Russian Patriarch Alexis complains about Constantinople's actions in Ukraine

15.10.2001, 19:15

[Sluzhba kommunikatsii OVTSMP, 9 October 2001] In September 2001 His Holiness Patriarch Alexis II of Moscow and all-Rus sent letters to primates of fraternal local Orthodox churches in which he warmly thanked them for the participation of delegations from these churches in celebrations in Kyiv devoted to the 950th anniversary of the founding of the Kyiv caves lavra. In the letters he noted that the presence of representatives of local churches "not only adorned the Kyivan celebration and gave it a genuinely all-Orthodox character but also was a clear testimony to the fraternal unity of the holy church of God in standing for the truth of the sacred tradition and for a universal confirmation of canonical church order."
The primate of the Russian Orthodox church expressed special thanks to His Blessedness Archbishop Christodoulos of Athens and all-Greece, who visited Kyiv on the eve of the celebration of the 950th anniversary of the Kyiv Dormition caves lavra, bringing the head of the holy apostle Andrew the First-called for veneration. Addressing the primate of the Greek Orthodox church, His Holiness Patriarch Alexis noted with pleasure that his "firm and impartial position, . . . based on diligent study of the holy canons in assessing the church situation in Ukraine, strengthened many souls in the good work of spiritual defense of the purity of the faith and the triumph of righteousness, despite the cunning efforts of the 'prince of this world,' who sows the weeds of divisions in the church's field." In the letter addressed to His Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, His Holiness Patriarch Alexis thanked him for his response to the invitation to participate in the celebrations by a representative of the Constantinople patriarchate. In addition, in the spirit of fraternal candor he shared his objections regarding several episodes that took place in the course of the Constantinople delegation's stay in Kyiv. In particular, the letter expressed dismay over the unexpected, hasty departure from the Kyiv caves lavra on the day of the celebration of the jubilee of the head of the delegation, general secretary of the Holy Synod of the Constantinoople patriarchate, Metropolitan Meliton of Philadelphia, who left the cloister before the end of the festive divine liturgy and at the very moment that Ukrainian President L.D. Kuchma arrived. Besides this, the head of the Russian Orthodox church called attention to the absence from the text of a letter distributed under the name of Patriarch Bartholomew, "Letter in connection with the 950th anniversary of the founding of the Kyiv caves lavra," of any mention of the legal and canonical head of the Ukrainian Orthodox church, His Blessedness Metropolitan Vladimir of Kyiv and all-Ukraine, but the opening words of the letter, "Beloved brothers and children in the Lord" make it seem to be not fraternal greetings from the primate of a friendly church but more like an general sermon addressed to a flock other than the one over which God has made him pastor, which is directly forbidden by the holy canons. Patriarch Alexis also sees a defect in the letter in its containing a call to the unification of all believers, apart from clear recognition of the existence of a canonical church that is in complete unity with ecumenical Orthodoxy, as confirmed by the celebration held in Kyiv, on one hand, while on the other hand there are schismatics who have arrogantly separated themselves from ecclesiastical unity. (tr. by PDS, posted 9 October 2001)