Constantinople, September 24, 2018
Addressing the Ukrainian Consul General in Istanbul after the Sunday Divine Liturgy in the Church of St. Phocas in Constantinople, His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew promised he would soon grant autocephaly for the creation of a new autocephalous church in Ukraine, “because that is its right.”
A video of the patriarch’s speech was posted on the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s Facebook page.
The patriarch also addressed a Czech theologian who attended the Liturgy, saying that the Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia is the newest of the autocephalous Churches, as the Patriarchate of Constantinople granted it autocephaly in 1998, and now it is “under the love and protection of our patriarchate.”
Note that the Russian Orthodox Church granted autocephaly to the Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia in 1951, which was only recognized by the Ecumenical Patriarchate in 1998.
The Ecumenical Patriarchate showed its “love and protection” in 2014 by refusing to recognize the canonically-elected Metropolitan Rostislav as the head of the Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia. The Holy Synod of the Czech Church voted for Bishop Joachim of Hodonin to be the new primate, following the resignation of His Eminence Metropolitan Krystof, but, according to Church statutes, the Local Council of the Czech Church, the supreme doctrinal, constituent, administrative, and Church-canonical body of the Czech Church, instead elected Met. Rostislav by absolute majority.
The Ecumenical Patriarchate refused to recognize Met. Rostislav, instead recognizing His Eminence Metropolitan Simeon of Brno and Olomuc as canonical locum tenens. It was only after two years that Constantinople agreed to recognize Met. Rostislav, after forcing an apology from him for statements he made about the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
In May of this year, Met. Rostislav spoke against the politician-initiated appeal for autocephaly in Ukraine, saying that, “any participation of state officials in Church matters is unacceptable in a democratic society.”
“A schism, caused by man’s egotism, can be healed only through repentance and returning to the Church,” the primate noted. “The new autocephaly must be the result of a consensus.”
His Beatitude Archbishop Joachim of Beroun of the Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia has also expressed strong support for His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and All Ukraine, the canonical primate in Ukraine, saying, “Strengthen in all his trials, O God, the much-suffering and dear bishop, pastor, and our friend His Beatitude Onuphry and all his flock!” and, “Onuphry, the Metropolitan of Kiev and All Ukraine is the best of the living bishops. He is adorned with humility, love, forgiveness, and wisdom. Always in prayer, he is wholly dedicated to God and to service to the people. He brings comfort, hope, and joy everywhere. Throughout many trials, he has always stood like a rock. Knowing him is the greatest spiritual gift for me.”
Continuing his speech, the Ecumenical Patriarch added, “Now Ukraine’s turn has come, which will receive autocephalous status soon, I hope, despite the existing opposition, and it will happen, because it is its right.”
His All-Holiness also stressed that the Church of Constantinople is not afraid of any threats: “I recently said in a sermon that the Ecumenical Patriarchate does not threaten, nor is it afraid of threats, but steadily fulfills its mission according to the holy canons.”
Presumably the patriarch was referring to the Moscow Patriarchate’s statement that it would be forced to break Eucharistic communion with Constantinople if the latter finally granted autocephaly in Ukraine. Thus far, the Holy Synod of the Russian Church resolved that His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia would not commemorate Pat. Bartholomew in the Divine services and that Russian hierarchs would not concelebrate with Constantinople hierarchs, but not yet to break communion.
In a recent interview, Constantinople hierarch His Eminence Archbishop Job (Getcha) characterized Moscow’s “threat” as an “abuse of the Eucharist,” saying, “It is necessary to stop eucharistic communion because of important, dogmatic reasons, and not because of whims.”
However, Abp. Job’s response to Moscow is curious, given that on April 30, 2004, “Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople announced the breach of the eucharistic communion with Archbishop Christodoulos, Primate of the Church of Greece. This unprecedented decision came as a result of a lengthy dispute between the two Churches over control of dioceses in northern Greece.”
The Ecumenical Patriarch then added in his speech that these rights it is claiming to fulfill in Ukraine were granted by the Ecumenical Councils and would be fulfilled, “In the case with Ukraine and wherever else necessary.”
It is known that the schismatic “Macedonian Orthodox Church,” which is rightly the canonical territory of the Serbian Orthodox Church, also appealed to the Ecumenical Patriarchate for autocephaly. However, in his view, the “Macedonian Church” does not have the right to autocephaly because Pat. Bartholomew does not like its name. He has stated that he will not grant it autocephaly as long as it uses “Macedonia” or any derivative thereof its name.
Follow us on Facebook!