"It is a tragedy. In the US, they are happy about it. The US is involved in it. The US Secretary of State hypocritically called for progress. Interestingly, the Kiev Metropolia was founded on the canonical territory of the Moscow Patriarchate almost a hundred years before the United States even existed."
"But, of course, the most important thing is the fate of Orthodox Christians in Ukraine because there are dozens of millions of people. The schism is the most difficult ordeal for them."
Last Monday in Minsk, the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church decided to sever all relations with the Patriarchate of Constantinople. This means that, from now on, our priests will no longer be able to serve together with the representatives of Constantinople. Their Patriarch Bartholomew will not be mentioned in the prayers for health. The laity of the Russian Orthodox Church won't be able to take communion, confess, get married, or have the funeral service performed over them in the churches of Constantinople. Of course, they won't be able to get christened there, either.
In the decision of the Synod, it is stated that the reason for such a harsh decision is an "anti-canonical encroachment on another's canonical regions," or, in simple language, Constantinople's invasion of Ukraine with its charter and recognition of a schismatic church there: It's a tragedy.
In the US, they are happy about it. This is understandable. The US is involved in it. Last Friday, the US Secretary of State hypocritically called for progress. Interestingly, the Kiev Metropolia was founded on the canonical territory of the Moscow Patriarchate almost a hundred years before the United States even existed.
As for the Patriarchate of Constantinople, which is now in Istanbul, Turkey, the Russian emperors were the greatest contributors to the Ecumenical Throne for centuries. In fact, they maintained it. Even recently, modern Russian benefactors have donated an estimated hundreds of millions of dollars for the reconstruction of St. Panteleimon Monastery on Mount Athos alone. The monastery itself and the infrastructure surrounding it were thoroughly reconstructed with this money. The monastery is directly in the canonical jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Constantinople.
But, of course, the most important thing is the fate of Orthodox Christians in Ukraine because there are dozens of millions of people. The schism is the most difficult ordeal for them.
Nikolai Vasiyev with the details.
Fr. Vladimir: Russians, Ukrainians, and Belarusians come here to pray every day.
Nikolai Vasiyev: He relics of St. Basil are in the main shrine of the Ostrog Monastery in Montenegro. Monk Vladimir shows the amazing monastery carved in the rock at an altitude of almost 3,000 feet. He is actually a postgraduate student of the St. Petersburg Theological Academy. Neither the priest nor we expected to see a pilgrim wearing a vyshyvanka.
Fr. Vladimir: Where did you get it?
Nikola: It's a present from my godfather, who is from Ukraine.
Nikolai Vasiyev: Nikola comes from a Serbian family. His godfather bought the shirt in the Pochaev Lavra during his pilgrimage.
Fr. Vladimir: There aren't any schismatics?
Nikola: No, no schismatics.
Nikolai Vasiyev: Everybody in the Balkans knows what a schism is and why it's dangerous. The Serbian Orthodox Church was one of the first to express support for its fellow Christians in Russia and Ukraine. Together with the Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, John X, the Patriarch of Serbia, Irinej, prayed for the unity of worldwide Orthodoxy in Belgrade.
Irineh, Patriarch of Serbia: The First Hierarch of our Church, the Patriarch of Constantinople, was tempted to make a decision that could be disastrous for the Church. He's not entitled to do what he's doing. It's a question of recognizing a schismatic church and even giving autocephaly to it. This has never happened before.
Nikolai Vasiyev: Istanbul hasn't given autocephaly to the Ukrainian schismatics yet. Patriarch Bartholomew established a Stavropegia in Kiev, a structure which he controls and has only two hierarchs so far, who once emigrated from Ukraine to the United States and Canada.
Bishop Hilarion of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada: Your name has a prominent place in the history of Ukraine, together with the names of the rulers of Kievan Rus, the Kievan state.
Nikolai Vasiyev: After listening to this flattery from the Istanbul envoys, President Poroshenko decided to give St. Andrew's Cathedral, which was built in Kiev by a decree of Elizaveta Petrovna, to Constantinople. The temple is now in the jurisdiction of the so-called Ukrainian Autocephalous Church. On October 11th, Istanbul recognized it and the so-called Kiev Patriarchate as quite canonical religious communities.
The Russian Church cannot agree with this decision of Constantinople.
Patriarch Kirill [of Moscow and all Russia]: The Patriarchate of Constantinople has identified itself with the schismatics. Violating all canonical rules, it invaded our jurisdiction.
Nikolai Vasiyev: We can only guess what Constantinople is seeking. Despite the title of "Ecumenical," Patriarch Bartholomew has practically no flock. In the meanwhile, the schismatics have about 4,000 parishes in Ukraine and North America. But the whole hierarchy of impostors is excommunicated. Montenegro's experience is worth noting.
After Yugoslavia broke up, champions of autocephaly appeared in Montenegro, too. But the Serbian Orthodox Church maintains unity with itself. Interesting, not only Belgrade, but Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople anathematized the schismatics in Montenegro.
Metropolitan Amfilohije of Montenegro and the Littoral: The false patriarch of Kiev, Denisenko, is the only one who recognizes these impostors, and the only one who serves with them.
Nikolai Vasiyev: Metropolitan Amfilohije, like the entire Serbian Church, even despite the decision by Constantinople, does not consider the Kievan false patriarch to be a Christian, much less a priest.
Metropolitan Amfilohije: Denisenko is a schismatic
Hilarion, Metropolitan of Volokolamsk: A schism is still a schism. Its leaders are still the leaders of a schism. The Church, which recognized the schismatics and entered into communion with them, thereby excluded itself from the canonical jurisdiction of the Orthodox Church.
Nikolai Vasiyev: It is strange that the Church of Constantinople recognized all of the decisions of Moscow concerning schismatics for more than 20 years. It also recognized the anathema of Mikhail Denisenko; he is also the former Metropolitan of Kiev, Filaret. In 1990, Denisenko even competed for the Patriarchal Throne of [Moscow and] All Russia. But after losing the election to Alexy II, he launched a powerful and aggressive campaign for the sparation of the Kiev cathedra from Moscow.
Vladimir Sabodan, former Metropolitan of Kiev and All Ukraine: The convocation of 1992 prosecuted Filaret not for his idea of a national church autocephaly, but as he and his supporters try to present it. He was prosecuted for his style and methods of work and control over the Ukrainian Exarchate, and then the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. He was prosecuted for his personal life.
Nikolai Vasiyev: To have a personal life means to violate monastic vows. Denisenko had a partner and three children. In addition, in April 1992, he wore on the Gospel that he would voluntarily leave the cathedra. But he retracted his words. In 1995, he put on the cowl and established the so-called Kiev Patriarchate. Of course, the Ukrainian authorities helped him do it.
Alexy II, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia (1995): He's always been very loyal to the authorities. He repeated what the authorities said in Soviet times. He articulated these ideas. And in the new environment of Ukraine, apparently, under President Kravchuk, he also expressed what the authorities wanted him to.
Nikolai Vasiyev: While the nationalists are preparing to seize the shrines, appealing to pagan gods, the false patriarch adds Kev Pechersk and Pochaev Lavra to his title. The sad poem of Yan Taksyur, the famous Ukrainian poet expresses the cynicism of what is happening:
Yan Taksyur: You may not need Christ. Love and patience are evil for you. And your souls do not need sky because there was and is no faith in them.
Nikolai Vasiyev: Neither Poroshenko, nor Denisenko, nor Patriarch Bartholomew asked the opinion of the parishioners, most of whom remain loyal to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate.
Woman: The Holy Spirit won't be in the church that they establish. There won't be the grace of God. The people will be totally deceived.
Another Woman: Our parents attended the Russian Church for years. The Ukrainian, Russian, and Belarusian Churches are the same church now.
Nikolai Vasiyev: Belarus warned the Orthodox world. Although initially, the first-ever meeting of the Synod of the Russian Church in Minsk was planned to be dedicated to the 1030th anniversary of the Baptism of Rus.
Patriarch Kyrill: I'd like to suggest some amendments to our agenda.
Vladimir Legoida, Russian Orthodox Church spokesman: The Russian Church did everything to prevent the relations from developing this way. We have nothing to blame ourselves for. We did our best to warn our brothers from Constantinople so that they wouldn't support and legalize the schism.
Nikolai Vasiyev: Unfortunately, this isn't the first time that the Russian Church has severed relations with Constantinople. For example. in the mid-fifteenth century, Constantinople reunited with the [Roman] Catholic Church. In 1996, without Moscow's permission, Istanbul invaded the territory of Estonia. The previous disputes were settled by the means of long and intense negotiations. Actually, in the Minsk statement, the Russian Synod doesn't exclude the possibility of reconciliation. But first, Patriarch Bartholomew must decide whether he supports the legitimate church or the schismatics.
Almost every Orthodox community around the world demanded an emergency meeting of the hierarchs be held concerning the Ukrainian issue. Because the relations of formally the most honored cathedra and the largest Orthodox Church in the world are involved.
Hieromonk Vladimir, Ph.D in Theology: A schism is the most terrible thing that could happen.
Nikolai Vasiyev: Nikolay Vasilyev, Kirill Pzyrny, Mikhail Devyatkin, Oleg Solovyov, Egor Dolinski, Inna Kazantseva, Vesty Nedeli.
English language transcription provided by Dormition Professional Services
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