Russian Orthodox Church to cease communion relations with Patriarchate of Constantinople

Mikhail Markiv  TASS

Mikhail Markiv TASS

"Certainly, we are watching very carefully and with great concern how relations between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Ecumenical Patriarchate are developing.

I think it's important that Alexander Lukashenko had the opportunity to say a word to all the bishops of the Belarusian Church, the members of the Synod, and also to hold informal discussions, particularly with representatives of Belarusian episcopate", said the Patriarch.

The Ukrainian president and lawmakers have backed independence for the country's now divided Orthodox Church and see it as striking a blow against Moscow's influence in Ukraine.

The Moscow-based Russian Orthodox Church has at least 150 million followers - more than half the total of Orthodox Christians.

The Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) stopped "eucharistic communication" with the Patriarchate of Constantinople. "From now on, until the Patriarchate of Constantinople's rejection of its anti-canonical decisions, it is impossible for all the clergy of the Russian Orthodox Church to concelebrate with the clergy of the Church of Constantinople and for the laity to participate in sacraments administered in its churches".

The Belarusian Orthodox Church, which is by far the biggest religious denomination in the nation of almost 10 million, is under the direct jurisdiction of the Russian Orthodox Church. "This decision was foreseen, and it reflects the logic of Constantinople's actions since April". The Orthodox Church split from the Catholic Church in 1054. President Vladimir Putin has promoted the church as a key part of modern Russian identity and its leader, Patriarch Kirill, is a close ally of the Russian leader.

Relations soured after Russian Federation annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.

Many Ukrainians see the Moscow branch of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church as a tool of the Kremlin.

Patriarch Filaret was excommunicated by the Russian Orthodox Church in the dispute with Moscow over the status of the Ukraine Church, but has now been reinstated by the Istanbul clerics.

"A decision has been made to rupture full communion with the Constantinople Patriarchate", he said, meaning that priests from the two churches can not serve together while worshippers of one can not take communion in the other.

Ukraine never had and will never have an established church.

Tens of thousands of far-right activists marched through the centre of Kiev, waving red and black flags, a symbol of the nationalist movement, and blue and yellow Ukrainian flags.

Pro-Kremlin television in Russian Federation have been highly critical of Constantinople, accusing it of "meddling".

The Russian government's official daily paper, Rossiiskaya Gazeta, argued that Constantinople had lost legitimacy.

The Izvestia newspaper, which strongly supports the Kremlin line, wrote that Monday will enter Orthodox history as "one of its darkest days".

The Russian church's breakaway is therefore a major upheaval for global Orthodoxy.

According to prominent blogger Rustem Adagamov, it was "nothing but a religious sect set up by Comrade Stalin in 1943".

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