Canadian Orthodox Christians at the crossroads

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The Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, New York (Xuan Che/Flickr)

Parishes of the Russian Orthodox Church will cut their Eucharistic ties with the Ecumenical Patriarchate

On October 18, 2018, the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR), a semi-autonomous part of the Russian Orthodox Church, joined the Moscow Patriarchate in cutting all the Ecumenical relations with the Patriarchate of Constantinople, following its announcement to proceed with the provision of independence to the Orthodox Church of Ukraine.

In their statement of the Holy Synod of Bishops, the ROCOR calls Constantinople’s actions over Ukraine “uncanonical.” The Ecumenical Patriarchate is regarded as a church with no unilateral authority to grant independence to other Orthodox churches or to reinstate in ranks any clerics banned by another church. As a result, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church created by means of such efforts will never be accepted by the ROCOR as one having “any legal substance.” At the same time, the ROCOR declares that “continuing Eucharistic communion with the Church of Constantinople is impossible, at any level, until this ancient and once-glorious sister Church repents from its introduction of false and alien teachings about primacy and universal authority, contrary to the ancient Orthodox Faith, and ceases from its lawless actions.” In practice in Canada, it will affect ten parishes of the Montreal and Canadian Diocese of the ROCOR and the additional number of Patriarchial Parishes of Russian Orthodox Church, official representatives of Moscow Patriarchate in the country, whose followers are now restricted from attending services, taking sacraments and visiting churches of the Patriarchate of Constantinople.

Meanwhile, on October 16, 2018, Constantinople’s Exarchs to Ukraine, Bishop Ilarion of Edmonton and the Western Eparchy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada, and Archbishop Daniel of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the U.S.A., appointed by the Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew earlier in September, announced preparation for the unifying Council of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church during their meeting with the Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. This Council is seen as a final step in receiving an actual Tomos of autocephaly and is claimed to unite in one structure the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Kyiv Patriarchate, the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church and some parishes of the Russian Orthodox Church in Ukraine. The Canadian Bishop Ilarion also congratulated Petro Poroshenko himself, stating that his “name is inscribed in the history of Ukraine with gold letters along with the names of the rulers of Kyivan Rus’.” In turn, the Ukrainian President commented on the Russian Orthodox Church stand on the Ukrainian Church independence from Moscow Patriarchate. “Just as Russia has now opposed itself to the whole world in the issues of Russian aggression in the east of our state, illegal annexation of Crimea, position on Abkhazia and South Ossetia, position on Transnistria and the rest, unfortunately, the Russian Church has also set itself on the path of self-isolation and conflict with the whole world Orthodoxy,” he concluded.

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