Only seven bishops had asked to delay the decision, but the majority of the Greek Synod decided to support Ukrainian autocephaly. The defense of the patriarchate of Constantinople as the only one that can define the legal status of the other Orthodox Churches. A defeat for the Moscow patriarchate. It is likely lead to breaking off of relations with the Orthodox Church of Greece. An invitation to Epiphany of Kiev is expected to concelebrate with Hieronymus in Athens.
Moscow (AsiaNews) - The Synod of bishops of the Orthodox Church of Hellas, presided over by the Archbishop of Athens Hieronymus II (Liapis), recognized the autocephaly of the Ukrainian Church, granted by the patriarch of Constantinople at the beginning of this year. On 12 October, after a solemn liturgy, the topic was submitted to a majority vote according to the number of bishops present at the assembly.
In his lecture, Hieronymus recalled that the subject had already been dealt with sufficiently in previous meetings of the Synod, also submitted to the various synod commissions, the one for dogmatic and canonical questions and that for inter-Orthodox and inter-Christian relations.
On 13 August these committees presented their conclusions to the Synod's General Secretariat, according to which there are no canonical or other objections to recognition, "with full agreement and support" for the initiative of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
The Synod also made some clarifications on the general question of the institution of autocephaly, recalling that the Church in Ukraine has always been under the authority of the patriarch of Constantinople, despite objections regarding the patriarchate of Moscow. Only the Ecumenical Patriarch can define the juridical status of the other Orthodox Churches, and establish their communion with the other autocephalous Churches.
Ukrainian autocephaly has been defined as "extremely useful and important also for relations between the sister Churches of Ukraine and Russia", giving full expression to the Church "of the independent republic of Ukraine".
The discussion between the members of the Synod, not without some tension, was called "constructive"; seven bishops asked to postpone the decision further, but the majority of the 80 bishops present finally voted to close the matter.
Formally, the recognition becomes active from the moment the Archbishop of Athens names the metropolitan of Kiev during the liturgy; an invitation to Epifanyj (Dumenko) from Kiev is expected to be made to concelebrate with Hieronymus in Athens.
Moscow's reaction was not long in coming: the spokesperson of the Department of Foreign Affairs of the Russian patriarchate, the protopriest Nikolaj Balashov, issued a statement complaining that the Greeks finally made this decision "despite the requests of many hierarchs of refrain from a hasty decision ... the answer will be given by the Synod of the Patriarchate of Moscow ", which in all likelihood will shortly decide to interrupt relations with Athens too.
Throughout the summer the Russians had tried to dissuade the Greeks from supporting Ukrainian autocephaly, with several trips by representatives of the Moscow Church in Greece, including the metropolitans of Kaluga Kliment (Kapalin) and Smolensk Isidor (Tupikin), two very authoritative members of the Moscow Synod. The Athens decision marks the defeat of Russian anti-Ukrainian propaganda, led by Metropolitan Ilarion (Alfeev), head of the Department of Foreign Affairs, and by Patriarch Kirill (Gundjaev) himself. Now the Russians could try to foment the internal division in the same Church of Ellade, supporting the seven bishops opposed to the recognition.