04/23/2018, 10.45
RUSSIA-UKRAINE
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Tug of war between Poroshenko and Hilarion for Ukrainian Orthodox

by Vladimir Rozanskij

Patriarchate of Constantinople under pressure to declare the autocephaly of all the Orthodox in Ukraine. A committee studies historical and theological aspects. Overt influence of political independence from Moscow, not only from the religious point of view. Hilarion: There are no negotiations.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - Discussions have been multiplying for days on the attempt by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to force the hand of Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, to completely detach the Orthodox Church still linked to the Russian Patriarchate from Moscow and form a single autocephalous Ukrainian jurisdiction, in which all the souls of local orthodoxy converge.

In recent days, some members of the Kiev parliament, the Rada, have spoken of an imminent agreement with the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and the president himself intervened before the deputies stating that the Ukrainian autocephaly "reflects not only the position of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, but also that of the same members of the Synod ... The doors are also open to the bishops of the other Churches, who wish to subscribe or at least evaluate the possibility of officially addressing an appeal to His Beatitude to obtain the tomos of autocephaly ".

According to a statement issued on April 17 by Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeev), the leaders of the Moscow Patriarchate "have no element to confirm or refute the existence of a negotiation between the President of Ukraine and the Patriarch of Constantinople".

The fact remains that during his official visit to Turkey on 9 April, Poroshenko met in person with Patriarch Bartholomew (Archontonis), who addressed an Easter greeting to all the Ukrainian people and thanked the President for his peace-making efforts. The same exchange of good wishes had happened the previous week with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who during a visit with Erdogan, made a phone call to the patriarch. In that case, Putin had reported the wishes of the Moscow Patriarch Kirill (Gundjaev) "in favor of the unity of the whole Orthodox world".

On April 14 Kirill had then phoned Bartholomew, as part of the telephone consultations between all the leaders of the Christian Churches for peace in Syria, after the launch of the American missiles.

In the press conference held at the monastery of St. Daniel, Hilarion reiterated that "For us, as for the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the priority remains the defence of the universal unity of Orthodoxy, which is the only absolute value for all our local Churches. Patriarch Bartholomew has repeatedly reiterated that he considers his blessed metropolitan Onufrij, head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church [in communion with Moscow], the only canonically recognized head of the Orthodox Church in Ukraine ".

Even the proposals for the pacification of Patriarch Philaret (Denisenko), the leader of the other Ukrainian Church that separated from Moscow in 1992, were not considered by the Russian Patriarchate truly worthy of consideration, as Hilarion recalled: "We have continued for over a quarter of a century to pray for the overcoming of the schism in Ukraine, so that those responsible for it return to the bosom of the true Orthodox Church. We appreciated the letter sent to us by the former Metropolitan Philaret (Denisenko) last December, with the invitation to start a dialogue, and we even formed a special commission, but for now we do not see a real desire on the Ukrainian side to participate to this work".

A commission is also reportedly  at work in the patriarchate of Constantinople, according to the Speaker of the Ukrainian Rada Andrej Parubij, but to evaluate the possibility of granting the tomos of Ukrainian autonomy.

Last April 20, the leader of parliament spoke about this initiative on UNN television, recalling that for almost a year Ukrainian politicians have insisted on this possibility: "Since last June the Rada has been calling on the Ecumenical Patriarchate, to move the question from the standstill . The patriarchal commission has the task of studying the history of the Ukrainian Church, of the loss of its autonomy in 1686, when autocephaly was stolen through corruption ".

President Poroshenko added that the division of the Ukrainian Church from Moscow would be "an indispensable attribute for an independent state", and the formation of a single national Orthodox Church would be "a triumph of Orthodoxy" and an act of "restoration of the deep historical truth: from the imperial city of the Second Rome the light of the Christian faith has poured on our blessed land ... Only later have we shared it with the lands beyond the forests, where the ancient princes of Kiev recklessly founded the city of Moscow ".

Beyond the historical disputes that have always divided the two peoples of the plains between the Dnieper and the Volga, the strong interference of politics in ecclesiastical events is evident. Russian President Putin, just re-elected, wants to reiterate his dominant role as protector of the Church, while his Ukrainian antagonist Poroshenko is attempting to historically and theologically motivate his second term in 2019, or perhaps already this year.

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