Serbian Church refused to participate in Constantinople’s celebration of 800th anniversary of Serbian autocephaly

Belgrade, October 16, 2019


This year marks the 800th anniversary of the autocephaly of the Serbian Orthodox Church, which has been festively celebrated both in Serbia and abroad where there are Serbian parishes.

However, the consequences of the Patriarchate of Constantinople’s actions in Ukraine continue to reverberate devastatingly throughout the Church, beyond Ukraine and Russia, and the Serbian Church’s celebrations were not as festive as would be expected for such a momentous anniversary.

The Serbian hierarchs decided months ago not to officially invite delegations from the other Local Orthodox Churches to the celebrations, so as to avoid the awkward situation where Moscow and Constantinople representatives would not be able to serve together or where only one of the two would be invited.

And, according to a source within the Serbian Church, the Serbian hierarchs also recently refused to send a delegation to the celebration of their autocephaly that Constantinople offered to host, due to their strong stance against Patriarch Bartholomew’s invasion of the canonical territory of the Ukrainian Church under His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and All Ukraine.

The Serbian Church has drawn the Patriarch of Constantinople’s ire due to its refusal to recognize the schismatic “Orthodox Church of Ukraine” created by Constantinople last year.

Asked how Pat. Bartholomew responded to the refusal to attend celebrations in Istanbul, the source stated: “So far with silence. But our Serbian bishops know that’s not the end.”

Now there is serious talk and worry among the Serbian hierarchs that Pat. Bartholomew will try to take back Kosovo and other Serbian Church territories that were added after 1879, when the Patriarchate of Constantinople issued a new tomos of autocephaly for the Metropolitanate of Belgrade, which was limited to only a part of modern-day Serbia.

Recall that the Holy Synod of Constantinople suddenly decided last October to revoke the 1686 document that transferred the Kiev Metropolis to the Russian Church, thus claiming all of Ukraine for itself, though, it must be noted that the boundaries of the Kiev Metropolis in 1686 do not correspond to modern-day Ukraine. This is a glaring issue that Constantinople has never addressed.

Thus, there is a growing fear among the Serbian hierarchs that Pat. Bartholomew will turn his gaze to them next.

The hierarchs of the “Macedonian Orthodox Church,” a major schism from the Serbian Church, openly declare that they want to receive a tomos of autocephaly from Constantinople and are quite certain that it will happen. The much smaller schismatic “Montenegrin Orthodox Church” is also seeking autocephaly from Constantinople, though Pat. Bartholomew has declared that they will not receive a tomos.

However, as the world has seen with the Ukrainian situation, Pat. Bartholomew is not above changing his mind on such major issues.

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