Ortho­dox Church to move for­ward with Ukrainian in­de­pen­dence

Medicine Hat News - - FAITH - YURAS KARMANU

KIEV, Ukraine Ukraine’s pres­i­dent on Thurs­day hailed the an­nounce­ment by Or­tho­doxy’s Ec­u­meni­cal Pa­tri­ar­chate of Con­stantino­ple that it will move for­ward with grant­ing Ukrainian cler­ics in­de­pen­dence from the Rus­sian Ortho­dox Church, while the Rus­sian church de­nounced the de­ci­sion.

The Is­tan­bul-based pa­tri­ar­chate, whose head Bartholomew I is con­sid­ered the “first among equals” of Ortho­dox church lead­ers, said it was re­mov­ing its con­dem­na­tion of lead­ers of schis­matic Ortho­dox churches in Ukraine, a step to­ward estab­lish­ing an ec­cle­si­as­ti­cally in­de­pen­dent — or au­to­cephalous — church in Ukraine.

Since the late 1600s, the church in Ukraine has been for­mally un­der the ju­ris­dic­tion of the Rus­sian Ortho­dox Church.

Pres­i­dent Petro Poroshenko has pushed for the church in Ukraine to be in­de­pen­dent.

“For us, our own church is a guar­an­tee of our spir­i­tual free­dom,” Poroshenko said. “I guar­an­tee that the Ukrainian state will re­spect the choice of those who de­cide to stay in church struc­tures re­tain­ing unity with the Rus­sian Ortho­dox Church.”

The Rus­sian church, the world’s largest Ortho­dox group­ing, was fu­ri­ous.

“With its ac­tions, Con­stantino­ple is cross­ing a red line and cat­a­stroph­i­cally un­der­mines the unity of global Or­tho­doxy,” said Alexan­der Volkov, a spokesman for Rus­sian church leader Pa­tri­arch Kir­ill. The Rus­sian church has said it will no longer re­gard the Ec­u­meni­cal Pa­tri­arch as first among equals if the Ukrainian church is rec­og­nized as le­git­i­mate.

Ukraine cur­rently has three Ortho­dox com­mu­ni­ties — those that stay un­der Moscow’s con­trol and two schis­matic churches.

The leader of the larger of the two schis­matic churches, Pa­tri­arch Fi­laret, said he would call a coun­cil with the lead­er­ship of the other schis­matic church to choose a leader of the au­to­cephalous church. Moscow-loyal church rep­re­sen­ta­tives can at­tend if they de­sire, he said.

“Moscow wants that there would be re­sis­tance; we, Ukraini­ans, don’t want re­sis­tance,” he told a brief­ing.

Recog­ni­tion of a Ukrainian church that is not un­der Moscow’s ju­ris­dic­tion has been an in­creas­ingly fraught is­sue amid the high ten­sions over Rus­sia’s an­nex­a­tion of Crimea and its sup­port of sep­a­ratist rebels in east­ern Ukraine. It strikes at the be­lief of many Rus­sians that Moscow is the “Third Rome,” the heir to Rome as Chris­tian­ity’s cen­tre.

The move could ben­e­fit Poroshenko in next year’s elec­tions.

“The creation of a lo­cal Ukrainian church has been one of Poroshenko’s main slo­gans go­ing into the 2019 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion,” said Volodymyr Fe­senko, a po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst.


Ukrainian Pres­i­dent Petro Poroshenko, left, and Pa­tri­arch Fi­laret, head of the Ukrainian Ortho­dox Church of the Kiev Pa­tri­ar­chate, shake hands dur­ing their meet­ing in Kiev, Ukraine Thurs­day. The Is­tan­bul-based Ec­u­meni­cal Pa­tri­ar­chate says it will move for­ward with its de­ci­sion to grant Ukrainian cler­ics in­de­pen­dence from the Rus­sian Ortho­dox Church.

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