MOSCOW, October 22. /TASS/. The interference of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople in Ukraine’s church dispute has resulted in a crisis in relations between local Orthodox Churches and can mark the beginning of a long-standing rift, Primate of the Serbian Orthodox Church Patriarch Irinej told Serbia’s Novosti publication, the Synodal Department for Church’s Relations with Society and Mass Media reported on Monday.
"The crisis Orthodox Christianity is currently mired in is very deep and can, unfortunately, spiral into a tragedy of a profound and long-term schism," he cautioned.
According to the patriarch, the Serbian Church views the decisions by the Holy and Sacred Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople "as a step, which will not only result in a deepening rift on the canonical territory of the autonomous Ukrainian Orthodox Church, but will also pave the way for new schisms in other local Churches."
According to Patriarch Irenej, the Serbian Church has asked the Patriarch of Constantinople twice "to refrain from hasty moves, and instead to proceed along the path of dialogue and pan-Orthodox consensus." "Later on, I personally outlined our stance while meeting with Patriarch Bartholomew in Thessaloniki. Of course, I spoke to the Patriarch of Moscow prior to that, and we conveyed our church’s position to all local autocephalous churches," he specified.
"This stance boils down to the fact that it is essential to fully and immutably observe the centuries-old ecclesiastical order and the Sacred and Divine Canons, something which, according to the overwhelming majority of bishops and theologians in the Serbian Orthodox Church, our Mother Church in Constantinople does not do now, unfortunately. We are not waffling over whether to choose ‘for’ or ‘against’. We are for the Church’s unity, responsibility, and loyalty to the canonical order. However, at the same time, we oppose everything that divides us and makes the danger of a schism possible," the patriarch concluded.
On October 20, Patriarch John X of Antioch and All the East and Patriarch Irinej of Serbia made a joint statement after the Patriarch of Antioch’s visit to Serbia calling on Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople to restore the fraternal dialogue with Moscow in order to resolve the crisis.
On October 11, the Holy and Sacred Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople decided to proceed with granting autocephaly to the Ukrainian Church. It revoked the 1686 decision on transferring the Kiev Metropolitanate under the jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate and reinstated the heads of two non-canonical churches in Ukraine, Filaret of the Kiev Patriarchate and Makariy of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Church, to their hierarchical and priestly ranks. In addition, it announced plans to bring back the Kiev Metropolitanate under the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
On October 15, the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church said in response to that move that full communion with the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople was no longer possible.