Constantinople’s support for the independence of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church sparks Moscow’s wrath

Patriarch Bartholomew appoints two Exarchs in Kyiv. For the Moscow Patriarchate, this is an "unprecedented gross incursion into the Moscow Patriarchate’s canonical territory".

Istanbul (AsiaNews) – The Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople has appointed two exarchs*, Archbishop Daniel of Pamphilon (United States) and Bishop Ilarion of Edmonton (Canada), in Kyiv in preparation “for the granting of autocephaly (independence) to the Orthodox Church in Ukraine," said a statement posted on the Patriarchate’s website.

The statement from Constantinople immediately sparked an angry and bitter response from the Moscow Patriarchate. Vladimir Legoyda, head of the Synodal Department for Relations with Church, Society and Media, issued a press release accusing the Ecumenical Patriarchate of an "unprecedentedly gross incursion into the Moscow Patriarchate's canonical territory.” Such “actions”, he added, “cannot be left unanswered".

The Orthodox community in the Ukraine is split between those who follow the Moscow Patriarchate and those who adhere to the (schismatic) Kyiv Patriarchate. Pressures for the autocephaly of the Ukrainian Orthodox have increased as a result of the evolving relationship between Ukraine and Russia.

Last April, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko sent a request to Constantinople asking the Ecumenical Patriarchate to grant autocephaly to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which could heal the schism.

At the end of August, Patriarch Kirill met with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in Constantinople but nothing has come of the meeting so far.

At he Synaxis (meeting of patriarchs and bishops of the patriarchate) that followed, Bartholomew expressed his support for the autocephaly of the Ukrainian Orthodox.

* In the Orthodox Church, the exarch is a high-ranking prelate or the deputy of the patriarch.