Russian President Vladimir Putin

The Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church chose to withdraw from Eucharistic communion with Constantinople.

After the independence of Ukraine in 1991 and the fall of the soviet union, Filaret, a former hierarch of the Patriarchate of Moscow, has created a Ukrainian orthodox Church of which he is the self-proclaimed patriarch, which led to him being excommunicated. The decision means that the priests of the patriarchate of Moscow will no longer be able to celebrate the liturgy together with the representatives of the ecumenical patriarchate, including the churches of the monasteries of Mount Athos, where monks of the two Churches now in conflict are often present in the same community.

"The decision of Universal Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew I to move toward granting autocephaly to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (see EDM, September 13) is an existential threat to Russia's President Vladimir Putin and his conception of a Russian World" ("Russkiy Mir"). In February 1999, the same Patriarch Bartholomew serving now announced that the Constantinople Patriarchate was adding the Estonian Orthodox Church to its jurisdiction.

Moldovan believers are divided between the Moldovan Orthodox Church, which is a branch of the Russian Orthodox Church, and its younger rival, the Orthodox Church of Bessarabia (the historic Romanian name for Moldova), which is subordinate to the Romanian Orthodox Church.


Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said earlier that day that Russian Federation will protect the interests of the faithful in Ukraine if the historic split leads to illegal action or violence.

In practical terms, the concern now is over what happens to the thousands of sites in Ukraine where services by the Moscow Patriarchate are held. In the first half of 2018 alone, Ukraine witnessed 10 new attacks on Russian Orthodox Churches. Specifically, it promised to "defend the interests of the Orthodox in Ukraine" (Qha.com.ua, October 12), after which it expanded its criticism of the United States for this intra-Church development (Credo.press, October 12).

A handout picture distributed by the Moscow Patriarchate press service shows a meeting of the Holy Synod of Russian Orthodox Church in Minsk on October 15, 2018.

Unlike Catholicism, which has a centralized hierarchy of authority, Orthodox Christianity has several churches spread out across the world, each with their own jurisdiction and leaders.


Ukrainian government troops remain in a tense stand-off in the east and Russian rule in Crimea, unrecognised internationally, has triggered wide-ranging sanctions against Moscow. After the Maidan Revolution in 2014 and the war in eastern Ukraine, officials in Kyiv started talking more actively about the creation of a new canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church that would be autocephalous (independent).

The Russian church's breakaway is therefore a major upheaval for global Orthodoxy.

Constantinople had previously rejected the Ukrainian Church's independence moves, however, changed its decision last week.


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