Ukraine schism forcing Russian Orthodox split from Constantinople

The Russian Orthodox Church says it is being forced to split from Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople.

Metropolitan Ilarion, the head of the Russian Orthodox church’s external relations, says Constantinople’s decision allowing the Ukranian Orthodox church to establish itself as an independent church is behind the move.

Ilarion says the Constantinople Patriarchate synod’s decision to officially recognise “the leaders of the schism” within the Ukrainian Orthodox Church legitimises “the schism that has existed for more than a quarter of a century.”

Ilarion says that “has made it impossible for us to stay united with the Constantinople Patriarchate.”

The Russian Orthodox church will “respond firmly” to Bartholomew’s decision, he says.

Ilarion’s statement was made soon after Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, held a meeting with the Russian Security Council to discuss the Orthodox church in Ukraine.

Following this, the Kremlin made a fresh warning about Ukraine capital Kyiv’s quest for an independent church.

It said Russia would protect the interests of Orthodox Christians in Ukraine if the split were to lead to illegal action or violence.

Reverend Aleksandr Volkov, a spokesman for Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia, says the Holy Synod of the Church would “express its position,” without elaborating on what measures it might take.

The Russian Orthodox church’s branch in Ukraine has long been accepted by Constantinople Patriarchate as Ukraine’s legitimate church, he says.

He has warned the Russian Orthodox synod’s response to Constantinople over Ukraine will be “appropriate and tough”.

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