MOSCOW, September 14. /TASS/. The Russian Orthodox Church will abide by a firm position on the steps the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople and it will not deem them legitimate in terms of the Church canon, the Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia Kirill I said on Friday at a an emergency session of the Holy Synod of the Russian Church that had begun in Moscow.
On September 7, the Ecumenical Patriarchate said it had appointed two of its bishops as exarchs to Ukraine as part of the procedures to grant autocephaly to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
At present, Ukraine is part of the canonical territory of the Russian Orthodox Church, and the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which enjoys recognition by the global community of Eastern Orthodox Christian Churches, reports to Moscow Patriarchate. It is a self-governing religious organization with broad administrative powers.
The canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church has more than 12,000 parishes and about 200 monasteries within its realm.
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, which reformist nationalistic Ukrainian priest set up in the first half of the 20th century.
The schismatic ‘Churches’ give all-out support to the striving of the Ukrainian political milieus to procure a Tomos - an edict of the Ecumenical Patriarch on granting autocephaly to a united Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
"Everything that’s taking place now in terms of the dispatch of two exarchs [to Kiev] is mirror-like replay of the steps that Constantinople Patriarchate took in the 1920’s when our Church led by Patriarch Tikhon found itself in the grips of the harshest imaginable circumstances," Kirill I said.
He recalled that a schismatic religious organization, the so-called ‘reformist Church’, was gathering strength then in the post-revolutionary Soviet Russia. It enjoyed practically overt leniency on the part of the authorities.
The Ecumenical Patriarch Gregory VII took a decision at the time to delegate a special mission to Moscow at the request of the schismatic ‘reformists’ while the mainstream Russian Church did not send any queries to him.
"The situation prompted Patriarch Tikhon to write a brief but very clear letter against the sending of a non-canonical commission from another local [national] Orthodox Christian Church to the canonical territory he stood at the head of," Kirill I said.
"It’s our duty to abide by the line that His Holiness Tikhon courageously established in those bygone years, the line that is the only truly Orthodox one and conforming to the canon," he said.
Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and all Ukraine, who is the supreme hierarch of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church reporting to Moscow Patriarchate and who also sits on the Holy Synod as its permanent member, took part in the emergency session by teleconference.
Dr. Vladimir Legoida, the chief of Moscow Patriarchate’s department for external Church relations, told TASS earlier the Russian Church might sever contacts with the Ecumenical Patriarchate if the latter moved on to legitimize the Ukrainian schism.