Metropolitan Hilarion’s clarifications on the Ukrainian issue
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On September 16, Metropolitan Hilarion was interviewed by the Russian RT television network.
Here are the main points of the interview:

The Chairman of the Russian Department of External Church Relations starts by defining what autocephaly is.  He also highlights that the Russian Orthodox Church has nothing against autocephaly in itself. But as for granting autocephaly to the Ukraine, there are several major issues.

For autocephaly to be granted properly, the process needs to begin with canonical repentance. It seems that “so-called patriarch” Filaret of Kyiv did try to start this process last December with Russia. But the next day, he was asked by the Ukrainian authorities to deny what he said and urged to go with Constantinople instead

Autocephaly can only be granted to a united Church, which is not the case in the Ukraine. The Ukraine has currently only one canonical Orthodox Church recognized by all other Orthodox Churches, that is, the UOC-MP (The Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Moscow Patriarchate).
This canonical church seems to be happy to be under the Moscow Patriarchate and is not requesting autocephaly. In fact, according to the Metropolitan of Volokolamsk (although it seems no official statement has been made at this point), they will not recognize and accept the autocephaly if it’s granted.

We have actually here a political project, instigated by the current political authorities. It’s actually the Ukrainian authorities, led by President Poroshenko, who are requesting autocephaly. Their plan is to make one united Church out of 4 different groups: the UOC-MP + 2 schismatics groups + the Greek Catholic Church [Uniates, who are currently under the Pope of Rome].

Thus in this case, it’s actually schismatic groups that are the base of the intended united Ukrainian Church, the total reverse of the canonical way of granting autocephaly to a Church.
Plus, there’s currently no head of church to whom to give the tomos of autocephaly. Who would that person be? It sounds like Filaret wants to be THE Ukrainian patriarch, but not all Ukrainian schismatics agree with each other and are ready for that either.

In all this issue, Metropolitan Hilarion says that Patriarch Bartholomew actually “acts as if he were a Pope for the Orthodox”. It has never been part of the Orthodox tradition to have such a figure.

Other aspects were presented, like the liberal ideas supported by Ukrainian authorities. The fact that Constantinople recently made a liberal decision by allowing a second marriage for Orthodox priests is a concern as well.

More broadly, Metropolitan Hilarion highlighted security issues for Orthodoxy in the Ukraine, if autocephaly is granted. It seems laws are already in place that will aim at discrimination and marginalization of those who refuse the autocephaly. “We can expect anything… bloodshed”, even said the bishop.

The Ukrainian issue is nothing new. When asked why he thought Patriarch Bartholomew is moving ahead on it right now, Metropolitan Hilarion said this was partly connected to the fact that the the Patriarch of Constantinople felt personally offended that four Churches did not participate on the Council of Crete, whereas he had intended it to be a panorthodox council.

The Bishop reiterated that if the tomos of autocephaly is granted to the Ukraine, there would be no other canonical option than for the Russian Orthodox Church to break communion with Constantinople, but as a somewhat positive note, he ended by saying that there are still several uncertainties and obstacles before the actual autocephaly is granted.

Source (video in English)

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About the Author

Emma Cazabonne

Emma Cazabonne

Emma Cazabonne was born and raised in France. She taught English before entering the Cistercian Order. She translated and published articles relevant to her interest in Cistercian spirituality, the Middle Ages, and Orthodoxy. She moved to the United States in 2001, converted to Orthodoxy in 2008, and married. Her husband is an Orthodox priest. She continued to publish articles, a Cistercian texts anthology, then finally launched her career in literary translation, while teaching French. If you are interested in having your book translated into French, she can be contacted here Newsletter

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