Universal Patriarch Says Moscow Has No Right To Veto Ukrainian Autocephaly – OpEd


Because Universal Patriarch Batholemew did not issue a tomos of autocephaly to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church this week as some in Ukraine had expected, many in Russia are claiming that the patriarch has backed away from doing so, at least in part because of the opposition of the Moscow Patriarchate.

But in fact, as Igor Yakovenko points out in today’s Yezhednevny zhurnal, Bartholemew rejected the pretensions of the Russian church that it has a right to participate in the decision and signaled that he is quite ready to give a positive answer to requests from the Ukrainian church and the Ukrainian government (ej.ru/?a=note&id=32881).

“To the extent that Russia, which is responsible for the current problematic situation in Ukraine, is not capable of resolving the problem,” Bartholemew said, “the Universal Patriarhate has taken on itself the initiative for resolving the issue in conformity with the authorities given to it by the holy canons and its jurisdictional responsibility over the eparchate of Kyiv.”

Constantinople’s position, as defined by Bartholemew, is “100 percent anti-Moscow and correspondingly 100 percent pro-Ukrainian,” Yakovenko says. There are no half tones in the patriarchate’s declaration. And in a remarkable passage that must not be ignored, the Universal Patriarch directly attacked what Moscow has been doing in Ukraine.

“The non-canonical interference of Moscow in the affairs of Kyiv and the willingness to tolerate this by the Universal Patriarchate in the past does not justify any church violations,” Bartholemew said.

The Moscow Patriarchate remains totally opposed to autocephaly for Ukraine’s Orthodox, but it is now on the defensive, as its increasingly hysterical reaction to the developments in Constantinople suggest, reactions that have included threats of military force by the Kremlin against Ukraine if autocephaly happens.

“One can understand the hierarchs of the Russian Orthodox Church and their Kremlin masters. Autocephaly for the Ukrainian Orthodox Church will essentially change the situation throughout all of Eastern Europe,” Yakovenko says. And it will mean that the ROC MP will lose its status as the largest Orthodox church in the world.

After Kyiv gains autocephaly – and that is now almost certain to happen – “the share of Orthodox living on the canonical territory of the ROC MP will be reduced to 40 percent of the total number of followers of this religion in the world.” That will reduce the church’s influence and increase the influence of Constantinople. And Moscow religious and secular knows that.

The person responsible for the decline of Russian Orthodoxy is Vladimir Putin, of course, Yakovenko says. His aggressive policies have alienated the former Soviet republics from Moscow and thus opened the way for those countries ever more frequently to achieve their goals in the religious as well as the political spheres.

Paul Goble

Paul Goble is a longtime specialist on ethnic and religious questions in Eurasia. Most recently, he was director of research and publications at the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy. Earlier, he served as vice dean for the social sciences and humanities at Audentes University in Tallinn and a senior research associate at the EuroCollege of the University of Tartu in Estonia. He has served in various capacities in the U.S. State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and the International Broadcasting Bureau as well as at the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Mr. Goble maintains the Window on Eurasia blog and can be contacted directly at [email protected] .

2 thoughts on “Universal Patriarch Says Moscow Has No Right To Veto Ukrainian Autocephaly – OpEd

  • September 8, 2018 at 7:36 pm

    The Ecumenical Patriarch supports the heretical and schismatic “orthodox” groups in Ukraine while shunning the canonical Met. Onuphry, true leader of the true Orthodox Church in Ukraine. Also, the Orthodox Church in Ukraine is self-governing already, but remains loosely under Moscow. These are important details. The canonical Church has not petitioned the EP for anything, thus Pat. Bartholomew’s actions in Ukraine are illegal and will only worsen an already tragic situation. The leader of the schismatic group, self-proclaimed “Kiev Patriarch,” is a defrocked bishop. I believe that there are church canons somewhere regarding fellowship with schismatics, they should be applied to Pat. Bartholomew.

  • September 10, 2018 at 7:20 pm

    Never in all my years have I heard the Patriarch of Constantinople called “universal”. His Holiness is a bishop and has a bishop’s authority over his flock. He may have the right to preside over pan-Orthodox councils and synods, but that is not the same as having authority over parishes outside his bishoprics or dioceses. There is no equivalent to the Pope of Rome in Orthodoxy. This is why he now claims to have authority over the Ukraine, harkening back a bit late, to what happened in the Seventeenth Century.


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