Candles for a solution to the dispute in the Orthodox Church? © Andrey Lomakin (KNA)
The deep rift between Ukraine and Russia is now showing on the field of churches as well. A synod in Kiev broke with the Moscow Patriarchate over the weekend. This will not be accepted there.
For many Ukrainians it is a historic success, but for the Orthodox Church it is an earthquake: Ukraine gets its own national Orthodox Church, further separating itself from Russia. Some 35.000 people cheered the newly elected head of the new church, 39-year-old "Metropolitan of Kiev and All Ukraine" Epiphanius, in front of St. Sophia Cathedral in Kiev on Saturday evening.
How strongly his church will establish itself in the country of 45 million people is questionable. The doors of his church were open to all, Epiphanius stressed. President Petro Poroshenko introduced the metropolitan to the crowd. "This day will go down in history as a holy day."Only now, he said, has Ukraine finally achieved independence from the Russian Federation. Ukraine no longer drinks "Moscow poison from Mokov cups," he quoted the national poet Taras Shevchenko (1814-1861).
An independent church?
"This is a church without Putin," Poroshenko enthused. "This is a church without (Patriarch) Cyril." The Moscow head of the church had been carrying out propaganda in Ukraine for the "Russian world" "and then came their tanks".
At every opportunity, the president accused the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which is subordinate to Moscow, of praying for Kremlin leader Vladimir Putin and for Russian soldiers who killed Ukrainians in the east of the country. Not disinterestedly, he had been working hard for many months to establish the new church. In view of his poor poll ratings of less than ten percent, he hopes to improve his chances in the presidential election on 31 December. March to improve.
A political decision
The church dispute is a tough test for the already massively troubled relationship between Russia and Ukraine. "There is an impudent and limitless interference in church life," Putin said in early November. "This policy can have very serious consequences. She is dangerous."
Until now, three Orthodox churches in Ukraine have competed with each other. One is subordinate to the Moscow Patriarchate, the other two split off in 1921 and 1992 respectively. The attitude to Moscow fundamentally differentiates them. Moreover, they did not even recognize each other’s baptism.
Moscow loses a third of its parishes
As the honorary head of all Orthodox Christians, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I had., invited the bishops of all three Ukrainian churches to the council. He asked them to take with them one priest and one layman each, who were also given voting rights.
So far, more than 12 parishes.000 of the about 18.000 Ukrainian parishes and about 200 monasteries to the Moscow Patriarchate. The new church is to end the Patriarchate’s sovereignty over Ukraine, which would cause Moscow to lose a third of its parishes. That is why Patriarch Cyril I. prevent the founding of the church at all costs and advocated a boycott of the Kiev Unification Council. Thus 88 of the 90 bishops of the Ukrainian Church, which is linked to Moscow, stayed away from the meeting.
"Council of the godless"?
"Patriarch Bartholomew’s plan has failed to win over the canonical Ukrainian Church to participate in the creation of a new structure," rejoiced the head of the Russian Orthodox Church’s foreign office, Metropolitan Hilarion, in Moscow. He spoke of a "council of the godless" and named Bartholomew I. a destroyer of the church.
In fact, the latter apparently wants to join forces with the Moscow-loyal church. He announced that he would no longer recognize Onufri as metropolitan of Kiev. On the Orthodox celebration of Christmas on 6. In January, Bartholomew I. Received the head of the new Ukrainian church in his residence in Istanbul and handed over to him the bull (Tomos) on recognition as a new "autocephalous (independent) sister church". From Constantinople’s point of view, this puts it on an equal footing with all the 14 independent Orthodox churches so far.
The signs remain on storm
For Moscow this is a super disaster. World Orthodoxy threatens to break up into two camps. Moscow and Constantinople are so set on confrontation that an agreement is considered unlikely in the near future. The remaining twelve Orthodox churches will therefore probably have to choose between the two centers of power.
Constantinople risks with the Ukrainian church foundation that it will no longer be recognized as the center of world Orthodoxy. Most of the other Orthodox churches are already distancing themselves from the event. In protest against the foundation of the independent Ukrainian national church, the Muscovites have already broken off their contacts with the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. But if Cyprus and Albania have independent national churches, why not Ukraine??