Ecumenical Patriarch faces a hard choice over Ukraine

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Patriarch Bartholomew, a spiritual leader of the Orthodox Christian world, is known to be a progressive figure in Europe. He is committed to promoting core European and humanistic values of democracy and humanity, speaking of the common responsibility of mankind for the environment and defending human dignity in various aspects such as security, social and political rights, freedom of belief and equality.

His All-Holiness Bartholomew is rightly believed to be the guardian of the Orthodox Christian unity. He has made efforts to restore a canonical administrative order in European and American Orthodox Christian Diasporas by establishing bishopric Conferences under the presidency of the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s hierarchs. Patriarch Bartholomew has also stepped in to save the Orthodox Church of Czech Land and Slovakia from chaos and corruption after the controversial resignation of Archbishop Christopher of Prague in 2013.

This is one of example of his democratic and humane policy in solving different issues. That is why Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew is respected so much in the Orthodox Christian world.

However, the recent visits to Fanar by President Poroshenko and Rostislav Pavlenko gave His All-Holiness a dilemma.

On April 20, 2018, the deputy dead of the Presidential Administration of Ukraine Rostislav Pavlenko handed appeals of Ukrainian civil and ecclesiastical authorities to His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople. In these petitions President Poroshenko, Parliament and two out of three Ukrainian Orthodox Christian churches requested the bestowal of church independence (autocephaly) to the Orthodox Church in Ukraine.

The Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate reviewed these documents at its regular session on April 31 – May 1.

Ukrainian politicians are forcing Patriarch Bartholomew to act decisively over the 20-year-long division in the Ukrainian Orthodoxy. They want him to ecclesiastically legitimate the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church and the Kyivan Patriarchate so that their clergy would be able to form another independent church in Ukraine.

It is a matter of fact that by granting autocephaly to Ukraine, the Ecumenical Patriarchate will strengthen its own position. Probably, it also would have a positive effect on Ankara’s attitude towards Fanar and will help the Ecumenical Patriarch to obtain more freedom in foreign affairs.

There is also hype in Ukrainian social media over the suitcase that was placed at the Patriarch Bartholomew’s feet during Mr. Pavlenko’s visit. In such a corrupt country as Ukraine, people understand what it means – this is a “fee” for the autocephaly, just as it was in the Middle Ages. The Ecumenical Patriarch is known for his commitment to the highest democratic standards in administration, and it is disturbing that such allegations appear.

The Administration of the Ukrainian President believes there are no obstacles to autocephaly. However, first, the Ecumenical Patriarchate will have to gather support of the other 13 Autocephalous Orthodox Churches. Taking into account Moscow’s stance on the Ukrainian issue, this won’t be easy. Secondly, in order to really get one local church in Ukraine, Fanar will have to somehow integrate the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Moscow Patriarchate into the Ukrainian Government’s ecclesiastical project.

It’s not easy, and such a responsible hierarch as His All-Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew will not ignore all this considerations. Not to mention that if all these allegations of bribery turn out to be true, it will ruin his reputation as an honest, transparent and progressive-minded spiritual leader.

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