by Metropolitan Vasilios of Constantia and Ammochostos
With regard to the Autocephalous Orthodox Church of Ukraine, so far three Orthodox Churches have recognized the Tomos of Autocephaly granted by the Ecumenical Patriarchate. The absence, however, of a general consensus among the Orthodox Churches needs to be resolved.
When the question whether to recognize or not the autocephalous Church of Ukraine was initially raised, the position of the Holy Synod of the Church of Cyprus was to maintain a position of neutrality, so as to allow the late Archbishop Chrysostomos II to engage in a productive dialogue with both sides and pursue to find a solution.
Unfortunately, despite the efforts made by the late Archbishop, his illness did not allow him to continue this work. Later, the commemoration of Metropolitan Epiphanius was accepted by the majority of the Holy Synod of the Church of Cyprus.
Today, we are still witnessing the war in Ukraine, which the Moscow Patriarch seems to support. What I considered to be absurd, even before the war, is the reason why the Church of Russia kept millions of Ukrainian people out of Orthodox koinonia.
Although those opposed to the autocephaly of the Church of Ukraine employ arguments referring to the implementation of the Church canons, they ignore an important canon of the ancient Synod of Carthage stating that souls should not be lost due to the stubbornness of some people.
The Patriarch of Moscow was given a certain period of time by the Ecumenical Patriarch to propose a solution to the problem, which he did not. This is also one of the reasons why the Church of Russia did not participate in the Holy and Great Synod in 2016.
But if we want to proceed with an in-depth analysis of the matter, we need to consider the so-called “Russian Doctrine”, a text published in 2004, written during Putin’s presidency and also signed by the current Moscow Patriarch Kirill.
This text presents the policy of Moscow which clearly uses the Church as a means of influence, schematically extending into three concentric circles. The first circle is the area called the Russian land, which includes Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus.
In fact, the reference of the Moscow Patriarch to the unity of the Russian land in relation to the purpose of the war in Ukraine is related to this concept. The second circle includes all the countries of the former Soviet Union, which Moscow wishes to keep under its influence. The third circle extends to every person of Russian origin throughout the world, which also affects Cyprus.
The Ecumenical Patriarchate, οn the other hand, does not have a similar ability to exercise such political influence and clearly does not act in this way. The Ecumenical Patriarchate has always respected the autocephaly of the Church of Cyprus, as well as of the other Orthodox Churches.
The support given to the Church of Cyprus in difficult times is profoundly expressed. As an example, we could refer to the Patriarchal seals of the Cypriot Monasteries and the fact that there was never a requirement to commemorate the Ecumenical Patriarch, as is the case in Patriarchal Monasteries in other ecclesiastical jurisdictions.
Taking the current circumstances into consideration we could argue that the Church of Cyprus, considering the high respect it enjoys among the Orthodox Churches, can serve an important role in the effort to resolve the issue by exercising, so to speak, a moderate “ecclesiastical diplomacy” and help prepare the ground for discussions at a higher level when the circumstances shall allow that to happen.
We can say that this is what we implemented on the occasion of the Inter-Orthodox Meeting for the 11th General Assembly of the World Council of Churches which was organized in our Metropolis in Paralimni, Cyprus. Representatives from almost all Orthodox Churches attended, including the delegation of the Russian Church.
The atmosphere was very positive. Unfortunately, the only negative aspect was that the Russian delegation did not participate in the Divine Liturgy on Sunday.
Furthermore, at the General Assembly of the World Council of Churches in September representatives of other Christian Confessions expressed their intention to expel the Russian Church from the organization, but the Orthodox representatives reacted and did not accept such an action.
In fact, my own intervention was to appeal to the Church of Russia to restore its relations with all the Orthodox Churches. In my opinion, reconciliation remains the only way to resolve these issues.