During the welcome of the Ukrainian MPs and their associates, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew expressed his conviction that “the unity of Orthodoxy is not tested in any case due to the response of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to the request of the Ukrainian Orthodox” for the granting of Autocephaly.
“The granting of Autocephaly to the Orthodox Church of Ukraine in 2019 was mainly an expression of pastoral interest in spiritual justice and freedom. For decades, if not centuries, Ukraine has not been able to enjoy complete ecclesiastical independence from outside influences. Until recently, most Ukrainians did not belong to the Orthodox Church. This was a sad reality for the Body of Christ because the church division in your country was a deep wound in the society of the Orthodox Church,” stressed the Ecumenical Patriarch.
The Ecumenical Patriarch noted that the decision of the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in October 2018 to hear the appeals lodged by Filaret and Makarios opened the way for the Unification Council (Sobor), which took place in the historic Saint Sophia Cathedral in Kyiv on December 15, 2018.
“The Mother Church of the Ukrainian people was pleased to respond to the numerous requests of presidents, political authorities and even the parliament of your country to grant the Autocephaly Tomos. Let us not forget that similar requests for “full canonical independence,” that is, for Autocephaly of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, were made by the Ukrainian Hierarchy to the late Patriarch of Moscow, Alexy II, in November 1991, despite the fact that the were canonically submitted to the Moscow Patriarchate, as only the Ecumenical Patriarchate has the right and responsibility to grant Autocephaly, in accordance with the canonical tradition and practice of the Eastern Orthodox Church.
The Tomos of Autocephaly was an act of responsibility of the Mother Church towards millions of our Orthodox brothers and sisters who were outside the Church. Of course, it was not an act dictated by external powers or geopolitical interests.
Anyone who threatens to break the communion with the Ecumenical Patriarchate is in danger of cutting off from the body of the Orthodox Church. As far as we are concerned, we can not allow Orthodox Ecclesiology to be altered, with new theories based solely on humble motives and secular ambitions. “The word of truth is ‘sharper than any knife’.”
“Today, the Orthodox people in Ukraine are in good canonical condition and are participating in the common Chalice. “Ιf some can not accept this reality, they should ask themselves who exactly is breaking the unity in the Orthodox Church.”
Concluding, the Ecumenical Patriarch sent his paternal wishes to the members of the Ukrainian delegation but also to the pious Ukrainian people, expressing once again his joy for his forthcoming visit to Ukraine. He thanked President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal for their kind invitation to visit their country on this year’s 30th anniversary of Independence Day of Ukraine.