Russian Orthodox Church Breaks Ties With Constantinople Patriarchate

Kiev Pechersk Lavra

This isn't the first time the Russian Orthodox Church has suspended relations with the Constantinople Patriarchate.

It also reversed a 1686 decision that transferred the Kiev Metropolis to the Moscow Patriarchate.

According to Metropolitan Ilarion (Alfeev), the Russian bishops consider the decision to break communion with Constantinople "a forced" one, the result of "the recent actions of the Patriarchate of Constantinople".

Ukraine accuses the Russian Orthodox Church of wielding a pernicious influence on its soil, allowing itself to be used as a tool of the Kremlin to justify Russian expansionism and support of separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine.

Various churches within the Orthodox faith have broken communion with each other over its lengthy, almost 2,000-year history, especially over creating autonomous churches.

The Russian Orthodox Church has chose to end its relationship with the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople in protest over its endorsement of Ukraine's request for an autocephalous, or independent, church.

This means that priests from the two patriarchates can not serve - and worshippers can not take communion - together, wherever Orthodox Christianity is practised.

Moscow argues that it needs consent from the Russian church, calling the steps "unlawful".

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And Russian President Vladimir Putin last week convened the country's security council to discuss the issue.

The decision was taken on Monday at a meeting of the Russian Orthodox Church's decision-making body, the Holy Synod. The roughly 12,000 parishes in Ukraine constitute about one-third of all parishes in the Russian Orthodox Church, so an independent church there would drastically shrink the Russian church and undermine its longstanding claim to lead all of Orthodoxy by dint of size. The practical implications were still being worked out by ecclesiastical experts on Tuesday, but Russian church officials suggested the most immediate effect would be that its faithful should no longer attend services at churches under the authority of Constantinople.

Constantinople, led by Patriarch Bartholomeus I, last week dropped its rejection of Ukraine's efforts to split from the Russian Orthodox Church and began recognition proceedings for a Ukrainian Orthodox church independent of Moscow, likely to be led by Kiev Patriarch Filaret.

The Russian church's breakaway is therefore a major upheaval for global Orthodoxy.

"The adoption of the dissenters and the person anathematized in another Local Church with all the bishops and clergy, the encroachment on other people's canonical inheritances, the attempt to renounce their own historical decisions and commitments makes it impossible for us to continue Eucharistic communion with its hierarchs, clergy and laity, "the statement said". 9 jointly by the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology, the Razumkov Center and the SOCIS Center for Social and Marketing Research; 17 percent said they identify with the Moscow Patriarchate in Ukraine.

"Today our church is facing a great temptation".

Moscow's conflict with Constantinople is thanks entirely to Ukraine. Constantinople maintains it merely granted Moscow the right to approve the patriarch in Kyiv and since it granted the right initially, it is within church law to take it back. "It's an issue of Ukrainian statehood", he said.

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