01:18 GMT +320 January 2019
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    A picture taken in Moscow on May 6, 2016 shows the Russian Orthodox Cathedral of the Annunciation dedicated to the Annunciation of the Theotokos.

    Constantinople Patriarch Legalises Schism as Ukraine Gets Autocephaly

    © AFP 2018 / JOEL SAGET
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    ISTANBUL (Sputnik) - Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople has completed the process of creation of a new schismatic religious structure in Ukraine by granting the tomos of autocephaly to the newly-established church that the Ukrainian political leadership has been striving for.

    An independence decree, or tomos, was signed by the patriarch on Saturday and handed over to Epiphany Dumenko, the leader of the new Ukrainian church, on Sunday. Under the tomos, the new church's jurisdiction will be restricted to Ukraine and it will not be authorized to appoint bishops and establish its parishes abroad. The decree imposes other restrictions on the religious structure, making it effectively dependent on Constantinople.

    The move has already been qualified as not just a crisis but the largest schism since 1054 when the Orthodoxy split into the Catholic Church in the West and the Orthodox Church in the East.

    Now, the Orthodoxy has been witnessing a huge split, with fault lines running between the church of Constantinople with Ukrainian schismatics, on one side, and all the other local Orthodox churches who remain committed to church canons, on the other.

    Tomos for Ukraine

    Bartholomew timed the process of handing over the tomos to Ukraine to the great Orthodox holiday of Epiphany under the revised Julian calendar and Christmas eve under the Julian calendar.

    The ceremony was held without much pomp, unlike the one that took place a day before — during signing the tomos. Bartholomew granted Epiphany the tomos, — a scroll written by Athos calligraphers, — holy oil, a crosier made in Istanbul, and an order "to strive for unity and peace, including with the hierarchs under the omophorion of His Beatitude, brother Patriarch of Moscow."

    READ MORE: Polish Orthodox Church Refuses to Recognize ‘New Church' Set Up in Ukraine

    Bartholomew called the day historic and claimed that the new church "enters officially and canonically as the 15th church into the blessed choir of autocephalous [Orthodox] churches."

    Bartholomew said that he was acting "not for personal interests or purposes, but solely to unite the Ukrainian people."

    The Ukrainians who attended the ceremony at St. George's Cathedral in Istanbul welcomed the transfer of Tomos with applause, like in theatre, and with a loud nationalist slogan "Glory to Ukraine! Glory to Heroes!" It is noteworthy that on the day of the signing of the tomos, the nationalists uttered it in hushed voices.

    Enthusiasm at Phanar

    Over the days, Phanar, a historical part of Istanbul where the seat of the Ecumenical Patriarchate is located, was filled with an "atmosphere of enthusiasm and ecumenism," the patriarchate's Light of the Phanar official blog said.

    Bartholomew, meanwhile, reiterated that he had not received any money for tomos.

    "The ecumenical patriarch said that Ukrainian President [Petro] Poroshenko brought chocolate again and hopes that this time he will convince everyone that no money was given as some maliciously claimed", the blog said.

    The speculation around what Ukrainian authorities gave the patriarch in return for the autocephaly dates back to December, when Bartholomew told children, who came to Phanar for Christmas carolling, that Poroshenko, who is also the owner of a confectionery corporation, "paid" for the future tomos with candies and chocolate, rather than money. The patriarch then showed two packages of sweets.

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    These were not only candies though that Bartholomew got from the Ukrainian authorities: St. Andrew's Church, one of the architectural pearls of Kiev, was handed over to the Ecumenical Patriarchate for permanent use.

    It is expected that Phanar will be given other Ukrainian churches and monasteries.

    Enthusiasm at Phanar is not shared by all, however. One of the priests of the Constantinople Patriarchate, who undoubtedly supported Bartholomew’s decision, expressed concern about both the current and future situation in Ukraine but immediately recalled that the patriarch warned against persecution and asked for unity among all the Orthodox churches in Ukraine.

    Nevertheless, one can hardly characterize Poroshenko’s demands for a change of the name of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP) as conducive to reconciliation. The same concerns the plans to adopt a law on the transfer of UOC-MP parishes to the non-canonical church. Meanwhile, these are just a few examples of Ukrainian politicians’ interference in church affairs.

    Having issued the tomos, Constantinople Patriarchate now intends to move to the next stage — seek recognition of the new church by local Orthodox churches. So far, none of them supported the schismatics, despite Patriarch Bartholomew’s calls. None of the representatives of canonical churches attended the ceremony either.

    "They were not invited, therefore they were absent. It was not supposed to invite [them]", the patriarchate said.

    Tragedy for Orthodoxy

    The Russian Orthodox Church has qualified the tomos as a "result of incessant political and personal ambitions." It has also said that the day of signing the tomos was a "tragic" one for the history of the world Orthodoxy since the Constantinople Patriarchate has trampled over all Orthodox canons.

    READ MORE: Law on Renaming Ukrainian Orthodox Church Insane — Patriarch Kirill

    According to Serbian Patriarch Irinej, Bartholomew damaged his own reputation and that of his church by acting unilaterally and ignoring other Orthodox churches. The patriarch suggested that all independent Orthodox churches should have been consulted on how to move forward on Ukraine.

    "We know real reasons [behind the creation of the new church in Ukraine]. They are not of a canonical nature, but of a political one – the desire of some forces in the world, through occupying Ukraine, to come closer to Russia and get supervision over both this country and Moscow. The Constantinople Patriarch did not consult anyone but seemingly made an agreement with other powers to try and solve the issue by himself. As we can see, this decision has led to a catastrophe, which legalized and deepened the new split in Ukraine", Irinej said in an interview with a Serbian television channel, TV Hram.

    Irinej expressed a belief that it was necessary to solve the issue of recognition of autocephaly on the basis of canonical principles and canonical order.

    "There is no need to think a lot if we exclude politics, the canonical moment is clear", Irinej said, stressing that "the Constantinople patriarch found the most tragic solution."

    In a comment to Sputnik, Protopresbyter Theodore Zisis, a professor at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, similarly denounced Constantinople’s move as "illegal, anti-canonical and divisive."

    According to Zisis, the decision was made "under pressure of secular western forces."

    He stressed that Patriarch Bartholomew acted arbitrarily, heretically and illegally, while launching the process of granting autocephaly to the Ukrainian schismatics.

    The expert expressed a belief that all Slavic-speaking churches "will stand for the Russian Church", while those Greek-speaking "will be in a very difficult position" because they would be pressured.

    The theologian, however, voiced hope that the Constantinople Patriarch would reconsider his position and "the other Orthodox churches will rise to the occasion and will not agree with illegal, anti-canonical and divisive actions on granting autocephaly to the schismatics in Ukraine."

    READ MORE: Russian Orthodox Church Demands Apology From Constantinople Amid Schism

    In mid-December, a unification council was held in Kiev on the initiative of Poroshenko and Patriarch Bartholomew, during which Epiphany Dumenko was elected as head of the new autocephalous church. The new church united the two previously non-canonical structures. The council was attended by only two bishops of the canonical UOC-MP, who were later defrocked by their church, which formally refused to participate in the event.

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    Tags:
    autocephaly, schism, church, Constantinople Patriarchate, Russian Orthodox Church, Serbian Patriarch Irinej, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, Petro Poroshenko, Ukraine, Russia
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