Photo: RIA-Novosti

Photo: RIA-Novosti  – 2/4/17

The Ukrainians will never get what they are seeking from Constantinople, says Valery Alekseev, President of the international Foundation for the Unity of Orthodox Peoples (FUOP). Neither the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, nor any other, will receive autocephaly from the Ecumenical Patriarchate he believes, based on his contacts with the spiritual leaders of Constantinople, reports RIA-Novosti.

There are currently fifteen autocephalous Local Orthodox Churches in the Orthodox communion, although not all Churches, including that of Constantinople, recognize the autocephaly that the Moscow Patriarchate granted the Orthodox Church in America in 1970. Ukrainian authorities and schismatic hierarchs and faithful continually call for the creation of a unified and autocephalous Ukrainian Church, fueled by the nationalistic desire to spurn the Moscow Patriarchate, of which the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church is a part. In particular, the Verkhovna Rada earlier appealed to Patriarch Bartholomew to step in and grant autocephaly.

“There will be no more autocephalous Churches in the world—this is the firm position of the Greek world. It’s clear that Kiev will never get what it wants,” Alekseev stated at the final press conference of the thirteenth international FUOP conference that took place in Berlin March 27-30 entitled “Values and Interests in a Changing World: A Christian Approach.”

The president of the foundation has regular contact with the patriarch, and met with him in the Phanar last year. “They had great difficulty recognizing the so-called post-war autocephalies—confirming the autocephalous Bulgarian and Serbian Churches, and the new autocephalous Polish, Czechoslovakian, Albanian Churches which did not exist before. These Churches were created in post-war Europe, where the Soviet Union had great influence,” Alekseev explained. “I’m telling you with all responsibility, just so you understand: there will be no new autocephalous Churches, although promising and playing at granting autocephaly may continue forever,” the foundation president added.

In Alekseev’s view, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate today has the maximum freedom possible, possessing “the fullness of a self-governing Church.” Even bishops elected by the UOC-MP are not formally confirmed by the Moscow Synod. “It is, in fact, basically an independent Church,” he said, adding that such freedom would never happen under Constantinople.

According to the foundation head, there are two autonomous Churches under Constantinople—the Finnish and Crete Churches—but in practice they exist in a rigid, centralized system where even the smallest questions are approved in the Phanar.

Alekseev noted that the policy and desire of obtaining an autocephalous Church, which has existed in Ukraine since the first president, Leonid Kravchuk, is used politically in the geopolitical sphere to attract global players, “primarily the United States.”

For their part, the representatives of the Constantinople Patriarchate have earlier declared that they will not recognize Ukraine’s autocephaly without the permission of the Moscow Patriarchate.

The international public Foundation for the Unity of Orthodox Peoples was formed in April 1995 with the blessing of His Holiness Patriarch Alexey II of Moscow, with Patriarch Kirill as the current Chairman of the Board. The foundation “was established and operates in order to strengthen the ties of the spiritual brotherhood of nations professing Orthodoxy, and to consolidate and revitalize the efforts of the international Orthodox community in works of cultural and social cooperation.”