Ukraine church’s bid for au­ton­omy faces stern re­ac­tion from Moscow

Daily Sabah (Turkey) - - National -

THE FENER Greek Ortho­dox Pa­tri­ar­chate in Is­tan­bul is ex­pected to pro­ceed with a con­tro­ver­sial de­ci­sion that may deepen the rift with the Rus­sian Ortho­dox Church.

Both the Krem­lin and the Moscow pa­tri­ar­chate re­peated their warn­ings against the pa­tri­ar­chate’s ex­pected recog­ni­tion of au­ton­omy for the Ukrainian church. An is­sue with po­lit­i­cal un­der­tones due to Rus­sia’s con­flict with Ukraine, the au­ton­omy will hurt the in­flu­ence of the Rus­sian church in the Ortho­dox world.

Krem­lin spokesman Dmitry Peskov warned yes­ter­day against the es­tab­lish­ment of an in­de­pen­dent church in Ukraine out­side Moscow’s con­trol. “We would not want any steps taken that lead to a deep split in the Ortho­dox world,” he was quoted by me­dia out­lets. On Wed­nes­day, Hi­lar­ion, a bishop in charge of diplo­macy at the Moscow pa­tri­ar­chate, is­sued a stern warn­ing to the Is­tan­bul-based pa­tri­ar­chate, say­ing the con­gre­ga­tion in Ukraine would op­pose the split. “Peo­ple will take to the streets and pro­tect their sa­cred sites,” Hi­lar­ion said, ac­cord­ing to Rus­sian news agen­cies.

The Fener Greek Ortho­dox Pa­tri­ar­chate con­vened a meet­ing of bish­ops from churches af­fil­i­ated with it from around the world on Tues­day and Wed­nes­day. It is ex­pected to grant au­to­cephaly, or au­ton­omy, to the Ukrainian church later this week.

The Moscow pa­tri­ar­chate over­sees the ma­jor­ity of parishes in Ukraine and re­peat­edly warned that the in­de­pen- dence, a bid sup­ported by the Ukrainian ad­min­is­tra­tion, would di­vide the Ortho­dox world.

The Is­tan­bul-based pa­tri­ar­chate is a the­o­log­i­cal “first among equals,” which grants it the power to rec­og­nize in­de­pen­dence. Pa­tri­arch Bartholomew of Fener is the spir­i­tual leader for mil­lions of faith­ful from Turkey to the U.S. Pa­tri­arch Bartholomew last month sent two en­voys to Kiev, to the cha­grin of the Moscow pa­tri­ar­chate that sees the move as the next step in recog­ni­tion of au­to­cephaly. Pa­tri­arch Kir­ill of Moscow met Pa­tri­arch Bartholomew in Is­tan­bul in Au­gust and the duo posed to­gether smil­ing for re­porters, but their lengthy meet­ing ap­par­ently did not help re­solve the row over Ukraine.

Speak­ing to Agence France-Presse (AFP), The­olo­gian Sergei Chap­nin called Hi­lar­ion’s words “a threat whose cause is com­plete pow­er­less­ness,” point­ing out that a sim­i­lar process has al­ready taken place in ex-Soviet Moldova, which has Ortho­dox churches over­seen by Ro­ma­nia and Moscow.

Ukrainian au­thor­i­ties and many wor­shipers are wary of the in­flu­ence of Pa­tri­arch Kir­ill, who has sup­ported the an­nex­a­tion of Crimea from Ukraine and the sep­a­ratists in the east of the coun­try. If the synod in Is­tan­bul makes a fa­vor­able de­ci­sion, a spe­cial assem­bly of Ortho­dox cler­ics in Kiev will choose the head of the new Ukrainian Ortho­dox Church, which could take place within 10 days.

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