Thursday, 13 December, 2018

Russian press warns of 'Orthodox war' over Church split

Mikhail Markiv  TASS Mikhail Markiv TASS
Kenny Thornton | 16 October, 2018, 22:01

The Russian Orthodox Church said Monday it is breaking ties with the Istanbul-based Ecumenical Patriarchate over its decision to grant independence to the Ukrainian church, which Moscow does not recognize.

Ecumenical Greek Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew I and Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill conduct Sunday service in the Patriarchal Cathedral of St. George at the Ecumenical Orthodox Patriarchate in Istanbul, Turkey July 5, 2009. The decision marked a step toward establishing an ecclesiastically independent - or autocephalous - church in Ukraine.

Constantinople's decision last week ended more than 300 years of Moscow's control over Orthodox churches in Ukraine and affects millions of believers in Russian Federation and Ukraine.

The Russian church is by far the largest of the world's Orthodox communities and for most of its centuries-long history has been closely tied to the Russian state.

The Russian Orthodox Church says it is cutting all links with the Constantinople Patriarchate - the body that wields spiritual authority over the world's Orthodox Christians.

Meanwhile, in Kyiv, on October 14, thousands of people gathered on a central square to take part in a thanksgiving prayer following the decision by Bartholomew to kick off the process of granting independence to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

Moscow considers the Kiev Patriarch Filaret to be a schismatic, a view Constantinople had backed since the 1990s but reversed last week amid the drive by Ukraine for its own Orthodox Church independent from Moscow.

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Before now, Moscow and other Orthodox patriarchates would send representatives to gatherings organized by Constantinople, including the decades-long preparations for the monumental 2016 Pan-Orthodox Council, Hilarion said.

President Petro Poroshenko said the Church's independence went hand-in-hand with Ukrainian independence, adding: "It's an issue of Ukrainian national security".

Breaking Eucharistic communion is almost the last resort in inter-church relations. "We hope that common sense prevails and that the Constantinople Patriarchate changes its mind".

The ROC indicates that "from now on, until the Constantinople Patriarchate refused the anticanonical decisions it made for all clergymen of the Russian Orthodox Church, it is impossible to serve with the clergy of the Constantinople church, and for the laity - to participate in the sacraments performed in its churches".

Many monks of the Russian Orthodox Church live and work in important monasteries under Constantinople, notably on Mount Athos in Greece, and many Orthodox sites in Greece and Cyprus are important pilgrimage centers for Russian Orthodox believers.

The first solid impetus Ukraine received for Orthodox church autocephaly, or independence, came in early September when a Synaxis, or consultative meeting of hierarchs, of more than 100 metropolitans and archbishops representing 250-300 million faithful assembled in Istanbul.

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