MOSCOW, December 5. /TASS/. The endeavors by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople aimed at granting autocephaly to the Ukrainian church do not bring Orthodox Christians in that country anything but problems, Chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations, Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, told the French-language news website, Orthodoxie.com.
"The escapade, which he (Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople - TASS) undertook in Ukraine, creates enormous misery for Ukrainian Orthodox Christians. For the first time in the history of the church, autocephaly is being imposed by force, even though no one asked for it. Ukraine’s Orthodox Christians are predominantly members of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which has the status of a self-governing Church within the Moscow Patriarchate. They never asked for any autocephaly and will not accept it from the hands of Patriarch Bartholomew," he stressed.
He suggested that Constantinople’s actions were an attempt to avenge the Russian Orthodox Church for its refusal to take part in the Crete Pan-Orthodox Council in 2016. "Patriarch Bartholomew wants to destroy the Russian Orthodox Church, weaken it as much as possible. He thus seeks to take revenge on Patriarch Kirill for the Crete Council’s failure, believing that he ‘incited’ those Orthodox Churches (the Bulgarian Church, the Church of Antioch and the Georgian Church - TASS), which refused to participate in the council. <…> Someone made Patriarch Bartholomew believe all that had been organized by Patriarch Kirill, and he decided to take revenge in such a way," Metropolitan Hilarion said.
He added that it was impossible to explain the Phanar’s actions in Ukraine from either a canonical or logical standpoint.
"Not so long ago, Patriarch Bartholomew ‘abolished’ the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which includes 13,000 parishes, over 200 monasteries and millions of Orthodox Christians. For some reason, he decided that he had the right to abolish churches and create new ones, legitimize schismatic organizations and unilaterally lift the anathemas imposed by hierarchs of other Local Orthodox Churches. We believe that Patriarch Bartholomew’s recent actions are beyond logic, neither from the viewpoint of church canons nor from the standpoint of common sense," he stressed.
Church crisis in Ukraine
The Holy and Sacred Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople decided at its meeting held on October 9-11 to proceed with granting autocephaly to the Ukrainian Church. It revoked the 1686 decision on transferring the Kiev Metropolitanate under the jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate and announced plans to bring it back under the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. It also reinstated the heads of two non-canonical churches in Ukraine, Filaret of the Kiev Patriarchate and Makariy of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Church, to their hierarchical and priestly ranks.
On October 15, the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church said in response to that move that full communion with the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople was no longer possible.
On November 13, the Council of Bishops of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church held its meeting in Kiev Pechersk Lavra (the Kiev Monastery of the Caves). The Ukrainian Orthodox Church announced after the meeting it did not recognize Constantinople’s decisions on Ukraine and said it was severing full communion with the Ecumenical Patriarchate. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church also spoke out against joining the process of granting autocephaly to Ukraine’s church and said it opposed its name change.