraine (the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kiev Patriarchate and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Church), which have never been recognized by a single Orthodox Church but which, having convened the Holy Synod in Constantinople in the interests of this provocation the other day, Patriarch Bartholomew recognized as canonical and lifted the anathema from the two hierarchs leading these schismatic churches."

The Russian FM further said: "As concerns church matters, interference in church affairs is banned by the law in Ukraine, in Russia, and, I hope, in any other normal country. But when the U.S. special representative on church relations directly welcomes Patriarch Bartholomew's decision, when Kurt Volker, whose duty is on behalf of the U.S. to facilitate a settlement in Ukraine based on the Minsk Agreements, says what he says about these processes, we have a saying: the thief has a burning hat. The people, who cannot confront us with a single fact confirming their groundless accusations that we meddle in someone's affairs, behave in such a way as if this was normal."[15]

The Russian Synod's Decision


Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church (Source: Pravmir.com)

On October 15, meeting in the Belarus capital of Minsk, the Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church stated that it can no longer remain in Eucharistic communion with the Patriarchate of Constantinople.

Metropolitan Hilarion, the head of the Moscow Patriarchate Department for External Church Relations, stated at the meeting: "At its today's meeting the Holy Synod decided to discontinue all Eucharistic communion with the Patriarchate of Constantinople."[16]

In the official statement of the Synod concerning the decision on the Kyiv Patriarchate and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church, it was stressed that the Patriarchate of Constantinople was moved by political reasons. "Hypocritically justifying it by a desire to restore the unity of Ukrainian Orthodoxy, the Patriarchate of Constantinople, by its senseless and politically motivated decisions, brings in an even larger division and aggravates the suffering of the canonical Orthodox Church of Ukraine," the statement continued. (See APPENDIX III)

Metropolitan Hilarion also told journalists on October 15 that the Patriarchate of Constantinople's decisions are "illegitimate and canonically null and void."

"The Russian Orthodox Church does not accept these decisions and will not follow them. A schism will be a schism, and leaders of a schism will be leaders of a schism. And a church that recognizes schismatics and enters into communion with them thus excludes itself from the canonical framework," Metropolitan Hilarion stated.

He then explained that This is the main reason why "we have to discontinue communion with the Constantinople Patriarchate as one that has fully identified itself with the schism."[17]

Speaking in the Big Game analytical TV program, a day after the Synod, the Metropolitan Hilarion stressed that the Patriarchate of Constantinople lost the right to be called the Coordinating Center for the Orthodox Church.

Metropolitan Hilarion said: "The Patriarchate of Constantinople has joined the purely political project, which has existed already for over a quarter of a century, to create the so-called autocephalous Ukrainian church… the project was initiated and supported by political leaders but it is not supported by the basic mass of the church people in Ukraine. It is evident from the thousands-strong processions with the cross held in Kiev; it is evident from the overcrowded churches of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church. And we regret that the Patriarchate of Constantinople, for its selfish reasons, has embarked on the path of support for the schism – this anti-church political project."

He then added: "We have now come to face a new church reality: we no longer have a single coordinating center in the Orthodox Church, and we should very clearly realize that the Patriarchate of Constantinople has self-destructed as suchBut having invaded the canonical boundaries of another Local Church, by legitimatizing a schism it has lost the right to be called the coordinating center for the Orthodox Church."[18]

APPENDIX I – Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate Of Constantinople' Communiqué On The Decision Taken Concerning The Orthodox Ukrainian Church

The following is the communiqué, published by the Patriarchate of Constantinople's website, concerning the ecclesiastical matter of Ukraine:[19]

"Presided by His All-Holiness, the Ecumenical Patriarch, the Holy and Sacred Synod convened for its regular session from October 9 to 11, 2018, in order to examine and discuss items on its agenda.

"The Holy Synod discussed in particular and at length the ecclesiastical matter of Ukraine, in the presence of His Excellency Archbishop Daniel of Pamphilon and His Grace Bishop Hilarion of Edmonton, Patriarchal Exarchs to Ukraine, and following extensive deliberations decreed:

1) To renew the decision already made that the Ecumenical Patriarchate proceed to the granting of Autocephaly to the Church of Ukraine.

2) To reestablish, at this moment, the Stauropegion of the Ecumenical Patriarch in Kyiv, one of its many Stauropegia in Ukraine that existed there always.

3) To accept and review the petitions of appeal of Filaret Denisenko, Makariy Maletych and their followers, who found themselves in schism not for dogmatic reasons, in accordance with the canonical prerogatives of the Patriarch of Constantinople to receive such petitions by hierarchs and other clergy from all of the Autocephalous Churches. Thus, the above-mentioned have been canonically reinstated to their hierarchical or priestly rank, and their faithful have been restored to communion with the Church.

4) To revoke the legal binding of the Synodal Letter of the year 1686, issued for the circumstances of that time, which granted the right through oikonomia to the Patriarch of Moscow to ordain the Metropolitan of Kyiv, elected by the Clergy-Laity Assembly of his eparchy, who would commemorate the Ecumenical Patriarch as the First hierarch at any celebration, proclaiming and affirming his canonical dependence to the Mother Church of Constantinople.

5) To appeal to all sides involved that they avoid appropriation of Churches, Monasteries and other properties, as well as every other act of violence and retaliation, so that the peace and love of Christ may prevail.

"At the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the 11th of October, 2018"

APPENDIX II - Patriarch Bartholomew’s Address To The Synaxis Of Hierarchs In Constantinople

The work of the Synaxis began on September 1 and ended on September 3, in Istanbul. In his opening address, the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew discussed the situation of the Orthodox Church in Ukraine. He said that the Moscow Patriarchate did not have a canonical right to meddle in church affairs in Ukraine unlike the Constantinople Patriarchate.[20]

Commenting on his speech, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church's spokesperson Vasily Anisimov said that it's hard to believe that a church hierarchy respecting himself could have uttered this text, which is "illiterate from all standpoints", including the canonical, historical, and even literary one.[21]

Below are excerpts of Patriarch Bartholomew's speech:

"… No matter how much some wish to embellish the situation in Ukraine, history proves them wrong and presents indisputable arguments demonstrating that the origin of difficulties and reactions in Ukraine are neither a recent phenomenon nor something created by the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Already from the early 14thcentury, when the see of the Kyivan Metropolis was moved without the canonical permission of the Mother Church to Moscow, there have been tireless efforts on the part of our Kyivan brothers for independence from ecclesiastical control by the Moscow center. Indeed, the obstinacy of the Patriarchate of Moscow was instrumental in occasionally creating repeated mergers and restorations of ecclesiastical eparchies, uncanonical elections of Bishops as well as schisms, which still afflict the pious Ukrainian people.

"However, beyond all this, a study of the matter in the light of the sacred canons does not justify any intervention whatsoever by the Church of Russia. The Tome proclaiming Moscow as a Patriarchate does not include the region of today’s Metropolis of Kyiv in the jurisdiction of Moscow. Moreover, after the well-known manner of proclamation of Moscow as a Patriarchate by Ecumenical Patriarch Jeremiah II (Tranos), the canonical dependence of Kyiv to the Mother Church of Constantinople remained constant and uninterrupted. In the year 1686, our predecessor, the late Patriarch Dionysios IV, following great political pressure from the harrowing circumstances and for peace in the local Church, was obliged to issue a letter granting Moscow the license to ordain the Metropolitan of Kyiv on the inviolable condition that every Metropolitan of Kyiv would commemorate the name of the Ecumenical Patriarch as his ecclesiastical superior and authority, but also to demonstrate the canonical jurisdiction of Constantinople over this Metropolis...

"In any case, it is true that the occasional deliberate efforts of the Church of Russia to resolve this matter failed. Thus, since Russia, as the one responsible for the current painful situation in Ukraine, is unable to solve the problem, the Ecumenical Patriarchate assumed the initiative of resolving the problem in accordance with the authority afforded to it by the Sacred Canons and the jurisdictional responsibility over the eparchy of Kyiv, receiving a request to this end by the honorable Ukrainian Government, as well as recurring requests by 'Patriarch' Philaret of Kyiv appealing for our adjudication of his case.

"At our instruction, the right reverend Bishop and professor Makarios of Christoupolis studied the question of Ukraine for many days, and the fruit of his extensive research into this complicated matter was a document of over ninety pages, which His Grace offered to the Mother Church. We thank and congratulate him. And since he already has a firm grasp of the issue, we have asked him to address this Venerable Body on the ecclesiastical perspective of the timely issue of Ukraine, and we are certain that all of us will have much to benefit from listening to him…"

APPENDIX III - Statement By The Holy Synod Of The Russian Orthodox Church Concerning The Encroachment Of The Patriarchate Of Constantinople On The Canonical Territory Of The Russian Church

The following are excerpts of the Statement By The Holy Synod Of The Russian Orthodox Church, concerning the Patriarchate of Constantinople's decision:[22]

The Patriarchate Of Constantinople Has Changed Its Position For Political Reasons

"With profound pain the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church has taken the report of the Patriarchate of Constantinople published on October 11, 2018, about the following decisions of the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Constantinople:

"confirming the intention 'to grant autocephaly to the Ukrainian Church;

"opening a 'stauropegion' of the Patriarchate of Constantinople in Kiev;

"'restoring in the rank of bishop or priest' the leaders of the Ukrainian schism and their followers and 'returning their faithful to church communion';

"'recalling the 1686 patent of the Patriarchate of Constantinople on the transfer of the Metropolis of Kiev to the Moscow Patriarchate as its part.

"These unlawful decisions of the Synod were adopted by the Church of Constantinople unilaterally, ignoring the appeals of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and the plenitude of the Russian Orthodox Church as well as sister Local Orthodox Churches, their primates and hierarchs to hold a pan-Orthodox discussion of the issue.

"Entering into communion with those who deviated into schism and the more so with those who are excommunicated from the Church is tantamount to deviation into schism and is severely condemned by the canons of the Holy Church: 'If any one of the bishops, presbyters, or deacons, or any one in the Canon shall be found communicating with excommunicated persons, let him also be excommunicated as one who brings confusion on the order of the Church' (Council of Antioch Canon 2; Apostolic Canons 10, 11).

"The decision of the Patriarchate of Constantinople 'to restore' the canonical status and admit to communion former Metropolitan Philaret Denisenko excommunicated from the Church ignores a number of successive decisions of Bishops' Councils of the Russian Orthodox Church, the validity of which is beyond doubt.

"By the decision of the Bishops' Council of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which took place on May 27, 1992, in Kharkov, Metropolitan Philaret (Denisenko), for his failure to fulfill the promises he gave on oath at the cross and the Gospel during the previous Bishops' Council of the Russian Orthodox Church, was removed from the see of Kiev and suspended.

"The Bishops' Council of the Russian Orthodox Church, by its Resolution of June 11, 1992, confirmed the decision of the Council of Kharkov and deposed Philaret Denisenko depriving him of all ranks of ministry according to the following accusations: 'Cruel and arrogant attitude to the clergy under his jurisdiction, diktat and blackmail (Tit. 1: 7-8; Apostolic Canon 27; bringing temptation to the community of the faithful by his behaviour and private life (Mt. 18:7; the First Ecumenical Council Canon 3, the Sixth Ecumenical Council Canon 5); perjury (Apostolic Canon 25); public slander and blasphemy against a Bishops' Council (Second Ecumenical Council Canon 6); exercising divine offices including ordinations in the state of suspension (Apostolic Canon 28); causing a schism in the Church (Double Council Canon 15). All the ordinations administered by Philaret in the state of suspension since May 27, 1992, and the suspensions imposed by him were recognized as invalid.

"In spite of repeated calls to repentance, Philaret Denisenko after his deposition continued his schismatic activity, also within other Local Churches. By the decision of the 1997 Bishops' Council of the Russian Orthodox Church, he was anathematized.

"These decisions were recognized by all the Local Orthodox Churches including the Church of Constantinople. In particular, on August 26, 1992, His Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople in his reply to a letter from His Holiness Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and All Russia wrote about the deposition of Metropolitan Philaret of Kiev, 'Our Holy Great Church of Christ, recognizing the full and exclusive competence of your Most Holy Russian Church in this matter, synodically accepts the decision on the above'.

"In His Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew's letter of April 7, 1997, to His Holiness Patriarch Alexy II it is stated that 'having received the notice about this decision, we have informed the hierarchy of our Ecumenical See about it and asked them henceforth to have no church communion with the these persons'.

"Today, after more than two decades, the Patriarchate of Constantinople has changed its position for political reasons.

"In its decision to justify the leaders of the schism and 'legalize' their hierarchy, the Holy Synod of the Church of Constantinople refers to non-existent 'canonical privileges of the Patriarch of Constantinople to accept appeals of hierarchs and clergy from all the autocephalous Churches'. These claims in the form given to them today by the Patriarch of Constantinople have never been supported by the plenitude of the Orthodox Church, as they have no grounds in sacred canons and bluntly contradict in particular Canon 15 of the Council of Antioch: 'If any Bishop... should be tried by all the Bishops in the province, and all of them have pronounced one decision against him in complete agreement with each other, let him no more be tried again by others, but let the concordant verdict of the bishops of the province stand on record'. These claims are also refuted by the practice of decision of the Holy Ecumenical and Local Councils and interpretations of authoritative canonists of the Byzantine and modern times.

"Thus, John Zonaras [a Byzantine chronicler and theologian who lived in Constantinople] writes, 'The Patriarch [of Constantinople] is recognized as judge not over all the metropolitans but only those who are subordinate to him. For neither metropolitans of Syria, nor those of Palestine or Phoenicia or Egypt are summoned to his judgment against their will, but those of Syria are to be judged by the Patriarch of Antioch, those of Palestine by that of Jerusalem, while the Egyptian ones are judged by that of Alexandria who ordains them and to whom they are subordinate'.

"The impossibility of receiving into communion a person condemned in another Local Church is stated in Canon 116 (118) of the Council of Carthage: 'He who, having been excommunicated... shall go stealthily to overseas countries to be accepted into communion, shall be expelled from the clergy'. The same is stated in the canonical letter of the Council to Pope Celestine: 'Those who were excommunicated in their diocese shall not be taken into communion by your Holiness... Whatever affairs may arise, they should be terminated in their place'.

"St. Nicodemus of the Hagiorite in his Pedalion, an authoritative source on the canon law of the Church of Constantinople, interprets Canon I of the Fourth Ecumenical Council rejecting the false opinion on the right of Constantinople to consider appeals from other Churches: 'The Primate of Constantinople has no right to act in dioceses and provinces of other Patriarchs, and this canon does not give him a right to accept appeals on any affair in the Universal Church...' Enumerating quite a number of arguments for this interpretation and referring to the practice of the decisions of Ecumenical Councils. St. Nicodemus comes to this conclusion: 'At the present time... the Primate of Constantinople is the first, only and last judge for the metropolitans subordinate to him - but not for those who are subordinate to other Patriarchs. For, as we would say, the last and general judge for all Patriarchs is the Ecumenical Council and none else'. It follows from the above that the Synod of the Church of Constantinople has no canonical rights to cancel court rulings made by the Bishops' Council of the Russian Orthodox Church.

"One's appropriation of powers to reverse court judgments and other decisions of other Local Orthodox Churches is only one of the manifestations of a new false teaching proclaimed today by the Church of Constantinople and ascribing to the Patriarch of Constantinople the right of 'the first without equals' (primus sine paribus) with a universal jurisdiction. 'This Patriarchate of Constantinople's vision of its own rights and powers comes in an unsurmountable contradiction with the ages-long canonical tradition on which the life of the Russian Orthodox Church and other Local Churches is built', warned the 2008 Bishops' Council of the Russian Orthodox Church in its resolution 'On the Unity of the Church'. In the same resolution, the Council called the Church of Constantinople 'to show discretion till a common Orthodox consideration of the enumerated innovations and refrain from steps which can undermine the Orthodox unity. It is especially true for the attempts to review the canonical boundaries of Local Orthodox Churches'.

"The 1686 Act confirming the Metropolis of Kiev as part of the Moscow Patriarchate and signed by His Holiness Patriarch Dionysius IV of Constantinople and the Holy Synod of the Church of Constantinople is not to be reviewed. The decision to 'repeal' it is canonically negligible. Otherwise it would be possible to annul any document defining the canonical territory and status of a Local Church, regardless of its antiquity, authoritativeness and common ecclesial recognition.

"The 1686 Synodal Deed and other documents that accompany states nothing about either a temporary nature of the transfer of the Metropolis of Kiev to the jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate or that it may be cancelled. The attempt of hierarchs of the Patriarchate of Constantinople for political and self-seeking reasons to review this resolution now, over three hundred years after it was adopted, runs contrary to the spirit of the Orthodox Church's canons that do not allow of a possibility for reviewing established church boundaries that have not been challenged for a long time. Thus, Canon 129 (133) of the Council of Carthage reads, 'If anyone... brought some place to catholic unity and had it in his jurisdiction for three years, and nobody demanded it from him, then it shall not be claimed from him, if also there was a bishop during these three years who should have claimed it but kept silent'. And Canon 17 of the Fourth Ecumenical Council establishes the thirty years' term for a possible conciliar consideration of disputes over the belonging of even particular church parishes: 'Parishes in each diocese... shall be invariably under the power of bishops who manage them, especially if for thirty years they undoubtedly were under his jurisdiction and governance'.

"And how is it possible to cancel a decision that has been valid for three centuries? It would mean an attempt to see it 'like it were non-existent' throughout the successive history of the development of church life. As if he Patriarchate of Constantinople does not notice that the Metropolis of Kiev of 1686, the return of which as its part is declared today, had boundaries that were essentially different from today's boundaries of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and used to embrace only a smaller part of the latter. The Metropolis of Kiev of our days includes as such the city of Kiev and several areas adjacent to it. The larger part of the dioceses of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church however, especially in the east and south of the country, was founded and developed already as part of the autocephalous Russian Church, being a fruit of its ages-long missionary and pastoral work. The present action of the Patriarchate of Constantinople is an attempt to hijack what has never belonged to it.

"The 1686 Action put a limit to the two hundred years' period of forced division in the centuries-long history of the Russian Church, which, for all the changing political circumstances, was invariably aware of itself as a single whole. After the Russian Church's unification in 1686, nobody has doubted for over three centuries that the Orthodox in Ukraine are the flock of the Russian Church, not the Patriarchate of Constantinople. And today, contrary to the pressure of external anti-church forces, this multimillion flock cherishes the unity of the Church of all Rus and faithfulness to her.

"The attempt of the Patriarchate of Constantinople to decide the fate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church without her consent is an anti-canonical encroachment on somebody else's church possessions. The church canon reads: 'The same rule shall be observed in the other dioceses and provinces everywhere, so that none of the God beloved Bishops shall assume control of any province which has not heretofore... But if anyone has violently taken and subjected [a Province], he shall give it up; lest the Canons of the Fathers be transgressed; or the vanities of worldly honor be brought in under pretext of sacred office; or we lose, without knowing it, little by little, the liberty which Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Deliverer of all men, hath given us by his own Blood' (Third Ecumenical Council Canon 8). The judgment of this canon also falls upon the decision of the Patriarchate of Constantinople to establish, in agreement with the secular authorities, its 'stauropegion' in Kiev without the knowledge and consent of the canonical supreme authority of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

"Hypocritically justifying it by a desire to restore the unity of Ukrainian Orthodoxy, the Patriarchate of Constantinople, by its senseless and politically motivated decisions, brings in an even larger division and aggravates the suffering of the canonical Orthodox Church of Ukraine.

"To admit into communion schismatics and a person anathematized in other Local Church with all the 'bishops' and 'clergy' consecrated by him, the encroachment on somebody else's canonical regions, the attempt to abandon its own historical decisions and commitments - all this leads the Patriarchate of Constantinople beyond the canonical space and, to our great grief, makes it impossible for us to continue the Eucharistic community with its hierarch, clergy and laity. From now on until the Patriarchate of Constantinople's rejection of its anti-canonical decisions, it is impossible for all the clergy of the Russian Orthodox Church to concelebrate with the clergy of the Church of Constantinople and for the laity to participate in sacraments administered in its churches.

"The move of hierarche or clergy from the canonical Church to the schismatics or entering in the Eucharistic communion with the latter is a canonical crime involving appropriate suspensions.

"With grief we evoke the prophecy of our Lord Jesus Christ about the time of temptation and special suffering of Christians: Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold (Mt. 24:12). In a situation of the deep undermining of inter-Orthodox relations and full disregard for ages-long norms of church canonical law, the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church believes it her duty to come out in defense of the fundamental traditions of Orthodoxy, in defense of the Holy Tradition of the Church substituted by new and strange teachings on the universal power of the first among the Primates.

"We call upon the Primates and Holy Synods of Local Orthodox Churches to a proper evaluation of the above-mentioned anti-canonical actions of the Patriarchate of Constantinople and to a joint search for a way out of the grave crisis tearing apart the body of the One Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.

"We express our all-round support for His Beatitude Onufriy, Metropolitan of Kiev and All Ukraine and for the plenitude of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church at a time so hard for her. We pray for the strengthening of her faithful standing in a courageous vigil for the truth and unity of the canonical Church in Ukraine.

"We ask the archpastors, clergy, monastics and laity of the whole Russian Orthodox Church to enhance their prayers for our brothers and sisters of the same faith in Ukraine. May the prayerful veil of the Most Holy Heavenly Queen, the honorable fathers of the Kiev Caves, St. Job of Pochaev, new martyrs and confessors and all the saints of the Russian Church be over all of us."

 

[1] Kyivpost.com, October 11, 2018.

[2] Ukrinform.net, October 12, 2018.

[3] Kyivpost.com, October 11, 2018.

[4] Kyivpost.com, October 11, 2018.

[5] Interfax-religion.com, October 15, 2018.

[6] Interfax-religion.com, October 11, 2018.

[7] Interfax-religion.com, October 11, 2018.

[8]Interfax-religion.com, October 11, 2018.

[9] Interfax-religion.com, October 12, 2018.

[10] Interfax-religion.com, October 13, 2018.

[11] Interfax-religion.com, October 13, 2018.

[12] Interfax-religion.com, October 12, 2018.

[13] Interfax-religion.com, October 13, 2018.

[14] Interfax-religion.com, October 12, 2018.

[15] Interfax-religion.com, October 12, 2018.

[16] Interfax-religion.com, October 15, 2018.

[17] Interfax-religion.com, October 16, 2018.

[18] Pravmir.com, October 17, 2018.

[19] Patriarchate.org, October 11, 2018.

[20] Orthodoxie.com, October 6, 2018.

[21] Interfax-religion.com, October 8, 2018.

[22] Interfax-religion.com, October 15, 2018.