2018 Moscow–Constantinople schism

Emblems of both primates of their respective Churches (Ecumenical Patriarchate, Russian Orthodox Church) when the schism happened
2018 Moscow–Constantinople schism
Date15 October 2018–present
Also known asOrthodox Church schism of 2018
TypeChristian schism
CauseDecision of the Ecumenical Patriarchate (11 October 2018) to:
1. grant autocephaly to Ukraine in the future
2. reestablish a stauropegion (church body responsible only to the Ecumenical Patriarch) in Kiev, Ukraine
3. revoke the "Letter of issue" (permission) of 1686 which authorized the Patriarch of Moscow to ordain the Metropolitan of Kiev[note 1]
4. lift the excommunications which affected clergy and faithfuls of two unrecognized Ukrainian Eastern Orthodox churches (the UAOC and the UOC-KP)
Ecumenical Patriarchate,
Russian Orthodox Church

Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Kiev Patriarchate,
Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church,
Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate)
Outcome1. 15 October 2018: the Russian Orthodox Church severed full communion with the Ecumenical Patriarchate
2. 15 December 2018: creation after a unification council conveyed by the Ecumenical Patriarch of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine
3. 28 December 2018: creation by the Russian Orthodox Church of two exarchates: the PEWE and the PESEA
4. 5 January 2019: autocephaly granted by the Ecumenical Patriarchate to the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU)
5. On 12 October 2019, the Church of Greece became the first Autocephalous Orthodox church after the Ecumenical Patriarchate to recognize the OCU (see here). On 17 October 2019, the ROC announced it would sever full communion with the hierarchs of the Church of Greece who enter in communion with any representative of the OCU; on 3 November 2019, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow ceased commemorating the primate of the Church of Greece during the liturgy.
6. On 8 November 2019, the Patriarchate of Alexandria recognized the OCU. On the same day, the ROC announced Patriarch Kirill would cease to commemorate the primate of the Patriarchate of Alexandria during the liturgy.

The Moscow–Constantinople schism,[a] also known as the Orthodox Church schism,[b][1] is a schism which began on 15 October 2018 when the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC, also known as the Moscow Patriarchate) unilaterally severed full communion with the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.[2][3][4][5] This was done in response to a decision of the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople of 11 October 2018.

In its 11 October 2018 decision, the Holy Synod of Constantinople confirmed its intentions to grant autocephaly (independence) to the Eastern Orthodox church in Ukraine in the future. The decision also stated that the Holy Synod would immediately: reestablish a stauropegion in Kiev, i.e. a church body subordinated directly to the Ecumenical Patriarch; revoke the "Letter of issue" (permission) of 1686[c] that had given permission to the Patriarch of Moscow to ordain the Metropolitan of Kiev;[note 1] and lift the excommunications which affected the clergy and faithfuls of two unrecognized Ukrainian Eastern Orthodox churches. Those two unrecognized churches, the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC) and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Kiev Patriarchate (UOC-KP), were competing with the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) (UOC-MP) and were considered "schismatics" (illegally segregated groups) by the Patriarchate of Moscow, as well as by the other Orthodox churches.

In its decision of 15 October 2018, the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church barred all members of the Moscow Patriarchate (both clergy and laity) from taking part in communion, baptism, and marriage at any church controlled by the Ecumenical Patriarchate.[3][4] Before that, in response to the appointment of two exarchs of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Ukraine, the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate had decided, on 14 September 2018, to break off participation in any episcopal assemblies, theological discussions, multilateral commissions, and any other structures that are chaired or co-chaired by representatives of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.[6][7][8]

The schism forms part of a wider political conflict involving Russia's 2014 annexation of the Crimea and its military intervention in Ukraine, as well as Ukraine's desire to join the European Union and NATO.[9][10] This schism is reminiscent of the Moscow–Constantinople schism of 1996 over canonical jurisdiction over Estonia, which was however resolved after less than three months.[11]

On 21 October 2019, Archbishop Ieronymos II of Athens, the primate of the Church of Greece, sent a peaceful letter to Epiphanius, the primate of the OCU. This decision was supported by the whole hierarchy (bishops) of the Church of Greece, minus 7 Metropolitans. This decision meant that the Church of Greece recognized the OCU. On Sunday, 3 November 2019, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow did not mention the primate of the Church of Greece in the liturgy, removing him from the diptych.


History of Eastern Orthodoxy in Ukraine

Kievan Rus' in the 11th century

After the baptism of Rus'[note 2] these lands were under the control of the Metropolitan of Kiev. Among the 24 metropolitans who held the throne before the Mongol invasion, only two were of local origin and the rest were Greek. Usually, they were appointed by Constantinople and were not chosen by the bishops of their dioceses, as it should be done according to the canon.[12] After the Mongol invasion, the southern part of Rus' was heavily devastated and the disintegration of Kievan Rus' accelerated. Metropolitan Kirill III, who occupied the throne for 30 years, spent almost all of his time in the lands of Vladimir-Suzdal Rus' and visited Kiev only twice, although earlier he had come from Galicia and had been nominated for the post of Metropolitan by the prince Daniel of Galicia.[13] After the new Mongol raid in 1299, Metropolitan Maksim finally moved to Vladimir in the north, and did not even leave a bishop behind. In 1303 a new cathedra was created for south-west Rus' in Galicia and the new Metropolitan was consecrated by Constantinople,[14] but its existence ended in 1355 after the Galicia–Volhynia Wars. In 1325, Metropolitan Peter moved to Moscow, thus greatly contributing to the rise of the Grand Duchy of Moscow, which gradually conquered other Russian principalities in the northeast of the former Kievan Rus'. Another part of Kievan Rus' gradually came under the rule of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Kingdom of Poland, which entered into rivalry with Moscow. In particular, the Grand Dukes of Lithuania sought from Constantinople a separate Metropolitan for the Orthodox who lived in their lands. Although the Metropolitan in Moscow continued to retain the title of "Metropolitan of Kiev and All Rus'", he could not rule the Orthodox outside the borders of the Grand Duchy of Moscow. Constantinople twice agreed to create a separate Metropolitan for Lithuania, but these decisions were not permanent, Constantinople being inclined to maintain a single church government on the lands of the former Kievan Rus'.[15]

In 1439, Constantinople entered into union with the Roman Catholic Church. In Moscow, this decision was rejected outright, and Metropolitan Isidor, consecrated by Constantinople, was accused in heresy, imprisoned, and later expelled.[16] In 1448, the council of north-eastern Russian clergy in Moscow, at the behest of prince Vasily II of Moscow, elected Jonah the Metropolitan of Kiev and all Rus' without the consent of the Patriarch of Constantinople. In 1469 Patriarch Dionysius I stated that Constantinople would not recognize any metropolitan ordained without its blessing.[17] Meanwhile, the metropolis of Kiev (de facto in Novogrudok) stayed under the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople. Moscow's de facto independence from Constantinople remained unrecognized until 1589 when Patriarch of Constantinople Jeremiah II approved the creation of a new, fifth Orthodox Patriarchate in Moscow. This decision was finally confirmed by the four older Patriarchs in 1593.[18]

The Patriarch of Moscow became the head of "all Russia and Northern countries",[19][d] and Chernihiv (now in Ukraine) was one of his dioceses.[20] However, he had no power among the Orthodox bishops of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, who remained under the rule of Constantinople. At the same time, the Orthodox hierarchs of those lands were inclined to the Union with Rome, despite the resistance of their parishes, who formed the Orthodox brotherhoods (or fraternities) to keep their identity. On the way from Moscow, Jeremiah II visited the lands of present-day Ukraine and committed an unprecedented act, granting Stauropegia (direct subordination to the Patriarch) to many Orthodox brotherhoods. This provoked the anger of the local bishops and soon the Union of Brest was proclaimed, which was supported by the majority of the Orthodox bishops of the Commonwealth, including Metropolitan Michail Rogoza. Officially, the Orthodox (but not the Eastern Catholic) Metropolis of Kiev in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was eliminated and re-established only in 1620, in subsequent co-existence with Uniate Metropolis. That led to sharp conflict and numerous revolts culminating in the Khmelnytsky uprising.[21]

In 1654, Russia entered the war with the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth; it quickly occupied, for a while, the lands of present Belarus, and gained some power over the Hetmanate pursuant to the Pereyaslav Agreement (1654). The official title of Patriarch Nikon of Moscow was "Patriarch of Moscow and all Greater, Lesser, and White Russia". However, the Metropolitan of Kiev Sylvester Kossov had managed to defend his independence from the Moscow Patriarchate. The Moscow government, which needed the support of the Orthodox clergy, postponed the resolution of this issue.[21]

In 1686, Ecumenical Patriarch Dionysius IV approved the new Metropolitan of Kiev, Gedeon Chetvertinsky, who would be ordained by the Moscow Patriarchate and thus transferred, albeit with certain qualifications, a part of the Kiev ecclesiastical province to the jurisdiction of Patriarchate of Moscow (the Russian Orthodox Church).[21]

In the 1924 Tomos (decree) of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, which granted independence to the Polish Orthodox Church, the previous transfer of the Kyivan Church to the jurisdiction of Moscow (in 1685–1686) was declared uncanonical.[22] In addition, the decree pointed out that the conditions of the synodal "Act" of 1686 – which specified that the Russian Orthodox Church was only to consecrate the Metropolitan of Kiev – were never adhered to by the Patriarchate of Moscow.[23]

Post-Cold War, claims of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and Russkiy mir

The historical rivalry between the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Russian Orthodox Church intensified after the Cold War. Indeed, after the Cold War, Moscow and Constantinople both emerged as "two centers of Orthodox power".[24]

Claims of the Ecumenical Patriarchate

The Patriarchate of Constantinople claims that:[24][e]

1. The [Ecumenical] Patriarch had the right to establish a court of final appeal for any case from anywhere in the Orthodox world.

2. The [Ecumenical] Patriarch had the exclusive right to summon the other Patriarchs and heads of Autocephalous Churches to a joint meeting of all of them.

3. The [Ecumenical] Patriarch has jurisdiction, ecclesiastical authority over Orthodox Christians who are outside the territory of the local Orthodox Churches, the so-called diaspora.

4. No new "Autocephalous" Church can come into being without the consent of the Patriarch of Constantinople; this consent should express the consensus of the local Orthodox Churches.

Russkiy mir

Russkiy mir (literally "Russian world") is an ideology promoted by many in the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church. "This ideology, concocted as a reaction to the loss of Russian control over Ukraine and Belarus after the fall of the Soviet Union, seeks to assert a spiritual and cultural unity of the peoples descended from the Kievan Rus, presumably under Russian leadership."[25][26] Patriarch Kiril of Moscow also shares this ideology; for the Russian Orthodox Church, the russkiy mir is also "a spiritual concept, a reminder that through the baptism of Rus, God consecrated these people to the task of building a Holy Rus."[27]

On 31 January 2019, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow declared concerning the religious relationship between the Russian Orthodox Church and Ukraine: "Ukraine is not on the periphery of our church. We call Kiev 'the mother of all Russian cities.' For us Kiev is what Jerusalem is for many. Russian Orthodoxy began there, so under no circumstances can we abandon this historical and spiritual relationship. The whole unity of our Local Church is based on these spiritual ties."[28][29]

1996 schism over Estonia

The Moscow–Constantinople schism of 1996 began on 23 February 1996, when the Russian Orthodox Church severed full communion with the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, and ended on 16 May 1996 when the Russian Orthodox Church and the Ecumenical Patriarchate reached an agreement establishing parallel jurisdictions.[30][31] The excommunication was in response to the Ecumenical Patriarchate's decision on 20 February 1996 to reestablish an autonomous Orthodox church in Estonia under the Ecumenical Patriarchate's jurisdiction.[30][32][33]

The 1996 schism has similarities with the schism of October 2018: both schisms were caused by a dispute between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Ecumenical Patriarchate concerning the canonical jurisdiction over a territory in Eastern Europe over which the Russian Orthodox Church claimed to have the exclusive canonical jurisdiction, such territory being a part of the former Soviet Union, which upon its collapse had become an independent state (Ukraine in 2018, Estonia in 1996). The break of communion in 1996 was made by Moscow unilaterally, as in 2018.[11]

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