Constantinople, April 24, 2018
The Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate has released a communiqué from its Thursday-Friday regular session, stating that, as Ukraine’s “true Mother Church,” it has decided to begin a dialogue and coordination with its sister autocephalous Orthodox Churches on the matter of creating an autocephalous Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
The statement comes in response to Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s personal appeal to His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew for a united, autocephalous Ukrainian Orthodox Church. The appeal was sent with the backing of the Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine’s unicameral parliament, and the hierarchs of Ukraine’s two schismatic Orthodox confessions, the “Kiev Patriarchate” and the “Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church.”
The Ecumenical Patriarchate’s statement reads:
In accordance with the Divine and Sacred Canons, as well as century-old ecclesiastical order and Holy Tradition, the Ecumenical Patriarchate concerns itself with the preservation of Pan-Orthodox unity and the care for the Orthodox Churches throughout the world—especially of the Ukrainian Orthodox Nation that has received the salvific Christian faith and holy baptism from Constantinople. Thus, as its true Mother Church, it examined matters pertaining to the ecclesiastical situation in Ukraine, as done in previous synodal sessions, and having received from ecclesiastical and civil authorities—representing millions of Ukrainian Orthodox Christians—a petition that requests the bestowal of autocephaly, decided to closely communicate and coordinate with its sister Orthodox Churches concerning this matter.
President Poroshenko has stated that ideally, all Orthodox Churches, including the Russian Orthodox Church, would unite in agreement to grant an autocephalous Church to Ukraine.
“This is the only way to clean itself at least somehow from the anger and sins committed by Russian military, propagandists and sometimes, unfortunately, Russian priests on the territory of Ukraine,” Poroshenko emphasized, and adding that no one, including His Holiness Patriarch Kirill has the right to veto a decision of the Ecumenical Patriarch, UKRInform reports.
Speaking to the anti-Russian motivation of the appeal, President Poroshenko characterized the push for an independent Ukrainian Church as a matter of national security. A message on the president’s official site states that “This is a matter of national security and of our defense in a hybrid war, because the Kremlin views the Russian Orthodox Church as one of the key instruments of influence on Ukraine. Therefore, I am very determined to act in this matter, and to oppose all who will stand in the way of Ukrainian national interests.”
Opposition Bloc parliamentarian deputies and others have opposed Poroshenko’s incursion into ecclesiastical matters and sent their own appeal to Patriarch Bartholomew to not support the Ukrainian president’s initiative. A statement from the Ukrainian Orthodox Church also emphasizes that the Ukrainian state has no right to be taking such actions, as the nation’s constitution stipulates a separation of Church and state.
Archpriest Nikolai Danilevich, the Deputy Head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church’s Department for External Church Relations, has commented on his personal Facebook page that, inasmuch as the Ecumenical Patriarchate characterizes itself as bearing the responsibility for pan-Orthodox unity, it will therefore not take any steps that would disrupt this unity, and therefore, “the faithful of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church can be calm.”
The primates and hierarchs of the other Local Orthodox Churches throughout the world have continually spoken up in defense of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, and against the nationalistic schismatics who divided the Church and people against one another.
Most recently, His Beatitude Theophilos III of Jerusalem shared his view that God chose His Eminence Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev to overcome the schism in Ukrainian Orthodoxy.
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