The Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate has autonomy within the Russian Orthodox Church, but the Russian Orthodox Church has reacted extremely negatively to special bills submitted to the Ukrainian Parliament banning the activities of the Moscow Patriarchate on Ukrainian soil.
Moscow- The ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine could not but cast a shadow on the positions of the two sides of the Orthodox Church and their relations in both countries, which in turn constituted the largest political event that brought to the public the file of differences that had accumulated in recent years within the Orthodox Church there.
This disparity reached its maximum with the start of the special military operation – as Russia calls it – in Ukraine, through the statements of the bishops of the Orthodox Church in the two countries, and other clergymen, regarding the ongoing war, which unambiguously reflected the development of the emerging differences.
The Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, the spiritual leader of the Orthodox in the world, condemned – during a meeting in Warsaw with Ukrainian refugees – what he described as the “terrible invasion” of their country for more than a month by the Russian forces, noting that “the Ukrainian and Russian peoples left. From the baptismal font of the Dnieper”, describing the war between these peoples as a repetition of the sin of Cain, who killed his brother out of envy, adding that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church defends the sovereignty and integrity of Ukraine.
On the other hand, Kirill, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, was keen to describe the current conflict as “not material but metaphysical,” explaining that the position of the Russian Orthodox Church “is based on devotion to God’s law, the law of love and justice, and that if it sees a violation of that, it will never bear those those who destroy this law, including blurring the line between holiness and sin, and even with those who promote sin as a model.”
In his mass, Patriarch Kirill spoke directly about what he described as the oppression and extermination of people in the Donbass for 8 years, while “the whole world is silent about this suffering,” adding that he calls on everyone to forgive, but with reservations, “forgiveness without justice is surrender and weakness. Therefore. Forgiveness must be accompanied by preservation of the truth.
And the Moscow Patriarchate, in the first comment on the events, had published an appeal made by Patriarch Kirill of Moscow to all priests and “devotees of the Russian Orthodox Church”, urging everyone to pray for “restoring peace” and helping refugees, noting that he “strongly sympathizes with all who has been affected by the disaster,” and that he “feels the deep and sincere pain of the people’s suffering as a result of the events.”
It is worth noting that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate is an autonomous church within the Russian Orthodox Church; But the Russian Orthodox Church reacted extremely negatively to special bills – presented to the Verkhovna Rada – banning the activities of the Moscow Patriarchate on Ukrainian soil, and warned Kyiv of a “mass confrontation with unpredictable consequences”.
This is not the first time that signs of a structural schism have emerged within the Orthodox Church, with its two parts, Russia and Ukraine. The year 2016 witnessed an important turning point that cast a shadow over the unity of the Church, when former President Pyotr Poroshenko called for the establishment of a local (independent) church on the basis of the so-called Kyiv Patriarchate, but his call was ignored by the global Orthodox, and Moscow saw in this step an attempt at a church coup .
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In an interview with Al Jazeera Net, Father Igor Yakimchuk – who is the chief priest and secretary of the external church relations department in the Moscow Patriarchate – said that the position of the Russian Orthodox Church is consistent, and stems from the emphasis on the necessity of establishing peace in Ukraine, and preserving the spiritual unity of the peoples united by the Orthodox Church. Russian.
Yakimchuk explained that the Russian Orthodox Church is active in the current circumstances – among other activities – to provide all forms of assistance to all those who have been harmed as a result of the current conditions, regardless of their nationality.
In response to a question about whether the statements made by some clerics in Ukraine could pave the way for a schism within the Church, he said that “in the current circumstances, it is too early to give assessments about this, and the important thing is to restore good fraternal relations between our peoples.”
But he pointed out that the Ukrainian Church, being the Church of the Ukrainian people, prays for him and for her homeland, considering that it is not surprising.
It is noteworthy that the churches of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate in Kyiv stopped mentioning the name of the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, Kirill, during prayers and liturgies.
Moreover, there are reports that the bishops of the Orthodox Church in Ukraine have refused to participate in the Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church scheduled for next May in Moscow, prompting some ecclesiastical observers to believe that there is an attempt to completely separate the borders between the Russian and Ukrainian Orthodox Churches.