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A Different Approach to the Ecclesiastical Discussion about Ukraine

25.09.2018, 14:21
A Different Approach to the Ecclesiastical Discussion about Ukraine - фото 1
The first question that arises concerning Ukraine is this: with what right and based on which holy canons, does Russia today claim the ecclesiastical and administrative dependency of the Metropolis of Kyiv?

Bishop Makarios of Christoupolis

If the Ecumenical Patriarchate had ceded Kyiv to the Church of Russia, it would have then had the Metropolitan of Kyiv commemorate the Patriarch of Moscow and not Constantinople.

By His Grace Bishop Makarios of Christopolis

Lately, many things are being written about the granting of autocephaly to Ukraine, mostly from the side of the Church of Russia, which seems to have rallied all of its media outlets in order to convince the Orthodox world that they are in the right. Unfortunately, however, together with these efforts, many historical inaccuracies are being promoted—innocently and unintentionally I would like to believe—and much false information is being disseminated, revealing a state of panic and reactions “κατά συναρπαγήν,” as mentioned in the 33rd Canon of the Holy Apostles. Of course, resistance was expected from the Russian side, and for this reason I would like to believe that every person of good-will, Orthodox and non-Orthodox, following these developments, clearly perceives the existence of a “Russian-ecclesiastical diplomacy”—a term difficult for me to personally accept, since in the Orthodox Church, truth prevails and not diplomacy. If you have truth on your side, you have absolutely nothing to fear. If, however, you do not, then, according to the common expression, “the pot is boiling", and even if three hundred years should pass, a great eruption will be unavoidable.

The first question that arises concerning Ukraine is this: with what right and based on which holy canons, does Russia today claim the ecclesiastical and administrative dependency of the Metropolis of Kyiv? The jurisdiction of each autocephalous Church (excepting the ancient Patriarchates and the Church of Cyprus, whose boundaries were established by Ecumenical Councils) is established and recorded in the tomos granted by the Ecumenical Patriarchate. If, therefore, we refer to the Chrisoboulo, which the Patriarchate of Moscow received in 1590 from Constantinople, we will discover that the Metropolis of Kyiv is not included amongst her jurisdictions. Talk of a 1030-year relationship between Moscow and Kyiv is an argument likely belonging to the context of “Russian-ecclesiastical diplomacy,” but is not a fact—something easily demonstrated by historical sources.

A modern researcher may nevertheless tell us: “Let us leave the personal statements of hierarchs, clergy, professors and theologians. Here, we have documents.” And, surely, with the resurfacing of the Ukraine issue, we were all forced to return to these “documents” to see the information they provide concerning the course of the Metropolis of Kyiv, especially following the coup-like separation of Moscow from the Mother Church in 1448 and its eventual restoration and canonical recognition as a Patriarchate by Ecumenical Patriarch Jeremiah. The basic primary sources that exist are the 1686 letters of Ecumenical Patriarch Dionysius IV to Czars Ivan and Peter, and to Patriarch Joachim of Moscow.

These letters have been consistently referred to by the Russians—easily seen by a quick search on the internet—as the sole, authentic written witness of the “subordination” of the Metropolis of Kyiv to Moscow, despite the fact that these letters clearly mention Constantinople granting Moscow permission to conduct the ordination of the Metropolitan of Kyiv. It is noted characteristically in the text that “our beloved brother and concelebrant in the Holy Spirit (the Patriarch of Moscow) has permission to ordain the Metropolitan of Kyiv, according to ecclesiastical custom.” But even if we accept the Russian interpretations of subordination, the texts put forth a condition that constitutes a considerable “roadblock” to any sort of conversation concerning territorial and jurisdictional conferral of the Metropolitan of Kyiv to the Russian Church: “…with only one condition, namely, that every time the Metropolitan of Kiev serves as the celebrant of the bloodless and holy Mystagogy in this ecclesial eparchy, he commemorates among the first the venerable name of His All-Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch.”

There is no such thing in the Orthodox Church as the subordination of a jurisdictional territory that is not accompanied by also beginning to commemorate the bishop to whose jurisdiction that territory is being added to. This is a basic ecclesiological and canonical principle, which, until today, has not suffered a single exception in the more than 2,000-year history of our Orthodox Church. In other words, the commemoration of the name of the bishop constitutes a witness of its ecclesiastical boundaries and jurisdiction. Wherever the Patriarch of Moscow is canonically commemorated, there we find ourselves in the ecclesiastical territory of the Patriarchate of Russia; wherever the Patriarch of Romania is canonically commemorated, there we find ourselves in the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Romania; wherever the Patriarch of Constantinople is canonically commemorated, there we find ourselves in the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Constantinople; etc. Consequently, the bestowing of a specific territory to another ecclesiastical entity is verified by the change in commemoration of the bishop and not through conjectures or interpretations made by anybody other party. If the Ecumenical Patriarchate had granted, as some of our Russian brothers claim, the possession of the Metropolis of Kyiv's territory to Moscow, then, the text would urge the present and future Metropolitans of Kyiv to commemorate Moscow and not Constantinople. But, this is not the case. The opposite is true, and commemoration of Constantinople is placed as an indispensable term, which shows that no subordination of the Metropolis of Kyiv to the Patriarchate of Moscow can exist, despite the interpretations that some wish to give today.

In this spirit, we understand that not only is there no canonical violation (eispidisi) by the Ecumenical Patriarch in Ukraine, but, on the contrary, that the question as to why the Metropolitan of Kyiv does not today commemorate his canonical first (protos), the Ecumenical Patriarch, needs to be assessed from an ecclesiological and canonical perspective. Perhaps there exists some other Patriarchal Letter or Synodal act within which the Ecumenical Patriarch renounces his rights over the Metropolis of Kyiv, urging him to commemorate the Patriarch of Russia during the celebration of the Eucharist?

In any case, the overall situation does not match what is being presented in this one-sided manner. The Ecumenical Patriarchate and Patriarch Bartholomew, despite the personal attacks they receive in a manner that is entirely unbecoming of ecclesiastical figures, are not ignorant in matters of the Sacred Canons and Church history. It is extremely naive for one to believe that all the other Churches know canon law, ecclesiology, history and all other related theological matters in all their depth, and the Church of Constantinople does not. It would also be good, for all those who concern themselves with Church affairs, especially at critical moments in history, to restrict ourselves to ecclesiastical and canonical arguments. Threats, slander, unbecoming characterizations of people, and especially of bishops and Patriarchs, or even contesting or disputing age-old institutions, do not help, are not constructive and surely will not result in some solution. Even with our differences, the peace of God must prevail. The Ecumenical Patriarchate has experience as well as knowledge of the Canons and has demonstrated that it knows how to handle the issues of the Orthodox Church. And this will undoubtedly become apparent once again in this specific instance, that is, in the case of Ukraine. Much prayer is needed, along with a little patience.

(His Grace Bishop Makarios of Christopolis is an Auxiliary Bishop of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, a permanent Professor at the Patriarchal Academy of Crete, and a visiting Professor at the Theological School of Estonia and other Universities).

Bishop Makarios of Christoupolis