Bartholomew vows not to step back in Ukraine’s Orthodox Church independence

The Istanbul-based Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew said he would not bow to pressure from Russia and retract the independence he granted to Ukraine’s Orthodox Church from the Patriarchate in Moscow, Kathimerini English reported.

The Russian Orthodox Church has cut ties with the church leadership in Istanbul, after the Ecumenical patriarch this month recognised the autonomy of the Ukrainian Orthodox church.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko described the move as "a great victory for the devout Ukrainian nation over the Moscow demons”.

Poroshenko had previously called the unity between Russian and Ukrainian churches a “direct threat to the national security of Ukraine”. Ukrainians see the Russian Church as a tool of the Kremlin.  

“Our Slav brothers do not tolerate the precedence of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and our genos within Orthodoxy ... whether they like it or not, sooner or later our Russian brothers will follow the solution given by the Ecumenical Patriarchate as they have no other choice,” Bartholomew said on Sunday. 

Ukraine’s planned “religious rupture from the Russian Orthodox Church is a potent, possibly explosive, mix of politics, religious faith and national identity” and raises concerns about the fate of approximately 12,000 churches in the country that are currently under the Moscow Patriarchate, ABC news said on Saturday.

The Moscow Patriarchate and the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul, which is recognised as first among equals in the Eastern Orthodox Church, have been rivals for centuries, dating back to the time of the Byzantine and Russian empires.