In a meeting with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in Istanbul, Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church did not agree that the Ukrainian Church is outside Moscow’s jurisdiction, and is convinced that the leaders of Ukraine need the church’s autocephaly in order to remain in power. The Greek news outlet Orthodoxia.info published fragments of the meeting’s minutes.
Bartholomew, on the other hand, considers Ukraine outside Moscow’s jurisdiction.
“We have never stopped being aware that we are one country and one nation. We cannot distinguish Kyiv from our country, because Kyiv is the starting point of our nation. The national identity of Russians and Ukrainians guarantees the preservation of the unity of the Russian Orthodox Church,” commented the Patriarch of Moscow.
The Ecumenical Patriarch in turn remarked that “Ukraine does not feel comfortable under Russia’s authority, and wants to be entirely free on a religious and a political level, which is why they have asked the Mother Church to assist them. The Mother Church considers their request legitimate, and will proceed according to the policy determined at the last session of the Holy Synod.”
Bartholomew emphasized that only Viktor Yanukovych did not request autocephaly for the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, whereas all the other Ukrainian presidents traveled to the Ecumenical Patriarchate to request it.
Kirill claimed that all the people referred to by the Ecumenical Patriarch were from the same political force, and that they “captured the government through a coup during the Maidan uprising, and want autocephaly in order to remain in power with the support of the authority of the Ecumenical Patriarchate”.
Bartholomew pointed out that the Mother Church has the right to grant the Ukrainian Orthodox Church autocephaly. He also reminded the Patriarch of Moscow that he and Metropolitan Hilarion are not allowed to visit Ukraine, and that Ukrainian clergymen do not mention him during services. Kirill responded that this is the Ukrainian authorities’ attitude to him, not the people’s, and that the Ukrainian people supposedly support him “in their prayers”.
On April 19, the Verkhovna Rada ratified the request to Patriarch Bartholomew to confer a Tomos of Autocephaly to the Orthodox Church in Ukraine. Only former members of the Party of Regions from the Opposition Bloc and Revival parties did not support the request.
On August 31, Bartholomew informed Kirill that Constantinople intends to grant the Ukrainian Church autocephaly. The September Council of Bishops confirmed Patriarch Bartholomew’s right to grant autocephaly without the consent of the other churches.