Yesterday, an extraordinary meeting of the Synod of the ROC took place in Moscow, the result of which, as the experts had previously assumed, was a “partial” cessation of the Eucharistic communication between the Moscow and Ecumenical Patriarchates. As explained in the Moscow Patriarchate, this partial dissolution of communication is manifested in the fact that from today the Divine Liturgy will not be commemorated by the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in the temples of the Moscow Patriarchate, and the clergymen of the ROC will not perform joint worship services with the representatives of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
Also, the ROC will not participate in joint events with the representatives of Constantinople. It is talking about the episcopal assemblies and other joint events. However, the Moscow Patriarchate allows to its followers to commune and participate in divine services conducted by the Greeks. This decision was quite predictable, as recently the chairman of the DECR, Metropolitan Illarion (Alfeev), informed about such possible steps of the Moscow Patriarchate. Therefore, this decision, in principle, does not cause much surprise.
The surprise is called by quite different thing, namely, the holding of this Synod. As reported, the chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate in Ukraine, Metropolitan Onufriy (Berezovsky), for health reasons, could not arrive in Moscow and take part in the meeting of the Synod. Taking this into account, it was established on-line communication for him, which was shown in the video at the beginning of the meeting of the Synod. Of course, the video is short, and contains only the introductory speech of Patriarch Kirill, but at the same time it provokes extraordinary interest. So let’s try to highlight the main points.
At the beginning of the video, the head of the Moscow Patriarchate introduces the members of the Synod to only one topic on the agenda: the Ukrainian question, namely, the appointment of two exarchs of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to Kiev. And here the question arises: “Why does Patriarch Kirill not inform the members of the Synod about the recent meeting with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew”, which, in fact, is a traditional procedure for such meetings of the Synod. Always Patriarch Kirill reported about his visits to other local churches and about the results of the meetings that he held during such trips.
Now, the information about this meeting found its articulation only in several sentences of the Synod’s statement, in which it is noteworthy that only the position of Patriarch Kirill to His Holiness is mentioned, but about the position of the Ecumenical Patriarch himself is not a word. It looks strange, because, as Patriarch Kirill told journalists after the meeting with the Ecumenical Patriarch, the meeting took place in a warm and fraternal atmosphere; even Kirlil himself approved it, saying “Good, good”.
Of course, we can assume that Patriarch Kirill does not want to disclose the essence of this meeting without an agreement with Patriarch Bartholomew, but then the accusations put forward by the Moscow Patriarchate towards the Church of Constantinople regarding a unilateral solution of the issue of Ukrainian autocephaly seem even stranger. After all, as reported in the Ecumenical Patriarchate, Patriarch Kirill was informed about the intentions of Patriarch Bartholomew, and Kirill probably considered that it is unnecessary to acquaint his subordinates with these intentions.
Also, he considered that it is unnecessary to hear the opinion of the head of the MP in Ukraine, Metropolitan Onufriy. At the end of the abovementioned video, Patriarch Kirill with a smile informed Metropolitan Onufriy that a special discussion would take place at the Synod, and Metropolitan Onufriy himself would be informed about it. These words again arouse great interest, especially amid of a recent interview with the head of the ROC exarchate in Ukraine on one of the Ukrainian TV channels. In this interview, Metropolitan Onufriy said that only spiritual, cultural and prayer ties connect them with the Russian Church. Today we see exactly the opposite. The Russian Synod clearly and directly indicates about its canonical territory and resolves the issue unilaterally, without asking the head of the MP in Ukraine or his Synod.
Without delving into the sphere of ecclesiastical relations of the Moscow Patriarchate and part of the dioceses in Ukraine, which call themselves the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (which, in truth, can serve as the theme of many scientific theological studies for obtaining a doctorate), but based on the theses voiced its head, here is not only surprise, and even an ordinary citizen will consider this an absurdity. After all, if church Moscow does not interfere in the affairs of the Church, which has its own center in Kiev, because it is written out in the charter of the ROC (what are the speakers of this organization appealing to), then why is it considering issues concerning Kiev now?
In Kiev itself, they limited themselves by the statement of the head of the “Ministry of Foreign Affairs” of the so-called “UOC-MP” Metropolitan Mitrofan. There was no decision from any relevant legislative body of this Church during this week. According to the logic of things, a Bishop’s Council should be held in Kiev, or at least an “extraordinary Synod”, at which the decision of the Synaxis of the Patriarchate of Constantinople should be considered, as well as the decision to appoint the above-mentioned exarchs, and an appropriate decision must be made. Of course, given the limitations of its capabilities, this cathedral or synod could request about a kind of protection and support from Moscow, but this did not happen.
Now we see that Moscow and its Church directly point out that there is really no independence for church Kiev, and all the problems that arise are its personal scores with Constantinople. And they decide this unilaterally, without asking about the opinion of the episcopate MP in Ukraine, but considering only notifying them about their decision.
Of course, the official spokespersons of the Moscow Patriarchate appeal, pointing to the “meeting of the episcopate of the UOC”, which took place in the summer. But it is perfectly clear to everyone that this meeting took place when there was still no Synaxis or decision on the appointment of the exarchs, and besides it took place under the sounds of the deceptive rhetoric of the bishops of the MP in Ukraine that Constantinople does not think to provide autocephaly for Ukraine. Now, when new circumstances appeared on the case, it would be logical to hold even a kind such of “meeting”.
The question arises why it is not carried out. Given yesterday’s meeting of the Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church and its statement, it becomes clear that this is not the business of the so-called “UOC-MP”, and this is directly of Moscow. And this can be traced in the statement itself, in which the representatives of the Synod recall Patriarch Tikhon, the Renovationists and the representative of the Ecumenical Patriarch in the Russian Orthodox Church at the beginning of the last century. That is, they equated and identified Kiev as their part, and not independent in its management, because if the memory does not change, the “UOC” did not have the right to make decisions concerning the theological dogmatic teachings of the Church.
Only one time the “Ukrainian Orthodox Church” is mentioned and several times Kiev is mentioned in the statement of the Synod, which once again confirms that the situation is solved unilaterally, without taking into account the opinions of the representatives of the “UOC” who, through their inaction, also showed that this is not their business. And again here it is questioned whether it is true that only the spiritual ties unite the ROC and the so-called “UOC”?
However, it is interesting how representatives of the MP in Ukraine will react now, after all, according to the amendments that were introduced into the charter of the Russian Orthodox Church in November last year, only the decision of the Bishops’ Council, and not the Synod, is binding, and how now the spiritual ties of Moscow and Kiev? After all, MP speakers in Ukraine have repeatedly claimed that through Moscow they are united with world Orthodoxy, including Constantinople. What will happen now? We are sure that we will see very soon a solution to this issue.