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Archbishop Yevstratiy of Cherniyiv of the Church of Ukraine spoke in an interview with the orthodoxtimes.com about the pressure exerted by the Moscow Patriarchate even now on the Churches that have not yet recognized the Autocephaly of the Church of Ukraine.
As he said, Russia will do everything in its power to create internal divisions and problems in any local Church that will want to recognize the Autocephaly of the Church of Ukraine.
“We saw it in Alexandria, Greece, and Cyprus,” he said.
However, he underlined that essentially, only with the Patriarchate of Moscow they are not in communion. “We have with everyone else Orthodox communion, direct or indirect. Direct with those who recognized us and indirect with the rest through the Ecumenical Patriarchate. When they co-officiate with the Ecumenical Patriarch and we are there, it is an indirect but true recognition.”
Referring to the possibility of recognition by the Patriarchate of Georgia, Archbishop Yevstratiy stressed that the Georgians do not want to have a transitional process in their Church at the same time – because everyone realizes that sooner or later the time will come for change – and at the same time create internal problems.
“We know from the inside that the Hierarchy, the vast majority of it, and the clergy and the people, are all in favor of the recognition of the Church of Ukraine because they understand that our difficulties are similar to theirs. We have the same northern neighbor, with the same problem. I think it’s not a general problem whether they recognize us or not. It’s only a matter of time,” he noted.
Regarding the Patriarchate of Romania, the Archbishop of Cherniyiv stressed that some steps have been taken over the last three years with the Romanians to establish a communication, but estimated that the number of pro-Russian hierarchs in Romania is still high.
“And also, this war creates problems for all the Churches, including Romania’s. Because they are not sure what the consequences will be, or the results. If Ukraine falls, and at the same time they have recognized the Church, how will this work? All the Churches have decided that it would be wise to make any decision after the end of the war,” he noted.
He stressed that in the margins of the 11th Assembly of the World Council of Churches, he met with the Patriarch of Antioch, having a friendly discussion for a few minutes.
“We understand that politically, the Patriarchate of Antioch depends on the attitude of the Syrian government. And because of that, the attitude of the government of Russia. For Patriarch John, it is more important for his Patriarchate to survive. And he understands that if he recognizes Ukraine, he will not only lose support from Russia, but he will face the same problem as the other local Churches that recognized us. Proof of this is what Russia did in Africa. It’s a way to create fear in all the other churches. I think that the internal problems in the Patriarchate of Antioch are so great, and the Patriarch understands that the unity of his Church is at greater risk.”
He stressed that “the Patriarch of Antioch understands all this very well. As did the Patriarch of Jerusalem. But Russia’s power in the Middle East is still strong. And the money unfortunately did and does a lot.”
The Patriarchate of Serbia, he says has been in close alignment with Russia for decades, centuries. “But Porfirije, personally, is not a Serbian nationalist as there are many in high-ranking positions in Serbia,” the Archbishop of Cherniyiv said.
“Because the Serbian church faces the challenge of placing great emphasis on national identity and heritage. But Porfirije clearly understands this, because he was a Metropolitan in Croatia. It was not easy being a Metropolitan in Croatia after the war between the two countries.”
Finally speaking about Bulgaria, he stressed that “we know that the Church is divided. Half are in favor of the Russians and the others understand that the Russians use the Slavic states for their own policies. Patriarch Neophytos is in no position to change that. Maybe in a few years, something will change. It is good that the Bulgarian Church is not really against the Church of Ukraine as the Russians are. It’s a good sign,” he noted.