"We… express our profound indignation at the blatant violation of the Holy Canons by the Orthodox Church of Constantinople. The decision of its hierarchy to send its 'exarchs' into the canonical territory of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, without the agreement and permission of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia and His Beatitude Metropolitan Onufry of Kiev and All Ukraine, is a gross and unprecedented incursion by one Local Church into a distant canonical territory, which has its own Local Church that is alone responsible for the Orthodox flock of that country," the ROCOR said in a statement.
In the opinion of ROCOR bishops, such a move by Patriarch Bartholomew and his fellow archpastors threatens the unity of Orthodoxy.
"In light of these developments, we call upon the clergy and flock of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, together with the other Local Orthodox Churches, to redouble their holy and ardent prayers for peace in Ukraine, and unfailingly to oppose the evil presently befalling our persecuted brothers and sisters, the children of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church," the statement says.
The United States has a certain influence on the Patriarchate of Constantinople, including a political one, Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) spokesman Vladimir Legoyda said, commenting on the latest actions of Patriarch Bartholomew.
"Of course, US influence on the Patriarchate of Constantinople exists. I can draw two lines: one line the diaspora itself, the Greeks who live in the United States, who make up the flock of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, and who, naturally, can have their own interests they try to lobby, including in church politics. The second is political influence. Sometimes these lines merge," Legoyda said on air of the Rossiya 1 broadcaster.
Answering why the Russian Orthodox Church still maintains relations with the Patriarchate of Constantinople, despite its actions and attempts to appropriate the "exclusive primacy" in the Orthodox world in violation of the canons, Legoyda noted that the unity of Orthodoxy had always been the priority for the Russian Orthodox Church.
"We have received understanding and support in this situation from almost the entire Orthodox world, and we still hope to the end that these terrible and irreparable steps will not be implemented and that we will be heard," he added.
Speaking about the number of people in Patriarchate of Constantinople's flock around the world, Legoida said that there are different figures on this score, but according to the most optimistic estimates, it is about 5.3 million people. More realistic estimates are about 4 million people. At the same time, the majority of believers are in the United States and Canada.
The comment followed Friday's statement by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, who said that he had appointed his bishop representatives in Kiev in the framework of preparations for granting autocephaly to the Orthodox Church in Ukraine.
This decision was sharply condemned by the Moscow Patriarchate, which called it an invasion of the canonical territory of another local church. Metropolitan Hilarion, chairman of the Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate, said that the Moscow Patriarchate would break off Eucharistic communion with the Patriarchate of Constantinople if they grant autocephaly to the Ukrainian Church.