Helsinki, November 8, 2018
The Finnish Orthodox Church has had to deny statements posted on the site of the President of Ukraine today claiming that the Finnish Church openly supports the push towards creating an autocephalous Church in Ukraine.
On a working visit to Finland, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko met with His Eminence Archbishop Leo of Finland yesterday.
The head of state’s site reports:
The Head of State thanked Archbishop Leo for the support of the Finnish Orthodox Church for the autocephaly of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. “It is important for us to know that your church supports us in this historically important process,” the President emphasized.
“Ukrainians have the right to create their own church, as Finns had 100 years ago,” the Primate of the Finnish Orthodox Church said.
However, as Finnish Church representative Deacon Vladimir Sokratilin told RIA-Novosti, the Finnish Church has made no official statement on the matter of autocephaly in Ukraine.
“Official position: We are following the development of the situation; we pray for the preservation of peace and unity in the Church,” he said, adding that the meeting between Poroshenko and Abp. Leo was closed and informal.
It is especially interesting that the Finnish Church does not want to be seen as explicitly supporting Ukrainian autocephaly despite being an autonomous Church within the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
The Finns do not have an autocephalous Church, as Abp. Leo’s alleged words on the Ukrainian site claim, althoguh they had requested autocephaly from Constantinople, but rather an autonomous Church—a discrepancy that further casts doubts on the report on Poroshenko’s site.
In a statement posted soon after the Russian Church broke communion with the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the bishops of the Finnish Church proclaimed that the Russian Church’s decision was sad and one-sided. However, they also affirmed that “The Orthodox Church of Finland is already ready to build constructive relations with the Russian Orthodox Church… We hope that, for example, cultural cooperation and activities not directly related to the liturgical life can continue with the Russian Orthodox Church and its members.”
The bishops also write: “We consider it necessary to emphasize the spirit of brotherly love and the need for regular dialogue at all levels of the spiritual life—both at the local and international levels. We hope that the patriarchs will resolve this issue in mutual negotiations and that relations will be normalized for all parties as soon as possible.”
This incident with the Finnish Church is not the first—previously, the Cypriot Church, the Georgian Church, and even the Roman Catholic Apostolic Nuncio in Ukraine have had to deny information spreading from Ukrainian state sources.
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