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Ecumenical Church exarch says granting of autocephaly to Ukraine begins

On September 7, the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople appointed its exarchs to Kiev as a step in preparations for granting autocephaly to the Ukrainian Church

KIEV, September 17. /TASS/. A decision on granting autocephaly to the Orthodox Church in Ukraine has been taken, an exarch appointed to Ukraine by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople said on Monday at a meeting with Ukrainian President Pyotr Poroshenko.

"We’ve come here with a mission and we represent here simultaneously [the Ecumenical] Patriarch Bartholomew and the Sacred Synod in order to continue work on an issue that has been resolved, as the granting of autocephaly to Ukraine has begun," the exarch said.

He said his fellow-exarch and he were getting down to business ‘as early as possible’.

"We’ve already appointed a number of meetings with representatives of various religious organizations in Ukraine and now we’re getting down to cooperation," the exarch said. "We’re not here to divide the Ukrainian Orthodox Christian community but, on the contrary, to make more steps towards bringing in unity."

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.

Beginning with 1991, the Ukrainian administrations have been making persistent attempts to create an Orthodox Church disconnected from Moscow Patriarchate. The Verkhovna Rada national parliament approved of Poroshenko’s appeal to Patriarch Bartholomew at the end of March to grant autocephaly to the Church in Ukraine.

The schismatic ‘Churches’ gave all-out support to this expression of the Ukrainian political milieus’ striving to procure a Tomos - an edict by the Ecumenical Patriarch on granting autocephaly. On the face of it, the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church made no such appeals.

On September 7, the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople appointed its exarchs to Kiev as a step in preparations for granting autocephaly to the Ukrainian Church. The Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church voiced a resolute protest and profound indignation in the wake of the move.

The Synod said in a statement the actions of the Ecumenical Patriarchate signaled a gross encroachment on the Church canons and Moscow Patriarchate would reciprocate shortly.

Metropolitan Hilarion, the chief of the Patriarchate’s department for external Church relations said the Russian Church might break off relations with the Church of Constantinople if the latter legitimized the Ukrainian schism.

On Friday, the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church ruled to stop mentioning the Ecumenical Patriarch during liturgies, as well as to stop co-officiating in the parishes that belong to the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

Church officials said along with it the decision did not mean a full break-off of relations between the Russian Church and the Church of Constantinople. The also said the disciples of the Russian Church could continue taking communion in the churches of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.