Kyiv, Ukraine, Oct 15, 2018 / 16:31 pm
The Russian Orthodox Patriarchate of Moscow has cut ties with the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, claiming his recognition of an independent Orthodox Church in Ukraine departed from Orthodox Christian norms.
Metropolitan Hilarion, who heads foreign relations for the Russian Orthodox Church, said Russian Orthodox leaders decided to "break the Eucharistic communion" in response to actions it called "lawless and canonically void."
"The Russian Orthodox Church doesn't recognize those decisions and won't fulfill them," Hilarion said in Belarus after a meeting of the synod of the Russian Orthodox Church.
"The church that acknowledged the schismatics has excluded itself from the canonical field of Orthodoxy."
"We are hoping common sense will prevail and that the Constantinople Patriarchate will change its relations to existing church reality," Metropolitan Hilarion said.
The break comes in response to the decision of Bartholomew I, Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople and the "first among equals" leader of the global Orthodox Church, to issue a statement Oct. 11 confirming plans for an independent Ukrainian Orthodox Church and restoring ties with the previously schismatic Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyivan Patriarchate.
The announcement also removed the traditional right of the Russian Patriarch to ordain the Metropolitan of Kyiv, a move which observers predicted would be perceived as a deliberate slight to Moscow. The right dated back to a canonical letter first issued in the year 1686.
Archbishop Yevstratiy, chief spokesman for the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyivan Patriarchate and whose rehabilitation by Constantinople contributed to the current break with Moscow, said the Russian synod's decision was a move towards "self-isolation."
Writing in a Facebook post, he said "Sooner or later this will be fixed and the Russian Orthodox Church will return to communion."
According to the U.S. government-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Press Service, Yevstratiy claimed that Orthodox Christians must choose whether to follow the Russian Orthodox "into schism" or "remain in unity with the Ecumenical Patriarch (Bartholomew I of Constantinople) through the Local Ukrainian Church."
Among the backers of Constantinople's move are Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, who is running for re-election in March 2019. He had previously asked the Patriarch of Constantinople to grant independence to the Orthodox Church in Ukraine, the Associated Press reports.
While the recent push for an independent, autocephalous Orthodox Church in Ukraine emerged as a serious movement in the 1990s following the collapse of the Soviet Union, it gained further momentum following the annexation of the Crimean Peninsula in 2014, and Russian backing of separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine in response to the unseating of Ukraine's pro-Russia former president Viktor Yanukovych.