Russia’s Orthodox Church freezes ties with Constantinople over Ukraine spat

FILE PHOTO: Clergymen of Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kiev Patriarchate take part in a ceremony marking the 1030th anniversary of the Christianisation of the country, which was then known as Kievan Rus', in Kiev, Ukraine July 28, 2018. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko/File Photo

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia’s Orthodox Church said on Friday it would no longer participate in structures chaired by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, deepening a row in Orthodox Christianity over the Ukrainian Church’s bid to break away from Moscow’s orbit.

The Russian Orthodox Church’s Holy Synod ruling body convened on Friday to consider how to respond as the Ukrainian Orthodox Church has courted Constantinople to formally make it a self-governing body independent of Moscow.

Ukraine’s pro-Western political leaders have sought step by step to take the former Soviet republic out of Moscow’s orbit after Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula in 2014 and a Moscow-backed insurgency broke out in eastern Ukraine.

Vladimir Legoida, a Russian Church spokesman, said the Holy Synod had decided to suspend its participation in all structures chaired or co-chaired by representatives of the Patriarchate of Constantinople.

It is also suspending all services with top priests of the Patriarchate of Constantinople and will not commemorate the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I in its services, Legoida wrote on social media, summarizing the outcome of the meeting.

“Essentially this is a breakdown of relations. To take an example from secular life, the decision is roughly equivalent to cutting diplomatic ties,” the Russian Church’s Metropolitan Ilarion was quoted by RIA news agency as saying.

RIVAL CHURCHES

The Moscow Patriarchate is part of the Russian Orthodox Church and has a sizeable following in Ukraine.

Kiev considers it a tool for the Kremlin to wield influence, while the Moscow Patriarchate sees itself as the only legitimate Orthodox Church in Ukraine.

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