High risk of schism in Orthodoxy, after “interference” from Constantinople in the Ukraine
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Après « l’ingérence » de Constantinople en Ukraine, fort risque de schisme dans l’orthodoxie : une analyse de la situation sur le site cath.ch (portail catholique suisse)

The Swiss Catholic Portal published a detailed analysis of the ecclesiological situation in the Ukraine, entitled “High risk of schism in Orthodoxy, after “interference” from Constantinople in the Ukraine.”

Here is our English translation of the article:

The Constantinople Patriarchate “openly embarked on the war path” by appointing “exarchs” in Kyiv to prepare the “autocephaly of the schismatic Church led by Metropolitan Filaret of Kyiv”. This is the severe warning by Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, the Chairman of the Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate.

The Moscow Patriarchate will take severe measures if Constantinople keeps interfering in the internal affairs of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. This “gross and unprecedented interference” by Patriarch Bartholomew in the canonical territory of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church “threatens to provoke a schism in Orthodoxy,” said Metropolitan Hilarion.

Political reasons

The leader of the largest Orthodox Church in the world condemned the decision of Constantinople to send special representatives to work on the completion of the project of granting autocephaly (total independence) to the Ukrainian Church. It would then be detached from the Moscow Patriarchate. Mainly for political reasons, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and Ukrainian nationalist circles want to set up a Ukrainian national church.

Last April, President Poroshenko and the two non-canonical churches (see below) turned to Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, who enjoys a primacy of honor in world Orthodoxy. They asked him to unify all the Orthodox Churches of the country into an “autocephalous” Church, that is to say, an independent Church, under his authority.

On September 8 on the television channel Rossia 24, Metropolitan Hilarion, Patriarch Kirill’s chief assistant, said that Patriarch Bartholomew would “personally answer to the court of God and to the court of history for this decision” . He urged Constantinople not to prefer political logic to canonical logic.

Risk for the communion between Moscow and Constantinople

“This is not only a war against the Russian Church and the Ukrainian Orthodox people. It is ultimately a war against the unity of world Orthodoxy… The Russian Orthodox Church will not accept this decision. We will be forced to break the communion with Constantinople,” added Metropolitan Hilarion.

“The patriarch of Constantinople will no longer have the right to call himself ‘the leader of an Orthodox population of 300 million people’ “. At least half of the Orthodox  will no longer recognize him. He will ultimately divide all the Orthodox world by his actions”.

Autocephaly granted to “schismatics”

“If Constantinople carries out its treacherous plan of granting autocephaly, it means it will be given to a group of schismatics. The canonical Church of the Ukraine will not accept that, nor the Russian Church. And we will have no other choice but to break the communion with Constantinople “.

Metropolitan Hilarion believes that the “illegal” sending of these two special representatives without the agreement of Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and of Metropolitan Onufryi of Kyiv “constitutes a gross and unprecedented interference of a Church on a canonical territory having its own local church, which is alone in charge of the Orthodox population of this country.” This decision by Patriarch Bartholomew and his assistants “threatens the unity of Holy Orthodoxy”.

Moscow promises severe measures

Metropolitan Hilarion warned that the Moscow Patriarchate would take severe measures if Constantinople made “irreparable” decisions about the Ukraine. The Russian Orthodox Church is determined to do “everything possible” to persuade the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople not to interfere with the ecclesiastical affairs of the Ukraine, said Vladimir Legoyda, the Chairman of the Synodal Department for Church’s Relations with Society and Mass Media, on September 9.

The episcopate of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church, counting more than 12,000 parishes and 200 monasteries, has unanimously voted to maintain its current status. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church, largely self-administered, is part of the Moscow Patriarchate and does not intend to secede.

According to a statement issued on September 7 by the General Secretariat of the Holy Synod of the Church of Constantinople, two of his hierarchs,  Archbishop Daniel of Pamphilon (USA) and Bishop Ilarion of Edmonton (Canada), were appointed exarchs of the Patriarchate of Constantinople in Kyiv.

Against a background of acute political confrontation

The unity of the Russian Orthodox Church goes back to the year 988, when Prince Vladimir had the Kievan Rus’ baptized. “It’s the schismatics [lead by Filaret Denissenko, self-proclaimed patriarch of Kyiv] who spoke of autocephaly. To be precise, they did not ask for it, they announced it saying, see, we already have autocephaly, you just have to recognize it.”

“Of course, all this is happening against the background of acute political confrontation,” continues Metropolitan Hilarion. Moreover, it is not by chance that the patriarch of Constantinople seems to be in such a hurry. He understands that the days of the current Ukrainian authorities are numbered: the elections will be held next spring, and it is highly likely that other forces will come to power, forces that would not support Constantinople “papist” claims. That’s why they try to commit their misdeeds as quickly as possible. ”

Constantinople accused of having acted “basely and treacherously”

Metropolitan Hilarion recalled that the of August 31, 2018 meeting in Istanbul between Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and Patriarch of Constantinople was “quite sociable, polite, and I would even say fraternal”. He therefore deplores the fact that Constantinople then acted ” basely and treacherously, from our point of view”, by sending exarchs to the Ukraine without the agreement of either the Patriarch of Moscow or Metropolitan Onufryi of Kyiv”. And yet Patriarch Bartholomew had often said that the Patriarchate of Constantinople recognized Metropolitan Onufryi as “the only canonical leader of Orthodoxy in the Ukraine”.

The Episcopal Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR), present in North America, Europe, Australia, New Zealand and other Western countries, in turn expressed “deep indignation at the glaring violation of the holy canons by the Orthodox Church of Constantinople “, following the appointment of exarchs of the Patriarchate of Constantinople in Kyiv.

The Ukrainian Orthodox Churches:

– The Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC-MP), led by Metropolitan Onufryi, is attached to the Moscow Patriarchate.

– The Patriarchate of Kyiv (UOC-KP), was founded after the fall of the USSR in 1992 by Filaret (Denissenko), former Metropolitan of Kyiv of the Russian Church. He proclaimed himself Patriarch and was excommunicated. This Church is not recognized by the whole of Orthodoxy (it is non-canonical), but since its origins, it has benefited from the support of the Kyiv authorities.

– The Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC), is a very small minority and is mainly located in the western part of the country. It is not canonical either, but has special links with the Ukrainian churches of Canada and the United States, which are under the jurisdiction of the Constantinople Patriarchate. For the most part, despite the pressure by Ukrainian leaders, the Orthodox faithful (and their parishes) remain so far faithful to the canonical Church.

Source in French

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About the Author

Emma Cazabonne

Emma Cazabonne

Beside an anthology on Cistercian texts, Emma Cazabonne has translated and published articles on Cistercian spirituality, the Middle Ages, and Orthodoxy. She converted to Orthodoxy in 2008. Her husband is an Orthodox priest. If you are interested in having your book translated into French, she can be contacted here https://wordsandpeace.com/contact-me/

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