New Patriarch of Serbia: Constantinople acted against Church tradition in Ukraine

Belgrade, March 3, 2021

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His Holiness Patriarch Porfirije gave his first major interview as the primate of the Serbian Church yesterday, discussing a number of pressing issues for the Serbian Church and global Orthodoxy, including the ongoing Ukrainian Church crisis.

Responding to the RTS correspondent’s statement that the Serbian Church has sided with the Russian Church in the dispute with Constantinople over Ukraine, His Holiness noted that, rather, they stand with the good canonical order of the Church.

“Here is what is important to say on this topic, because our Church is often defined as a Church that sometimes supports, on the one hand, Moscow, and on the other hand, Constantinople. We are an autocephalous Church that has its own internal order. All Orthodox Churches are our Sister Churches,” the Patriarch said.

“And in this case, in principle, we are always on the side of the canons and on the side of order,” he noted, echoing the stance of his predecessor, His Holiness Patriarch Irinej, as expressed two years ago.

“We believe that at the moment, when it comes to the actions of the Patriarchate of Constantinople in Ukraine, they do not agree with the tradition of the Church, and in this sense, if you want, we can say that we are on the side of the Russian Church. But in fact, we are on the side of order and on the side of the canons. And in this case, the Russian Church has really been deprived of its rights,” the Serbian primate explained.

He also noted that he is not aware of any pressure coming from Constantinople to recognize the Ukrainian schismatics.

His Holiness, then Metropolitan of Zagreb, also spoke about the crisis a year ago, saying the Ukrainian schismatics cannot even be considered members of the Church.

Several outlets earlier noted that although the schismatic Epiphany Dumenko was quick to congratulate the new Patriarch on his election, his name was not included in the Serbian Church’s report on well-wishes received from “the most important heads of the Orthodox Autocephalous and Autonomous Churches, religious dignitaries and representatives of states and important institutions.” The name of the canonical Ukrainian primate, His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and All Ukraine, was included in the report, however.

Asked in the new interview whether he was worried about the Ukraine precedent being used against the Serbian Church, in North Macedonia, Montenegro, Kosovo, or Croatia, Pat. Porfirije responded: “I’m no prophet, but still, I hope that actions such as we saw in Ukraine will not come to pass, because it’s become obvious that they caused great upheavals in relations between the Local Churches.”

“This will be a lesson that can sober everyone up. Of course, when problems arise, we should talk and leave it not to our time, but to God's time, so that order can be restored,” he emphasized.

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