MOSCOW, September 10. /TASS/. Provision of autocephaly to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople will legitimize the schism within the church, because only schismatics will accept this autocephaly, while the canonical church has not asked for independence,Chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations Metropolitan Hilarion told the Rossiya 24 TV channel.
"The president of that country has said that, since Ukraine is an independent state, the church should be independent as well. However, ordinary believers do not want the unity with the Russian Orthodox Church to be broken, while the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church does not want autocephaly and has not asked for it," he said, adding that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church enjoys broad autonomy within the Moscow Patriarchate.
According to Metropolitan Hilarion, only schismatics who have not been recognized by any Local Churches, want autocephaly to be provided, and they have already proclaimed it. "The essence of today’s disagreements between the Constantinople and Russian Churches is precisely in this matter," he stressed.
"Constantinople argues that it is necessary to provide autocephaly to the Ukrainian Church, and then the schism issue will be resolved. On the other hand, we say that providing autocephaly will not solve the schism problem but will only exacerbate it, since Orthodox faithful have not asked for autocephaly and will not accept it. The legitimization of the Ukrainian schism will not only deepen the schism in Ukraine but will also result in the schism of the entire Orthodox Christianity, because the Russian Orthodox Church does not recognize such legitimization," Metropolitan Hilarion explained.
He added that in the event of providing autocephaly to the Ukrainian Church, the Constantinople Patriarchate will legitimize the church schism, because canonical communion could be broken off.
"Of course, we will come up with some counter-moves, but the time for these counter-moves will depend on the dynamics of the development of that project to provide autocephaly, in other words, to legitimize the Ukrainian schism," he noted. "By destroying the canonical structure of the Church that has existed for centuries at its sole discretion, without the consent of the Local Churches, the Constantinople Patriarchate puts itself beyond what we call the canonical boundaries, that is, outside the legal framework of the Orthodox Church."
"If Constantinople implements its vile plan to provide autocephaly, that will mean that a group of schismatics will receive that autocephaly. The canonical church will not accept this autocephaly. Of course, the Russian Church does not recognize this autocephaly, and we will have no choice but to break off communion with Constantinople," the metropolitan stressed.
He recalled that on August 31 Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia visited Istanbul to meet with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. "On the surface, that was a civilized, polite and fraternal conversation. However, unfortunately, Constantinople did not heed our arguments. Moreover, from our standpoint, it acted in a mean and treacherous manner," he concluded.