giovedì 11 ottobre 2018

Constantinople's important decision & reaction in Moscow
(a cura Redazione "Il sismografo")
(Peter Anderson) Earlier today the Ecumenical Patriarchate issued its communique relating to the decisions reached during the meeting of its Holy Synod, October 9-11.  The consequences of these decisions are huge.  First, although the Synod did not issue a tomos of autocephaly, it “renewed” its decision to do so.  It is very possible that the tomos will issued after a future council is held in Ukraine to form a new church consisting of the UOC-KP, the UAOC, and any parts of the UOC-MP that chose to participate in the council. 

Second, the Synod decided to “reestablish” the Stavropegion of the Ecumenical Patriarch in Kyiv.  A stavropegion is an office under the direct control of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and would establish the physical presence of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Kyiv.

Third, Filaret Denisenko (head of the UOC-KP) and Makariy Maletych (head of the UAOC) and their followers “have been canonically reinstated to their hierarchical or priestly rank, and their faithful have been restored to communion with the Church.”  From the viewpoint of Constantinople, this is probably a necessary prerequisite for the bishops of the UOC-KP and the UAOC to participate in a future council relating to establishment of an autocephalous Ukrainian Orthodox Church.  However, this decision may also have some immediate consequences.  The UOC-MP has maintained that the sacraments of the schismatic UOC-KP and UAOC are invalid.  For the UOC-MP this has been a major selling point in persuading its faithful not to join the UOC-KP or the UAOC.  The UOC-KP and UAOC can now argued that they have been “restored to communion with the Church” and that the faithful should no longer have any concerns about the validity of their sacraments.  Whether this results in some of the faithful of the UOC-MP now joining the UOC-KP or the UAOC remains to be seen.  From the perspective of the Moscow Patriarchate, the actions of the Ecumenical Patriarchate were not canonical and the sacraments of the UOC-KP and UAOC are still invalid.

Fourth, the Holy Synod decided to “revoke the legal binding of the Synodal Letter of the year 1686.”  This is the letter in which the Ecumenical Patriarchate provided the Moscow Patriarchate certain rights over the Ukraine metropolitan see.  From the perspective of Moscow, the Patriarchate of Constantinople granted the Moscow Patriarchate jurisdiction over Ukraine by this letter.  Before today, the Ecumenical Patriarchate has argued that this letter was not effective as Moscow had not complied with all of the conditions established by this letter.  To further strengthen its argument in this regard, Constantinople now “revokes” the letter entirely.  If Ukraine is in fact now under the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Ecumenical Patriarchate has a further argument for its power to grant autocephaly to Ukraine in addition to its basic argument that granting of autocephaly is the sole prerogative of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.   As a practical matter, it is certain that the UOC-MP and its primate Metropolitan Onufry will not acknowledge any allegiance to Constantinople and will consider this action void as not canonical.

Fifth and lastly, the Holy Synod appeals  “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.”  There have been many concerns expressed, especially by the Moscow Patriarchate, that the anticipated actions by the Ecumenical Patriarchate will cause turmoil, violence, and even bloodshed.

The Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate will be meeting in Minsk on Monday, October 15.  It is predictable that the Holy Synod will now suspend communion with the Ecumenical Patriarchate and may well take other actions as well.  There have already been reactions tonight by the Moscow Patriarchate.  Metropolitan Hilarion has stated:  The decision was predictable.  The whole logic of Constantinople’s actions led to this since April.  Church canons were violated, inter-Orthodox unity was violated, the invasion of the Constantinople Patriarchate into the canonical limits of the Russian Church was documented  Vladimir Legoyda, head of the Synodal Department for Church Relations with Society and Media, stated:  The Patriarchate of Constantinople performed an unprecedented anti-canonical act, which is an attempt to destroy the foundations of the Orthodox canonical system   Father Alexander Volkov, the Moscow Patriarch’s press secretary, has stated:  The situation we are now confronted with is absolutely unprecedented and absolutely new for everyone.  This is a complete break with tradition and perception of churchliness, and, of course, everything that Constantinople is taking now will cause catastrophic harm, first of all, for the Orthodox in Ukraine.  Because something terrible is about to begin.

Patriarch John X of Antioch arrived in Belgrade today.  It is very possible that Patriarch John and Serbian Patriarch Irinej will issue a joint statement relating to today’s decisions and the situation in Ukraine.  Both Patriarchates have been supportive of Moscow’s position with respect to Ukraine.

If Moscow severs communion with Constantinople, it will not be something new.  In 1996 Moscow broke communion with Constantinople for three months over the situation in Estonia.  For several years now, Antioch has severed communion with the Patriarchate of Jerusalem with respect to jurisdiction over Qatar.  However, it is possible for the Ukrainian dispute to have far greater ramifications.  It is possible for some actions to be taken on a pan-Orthodox basis.  However, in recent decades the Local Orthodox Churches have agreed that a complete consensus is required for any pan-Orthodox decisions.  Thus, any pan-Orthodox action or resolution would be possible only if both Constantinople and Moscow agreed to the action or resolution --- something that is very unlikely to happen.

Peter Anderson, Seattle USA