Con­stantino­ple rec­og­nizes le­git­i­macy of Kyiv pa­tri­arch as bishop of church


The Synod of the Ec­u­meni­cal Pa­tri­ar­chate of Con­stantino­ple on Oct. 11 rec­og­nized the le­git­i­macy of bish­ops of the Kyiv Pa­tri­ar­chate and the Ukrainian Au­to­cephalous Or­tho­dox Church as part of the Con­stantino­ple church.

Un­til this de­ci­sion, the proUkrainian Kyiv Pa­tri­ar­chate and the Ukrainian Au­to­cephalous Or­tho­dox Church had not been rec­og­nized by the 14 of­fi­cial Or­tho­dox churches, while the bish­ops of the pro-Rus­sian Moscow Pa­tri­ar­chate in Ukraine had. The recog­ni­tion is an im­por­tant step to­wards the cre­ation of an of­fi­cially rec­og­nized in­de­pen­dent ( au­to­cephalous) Ukrainian Or­tho­dox Church.

The Synod of the Ec­u­meni­cal Pa­tri­ar­chate of Con­stantino­ple said on Oct. 11 it had lifted the anath­ema, or ex­com­mu­ni­ca­tion, im­posed on Fi­laret, the pa­tri­arch of the Kyiv Pa­tri­ar­chate, and on Makariy, metropoli­tan of the Ukrainian Au­to­cephalous Or­tho­dox Church.

The Synod also ap­proved rec­og­niz­ing the author­ity of the Con­stantino­ple Pa­tri­ar­chate in Ukraine, and can­celed its 1686 de­ci­sion to al­low the pa­tri­arch of Moscow to ap­point met­ro­pol­i­tans of Kyiv. The Me­trop­o­lis of Kyiv had been part of the Con­stantino­ple Pa­tri­ar­chate from the Chris­tian­iza­tion of Kyi­van Rus in 988 un­til 1686.

The Con­stantino­ple Pa­tri­ar­chate also cre­ated a stavrope­gion in Kyiv - an en­tity that com­prises churches or monas­ter­ies and is sub­or­di­nated di­rectly to the pa­tri­arch, as op­posed to lo­cal bish­ops.

More­over, the Synod ap­proved plans to create an au­to­cephalous (in­de­pen­dent) Ukrainian church.

The Kyiv Pa­tri­ar­chate and the Ukrainian Au­to­cephalous Or­tho­dox Church are plan­ning to merge with pro-in­de­pen­dence bish­ops of the Moscow Pa­tri­ar­chate into an in­de­pen­dent (au­to­cephalous) Ukrainian church, which is ex­pected to get a to­mos — a Synod de­cree rec­og­niz­ing the in­de­pen­dence of the Ukrainian church from the Con­stantino­ple church.

“This de­ci­sion gives us the op­por­tu­nity to unite with bish­ops of the Moscow Pa­tri­ar­chate who are will­ing (to join),” Fi­laret said on Oct. 11.

He said that the Kyiv Pa­tri­ar­chate, the Ukrainian Au­to­cephalous Or­tho­dox Church and some of the Ukrainian bish­ops of the Moscow Pa­tri­ar­chate would soon hold a congress to create a united church, and elect their head.

In May Sofroniy, the Moscow Pa­tri­ar­chate’s metropoli­tan of Cherkasy and Kaniv, said that up to 10 out of 53 bish­ops from the Moscow Pa­tri­ar­chate in Ukraine sup­ported the au­to­cephaly of the Ukrainian church.

Re­spond­ing to spec­u­la­tion that he would be de­moted to a “metropoli­tan” due to the of­fi­cial recog­ni­tion, Fi­laret said he would re­main pa­tri­arch.

The Con­stantino­ple Pa­tri­ar­chate also ap­pealed “to all sides in­volved to avoid the 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.”

One of the is­sues un­der dis­cus­sion is whether the new Ukrainian church will ac­quire Moscow Pa­tri­ar­chate prop­erty in the coun­try, and whether it will cause con­fronta­tion and vi­o­lent protests.

Fi­laret said that af­ter the cre­ation of an in­de­pen­dent Ukrainian church Moscow Pa­tri­ar­chate bish­ops would still have a right to serve in Ukraine but would have no right to call them­selves a “Ukrainian church.”

“Moscow wants a con­flict, and we — Ukraini­ans — don’t want it,” he added.

“God has seen the Ukrainian peo­ple’s strug­gle for in­de­pen­dence,” Ukrainian Pres­i­dent Petro Poroshenko said, com­ment­ing on the Con­stantino­ple church’s de­ci­sion on Oct. 11.

“He has heard our prayers and ap­pre­ci­ated our work. He made sure that his Ho­li­ness Ec­u­meni­cal Pa­tri­arch Bartholomew and the Synod of the Con­stantino­ple Pa­tri­ar­chate told us ‘yes’.”

In con­trast, the Moscow Pa­tri­ar­chate called the Con­stantino­ple church’s de­ci­sion “cat­a­strophic” and warned that some­thing “ter­ri­ble” would be­gin.

Rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the Rus­sian Or­tho­dox Church said it would have to ter­mi­nate re­la­tions with the Con­stantino­ple Pa­tri­ar­chate, and also called for the ex­com­mu­ni­ca­tion of Ec­u­meni­cal Pa­tri­arch Bartholomew.

On Sept. 7, the Con­stantino­ple Pa­tri­ar­chate ap­pointed two exarchs, or am­bas­sadors, in Kyiv as ef­forts to create an in­de­pen­dent Ukrainian church be­gan to gain pace.

Fi­laret was de­frocked by the Rus­sian Or­tho­dox Church in 1992 and ex­com­mu­ni­cated by the Moscow Pa­tri­ar­chate in 1997. He later ap­pealed to the pa­tri­arch of Con­stantino­ple to can­cel the ex­com­mu­ni­ca­tion.

He co-founded the Kyiv Pa­tri­ar­chate in 1992 and be­came the pa­tri­arch of Kyiv in 1995.

Fi­laret was the metropoli­tan of Kyiv as part of the Moscow Pa­tri­ar­chate in 1968 to 1992. He was also the locum tenens, or act­ing head, of the Rus­sian Or­tho­dox Church and a com­peti­tor for the job of the pa­tri­arch of Moscow in 1990.

The Ukrainian Au­to­cephalous Or­tho­dox Church was founded in 1919 dur­ing the brief pe­riod of Ukraine’s in­de­pen­dence af­ter the col­lapse of the Rus­sian Em­pire.

In 1991 the Ukrainian Or­tho­dox Church of the Moscow Pa­tri­ar­chate de­clared its in­de­pen­dence from Moscow for the first time, but later most Ukrainian bish­ops re­voked their sig­na­tures from the dec­la­ra­tion.

The Ukrainian Or­tho­dox Church of the Moscow Pa­tri­ar­chate has more than 12,000 parishes in Ukraine, while the Kyiv Pa­tri­ar­chate has about 5,000 parishes, and the Ukrainian Au­to­cephalous Or­tho­dox Church has about 2,000 parishes.

The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, which is part of the Ro­man Catholic Church, has more than 3,000 parishes, mostly in Western Ukraine. The pop­u­lar­ity of the Kyiv Pa­tri­ar­chate has in­creased since Rus­sia launched its war against Ukraine in 2014, and some parishes have switched from the Moscow Pa­tri­ar­chate to the Kyiv Pa­tri­ar­chate.

Fi­laret (C), the pa­tri­arch of Kyiv, at­tends a re­li­gious pro­ces­sion mark­ing the 1029th an­niver­sary of the Chris­tian­iza­tion of Kyi­van Rus in down­town Kyiv on July 28, 2017. Fi­laret has now been of­fi­cially rec­og­nized as a le­git­i­mate bishop by the Pa­tri­ar­chate of Con­stantino­ple, and is pre­par­ing to hold a congress of a united Ukrainian church and re­ceive a to­mos — or recog­ni­tion of in­de­pen­dence — from Con­stantino­ple. (Oleg Pe­tra­siuk)

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