Greek letter recognising Kyiv’s autocephaly delivered
Greek Archbishop Ieronymos signed the "reconciliation” letter. The latter follows the concelebration of the liturgical service by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Archbishop Ieronymos himself on 20 October in Thessaloniki, when Metropolitan Epiphanius was mentioned for the first time as head of the Ukrainian autocephalous Church.
Athens (AsiaNews) – The Synod of the Church of Greece has recognised the autocephaly of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Greek Archbishop Ieronymos sent a letter to this effect two days ago to Epiphanius, Metropolitan of Kyiv, dated October 21, 2019. The Greek Synod met on 12 October 2019 and backed the decision taken by the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Constantinople on 6 February 2019.
The missive, called a letter "of reconciliation" because it restores the sacramental communion between the two Churches, follows the concelebration of the liturgical service by the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Archbishop Ieronymos on 20 October in Thessaloniki (Greece), when Metropolitan Epiphanius was mentioned for the first time as head of the Ukrainian autocephalous Church.
With this act, the Synod of the Church of Greece adopted the views expressed by the specially constituted commission – composed of experienced priests and laity – following the request by the Church of Kyiv for recognition presented on 22 May 2019.
The commission’s report – which gave the go-ahead to approve the autocephaly granted by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople and which was handed out to the 80 synod bishops in order to take cognizance of the facts before the final discussion – is based on the following points:
1) Constantinople never granted Moscow jurisdiction over Kyiv, but granted only (by an act dated 1686) the power to ordain the Metropolitan of Kyiv, elected by a clerical lay assembly.
2) Constantinople has always held the privilege (according to Canons 9 and 17 of the 4th Ecumenical Synod) to act as the Court of Appeal in the territories under its jurisdiction.
3) The Ecumenical Patriarch has always had the right and obligation to take the necessary steps to prevent and protect his ecclesial body, as evidenced by its millenary history, both in times of peace and in times of captivity.
4) It is up to the Patriarch of Constantinople to grant autocephaly, as he did in the course of history in the cases of Georgia (1950), Czech Republic (1998), Poland (1925), Albania (1937), Greece (1850), Serbia ( 1878), Romania (1885), Bulgaria (1945), Russia (1496), etc.
Unfortunately, the Commission report states that the Moscow Patriarchate decided at the last moment not to participate in the Pan-Orthodox Synod held in Crete (June 2016). Thus, it prevented the Synod from jointly deciding on autocephaly.
Consequently, the Church of Greece, the document concludes, which recognises Our Lord as head of the Church and is united by the common faith to the great Mother Church of Constantinople, acknowledges that the latter has the canonical right to grant autocephaly to the Church of Kyiv, and the right of the Archbishop of Greece to set in motion the procedures for such recognition.
It is very interesting that the document reviews the concept of "autocephaly" – already present in the history of the Church as the idea of a local Church but linked and fully expressed in the concept of synodality – as the foundation of an apostolic Church.
However, due to certain abuses perpetrated by some local Churches, and in order to avoid rifts, the concept of "pentarchy" was introduced.
Other considerations in the text are also very interesting. One points to the rise of the Enlightenment and the creation of secularised nation-states on the basis of which ethnophyletism developed. This has resulted in identifying the Church of Christ with secularised powers, which is the cause of so many ills on society. For this reason, the Ecumenical Patriarchate of 1872 condemned ethnophyletism as heresy.
Some have expressed reservations during the discussions at the General Synod of 12 October 2019, including a group of seven traditionalist bishops (out of the 80 total) who see the Russians as protectors of Orthodoxy, and have consistently condemned any ecumenical dialogue with Rome, since the latter is not considered a sister Church.
It should also be noted that many Metropolitans have strongly expressed their disappointment at the interference by Russian Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev (head of the Department of External Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate), who over recent months travelled far and wide in Greece (and elsewhere) to prevent the Greek Church from coming out in favour of Kyiv’s autocephaly, urging various bishops to express a negative opinion.
A letter full of threats sent in September by the Metropolitan himself to Metropolitan Chrysostomos of Mogadishu (Patriarchate of Alexandria of Egypt) was also not well received. In very unorthodox ways, it urges others to take a stand against the recognition of the Ukrainian Church. Such a missive, bypassing the Patriarch of Alexandria, was deemed disrespectful and "not worthy" of the Christian tradition.
Now it remains to be seen, after the publication of the letter of recognition of the autocephaly of the Ukrainian Church by the Greek, if Moscow will suspend sacramental communion with Athens.