10/09/2018, 10.58
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The Patriarch of Antioch and the clash between Moscow and Constantinople

by Vladimir Rozanskij

Today a Synod in Istanbul will decide on autocephaly to the Ukrainian Church, opposed by Moscow. The Church of Antioch is also advises against taking unilateral decisions. The risk of fracture in orthodox communion.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - Today, October 9, the Synod of Bishops of the Church of Constantinople opens, which will decide on the granting of the Tomos of autocephaly to the Ukrainians. From the perspective of the ecumenical patriarchate it would appear a foregone conclusion.

The question of Ukrainian autocephaly has been the main concern of the Orthodox universal communion for months and is undermining mutual relations.

On October 5th, the Synod of the Orthodox Church of Antioch, under the guidance of Patriarch John X (Yagizi), issued a statement. The text expresses great concern "for the actions that will lead to a change in the geography of the Orthodox Churches", and the regret for the unilateral readings of past history, which "fuel hostility and lead to division". The Synod declares itself therefore contrary to the "founding principles of a new Church in the canonical boundaries of patriarchates or existing autocephalous Churches, as a method for resolving conflicts in the Orthodox world that passes through a fait accompli".

Of the five ancient patriarchates (Rome, Constantinople, Jerusalem, Alexandria and Antioch), the Syriac seat has always been the closest to the Russians, being the easternmost and historically the one that best benefited from the political and ecclesiastical protection of the patriarchate of Moscow during the long Ottoman domination. It is not surprising, therefore, that the antiochiens stand with the Russians in the ongoing conflict, even for ancient jealousies with the Ukrainians themselves. In the most convulsive periods of the history of these Churches, Kiev and Antioch have tried to influence the development of the Muscovite patriarchate in different directions, between the West and the East of the European Christian and Middle Eastern world.

John X and his bishops insist on the necessary "unanimous consent" of the Churches on the issues of autocephaly, and above all the need to obtain the approval of the "Mother Church". This issue is controversial because Kiev and Moscow have been competing for centuries as the "mother of the Russian cities" and the local Church. In the statements of the Syrian synod gathered in the monastery of Balamand, there is no shortage of warnings "not to be influenced by politics, or by racial or national issues". The Antiochens propose to reunite the leaders of the autocephalous Orthodox Churches, to resolve the issue in synod.

Commenting on these statements, one of the most acute observers of the Orthodox world, the Russian theologian Andrej Kuraev notes on his blog that "we cannot say at the borders over the centuries: stop there and do not move; within the patriarchal boundaries, various processes of ethnogenesis occur continuously ". Kuraev himself also notes that the Church of Antioch also belongs to that group of Churches that refused to go to the 2016 Pan-Orthodox Council of Crete, including Moscow itself.

The question is coming to a conclusion today with the Synod of the Bishops of Constantinople. Kuraev writes: "The question is only one: when the Moscow locomotive will collide with the Istanbul Express, shattering the Eucharistic cup, what other churches will have the courage to follow Moscow and break with Constantinople?".

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