Istanbul’s Orthodox Church retains support for independent Ukrainian church
Patriarch Kirill of the Orthodox Church of Moscow visited Bartholomew I, the patriarch of the Greek Orthodox Church based in Istanbul, on Aug. 31 in an eleventh hour bid to prevent the Ukrainian church from being separated from Moscow.
Against the backdrop of Patriarch Kirill’s suggestion to hold a conference on the matter, Patriarch Bartholomew said the issue had been debated for a long time and “they will go with the decision,” according to sources of the patriarchate in Istanbul.
A senior official in the Orthodox Church in Istanbul also told the Associated Press reported on Aug. 31 that “there is no going back” in granting Ukrainian clerics ecclesiastic independence from the Russian Orthodox Church.
On the other hand, Metropolitan Emmanuel of France said the negotiations would continue.
“We have been meeting with all the Orthodox Churches in order to find a resolution to the problem in Ukraine. We have been calling for dialogue as we did today,” he told Demirören News Agency after the meeting at the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in Fener.
“The partition has a history of 25 years and now they need to reunite. In this sense, we have had a productive meeting with Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church,” he added, referring to claims for ecclesiastic independence from the Ukrainian church,
However, the 2.5-hour meeting underlined the Fener Greek Orthodox Patriarchate’s tendency to approve the independence claim, sources told daily Hürriyet.
Patriarch Bartholomew, known as “the first among equals” of Orthodox Christian leaders, is expected to rule on a Ukrainian appeal to cut spiritual ties with Moscow.
The demand for separation, fueled by a four-year conflict between Kiev and Russian-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine, has been dubbed by Patriarch Kirill as an “all-Orthodox catastrophe.”
As the Orthodox Church in Ukraine is split between a branch whose clerics pledge loyalty to Moscow and one that is overseen by the unrecognized Kiev-based Patriarch Filaret, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has stepped up his rhetoric against the Moscow-loyal branch of the church in Ukraine.
At a military parade in Kiev on Ukrainian Independence Day last week, Poroshenko said the Moscow-loyal church “sanctifies [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s hybrid war against Ukraine.”
On his part, Putin had a phone call with Patriarch Bartholomew on April 4 during his visit to Turkey.
That call was followed by Poroshenko’s visit to Bartholomew in Istanbul five days later.
If approved, the independence of the Church of Ukraine is believed by observers to also be a blow to Moscow’s international dominance.