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Constantinople has no right to lift anathema from Ukrainian churches, says cleric

This is "utterly wrong", say head of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad

NEW YORK, October 12. /TASS/. The Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople has no right or powers to lift anathema from the heads of Ukrainian churches, because this runs counter to the canons of Orthodoxy, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, Metropolitan Hilarion, of Eastern America and New York, told TASS.

"This is a privilege of the church that imposed anathema, and not of the Ecumenical Patriarch. This is utterly wrong," he said.

"The reason is all bishops of the Orthodox Church are equal," he explained. "There are only some honorary ones, for instance, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, because in the past Constantinople was the capital of the Byzantine Empire. But in all other respects he is an equal of all other hierarchs and he cannot act the way the Pope does in the Catholic Church, where he decides such matters at his sole discretion."

"The Patriarch of Constantinople is unable to assume papal privileges, because all are equal," Metropolitan Hilarion said. "Everything should be decided in accordance with the canons."

In his opinion, the current religious controversy over Ukraine, which caused a split in the Church world, developed because Constantinople had fallen under the influence of politics.

"The Patriarch of Constantinople is very dependent on outside political forces, on different states that wish to see the split between Ukraine and Russia grow. They want to weaken the influence of the Russian authorities and of the country as such," Metropolitan Hilarion said.

Earlier, a spokesman for the Ecumenical Patriarchate said the Synod had made a decision to lift anathema from the heads of two uncanonical churches in Ukraine - Filaret, of the Kiev Patriarchate, and Makary, of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Church, and declared the wish to return Kiev to the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, thus cancelling the legal obligation contained in the Synodal Letter of 1686, which empowered the Moscow Patriarch to appoint the Metropolitan of Kiev.

Currently Ukraine has one canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which is a self-governing church of the Moscow Patriarchate, and also two church entities not recognized by the world Orthodoxy - the Kiev Patriarchate and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church.