Sadness as Moscow breaks with Constantinople

Larry Hoffman
October 19, 2018

Last month the Russian Orthodox Church announced it would no longer participate in structures chaired by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, deepening the row over the Ukrainian Church's bid to break away from Moscow's orbit.

Constantinople's decision last week ended more than 300 years of Moscow's control over Orthodox churches in Ukraine and affects millions of believers in Russian Federation and Ukraine.

"First of all, we want to say that the rupture of ties [of the Russian Orthodox Church] with the Constantinople Patriarchate won't affect the church life of our Russian worshippers in Finland".

"We can't keep the contact with this church, who is in a situation of schism", he added.

"We are hoping common sense will prevail and that the Constantinople Patriarchate will change its relations to existing church reality", he said.

Many Ukrainian Christians accuse the Russian Church of favouring Russian-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine. Moscow Patriarchate spokesman Archpriest Igor Yakimchuk has noted that Constantinople Patriarchate churches are located, in part, in Istanbul, Antalya, Crete, and on Rhodes.

As reported, on 11 October, the Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate chose to grant the Tomos of autocephaly of the Orthodox Church in Ukraine. Indeed, Orthodox Russian businessmen and officials played a role in fomenting the conflict.

"No other decision could have been taken by our Holy Synod because the logic of all the actions taken recently by the Constantinople Patriarchate led to this".

Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Kirill left prepares to chair a meeting of the Russian Orthodox Church Holy Synod in Minsk Belarus Monday Oct
Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Kirill left prepares to chair a meeting of the Russian Orthodox Church Holy Synod in Minsk Belarus Monday Oct

The Serbian patriarch pointed out that the move was unprecedented for the Orthodox Church.

On October 11, a Synod meeting of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople made a decision to "proceed with granting autocephaly (self-governance) to the Church of Ukraine".

He decided last week to recognize an orthodox Church independent in Ukraine, putting an end to 332 years of tutelage religious Russian, which raises the question of the future of millions of believers in this country.

Apart from that, the holy synod of the Russian Orthodox Church hopes that there will be no clashes in Ukraine over this issue.

Calls for a single church, independent of Russian jurisdiction intensified after Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea and intervention in eastern Ukraine.

The Constantinople-based body recently recognised the independence of the Ukrainian Church from Moscow. Consequently, Putin is now much more likely to launch a new wave of aggression against Ukraine; additionally, he may feel compelled to move even more quickly to absorb Belarus into the Russian Federation and to seek new ways to block Moldova from integrating more closely with the West. "It's an issue of Ukrainian statehood".

For instance, he said, the Serbian Orthodox Church has been supportive of Moscow's position.

Orthodox Christians in Ukraine have recently been divided into three separate groups.

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