Patriarch Irinej of Serbia: autocephaly requires consent of all Churches

Belgrade, October 11, 2018

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The head of the Serbian Orthodox Church, His Holiness Patriarch Irinej, has sent two letters to His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, advocating that the provision of a new autocephaly is possible only with the consent of all local Orthodox Churches, reports Sedmitza.

His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev), the head of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations, explained to journalists the content of the letters:

“In these letters, it was very clearly stated that the granting of autocephaly cannot be the prerogative the Patriarchate of Constantinople alone, that new autocephalies must be created only with the consent of all the Local Orthodox Churches, as the Holy Synod of Antioch also said in its recent statement.”

Pat. Irinej also warned the Patriarchate of Constantinople against making such major decisions unilaterally, because “it will not bring harmony and peace to the Ukrainian land, but, on the contrary, will cause new divisions and new schisms.”

The Ecumenical Patriarchate used to hold this understanding as well. In its official position paper on autocephaly and autonomy submitted in advance of the October 1993 meeting of the Pre-Conciliar Commission, which ultimately adopted the text entitled, “Autocephaly and the Way in Which it is to be Proclaimed,” the Ecumenical Patriarchate writes:

49. Consequently, there is only one materially positive and applicable manner of proclaiming a Church autocephalous: it is the procedure observed until now, which does not remove the ecclesiologically incommutable right that all the Orthodox Churches have together to give their consent and accord, but rather assures the normal course of things in everything touching upon the administrative organization and evolution within the Orthodox Church.

“Autocephaly and the Way in Which it is to be Proclaimed” teaches the same method for granting of autocephaly.

The Serbian Holy Synod also expressed its support for the canonical Ukrainian Church at its April-May session, saying, “[T]he Assembly expresses full solidarity, in co-suffering brotherly love, with the martyred sister Church in Ukraine, exposed to the harshest persecution by the current regime in Kiev.”

Pat. Irinej also expressed his own conviction at an event in Moscow in May: “Anyone who helps the Ukrainian schismatics is an enemy not only of the Russian Church and the Russian world, but also of all Orthodox Slavic nations and the entire Orthodox world.”

He also affirmed, “The Serbian Church fully supports the unity and integrity of the Russian Orthodox Church and strongly condemns the actions of the Uniates and schismatics who tear apart the robe of Christ at the baptismal font of Kiev, selling their people to the enemies of faith. Their end will be according to their deeds (2 Cor. 11: 15).”

The Ukrainian government-backed website Mirotvorets responded by branding the patriarch an “enemy of Ukraine.”

His Grace Irinej of Bačka of the Serbian Church has also strongly warned Constantinople against its ongoing unilateral actions in Ukraine.

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