Metropolitan Emmanuel of France, “Orthodox unity challenged by the Ukrainian issue”
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“While the unity of the Orthodox Church is threatened, we have to understand the magnitude of certain prophetic acts. The Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew responded positively to the expectations of the Ukrainian people in favor of an autocephalous Church. When doing so, he was aware of his historic responsibility in the region, but also of his duty as the guarantor of the unity of the body of the Orthodox Church, as well as his spiritual ministry that goes beyond political issues.

Unfortunately, we saw how the Moscow Patriarchate desperately opposed to the process of granting autocephaly to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Through threats and attacks that will one day be condemned by history, they attempted to weaken the bond of communion that unites all the autocephalous Orthodox Churches.

The Moscow Patriarchate, unfortunately, seems to be hostage to the Russian State interests in the region, even if they claim the opposite. Besides, the ecclesiastical law of the Orthodox Church confirms the historical and canonical legitimacy of the Ecumenical Patriarchate jurisdiction over the Kyiv Metropolis. Even with the Synodal Act of 1686, which gave the right to the Moscow Patriarch to ordain Kyiv Metropolitans elected by the clergy, the Constantinople Patriarchate fully kept its jurisdictional powers. The Ecumenical Patriarchate has never ceased to seek a solution through dialogue and cooperation, without threats nor sanctions. Until the last moment, we thought that a way out of the crisis was possible, including at the meeting between the two patriarchs in August 2018 at the Phanar.

From now on, the Moscow Patriarchate has decided to break the communion with the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. But can we talk about a schism? I will say it boldly, I do not think so, even if, taking into account such actions, the Russian Church is separating itself from the body of the Orthodox Church and rejecting the provisions of its own Tomos of autocephaly, which mentions that the Moscow Patriarchate must have the Ecumenical Patriarchate as  its “head”.

I believe it is at least the responsibility of the Moscow Patriarchate to put an end to the verbal and ecclesiastical escalation that threatens the unity of Orthodoxy, although it seems the Russian Church has used its influence to pressure other autocephalous Orthodox Churches to convene a Pan-Orthodox meeting. Let us remember however, that the Russian Church refused to participate in the Holy and Great Council in June 2016 in Crete. It was one of the most important pan-Orthodox events in modern history. I regret the opportunism of the Moscow Patriarchate, which wishes to take advantage of pan-Orthodox meetings to defend its own agenda. Moreover, it must be understood that the granting of autocephaly is not a strictly pan-Orthodox question. Rather, it is the Ecumenical Patriarchate responsibility, as the Mother Church, to give independence to the Orthodox ecclesiastical body in Ukraine. This is the lesson of history. The Ecumenical Patriarchate is the source of the autocephaly of all local Orthodox Churches, with the exception of older Patriarchates founded in the first millennium and of the Church of Cyprus. The autocephalous Orthodox Church of Ukraine will be created very shortly, certainly in the weeks to come.

The ultimate challenge that all Orthodox peoples will have to face is neither political nor geopolitical, it is above all spiritual. Autocephaly aims to put an end to divisions between the Orthodox in Ukraine and not to create new schisms. The Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew is fully aware of this problem and he sees communion as a theological principle at the service of all. This movement is prophetic since it is a moment of truth that concerns all Orthodoxy.

In the case of an attempt to block it, a response must be given, guided by experience and evangelical teachings.”

Source in Greek Newsletter

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