Published: Tue, October 16, 2018
Worldwide | By Isabel Fisher

Russian Orthodox Church cuts all links with Constantinople

Russian Orthodox Church cuts all links with Constantinople

The Russian Orthodox Church said on Monday it had chose to sever all relations with the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople in protest over its endorsement of Ukraine's request for an "autocephalous", or independent, church.

"A decision has been made to rupture full communion with the Constantinople Patriarchate", which means priests from the two churches can not serve and worshippers can not take communion together, Hilarion, the bishop in charge of the Russian Orthodox Church's diplomacy, told journalists in Minsk.

The Russian Orthodox Church said Monday it is breaking ties with the Constantinople Patriarchate over its decision to grant independence to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which Moscow does not recognise.

Calls for the Ukrainian church's independence have increased since Moscow's 2014 annexation of the Crimean Peninsula and its support of separatist rebels fighting in eastern Ukraine.

Ukrainian Orthodox Church Archbishop Yevstratiy denounced the Holy Synod's decision to sever ties with the Orthodox Church leader regarded as a "first among equals" as a move toward "self-isolation".

Metropolitan Hilarion said the Russian church's Holy Synod resolved to "break the Eucharistic communion" with the Istanbul-based Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople".

The Orthodox Church in Ukraine has been under the jurisdiction of the Russian Orthodox Church since the late 1600s.

Ukraine last week secured approval from Constantinople to establish an independent church in what Kiev said was a vital step against Russian meddling in its affairs, but that the Russian Orthodox Church lamented as the biggest split in Christianity for a thousand years. "Russian Federation will no longer recognise the Ukrainian Church and only see it as schismatic", he said. Meanwhile, it did not hesitate to seize Moscow Patriarchate's churches by force. This particular move also provoked angry reaction in the Moscow Patriarchate.

"We can not be in communication with this church, which is in a schism", he said, adding that the Russian Orthodox Church hopes that "common sense prevails and that the Constantinople Patriarchate changes its mind". "And the leaders of a schism remain as such", Hilarion said, adding that "a Church that recognized schismatic [priests] and entered into communion with them ... excluded itself from the canonical field of the Orthodox Church".

The Belarusian Orthodox Church, which is by far the biggest religious denomination in the nation of almost 10 million, is under the direct jurisdiction of the Russian Orthodox Church.

In mid-September, two exarchs of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople started working in the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kiev Patriarchate (UOC-KP), which came as part of Constantinople's preparations to grant autocephaly to the UOC-KP.

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