Russian Federation vows tough response to Ecumenical Patriachate over Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin

Last week, the Constantinople Synod made a decision to grant independence to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and lift anathema from the leaders of two non-canonical churches, excommunicated by the Russian Orthodox Church for their "schism". The Orthodox Church split from the Catholic Church in 1054.

The split between the Constantinople and Moscow Churches - the highest-status and largest Orthodox Churches respectively - followed on from the two greatest upheavals in Christian Church history, it wrote.

A spokesman for the Moscow Church said Metropolitan Onufriy, current head of the Moscow Patriarchate's Ukrainian Orthodox Church, participated in the meeting of the Holy Synod in Minsk and "like all members of the Synod, supported its decision".

Breaking Eucharistic communion is almost the last resort in inter-church relations.

KNA quoted Archbishop Mark, who leads the Russian bishops, as saying the conference cessation was "very painful, but we could not even indirectly endorse what is being done against Orthodoxy in the Ukraine and Russia".

Bartholomew I, the ecumenical patriarch, last week effectively granted Ukraine the right to be independent from the Moscow Patriarchate. The patriarch - now Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople - has always been recognized as first among equals, with the authority to organize pan-Orthodox activities like global dialogue with the Catholics.

According to the decision, priests from the two churches can not serve and worshippers can not take communion together.

"The Constantinople Patriarchate liquidated itself as such a center", he said. Patriarch Kirill's press secretary, priest Alexander Volkov, has pointed out that Mount Athos is in the Moscow Patriarchate's jurisdiction "with all the same consequences".

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Until now, the other Orthodox Churches have recognized Ukraine as under Moscow's jurisdiction and honored the excommunication.

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

The announcement is of concern to Kiev, as Moscow has justified its annexation of Crimea and backing of separatists in eastern Ukraine by saying it is acting to protect ethnic Russians.

Ilarion told journalists that the synod - the Russian Orthodox Church's decision-making body - was left with no choice but to sever ties with the patriarchate based in Istanbul.

Moscow's conflict with Constantinople is thanks entirely to Ukraine.

Although the Church has the biggest number of parishes in Ukraine, its influence has been rapidly declining in recent years.

For instance, he said, the Serbian Orthodox Church has been supportive of Moscow's position.

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