MOSCOW, September 12. /TASS/. The chief of Moscow Patriarchate’s department for relations between the Church and society, Vladimir Legoida, warned that steps to authorize autocephaly to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church may have catastrophic consequences, including violence and seizure of churches belonging to the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church, reporting to Moscow Patriarchate.
"I think that parishes of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church will not recognize the authority of the Kiev Patriarchate on their own free will, and this may provoke violence on behalf of the schismatics," Legoida said.
He added that "more than 40 churches" belonging to the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church have already been seized by the Kiev Patriarchate.
"Developments of this kind will have truly dramatic or even catastrophic consequences, because our Ukrainian brothers have already found themselves in a difficult situation," he said, adding that if autocephaly will be granted to the Kiev Patriarchate, the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church will be subjected to "more pressure on the part of the nationalists and on the part of the state."
"This will entail hard, tragic consequences for the global Orthodoxy, for the entire family of Orthodox churches," the church official added. "Our main hope is that Constantinople will be able to stop before the situation is beyond repair."
At present, Ukraine is part of the canonical territory of the Russian Orthodox Church, and the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church, recognized by the global community of Eastern Orthodox Christian Churches, reports to Moscow Patriarchate. It is a self-governing religious organization with broad administrative powers, which has about 12,000 parishes and 200 monasteries on the territory of the country.
Simultaneously, Ukraine has another two organizations referring to themselves as Orthodox Churches - the Ukrainian Orthodox Church reporting to the so-called Kiev patriarchate and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church that draws on the ideology and practices of a religious movement that reformist nationalistic Ukrainian priest set up in the first half of the 20th century.
Authorities in post-Soviet Ukraine have been making the attempts to create a Church unrelated to Moscow Patriarchate ever since the declaration of independence by Ukraine in 1991.
In April 2018, President Pyotr Poroshenko sent a petition to the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I asking him to authorize the emergence of an independent united Orthodox Church in Ukraine. Officials of the two schismatic Churches hailed his motion while the canonical Church reporting to Moscow Patriarchate did not make any requests on its part.
The secretariat of the Holy and Sacred Synod of the Ecumenical Church of Constantinople published a communique las Friday, September 7, reporting the appointment of Bishop Daniel of Pamphilon and Bishop Ilarion of Edmonton as exarchs of the Ecumenical Patriarch to Ukraine as a step towards preparations for granting autocephaly to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
The Holy Synod of the Russian Church issued a protest on Saturday saying Constantinople’s decision was driving relations between the two Patriarchates into an impasse.