Moscow, September 7, 2018
The website of the Ecumenical Patriarch Permanent Delegation to the World Council of Churches has announced that the Ecumenical Patriarchate has sent legates to the Ukraine:
“The Chief Secretariat of the Holy and Sacred Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate announced on 7 September 2018 that within the framework of the preparations for the granting of autocephaly to the Orthodox Church in Ukraine, the Ecumenical Patriarchate has appointed as its Exarchs in Kiev His Excellency Archbishop Daniel of Pamphilon from the United States, and His Grace Bishop Ilarion of Edmonton from Canada, both of whom are serving the Ukrainian Orthodox faithful in their respective countries under the Ecumenical Patriarchate.”
It is still unclear just how the Ecumenical Patriarchate intends to structure an autocephalous Church in Ukraine, given that the canonical, autonomous Church, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church under the Moscow Patriarchate, has not requested autocephaly, and is in no way party to this decision.
The President of the Ukaine, Petro Poroshenko, has requested the Ecumenical Patriarchate to grant autocephaly to a combination of schismatic groups that currently exist in the Ukraine. Far-right Ukrainian nationalists have already in the recent past felt empowered to seize churches belonging to the canonical Church, in an expression of anti-Russian aggression.
As OrthoChristian.com has reported repeatedly, twelve Local Orthodox Churches have formally expressed their disagreement with the EP’s intentions.
Other English language media such as the Greek Reporter and Ekathimerini have posted news on this announcement, but with factual mistakes. For example, the Greek Reporter states:
“The Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, that is considered as First among Equals in the Orthodox Christianity, announced that it will start the procedure for the official recognition of the Church of Ukraine as Autocephalous.
“The Ukrainian Church belongs to the Patriarchate of Moscow and has asked for a separation via the recognition of its Ecclesiastical independence by being granted the status of Autocephaly.”
The glaring mistake lies in the fact that the Ukrainian Church that belongs to the Moscow Patriarchate has not asked for independence (because it is already independent) or autocephaly, and especially not from the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
Ekathimerini makes the same mistake, and adds also that the EP is the sole authority that can grant autocephaly—a point that is disputed by other Local Churches.
Concerning the Moscow Patriarchate’s comment on this almost unbelievable action, the Russian website Interfax-Religion has quoted Vladimir Legoida, head of the Synodal Department for Church, Society and Media Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate, who posted on his social network page this evening:
“The appointment by the Patriarch of Constantinople of his episcopal representatives in Ukraine, without agreement with the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia and His Beatitude Metropolitan of Kiev and All Ukraine, is nothing but an unprecedentedly gross incursion into the Moscow Patriarchate's canonical territory. These actions cannot be left unanswered.”
Interfax has also reported an official statement on this action from the Department for External Church Relations of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church:
“The Ukrainian Orthodox Church sees the appointment of two Constantinople exarchs in Kiev as a massive violation of its canonical territory and said responsibility for any possible negative consequences of that will rest with the Constantinople Patriarchate.
"The Department for External Church Relations of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church is authorized to say with the blessing of his Beatitude Metropolitan Onufry of Kiev and All Ukraine that the appointment of exarchs is a massive violation of the canonical territory of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church," the DECR of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church said in a statement released on Friday evening.
“The document said this decision made by Constantinople contradicts the second rule of the Second Ecumenical (Constantinople) Assembly, which states that bishops cannot cross the limits of their regions without being invited.
“According to the statement, the appointment of exarchs in Kiev took place without the knowledge of Metropolitan Onufry of Kiev and All Ukraine "as the sole canonical bishop of the city of Kiev."
“In this regard, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church said that ‘responsibility for any possible negative consequences of that action rests with the Constantinople Patriarchate’.”