Russian Orthodox Church bans citizens from visiting churches in Turkey
Nerdun Hacıoğlu - MOSCOW
Russian clerics have warned their citizens against visiting churches in Turkey after the Russian Orthodox Church’s decision to sever all relations with the Fener Greek Patriarchate in Istanbul.
“All [Orthodox] churches in Turkey, including the ones in Istanbul and Ankara, have been banned to our congregation. Our co-religionists will be sinning if they visit these churches that are controlled by Fener,” Russian cleric Igor Yerimchuk said.
Some 4.7 million Russian tourists visited Turkey last year and nearly 30,000 Russian citizens are residents of the country.
The statement came after the Moscow Patriarchate broke off ties with the patriarchate in Istanbul, seat of the global spiritual leader of roughly 300 million Orthodox Christians, in protest over its endorsement of Ukraine’s request for an “autocephalous” or independent church.
“The same ban applies to a series of churches in Greece, as well as the Mount Athos monastery,” Yerimchuk added.
Ukraine last week secured approval from the Fener Greek Patriarchate to establish an independent church in what Kiev said was a vital step against Russian meddling in its affairs.
Fener sources speaking to Hürriyet said the official announcement would be made on Nov. 27-29 at the Holy Synod in Istanbul despite Russian reactions.
The Russian Orthodox Church compared Ukraine’s moves for independence to the Great Schism of 1054 that split western and eastern Christianity, and warned they could lead to an irreversible rupture in the global Orthodox community.
The tussle over Ukraine’s spiritual future flows from the deteriorating relations between Kiev and Moscow after Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 and the outbreak of separatist fighting in Ukraine’s east that has killed over 10,000 people.
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.
The Moscow Patriarchate denies its church is a security threat to Ukraine and says it has done much to promote peace in the country’s east.