Russia promises tough response to Ecumenical Patriachate over Ukraine

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The Russian Orthodox Church said Monday it is breaking ties with the Constantinople Patriarchate over its decision to grant independence to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which Moscow does not recognise.

The ROC indicates that "from now on, until the Constantinople Patriarchate refused the anticanonical decisions it made for all clergymen of the Russian Orthodox Church, it is impossible to serve with the clergy of the Constantinople church, and for the laity - to participate in the sacraments performed in its churches".

Alexander Volkov, spokesman for Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill, said the Holy Synod of the Church would "express its position" on Sunday during a meeting in Minsk, without elaborating on what measures it might take.

The Russian Orthodox Church said on Saturday it would respond firmly to the Istanbul-based Ecumenical Patriarchate over its decision to back Ukraine's request to establish an independent, or "autocephalous", Church.

Russia sees Kiev as the historic cradle of the Russian Orthodox Church and the Church now fears losing many of its 12,000 parishes in Ukraine.

"Today our church is facing a great temptation".

The decision in Istanbul was "illegal and canonically worthless", and means that "we will not be able to hold religious services together with the Constantinople Patriarchate. and worshippers will not be able to take communion in Constantinople Patriarchate's churches", Hilarion said.

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Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said earlier that day that Russian Federation will protect the interests of the faithful in Ukraine if the historic split leads to illegal action or violence.

In the first half of 2018 alone, Ukraine witnessed 10 new attacks on Russian Orthodox Churches.

And it reversed the excommunication (anathema) by the Russian Church of two top Ukrainian clerics, who lead the until now unrecognised churches in Ukraine. "The church that acknowledged the schismatics has excluded itself from the canonical field of the Orthodoxy". "Indeed, the obstinacy of the Patriarchate of Moscow was instrumental in occasionally creating repeated mergers and restorations of ecclesiastical eparchies, uncanonical elections of bishops as well as schisms, which still afflict the pious Ukrainian people". Now, as Constantinople is launched a procedure of granting independence to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, such attacks might further intensify, some experts warn.

Many monks of the Russian Orthodox Church live and work in important monasteries under Constantinople, notably on Mount Athos in Greece, and many Orthodox sites in Greece and Cyprus are important pilgrimage centers for Russian Orthodox believers. He promised that it would use "exclusively political and diplomatic" means to do so.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said the Church's independence went hand-in-hand with Ukrainian independence. In addition, the legal binding of Synod's Letter of 1686 was abolished, thus pulling the Kyiv Metropolis from under Moscow jurisdiction.

"It's an issue of Ukrainian independence. It's an issue of Ukrainian statehood".

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