Kiev, October 19, 2018
The Patriarchate of Constantinople’s policy towards Macedonia is inconsistent with its policy already being implemented in Ukraine, Archpriest Nikolai Danilevich, Deputy Head of the Department for External Church Relations of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, said in a recent interview with the Union of Orthodox Journalists.
Answering the question why the Ecumenical Patriarchate is interfering in the affairs of the Ukrainian Church while refusing to resolve the issue of the schismatic Macedonian “Church,” Fr. Nikolai noted the double standard being employed by the Patriarchate.
“This saga with Ukrainian autocephaly began parallel with the possibility of granting autocephaly to the Church of Macedonia, and our media and Greek media have written about it,” Fr. Nikolai explained.
After having appealed to the Bulgarian Church for help in regulating their canonical status last November, the Macedonian Church then appealed to the Ecumenical Patriarchate in May. Constantinople initially responded that it would resolve the issue as the Mother Church of the Balkans.
Then His All-Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew announced in September that he would not grant autocephaly to the Macedonians as long as they use the title “Macedonian,” which offends his Greek sensibilities. Now the Patriarchate says it will not grant autocephaly because Macedonia is the canonical territory of the Serbian Church—although such concerns did not prevent the Patriarchate interfering in the canonical territory of the Ukrainian Church.
“At the Church of Constantinople’s Synaxis, Patriarch Bartholomew asked to convey that he will never recognize the ‘Skopje Church.’ He understands that if he recognizes it, he will become a stranger and have opposition in Greece. Moreover, he would also quarrel with the Serbian Church. As an ethnic Greek, he understands the sensitivity of this issue,” Fr. Nikolai continued.
The territory that today makes up Macedonia was transferred by the Ecumenical Patriarchate to the Church of Serbia in 1922, Fr. Nikolai notes, but not by a tomos, but a praxis—a document that can be revoked. It was a praxis that also transferred the Kiev Metropolia to the Russian Church in 1686.
“For some reason, Patriarch Bartholomew annuls the 1686 document, but not the 1922 document, although the situation is absolutely identical,” the Deputy Head explained.
“The problem with the Greek Church and the problem with the Serbian Church has placed Patriarch Bartholomew in a situation where he has to fight on three fronts, but not even the Ecumenical Patriarch can fight on three fronts at the same time,” Fr. Nikolai stated.
Furthermore, as Fr. Nikolai explained, the Macedonian Church has even more of a right to autocephaly because the people there are united in their desire, whereas Ukrainian Orthodoxy is divided into three camps, and a minority of the people are interested in autocephaly.
“But we see a double standard, political interference, and a definite inconsistency in the actions of the Patriarchate of Constantinople,” the Ukrainian Church rep summarized.
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