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2018 Moscow–Constantinople schism
The Moscow–Constantinople schism,[a] also known as the Orthodox Church schism of 2018,[b] is a schism which began on 15 October 2018 when the Russian Orthodox Church unilaterally severed full communion with the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. This was done in response to a decision of the synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate on 11 October 2018 which confirmed the intention of moving towards granting autocephaly (independence) to the Orthodox Church in Ukraine, to reestablish a stauropegion (church body ruled directly by the Ecumenical Patriarch) in Kiev, to revoke the legal binding of the letter of 1686 which led to the Russian Orthodox Church establishing jurisdiction over the Ukrainian Church, and to lift the excommunications which affected clergy and faithful of two unrecognized Ukrainian Orthodox churches. Those two churches, the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC) and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Kiev Patriarchate (UOC-KP), were competing with the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) (UOC-MP) and were considered "schismatics" (illegally segregated groups) by the Patriarchate of Moscow, as well as by the other Orthodox churches.
In its synod on 14 September 2018, the Moscow Patriarchate had broken off participation in any episcopal assemblies, theological discussions, multilateral commissions, and any other structures that are chaired or co-chaired by representatives of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. In its statement of 15 October, the Russian Orthodox Church barred all members of the Moscow Patriarchate from taking part in communion, baptism, and marriage at any church controlled by the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
The schism forms part of a wider political conflict involving Russia's 2014 annexation of the Crimea and its military intervention in Ukraine, as well as Ukraine's desire to join the European Union and NATO. This schism is reminiscent of the Moscow–Constantinople schism of 1996 over canonical jurisdiction over Estonia, which was however resolved after less than three months.
After the baptism of Rus'[c] these lands were under the control of the Metropolitan of Kiev. Among the 24 metropolitans who held the throne before the Mongol invasion, only two were of local origin and the rest were Greek. Usually, they were appointed by Constantinople and were not chosen by the bishops of their dioceses, as it should be done according to the canon. After the Mongol invasion, the southern part of Rus' was heavily devastated and the disintegration of Kievan Rus' accelerated. Metropolitan Kirill III, who occupied the throne for 30 years, spent almost all of his time in the lands of Vladimir-Suzdal Rus' and visited Kiev only twice, although earlier he had come from Galicia and had been nominated for the post of Metropolitan by the prince Daniel of Galicia. After the new Mongol raid in 1299, Metropolitan Maksim finally moved to Vladimir in the north, and did not even leave a bishop behind. In 1303 a new cathedra was created for south-west Rus' in Galicia and the new Metropolitan was consecrated by Constantinople, but its existence ended in 1355 after the Galicia–Volhynia Wars. In 1325, Metropolitan Peter moved to Moscow, thus greatly contributing to the rise of the Grand Duchy of Moscow, which gradually conquered other Russian principalities in the northeast of the former Kievan Rus'. Another part of Kievan Rus' gradually came under the rule of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Kingdom of Poland, which entered into rivalry with Moscow. In particular, the Grand Dukes of Lithuania sought from Constantinople a separate Metropolitan for the Orthodox who lived in their lands. Although the Metropolitan in Moscow continued to retain the title of "Metropolitan of Kiev and All Rus'", he could not rule the Orthodox outside the borders of the Grand Duchy of Moscow. Constantinople twice agreed to create a separate Metropolitan for Lithuania, but these decisions were not permanent, Constantinople being inclined to maintain a single church government on the lands of the former Kievan Rus'.
In 1439, Constantinople entered into union with the Roman Catholic Church. In Moscow, this decision was rejected outright, and Metropolitan Isidor, consecrated by Constantinople, was accused in heresy, imprisoned, and later expelled. In 1448, the council of north-eastern Russian clergy in Moscow, at the behest of prince Vasily II of Moscow, elected Jonah the Metropolitan of Kiev and all Rus' without the consent of the Patriarch of Constantinople. In 1469 Patriarch Dionysius I stated that Constantinople would not recognize any metropolitan ordained without its blessing. Meanwhile, the metropolis of Kiev (de facto in Novogrudok) stayed under the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople. Moscow's de facto independence from Constantinople remained unrecognized until 1589 when Patriarch of Constantinople Jeremiah II approved the creation of a new, fifth Orthodox Patriarchate in Moscow. This decision was finally confirmed by the four older Patriarchs in 1593.
The Patriarch of Moscow became the head of "all Russia and Northern countries", and Chernihiv (now in Ukraine) was one of his dioceses. However, he had no power among the Orthodox bishops of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, who remained under the rule of Constantinople. At the same time, the Orthodox hierarchs of those lands were inclined to the Union with Rome, despite the resistance of their parishes, who formed the Orthodox brotherhoods (or fraternities) to keep their identity. On the way from Moscow, Jeremiah II visited the lands of present-day Ukraine and committed an unprecedented act, granting Stauropegia (direct subordination to Patriarch) to many Orthodox brotherhoods. This provoked the anger of the local bishops and soon the Union of Brest was proclaimed, which was supported by the majority of the Orthodox bishops of the Commonwealth, including Metropolitan Michail Rogoza. Officially, the Orthodox (but not the Uniate, subordinated to Rome) Metropolis of Kiev in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was eliminated and re-established only in 1620, in subsequent co-existence with Uniate Metropolis. That led to sharp conflict and numerous revolts culminating in the Khmelnytsky uprising.
In 1654, Russia entered the war with the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth; it quickly occupied, for a while, the lands of present Belarus, and gained some power over the Hetmanate pursuant to the Pereyaslav Agreement (1654). The official title of Patriarch Nikon of Moscow was "Patriarch of Moscow and all Greater, Lesser, and White Russia". However, the Metropolitan of Kiev Sylvester Kossov had managed to defend his independence from the Moscow Patriarchate. The Moscow government, which needed the support of the Orthodox clergy, postponed the resolution of this issue.
In 1686, Ecumenical Patriarch Dionysius IV approved the new Metropolitan of Kiev, Gedeon Chetvertinsky, who would be ordained by the Moscow Patriarchate and thus transferred, albeit with certain qualifications, a part of the Kiev ecclesiastical province to the jurisdiction of Patriarchate of Moscow (the Russian Orthodox Church).
In the 1924 Tomos (decree) of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, which granted independence to the Polish Orthodox Church, the previous transfer of the Kyivan Church to the jurisdiction of Moscow (in 1685–1686) was declared uncanonical. In addition, the decree pointed out that the conditions of the synodal "Act" of 1686 – which specified that the Russian Orthodox Church was only to consecrate the Metropolitan of Kiev – were never adhered to by the Patriarchate of Moscow.
Post-Cold War, claims of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and Russkiy Mir
The historical rivalry between the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Russian Orthodox Church intensified after the Cold War. Indeed, after the Cold War, Moscow and Istanbul both emerged as "two centers of Orthodox power".
The Patriarchate of Constantinople claims that:
1. The [Ecumenical] Patriarch had the right to establish a court of final appeal for any case from anywhere in the Orthodox world.
2. The [Ecumenical] Patriarch had the exclusive right to summon the other Patriarchs and heads of Autocephalous Churches to a joint meeting of all of them.
3. The [Ecumenical] Patriarch has jurisdiction, ecclesiastical authority over Orthodox Christians who are outside the territory of the local Orthodox Churches, the so-called diaspora.
4. No new "Autocephalous" Church can come into being without the consent of the Patriarch of Constantinople; this consent should express the consensus of the local Orthodox Churches.
Russkiy Mir (literally "Russian world") is an ideology promoted by many in the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church. "This ideology, concocted as a reaction to the loss of Russian control over Ukraine and Belarus after the fall of the Soviet Union, seeks to assert a spiritual and cultural unity of the peoples descended from the Kievan Rus, presumably under Russian leadership." Patriarch Kiril of Moscow also shares this ideology; for the Russian Orthodox Church, the Russkiy Mir is also "a spiritual concept, a reminder that through the baptism of Rus, God consecrated these people to the task of building a Holy Rus."
1996 schism over Estonia
The Moscow–Constantinople schism of 1996 began on 23 February 1996, when the Russian Orthodox Church severed full communion with the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, and ended on 16 May 1996 when the Russian Orthodox Church and the Ecumenical Patriarchate reached an agreement establishing parallel jurisdictions. The excommunication was in response to the Ecumenical Patriarchate's decision on 20 February 1996 to reestablish an autonomous Orthodox church in Estonia under the Ecumenical Patriarchate's canonical jurisdiction.
The 1996 schism has similarities with the schism of October 2018: both schisms were caused by a dispute between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Ecumenical Patriarchate concerning the canonical jurisdiction over a territory in Eastern Europe over which the Russian Orthodox Church claimed to have the exclusive canonical jurisdiction, such territory being a part of the former Soviet Union, which upon its collapse had become an independent state (Ukraine in 2018, Estonia in 1996). The break of communion in 1996 was made by Moscow unilaterally, as in 2018.
September 2018: Russian Orthodox synod's "retaliatory measures" and the aftermath
On 14 September 2018, in response to the appointment of two exarchs (deputies of the Ecumenical Patriarch) in Ukraine (Daniel (Zelinsky) and Hilarion (Rudnyk)), and in response to the Ecumenical Patriarchate's plans to grant autocephalous status to the Orthodox Church in Ukraine, the synod of Russian Orthodox Church held an extraordinary session to take "retaliatory measures" and decided:
1. To suspend the liturgical prayerful commemoration of Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople.
2. To suspend concelebration with hierarchs of the Patriarchate of Constantinople.
3. To suspend the participation of the Russian Orthodox Church in all Episcopal Assemblies, theological dialogues, multilateral commissions and other structures chaired or co-chaired by representatives of the Patriarchate of Constantinople.
4. To adopt a statement of the Holy Synod concerning the uncanonical actions of the Patriarchate of Constantinople in Ukraine.
A statement was released the same day explaining the situation and the sanctions taken to protest against the Ecumenical Patriarch's behavior. On the same day, Metropolitan Hilarion clarified the situation in an interview, stating that this decision is not a rupture of Eucharistic communion and does not concern the laity, but nonetheless added:
But we refuse to concelebrate with hierarchs of the Patriarchate of Constantinople since every time they mention the name of their Patriarch during the liturgy while we have suspended it. [...]
We do not think, of course, that all this will finally shut the door for dialogue, but our today's decision is a signal to the Patriarchate of Constantinople that if the actions of this kind continue, we will have to break the Eucharistic communion entirely. [...]
[A]fter the breaking-off of the Eucharistic communion, at least a half of this 300-million-strong population will no longer recognize him as even the first among equals.
On 23 September 2018 Patriarch Bartholomew, during a mass he was celebrating in the Saint Fokas Orthodox Church declared that he "had sent a message that Ukraine would receive autocephaly as soon as possible, since it is entitled to it"
On 30 September 2018, in an interview to Izvestia Daily published on the official website of the Moscow Patriarchate's Department for External Church Relations, Metropolitan Hilarion commented: "The Russian Church does not need to fear isolation. If Constantinople continues its anti-canonical actions, it will place itself outside the canonical space, outside the understanding of church order that distinguishes the Orthodox Church."
On 2 October, Patriarch Kirill of the ROC sent a letter to all the autocephalous Orthodox churches to ask them to hold a "Pan-Orthodox discussion" concerning the question of Ukraine's autocephaly.
On 5 October, the Metropolitan Pavel, head of the Belarusian Orthodox Church (exarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church), announced the meeting of the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church on 15 October in Minsk. He said that "The situation with the Orthodox Church in Ukraine will be on the agenda of the meeting". This meeting had been announced previously on 7 January 2018 and was at the time "most likely to take place in mid October."
On 9 October, Metropolitan Hilarion, chairman of the Department of External Church Relations of the Russian Orthodox Church warned that "if the project for Ukrainian autocephaly is carried through, it will mean a tragic and possibly irretrievable schism of the whole Orthodoxy." He added that
ignoring sacred canons shakes up the whole system of the church organism. Schismatics in other Local Churches are well aware that if autocephaly is given to the Ukrainian schismatics, it will be possible to repeat the same scenario anywhere. That is why we state that autocephaly in Ukraine will not be "the healing of the schism" but its legalization and encouragement.
Question of Ukraine's autocephaly
On 11 October 2018 the synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate announced that it would grant autocephaly to the "Church of Ukraine". This decision led the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church to break communion with the Ecumenical Patriarchate on 15 October 2018, which marked the beginning of the 2018 Moscow–Constantinople schism. Support for the grant of autocephaly had been expressed by the Ukrainian President and the Verkhovna Rada in June 2018.
On 15 December 2018, the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU) was formed after a unification council between the UAOC, the UOC-KP, and two bishops of the UOC-MP, the primate of the OCU, Epiphanius, was elected during this unification council.. Most of the hierarchs of the UOC-MP ignored the council and over half of them had sent invites back to the Ecumenical Patriarch. On 5 January 2019, Bartholomew I, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, signed the official decree (tomos) that granted autocephaly (independence) to the Orthodox Church of Ukraine and officially established the Orthodox Church of Ukraine. On 6 January, after a Liturgy celebrated by Metropolitan Epiphanius and Patriarch Bartholomew, Partriarch Bartholomew read the tomos of the OCU and then gave it to Metropolitan Epiphanius.
Break of communion with the Ecumenical Patriarchate by the Russian Orthodox Church
On 15 October 2018, the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church, meeting in Minsk, decided to cut all ties with the Constantinople Patriarchate. This decision forbade joint participation in all sacraments, including communion, baptism, and marriage, at any church worldwide controlled by Constantinople. At the time of the schism, the Russian Orthodox Church had over 150 million followers, more than half of all Eastern Orthodox Christians. The same day, after the synod, a briefing for journalists was given by Metropolitan Hilarion, chairman of the Department of External Church Relations of the Russian Orthodox Church, in which he declared that "the decision on complete cessation of the Eucharistic communion with the Patriarchate of Constantinople was taken today."
The break of communion was done in response to a decision of the synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate on 11 October 2018 which confirmed the intention of moving towards granting autocephaly (independence) to the Orthodox Church in Ukraine, to reestablish a stauropegion (church body ruled directly by the Ecumenical Patriarch) in Kiev, to revoke the legal binding of the letter of 1686 which led to the Russian Orthodox Church establishing jurisdiction over the Ukrainian Church, and to lift the excommunications which affected clergy and faithful of two unrecognized Ukrainian Orthodox churches. Those two churches, the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC) and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Kiev Patriarchate (UOC-KP), were competing with the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) (UOC-MP) and were considered "schismatics" (illegally segregated groups) by the Patriarchate of Moscow, as well as by the other Orthodox churches.
Doctor in theology Cyrill Govorun of the UOC-MP argued that the break of communion between the churches of Moscow and Constantinople did not constitute a real schism (like the schism of 1054), but a "slit". The American Protestant magazine Christianity Today called the break of communion between the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Russian Orthodox Church the "biggest schism since 1054" and "the biggest Christian schism since the Protestant Reformation"
On 12 November the first priest was sent by Patriarch Kirill to Istanbul (Turkey) "at the request of Russian believers who live in Turkey". On 14 December the Ecumenical Patriarchate published an announce of Metropolitan Sotirios of Pisidia in which he condemned the plans of the ROC priest to celebrate a mass in Belek (Turkey) with the help of the Russian consulate and without the permission of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, which has canonical jurisdiction over this territory.
On 26 November, Metropolitan Hilarion declared that the ROC would send a priest in South Korea and declared the plans "to create a full-fledged parish", because until the 1950s in Korea was a Russian Spiritual Mission whose faithful were in the 1950s transferred to the Ecumenical Patriarchate's jurisdiction. The priest was scheduled to be sent by the end of the year.
On 27 November 2018 the Ecumenical Patriarchate decided to dissolve the Archdiocese of Russian Orthodox churches in Western Europe (AROCWE) "thereby entrusting its faithful to the Hierarchs of the Ecumenical Throne in Europe". This decision was made without any official requests from the hierarchs of the diocese and caused confusion. On 15 December Pastoral Assembly of AROCWE decided to call an extraordinary General Assembly, scheduled for 23 February 2019. This General Assembly will discuss the decision of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to dissolve the AROCWE. ROC officials responded with a reminder of the 2003 proposal of Alexy II to move to the Moscow Patriarchate.
On 28 December 2018, in response to the Ecumenical Patriarchate's actions in Ukraine, the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church decided to create "a Patriarchal Exarchate in Western Europe with the center in Paris", "a diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church in Spain and Portugal with the center in Madrid" as well as "a Patriarchal Exarchate in South-East Asia with the center in Singapore."
On 7 January 2019, during the festive Christmas liturgy in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior, Patriarch Kirill of the ROC did not mention a single name of the primates of other local Orthodox Churches, with whom the ROC is in canonical communion. Such commemoration (in Greek, it is called "diptych") is demanded by a church charter and is a centuries-old tradition. In contrast to this, the head of the newly created Orthodox Church of Ukraine, Metropolitan Epiphanius, solemnly listed the names of all the primates, including the "Most Holy Patriarch of Russia Kirill".
On 13 February 2019, bishop Guedeon (Kharon) of the UOC-MP, who had went to the USA to complain about pressures made by the Ukrainian state against the UOC-MP, was arrested by the SBU when he came back to the Kiev airport for "promoting Russia’s military aggression against the country and holding a second passport, reportedly American." On 14 February, after having been interrogated during the night of 13 February, the bishop was sent back to the Frankfurt airport where he came from. Guedeon cannot enter on the territory of Ukraine for three years as he is being charged of "anti-Ukrainian activities". The bishop has also been stripped of his Ukrainian citizenship.
On 26 February, during the first 2019 session of the Holy synod of the Moscow Patriarchate, the Holy synod adopted a statement saying that the granting of the tomos by the Ecumenical Patriarchate "to the so-called “Orthodox church of Ukraine,” created artificially by a merger of two schismatic organizations, deepened the division between Orthodox Christians in Ukraine and worsened ever more considerably the inter-confessional relations." The ROC also blamed the action of the Ukrainian parliament regarding the UOC-MP.
- Russia: On 12 October 2018, the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, "held an operational meeting with the permanent members of the Security Council" (the Security Council of Russia) that discussed "a wide range of domestic and foreign policy issues, including the situation around the Russian Orthodox Church in Ukraine", according to Putin's press secretary Dmitry Peskov. On 31 January 2019, concerning Ukraine Putin declared that the Russian authorities "consider any interference in church affairs absolutely unacceptable." Putin added: "We have respected and will respect the independence of church affairs, especially in a neighboring sovereign country. And yet we reserve the right to respond and do all we can to protect human rights, including the right to freedom of religion".
- Ukraine: Ukraine's president, Petro Poroshenko, enthusiastically welcomed Constantinople's October decision, and presented the Ukrainian Church's independence as part of Ukraine's wider conflict with Russia, and Ukraine's desire to integrate with the West by joining the European Union and NATO. On 28 November 2018 Ukrainian President Poroshenko declared that the Kerch Strait incident was provoked by Russia in order to force Ukraine to declare martial law and therefore to prevent Ukraine from receiving its tomos of autocephaly.
- United States: The Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, urged all sides to respect the independence of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, reiterating the United States' "strong support for religious freedom and the freedom of members of religious groups".
- Belarus: the President of Belarus, the country in which the synod of the Russian Orthodox Church took place, met members of the synod of the Russian Orthodox Church on 15 October 2018 after the ROC's decision to sever communion with the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
- Montenegro: On 21 December 2018, the Montenegrin President said the State of Montenegro had the responsibility to consolidate the autocephaly of the unrecognized Montenegrin Orthodox Church.
Reactions of the Orthodox churches
Numerous Orthodox churches took position concerning the question of the canonical jurisdiction over Ukraine, whether before or after this schism.
The schism has its root in a dispute over who between the Patriarchate of Moscow and the Patriarchate of Constantinople has canonical jurisdiction over the See of Kyiv (Kiev) and, therefore, which patriarchate has canonical jurisdiction over the territory of Ukraine. "[T]he principal argument proposed [concerning the granting of the ecclesiastical status of autocephaly to Ukraine by the Ecumenical Patriarchate] is that Ukraine "constitutes the canonical territory of the Patriarchate of Moscow" and that, consequently, such an act on the part of the Ecumenical Patriarchate would comprise an "intervention" into a foreign ecclesiastical jurisdiction." The Patriarchate of Moscow's claim of canonical jurisdiction is based mostly on two documents: the Patriarchal and Synodal “Act” or “Letter of Issue” of 1686, and a 1686 Patriarchal Letter to the Kings of Russia. Both those documents are reproduced in the "Appendix" section of a study published by the Ecumenical Patriarch called The Ecumenical Throne and the Ukrainian Church – The Documents Speak. The Church of Constantinople claims the Church of Constantinople has canonical jurisdiction over the See of Kyiv and that the documents upon which the Russian Orthodox Church bases its claim of jurisdiction over said See of Kyiv do not support the ROC's claim.
On 1 July 2018, the Patriarch Bartholomew said that Constantinople was the Mother church of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine and declared that
Constantinople never ceded the territory of Ukraine to anyone by means of some ecclesiastical Act, but only granted to the Patriarch of Moscow the right of ordination or transfer of the Metropolitan of Kiev on the condition that the Metropolitan of Kiev should be elected by a Clergy-Laity Congress and commemorate the Ecumenical Patriarch. [It is written] in the Tomos of autocephaly, which was granted by the Mother Church [Constantinople] to the Church of Poland: "... original separation from our Throne of the Metropolis of Kiev and of the two Orthodox churches of Lithuania and Poland, which depend on it, and their annexation to the Holy Church of Moscow, in no way occurred according to the binding canonical regulations, nor was the agreement respected concerning the full ecclesial independence of the Metropolitan of Kiev, who bears the title of Exarch of the Ecumenical Throne..."
The ROC considers this argument "groundless".
Ecumenical Patriarchate's claims
The Ecumenical Patriarchate issued a document authored by various clerics and theologians called The Ecumenical Throne and the Ukrainian Church – The Documents Speak. This document analyzes canonical historic documents (namely the Patriarchal and Synodal "Act" or "Letter of Issue" of 1686 and the 1686 Patriarchal Letter to the Kings of Russia) to see if the claim over the See of Kyiv by the Patriarch of Moscow is canonical or not. The date of publication of this document is unknown, but the earliest online version can be found on 28 September 2018 on the website of the Greek Orthodox Archidiocese of America in PDF in English as well as in Greek. In September 2018, the Holy Orthodox Archdiocese of Italy and Malta issued a translation which was on 17 October published on the official Italian website of the Archdiocese of Russian Orthodox churches in Western Europe. The Ecumenical Throne and the Ukrainian Church was translated in Ukrainian as of 6 October 2018.
The Ecumenical Throne and the Ukrainian Church concludes that:
Through the autocratic abolition of the commemoration of the Ecumenical Patriarch by each Metropolitan of Kyiv, the de jure dependence of the Metropolis of Kyiv (and the Church of Ukraine) on the Ecumenical Patriarchate was arbitrarily rendered an annexation and amalgamation of Ukraine to the Patriarchate of Moscow.
All these events took place in a period when the Ecumenical Throne was in deep turmoil and incapable "on account of the circumstances of the time to raise its voice against such capricious actions" ... The Church of Ukraine never ceased to constitute de jure canonical territory of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. ...
The Ecumenical Patriarchate was always aware of this despite the fact that, "on account of the circumstances of the time", it tolerated the arbitrary actions by the Patriarchate of Moscow. ...
The Ecumenical Patriarchate is entitled and obliged to assume the appropriate maternal care for the Church of Ukraine in every situation where this is deemed necessary.
Constantin Vetochnikov, two PhD in theology, PhD in history and member of the Collège de France, who participated in Augustus 2016 to the 23rd International Congress of Byzantine Studies in Belgrade where he made a report on the subject of the transfer of the See of Kyiv, and who helped the Ecumenical Patriarchate on The Ecumenical Throne and the Ukrainian Church, declared on 27 December 2016 that the transfer of the See of Kyiv from the authority of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to the authority of the Russian Orthodox Church "never took place".
Later, Vetoshnikov made an analysis of the arguments of the Russian Orthodox Church. He pointed out that, according to the strict dogmatic approach (akribeia, ἀκρίβεια), the whole territory of Russia was originally subjected to the Ecumenical Patriarchate. After the Muscovy had gone into the schism in the XV century, it received autocephaly according to a more flexible approach (oikonomia, οἰκονομία) to heal this schism. The Metropolitan of Kiev at the same time remained within the jurisdiction of Constantinople. Then, also according to the oikonomia approach, the right to ordain Metropolitans of Kiev was transferred to the Patriarch of Moscow. This was not a change in the boundaries of the Moscow Patriarchate eparchy, as it was issued by a document of a lower level (ekdosis, ἐκδόσεως), which was used for various temporary solutions. For pastoral reasons, the Ecumenical Patriarchate subsequently did not assert its rights to this territory. But after the collapse of the Soviet Union there was a split among the Orthodox of Ukraine and the Russian Church for 30 years failed to overcome this split. And now, also for pastoral reasons, the Ecumenical Patriarchate was forced to act in accordance with the principle of akribeia, and so it decided to abolish the right to ordain Metropolitans of Kiev which had been earlier transferred to the Moscow Patriarchate in accordance with oikonomia.
Arguments against the Ecumenical Patriarchate's claims
On 20 August 2018, the pro-Moscow anonymous site Union of Orthodox Journalists analysed the Ecumenical Patriarchate's claim of jurisdiction over Ukraine and concluded the See of Kyiv had been transferred to the Patriarchate of Moscow. They added that even if the Ecumenical Patriarchate decided to abrogate the 1686 transfer, the territory covered in 1686 by the See of Kyiv's territory was "a far cry from the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of today" and covered less than half of Ukraine's current territory.
Metropolitan Hilarion, chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate's Department for External Church Relations, declared in an interview that Constantinople's plan to "grant Autocephaly to a part of the Russian Orthodox Church ... that once was subordinate to Constantinople ... runs counter to historic truth". His argument is that the entire territory of Ukraine has not been under Constantinople's jurisdiction for 300 years because the Kiev metropolis that was incorporated into the Moscow Patriarchate in 1686 was much smaller (it did not include Donbass, Odessa and some other regions) and therefore does not coincide with the present-day territory of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. A similar argument was given on 13 November in a live phone interview to Radio Liberty by the Head of the Information and Education Department of the UOC-MP, Archbishop Clement.
Archbishop Clement of the UOC-MP considers that "to revoke the letter on the transfer of the Kiev Metropolis in 1686 is the same as to cancel the decisions of the Ecumenical Councils of the 4th or 7th centuries."
On 8 November the pro-Moscow anonymous website Union of Orthodox Journalists analyzed the same documents as The Ecumenical Throne and the Ukrainian Church (the Patriarchal and Synodal "Act" or "Letter of Issue" of 1686 and the 1686 Patriarchal Letter to the Kings of Russia) and concluded that the See of Kiev had been "completely transferred to the jurisdiction of the Russian Church in 1686".
Possibility of a pan-Orthodox synaxis on the question of Ukraine
The possibility of a pan-Orthodox synaxis (consultative assembly or conference) has been raised before and after the official break of communion.
On 29 September 2018, Alexander Volkov, the press secretary of the Patriarch of Moscow, declared that the local Orthodox churches may initiate a pan-Orthodox Synaxis on the issue of granting autocephaly to the Church in Ukraine, however the problem was that the convening such a synaxis is "a prerogative of the First among the Equals, that is, the Ecumenical Patriarch". Volkov noted that
Others [sic] forms [of pan-Orthodox synaxis] exist, too [...]
There are the elders of the Church who can take this task upon themselves. [...] If you look at the Diptychs [the table specifying the order of commemorating the Primates of Orthodox Churches – TASS], the next in line [after the Ecumenical Patriarch – TASS] is the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Alexandria. Or else, there is the so-called synaxis of the eldest Patriarchs – of Alexandria, Jerusalem and Antioch
Thus far, Patriarch John X of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch, Patriarch Irinej of the Serbian Orthodox Church, Archbishop Chrysostomos II of the Church of Cyprus, the Polish Orthodox Church primate Metropolitan Sawa (Hrycuniak), the Orthodox Church in America primate Metropolitan Tikhon,[d] Archbishop Anastasios, primate of the Albanian Orthodox Church, three hierarchs of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church (Metropolitans Gabriel of Lovech, John of Varna and Veliki Preslav, and Daniel of Vedin), and the holy synod of the Orthodox Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia have expressed their desire for a pan-Orthodox synaxis or pan-Orthodox council over the question of Ukraine in various statements. On 12 November 2018, the synod of the Serbian Orthodox Church published a communiqué in which they requested the convocation of a Pan-Orthodox Synod.
On 7 November, answering the question "Who could, for instance, convene a Pan-Orthodox Council and chair it?", Metropolitan Hilarion declared in an interview, which was published on the official website of the ROC Department for External Church Relations, that it was "obvious" that the Ecumenical Patriarch could not chair a Pan-Orthodox Council since "the most important problems in the Orthodox world are linked with precisely his [Ecumenical Patriarch] anti-canonical activity".
On 4 December, in an interview, when asked about the fact that convoking a pan-Orthodox council was "according to the canons" a prerogative of the Ecumenical Patriarch, Metropolitan Hilarion replied:
which canons ? [...] I believe those canons do not exist, the Ecumenical councils were not convoked by the Ecumenical Patriarch, they were convoked by the emperor. The fact the Patriarch of Constantinople has been given the right to convey councils in the 20th century is the result of a consensus reached by the local Orthodox churches. It is not at a personal initiative that the council is convoked, but only with the consent of all the local churches. We had, until recently, the first among equals, that is the Patriarch of Constantinople, who convoked the councils in the name [...] of the local Orthodox churches. Now, the unifiying element is no more the Patriarchate of Constantinople which, so to speak, autodestroyed itself. It is its decision. [...] We have to think about the future: who will convoke the councils, will it be the Patriarch of Alexandria, or another Patriarch, or else we will generally not have a council? Whatever. The Patriarch of Constantinople, as long as he stays in schism, even if he convokes a council the Russian Orthodox Church will not take part in it.
In 2019, the Ecumenical Patriarch declared, in a letter to Patriarch John X of Antioch, that he (the Ecumenical Patriarch) would not convene a pan-Orthodox council on the question of Ukraine.
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