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Ukrainian Church autocephaly important for struggle with Russia — minister

September 22, 1:58 UTC+3 KIEV

Ukrainian President Pyotr Poroshenko, who appeared in the Verkhovna Rada national parliament on Thursday, said the process of obtaining autocephaly was nearing completion

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Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Pavel Klimkin

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Pavel Klimkin

© Alexander Shcherbak/TASS

KIEV, September 21. /TASS/. The earlier possible granting of autocephaly by to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church will put Ukraine into a strong position in struggle with Russia, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Pavel Klimkin said on Friday with an interview with Novoye Vremya radio [Radio NV].

"I think - and this isn’t quite a spiritual utterance on my part but a political one, you could say - that the issuing of Tomos [an edict by the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople on granting autocephaly to a Church - TASS] in the nearest months puts us and the Church into a very strong position," he said when the anchor asked him if it would be easier for Ukraine "to go against Russia" if the Ukrainian Church got autocephaly.

Ukrainian President Pyotr Poroshenko, who appeared in the Verkhovna Rada national parliament on Thursday, said the process of obtaining autocephaly was nearing completion.

The situation in the Orthodox Christian community in Ukraine is highly complicated and mixed, as the country has three religious organizations referring to themselves as Ukrainian Orthodox Churches but only one of them, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church reporting to Moscow Patriarchate enjoys the status of a canonical Church.

The canonical Church has about 12,000 parishes and 200 monasteries and convents within its realm.

The other two organizations claiming the official status are the Ukrainian Orthodox Church reporting to the so-called Kiev patriarchate and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church, the roots of which go to a reformist movement of nationalistic Ukrainian clerics of the early 20th century.

Ukrainian authorities have been striving to set up a Ukrainian Church disconnected from Moscow Patriarchate ever since the former Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, one of the fifteen constituent republics of the former USSR, declared itself an independent country in 1991.

In April 2018, President Pyotr Poroshenko addressed the Ecumenical Patriarch, Bartholomew I, with a request to grant autocephaly to Ukraine. The Verkhovna Rada, the national parliament, supported the appeal, as did the two schismatic ‘Churches’ hailed it, too.

The canonical Church reporting to Moscow Patriarchate did not send any appeals to the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

On September 7, Synod of the Church of Constantinople appointed two exarchs to Ukraine in the format of preparations for the granting of autocephaly to the Ukrainian Church. The appointees and other officials at the Ecumenical Patriarchate gave the assurances that the move aimed to bring in unity to Ukrainian Orthodoxy. They admitted the situation had many knotty aspects and was highly delicate.

Moscow Patriarchate reacted resolutely to the Ecumenical Patriarch’s move. The Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church ruled last Friday to stop mentioning Bartholomew I at liturgies in the parishes of the Russian Church, with Metropolitan Hilarion, the chief of external relations of the Church saying the decisions was equivalent of suspension of diplomatic relations between the two Patriarchates.

The local [national] Orthodox Churches of Jerusalem, Bulgaria, Poland, the Czech Lands and Moravia voiced strong disapproval of Constantinople’s decision.

The Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia [ROCOR], which is a self-governing branch of the Russian Orthodox Church with broad administrative powers, said Patriarch Bartholomew’s decision signaled "a gross and unprecedented incursion of one local Church into a distant canonical territory, which has its own local alone responsible for the Orthodox flock of that country.".

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