Schism: Russian Orthodox meet with Vatican regarding Constantinople

Constantinople Patriarch Bartholomew and Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill


Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church is blaming Constantinople for causing a schism between the Eastern and Russian Orthodox churches:

19 October 2018

Moscow (AFP) – Russia’s Patriarch Kirill blasted the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople as “schismatic” for granting independence to the Ukrainian church, a move that pushed Moscow to cut ties with Orthodoxy’s mother church.

“The Constantinople patriarchate identified itself with schismatics,” the head of the Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Kirill told a conference in Moscow.

“Uncanonically, violating all rules, it invaded our jurisdiction and forgave schismatics,” he added, referring to a branch of the Ukrainian church it does not recognise.

“By identifying with schismatics, it became a schismatic itself,” he said.

On Monday, the Russian church said it did not recognise Constantinople’s decision to grant Ukraine the right to form an independent church and broke ties with the leading Orthodox authority.

The move was described as one of the gravest crises in the Church’s history.

Russia’s spiritual leader defended the decision to break with Constantinople, saying most Orthodox believers supported the rupture.

He called on clerics to “clarify the situation on Ukraine” with church goers.

“For the decision to be supported by the people — and I feel that the absolute majority of Orthodox believers support this decision — the clergy must also do its work,” he said. …

Russian state media reported that Hilarion, the bishop in charge of the Russian Orthodox Church’s diplomacy, met with Pope Francis in the Vatican on Friday in closed-door talks on Moscow’s decision to break with Constantinople.

Last week, the Constantinople Patriarchate overruled its own decision from the 17th century which adjoined Kievan Orthodox churches to Moscow.

Basically, the schism is due to politics.

There was not some new doctrinal change in the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) that caused Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople to recognize the Ukrainian Orthodox church as independent of the ROC.

On the Ukrainian side, some see the decision as preventing a schism within Ukraine:

19 October 2018

The decision of the Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate on the autocephaly of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church was the most difficult in the whole process. Getting Thomas is not so difficult and will be the culmination of the process of liquidation of the schism in Ukrainian Orthodoxy.

This was stated by Bishop Makarios Krystopolski, assistant Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, a permanent Professor at the Patriarchal Academy of Crete, in an interview with “UKRINFORM”. …

Indeed, the decision on autocephaly of Ukraine accepted.  … Patriarch Bartholomew is the case and will do everything in its time,
– said the Bishop.

According to him, the main difficulty for the Synod was to overcome the split in Ukrainian Orthodoxy.

“Some say the legalization of the schism, but in fact we are talking about solving the problem of a split. One thing – the problem of schism and another thing – the legalization. We would have legalized the split if I said (the Patriarch and Filaret (Metropolitan of the UAOC) Makarios: “Go to the Orthodox Church, and we recognize you as the patriarchs and the Archbishop”. But it was not. The Ecumenical Patriarchate acted in accordance with the canons and ecclesiastical law. Not from political motives, and with Holy wisdom,” said Makarios.

The priest said that Constantinople was able to unite the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church Kyiv Patriarchate.

“Patriarch Bartholomew and the Synod managed to unite two schismatic groups, to restore them to their canonicity without requests by these organizations regarding the posts and honors,” added the Bishop.

In addition, the assistant Bartholomew noted that Moscow has repeatedly tried to solve this problem, but her methods proved ineffective.

There may be many ramifications of this. The New York Times reported the following:

October 19, 2018

The Church of Russia announced this week that it was breaking ties with the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, which has primacy in Orthodoxy and which has decided to give autonomy to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. This decision stems directly from Moscow’s annexation of Crimea and its support for separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine, although Ukrainians had long been unhappy about their church remaining subordinate to Russia’s, as it had been since 1686. This year, their president, Parliament and religious leaders petitioned the leader of the Constantinople Patriarchate, Bartholomew, to grant their church independence — or autocephaly, as it is known in the church.

These developments will have serious implications within Ukraine. Its mostly Orthodox population is divided among three main churches; the newly independent Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kiev Patriarchate would gain influence and most likely seek to take over houses of worship and other property from the church under Moscow’s jurisdiction, which, until now, was the largest in Ukraine and the only one recognized by other churches.

This will further strain relations between Ukraine and Russia. Also, the break in relations between Moscow and the Ecumenical Patriarchate could weaken the latter if other Orthodox churches follow Russia in rejecting Constantinople’s primacy. The shock waves would affect relations between churches that find themselves on either side of the divide, forcing them, too, to sever ties. The churches of Poland, Serbia and Antioch (Syria) have already come out on Russia’s side.

The Church of Greece could also be shaken, as a number of Greek clergymen may support Moscow against Bartholomew. …

As in most schisms in Christianity’s history, this one is determined as much by realpolitik and national interests as by dogma. …

Constantinople was established by the Emperor Constantine in 330 and, as the “New Rome,” it came just after Rome in seniority. The schism in 1054 left Constantinople the primary church in the East. It is these rights of primacy that the Ecumenical Patriarchate is determined to defend, despite its very reduced circumstances following the city’s fall to the Ottomans and the withering of its own flock in Turkey.

Russia wants to project its leadership of the Orthodox world as the “Third Rome,” a role it took upon itself after breaking away from Constantinople in 1448, when its leadership disagreed with efforts to unite East and West Christendom. After 1453, many Orthodox, including the Greeks, looked to Russia for salvation from the Turks.

The Greeks have long had an issue with Patriarch Bartholomew’s ecumenism and this may give them a reason to split from Constantinople.

The above article did not mention that the Vatican and the World Council of Churches (WCC) are impacted by this.

The Vatican, because it not only has felt it had a good ecumenical relationship with Patriarch Bartholomew, but also because it thought it had an ecumenical chance with Patriarch Kirill.

And as far as the WCC goes, it essentially went on record a long while ago supporting the ROC’s position on the Ukrainian Orthodox.

As mentioned before, the Orthodox consider the split between them and the Church of Rome in 1054 as the “great schism.” Here is a link with some information about that: 2018 schism between the Eastern and Russian Orthodox; Was the Sabbath an issue in the 1054 schism?

The schism between Constantinople and the ROC has the potential to cause division in Europe.

The schism between Constantinople and the ROC has the potential to cause Ukraine to split with part supporting Russia.

That being said, I believe any split between the ROC and Europe will be temporary.

The Russian Orthodox Church, for a time, will support the power that will rise up in Europe (cf. Revelation 13:1-10).

But later, it will turn against that power as prophecies in Jeremiah 50 and other scriptures show. For details, see Russia and Ukraine: Their Origins and Prophesied Future.

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