Moscow Patriarchate suspends membership of structures run by Greek Orthodox Church in Ukraine


The Moscow-based Russian Orthodox Church has withdrawn from all structures run by the Istanbul-based Greek Orthodox Church – considered the highest organ of Orthodox Christianity – in the ongoing dispute over the independence of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Russian Sputnik News reported.

The dispute between the two Orthodox churches erupted after the Greek Patriarchate Fener sent two envoys to Ukraine this month, a move that angered Moscow. The act was seen as a step towards the declaration of ecclesiastical independence for the church in Ukraine, amid calls for self-government.

“We have decided to suspend the joint execution of religious services with the hierarchs of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, to suspend our membership of all structures, which are headed or co-chaired by representatives of Constantinople,” Sputnik cited, citing the Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, the head of the Department of External Relations of the Russian Orthodox Church, as stated following an extraordinary meeting of the Holy Synod, the governing body of the Russian Orthodox Church.

While noting that the move does not imply a complete rift between churches, Hillarion said Moscow will not participate in the work of some inter-church organizations.

Patriarch Kirill of Moscow has ended the commemoration of Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, however, Eucharistic communion between the churches is not interrupted, Sputnik said.

The church in Ukraine has been linked to the Moscow Patriarchate for hundreds of years. But many Ukrainian parishes reject the Moscow Patriarchate and have formed two separate churches that seek recognition as an autonomous or autocephalous institution. There are currently three different Orthodox bodies in the country, namely the Ukrainian Orthodox Church linked to Moscow, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church.

Ukrainian churches must be recognized either by Istanbul or by at least half of other local Orthodox churches to be recognized.

The two sides failed to overcome their differences during a meeting held last month between Patriarch Bartholomew I and the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill.

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