By Maria Anoniadou
The crisis “tears the body of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church” was the message of the Patriarchate of Moscow to the Ecumenical Patriarchate, following yesterday’s decision of the latter’s Holy Synod to cut off all communion with the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the first-ranking Church in Eastern Orthodoxy.
The move was in response to the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s decision to grant autocephaly (independence) to the Orthodox Church in Ukraine, and to return to the canonical order Ukraine bishops who were declared schismatic by Moscow and excommunicated.
Indeed, the Moscow Patriarchate in a statement called upon the leaders of all the local Eastern Orthodox Churches to take a stand on what it views as Constantinople’s “uncanonical decisions”.
The statement says that the actions of the Patriarchate of Constantinople placed it outside the terrain of the canonical order, and rendered impossible the Eucharistic communion.
“The return to the canonical order of schismatic [clergymen] excommunicated by another Local Church, along with all the ‘bishops’ and ‘clergymen’ ordained by them, constitutes encroachment on the canonical territory of another Church, rejecting the obligations and historical decisions, and places the Patriarchate of Constantinople outside the terrain of the canonical order,” the statement said.
“Until such time that the Patriarchate of Constantinople annuls the aforementioned decisions, the clergy of the Orthodox Church of Russia will not be allowed to co-celebrate [church services] with clergy of the Church of Constantinople, and the faithful cannot participate in the sacraments conducted in its churches. The Holy Synod called upon the Primates and Holy Synods of Local Churches to evaluate the uncanonical actions of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, in order to jointly seek the exit from this weighty crisis that tears the body of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.”
A lengthier statement by the Moscow Patriarchate begins as follows:
“With profound pain the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church has taken the report of the Patriarchate of Constantinople published on October 11, 2018, about the following decisions of the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Constantinople: confirming the intention ‘to grant autocephaly to the Ukrainian Church; opening a ‘stauropegion’ of the Patriarchate of Constantinople in Kiev; ‘restoring in the rank of bishop or priest’ the leaders of the Ukrainian schism and their followers and ‘returning their faithful to church communion’; ‘recalling the 1686 patent of the Patriarchate of Constantinople on the transfer of the Metropolis of Kiev to the Moscow Patriarchate as its part.”
“These unlawful decisions of the Synod were adopted by the Church of Constantinople unilaterally, ignoring the appeals of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and the plenitude of the Russian Orthodox Church as well as sister Local Orthodox Churches, their primates and hierarchs to hold a pan-Orthodox discussion of the issue.”
The Ecumenical Patriarchate has not as yet issued a response.