Bartholomew Sends Exarchy to Ukraine; Moscow Responds with Threats

FILE - Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, right, the spiritual leader of the world's Orthodox Christians, sits with Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, left, prior to their meeting at the Patriarchate in Constantinople, Friday, Aug. 31, 2018. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

CONSTANTINOPLE – Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew sent a two-member Exarchy to Ukraine to pave the way and do all the necessary proceedings for the granting of Autocephaly status to that country’s Orthodox Church.

The Patriarchate, via a press release, said that “It is announced that in the context of the decision to grant autocephalous status to the Orthodox Church in the Ukraine, it has named as representatives in Kiev Archbishop Daniel of Pamphilon of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the United States and Bishop Hilarion (Rudnyk) of Edmonton of the Western Eparchy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada.” Both of those churches fall within the Patriarchate’s Ecclesiastical jurisdiction.

High ranking officials in the Moscow Patriarchate have reacted very strongly to this Autocephaly, through numerous announcements and interviews, deeming it a schism in the Orthodox Church, an interruption of Eucharistic communion within the Patriarchate.

Specifically in a September 8 statement, the Moscow Patriarchate stated that “the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church expresses its resolute protest against and deep indignation at the communique published on September 7, 2018, by the Chief Secretariat of the Patriarchate of Constantinople Holy Synod announcing the appointment of two hierarchs of this Church – Archbishop Daniel of Pamphilon (USA) and Bishop Hilarion of Edmonton (Canada) as ‘exarchs’ of the Patriarchate of Constantinople for Kiev.

“This decision has been adopted without an agreement with Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia and Metropolitan Onufry of Kiev and All Ukraine and has constituted a gross violation of the church canons prohibiting bishops of one Local Church to interfere in the internal life and affairs of another Local Church (Second Ecumenical Council Canon 2; Council of Trullo Canon 20; Council of Antioch Canon 13; and Council of Sardica Canons 3, 11 and 12). It entirely contradicts the up-until-now invariable position of the Patriarchate of Constantinople and personally Patriarch Bartholomew, who has repeatedly stated that he recognizes His Beatitude Metropolitan Onufry as the only canonical head of the Orthodox Church in Ukraine.

“These actions lead the relations between the Russian Church and the Church of Constantinople to a deadlock and create a real threat to the unity of the whole world Orthodoxy.The reaction of the Moscow Patriarchate will follow at the earliest possible date.”

Metropolitan Hilarion, head of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations, said on September 8 that “the Patriarchate of Constantinople announced yesterday that it was sending two exarchs, that is, its special representatives, to Kiev. Today the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church has made a statement pointing to the unlawfulness of this step. The sending of exarchs (special representatives) or any other representatives to another Local Church can be done only with an agreement of this Local Church. No request whatsoever has been made to either the Patriarch of Constantinople or the Patriarch of Moscow or Metropolitan Onufry, who has been repeatedly recognized publicly by Patriarch Bartholomew as the only canonical head of the Orthodox Church in Ukraine.

“The Patriarchate of Constantinople is now openly on the warpath. And it is a war not only against the Russian Church, not only against the Ukrainian Orthodox people; it is a war actually against the unity of the whole world Orthodoxy.Because if this, I would say mean and perfidious, project is carried out, most of the Orthodox faithful in Ukraine will reject this autocephaly. The Russian Orthodox Church will not accept this decision. We will have to break off communion with Constantinople, and then Constantinople will no longer have the rights to claim leadership in the Orthodox world. Now the Patriarchate of Constantinople pose as a sort of leader of the 300 million-strong Orthodox population of the globe and the Patriarch of Constantinople is perceived as almost the Orthodox pope. But at least a half of this 300 million-strong population will no longer recognize him even as the first in the family of Orthodox Churches.

“I think that Patriarch Bartholomew will bear personal responsibility for this action before the judgement of God and the judgement of history.”

Patriarch Bartholomew remains steadfast in the Holy Synod’s decision to proceed in granting the Autocephaly, in order to heal the schism and ecclesiological anomaly that has existed there for a number of years.


  1. Rather strong statements by the MP and Metropolitan Hilarion. Schism is in the works. And this will involve all the local Churches that will have to decide whether to support Moscow or Constantinople. If a local Church backs Moscow then not only is it not in communion with Constantinople, but also it will not be in communion with those local Churches that back Constantinople, and vice versa. Perhaps Metropolitan Hilarion and Metropolitan Elpidoforos should be locked in a room and may the best man win. Shame on all the participants in this quarrel which is based on church politics and not on anything that is in the best interests of the Orthodox in Ukraine. Shame on both sides for their behavior which scandalizes all Orthodox.

  2. It is incorrect to say that the Ecumenical Patriarch’s actions are aimed at healing the schism in Ukraine. Quite to the contrary, they serve to undermine the universally recognized canonical jurisdiction under Metropolitan Onufrios in favor of a schismatic self-proclaimed false Ukrainian “Patriarch.” Respectfully, Patriarch Bartholomew’s foray into neo-papalism runs the risk not only of plunging all Ukraine into fratricidal violence but creating a worldwide division in Orthodoxy that ultimately will vitiate what’s left of the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s fraying influence. He urgently should reconsider before it’s too late.

    1. Well said Jim. The Ecumenical Patriarch has allowed himself to become a tool of the same western powers that bombed our friends the Serbs. His actions will cause bloodshed in Ukraine and it will be on Bartholomew own hands. I wonder how he is spending the thirty million pieces of silver wired to his bank account by the coup authorities in Kiev?

  3. Constantinople should have stayed out of this. They should have
    offered to mediate and left it at that. This is especially bad in the
    aftermath of Tsipras expelling Russian diplomats from Athens
    and the Greek Embassy in Moscow denying VISAS to Russian
    Bishops and priests who wish to visit Mount Athos.

  4. Yes the Russians who had No church for almost 80 yrs now are all uber orthodox, and in power, of their church yes….all orthodox churches no, if smaller more manageable Archdiocese are better then try them out, if that’s what they truly want…Why all the fear? If anyone thinks the U.S., and the Russians don’t try and interfere with greek politics, you don’t know history….is funny though the greek left that prays to soviet doctrine, now being a confused left, trying to find its baklava daddy left or right….courting U.S. military bases, Chinese anything, SYRIZA going where the money is…Ideology be damned.

  5. The Ecumenical Patriarch has disgraced himself and his office by violating the canons and disrespecting the lawful canonical Church in Ukraine under Metropplitan Onufry in favor of a schismatic being propped up by the Ukrainian leaders installed by a right wing coup with Neo Nazi support. Sad day to be a Greek-American, and our family will be going to our local OCA Church until the EP repents of his schismatic acts.

  6. This is all a power play. To some extent both sides are to blame. Bartholomew is slowly being squeezed by the Turks and his influence on “world Orthodoxy”, whatever that means, is fading fast. So, involvement in Ukraine. And let’s not underestimate the behind the scenes involvement of the US on behalf of the EP, especially since this involves Russia. Kirill on the other hand thinks he should be seen as the leader of “world Orthodoxy” because the MP has the most members in terms of sheer numbers. And the Russians are building many churches and Kirill in the past few years has consecrated hundreds of bishops. He did that thinking ahead to the false council on Crete because he thought he could pack the council. And, nothing gets done in Russia, church related or no, without the knowledge and express consent of Vladimir Putin. Consider that for what it’s worth. Bottom line is that both patriarchs have selfish motives. This, of course, is in addition to the questionable canonical basis for Bartholomews actions. The EP has never had the right to make such decisions for another local church outside of the EP’s jurisdiction. That’s just how the EP chooses to interpret the right given to the EP to intercede when there is a problem in order to bring the parties together to negotiate and avoid scandalizing the people. This mess is far removed from that.

  7. An article on the Ukrainian situation
    Says that the Russian government will
    Not comment on the church issue other
    Than that moscow does not want a

    Some other points of interest. When putin
    Went to Ankara a few months ago he
    Called patriarch bartholomew as a
    Friendly greeting. Also when putin
    Went to
    Mount athos in 2016 he publicly
    Thanked patriarch bartholomew for
    Giving him permission to enter the
    Holy mountain.

    Two things I am certain of.

    1 patriarch bartholomew has
    Provoked the Russians and has created
    A new ecclesiology that gives himself
    More than being first among equals.

    2 western governments want to destroy
    Greek Russian relations.

    I am sure there is much we do not
    Know about what is happening.

    A Russian church spokesman has said
    Openly he believes there are others behind
    Patriarch bartholomew.

    There is also the rumor from two years
    Ago that tried to slander the Russians
    Implying the Russians tried to implicate
    Patriarch bartholomew in the Turkish
    Coup, a proposterous assertion. I
    Wonder if this rumor has anything to
    Do with the Ukrainian situation?

  8. This is a battle between the US and Russia.

    The EP, Ukraine government and its two version churches, the Moscow Patriarch, are merely supporting cast to Trump vs, Putin and their diplomatic and intelligence arms.

    Keep your eye on Sam Brownback, former Kansas US Senator, Governor, and Congressman, now US Ambassador at Large for Religious Freedoms. He’s on point.

    EP will be okay as long as US is driving this effort, Russians know not to mess with Donald. Besides State Dept, CIA is also watching out for Bart, probably with financial and information support.

    This is so much bigger than theology and canons, gang, despite all the diarrhea in all the posts and from the THC. This is big League high stakes Geo-Politics with people, land, money, and power as the prize.

Comments are closed.