The legalization of the schismatics in Ukraine will give rise to new schisms in the Orthodox world he believes.
Bačka, Serbia, September 25, 2018
Protest has been voiced within the Serbian Orthodox Church against the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s current interference in the affairs of another Local Orthodox Church, namely in Urkaine, which is the canonical territory of the Russian Orthodox Church.
In the view of His Grace Irinej of Bačka, the Ecumenical Patriarch’s status as first among equals does not justify his interference.
“The actions of Constantinople are explained and argued by the desire to fix schisms and restore the Church unity of the people of Ukraine on the basis of the recently formulated doctrine that as the Ecumenical throne and historical mother for the Slavic Churches, the Church of Constantinople has the right to make decisions on its own right and by its own initiative, neglecting the previously existing borders of the autocephalous Local Churches and regardless of their position or resistance. Nevertheless, this teaching absolutely does not stand up to criticism,” Bp. Irinej wrote in a letter published on the site of the Department for External Church Relations of the Russian Orthodox Church.
The Serbian hierarch went on to explain that according to the canonical structure of the Orthodox Church, the primacy of the Patriarch of Constantinople is not the same as the primacy of the Pope.
“According to the well-known 34th Apostolic rule, a synaxis without the first hierarch is invalid, but the first without the synaxis cannot exist. From this it follows that the Ecumenical Patriarch has no right to discuss and even moreso to make decisions about the status of the Ukrainian Church, and, accordingly, any other Church in itself, outside a council, independently,” Bp. Irinej explained.
He also pointed to the canonical impermissibility of one Orthodox Church removing an anathema against schismatics imposed by another Orthodox Church.
“Everything is just the opposite: Ordinations, the transferal of clergy, the glorification of saints and the like on the one hand, as well as the removal of orders … the suspension from celebrating the services and other penances on the other hand, carried out in one Orthodox Church are automatically recognized and have force in all Churches without exception,” the Serbian hierarch explained.
According to him, following this principle means schismatics cannot be spoken to “on equal terms,” but must first repent and return to the unity of the Church, only after which will they have the right to put forward their demands.
If Ukrainian schismatics are legalized, Bp. Irinej believes, then schism will cease to be a mortal sin, but will become merely a simple mistake that has to be waited out and is, in the end, even rewarded with autocephaly. There are no such examples in the history of the Church, Bp. Irinej believes.
“Whether we like it or not, the barriers to a host of new schisms are being removed, and the Orthodox Church risks becoming a kind of vineyard without a fence, while irreparable harm will be done, along with the temptation of conscience and the loss of all trust in our Church,” the Bačka prelate said.
This is not the first time Bp. Irinej has spoken out against the actions of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. In May of last year, in a meeting with Archbishop Luke of Zaporozhye and Melitopol, Bp. Irinej stated that he had told the Ecumenical Patriarch in a personal conversation that were he to support “Patriarch” Philaret of the “Kiev Patriarchate,” it would lead the Church into a new schism, this time not between East and West, but within the East itself.
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