Published: Tue, October 16, 2018

Russian Church splits with Ecumenical Patriarchate

Russian Church splits with Ecumenical Patriarchate

The Russian Orthodox Church said on Monday it had made a decision to sever all relations with the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople in protest over its endorsement of Ukraine's request for an "autocephalous", or independent, church.

Alexander Volkov, spokesman for Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill, said the Holy Synod of the Church would "express its position" on Sunday during a meeting in Minsk, without elaborating on what measures it might take.

Calls for the Ukrainian church's independence have increased since Moscow's 2014 annexation of the Crimean Peninsula and its support of separatist rebels fighting in eastern Ukraine.

Under the leadership of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, the patriarchate last week removed its condemnation of leaders of schismatic Orthodox churches in Ukraine.

"A decision has been made to rupture full communion with the Constantinople Patriarchate", he said, meaning that priests from the two churches can not serve together while worshippers of one can not take communion in the other.

As UNIAN reported earlier, on October 11, following the meeting of the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, a decision was announced that the Ecumenical Patriarchate proceeds to granting autocephaly to the Church of Ukraine.

The Patriarchate says it hopes Constantinople will change its mind on recognising the independence of the Ukrainian Church so that a schism can be avoided.

The move taken by Moscow marks arguably the greatest split in the history of the Orthodox Church since the Great Schism of 1054, which separated Catholics and Orthodox Christians, as it involves a break of communion between the biggest existing Orthodox Church - the Moscow Patriarchate - and Constantinople Patriarch, who is widely regarded as a spiritual leader of world's Orthodox Christians, even though his status is nothing like that of the Pope in the Roman Catholic Church. Now, as Constantinople is launched a procedure of granting independence to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, such attacks might further intensify, some experts warn.

At the gathering, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, known as the "first among equals" among his peers, said that his predecessor in 1686 - Patriarch Dionysios IV - under "great political pressure" was forced to give Moscow permission to ordain the metropolitan of Kyiv, thus annexing Ukraine's Orthodox jurisdiction.

Ahead of the synod, Patriarch Kirill held a meeting with Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka on October 15, according to the Belarusian state news agency BelTA.

The Russian-subordinated Ukrainian Orthodox Church - Moscow Patriarchate (UOCMP) is the only one that is canonically recognized in-country.

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