Recognizing Ukrainian Church would bring schism to Orthodox Christianity – Moscow
Russian clergy have urged the Patriarch of Constantinople against establishing an independent Ukrainian Orthodox Church, warning it will result in “dramatic deterioration” of situation in Ukraine as regular worshippers oppose it.
"The president of that country has said that, since Ukraine is an independent state, the church should be independent as well. However, ordinary believers do not want the unity with the Russian Orthodox Church to be broken, while the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church does not want autocephaly and has not asked for it,” Dr. Vladimir Legoida, the chief of the Moscow Patriarchate’s department for relations between the church and society, said Monday.
Legoida pointed out that Constantinople, which had signaled its intention to recognize the Ukrainian Orthodox Church as a separate entity back in April, flatly rejects any dialog on the issue with the Russian Orthodox Church.
All efforts by the Moscow Patriarchate to reach out to Constantinople in a bid to deter “what may turn to be irreparable” damage have been “to no avail so far,” Legoida lamented.
Arguing that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church should be separate because Ukraine is a sovereign country is flawed, since “the Russian Orthodox Church is not a church of the Russian Federation” but encompasses 15 self-governing churches with broad autonomy, Legoida said.
“It is not a corporation and not a hobby association and the canons are not something invented by humans to make their lives more comfortable,” he said. Until recently Constantinople abided by the same principle, Legoida noted, adding that the Russian clergy are “astonished” to see its turnaround.
By greenlighting Kiev’s request, Constantinople is not going to solve the schism that has plagued the Orthodox Church in Ukraine for years, but deepen the existing problems and create new ones, said Metropolitan Hilarion, head of the Russian Orthodox Church’s External Relations Department.
“The legitimization of the Ukrainian schism will not only deepen the schism in Ukraine but will also result in the schism of the entire Orthodox Christianity,” he said, adding that should the Ecumenical Patriarch recognize the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kiev Patriarchate as independent, the Moscow Patriarchate “will have no choice but to break off communion with Constantinople.”
The Metropolitan said that the August 31 visit by Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia to his colleague has not brought any fruit, accusing Constantinople of acting in “a mean and treacherous manner” in wake of what seemed to be “a civilized, polite and fraternal conversation.”
Most Orthodox clerics in Ukraine are consider themselves to be a part of the Russian Orthodox Church. However, the Ukraine government has recently reinvigorated its push for the Ukrainian Church’s autocephaly, with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko branding the Russian Church a “national security threat.”
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