Constantinople.- (GreekNewsOnline, AFP)
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople has signed, in a special session held in the Patriarchal Church in the Phanar, s the document of the Tome of the official recognition and proclamation of the Autocephaly of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. By this decree the Phanar has put and to the more than 330 years of Russian religious control in Ukraine.
The ceremony on January 5 in Istanbul, was attended by Epiphanios, the Metropolitan of Kiev and of all Ukraine, the President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko and his family, hierarchs and clergy, a multitude of Ukrainian state and government officials, and officials and media representatives from all over the world.
“The pious Ukrainian people have awaited this blessed day for seven entire centuries”, said His All Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew.
“And, behold, the fullness of time has come for them, too, just as so many Orthodox peoples beforehand, to enjoy the sacred gift of emancipation, independence and self-governance, becoming free from every external reliance and intervention, which have not always been nurturing and respectful of their own identity,” the Ecumenical Patriarch said in his speech immediately after the reading of the Tome by the Archimandrite Joachim of the Holy and Sacred Synod.
The decree, or “tomos,” will now be handed over to the head of the new Ukrainian church, Metropolitan Epifaniy, on January 6, completing the two-day spiritual ceremony.
President Poroshenko thanked the patriarch “for the courage to make this historic decision” and said it was “a great day” for Ukrainians. He added that “among the 15 stars of the Orthodox churches of the world a Ukrainian star has appeared”, referring to the updated number of churches that don’t answer to an external authority.
“Dear Ukrainians, this is a historic event! This is a great day!” Poroshenko said as he thanked the patriarch.
“Once more, words of great gratitude in the name of the Ukrainian people, in the name of our nation to Your Holiness… It took us a very long time to get here.”
“It is a great honor for me to visit Istanbul, where a long-awaited event will take place tomorrow,” Poroshenko wrote on Facebook, referring to the official handover of the decree.
Poroshenko predicted that the move will open a “new era in Orthodox history.”
“We pray for peace and unity,” he added.
Last month, Ukrainian Orthodox leaders approved the creation of a new, unified church split from the Moscow Patriarchate and elected Metropolitan Epiphanius to lead it.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, who has campaigned for the creation of the new church, met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan before the ceremony.
Vladimir Legoida, a Russian Orthodox Church spokesman, denounced the decree as “a document that is the result of irrepressible political and personal ambitions.”
It had been “signed in violation of the canons and therefore not possessing any canonical force,” Legoida said in a statement on January 5.
A spokesman for the Russia-affiliated church in Ukraine, Vasily Anisimov, said, “We consider these actions to be anti-canonical … This action will not bring anything to Ukraine except trouble, separation and sin,” according to Russian state news agency RIA-Novosti.
Nikolai Balashov, another senior official for the Russian Orthodox Church, hit out at Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, saying he had “ended the global Orthodox fraternity and permanently lost the right to be called a spiritual leader”.
Regina Elsner, a research fellow at the Centre for East European and International Studies in Berlin, said recognition of the Ukrainian church’s independence was only the “first step on a long road”.
“We will have to see which Ukrainian bishops will join the new church and which other Orthodox churches will recognise it,” she added.