Category Archives: Inter-Orthodox Relations

Toward a New Ecclesiological Paradigm? Consequences of the Ukrainian Autocephaly

by Thomas Bremer

St. Michael's Golden Domed Monastery, Kyiv

When the Ecumenical Patriarchate granted autocephaly to the newly established “Orthodox Church of Ukraine” (OCU), it intended to create a single local Church which would basically comprise all the Orthodox believers in that country. The name of the new Church as it appears in the tomos, namely “Most Holy Church of Ukraine,” implies that idea, as do several statements of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in the course of 2018 in which he underlined the need of unity for Orthodoxy in Ukraine. The OCU affirmed this as well, calling itself on its website for a long time the “only” or “single” local Church (yedina in Ukrainian, a term which is difficult to translate), and stating on its home page, “Our Church is open for all!” The main idea was to unite Orthodoxy in Ukraine.

It is well known that the till-then only canonical Church, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC), rejected the initiative. Several hundred parishes changed their jurisdiction, but there was no landslide movement toward the OCU; the UOC still remains the largest Church in the country. In fact, self-proclaimed “Patriarch” Filaret split off from the new Church (though he has only marginal support) so that the attempt to re-establish unity obviously failed. Realistically, for a long time to come there will be two large Churches in Ukraine, one acknowledged by Constantinople, the other by Moscow. Continue reading

Ukrainian Autocephaly and Responsibility toward the Faithful

by His Eminence Metropolitan Ignatius of Demetrias (Volos, Greece)

The following are excerpts from the intervention of His Eminence Metropolitan Ignatius of Demetrias, Chairman of the Synodal Committee for Inter-Orthodox and Inter-Christian Relations, during the Extraordinary Session of the Holy Synod of the Church of Greece (12th October 2019).

The Synodal Committee for Inter-Orthodox and Inter-Christian Relations, which I am honored to chair, explicitly followed the mandate of the Standing Holy Synod of the Church of Greece. In this light, I would like to summarize the prevailing perspectives during the Committee’s discussions, drawing your attention to the following five points:

  1. The Ukrainian Orthodox people

As His Beatitude pointed out in his opening address, we are concerned with the Orthodox people of an independent state, which Ukraine constitutes today. We are dealing with millions of Orthodox faithful, who have historically suffered from policies of either Poland or Russia. Therefore, our focused discussions on the validity of Ordinations and the stance of Bishops must take into account the existence of millions of believers for whom we are responsible. Continue reading

Dispatches from the Western Front The Future of the Archdiocese of Russian Orthodox Churches in Western Europe

by Paul Ladouceur

Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, Paris

With all the attention devoted to the Eastern Front (the Ukraine) in the trench warfare between the Ecumenical Patriarchate (EP) and the Moscow Patriarchate (MP) for preeminence in Orthodoxy, the Western Front is largely ignored. The EP opened the Western Front on November 27, 2018, when it unexpectedly annulled its decree (tomos) of June 19, 1999, establishing the Archdiocese of Russian Orthodox Churches in Western Europe as an EP exarchate, thereby placing the parishes of the Archdiocese under the EP’s metropolitans in their respective countries. Subsequently many priests of the exarchate received letters from EP metropolitans in Western Europe ordering them to cease commemorating Archbishop Jean (Renneteau), head of the Archdiocese, but rather the Ecumenical Patriarch and the local EP metropolitan.

The Archdiocese has a long and glorious history. It was established in April 1921 by St. Tikhon (Belavin), Patriarch of Moscow, to serve the needs of the Russian refugees in Western Europe fleeing the Bolshevik Revolution and the civil war. Continue reading

The Voice of Silence: A Monastic Voice on the Ukrainian Question

by Mother Abbess Theoxeni

The Order of Saint Andrew the Apostle will soon be publishing a collection of essays titled The Ecumenical Patriarchate and Ukraine Autocephaly: Historical, Canonical, and Pastoral Perspectives. The collection will include twelve papers by eminent clergy and laity related to the autocephaly of the Orthodox Church in Ukraine. We are pleased to offer our readers an exclusive preview by Mother Abbess Theoxeni: “The Voice of Silence: A Monastic Voice on the Ukrainian Question.”

“Evil is erroneous judgment concerning the conceptual images of things.” – Saint Maximus the Confessor (Chapters on Love, 2.17)

The decades-long schism in Ukrainian church life has created polarization not only between ecclesiastical jurisdictions, but also in the hearts of the people.

Saint Maximus described erroneous judgment concerning the conceptual images of things as evil. Similarly, a mistaken assessment of the complicated situation that has prevailed for many years in Ukraine has led to an accumulation of many evils, producing deep social division and a rift in the ecclesiastical body with countless tragic consequences.

In the Orthodox Church we pray “for the welfare of the holy churches of God and the union of all [people],” and we invoke the unity of faith and the communion of the Holy Spirit. This means that the Holy Spirit is to be found in unity and that the gifts of the Holy Spirit activate unity. How indeed can there be unity when we do not live in accordance with those gifts which Saint Paul names as “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5.22)? Continue reading