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What does Russian Orthodox Church's severing ties with Constantinople mean

Author : News Agency 112.ua

Russian Orthodox Church decided to break off the Eucharistic communion with Constantinople in response to the decision aimed at granting autocephaly to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church
23:17, 16 October 2018

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These days, the Holy Synod of the Church of Constantinople ceased the decree of 1686 on the transfer of the Kyiv Metropolis to the Moscow Patriarchate, and also removed the anathema from the heads of two non-canonical churches - the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate (UOC-KP) and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC).

This means that the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew did not reconsider his previous decision: the wanted Tomos is very close, and soon Ukraine would be able to create the United Ukrainian Autocephalous Local Church on its territory.

Only one thing darkens a truly historic event - the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) is still against the independence of the Kyiv Metropolis and proceeds from threats to some tough actions.

“A meeting of the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church is scheduled in Minsk, and the highest executive body of the Russian Orthodox Church will give a proper assessment of what happened,” Moscow Patriarchate announced immediately after the decision of Constantinople was made public.

A complete break in relations: Moscow’s answer

October 15, meeting of the Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church with the participation of the head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC MP), Metropolitan Onufriy, took place.

One question was put on the agenda - a reaction to the decisions of the Patriarch Bartholomew regarding Ukraine.

Related: Ukrainian church wins independence battle against Moscow Patriarchate

For more than seven hours the clergy of the Russian Orthodox Church has been deciding on hitting Constantinople.

Starting at 4 p.m., a man came out of the building of the diocese several times and announced to the journalists who had gathered near there that the decision was about to be made.

Rianovosti

Chairman of the Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate, Metropolitan Hilarion

Finally, at around 8:00 p.m., the head of the Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate (DECR MP), Metropolitan Hilarion, came out and announced that the Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church decided to completely sever relations with the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.

The reason is quite simple: he allegedly took anti-canonical actions by entering into communion with Ukrainian schismatics and thereby attacked the canonical territory of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Constantinople-destroyer: The main arguments from the statement of the Russian Orthodox Church

The Russian Orthodox Church is indignant, mainly due to the fact that the Synod of the Church of Constantinople launched the process of granting autocephaly to the Ukrainian Church unilaterally, ignoring the calls of other churches for pan-Orthodox discussion of the issue.

In addition, in her opinion, it is impossible to cancel 300 years of the history of church life with one stroke of a pen, and there is no rule that Moscow’s decision for church authority over the Kyiv metropolis from 1686 could be canceled. Moreover, this metropolis has grown about three times during its stay in the ROC.

Related: Russian Orthodox Church follows self-isolation path, - Poroshenko

Also, Moscow says that one church, even it is "first among equals," cannot remove the anathema imposed by the other. In the 90s Bartholomew had nothing against imposing anathema against Filaret and supported the decision of the ROC.

Rejection of eucharistic communion: what does it mean

The rupture of eucharistic communion is almost the last resort in interchurch relations. This means that the clergy of the Russian Orthodox Church will not be able to perform joint worship with the hierarchs and clerics of the Constantinople Patriarchate, and its laity to take communion in churches under the jurisdiction of Constantinople, and to participate in other sacraments.

Usually, when the Eucharistic discourse breaks, the patriarchs of the quarreling churches also cease to remember each other during the liturgy. The Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Kirill does not remember the primate of the Church of Constantinople, Bartholomew, for a month now. That is, back in September, everyone understood that the end of inter-church relations between Moscow and Constantinople is inevitable.

 

AFP

Patriarchs Kirill and Bartholomew

The ROC has even made an indicative list of temples for tourists where it is not allowed to pray. Archpriest Igor Yakimchuk, secretary of the DECR MP, announced that the temples of the Constantinople Patriarchate are located, in particular, in Istanbul, Antalya, Crete, and Rhodes.

Also, Mount Athos, a self-governing territory within Greece that houses 20 monasteries, one of the main Orthodox shrines, would be forbidden for Orthodox Christians, baptized in the ROC and its metropolises (in the UOC MP and the Belarusian Church).

Spat the ROC with Constantinople: How will it affect Ukraine

So far, the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople has not responded to the statement of the Russian Orthodox Church about a break in Eucharistic communion. But now we can say that this will not globally affect the decision of the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew on granting autocephaly.

Even when threats about a possible break in interchurch relations between Moscow and Constantinople were voiced, Bartholomew stressed that the independence of the Kyiv Metropolis was inevitable.

“Now it’s Ukraine’s turn to get autocephaly. This is its right (churches, ed.),” he said, emphasizing the exclusive right of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to grant autocephaly to all new Orthodox churches, beginning from the 16th century.

“We are not afraid of threats,” added Bartholomew, commenting on the Russian position.

 

Open source

Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew 

The position of the ROC somewhat complicates the transition to the hypothetical Unified Local Church of those bishops who are ready to change the church registration.

Related: Ukraine's Foreign Minister calls Russian Orthodox church "dissident"

The maternal ROC has unambiguously hinted that the heads of the two non-canonical Ukrainian churches still have an anathema and they are considered “schismatics,” which means that anathema might be imposed on bishops who want to split up.

Even if no one recognizes such anathema but the ROC itself, the clergy will still have a dubious church status: semi-recognized, or semi-apathetic.

The same situation might arise from the transfer of churches. For example, some parishes of the UOC MP are now being transferred to the UOC of the Kyiv Patriarchate - Russian Orthodox Church called it “seizure by dissenters.”

Related: Orthodox church split just tip of Putin's crumbling 'soft power' in Ukraine

It is noteworthy that the ROC has already stopped the Eucharistic communion with Constantinople once. On February 20, 1996, Patriarch Bartholomew announced that he was taking under his jurisdiction the Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church. Three days after this, Patriarch Alexiy II announced the break in interchurch relations and ceased to commemorate Bartholomew at patriarchal divine services. But the problem was quickly resolved: in May of the same year, the churches held talks and came to the world. Since then, two Orthodox churches have been operating in Estonia - one was given autonomy by the Moscow Patriarchate, the other by Constantinople.

Self-isolation: What the other churches say

At the moment it is very important, whose side will other local Orthodox churches take. This will answer the main question, whether the decision of the Russian Orthodox Church will be a general catastrophe in the form of a division of the Orthodox world, or only its self-isolation. So far, the position of the ROC is shared only by the Belarusian and Ukrainian churches, subordinate to it.

Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Kyiv Patriarchate called the Moscow’s decision “following” of the Kremlin’s policy. A spokesman for the UOC-KP Yevstratiy Zorya noted that the believers of the Russian Orthodox Church have two choices: to go along with Moscow in a split or remain in unity with universal Orthodoxy.

 

Open source

His Holiness Patriarch Serbian Irenaeus 

Other local churches do not comment on the position of the ROC. Only His Holiness Patriarch Serbian Irenaeus expressed words of support for Moscow. However, he did not speak about the break in interchurch relations with Constantinople or any other actions in response.

Related: Russian Synod follows Kremlin policy, - Ukraine’s Orthodox Church of Kyiv Patriarchate

Experts believe that the words of support and a possible call for public discussion are the best things that the ROC can count on.

Read the original text at 112.ua.

Related: Russia 'loses Ukraine' upon autocephaly of Ukraine's Orthodox Church, - Volker

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