A road to autocephaly of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church

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Will it lead to a broader schism?

On September 7, 2018, Bishop Ilarion of Edmonton and the Western Eparchy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada (together with Archbishop Daniel of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the U.S.A.) was appointed envoy of Constantinople by the Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew to proceed with a recognition of independence of Ukraine’s Orthodox Church from the Russian Orthodox Church.

Bishop Ilarion, who was born in L’viv, Ukraine, and obtained his religious degree from the Ecclesiastical Seminary of Kyiv, relocated to Canada in the 2000s where he was elected Bishop of Edmonton and the Western Eparchy by Patriarch Bartholomew in October 2008. According to the Russian state channel Vesti, Bishop Ilarion and Archbishop Daniel had previously met the Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko who informed the representatives of Constantinople that this Synod decision was long-awaited. However, it is admitted that no comments of the above-mentioned clergymen were received by the press. Meanwhile, the appointment itself is connected with a recent Bartholomew’s statement on the situation in Ukraine conveyed during the opening of the Synaxis (Assembly) of the Hierarchs of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople on September 1, 2018. The Patriarch of Constantinople traced “the origin of difficulties and reactions in Ukraine” back to the 17th century relocation of “the Kievan Metropolis” to Moscow, connecting all further events with defending their right to independence.

“Thus, since Russia, as the one responsible for the current painful situation in Ukraine, is unable to solve the problem, the Ecumenical Patriarchate assumed the initiative of resolving the problem in accordance with the authority afforded to it by the Sacred Canons and the jurisdictional responsibility over the Eparchy of Kiev, receiving a request to this end by the honorable Ukrainian Government, as well as recurring requests by “Patriarch” Philaret of Kiev appealing for our adjudication of his case.”

As reported by the official website of Petro Poroshenko, the Ukrainian President “outlined the measures taken to establish the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church” in the course of his meeting with United States Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Samuel Brownback on September 11, 2018. And Ambassador Brownback, in turn, assured that the U.S.A. would continue to support Ukraine in this process.

On September 14, 2018, the Russian Orthodox Church issued a statement, rejecting historical background presented by Constantinople and proclaiming a cease of all joint services with ecclesiastics of the Patriarchate of Constantinople. Russia’s Patriarch Kirill suspends mentioning Bartholomew in his prayers and the Church terminates its participation in all the structures and commissions chaired or co-chaired by the Patriarchate’s delegates. If the case with the independence of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church advances, Russia’s Patriarchate warns of a total severance of the existing relations with Constantinople.

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