Russian Orthodox Church calls plan for suspension of autonomy “absurd”


Eastern Europe


A woman sits at a bus stop in front of Christ the Saviour cathedral, the main Russian Orthodox church in central Moscow. Photo AFP, Alexander Nemenov

A proposal to temporarily strip the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) of its "autocephaly" (autonomy) is absurd, the ROC has stated. The proposal was made by a metropolitan of the Greek Orthodox Church because the ROC recently established an exarchate in Africa.

Early February, Metropolitan Gregory of Peristeria during a broadcast of the Orthodox TV channel, proposed to deprive the ROC of autocephaly for five years, Russian press agency Ria Novosti reports. The measure was intended as a “punishment” for “creating a schism” by establishing an exarchate in Africa.

On 29 December last year, the Synod of the ROC decided to create the Patriarchal Exarchate of Africa. The Synod also resolved to accept more than a hundred clergymen of the Patriarchate of Alexandria from eight African countries under the jurisdiction of the ROC after their respective petitions. These decisions were taken as a response to the fact that Patriarch Theodore of Alexandria and All Africa recognized the autonomy of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU).

Church of Greece

According to Metropolitan Gregory, autocephaly was granted to Moscow in 1589 under two conditions: to conduct activities within the boundaries of its territory and to have communion with other Churches, the Union of Orthodox Journalists write. According to the Greek hierarch, Moscow fails to meet these.

The Metropolitan is sure that what the Russian Church did in Africa “will be done in the Patriarchate of Constantinople and then the Church of Greece. We just have to wait for them to come.”

“This problem needs to be solved. I made an offer and said that it was necessary to revoke, to invalidate the autocephaly of the Russian Orthodox Church for five years. It means that at the same time, the bishops of the Russian Church will enter the Synod of the Patriarchate of Constantinople. Then they will not be able to make such decisions as they did in December,” said Gregory. Furthermore, ROC Metropolitan Leonid should be defrocked.

Commercial enterprise

Archpriest Igor Yakimchuk, Secretary for Inter-Orthodox Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate, has called the proposal of Gregory “absurd”. “Of course, the very posing of the question is absurd: it is in principle impossible to revoke autocephaly from anyone. It is about the same if some countries suddenly revoke independence from Russia,” Yakimchuk told RIA Novosti.

Metropolitan Leonid has also responded. “The autocephaly of a local Church is not a franchise of a foreign commercial enterprise, which can be easily granted and then taken away”, he stated to Interfax news agency.

The church father stressed that the ROC is serving God and hundreds of millions of people. “We are in demand, and we are implementing our programs within Russia and abroad without violating the canons and rules of the Ecumenical Councils. And we will continue to do so. The ROC always stands for an equal dialogue on the platform of canonical principles,” he said.



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