Russian Orthodox Church 'rupturing' ties with the Constantinople over Ukraine split

Mikhail Markiv  TASS

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. Veiled statements by the Russian Orthodox Church that were consistent with previous ones came on October 15 on its website following a Synod, or gathering of church hierarchy, in Minsk, Belarus.

Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Kirill, left, prepares to chair a meeting of the Russian Orthodox Church Holy Synod in Minsk, Belarus, Monday, Oct. 15, 2018.

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 decision means priests of the Russian Church will no longer perform services with those of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and members of the Russian laity will not participate in sacraments performed by churches that come under the Phanar until the "anti-canonical decisions" are reconsidered, the Russian Patriarchate said.

"We supported from the start the intention to break off relations with the so-called Church of Constantinople, because we do not any more recognize the patriarchate that receives instructions from the outside in order to divide the Orthodox Church", Fadi Dairi said, reiterating support for the Russian Orthodox Church's decision.

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The Russian Orthodox Church has made a decision to end its relationship with the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople in protest over its endorsement of Ukraine's request for an autocephalous, or independent, church.

The Russian Orthodox Church has compared Ukraine's moves for independence to the Great Schism of 1054 that split western and eastern Christianity, and warned they could lead to an irreversible rupture in the global Orthodox community. The synod also called the latter's move to revoke the 1686 act on transfer of the Kiev Metropolis under the jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate as canonically void. "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".

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said the Church's independence went hand-in-hand with Ukrainian independence.

Ukraine became independent of Russian Federation in 1991, but Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014 and the fighting in eastern Ukraine have poisoned relations.

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