19 Apr 2018 15:52

Metropolitan Hilarion on situation in Ukraine: Secular administration cannot initiate creation of autocephalous church

MOSCOW. April 19 (Interfax) - The Russian Orthodox Church believes that the new initiative of the Ukrainian authorities to create an autocephalous Orthodox Church in Ukraine is destined to fail, like the previous attempts.

"We are one church, born in Kyiv, in the Dnieper baptistery, and, of course, the Constantinople Patriarchate or any other church cannot unilaterally proclaim the autocephaly of this or that church," Metropolitan Hilarion, the head of the external church relations department of the Moscow Patriarchate, told Interfax-Religion on Thursday.

"Therefore, we believe that this initiative, despite all the current information noise, will have the same fate as the initiatives adopted in previous years, and we say again that the Ukrainian church problem can only be resolved using canonical methods," he said.

According to earlier reports, Ukraine's Verkhovna Rada backed Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko's address to Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew on the creation of an autocephalous local Orthodox church.

The Russian Orthodox Church heard about the talks between Poroshenko and Patriarch Bartholomew and the "rich gifts" that were brought to Fanar, the district of Istanbul, where the patriarch's residence is located, Metropolitan Hilarion said. "We all know that, and we also know many other things, which I would not like to say now," he said.

"For many years, we have heard a very firm position from the Constantinople patriarch, who has always said that he recognized His Beatitude Metropolitan Onufriy as the only head of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church. And the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church has no intention of severing relations with the Russian Orthodox Church," he said.

"The creation of an autocephalic church is a process that cannot be initiated by a secular administration" because "the church in today's states is separate from the state, and the state should not manipulate the church, including in election campaigns or for some other political purposes," he said.

The notion of creating of a unified local church in Ukraine separate from the Russian Orthodox Church is based on the idea that an independent state should have an independent church, Metropolitan Hilarion said. According to this principle, for example, the Church of Alexandria should be divided into more than 50 parts, because it "embraces the whole of Africa," the Antioch and Jerusalem churches should be divided into several parts, and so on, the metropolitan said.

"Only enemies of the church stand to gain from such plans and such ideas," he said.

Division in Ukraine was caused by the fact that former Kyiv Metropolitan Filaret (Denisenko), who failed to become the patriarch of Moscow, decided to resolve his personal problem by means of schism, he said.

"That church schism has accelerated over the past more than a quarter of a century thanks to the support of the secular authorities, but it still remains a schism," Metropolitan Hilarion said, adding that schisms have never been legitimized in the history of the church.

"There have been precedents when hierarchs, clergymen, laymen, groups, and associations returned from division through repentance, and that's the only way the Orthodox Church can offer," the hierarch said.