Expert’s Opinion: Apparently, Ukrainian church will inevitably break away from the Russian church" />

Is autocephaly inevitable?

Expert’s Opinion: Apparently, Ukrainian church will inevitably break away from the Russian church 

Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, Kirill said that Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) would never allow independence of Ukrainian Church. Kirill thanked the Primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of theMoscow Patriarchate (UOC/MP), Onuphrius, for ‘maintaining canonical integrity’, adding that he would never agree to change those boundaries.

Will Ukraine have its own local church? SergeyChapnin, Russian columnist, has commented on the situation.

– What’s the nature of the statement made by the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, Kirill?Did it appear because it was timed to certain date, or because it conveyed a kind of signal?

– I think,it’s the most unexpected thing that happened during the celebration of the 70thanniversary of Patriarch Kirill. It’s a harsh, quite a detailed statement on Ukraine, and I think it is related to the overall situation that the Russian Church and personally Patriarch Kirill are facing now. The key point here is an attempt to firm upthe leadership and to a greater extent imperial nature of the present-day Russian Orthodox Church. It turns out that it’s not the matter of rivalry with Constantinople, or some kind of relationships with the Catholic or other religious groups, that play a crucial role from the Patriarchate’s point of view, but rather a desire to see Ukrainian churchas an integral part of the Russian Orthodox Church, certainly without any debates and assumptions.

– The Ukrainian delegation recently visited Istanbul, where it obtained the Ecumenical Patriarch’s consent that there could be local church in Ukraine. Could the Ecumenical Patriarch’s consentsomehow accelerate the emergence of local church in Ukraine? How could havethe Russian Orthodox Church reacted to that?

– From the ecclesiastical point of view, itlooks rather strange, when politicians are the key driving force of the movement towards the church autocephaly.This suggests that the situation is not quite normal. Of course, from Constantinople’s point of view, and from the Ecumenical Patriarch’s viewpoint, in general, from the perspective of church and its history, in broader sense, the autocephaly of Ukrainian church is not just possible, but apparently inevitable in the long run. Another thing is, what steps are now taken by those, who support autocephaly, or those, who say,it’s absolutely impossible. It seems to me that it’s

not that much strategic, but rathera tactical issue.

– Can Ukrainian local church emerge only on the basis of the UOC/MP, or canKyiv Patriarchateof the Ukrainian Orthodox Churchcan already serve as its foundation?

-It obviously can’t serve as such in the present situation. It should be noted here that there needs to be understanding of the canonical principles, the fundamentals based on which the church life is built. Recognition by other local churches is one of the key preconditions. Since Kyiv Patriarchate fails to meet these conditions, it’s not arecognized church. In my opinion, any talks that Kyiv Patriarchate could possibly serve as certain foundation, are rather abstract, in general. These are some artificial scheme and they won ‘t work.

– During the previous Primate of the UOC/MP, there was a discussionwithin the ‘church body’ between those, who aspired to greater autocephaly and those, who suggestedlooking into ‘ChistiyPereulok’ (‘Clean Lane’, address of Moscow Patriarch’s residence) and its advices. How are those spheres of influence distributed now?

– Of course, orientation towards Moscow, the Patriarch and his entourage, is quite substantial. Even now, I think that this is the dominant trend within the Kyiv Metropolia of the UOC/MP. But here, I think the problem lies elsewhere: the matter is that for the church to be understood by by the public, at least in its public position, in its position on political issues that it cannot avoid, it’s important that it addresses the present-day community. Not a fictional one, but rather particular people,  who make up the Ukrainian society today. And the UOC/MP has big problems with that. It is obvious that the church hierarchs and spokespersons are afraid to talk, and sometimes it seems they don’t even know how to talk with the public and the political elite. And it’s a serious problem.

– In contrast to Russia, the Ukrainian state doesn’t portray itself as  Leviathan and never meddles in the spheres that are extrinsic and uncommonto it. However, if roughly speaking, there is a desireto concede tothe Kyiv Patriarchate, slightly impinging on Moscow’s interests, will thatlead to a change in balance that has been set in Ukrainede-facto?

– Since I’m talking from Moscow’s perspective, it’s difficult for me to assess the situation from inside, in your context. I would say that, on the one hand, the state has a right to act as it sees fit. But, on the other hand, Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, which is the biggest religious community nowadays, should be respected. The state’s  task is to eliminate the very possibility of violence of one type of religious group against the others. And the state’s major task is to secure this inter-religious peace. If there is peace, if the religious organizations, be it the canonical or not, realize that the situation is developing in a peaceful, friendly dialogue mode, it will be one of the factors of changing the situation.

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