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Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew Welcomes Ukraine Delegation

CONSTANTINOPLE – His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew welcomed a delegation of members of the Ukrainian Parliament and spoke to them in a loving and paternal way telling them that “the granting of Autocephaly to the Orthodox Church of Ukraine in 2019 was first and foremost a tender expression of pastoral concern for spiritual justice and freedom.”

The Patriarch also said that “the Tomos of Autocephaly was an act of responsibility on the part of the Mother Church towards millions of our Orthodox brothers and sisters who were outside the Church. And, of course, this was not an act dictated by external forces or geopolitical interests.”

The Patriarch said that “the Mother Church of the Ukrainian people gladly responded to the numerous petitions of Presidents, civil authorities, even the Rada of your country, to grant the Tomos of Autocephaly. And let us not forget that similar requests for “complete canonical independence,” namely the Autocephaly of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, were addressed by the Ukrainian Hierarchy to the late Patriarch of Moscow, Alexis II, back in November 1991, despite the fact that these requests were not canonically submitted to the Patriarchate of Moscow, since only the Ecumenical Patriarchate has the right and the responsibility to grant Autocephaly, in accordance with the Eastern Orthodox canonical tradition and practice.”

In another instance His All Holiness reminded that “the Ecumenical Patriarchate has always hastened to assist and support the various local Orthodox Churches whenever they face challenges. There is no freedom in division, because freedom can only be lived in unity. This unity of Orthodoxy is in no way being tested as a consequence of the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s response to the request of the Ukrainian people. The Tomos of Autocephaly was an act of responsibility on the part of the Mother Church towards millions of our Orthodox brothers and sisters who were outside the Church. And, of course, this was not an act dictated by external forces or geopolitical interests. Two years later, with great satisfaction we see the new Church growing under the inspiring and stable leadership of our Brother, His Beatitude, Metropolitan Epifanios of Kyiv.”

The Patriarch also made it clear that “whoever threatens to break Eucharistic Communion with the Ecumenical Patriarchate is threatening to be cut himself off from the trunk of the tree of the Orthodox Church. As far as we are concerned, we cannot allow Orthodox Ecclesiology to be distorted with novel theories driven purely by base motives and secular ambitions. The word of Truth is “sharper than any knife.”

The granting of Autocephaly to the Orthodox Church of Ukraine should be seen beyond certain personalities and beyond narrow national interests, as a genuine spiritual remedy. Today, the Orthodox people in Ukraine are in good canonical standing and they partake of the common Cup. Now, if some cannot accept this reality, they should ask themselves who precisely is breaking the unity in the Orthodox Church.”

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