Ecumenical Patriarch: “Constantinople never ceded the territory of Ukraine to anyone”

Constantinople, July 3, 2018

Photo: Photo:
In a move that is sure to ruffle some feathers, His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople has declared that the Ukrainian Church is, in fact, still within his canonical jurisdiction.

The patriarch again broached the topic of the ongoing schism in Ukrainian Orthodoxy in an address following the 40-day memorial for Metropolitan Evangelos of Perge on Sunday, July 1, 2018, at the Patriarchal Church of St. George in Constantinople, emphasizing the patriarchate’s desire to heal the schism.

As the website of the Ecumenical Patriarchate reports, Pat. Bartholomew began by stating his desire to see the problems in Ukraine come to a peaceable conclusion, given Constantinople’s historical role as the Mother Church for Kievan Rus’: “For, as the Mother Church, it is reasonable to desire the restoration of unity for the divided ecclesiastical body in Ukraine, a faithful population of tens of millions, baptized and enlightened directly through the providence and missionary activity of our Ecumenical Throne.”

His All-Holiness has expressed such a sentiment in the past, and all Churches are in agreement with the historical role of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the desire to overcome the schism.

However, the patriarch stepped into controversial territory when he declared that the Ukrainian Church actually belongs to his canonical jurisdiction even today:

Let us not forget that Constantinople never ceded the territory of Ukraine to anyone by means of some ecclesiastical Act, but only granted to the Patriarch of Moscow the right of ordination or transfer of the Metropolitan of Kiev on the condition that the Metropolitan of Kiev should be elected by a Clergy-Laity Congress and commemorate the Ecumenical Patriarch.

As evidence, he pointed to the tomos of autocephaly given to the Polish Orthodox Church in 1924 by the Ecumenical Patriarchate which states that the separation of the Metropolitanate of Kiev from the Ecumenical Throne “in no way occurred according to the binding canonical regulations.”

His assertion is interesting, given that the patriarch recently told a delegation from the canonical Ukrainian Church that he wants to help, but not to interfere in the affairs of another Local Church.

That Ukraine belongs to Constantinople is sure to come as a surprise to the Ukrainian Church itself, which recently stated that it is perfectly capable of carrying out its evangelical mission as an autonomous body within the Moscow Patriarchate, and to the Russian Church, which has been the spiritual home of the Ukrainian Church since 1685.

Moreover, the Russian Church had already rejected such claims when His Eminence Metropolitan John (Zizioulas) of Pergamon presented the theory at the recent meeting between hierarchs of Ukraine and Constantinople.

Addressing the Ukrainian delegation at the June 21 meeting in Constantinople, Met. John put forth the theory that Kiev was never truly transferred to the Russian Church, and that the relationship they did have was temporary in nature, as Interfax-Religion reports.

His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev) of Volokolamsk has responded that there is no documentary evidence for such a claim:

We have recently done a lot of work in the archives and have found all the available documentation of these events—900 pages of documents in both Greek and Russian. They absolutely clearly show that the Metropolitanate of Kiev was included in the composition of the Moscow Patriarchate by decision of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, and that a temporary nature to this decision is nowhere stipulated; no timeframe was set.

Met. Hilarion added that the Patriarchate of Constantinople has never challenged Kiev’s inclusion in the Russian Church over the past 300 years.

He also noted that the territory of the Metropolitanate of Kiev was much smaller at the time that it was transferred from Constantinople to Moscow, including neither Odessa, nor Donetsk, nor Crimea. “Accordingly, the current Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate is a completely different territory than the one that was then appended.”

Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and Ukraine’s two schismatic bodies await a response to their appeal to the Ecumenical Patriarchate for a tomos of autocephaly for a Local Ukrainian Church.

Follow us on Facebook!


to our mailing list

* indicates required