Message of the press center of Kyiv Patriarchate

From June 16 to 26, 2016, the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church convened on the Greek island of Crete, chaired by His All-Holiness Bartholomew, Ecumenical Patriarch. This Council was held subsequent to decisions of the Synaxis (assembly) of the heads of the 14 universally-recognized autocephalous Orthodox Churches meeting in Chambesy, Switzerland in January 2016, while preparation for the Council, including selection of topics for consideration and creation of draft documents, was conducted over 55 years, since the 1961 Pan-Orthodox Conference in Rhodes.

Regretfully, under the influence of external secular considerations, the Churches of first Bulgaria, then Antioch, Moscow, and Georgia, announced just days prior to the Council the impossibility of their participation, demanding postponement of the Council for “further preparation”. Although the Churches of Bulgaria, Georgia, and Antioch each expressed somewhat different grounds for their withdrawal, there is little question that the position of the Moscow Patriarchate was a main factor in their decisions.

Despite official assurances of wishing to gather the Council, the Moscow Patriarchate was not, and is not, interested in this. The Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church meeting on the island of Crete established a precedent and mechanism for conciliar decisions within not just one local church or group of local churches, as has been the case over recent centuries, but within a Pan-Orthodox context. This mechanism confirms in our age a special ministry for the Ecumenical Patriarch as first among equal primates of the Orthodox Church, that of Chair of the Pan-Orthodox Council. The Moscow Patriarchate, wishing to dominate World Orthodoxy, fights against this. This confrontation of Moscow towards Constantinople, the effort by the Moscow Patriarchate to dominate World Orthodoxy as the “Third Rome”, was the main cause for both the drawn out preparations for the Council and the attempts to postpone it at the last moment.

The Kyiv Patriarchate joyfully welcomes the successful convening as scheduled of the Holy and Great Council as a witness that most of the Local Churches are not subject to manipulation and blackmail. We share the hope of the hierarchs at the Council that such Councils will continue to convene regularly, perhaps every 5 to 10 years, to attest that the Orthodox Church, as emphasized by the Ecumenical Patriarch, exists not as a confederation, but truly as one Church.

The Kyiv Patriarchate is sensitive to the fact that we were not invited to join or send delegates to the Council because the question of recognition of the autocephalous status of the Church of Ukraine by other Local Churches must still be addressed. However, the Kyiv Patriarchate, with trust and love for our Mother Church of Constantinople and in one mind with the Local Orthodox Churches, considers the matters agreed upon by the Council to have been sufficiently established for the Orthodox Church.

The position and response of the Kyiv Patriarchate to the Holy and Great Council and its decisions will be formally certified at the next meeting of the Holy Synod of the UOC-KP, but we can today attest that our attitude towards them is positive, and that we accept the documents adopted by the Council as an expression of the position of the entire Orthodox Church.

Regarding the issue that is of greatest immediate concern to most Orthodox Christians in Ukraine, the recognition of the autocephaly of our Church, we emphasize that this decision is within the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarch and our Mother Church of Constantinople. It is to them, not to the Great Council, that appeals from both the Kyiv Patriarchate and the Verkhovna Rada (national parliament) of Ukraine were addressed. Having received confirmation from an official representative of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, Archbishop Job of Telmessos, that these appeals for issuance of a Tomos of Autocephaly will be considered by the Ecumenical Patriarch and the Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, we anticipate this review and are prepared to work towards a positive decision.

The Kyiv Patriarchate expresses great joy that World Orthodoxy, in convening the Holy and Great Council in spite of efforts by the Moscow Patriarchate to disrupt it, has rejected the dictates of the Moscow Patriarchate. In turn, we deeply regret the response of the Church of Moscow, to employ ethnophyletism (the primacy of ethnical issues over church matters) and etatism (servility to state power) to divide and separate, to the harm of its own flock and the entire Orthodox Church. We pray that with the help of God and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit this challenge will be overcome, and the unity of the Orthodox Church preserved and firmly established.

Press Center of the Kyiv Patriarchate