|Date||15 October 2018–present|
|Also known as||Orthodox schism, Orthodox Church schism|
|Cause||Decision of the Ecumenical Patriarchate (11 October 2018) to:|
1. grant autocephaly to Ukraine in the future
2. reestablish a stauropegion (church body responsible only to the Ecumenical Patriarch) in Kiev, Ukraine
3. revoke the "Letter of issue" (permission) of 1686 which authorized the Patriarch of Moscow to ordain the Metropolitan of Kiev[note 1]
4. lift the excommunications which affected clergy and faithfuls of two unrecognized Ukrainian Eastern Orthodox churches (the UAOC and the UOC-KP)
Russian Orthodox Church
|Outcome||The severing of full communion with the Ecumenical Patriarchate by the Russian Orthodox Church (and ROCOR).|
Creation of the autocephalous Orthodox Church of Ukraine by the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
Creation of the PEWE and the PESEA by the Russian Orthodox Church.
Recognition of the OCU's autocephaly by the Church of Greece and the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria.
Severing of eucharistic communion with Archbishop Ieronymos II of Athens and Patriarch Theodore II of Alexandria by the Russian Orthodox Church.
|Part of a series on the|
|Eastern Orthodox Church|
The Moscow–Constantinople schism,[a] also known as the Orthodox schism[b] or Orthodox Church schism,[c] is a schism which began on 15 October 2018 when the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC, also known as the Moscow Patriarchate) unilaterally severed full communion with the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.
The resolution was taken in response to a decision of the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople of 11 October 2018, confirming its intentions to grant autocephaly (independence) to the Eastern Orthodox church in Ukraine in the future. The decision also stated that the Holy Synod would immediately: reestablish a stauropegion in Kiev, i.e. a church body subordinated directly to the Ecumenical Patriarch; revoke the "Letter of issue" (permission) of 1686[d] that had given permission to the Patriarch of Moscow to ordain the Metropolitan of Kiev;[note 1] and lift the excommunications which affected the clergy and faithfuls of two unrecognized Ukrainian Eastern Orthodox churches. Those two unrecognized churches, the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC) and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Kiev Patriarchate (UOC-KP), were competing with the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) (UOC-MP) and were considered "schismatics" (illegally segregated groups) by the Patriarchate of Moscow, as well as by the other Eastern Orthodox churches.
In its decision of 15 October 2018, the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church barred all members of the Moscow Patriarchate (both clergy and laity) from taking part in communion, baptism, and marriage at any church controlled by the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Before that, in response to the appointment of two exarchs of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Ukraine, the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate had decided, on 14 September 2018, to break off participation in any episcopal assemblies, theological discussions, multilateral commissions, and any other structures that are chaired or co-chaired by representatives of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
The schism forms part of a wider political conflict involving Russia's 2014 annexation of the Crimea and its military intervention in Ukraine, as well as Ukraine's desire to join the European Union and NATO. This schism is reminiscent of the Moscow–Constantinople schism of 1996 over canonical jurisdiction over Estonia, which was however resolved after less than three months.
On 21 October 2019, Archbishop Ieronymos II of Athens, the primate of the Church of Greece, sent a peaceful letter to Epiphanius, the primate of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU, that was formed by the unification of the UOC-KP, UAOC, and parts of the UOC-MP on 15 December 2018). This decision was supported by the whole hierarchy (bishops) of the Church of Greece, minus 7 Metropolitans. This decision meant that the Church of Greece recognized the OCU. The ROC had announced previously it would break communion with any hierarch of the Church of Greece who enters in communion with any hierarch of the OCU. On Sunday, 3 November 2019, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow did not mention the primate of the Church of Greece in the liturgy, removing him from the diptych. On 26 December, the ROC broke eucharistic communion with the Patriarch of Alexandria and ceased commemorating him, because he had recognized the OCU the month before.
After the baptism of Rus'[note 2] these lands were under the control of the Metropolitan of Kiev. Among the 24 metropolitans who held the throne before the Mongol invasion, only two were of local origin and the rest were Greek. Usually, they were appointed by Constantinople and were not chosen by the bishops of their dioceses, as it should be done according to the canon. After the Mongol invasion, the southern part of Rus' was heavily devastated and the disintegration of Kievan Rus' accelerated. Metropolitan Kirill III, who occupied the throne for 30 years, spent almost all of his time in the lands of Vladimir-Suzdal Rus' and visited Kiev only twice, although earlier he had come from Galicia and had been nominated for the post of Metropolitan by the prince Daniel of Galicia. After the new Mongol raid in 1299, Metropolitan Maksim finally moved to Vladimir in the north, and did not even leave a bishop behind. In 1303 a new cathedra was created for south-west Rus' in Galicia and the new Metropolitan was consecrated by Constantinople, but its existence ended in 1355 after the Galicia–Volhynia Wars. In 1325, Metropolitan Peter moved to Moscow, thus greatly contributing to the rise of the Grand Duchy of Moscow, which gradually conquered other Russian principalities in the northeast of the former Kievan Rus'. Another part of Kievan Rus' gradually came under the rule of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Kingdom of Poland, which entered into rivalry with Moscow. In particular, the Grand Dukes of Lithuania sought from Constantinople a separate Metropolitan for the Orthodox who lived in their lands. Although the Metropolitan in Moscow continued to retain the title of "Metropolitan of Kiev and All Rus'", he could not rule the Orthodox outside the borders of the Grand Duchy of Moscow. Constantinople twice agreed to create a separate Metropolitan for Lithuania, but these decisions were not permanent, Constantinople being inclined to maintain a single church government on the lands of the former Kievan Rus'.
In 1439, Constantinople entered into union with the Roman Catholic Church. In Moscow, this decision was rejected outright, and Metropolitan Isidor, consecrated by Constantinople, was accused in heresy, imprisoned, and later expelled. In 1448, the council of north-eastern Russian clergy in Moscow, at the behest of prince Vasily II of Moscow, elected Jonah the Metropolitan of Kiev and all Rus' without the consent of the Patriarch of Constantinople. In 1469 Patriarch Dionysius I stated that Constantinople would not recognize any metropolitan ordained without its blessing. Meanwhile, the metropolis of Kiev (de facto in Novogrudok) stayed under the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople. Moscow's de facto independence from Constantinople remained unrecognized until 1589 when Patriarch of Constantinople Jeremiah II approved the creation of a new, fifth Orthodox Patriarchate in Moscow. This decision was finally confirmed by the four older Patriarchs in 1593.
The Patriarch of Moscow became the head of "all Russia and Northern countries",[e] and Chernihiv (now in Ukraine) was one of his dioceses. However, he had no power among the Orthodox bishops of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, who remained under the rule of Constantinople. At the same time, the Orthodox hierarchs of those lands were inclined to the Union with Rome, despite the resistance of their parishes, who formed the Orthodox brotherhoods (or fraternities) to keep their identity. On the way from Moscow, Jeremiah II visited the lands of present-day Ukraine and committed an unprecedented act, granting Stauropegia (direct subordination to the Patriarch) to many Orthodox brotherhoods. This provoked the anger of the local bishops and soon the Union of Brest was proclaimed, which was supported by the majority of the Orthodox bishops of the Commonwealth, including Metropolitan Michail Rogoza. Officially, the Orthodox (but not the Eastern Catholic) Metropolis of Kiev in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was eliminated and re-established only in 1620, in subsequent co-existence with Uniate Metropolis. That led to sharp conflict and numerous revolts culminating in the Khmelnytsky uprising.
In 1654, Russia entered the war with the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth; it quickly occupied, for a while, the lands of present Belarus, and gained some power over the Hetmanate pursuant to the Pereyaslav Agreement (1654). The official title of Patriarch Nikon of Moscow was "Patriarch of Moscow and all Greater, Lesser, and White Russia". However, the Metropolitan of Kiev Sylvester Kossov had managed to defend his independence from the Moscow Patriarchate. The Moscow government, which needed the support of the Orthodox clergy, postponed the resolution of this issue.
In 1686, Ecumenical Patriarch Dionysius IV approved the new Metropolitan of Kiev, Gedeon Chetvertinsky, who would be ordained by the Moscow Patriarchate and thus transferred, albeit with certain qualifications, a part of the Kiev ecclesiastical province to the jurisdiction of Patriarchate of Moscow (the Russian Orthodox Church).
In the 1924 Tomos (decree) of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, which granted independence to the Polish Orthodox Church, the previous transfer of the Kyivan Church to the jurisdiction of Moscow (in 1685–1686) was declared uncanonical. In addition, the decree pointed out that the conditions of the synodal "Act" of 1686 – which specified that the Russian Orthodox Church was only to consecrate the Metropolitan of Kiev – were never adhered to by the Patriarchate of Moscow.
The historical rivalry between the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Russian Orthodox Church intensified after the Cold War. Indeed, after the Cold War, Moscow and Constantinople both emerged as "two centers of Orthodox power".
1. The [Ecumenical] Patriarch had the right to establish a court of final appeal for any case from anywhere in the Orthodox world.
2. The [Ecumenical] Patriarch had the exclusive right to summon the other Patriarchs and heads of Autocephalous Churches to a joint meeting of all of them.
3. The [Ecumenical] Patriarch has jurisdiction, ecclesiastical authority over Orthodox Christians who are outside the territory of the local Orthodox Churches, the so-called diaspora.
4. No new "Autocephalous" Church can come into being without the consent of the Patriarch of Constantinople; this consent should express the consensus of the local Orthodox Churches.
Russkiy mir (literally "Russian world") is an ideology promoted by many in the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church. "This ideology, concocted as a reaction to the loss of Russian control over Ukraine and Belarus after the fall of the Soviet Union, seeks to assert a spiritual and cultural unity of the peoples descended from the Kievan Rus, presumably under Russian leadership." Patriarch Kiril of Moscow also shares this ideology; for the Russian Orthodox Church, the russkiy mir is also "a spiritual concept, a reminder that through the baptism of Rus, God consecrated these people to the task of building a Holy Rus."
On 31 January 2019, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow declared concerning the religious relationship between the Russian Orthodox Church and Ukraine: "Ukraine is not on the periphery of our church. We call Kiev 'the mother of all Russian cities.' For us Kiev is what Jerusalem is for many. Russian Orthodoxy began there, so under no circumstances can we abandon this historical and spiritual relationship. The whole unity of our Local Church is based on these spiritual ties."
The Moscow–Constantinople schism of 1996 began on 23 February 1996, when the Russian Orthodox Church severed full communion with the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, and ended on 16 May 1996 when the Russian Orthodox Church and the Ecumenical Patriarchate reached an agreement establishing parallel jurisdictions. The excommunication was in response to the Ecumenical Patriarchate's decision on 20 February 1996 to reestablish an autonomous Orthodox church in Estonia under the Ecumenical Patriarchate's jurisdiction.
The 1996 schism has similarities with the schism of October 2018: both schisms were caused by a dispute between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Ecumenical Patriarchate concerning the canonical jurisdiction over a territory in Eastern Europe over which the Russian Orthodox Church claimed to have the exclusive canonical jurisdiction, such territory being a part of the former Soviet Union, which upon its collapse had become an independent state (Ukraine in 2018, Estonia in 1996). The break of communion in 1996 was made by Moscow unilaterally, as in 2018.
On 14 September 2018, in response to the appointment of two exarchs (deputies of the Ecumenical Patriarch) in Ukraine, Daniel (Zelinsky) and Hilarion (Rudnyk), and in response to the Ecumenical Patriarchate's plans to grant autocephalous status to the Eastern Orthodox church in Ukraine, the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church held an extraordinary session to take "retaliatory measures" and decided:
- To suspend the liturgical prayerful commemoration of Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople.
- To suspend concelebration with hierarchs of the Patriarchate of Constantinople.
- To suspend the participation of the Russian Orthodox Church in all Episcopal Assemblies, theological dialogues, multilateral commissions and other structures chaired or co-chaired by representatives of the Patriarchate of Constantinople.
- To adopt a statement of the Holy Synod concerning the uncanonical actions of the Patriarchate of Constantinople in Ukraine.
A statement was released the same day explaining the situation and the sanctions taken to protest against the Ecumenical Patriarch's behavior.
On the same day, Metropolitan Hilarion clarified the situation in an interview, stating that this decision is not a rupture of Eucharistic communion and does not concern the laity, but nonetheless added:
But we refuse to concelebrate with hierarchs of the Patriarchate of Constantinople since every time they mention the name of their Patriarch during the liturgy while we have suspended it. [...]
We do not think, of course, that all this will finally shut the door for dialogue, but our today's decision is a signal to the Patriarchate of Constantinople that if the actions of this kind continue, we will have to break the Eucharistic communion entirely. [...]
[A]fter the breaking-off of the Eucharistic communion, at least a half of this 300-million-strong population will no longer recognize him as even the first among equals.
On 23 September 2018 Patriarch Bartholomew, during a Divine Liturgy he was celebrating in the Saint Fokas Orthodox church declared that he "had sent a message that Ukraine would receive autocephaly as soon as possible, since it is entitled to it"
On 30 September 2018, in an interview to Izvestia Daily published on the official website of the Moscow Patriarchate's Department for External Church Relations, Metropolitan Hilarion commented: "The Russian Church does not need to fear isolation. If Constantinople continues its anti-canonical actions, it will place itself outside the canonical space, outside the understanding of church order that distinguishes the Orthodox Church."
On 2 October, Patriarch Kirill of the ROC sent a letter to all the autocephalous Orthodox churches to ask them to hold a "Pan-Orthodox discussion" concerning the question of Ukraine's autocephaly.
On 5 October, the Metropolitan Pavel, head of the Belarusian Orthodox Church (exarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church), announced there would be a meeting of the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church on 15 October in Minsk. He said that "The situation with the Orthodox Church in Ukraine will be on the agenda of the meeting". This meeting had been announced previously on 7 January 2018 and was at the time "most likely to take place in mid October."
On 9 October, Metropolitan Hilarion, chairman of the Department of External Church Relations of the Russian Orthodox Church warned that "if the project for Ukrainian autocephaly is carried through, it will mean a tragic and possibly irretrievable schism of the whole Orthodoxy." He added that
ignoring sacred canons shakes up the whole system of the church organism. Schismatics in other Local Churches are well aware that if autocephaly is given to the Ukrainian schismatics, it will be possible to repeat the same scenario anywhere. That is why we state that autocephaly in Ukraine will not be "the healing of the schism" but its legalization and encouragement.
On 11 October 2018 the synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate announced that it would grant autocephaly to the "Church of Ukraine" in the future. In the same decision the Holy synod announced that it will immediately: reestablish a stauropegion (church body ruled directly by the Ecumenical Patriarch) in Kiev, revoke the legal binding of the letter of 1686,[d][note 1] and lift the excommunications which affected clergy and faithful of two Ukrainian Orthodox churches (the UOC-KP and the UAOC). Those two churches, the UOC-KP and the UAOC, were competing with the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) (UOC-MP) and were considered "schismatics" (illegally segregated groups) by the Patriarchate of Moscow, as well as by the other Orthodox churches. This decision led the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church to break full communion with the Ecumenical Patriarchate on 15 October 2018, which marked the beginning of the 2018 Moscow–Constantinople schism. Support for the grant of autocephaly had been expressed by the Ukrainian President and the Verkhovna Rada in June 2018, and before that by the Rada in June 2016.
On 15 December 2018, the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU) was formed after a unification council between the UAOC, the UOC-KP, and two bishops of the UOC-MP; Epiphanius was elected primate of the OCU during this unification council. Most of the hierarchs of the UOC-MP ignored the council and over half of them had sent invites back to the Ecumenical Patriarch.
On 5 January 2019, Bartholomew I, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, signed the official decree (tomos) that granted autocephaly (independence) to the Orthodox Church of Ukraine and officially established the Orthodox Church of Ukraine. On 6 January, after a Liturgy celebrated by Metropolitan Epiphanius and Patriarch Bartholomew, Partriarch Bartholomew read the tomos of the OCU and then gave it to Metropolitan Epiphanius. On 8 January 2019, the tomos was brought back to Istanbul so that all the members of the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate could sign the tomos. The tomos was signed by all members of the Holy synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate on 9 January 2019. The tomos, signed by all members of the Holy synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, was brought back to Ukraine on the morning of 10 January 2019.
On 15 October 2018, the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church, meeting in Minsk, decided to cut all ties with the Constantinople Patriarchate. This decision forbade for any member of the ROC (both clergy and laity) joint participation in all sacraments, including communion, baptism, and marriage, at any church worldwide controlled by Constantinople. At the time of the schism, the Russian Orthodox Church had over 150 million followers, more than half of all Eastern Orthodox Christians. The same day, after the synod, a briefing for journalists was given by Metropolitan Hilarion, chairman of the Department of External Church Relations of the Russian Orthodox Church, in which he declared that "the decision on complete cessation of the Eucharistic communion with the Patriarchate of Constantinople was taken today." On 18 October 2018, the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia has expressed "complete support of the position taken by the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Moscow, following its meeting of 15th October 2018" and severed Eucharistic communion with the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
The break of communion was done in response to a decision of the Holy synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate on 11 October 2018 which confirmed the intention of moving towards granting autocephaly (independence) to the Eastern Orthodox Church in Ukraine, and to immediately: reestablish a stauropegion (church body ruled directly by the Ecumenical Patriarch) in Kiev, revoke the legal binding of the letter of 1686,[d][note 1] and lift the excommunications which affected clergy and faithful of two Ukrainian Orthodox churches. Those two churches, the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC) and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Kiev Patriarchate (UOC-KP), were competing with the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) (UOC-MP) and were considered "schismatics" (illegally segregated groups) by the Patriarchate of Moscow, as well as by the other Orthodox churches.
Doctor in theology Cyrill GovorunUOC-MP argued that the break of communion between the churches of Moscow and Constantinople did not constitute a real schism (like the schism of 1054), but a "slit". The American Protestant magazine Christianity Today called the break of communion between the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Russian Orthodox Church the "biggest schism since 1054" and "the biggest Christian schism since the Protestant Reformation"of the
On 17 October, Metropolitan Hilarion, head of the Moscow Patriarchate Department for External Church Relations, was interviewed by the BBC Russian Service; this interview was published on the official website of the Department of External Church Relations of the Russian Orthodox Church the very same day. Hilarion declared: "As of today, we have very clearly stated: the fact that the Patriarchate of Constantinople has recognized a schismatic structure means for us that Constantinople itself is now in schism. It has identified itself with a schism. Accordingly, we cannot have the full Eucharistic communion with it." Hilarion added that when members of the Russian Orthodox of Moscow Patriarchate pay visits to the monasteries on Mount Athos, they cannot participate in the sacraments (for example, receive communion), and promised punishment to any priests who participate in the divine services together with the local clergy. It is known that Russia makes large donations to the monasteries on Athos: the sum of $200 million was announced by a source close to the Moscow Patriarchate and confirmed by Hilarion in his interview. Hilarion hinted that "[h]istory shows that when Athos is concerned over something, the monasteries on the Holy Mountain do find ways to inform the Patriarch of Constantinople about it" and called on Russian businessmen to switch donations to Russian sacred places.
On 29 December, during an interview to the channel Russia-24, Metropolitan Hilarion declared the Patriarch of Moscow had informed during the last meeting of the Supreme Diocesan Assembly of Moscow that that faithfuls of the ROC could communicate in the territory of the Mount Athos, but only in the Saint Panteleimon Monastery. The territory of the Mount Athos is under the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Hilarion declared the Saint Panteleimon Monastery "belongs to the Constantinople Church, as do all monasteries on Mt. Athos, but we know that it was built with Russian money by Russian monks and houses a Russian and Ukrainian monastic brotherhood, all rites are performed in a Slavic language and the laity who come there may take communion in it ... But not in other Athos monasteries".
On 17 October 2019, the Holy synod of the ROC reacted to the announcement that the Church of Greece had recognized the OCU. The Holy Synod stated: "If the Ukrainian schism is really recognized by the Greek Orthodox Church and its Primate – either in the form of a joint service, liturgical commemoration of the leader of the schism or sending official letters to them – it will be a sad testimony to the deepening division in the family of local Orthodox Churches. [...] We cease the prayer and Eucharistic communion with those bishops of the Greek Church who have entered or will enter into communion with representatives of the Ukrainian non-canonical schismatic communities. [...] the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church authorizes his Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and all Russia to stop the commemoration of the name of His Beatitude Archbishop of Athens and the entire Greece in the diptychs if the Primate of the Greek Church begins to commemorate the head of one of the Ukrainian schismatic groups during divine services or takes other actions indicating the recognition of the Ukrainian schism." In the same statement, the Holy Synod announced that the ROC would not be blessing pilgrimages of faithfuls of the ROC to Greek dioceses whose hierarchs are in communion with representatives of the OCU.
On 21 October 2019, Archbishop Ieronymos II of Athens and all Greece, the primate of the Church of Greece, sent a peaceful letter to Epiphanius, the primate of the OCU. This decision was supported by the whole hierarchy (bishops) of the Church of Greece, minus 7 Metropolitans; the Metropolitan of Piraeus later said he in fact did not support this decision, explaining: "My phrase 'I disagree but support the archbishop' was distorted beyond recognition." This decision meant that the Church of Greece recognized the OCU. The head of the external relations department of the ROC, Metropolitan Hilarion, stated that the ROC regretted this decision and that "the Greek Church is not independent, there is no full autocephaly, full independence, half of its hierarchs are hierarchs of the Constantinople Patriarchate, it does not have its own external policy, and therefore it always follows in the footsteps of the Constantinople Patriarchate." Hilarion stated that he hoped "no other regional church will follow this sad example." Thereafter, the Pilgrim Centre of the Patriarchate of Moscow, which is the official pilgrimage centre of the Moscow Patriarchate, released a list of dioceses of the Church of Greece which were considered "undesirable for pilgrimage" and to which the pilgrims of the Russian Orthodox Church were "not blessed" to go in pilgrimage. This list namely contained the diocese of Athens of the primate of the Church of Greece. This list was done on the basis of 17 October 2019 decision of the Holy Synod of the ROC not to bless pilgrimages to dioceses whose hierarchs etnter in communion with representatives of the OCU.
On 2 November, Metropolitan Hilarion stated: "We said that if the archbishop of Athens officially recognizes the Ukrainian schism, his name will be removed from the diptychs of the Russian Orthodox Church. What does that mean? It means that the patriarch will not mention the archbishop of Athens in his services, the same way as he is not mentioning the patriarch of Constantinople. I think he will not be mentioned this coming Sunday when the patriarch holds his service. That means we are stopping Eucharistic communion with the archbishop of Athens."
On 8 November 2019, the Moscow Patriarchate announced that Patriarch Kirill would stop commemorating the Patriarch of Alexandria and all Africa after the latter and his Church recognized the OCU that same day. On 25 November 2019, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow temporarily suspended the Moscow mission of the Patriarchate of Alexandria and All Africa. The future closing of the representation of the Patriarchate of Alexandria in Moscow was announced.
On 6 December 2019, the Holy Synod of the UOC-MP announced it had severted eucharistic communion "with the Patriarchate of Constantinople and with the Churches and hierarchs who have recognised the schismatics"
On 24 December 2019, Metropolitan Hilarion said that "[i]f the Patriarchate of Alexandria sides with the schism, then we might, of course, have to create parishes for our believers, because they won't be able to take communion at churches of the Patriarchate of Alexandria." Two days later, the Synod of the ROC in Moscow announced it severed full communion with the Patriarch of Alexandria and ceased commemorating him. In addition, the Synod of Moscow decided to suspend the activities of the metochion (embassy) of the Alexandrian Patriarchate under the Moscow Patriarchate. It was also decided that the Representation of the Patriarchate of Moscow under the Patriarchate of Alexandria in Cairo would become a parish of the ROC. As for the parishes of the ROC in Africa, they will be removed from the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Alexandria and will be granted stauropegial status, that is, they will be transferred to the direct subordination of the head of the ROC, Patriarch Kyrill.
On 10 November 2018, Metropolitan Hilarion, heads of the Moscow Patriarchate's Office for External Relations said during a TV program on Russia-24 that the ROC had no choice but to "send priests of the Russian Orthodox Church" to Turkey, "[a]nd this will continue as long as the Patriarch of Constantinople is in schism". He said the ROC did not do so before because Turkey is a territory of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, but that the ROC now does because the Ecumenical Patriarchate is in schism.
On 12 November 2018, it was reported that the first priest was sent by Patriarch Kirill to Istanbul (Turkey) "at the request of Russian believers who live in Turkey". On the same day, the Russian Orthodox Church announced a divine liturgy had been held on 11 November in Istanbul and would be regularly held. The ROC also reported the words of the priest who had led the divine liturgy who said that after the 15 October 2018 decision of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, numerous Russian Orthodox believers of Turkey had asked the Moscow Patriarchate to provide them with "pastoral care". On 14 December the Ecumenical Patriarchate published a statement by Metropolitan Sotirios of Pisidia in which he condemned the plans of the ROC priest to celebrate a Divine Liturgy in Belek (Turkey) with the help of the Russian consulate and without the permission of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, which has canonical jurisdiction over this territory.
On 27 November 2018 the Ecumenical Patriarchate decided to dissolve the Archdiocese of Russian Orthodox churches in Western Europe (AROCWE) "thereby entrusting its faithful to the Hierarchs of the Ecumenical Throne in Europe". ROC officials responded with a reminder of the 2003 proposal of Alexy II to move to the Moscow Patriarchate. This decision was made without any official requests from the hierarchs of the diocese and caused confusion. On 15 December Pastoral Assembly of AROCWE decided to call an Extraordinary General Assembly (EGA), scheduled for 23 February 2019. On 23 February 191 out of the 206 voters of EGA voted against the dissolution.
At the next Extraordinary General Assembly on 7 September 2019, 104 voters out of the 186 (58.1%) voted in favor of the AROCWE being subordinated to the Moscow Patriarchate, but that was less than two-thirds of the votes needed to make such a decision. Despite this, the head of AROCWE John (Renneteau) on 14 September personally came under the jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate. On 3 November, the AROCWE delegation in Moscow received a letter on the reunification of the Archdiocese with the Moscow Patriarchate. Some of AROCWE members joined the newly established "Vicariate of Russian Tradition of the Metropolis of France" which remained faithful to the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
On 26 November 2018, Metropolitan Hilarion declared that the ROC would send a priest in South Korea and declared the plans "to create a full-fledged parish", because until the 1950s in Korea was a Russian Spiritual Mission whose faithful were in the 1950s transferred to the Ecumenical Patriarchate's jurisdiction. The priest was scheduled to be sent by the end of the year.
On 28 December 2018, in response to the Ecumenical Patriarchate's actions in Ukraine, the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church decided to create the Patriarchal Exarchate in Western Europe (PEWE), the Spanish-Portuguese diocese, as well as the Patriarchal Exarchate in South-East Asia (PESEA). On the same day, in an interview with Russia-24 channel, Metropolitan Hilarion, head of the Synodal Department for External Church Relations of the ROC, declared the ROC "will now act as if they [Constantinople] do not exist at all because our purpose is missionary, our task is to educate, we are creating these structures for ministerial care about our flock, there can be no such deterring factors here", and that the ROC will take charge of the Orthodox faithfuls of its diaspora instead of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
On 26 February, during the first 2019 session of the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate, the Holy synod adopted a statement saying that the granting of the tomos by the Ecumenical Patriarchate "to the so-called 'Orthodox church of Ukraine,' created artificially by a merger of two schismatic organizations, deepened the division between [Eastern] Orthodox Christians in Ukraine and worsened ever more considerably the inter-confessional relations." The ROC also blamed the action of the Ukrainian parliament regarding the UOC-MP.
On 7 October 2019, the ROC officially released a comments by the Secretariat of the Biblical and Theological Synodal Commission of the Russian Orthodox Church. "The document discusses the problems of apostolic succession among schismatic "hierarchs", the limits of application of the oikonomia principle, issues of the lack of legitimacy of the OCU, the distortion of the role of the first bishop in the Orthodox Church, and explains the suspension of Eucharistic communion."
On 7 January 2019, during the festive Christmas liturgy in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior, Patriarch Kirill of the ROC did not mention a single name of the primates of other local Orthodox Churches, with whom the ROC is in canonical communion. Such commemoration[note 3] is demanded by a church charter and is a centuries-old tradition. In contrast to this, the head of the newly created Orthodox Church of Ukraine, Metropolitan Epiphanius, solemnly listed the names of all the primates, including the "Most Holy Patriarch of Russia Kirill". Epiphanius later explained that he had done this after the Ecumenical Patriarch had instructed him (Epiphanius) to do so, and that Filaret had instructed him not to mention Kirill.
On 20 November 2019, during the patriarchal liturgy, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow did not commemorate by name any of the primates of the local Eastern Orthodox Churches, saying only "Remember, Lord, the Orthodox Patriarchs."
On 21 November 2019, Patriarch Kyrill and Patriarch Theophilos III of Jerusalem concelebrated a liturgy together. During this liturgy, they commemorated each others, but did not commemorate any of the other Eastern Orthodox primates.
Numerous Orthodox churches took position concerning the question of the canonical jurisdiction over Ukraine, whether before or after this schism.
The schism has its root in a dispute over who between the Patriarchate of Moscow and the Patriarchate of Constantinople has canonical jurisdiction over the See of Kyiv (Kiev) and, therefore, which patriarchate has canonical jurisdiction over the territory of Ukraine. "[T]he principal argument proposed [concerning the granting of the ecclesiastical status of autocephaly to Ukraine by the Ecumenical Patriarchate] is that Ukraine "constitutes the canonical territory of the Patriarchate of Moscow" and that, consequently, such an act on the part of the Ecumenical Patriarchate would comprise an "intervention" into a foreign ecclesiastical jurisdiction." The Patriarchate of Moscow's claim of canonical jurisdiction is based mostly on two documents: the Patriarchal and Synodal "Act" or "Letter of Issue" of 1686, and a 1686 Patriarchal Letter to the Kings of Russia. Both those documents are reproduced in the "Appendix" section of a study published by the Ecumenical Patriarch called The Ecumenical Throne and the Ukrainian Church – The Documents Speak. The Church of Constantinople claims the Church of Constantinople has canonical jurisdiction over the See of Kyiv and that the documents upon which the Russian Orthodox Church bases its claim of jurisdiction over said See of Kyiv do not support the ROC's claim.
On 1 July 2018, the Patriarch Bartholomew said that Constantinople was the Mother church of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine and declared that
Constantinople never ceded the territory of Ukraine to anyone by means of some ecclesiastical Act, but only granted to the Patriarch of Moscow the right of ordination or transfer of the Metropolitan of Kiev on the condition that the Metropolitan of Kiev should be elected by a Clergy-Laity Congress and commemorate the Ecumenical Patriarch. [It is written] in the Tomos of autocephaly, which was granted by the Mother Church [Constantinople] to the Church of Poland: "... original separation from our Throne of the Metropolis of Kiev and of the two Orthodox churches of Lithuania and Poland, which depend on it, and their annexation to the Holy Church of Moscow, in no way occurred according to the binding canonical regulations, nor was the agreement respected concerning the full ecclesial independence of the Metropolitan of Kiev, who bears the title of Exarch of the Ecumenical Throne..."
The ROC considers this argument "groundles[s]".
The Ecumenical Patriarchate issued a document authored by various clerics and theologians called The Ecumenical Throne and the Ukrainian Church – The Documents Speak. This document analyzes canonical historic documents (namely the Patriarchal and Synodal "Act" or "Letter of Issue" of 1686 and the 1686 Patriarchal Letter to the Kings of Russia) to see if the claim over the See of Kyiv by the Patriarchate of Moscow is canonical or not.[g]
The Ecumenical Throne and the Ukrainian Church concludes that:
Through the autocratic abolition of the commemoration of the Ecumenical Patriarch by each Metropolitan of Kyiv, the de jure dependence of the Metropolis of Kyiv (and the Church of Ukraine) on the Ecumenical Patriarchate was arbitrarily rendered an annexation and amalgamation of Ukraine to the Patriarchate of Moscow.
All these events took place in a period when the Ecumenical Throne was in deep turmoil and incapable "on account of the circumstances of the time to raise its voice against such capricious actions" [...] The Church of Ukraine never ceased to constitute de jure canonical territory of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.[...]
The Ecumenical Patriarchate was always aware of this despite the fact that, "on account of the circumstances of the time", it tolerated the arbitrary actions by the Patriarchate of Moscow. [...]
The Ecumenical Patriarchate is entitled and obliged to assume the appropriate maternal care for the Church of Ukraine in every situation where this is deemed necessary.
On 27 December 2016, Konstantinos Vetochnikov[h] wrote that the transfer of the See of Kyiv from the authority of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to the authority of the Russian Orthodox Church "never took place". Later, Vetoshnikov made an analysis of the arguments of the Russian Orthodox Church. He pointed out that, according to the strict dogmatic approach (akribeia, ἀκρίβεια), the whole territory of Russia was originally subjected to the Ecumenical Patriarchate. After Muscovy had gone into schism in the 15th century, it received autocephaly according to a more flexible approach (oikonomia, οἰκονομία) to heal this schism. The Metropolitan of Kiev at the same time remained within the jurisdiction of Constantinople. Then, also according to the oikonomia approach, the right to ordain Metropolitans of Kiev was transferred to the Patriarch of Moscow. This was not a change in the boundaries of the Moscow Patriarchate eparchy, as it was issued by a document of a lower level (ekdosis, ἐκδόσεως), which was used for various temporary solutions. For pastoral reasons, the Ecumenical Patriarchate subsequently did not assert its rights to this territory. But after the collapse of the Soviet Union there was a split among the Orthodox of Ukraine, and the Russian Church for 30 years failed to overcome this split. And now, also for pastoral reasons, the Ecumenical Patriarchate was forced to act in accordance with the principle of akribeia, and so it decided to abolish the right to ordain Metropolitans of Kiev which had been earlier transferred to the Moscow Patriarchate in accordance with oikonomia.
On 20 August 2018, the pro-Moscow anonymous site Union of Orthodox Journalists analysed the Ecumenical Patriarchate's claim of jurisdiction over Ukraine and concluded the See of Kyiv had been transferred to the Patriarchate of Moscow. They added that even if the Ecumenical Patriarchate decided to abrogate the 1686 transfer, the territory covered in 1686 by the See of Kyiv's territory was "a far cry from the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of today" and covered less than half of Ukraine's current territory.
Metropolitan Hilarion, chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate's Department for External Church Relations, declared in an interview that Constantinople's plan to "grant Autocephaly to a part of the Russian Orthodox Church [...] that once was subordinate to Constantinople [...] runs counter to historic truth". His argument is that the entire territory of Ukraine has not been under Constantinople's jurisdiction for 300 years because the Kiev metropolis that was incorporated into the Moscow Patriarchate in 1686 was much smaller (it did not include Donbass, Odessa and some other regions) and therefore does not coincide with the present-day territory of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. A similar argument was given on 13 November in a live phone interview to Radio Liberty by the Head of the Information and Education Department of the UOC-MP, Archbishop Clement.
Archbishop Clement of the UOC-MP considers that "to revoke the letter on the transfer of the Kiev Metropolis in 1686 is the same as to cancel the decisions of the Ecumenical Councils of the 4th or 7th centuries."
On 8 November 2018, the Union of Orthodox Journalists analyzed the same documents as The Ecumenical Throne and the Ukrainian Church (the Patriarchal and Synodal "Act" or "Letter of Issue" of 1686 and the 1686 Patriarchal Letter to the Kings of Russia) and again concluded that the See of Kiev had been "completely transferred to the jurisdiction of the Russian Church in 1686".
The possibility of a pan-Orthodox synaxis (consultative assembly or conference) has been raised before and after the official break of communion.
On 29 September 2018, Alexander VolkovFirst among the Equals, that is, the Ecumenical Patriarch". Volkov noted that, the press secretary of the Patriarch of Moscow, declared that the local Orthodox churches may initiate a pan-Orthodox Synaxis on the issue of granting autocephaly to the Church in Ukraine, however the problem was that the convening such a synaxis is "a prerogative of the
Others [sic] forms [of pan-Orthodox synaxis] exist, too [...] There are the elders of the Church who can take this task upon themselves. [...] If you look at the Diptychs [the table specifying the order of commemorating the Primates of Orthodox Churches – TASS], the next in line [after the Ecumenical Patriarch – TASS] is the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Alexandria. Or else, there is the so-called synaxis of the eldest Patriarchs– of Alexandria, Jerusalem and Antioch
On 7 November, answering the question "Who could, for instance, convene a Pan-Orthodox Council and chair it?", Metropolitan Hilarion declared in an interview, which was published on the official website of the Russian Orthodox Church's Department for External Church Relations, that it was "obvious" that the Ecumenical Patriarch could not chair a Pan-Orthodox Council since "the most important problems in the Orthodox world are linked with precisely his anti-canonical activity".
On 4 December, when asked about the fact that convoking a pan-Orthodox council was a prerogative of the Ecumenical Patriarch, Metropolitan Hilarion replied:
which canons ? [...] I believe those canons do not exist, the Ecumenical councils were not convoked by the Ecumenical Patriarch, they were convoked by the emperor. The fact the Patriarch of Constantinople has been given the right to convey councils in the 20th century is the result of a consensus reached by the local Orthodox churches. It is not at a personal initiative that the council is convoked, but only with the consent of all the local churches. We had, until recently, the first among equals, that is the Patriarch of Constantinople, who convoked the councils in the name [...] of the local Orthodox churches. Now, the unifying element is no more the Patriarchate of Constantinople which, so to speak, autodestroyed itself. It is its decision. [...] We have to think about the future: who will convoke the councils, will it be the Patriarch of Alexandria, or another Patriarch, or else we will generally not have a council? Whatever. The Patriarch of Constantinople, as long as he stays in schism, even if he convokes a council the Russian Orthodox Church will not take part in it.
In an interview published on 21 February 2019 in the Serbian magazine Politika, the Ecumenical Patriarch said: "As for the provision of autocephaly with the consent of other Orthodox Churches, this did not happen, because it is not a tradition in our Church. All the Tomoses of the autocephaly that were granted to the newly created autocephalous churches (Russia, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Georgia, Athens, Warsaw, Tirana and Presov) were provided by the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and this was not preceded by any agreement or negotiation at the Pan-Orthodox level."
Thus far, Patriarch John X of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch, Patriarch Irinej of the Serbian Orthodox Church, Archbishop Chrysostomos II of the Church of Cyprus, Metropolitan Sawa (Hrycuniak) of the Polish Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Tikhon of the Orthodox Church in America,[note 4] Archbishop Anastasios, primate of the Albanian Orthodox Church, three hierarchs of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church (Metropolitans Gabriel of Lovech, John of Varna and Veliki Preslav, and Daniel of Vedin), and the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia have expressed their desire for a pan-Orthodox synaxis or pan-Orthodox council over the question of Ukraine in various statements. On 12 November 2018, the Assembly of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church of published a communiqué in which they requested the convocation of a Pan-Orthodox Synod.
On 21 November 2019, Patriarch Theophilos III of Jerusalem announced he would like to gather in Jordan with the other Eastern Orthodox primates "in the spirit of fellowship – koinonia – so that counsel will be taken together for the preservation of our unity in Eucharistic communion."
This initiative was welcomed by the ROC; Metropolitan Hilarion, head of the DECR, also added that the Patriarchate of Jerusalem had a "historic primacy" within the Eastern Orthodox Church.
On 22 November, the primate of the Church of Greece declined the invitation. At the beginning of January, the primate of the Church of Cyprus said he had not replied to the invitation because he "considered it prudent not to answer" and did not consider this meeting a "serious act", and added that "only the Ecumenical Patriarch, no one else" had the right to convene such a council. At few days later, the answer of the Ecumenical Patriarch to the letter of invitation of the Patriarch of Jerusalem was reported; the Ecumenical Patriarch stated he refused the invitation and asked the Patriarch of Jerusalem to stop his initiative of meeting. A few days later, the primate of the Church of Greece reiterated that he would not attend Patriarch Theophilos III's meeting. Later, it was reported that the Orthodox Churches of Albania, Poland, Alexandria, Georgia, Bulgaria and Antioch had stated they would not come. The Romanian Orthodox Church said it would be present at the gathering, but would not be presented by its Patriarch but by a delegation.
The gathering took place on 26 February 2020. Were present the delegations of: the ROC with Patriarch Kirill as leader, the Church of Jerusalem with Patriarch Theophilos as leader, the Serbian Church with Patriarch Irinej as leader, the OCCLS with primate Met. Ratislav as leader, the Polish Church with Abp. Abel (Poplavsky) of Lublin as leader, and the Romanian Church with Met. Nifon Mihăiță as leader. After the gathering, the participants released a common statement.
To admit into communion schismatics and a person anathematized in other Local Church with all the 'bishops' and 'clergy' consecrated by him, the encroachment on somebody else’s canonical regions, the attempt to abandon its own historical decisions and commitments – all this leads the Patriarchate of Constantinople beyond the canonical space and, to our great grief, makes it impossible for us to continue the Eucharistic community with its hierarch, clergy and laity. From now on until the Patriarchate of Constantinople’s rejection of its anti-canonical decisions, it is impossible for all the clergy of the Russian Orthodox Church to concelebrate with the clergy of the Church of Constantinople and for the laity to participate in sacraments administered in its churches.
But both sides acknowledge the canonical dispute is a proxy for a wider battle over Kiev's independence from Moscow. ... Speaking in front of Kiev's oldest church on Sunday, Mr Poroshenko cast "autocephaly", or autonomy for the Ukrainian church, as part of Kiev's broader push for integration with the west through EU and Nato membership while withdrawing from agreements with Russia
On May 16 both Holy Synods formally adopted the recommendations made at the Zurich meeting. The agreement provided for parallel jurisdictions in Estonia, and allowed individual parishes and clergy to join either the Estonian autonomous church under Constantinople or the diocese that would remain dependent on Moscow. For its part, Constantinople agreed to a four-month suspension of its February 20th decision to re-establish the Estonian autonomous church. Moscow agreed to lift the penalties that had been imposed on clergy who had joined the autonomous church. Both Patriarchates agreed to work together with the Estonian government, so that all Estonian Orthodox might enjoy the same rights, including rights to property. As a result of this agreement, full communion was restored between Moscow and Constantinople, and the name of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew was again included in the diptychs in Moscow.
The recognition of the canonical legitimacy of the two church structures (the KP UOC and the UAOC), which had hitherto been regarded as schismatic, may be assumed to be just a temporary step, aimed at facilitating the reunification of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church into a single organisation.
the report of the Patriarchate of Constantinople published on October 11, 2018, about the following decisions of the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Constantinople: confirming the intention ‘to grant autocephaly to the Ukrainian Church; opening a ‘stauropegion’ of the Patriarchate of Constantinople in Kiev; ‘restoring in the rank of bishop or priest’ the leaders of the Ukrainian schism and their followers and ‘returning their faithful to church communion’; ‘recalling the 1686 patent of the Patriarchate of Constantinople on the transfer of the Metropolis of Kiev to the Moscow Patriarchate as its part.
Митрополит Иларион: Наши православные верующие могут ездить на Афон, могут молиться в афонских монастырях, могут прикладываться к иконам, к святым мощам. То, что сейчас, к сожалению, невозможно, – это причащаться в афонских монастырях. Но вот Святейший Патриарх на последнем Епархиальном собрании города Москвы, когда ему был задан прямой вопрос, можно причащаться на Афоне в русском Пантелеимоновом монастыре, ответил, что, с его точки зрения, мирянам там причащаться можно. Думаю, что это говорит, прежде всего, о том, что мы воспринимаем Пантелеимонов монастырь как русскую обитель. Он принадлежит, конечно, к Константинопольской Церкви, как и все афонские монастыри, но мы знаем, что этот монастырь строился русскими монахами на русские деньги, там русское и украинское монашеское братство, там богослужения совершаются на церковнославянском языке. Те миряне из Русской Православной Церкви, которые будут посещать этот монастырь, могут причащаться там Святых Христовых Таин. Но в других афонских монастырях они, к сожалению, не могут причащаться.
Сейчас мы отовсюду вышли и теперь будем создавать наши приходы и епархии, те или иные структуры в дальнем зарубежье без всякой оглядки на Константинополь. Мы будем действовать так, как будто их не существует вообще, потому что наша задача – миссионерская, просветительская. Мы создаем эти структуры для пастырского окормления наших верующих, и здесь не может быть подобного рода сдерживающих факторов.
Vladimir Putin held an operational meeting with the permanent members of the Security Council. They discussed issues of the domestic Russian socio-economic agenda and international issues.
the Synod ... of the Ecumenical Patriarchate ... gave further confirmation that Ukraine is on the path to receiving church independence from Moscow. ... Although President Poroshenko triumphantly announced that in result of the meeting Ukraine had received the long-awaited Tomos, or decree of Church independence – a claim circulated in Ukraine with great enthusiasm, this is not true. ... Constantinople's decision will benefit other jurisdictions in Ukraine – the UOC KP and UAOC, which will have to effectively dismantle their own administrative structures and set up a new Church, which will receive the Tomos of autocephaly. ... Right now it's unclear which part of the UOC MP will join the new Church. 10 out of 90 UOC MP bishops signed the appeal for autocephaly to the Ecumenical Patriarch – only 11%. But separate priests could join even if their bishops don't, says Zuiev.
The Kyiv Orthodox Theological Academy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Kyiv Patriarchate translated into Ukrainian the study The Ecumenical Throne and the Ukrainian Church
Finally, we convey our fervent gratitude to the erudite scholar, Mr. Konstantinos Vetochnikov, who placed his invaluable knowledge on the issue of this publication at the disposal of the Ecumenical Patriarchate
'We are talking about the Kiev Metropolis of the XVII century, which occupied a third of the current territory of Ukraine. And then how can they claim entire Ukraine? And if we are talking only about the Kiev Metropolis of the XVII century, then they, obviously, suggest dividing our country into some kind of "old" and "new" territories. This is a clear appeal to separatism,' said the bishop.
The Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia held its session the day before yesterday, and members of the Synod charged me with a duty to appeal to representatives of all the Local Orthodox Churches with a request to convene a pan-Orthodox meeting over the Ukrainian issue. Until all the developments in the Ukrainian church life are discussed and a conciliar decision is taken, our position will remain unchanged.
3. Положительно оценить инициативу Блаженнейшего Патриарха Иерусалимского Феофила, направленную на преодоление разделений и восстановление единства в Православной Церкви.
3. To positively assess the initiative of His Beatitude Patriarch Theophilos of Jerusalem, aimed at overcoming divisions and restoring unity in the Orthodox Church.]