01/11/2019, 11.59
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Ukrainian autocephaly opposed in the Orthodox world

by Vladimir Rozanskij

On February 3rd, Epifanyj enthronement ceremony. It is also his birthday. The ecumenical patriarch Bartholomew promises to visit Ukraine in the coming weeks. Orthodox churches close to Moscow - Cyprus, Syria, Bulgaria - are opposed to Kiev's autocephaly. Supporters, in addition to Constantinople, include Greece, Egypt and perhaps Albania and Romania.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - February 3 is the most probable date in which the head of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Epifanyj (Dumenko), could be enthroned in Kiev. The date was hypothesized last January 8 by the protoierej Ivan Sidor, who served at the Cathedral church of St. Sophia in Kiev, which has resumed regualr religious services. That day Epifanyj will celebrate its 40th birthday, "joining together two joyous celebrations", said Sidor in a broadcast of the Ukrainian channel In Diretta, while admitting that the solemn ceremony has not yet been officially confirmed.

After the delivery of the Tomos of autocephaly on 6 January, the Patriarchate of Constantinople is completing the procedures to make it definitively valid: on 9 January all the members of the Patriarchal Synod of Constantinople signed the text, publishing exclusive photos of the signing ceremony. Now the document, which had been reported in Istanbul, will return to Ukraine with all the official crismalities. The president of the Ukrainian Senate, Andrej Parubij, has declared in the meantime that the ecumenical patriarch Bartholomew (Archontonis) has confirmed his intention to visit Ukraine. This trip could take place in the next few weeks.

In addition to the synodal confirmations of Constantinople, the Tomos was subjected to the evaluation of the other autocephalous Orthodox Churches, with the patriarch's letters to the primates of the same. In addition to the well-known opposition of Moscow, supported with general statements by the Poles and the Serbs, even the Orthodox Archbishop of Cyprus, Chrysostom II (Englistriotis), refused to commemorate the head of the new Ukrainian Church during the liturgy. The archbishop is known for his pro-Russian positions, due to Russian support for the polemics against the Turkish "occupation" of the north of the country. Speaking to the local news agency Romfea the archbishop said he had declined the proposal to invite the new metropolitan Epifanyj to Cyprus, made by other members of the local synod. According to his declarations "every independent state has the right to ecclesiastical autocephaly, but for now it does not seem to me that the Ukrainian people have expressed this will".

The Archbishop of Athens Ieronymos II (Liapis), head of the Orthodox Church of Greece, has instead considered the Synod judgment on Ukrainian autocephaly insufficient.  However he has begun to examine the document sent, urging a pronouncement of the whole ecclesial body, clergy and laity, according to procedures still to be defined. The Ukrainians, however, still trust in the approval of the Greeks, and in that of the Orthodox Patriarch of Alexandria in Egypt. The Churches of Albania and Romania appear prudent, but neutral.

The patriarch of Antioch John X (Yagizi) very close to Kirill of Moscow and to the Russian "protectors" of Syria is officially opposed. Even the Bulgarians, who together with the Serbs were "liberated" from the Ottoman empire thanks to the Russians, are considered allies of Moscow against Constantinople: the metropolitan of Vidin Daniil (Nikolov), had issued declarations in December against the separation of Ukraine from the territory Canon of the Patriarchate of Moscow, whose annexation had taken place in 1682. According to the Bulgarian bishop, "these decisions can be withdrawn or contested at most within thirty years, not after three centuries".

Bulgaria, and even more so Serbia, is also involved in the other issue of autocephaly under way in the Orthodox world, that of Macedonia. After the approval of the Ukrainian autonomy, even in the former Yugoslav republic the hopes of obtaining the same result are revived, as the Macedonian metropolitan Petr (Karevskij) said ato online news agency religija.mkl: "We hope to rejoice within the end of the year as an autocephalous Church, being recognized by the ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople, since we are in compliance with all the conditions for this ". More cautious, but also optimistic, appears the head of the Macedonian Church, the metropolitan of Skopje Stefan (Veljanovskij); also the Metropolitan of Montenegro Michail (Dedeic) hopes in the autocephaly, and has made declarations to this effect. The concession of ecclesiastical autonomy to Macedonia and Montenegro would almost certainly lead to another break, that between Belgrade and Constantinople.

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