Bačka, Serbia, January 5, 2021
Far from resolving the Ukrainian ecclesiastical schism, the Patriarchate of Constantinople’s crude invasion of Ukrainian Church territory only deepened the schism and spread it out to the entire Orthodox world, believes His Grace Bishop Irinej of Bačka, one of the most authoritative hierarchs of the Serbian Orthodox Church.
By non-canonically “rehabilitating” the schismatics of the “Kiev Patriarchate” and the “Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church,” Pat. Bartholomew and the Holy Synod of Constantinople only made matters worse for the entire Church, His Grace says in a new interview with the Serbian outlet Pechat.
Referring to Constantinople’s “neopapism,” he noted that “the recent schisms have been transferred from the Ukrainian land to the entire Orthodox world.”
In response to Constantinople’s invasion of Ukrainian Church territory, the Moscow Patriarchate was forced to break communion with Constantinople, as well as with those hierarchs of other Local Churches that recognize “the unrepentant schismatic Epiphany—or rather, the citizen Dumenko.” The fault for this terrible tragedy lies with Constantinople, Bp. Irinej affirms.
On the other hand, the primate of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church, the primate of the canonical Orthodox Church, is “respected and recognized by the Local Orthodox Churches, accompanied by more than a hundred canonical bishops, more than 15,000 priests and monastics, and tens of millions of believers.”
Constantinople has caused schisms between Local Churches and divisions within Local Churches, as is evidenced by the differences between bishops and theologians in the Churches of Greece and Cyprus, the Serbian hierarch emphasized.
On the other hand, the Serbian Church holds “a principled position of unconditional loyalty to the centuries-old canonical order of the Orthodox Church, which no one has the right to play with.”
Unfortunately, those who oppose the Serbian Church’s stance simply do not understand Orthodoxy: “The fact that some people interpret this principled position as joining blocs is problem for their conscience and their understanding of the Church.”
In general, the Serbian Church is not against anyone personally, but against all actions that threaten or violate Orthodox Church unity, His Grace said.
Bishop Irinej has addressed Constantinople’s Ukraine crisis many times over the past few years.
Even before Pat. Bartholomew and the Patriarchate began to actively work on creating the schismatic “Orthodox Church of Ukraine” in 2018, Bp. Irinej had already warned Pat. Bartholomew about the disaster that would come from recognizing “Patriarch” Philaret Denisenko and the other schismatics. Unfortunately, the Patriarch lacked the humility to heed the Serbian hierarch’s call, and Bp. Irinej’s words have come true.
In September 2018, Bp. Irinej explained that Constantinople’s claim to the right to act anywhere unilaterally “absolutely does not stand up to criticism.”
In November of that year, he expressed dismay over why Constantinople is so enamored with Ukrainian schismatics but ignores the canonical Church. Unfortunately, in the two years since then, Constantinople has only hardened in its disdain for Met. Onuphry and the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
In December of that year, Bp. Irinej said Pat. Bartholomew has made the greatest mistake in the history of the Patriarchate of Constantinople.
In March 2019, Bp. Irinej explained that the Serbian Church maintains communion with Constantinople for the time being only out of economia.