Russian Orthodox Church cuts all links with Constantinople

Russian President Vladimir Putin

Moscow rejects the independence of the Ukrainian Church.

The Russian Orthodox Church said on Saturday (Oct 13) it would respond "in kind and toughly" to the Istanbul-based Ecumenical Patriarchate over Moscow's row with Ukraine's Orthodox Church.

The Holy Synod, the governing body of the Russian Orthodox Church, has ruled that any further clerical relations with Constantinople are impossible, Metropolitan Hilarion, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church's External Relations Department, told journalists, de facto announcing the breach of relations between the two churches.

"Moscow is behaving in a way that is imposing sanctions upon itself by self-isolating itself as it has done politically ever since it annexed (the Ukrainian territory of) Crimea in 2014", Yevstratiy (Ivan) Zorya, spokesperson for the Ukraine Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate, told the Kyiv Post at Mykhailivsky Cathedral in Kyiv on October 15.

"No other decision could have been taken by our Holy Synod because the logic of all the actions taken recently by the Constantinople Patriarchate led to this".

Moscow considers the Kiev Patriarch Filaret to be a schismatic, a decision Constantinople has backed since the 1990s but reversed last week amid the drive by Ukraine for its own Orthodox Church independent from Moscow. "And the leaders of a schism remain as such", Hilarion said, adding that "a Church that recognized schismatic [priests] and entered into communion with them ... excluded itself from the canonical field of the Orthodox Church".

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Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, who is running for re-election in a March vote, has pushed Bartholomew to grant independence to the Ukrainian church. "It's an issue of Ukrainian statehood".

He said that up to a 10 Moscow Patriarchate parishes in Ukraine have switched over to the Kyiv Patriarchate since 2014 when Moscow invaded the easternmost regions of Luhansk and Donetsk after taking over the Crimea in a war that has killed more than 10,400 people and displace an additional 1.6 million.

The Moscow Patriarchate has denied being a tool of the Kremlin and says it has tried to bring about peace in eastern Ukraine.

The Belarusian Orthodox Church, which is by far the biggest religious denomination in the nation of almost 10 million, is under the direct jurisdiction of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Russia sees Kiev as the historic cradle of the Russian Orthodox Church.

"We can not be in communication with this church, which is in a schism", he said, adding that the Russian Orthodox Church hopes that "common sense prevails and that the Constantinople Patriarchate changes its mind".

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