Anamnesis of the Schism
No. 2.1 2019 June/SPECIAL ISSUE
Sergey Kravets

Executive Editor of The Great Russian Encyclopedia publishers, Chief of the Religious and Research Center Orthodox Encyclopedia.

Historical and Political Background of the Ukrainian Tomos

On January 6, 2019, Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew I granted the Tomos of Autocephaly to an organization described in the document as “the Most Holy Church of Ukraine.” To issue the Tomos, the Patriarch of Constantinople needed to do two things: firstly, revoke the 1686 decision of the Patriarchate of Constantinople and the Synod to place the Kievan Metropolis under the jurisdiction of the Russian Orthodox Church; and secondly, find—or create—an organization that would request a  Tomos on behalf of the church community.

The only canonical Orthodox Church recognized in Ukraine, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (sometimes referred to as the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate), which is part of the Russian Orthodox Church, did not request autocephaly. Therefore, Patriarch Bartholomew I needed to legitimize two church schisms in Ukraine—schismatics of the Kiev patriarchate led by the so-called Patriarch Philaret, and schismatics from the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church led by the so-called Metropolitan Makariy—and merge them into an organization that would request a Tomos.




We will return to the present players involved in the Tomos affair a little later. Now let us turn to the distant past and the year 1686. The Kievan Metropolis was the main Russian Church and, in fact, was born in Kiev. The first Russian bishop came from Constantinople to Kiev, the capital of the state that became part of the Orthodox ecumene. Later, the Russian Church built a structure of its own, with dioceses in the north (Novgorod) and the east, but Kiev was always the center. In addition, the Russian Metropolitan was simultaneously the Kiev Metropolitan.

This situation did not change even when Mongol invaders destroyed Kiev, causing Russian metropolitans (of Greek origin), sent from Constantinople, to move to a safer and more politically independent and active northeastern Rus—first to Vladimir and then to Moscow. They were still called Metropolitans of Kiev and were mostly appointed by Constantinople from among ethnic Greeks. The only exception was Metropolitan Alexius (Biakont), who lived in the 14th century, but this was a very special case since Alexius had outstanding personal talents, and Constantinople had made a proviso that this appointment could not serve as a precedent. The Patriarchate of Constantinople (PC) strictly observed the rule of appointing Greek metropolitans.

Since the Byzantine Empire, Constantinople had tried to prevent the promotion of the local clergy and sent over its own metropolitans. This practice became particularly strict during the Ottoman Empire when, for example, Greek metropolitans were sent to Bulgaria, Serbia, and Wallachia—much to the resistance of the local population, as they did not know the local language, imposed their own traditions, and treated the local clergy as third-rate clerics.

The same thing happened in the Holy Land and Antioch, where Greeks did not allow Arab Christians to govern. This is how it has always been ever since, including recently, in 1999 in Estonia, where the primate assigned to that country said in his first interview that he had not heard of Estonia before the appointment.




The story of how the Kievan Metropolis left the Russian Church began in 1431 with the death of Metropolitan Photius, a Greek canonized by the Russian Church. He was a great spiritual and political leader and, jointly with Vytautas, the ruler of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, was one of the guarantors of the political unity of the Russian lands.

Vytautas died a year before Photius’ death. He was succeeded by Švitrigaila as the Grand Duke of Lithuania. In 1432, Moscow was about to dispatch a delegation to Constantinople to ask it to send a metropolitan for the Russian Church. It turned out, however, that the new Lithuanian duke had already sent his protégé Gerasimus, who was consecrated Metropolitan of Kiev and All Rus.

By this time, Kiev was already part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and, later, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Gerasimus, as a political appointee of Švitrigaila, had to support Lithuania’s aggression against the Russian state and, secondly, ensure the transfer of the Orthodox population of Lithuania under the Pope’s jurisdiction. However, he soon became involved in political intrigues, and three years later he was accused of treason and burned at the stake. The position of metropolitan again became vacant. This time Constantinople opted not to wait for envoys from Russia or Lithuania and appointed the metropolitan at its own discretion and for its own purposes.

In 1436, as Ottomans advanced towards Constantinople, the Byzantine Empire shrank like a magic piece of shagreen, reduced only to the capital city and some more territories. Its only hope was military assistance from European kings, but in return the PC was to reunite with the Catholic Church and recognize the authority of the Pope. This condition became an essential part of Constantinople’s politics in that period.

Also, it needed to send an envoy to the huge, populous, multi-diocese, multi-church and free Russian metropolis, who would be an advocate of and apologist for the reunion and who would return to Europe with a gift for the Pope and secure a favorable bargaining position. Based on these considerations, the PC chose Greek-born Isidore, one of the initiators and main actors of the union, as Metropolitan of all Rus.

The Russians reluctantly received Isidore with due respect, although they already had a candidate of their own, Jonah, whom the Grand Duke wanted to see as Metropolitan. Just a few months after he came to Moscow, Isidore went to the Council of Florence/Ferrara where the union was to be signed. He went there as the head of a huge diocese—the Russian metropolis. In Florence, he became the main “star,” received the title of Cardinal and returned to Moscow a few years later, as the Council took longer than expected, after which Isidore visited the Polish-Lithuanian dioceses. He returned to Moscow as a papal legate with a Latin Rite crucifix carried in front of his procession. During his first Pontifical Divine Liturgy in the Cathedral of the Dormition in the Moscow Kremlin, Isidore read aloud the Council of Florence’s decree of unification and named the Pope during the prayers as the primate of all Churches, including the Russian Church.

Moscow was shocked. The Pope’s writing caused strong rejection. The Grand Duke urgently convened a council to discuss what to do with Isidore. He was placed under house arrest, as it was obvious that after centuries of anti-Catholic rhetoric (inspired by Constantinople since the middle of the 11th century) everything that Isidore said was heresy for the Russians. Normally, Moscow would report heresy and take Isidore to Constantinople for trial. At the same time, the Russian government knew that the Ecumenical Patriarchate was headed by another advocate of the union, Uniate Patriarch Gregory III, surnamed Mammis. Therefore, there was no sense in sending Isidore there. On the other hand, the Metropolitan could not be tried in Moscow, as that would be a violation of all canons. So, he was allowed to flee via Poland to Rome, where he continued his service as cardinal, without giving up the title of Russian Metropolitan.

For seven years after that, Russia waited for changes in Constantinople, but to no avail. Constantinople still hoped for help from Europe, which was conditioned on a union. Finally, in 1448, a Council of Russian bishops elected their own Metropolitan, Jonah.

Five years later, in 1453, Constantinople fell. Gregory Mammis was now in exile in Rome. The Ottoman Sultan appointed Gennadius Scholarius, an Orthodox cleric, as Patriarch of Constantinople. Rome did not recognize this appointment. On the initiative of Isidore, who had given up the title of Metropolitan of Kiev, and with the blessing of the Pope, Gregory Mammis, who was still considered Ecumenical Patriarch by Rome, appointed Gregory the Bulgarian as Metropolitan of Kiev. The new metropolitan arrived in Kiev, which was then part of the Lithuanian state, and said that he would govern not only Lithuanian, but also Russian territories. A Council of Russian Primates in 1459 did not recognize Gregory. This was the beginning of a break in relations between Moscow and the Kievan Metropolis.

A few years later, Gregory the Bulgarian understood that a union was no longer relevant for his flock and that he could not make them change their attitude. So he asked the Ecumenical Patriarch to forgive him for the union and recognize him as Metropolitan of Kiev with jurisdiction over all of Rus, including the Russian state. The PC was faced with a choice: either recognize Gregory, appointed in Rome by a person with an unclear status, as the head of the huge Russian Metropolis, or recognize Moscow’s appointee. The Ecumenical Patriarch chose the Roman appointee. Moscow was outraged. Grand Prince Ivan III declared a complete break with Constantinople, and the Russian Church finally came out from under the authority of the Patriarchate of Constantinople.

Thus the Russian Church governed by Moscow was born, as opposed to the Russian Orthodox Church in Kiev, with which it maintained no relations. This situation remained until almost the middle of the 17th century. Of course, relations with the PC were gradually restored. At first, guests from Constantinople to Moscow included father superiors of monasteries and bishops, who asked for financial assistance, and then Eastern patriarchs. In 1589, the PC recognized the Russian Church in Moscow and established a patriarchal see there.

After that, relations between Moscow and Constantinople changed radically, as Russia was now the only sovereign Orthodox state with enormous resources that felt responsible for the preservation of Orthodoxy. The “Moscow as the Third Rome” concept implied not rights, but obligations to support Orthodox believers around the world. All international treaties concluded by Russia included provisions on financial and diplomatic assistance to them. But then came the war between the Cossacks and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, which culminated in the 1654 Pereyaslav Council. The war had a pronounced religious character, because plans to force the Orthodox population into a union with the Catholic Church were one of the main political drivers and political and ideological motives behind Poland’s actions. Under Catholicism, Orthodoxy gradually lost the status of a tolerable religion on Polish territory.

So, it was at the time of the Pereyaslav Council that the incorporation of Little Russia into the Russian state was already viewed as a reunion of the two peoples. Accordingly, an idea was raised to unite their churches. However, the Russian government was wary of this prospect. The Pereyaslav Council provoked the Russo-Polish War (1654–1667), which ended with the signing of the Truce of Andrusovo, concluded for 20 years. During the war, there was no sense in uniting the churches, as the Polish government would not have recognized their unification and would have persecuted Orthodox believers even more severely. After the truce, the situation became more favorable, but all attempts by Russian diplomats met with resistance from Poland. It argued that Orthodox believers in the Commonwealth were subjects of the king, that they had no problems, that it was none of Russia’s business to protect them, and that the only people it could protect were Russian merchants in Poland. All the others were royal subjects, Poland continued.

At the same time, the Kievan Metropolis was formally under the omophorion of the PC (true, part of this metropolis had already been incorporated into Russian lands, but Russia continued to recognize the Kiev Metropolitan, changing nothing in the structure of the church or in subordination). However, the metropolitan see in Kiev remained vacant for many years. In 1676, after the end of the Polish-Ottoman war, the whole of Podolia and almost all of right-bank Ukraine came under the control of the Ottoman Empire. In these conditions, a new campaign started to mobilize the people, and again through a union. During the Russian-Polish wars, the Poles reduced pressure on Orthodox believers in order not to create a fifth column—the government needed loyalty from the Orthodox population. But after the war it adopted a program for a new union, which was very simple and functional. Any bishop needed to receive the right to be a bishop from the king, and he could receive it only if he recognized the union.

Therefore, by the beginning of the 1680s, there remained only one Orthodox bishop in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth—Gedeon Svyatopolk-Chetvertinsky of Lutsk. But since there were no bishops, there was no ordainment. And since priests died or joined the union, there was no one to perform sacraments—baptisms, memorial services, and weddings—which have direct relation to the legal side of things. If a baby’s name was not registered in church records, he/she was considered illegitimate and therefore had no right to inherit any property. These purely temporal matters forced people to use the services of Uniates.

Some clergymen resisted these kinds of things. Orthodox candidates for the priesthood tried to secretly cross the border into Russian dioceses—Smolensk or others—and ask for ordainment there. But for Russian bishops in border areas, this was a serious canonical violation as it would be consecration not just in a different diocese, but in a different patriarchate, that of Constantinople.




In 1676, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth passed a law punishing any contacts with Eastern patriarchs and the Patriarchate of Constantinople (“the Church of the aggressor state”) with death and seizure of all property. When in the early 1680s Gedeon of Lutsk fled Poland on pain of death, it became clear that something had to be done, and immediately. 

Moscow made a political decision to take the Kievan Metropolis under its omophorion, because that was the only way to save Orthodoxy in the Commonwealth.

Normally, Moscow would send an embassy from the Russian tsars to Constantinople with a request for a blessing and so on, and then prepare for a long wait, as such matters took a long time to resolve. If Moscow had sent an embassy with a request to think and decide, it would simply have failed for lack of time. This issue involved three parties: Russia, Poland, which was to recognize this decision and lessen the persecution of Orthodox believers, something that could be done only in times of peace, and the Ottoman Empire, which alone had the power to allow the Ecumenical Patriarch to give such a blessing. If the process had been delayed for a couple of years, Russia would have entered into an anti-Ottoman union, which it was planning with Poland, all communications with Constantinople would have been cut off, and the project postponed.

Most likely, this was why the Russian government decided to present the Patriarchate of Constantinople with a fait accompli: in Kiev, both left- and right-bank Ukrainians had elected Gedeon as their metropolitan, while Moscow demonstratively had not interfered in this process. It had a candidate of its own—much respected archbishop Lazar of Chernigov. But Moscow decided that this was a purely Ukrainian/Kiev affair. Hetman Ivan Samoylovych supported Gedeon. After the election, Gedeon was ordained in Moscow and endowed with nearly a half of the church treasury to support Orthodoxy in the Kievan Metropolis.

It was only then that an embassy was sent to Constantinople—actually to get legitimation for what had happened. That was an extremely complicated task: the issue needed to be resolved before news came about the conclusion of a treaty with Poland, so that the embassy could safely return to Moscow. The ambassadors received the synodal decision and were arrested only on their way back, in Crimea. But as there were no active hostilities yet, they were set free by a vizier two months later. It was an ingenious operation, and when Russia and Poland signed the Treaty of Perpetual Peace in 1686, they provided it with a provision on the protection of the rights of Orthodox believers.

It should be noted that the synodal decision and the permission of Patriarch Dionysius IV to transfer the Kievan Metropolis under the omophorion of the Moscow Patriarchate stipulated two conditions. Firstly, Metropolitans of Kiev should be elected in Kiev; and secondly, the Kiev Metropolitan should commemorate the Patriarch of Constantinople at liturgies. Both conditions were formulated in most general terms. For example, the Ecumenical Patriarch needed to be mentioned as the source of everything Christian, divine and holy in the world. There are two aspects to this situation: historiosophical and “political-technical.” The first one was that the patriarch, who was fully dependent on the Ottoman Empire and its non-Christian vizier and who also served as a government official responsible for the Orthodox community (millet), including tax collection, could not be considered the source of everything holy even in the late 17th century. He could be traditionally respected, but no more than that.

The technical aspect was that the Patriarchs of Constantinople changed very often in those times. For example, Dionysius was elected Patriarch at least four times, dismissed and appointed again by incumbent viziers. People in Russia simply did not know who headed the Patriarchate of Constantinople at a particular time. Therefore, they commemorated Holy Eastern Patriarchs all at once.

In the early 18th century, Peter the Great abolished the Patriarchy, replacing it with a Holy Synod, and the Tsar actually became the head of the Church. The PC approved this decision in an official message to Peter. Since then, Metropolitans of Kiev and other metropolitans were appointed by the Emperor or Empress. Things continued this way until 1917, when the Patriarchy was restored. Antony Khrapovitsky was elected Metropolitan of Kiev. In the Soviet era, all appointments were made by the Synod in consultation with the Council for Religious Affairs. Elections were resumed immediately after 1991.




Over the more than 300 years that have passed since 1686, the PC only once described the 1686 decision as invalid. That was in 1924 when the PC granted autocephaly to the Polish Orthodox Church, which was part of the Russian Orthodox Church, and did it in the same illegal manner as in 2018. Interestingly, the autocephaly was requested not by the Polish Church, but the Polish authorities. It was a time when the Soviet-Polish war had just ended, and the level of anti-Soviet and anti-Russian sentiment ran high in Poland.

But since then and until recently, the Patriarch of Constantinople repeatedly said that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate was the only canonical church in Ukraine. He condemned the schismatic Philaret and did not react in any way when in 2008 autocephalists from the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC) declared themselves part of the PC and began to commemorate the Ecumenical Patriarch. Although it was an obvious overture to Constantinople, no contacts followed: schismatics were schismatics.

The year 2018 saw the beginning of a new round of political games with new players, during which two schismatic churches, recognized by almost no one in the Orthodox community, were merged into an artificial organization. In all, there were at least four players, each with its own goal. The first player and initiator was Pyotr Poroshenko. His goal was clear and has been well analyzed in other articles in this journal’s current issue. The second player was Philaret, who sought legitimacy for his patriarchal status and his church, simultaneously creating numerous conflicts on the way to the Tomos. Poroshenko tried his best to settle them.

The third player was the PC, which pursued two goals: to set and legalize a precedent of interfering in the internal affairs of another church and build a new model for the world Orthodox community, where it would not be the first in honor and the first among equals, but the first without equals and where it would have leverage over any church. Finally, there was an anti-Russian lobby which supported the autocephaly for political reasons: any damage to Russia would do.

It is destructive when the religious sphere—just like the economy or politics—becomes a field of struggle for influence and when one’s goal is to damage the adversary or, as is customary to say here, “partner.”

If we analyze the Tomos proper, it can hardly be called a legally important document, because it becomes such only after its reception by the Orthodox community, which is lacking in this case. This means that this is just a deed of the PC, which should be viewed precisely in this way—from the point of view of the PC’s interests.

Also, it can arguably be called a legal document. In Orthodoxy, there is no ecclesiastical law as a set of rules reflecting modern reality, as distinct, for example, from the Catholic Church, where rules are clearly formulated and updated at least once every 100 years. The Orthodox Church appeals to the era of the seven Ecumenical Councils and Byzantium, which is long gone. Obviously, church rules (especially territorial ones), which follow the state system in their basic principle, do not work now. There is, for example, the famous decision of the Council of Chalcedon to grant Constantinople the honor of being the Second Rome since the first one was destroyed.

But was it really destroyed? From the point of view of the church, it was not. Moreover, during the times of the Council of Chalcedon, Rome had a bishop of its own. Rome fell as a political center, after which there formed a new one—Constantinople; therefore, it should have an advantage. Everyone understood that the Bishop of Constantinople, who was directly linked to the emperor, controlled very many things, and much depended on him; so he had the right to honor. In 1453, Constantinople became Istanbul, ceased to be the Second Rome and lost the right to claim the status of the political center of Orthodoxy.

After that, there were no ecumenical councils where this issue could be raised. Perhaps, our ancestors did not think it was that important. Gradually, it began to be believed that there was no sense in creating a modern set of canons—especially as any interference in traditions, even if it were reasonable, could pose dangers and provoke a lot of discussion.

One way or another, there are many reasons why the Orthodox world lives in the absence of a modern set of church rules. They are connected with political and ecclesiastical-political circumstances, and with ambitions of individual leaders, sometimes unacceptable ambitions, as in the case of the Orthodox Council in Crete in 2016. There Patriarch Bartholomew I planned to give concrete substance to his leadership in honor, even if in minor things, and distinguish the Patriarch of Constantinople from other bishops. For example, he proposed signing the Council’s documents as Ecumenical Patriarch and all others sharing his view.




From the very beginning, Christian Churches have been autocephalous, that is, self-governing. This tradition goes back to apostolic preaching: apostles founded churches in the capitals of Roman provinces (Jerusalem, Alexandria, Antioch, Constantinople, and Rome), which became the foundation of the organization. After Christianity was established as the dominant religion under Constantine the Great, this model was consolidated in state acts and the theological canonical theory of pentarchy. It provided that there could be only five episcopal sees in the world: Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem, while all other churches and parishes should be parts of them. At the same time, there were individual autocephalous churches outside the Byzantine Empire at the time, which were not subordinate to the five sees. But as soon as Byzantium conquered them, they ceased to be autocephalous and joined the pentarchy. In other words, everything was modeled after the state system.

After the Byzantine and then Ottoman Empires had “cleaned up” the Orthodox political world, only the Russian Orthodox Church and a piece of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth remained outside the Ottoman Empire. Throughout the 18th century, there were Eastern Dioceses and Russian Dioceses, with the latter helping the former and trying to protect them.

Modern autocephaly emerged during the war of liberation against the Turks. Orthodox peoples were tired not only of the Ottoman yoke, but also of the yoke of the Phanar, which considered them second-rate and which conducted services in Greek and did not allow religious education in national languages. Thus, a parade of autocephalies followed. As countries were liberated from the Turks, they raised the issue of autocephaly. This is how the majority of modern autocephalous churches emerged: the Churches of Greece, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, and Albania. For the sake of fairness, it is worth noting that a canonical territory does not always coincide with the territory of a given state. For example, after the 2008 war, the Russian Church has invariably considered South Ossetia and Abkhazia, which have politically broken away from Georgia, canonical territories of the Georgian Orthodox Church. Similarly, Crimea is a canonical territory of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

Thus, autocephaly means absolute sovereignty and full independence in resolving any church issues. And now it would be very appropriate to return to the Ukrainian Tomos.

There are two semantic aspects in this Tomos of Autocephaly. The first one is what is granted: the new Church is proclaimed autocephalous; the Metropolitan of Kiev is now elected in Kiev; the primate is the chairman of the Holy Synod; and so on. But the second aspect introduces a number of restrictions. The first restriction concerns the title of the primate of the new Church: The Most Blessed Metropolitan of Kiev and All Ukraine. But there is a reservation here: the title cannot be extended or reduced without the PC’s approval. Obviously, this was done to prevent the Kievan Metropolis from proclaiming itself the Kiev Patriarchate.

Another restriction concerns the structure of the new Church. Its episcopacy consists of bishops who perform their duties within Ukraine. In other words, all Ukrainian parishes outside the state borders of Ukraine come under the jurisdiction of Constantinople. The Tomos provides that the Most Holy Church of Ukraine is not henceforth entitled “to establish bishops or found extraterritorial altars in regions already lawfully dependent on the Ecumenical Throne, which bears canonical competence over the Diaspora.” This is the Phanar’s dream come true to bring parishes of all churches outside their state borders—that is, Russian, Serbian, Bulgarian, and Romanian parishes abroad—under the direct rule of the Patriarch of Constantinople. All other churches oppose these ambitions, but they have now been implemented in the Ukrainian Tomos as a precedent, and the “Most Holy Church of Ukraine” has agreed to it, since it has accepted it.

The Statute of the new Church must necessarily comply with the Tomos provisions. The Bishops’ Council is named the highest judicial body, but all bishops and other clerics, including deacons, can appeal to the Ecumenical Patriarch, who has the canonical responsibility to make the final judicial decision. Also, “in the case of major issues of ecclesiastical, doctrinal, and canonical nature, His Beatitude the Metropolitan of Kiev and All Ukraine must, on behalf of the Holy Synod of his Church, address our most holy Patriarchal and Ecumenical Throne, seeking its authoritative opinion.” These powers also extend to the resolution of potential conflicts that may arise during elections of the metropolitan.

This also concerns canonization and any other issues that the Patriarch of Constantinople considers important. At present, when the Church of Greece, Georgia, or Serbia canonizes new saints, it informs other churches about its decision, and the latter automatically include the new saints in their commemoration books. As distinct from them, the Ukrainian Church now must coordinate its lists of saints with the PC—that is, instead of simple notification, canonization will now require Constantinople’s approval. “The prerogatives of the Ecumenical Throne over the Exarchate and Sacred Stavropegial institutions in Ukraine shall be preserved unmitigated,” according to the Tomos. The Exarchate means constant control and observation. It will inform Constantinople about important issues that will arise, and these issues will be within its area of ​​responsibility.

Many people have taken note that the new head of the Ukrainian Church should receive chrism from Constantinople, but they view it as a kind of symbolic act. Meanwhile, this is an act of direct dependence, because sacred chrism is used in all baptisms and in consecrating all churches. Also, it is used in the coronation of monarchs, but, most likely, this case is not relevant for Ukraine for the time being.

The Statute, written by the PC for the new Church, formulates the above restrictions in even stricter terms, with the Tomos taking precedence over the Statute. Issues not provided for in the Statute shall be considered not by the Bishops’ Council, but by a mixed commission appointed by the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Any amendments to the Statute made by Local Council of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine must be in strict compliance with the Tomos.

There are also several funny provisions. It is known, for example, that Patriarch Bartholomew I pays much attention to environmental issues and is even called the “green patriarch.” Accordingly, the Statute of the Ukrainian Church says that the Metropolitan of Kiev’s area of responsibility should also concern ecology.




In fact, a new model of organization and subordination is being created, and for the PC its introduction outweighs in importance the Patriarchate’s interest in Ukraine as such. It needs to create a model, try it, and apply it to other churches that are in a state of schism or seeking autocephaly: the Churches of Macedonia, Montenegro and, possibly, Kosovo. 

Constantinople wants to get a political tool for interfering in any conflict situation and using schismatics and legitimizing them for its own purposes.

But before accusing the PC of all sins, we need to understand that this is the only way for it to survive.

It is a patriarchate without its own territory. In the 1920s, it lost its flock as a result of the Greco-Turkish war and a population exchange between Greece and Turkey, and since then it has sought to govern all diasporas. [For more detail on the position of the PC in Turkey, see the article by Pavel Shlykov in this issue.—Ed.] It needs something to rely on. For a start, it subjugated all Greek diasporas in non-Orthodox countries. Now it wants control over Arabs of the Antioch Patriarchate, Serbs, Bulgarians, Romanians, Russians, Ukrainians, and Moldovans outside their “state” dioceses.

Constantinople needs extraterritorial status and the ability to influence and intervene in the affairs of other local churches for survival. The first, rather imprudent, attempt to achieve this goal was made 100 years ago by Patriarch Meletius IV.  The attempt failed, and now we are witnessing another one. But I think the Orthodox community will realize that this new model is a trap for it. I mean not only Ukraine in particular, but an administrative mechanism that allows for imposing the Constantinople model on local churches in any country by legitimizing schismatics and revoking previous decisions, and with active participation of the government.

If these developments are not stopped now, local churches in small Orthodox countries, such as Bulgaria, Serbia, or Romania, will have a bleak future and the Orthodox Church will be increasingly drawn into political confrontation. However, resisting these attempts by accusing Constantinople of “papism”—such accusations have already been made—seems to have no chance to succeed. The very notion of ‘papism’ is a reference to the Orthodox polemics against Catholicism. But the Catholic Church has mechanisms to limit the Pope’s autocracy. True, what the pope says ex cathedra concerning dogmatic matters is immutable. But there is also canon law, which is important both in terms of content and procedure: all procedures are very formalized, and no one can skip these formalities.

The Orthodox world is not moving towards an “enlightened monarchy,” but authoritarianism and self-will. The PC is trying to untie its own hands without possessing any real theological and canonical resources, except the historical memory resource, the “primacy of honor.” However, this primacy is only a matter of universal agreement, rather than an immutable law. Let the Patriarch of Constantinople preside and let him have a set of certain representative functions—this has been agreed on. But there has been no agreement on filling these functions with specific administrative content. Meanwhile, the Patriarch postulates this as something taken for granted. If some of the churches agree to this, they will fall into administrative and political dependence on the Phanar.

Unfortunately, the Orthodox world is now divided, and much more so than during the Cold War when there were “socialist” and “imperialist” churches. Orthodox Churches have retired to their own national “homes,” assigning much more importance to internal affairs. They can really unite only if they share interest in some great cause. This cause may be the development of certain uniform rules, canon law or, perhaps, joint theological research.

In a sense, what is needed is an “Orthodox UN.” There are sovereign states (autocephalies are a good analogue), and there is the UN with its charter. Some actions cannot be taken without a UN Security Council resolution. Similarly, autocephaly should not be granted without prior recognition of this decision by all Orthodox Churches. It could be made a rule that some major issues concerning the entire Orthodox world should be addressed and solved by all Orthodox Churches together after discussion and preparation and at an Ecumenical Council.

But this requires the will to pool efforts. Attempts to reach an agreement on some specific issues would be less successful than joint efforts to work out a major joint document, like the UN Charter. This work should involve representatives of all churches, who would first do thorough research at the expert level and only then offer it for general discussion.


How Ukraine Acquired Tomos

Key Events of 2018-2019


April 18, 2018. Ukrainian President Pyotr Poroshenko signed an appeal to Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, requesting autocephaly for the Orthodox Church of Ukraine.

April 19. Addressing the Rada (Ukrainian parliament), Poroshenko said the issue of autocephaly was “a matter of national security and our defense in a hybrid war.” The Rada adopted a resolution upholding the request for autocephaly.

April 20. In Istanbul, presidential administration deputy chief of staff Rostislav Pavlenko delivered to Patriarch Bartholomew I the Ukrainian president’s request, the Rada’s resolution, and appeals from the “hierarchs” of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kiev patriarchate and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church and several bishops of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, whereby they asked for autocephaly. 

April 20. The Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate accepted these documents for examination even though they did not contain a necessary request from the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which Constantinople had earlier recognized as the only canonical Orthodox Church in Ukraine.

July 27. Representatives of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Kiev delivered a message to Poroshenko which reaffirmed its intention to grant autocephaly to the Ukrainian Church.

August 31. At a meeting in Istanbul, initiated by the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, the sides stated the lack of understanding on the issue of autocephaly for the Ukrainian Church.

September 1. Speaking at a council of hierarchs of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul, Patriarch Bartholomew I said that only the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, as the canonical center of Universal Orthodoxy, had the right to grant autocephaly to new local churches and for this reason assumed the initiative to solve the problem of mending the church schism in Ukraine.

September 7. In preparation for the decision to grant autocephaly to the Orthodox Church in Ukraine, the Ecumenical Patriarchate appointed two exarchs to Kiev—Archbishop Daniil (Zelinsky) of Pamphilion (a U.S. citizen, born in Ivano-Frankovsk and previously a Greek Catholic) and Bishop Hilarion (Rudnik) of Edmonton (a Canadian citizen, born in Lvov). Patriarch Bartholomew I stressed that he considered Ukraine a canonical territory of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and demonstratively made the appointments without coordinating them either with Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and All Ukraine or Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia. In response, the Russian Orthodox Church stopped commemorating Patriarch Bartholomew I during liturgies led by Patriarch Kirill where normally the heads of all local churches are remembered. In late September, the Ecumenical Patriarchate published a report titled “The Ecumenical Throne and the Church of Ukraine. The Documents Speak,” prepared by Bishop Makarios (Griniezakis) of Christopolis, a hierarch of the Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople and the vicar of the Tallinn Diocese. Prepared for the Bishops’ Council and read out there on September 1, 2018, the report substantiated the thesis that the Ecumenical Patriarchate did not transfer the Kievan Metropolis under the jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate in 1686 but had only temporarily authorized the Moscow patriarchs to appoint metropolitans to Kiev, who nevertheless remained under Constantinople’s jurisdiction. The report was extremely biased and in the opinion of many theologians and historians contained numerous gross mistakes. The preserved set of genuine documents indicates that this decision was not temporary but permanent and clearly transferred Kiev under Moscow’s jurisdiction. Nevertheless, Bishop Makarios’ report provided formal grounds for subsequent decisions. 

October 9–11. The Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate reaffirmed that the Ecumenical Patriarchate had started the process of granting autocephaly to the Church of Ukraine. It rescinded the certificate of 1686 issued by Patriarch Dionysius and the Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, concerning the transfer of the Kievan Metropolis under the jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate. It also ruled to restore the stauropegion of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Kiev and granted appeals filed by Philaret (Denisenko), Makary Maletich and their supporters, simultaneously reinstating them in office. The decision to lift the anathema imposed upon Philaret by the Bishops’ Council of the Russian Orthodox Church and revoke other punishments for Ukrainian schismatics was made without hearing the position of the Russian Orthodox Church or considering the issue according to ecclesiastic rules and procedures. Poroshenko praised the ruling of the Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to null and void the 17th-century decisions on the transfer of the Kievan Metropolis under the jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate, and grandiloquently described it as “the fall of the Third Rome.”

October 15. Having assessed the decision of the Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate as a gross violation of all canons, the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church made the decision to sever Holy Communion with the Ecumenical Patriarchate. 

November 3. In Istanbul, Ukrainian President Pyotr Poroshenko signed an agreement on cooperation with the Ecumenical Patriarchate. The Agreement’s contents remains a secret as its text has not been published yet.

November 10. Mass media reported that the primates of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kiev patriarchate and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church had reaffirmed that they would not seek the position of the head of the “autocephalous church.”

November 13. Bishops of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church met at the Kiev Pechersk Lavra to decide that the episcopate, the clergy, and the parishioners of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church would not participate in the creation of an “autocephalous church.” Only one bishop—Metropolitan Simeon (Shostatsky) of Vinnitsa—refused to sign the decision and later joined the schismatics. In the evening of the same day, three hierarchs of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church—Metropolitan Alexander (Drabinko) of Pereyaslav-Khmelnitsky, Metropolitan Simeon (Shostatsky) of Vinnitsa, and Archbishop Philaret (Zverev) of Novaya Kakhovka—arrived at the presidential administration for a meeting with President Poroshenko, which had earlier been scheduled to take place at the Kiev Pechersk Lavra but was canceled. Archbishop Philaret (Zverev) later said that he had no intention of leaving the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

November 27–29. The Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate prepared the charter of the “autocephalous church” in Ukraine. President Poroshenko also said that the Synod had approved the text of the Tomos of Autocephaly for the Church of Ukraine.

December 5. President Poroshenko said the “unification council called upon to declare the creation of an ‘autocephalous church’ and elect its head would be held on December 15 at Kiev’s St. Sophia Cathedral. The Ecumenical Patriarchate confirmed the date and Patriarch Bartholomew I sent invitations to the heads and hierarchs of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kiev patriarchate and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church to attend the council. However, Metropolitan Onuphry and most hierarchs of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church returned the invitations to Patriarch Bartholomew I.

December 7. The Synod of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church announced that the Ecumenical Patriarch had no right to convene a council on the canonical territory of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. The Synod also stated that no one had been authorized to represent the Ukrainian Orthodox Church at the the so-called “Unification Council.” The Synod voiced concern over numerous cases of pressure on Ukrainian Orthodox Church hierarchs in order to force them to attend the “Unification Council.” For example, the Ukrainian Security Service had searched the Kiev Pechersk Lavra and other places belonging to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church as part of the investigation into “the instigation of religious strife.”

December 15. The so-called “Unification Council” took place at Kiev’s St. Sophia Cathedral and was attended by 192 delegates. Most of them represented the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kiev patriarchate and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church. Of all the hierarchs of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, only Metropolitan Alexander (Drabinko) and Metropolitan Simeon (Shostatsky) were present. Metropolitan Sophrony (Dmitruk) of Cherkassy, who had initially planned to attend the event, decided otherwise and later severely criticized the “Council’s” decisions. The “Unification Council” was held behind closed doors under the formal chairmanship of Metropolitan Emmanuel (Adamakis) of France, who spoke neither Ukrainian nor Russian. English was the working language at the “Council,” with a simultaneous translation in Ukrainian. The “Council,” opened by President Poroshenko, voted for the creation of the socalled “Orthodox Church of Ukraine” (OCU). The Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kiev patriarchate and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church ceased to exist. The head of the new Church was elected in two rounds. “Metropolitan” Mikhail (Zinkevich) of Lutsk and Volyn (Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kiev patriarchate), who was considered one of the candidates for this post, withdrew under pressure from Philaret (Denisenko) and President Poroshenko. In an open vote “Metropolitan” Epiphanius (Dumenko) of Pereyaslav and Belaya Tserkov was elected as “Metropolitan of Kiev and All Ukraine,” with 37 votes against 29 cast for Simeon (Shostatsky). After the “Council” the Ecumenical Patriarchate said that Patriarch Bartholomew I had endorsed its decisions and given his blessing to “Metropolitan” Epiphanius for his service as OCU head. He also invited him to Istanbul to hold a joint liturgy on January 6, 2019 and receive the Tomos of Autocephaly. Some of the “Council” participants later said that it had nearly failed due to the absence of the overwhelming majority of Ukrainian Orthodox Church hierarchs and because of corrections in the “Council” proceedings insisted upon by Philaret (Denisenko). January 5, 2019. Patriarch Bartholomew I signed the Tomos of Autocephaly at Istanbul’s St. George’s Cathedral in the presence of President Poroshenko and other members of the Ukrainian government. The Tomos was officially handed over to “Metropolitan” Epiphanius after a liturgy at St. George’s Cathedral on January 6.

To date, none of the local Orthodox Churches has recognized the Orthodox Church of Ukraine.

In the Shadow of the Crescent
Pavel V. Shlykov
The situation with religious minorities in many respects reflects the logic of the political process of recent decades in Turkey. The social base and the core constituency of the ruling AKP are people of conservative views or even supporters of religious nationalism. For this part of society, nationalism and Islamic identity are interrelated and complementary notions.