Constantinople, October 1, 2018
His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia traveled to Constantinople on August 31 in an attempt to have a fraternal discussion with His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew about the situation in Ukraine.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, the Ukrainian Parliament, and schismatic Ukrainian hierarchs appealed to the Ecumenical Patriarchate in April to create a new Ukrainian Church and grant it autocephaly. The patriarchate then publicly announced that it would initiate discussions on the matter with the other Local Orthodox Churches.
It was not yet publicly known that Constantinople had in fact already decided to grant autocephaly, but Pat. Bartholomew and other Constantinople hierarchs had begun publicly stating that Ukraine was not the canonical territory of the Russian Orthodox Church, as everyone believed, but was in fact under the omophorion of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, thus strongly hinting at their desire to grant autocephaly in Ukraine.
As Archpriest Nikolai Balashov, the deputy head of the Department for External Church Relations of the Russian Orthodox Church, recently revealed to RIA-Novosti, Pat. Kirill had proposed to the Ecumenical Patriarchate “to hold a meeting of scholars and hierarchs at which it would be possible to discuss the historical documents concerning the question of the Kiev Metropolis’ inclusion into the Moscow Patriarchate in 1686.”
However, as we know now, that proposal was rejected, and a week later, Constantinople appointed two exarch bishops of Kiev, tasked with negotiating with Ukraine’s two schismatic bodies, in an effort to create a united church. This move has been loudly criticized by the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church and the Russian Orthodox Church, as well as hierarchs of several other Orthodox Churches. In response, the Russian Church has ceased commemoration of the Ecumenical Patriarch and concelebration with hierarchs of the Ecumenical See.
Constantinople claims that the historical documents demonstrate that Kiev was only temporarily moved under the umbrella of the Moscow Patriarchate, while the Russian Church says the documents say no such thing. The Russian Church is still hoping to have a discussion on the documents before the Ecumenical Patriarchate finally grants autocephaly.
“I hope that thoughtful discussion will help the further development of the dialogue on the Ukrainian Church question, which, of course, should take into account not only the present situation around Orthodoxy in Ukraine, but also its history,” Fr. Nikolai said.
A serious discussion is very important for the Russian Church, he added, “because the Constantinople Church is proposing to make a decision of huge importance for the entire Orthodox Church on unreliable historical grounds.”
Russian hierarchs, clergy, and academics have studied the documentary evidence in-depth and have also found that there are a number of documents not previously introduced into academic circulation, including sources in Greek and Turkish, Fr. Nikolai explained.
“The Russian Church is ready for this discussion,” Fr. Nikolai assured.
As previously reported, the Russian Orthodox Orthodox Encyclopedia Church-Academic Center has begun posting historical documents concerning the reunification of the Metropolis of Kiev with the Russian Orthodox Church in 1685-1686 and is completing work on the publication of newly-rediscovered documents.
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