MOSCOW, October 11. /TASS/. The decision of the Ecumenical Patriarchate on lifting the anathema against two extracanonical Ukrainian churches is unlawful, and Patriarch Bartholomew [head of the Ecumenical Patriarchate] should be anathematized himself, Spokesman for the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate Archbishop Kliment Vecheria told a TASS correspondent on Thursday.
"This decision is absolutely extracanonical, because this territory does not belong to the Constantinople Patriarchate. How can it lift anathemas then? It has no canonical right to do such a thing. I think that Patriarch Bartholomew should be anathematized for such actions," he said.
Earlier, the Holy and Sacred Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate has announced the decision to lift the anathema against leaders of two extracanonical churches in Ukraine - Filaret of the Kiev Patriarchate and Makariy of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church, a representative of the patriarchate informed on the outcomes of the Holy Synod, which took place on October 9-11.
In October 1990, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church received the status of a self-governing church within the Russian Orthodox Church. In November 1991, Filaret, who was then heading the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, called for granting the Ukrainian Church autocephalous status. In May 1992, he was demoted from his post as head of the local church. However, Filaret failed to comply with the decision of the Russian Orthodox Church and, with support of Ukrainian officials, announced the creation of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kiev Patriarchate. In February 1997, he was excommunicated and anathematized for sectarian activities by the decision of the Russian Orthodox Church’s Assembly of the Hierarchs.
In April 2018, Ukrainian President Pyotr Poroshenko addressed Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople with a request to grant autocephaly to the Ukrainian Church.
On September 7, the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, as part of preparations for providing autocephaly to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, appointed its exarchs (envoys) in Kiev, which is the Moscow Patriarchate’s canonical territory.
On September 23, Patriarch Bartholomew said during a Divine Liturgy in Istanbul that Ukraine has the right to obtain autocephalous status, while the Patriarchate of Constantinople has the sole right to provide autocephaly.
The Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church responded by saying that Constantinople’s actions were a crude violation of church canons and stopped mentioning Patriarch Bartholomew during church services and conducting joint services with Bishops of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
Currently, Ukraine has one canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which is a self-governing church constituent of the Moscow Patriarchate. There are also two religious organizations not recognized by the Orthodox Christian world - the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kiev Patriarchate and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church.
The Ukrainian authorities have tried to create a Local Orthodox Church independent of the Moscow Patriarchate on numerous occasions since 1991.