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Ecumenical Patriarchate grants Autonomy to Ukrainian Church, risks Moscow ties

The Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate has decided to terminate the effect of its tomos issued 300 years ago and entitling the Patriarch of Moscow to ordain the Metropolitan of Kyiv.

With this move, the Ecumenical Patriarchate takes the first step towards the Autonomy of the Ukrainian Church and strikes a huge blow to Moscow’s spiritual authority in the Orthodox world. ow.

The Patriarchate in Constantinople lifted the anathema (excommunication) of Patriarch Filaret of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Kyiv Patriarchate) and Metropolitan Macarius, Primate of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church and reinstated them as canonical hierarchs of the Orthodox Church.

“To revoke the legal binding of the Synodal Letter of the year 1686, issued for the circumstances of that time, which granted the right through oikonomia to the Patriarch of Moscow to ordain the Metropolitan of Kyiv, elected by the Clergy-Laity Assembly of his eparchy, who would commemorate the Ecumenical Patriarch as the First hierarch at any celebration, proclaiming and affirming his canonical dependence to the Mother Church of Constantinople,” the Ecumenical Patriarchate said in a statement published on its official website following the 3-day Synod meeting in Istanbul.

In a statement uploaded on its website, the Ecumenical Patriarchate said:

The Holy Synod discussed in particular and at length the ecclesiastical matter of Ukraine, in the presence of His Excellency Archbishop Daniel of Pamphilon and His Grace Bishop Hilarion of Edmonton, Patriarchal Exarchs to Ukraine, and following extensive deliberations decreed:

1) To renew the decision already made that the Ecumenical Patriarchate proceed to the granting of Autocephaly to the Church of Ukraine.

2) To reestablish, at this moment, the Stavropegion of the Ecumenical Patriarch in Kyiv, one of its many Stavropegia in Ukraine that existed there always.

3) To accept and review the petitions of appeal of Filaret Denisenko, Makariy Maletych and their followers, who found themselves in schism not for dogmatic reasons, in accordance with the canonical prerogatives of the Patriarch of Constantinople to receive such petitions by hierarchs and other clergy from all of the Autocephalous Churches. Thus, the above-mentioned have been canonically reinstated to their hierarchical or priestly rank, and their faithful have been restored to communion with the Church.

4) To revoke the legal binding of the Synodal Letter of the year 1686, issued for the circumstances of that time, which granted the right through oikonomia to the Patriarch of Moscow to ordain the Metropolitan of Kyiv, elected by the Clergy-Laity Assembly of his eparchy, who would commemorate the Ecumenical Patriarch as the First hierarch at any celebration, proclaiming and affirming his canonical dependence to the Mother Church of Constantinople.

5) To appeal to all sides involved that they avoid appropriation of Churches, Monasteries and other properties, as well as every other act of violence and retaliation, so that the peace and love of Christ may prevail.

Russian Orthodox Church

Prompt was the harsh response by the Patriarchate in Moscow that said “the Ecumenical Patriarchate crossed the red line.”

“The Ecumenical Patriarchate that decided to lift the anathema legalizes the Schism,”  spokesman for Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill, Alexander Volkov, said.

“With these moves Constantinople crosses the red line and with this destructive way it undermines the unity of the world Orthodoxy,” the representative said.

He added that the Russian Orthodox Church will examine the decision of the Ecumenical Patriarchate on October 15.

Later Volkov told Interfax that the Russian Orthodox Church will have to break eucharistical relations with Constantinople over a split with Ukraine’s Orthodox Church.

In September, the Russian Orthodox Church downgraded its ties with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, and threatened to sever ties altogether in the future.

Ukraine

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko hailed the decision by the Ecumenial Patriarchate.

“A decision to grant Ukraine autocephaly has been made,” Poroshenko said in televised remarks.

“This is a victory of good over evil, light over darkness,” he said, adding Ukraine had been waiting for this “historic event” for more than 330 years.”

The Orthodox church in Ukraine has been split between a branch whose clerics pledge loyalty to Moscow and one that is overseen by Patriarch Filaret.

The split has deepened following the Russian annexation of Crimea and the outbreak of a separatist uprising in Ukraine’s east in 2014.

Next to negative impact for the Orthodox world, Constanstinople’s decision will also affect political relations.

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