Waiting for Tomos: Short glossary of church terms

Author : News Agency

Source : 112 Ukraine

For the past few months, Ukraine’s informational space has been filled with various church terms. You heard some of them before, but some are completely new to you? Let’s see what they mean
21:07, 11 September 2018

The Ecumenical Patriarch and current Archbishop of Constantinople Bartholomew I appointed two authorized representatives for the preparation to the autocephaly. Ukraine is preparing to receive the Tomos and create a Unified Ukrainian Autocephalous Church. Moreover, Constantinople can lift the anathema of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (of Kyiv Patriarchate) Patriarch Filaret. At the same time, the Metropolitan Hilarion of the Russian Orthodox Church threatens to severe all relations with Constantinople in case Ukraine acquires the Tomos.

Some half a year ago, this short announcement could seriously confuse an average reader with a massive amount of fuzz words.

Now the narrative of the Tomos and church is in top news of the country. However, it might still be useful to shed light on some terms.

Let’s start from the beginning.

What is Tomos?

Tomos is a decree of the primate of the local Orthodox Church on important issues of the church system. By having a tomos, the church can officially gain autonomy in management or autocephaly.  

What is Mother Сhurch?

The "Mother" Church is an autocephalous church (mostly the patriarchates) that can issue permissions for creation of the local churches that previously belonged to its jurisdiction.

Open source

There are two contenders for the "Mother" Church of Ukraine - Moscow and Constantinople Patriarchates.

For today, the official position of Ukrainian authorities, expressed by the President Petro Poroshenko, is as follows:

"Prince Volodymyr the Great received Christianity from the Church of Constantinople, and therefore Ukraine is waiting for the recognition of autocephaly for a local church from it."

Related: Ukraine's first president: We have favorable prerequisites for obtaining autocephaly

What is autocephaly?

Autocephaly is a status of a local church. It envisages the administrative independence from other local churches.

The autocephalous church is headed by a patriarch, archbishop or metropolite.

To be more specific: the autocephalous Orthodox Church is a local orthodox church with a canonical territory attached to it. The autocephalous church is neither a hierarchical nor an administrative part of another Orthodox Church.

Do not confuse with the autonomy. The head of an autonomous church after the election, must be approved by the patriarch of one of the autocephalous churches.

Who are the patriarchs, archbishops and metropolites?

All three are the names of church ranks.

Patriarch is the title of bishop-primate of the autocephalous Orthodox Church in a number of local churches.

In any autocephalous church, the patriarch is elected by the Local Church Council or the Bishops' Council.

Archbishop is the chief bishop. In a number of local Orthodox churches of the Greek tradition (except Jerusalem) - the archbishop is the head of this church.

Metropolite is the first episcopal title in the Christian church. At first, the title of Metropolite was held by the bishops of Christian churches, the residences – departments of which were located in the main cities (metropolises) - administrative centers of Roman Empire provinces.

What is the Local Church Council? What is the Bishops' Council? What is the difference?

Local Church Council is a council of bishops and other clerics, laity of a local church or its certain area for discussion and resolution of matters of religious doctrine, religious and moral life, structure, administration and discipline.

Bishops' Council is a local council, in which only bishops take part.

Related: Constantinople Church can provide autocephaly without consent of other churches

Who are the bishops?

In the hierarchy of the modern church’s ranks, bishops are men of the cloth who have the third highest priesthood (episcopal).

Who are exarchs?

Not so long ago, the Ecumenical Patriarchate appointed the clergy representatives from Canada and the United States as the exarchs in Ukraine.

In modern Orthodoxy, exarch is usually a senior bishop of a separate deanery (exarchate) located outside the country of the main jurisdiction of the local church (patriarchate).

What is anathema?

Along with the Tomos, it is being discussed recently that the Ecumenical Patriarchate can remove anathema from the Patriarch of Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Kyiv Patriarchate Filaret.

Anathema is the excommunication of a Christian from people loyal to the Church and from the sacraments, which is used as the highest church punishment "for serious sins" (primarily for the betrayal of Orthodoxy and heresy or dissent) and is proclaimed by the council.

As you know, the Bishops’ Council of the Russian Orthodox Church approved anathema of Filaret.

What is the eparchy?

Eparchy is an administrative unit of the church, managed by the bishop. The eparchies are divided into deaneries, which consist of several parishes. The borders of eparchies usually coincide with the administrative division of the country.  

Related: Autocephalous church is one of backbones of Ukraine's national security, - Poroshenko

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