2018 Moscow–Constantinople schism

The Moscow–Constantinople schism,[a] also known as the Orthodox Church schism of 2018,[b][1] is a schism which began on 15 October 2018 when the Russian Orthodox Church unilaterally severed full communion with the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.[2] This was done in response to a decision of the synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate on 11 October 2018 which confirmed the intention of moving towards granting autocephaly (independence) to the Orthodox Church in Ukraine, to reestablish a stauropegion[3] (church body ruled directly by the Ecumenical Patriarch) in Kiev, to revoke the legal binding of the letter of 1686[4] which led to the Russian Orthodox Church establishing jurisdiction over the Ukrainian Church, and to lift the excommunications which affected clergy and faithful of two unrecognized Ukrainian Orthodox churches.[5][6] Those two churches, the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC) and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Kiev Patriarchate (UOC-KP), were competing with the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) (UOC-MP) and were considered "schismatics" (illegally segregated groups) by the Patriarchate of Moscow.[7]

In its synod on 14 September 2018, the Moscow Patriarchate had broken off participation in any episcopal assemblies, theological discussions, multilateral commissions, and any other structures that are chaired or co-chaired by representatives of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.[8] In its statement of 15 October, the Russian Orthodox Church barred all members of the Moscow Patriarchate from taking part in communion, baptism, and marriage at any church controlled by the Ecumenical Patriarchate.[2]

The schism forms part of a wider political conflict involving Russia's 2014 annexation of the Crimea and its military intervention in Ukraine, as well as Ukraine's desire to join the European Union and NATO.[9][10] This schism is reminiscent of the Moscow–Constantinople schism of 1996 over canonical jurisdiction over Estonia, which was however resolved after less than three months.[11]

Background

After the baptism of Rus'[c] this lands were under the control of the Metropolitan of Kiev. Among the 24 metropolitans who held the throne before the Mongol invasion, only two were of local origin and the rest were Greek. Usually, they were appointed by Constantinople and were not chosen by the bishops of their dioceses, as it should be done according to the Canon.[12] After the Mongol invasion, the southern part of Rus' was heavily devastated and the disintegration of Kievan Rus' accelerated. Metropolitan Kirill III, who occupied the throne for 30 years, spent almost all of his time in the lands of Vladimir-Suzdal Rus' and visited Kiev only twice, although earlier he had come from Galicia and had been nominated for the post of Metropolitan by the prince Daniel of Galicia.[13] After the new Mongol raid in 1299, Metropolitan Maksim finally moved to Vladimir in the north, and did not even leave a bishop behind. In 1303 a new cathedra was created for south-west Rus' in Galicia and the new Metropolitan was consecrated by Constantinople,[14] but its existence ended in 1355 after the Galicia–Volhynia Wars. In 1325, Metropolitan Peter moved to Moscow, thus greatly contributing to the rise of the Grand Duchy of Moscow, which gradually conquered other Russian principalities in the northeast of the former Kievan Rus'. Another part of Kievan Rus' gradually came under the rule of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Kingdom of Poland, which entered into rivalry with Moscow. In particular, the Grand Dukes of Lithuania sought from Constantinople a separate Metropolitan for the Orthodox who lived in their lands. Although the Metropolitan in Moscow continued to retain the title of "Metropolitan of Kiev and All Rus'", he could not rule the Orthodox outside the borders of the Grand Duchy of Moscow. Constantinople twice agreed to create a separate Metropolitan for Lithuania, but these decisions were not permanent, Constantinople being inclined to maintain a single church government on the lands of the former Kievan Rus'.[15][16]

In 1439, Constantinople entered into union with the Roman Catholic Church. In Moscow, this decision was rejected outright, and Metropolitan Isidor, consecrated by Constantinople, was accused in heresy, imprisoned, and later expelled.[17] In 1448, the council of north-eastern Russian clergy in Moscow, at the behest of prince Vasily II of Moscow, elected Jonah the Metropolitan of Kiev and all Rus' without the consent of the Patriarch of Constantinople. In 1469 Patriarch Dionysius I stated that Constantinople would not recognize any metropolitan ordained without its blessing.[18] Meanwhile, the metropolis of Kiev (de facto in Novogrudok) stayed under the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople. Moscow's de facto independence from Constantinople remained unrecognized until 1589 when Patriarch of Constantinople Jeremiah II approved the creation of a new, fifth Orthodox Patriarchate in Moscow. This decision was finally confirmed by the four older Patriarchs in 1593.[19]

The Patriarch of Moscow became the head of "all Russia and Northern countries",[20][21] and Chernihiv (now in Ukraine) was one of his dioceses.[22] However, he had no power among the Orthodox bishops of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, who remained under the rule of Constantinople. At the same time, the Orthodox hierarchs of those lands were inclined to the Union with Rome, despite the resistance of their parishes, who formed the Orthodox brotherhoods (or fraternities) to keep their identity. On the way from Moscow, Jeremiah II visited the lands of present-day Ukraine and committed an unprecedented act, granting Stauropegia (direct subordination to Patriarch) to many Orthodox brotherhoods. This provoked the anger of the local bishops and soon the Union of Brest was proclaimed, which was supported by the majority of the Orthodox bishops of the Commonwealth, including Metropolitan Michail Rogoza. Officially, the Orthodox (but not the Uniate, subordinated to Rome) Metropolis of Kiev in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was eliminated and re-established only in 1620, in subsequent co-existence with Uniate Metropolis. That led to sharp conflict and numerous revolts culminating in the Khmelnytsky uprising.

In 1654, Russia entered the war with the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth; it quickly occupied, for a while, the lands of present Belarus, and gained some power over the Hetmanate pursuant to the Pereyaslav Agreement (1654). The official title of Patriarch Nikon of Moscow was "Patriarch of Moscow and all Great, Lesser, and White Russia". However, the Metropolitan of Kiev Sylvester Kossov had managed to defend his independence from the Moscow Patriarchate. The Moscow government, which needed the support of the Orthodox clergy, postponed the resolution of this issue.

In 1686, Ecumenical Patriarch Dionysius IV approved the new Metropolitan of Kiev, Gedeon Chetvertinsky, who would be ordained by the Moscow Patriarchate and thus transferred, albeit with certain qualifications, a part of the Kiev ecclesiastical province to the jurisdiction of Patriarchate of Moscow (the Russian Orthodox Church).[23]

In the 1924 (decree) of the Ecumenical Patriarchate which granted independence to the Polish Orthodox Church declared the previous transfer of the Kyivan Church to the jurisdiction of Moscow (in 1685–1686) uncanonical.[24] In addition, the decree pointed out that the conditions of the synodal "Act" of 1686 – which specified that the Russian Orthodox Church was only to consecrate the Metropolitan of Kiev – were never adhered to by the Patriarchate of Moscow.[25]

1996 schism over Estonia

The Moscow–Constantinople schism of 1996 began on 23 February 1996, when the Russian Orthodox Church severed full communion with the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople,[26] and ended on 16 May 1996 when the Russian Orthodox Church and the Ecumenical Patriarchate reached an agreement establishing parallel jurisdictions.[27][28] The excommunication was in response to the Ecumenical Patriarchate's decision on 20 February 1996 to reestablish an autonomous Orthodox church in Estonia under the Ecumenical Patriarchate's canonical jurisdiction.[29][30][31]

The 1996 schism has similarities with the schism of October 2018: both schisms were caused by a dispute between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Ecumenical Patriarchate concerning the canonical jurisdiction over a territory in Eastern Europe over which the Russian Orthodox Church claimed to have the exclusive canonical jurisdiction, such territory being a part of the former Soviet Union, which upon its collapse had become an independent state (Ukraine in 2018, Estonia in 1996). The break of communion in 1996 was made by Moscow unilaterally, as in 2018.[11]

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