Estonian Orthodox church condemns Ukraine's plan for independent church

Representatives of the Orthodox Church of Moscow Patriarchate. Photo is illustrative.
Representatives of the Orthodox Church of Moscow Patriarchate. Photo is illustrative. Source: Alexei Druzhinin/TASS/Scanpix

The Synod of the Estonian Orthodox Church of Moscow Patriarchate on Tuesday published a statement in which it condemned the process launched in Ukraine for achieving the autocephaly, or independence, of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church from Moscow.

"The Synod of the Estonian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate is expressing its deep concern regarding the dangerous development of the church situation in Ukraine, which has been brought about by the one-sided activity of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, who has sent two of his ministers to Kiev in order to realise the establishment of an autocephalous Ukrainian Church," the synod's statement said.

"We can see from the experience of the Estonian Orthodox Church that this kind of activity by the Patriarch of Constantinople, which ignores the canonical subordination of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, may bring along grave consequences for the Ukrainian Orthodox belief as well as the unity of the church as a whole," the synod said.

The synod also warned that the name change and transfer of ownership of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church may result in the discrimination of millions of Orthodox people.

"We are decisively condemning the anti-canonical activity of the Patriarch of Constantinople in Ukraine and fully support the position assumed by the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church on 14 September," the statement said.

Ukraine seeking to establish independent church

The Archbishop of Constantinople and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, who is based in Istanbul and for historical reasons is considered to be the spokesman of all Orthodox people and first among equals in the Eastern Orthodox Church, should in the next few months decide over Ukraine's request to break away from Moscow and establish an independent church.

Metropolitan of Volokolamsk and high Russian church official Hilarion said in September that should the patriarch support Kiev, they have no other choice than to sever relations with Constantinople. He said that Bartholomew has acted in a despicable and treacherous manner.

Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill, Bartholomew's rival, has called the possible separation of the Ukrainian church from Moscow a catastrophe of the Orthodox faith.

Clergymen of one branch of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church have pledged loyalty to Moscow, but the branch without international canonical recognition answers to Patriarch Filaret, head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyivan Patriarchate.

Even though the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople is the world's oldest, Moscow is currently the most powerful and has the greatest number of followers.

It is not clear what it would mean in practice should Ukraine be given the right to establish an independent church. Experts agree, however, that this decision would mean a blow of any kind to Russia's spiritual authority in the Orthodox world.

The Estonian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, which ministers principally to the country's large Russian-speaking populace, is distinct from the Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church, a smaller denomination whose congregations and clergy comprise mainly ethnic Estonians and which is part of the Constantinople Patriarchy.

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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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