The Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople has officially agreed to recognize the independence, or “autocephaly” of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, a move immediately hailed by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko but slammed as “catastrophic” by Moscow.
Following the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s regular synod, held in Istanbul, Turkey, the Patriarchate issued an official announcement.
The move comes amid a deepening split in global Orthodox Christianity that has involved numerous Church leaders, heads of state and major political maneuvering by all sides.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said that autocephaly for the Ukrainian Orthodox Christian Church was “something that we have dreamed of, waited for a long time, and fought for all the time.”
The Russian Orthodox Church condemned the decision as “catastrophic.”
“Today the Patriarchate of Constantinople has made catastrophic decisions — first and foremost regarding itself and global Orthodoxy,” a spokesman for Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill, Aleksandr Volkov, said in televised remarks.
“The Patriarchate of Constantinople has crossed a red line,” he said.
Earlier, Kirill was quoted as saying that his church will “have to break eucharistical relations with Constantinople” following the decision.
There are concerns that the move could stoke tension and violence between various factions within the Ukraine, some of which are still aligned or influenced by Russia..
The newly-created and recognized Kyiv Patriarchate has already laid claim to the famous 11th century Kyiv Monastery of the Caves or the monastery in Pochayiv. Both are in the hands of the Russian-dominated segment of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
That is probably why Bartholomew appealed to all sides involved “that they avoid appropriation of Churches, Monasteries and other properties, as well as every other act of violence and retaliation, so that the peace and love of Christ may prevail,” according to the statement.
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