As plans to establish an independent Ukrainian Orthodox Church encounter complaints from Russia, Catholic leaders hope ecumenical ties will not be affected.
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, who holds honorary primacy among the world’s 14 main Orthodox churches, plans to grant autocephaly, or independence, to Christians in Ukraine, many of whom have been linked to the Russian Orthodox Church’s Moscow Patriarchate. Calls for a single independent Ukrainian Orthodox Church intensified after Russia’s 2014 forced annexation of Crimea and military intervention in eastern Ukraine. In 2016, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko petitioned Istanbul-based Patriarch Bartholomew to grant the necessary “tomos of autocephaly.”
Some observers have cautioned that Catholic-Orthodox relations could be set back by inter-Orthodox feuding.
“When you’re in dialogue, it’s necessary to have some unity, so you know whose position is representative,” said Viktor Khroul, a Moscow University professor and former Catholic newspaper editor.
“This has been a problem in links between the Catholic Church, which is united and organised, and the Orthodox world, which lacks a common position on many issues. If inter-Orthodox disputes now deepen, ecumenical ties may also suffer,” he told Catholic News Service.
Picture: Optina Monastery, one of Russia’s holiest sites and a place of pilgrimage for Orthodox Christians. Some observers have cautioned that Catholic-Orthodox relations could be set back by inter-Orthodox feuding. (CNS photo/Robert Duncan).