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“Towards the autonomy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church from Moscow”

The final communiqué with the decisions of the synod presided over by Patriarch Bartholomew to reach autocephaly in Kiev


A process that continues, accompanied by an appeal to avoid divisions and violent reactions. Yesterday at the headquarters of the Patriarchate of Constantinople the Synod, presided over by the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to examine the issue of granting of autocephaly to the Ukrainian Church, a request received last April from the authorities of that country, was concluded. At the end of the meeting a communiqué was released.

The synod examined the reports of the two exarchs sent by Bartholomew – bishops of Pamfili, Daniel, and that of Edmont, Ilarion and then took some decisions. First of all, the synod confirmed the intention to proceed with the granting of autocephaly to the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, today dependent on the Patriarchate of Moscow.


It was then decided to restore to the Church of Kiev the stavropigion of Constantinople (that is to say unity, the ecclesial community that refers to the ecumenical patriarchate), as one of the many stavropigion of Constantinople in Ukraine that have existed over the centuries. Moreover, the synod decided to examine – according to the canons sanctioned by the various ecumenical synods on the rights and duties of the ecumenical patriarchate in the Orthodox world – the requests and appeals of the clergy of all the other autocephalous Churches addressed to Constantinople, and consequently also those of Philarete and the Makarios. Both are heads of self-proclaimed Ukrainian Orthodox Churches and have separated in recent years from Moscow. They had been declared schismatic, but not because of theological differences. Therefore, the synod of Constantinople restores them to their full function.


And more: the validity of the synodal letter of the year 1686 – granting the Patriarch of Moscow, for economic reasons and according to the ecclesial economy, the faculty to ordain the Metropolitan of Kiev- was revoked. The Metropolitan of Kiev was elected by the assembly of clerics and laity and there was an obligation for all to mention the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople.


The synod then appealed to all parties involved to avoid occupying churches, monasteries and church’s properties, as well as to avoid committing acts of violence, instead making the spirit of charity and peace prevail in the name of Jesus Christ.

According to the communiqué, therefore, the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, has started the procedures for the granting of what is the last, in order of time, autocephaly in the Orthodox planet, a custom applied to all Orthodox Churches, born after the first millennium. As is well known, the tendency in Orthodoxy has been to establish a Church for each nation, with its own leadership.

For history in the first millennium, the Christian world had as its reference the five patriarchates (Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem) and the autocephalous church of Cyprus, a situation that had been sanctioned by the first, second and third ecumenical synod.


The Patriarchate of Constantinople, as emerges from the communiqué, used the rights it has on both the concession of autocephaly and on the management of the Orthodox Churches of the diaspora. Prerogatives that were codified in the canons, sanctioned by ecumenical synods, that the Patriarchate itself had proposed to discuss at the Pan-Orthodox Synod of Crete. But both the Moscow Church, with its decision to withdraw to the last; and the Church of Antioch, for its dispute with that of Jerusalem over jurisdiction over a parish of 100 faithful in Qatar, have not given a response and have not brought their contribution to the Pan-Orthodox Synod.

With the revocation of the anathemas and the re-admission of Philarete and Makarios, together with their faithful, into sacramental communion with the other Orthodox, the exarchs appointed by Bartholomew as his representatives, will now have to take action to find an equitable solution and restore peaceful coexistence among the Ukrainian Orthodox, there being no dogmatic differences.


It should be emphasized, according to well-informed sources, that the younger generation of Ukrainian priests and bishops belonging to the Church of Moscow, want autonomy, but without the claims and reprisals of the past. It is as if they were asking that the management of the passage be entrusted to them, so that it may be peaceful. The last paragraph of the communiqué seams to highlight exactly this intention, while putting Bartholomew to the test in his attempt to find a solution to the Ukrainian question.


Until the election of the next Patriarch of Kiev, the name of the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew will be mentioned, according to the tradition of the Orthodox Church.


In short, to use the words of Bishop Dimitri Salachas, the Ukrainian question is serious but not tragic, because the synodal tradition is strongly rooted in Orthodoxy.


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