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Wider discussion needed on recognising Ukrainian church say theologians

Archbishop Chrysostomos

Theologians on Tuesday suggested holding a wider synod to discuss the recognition of the independence of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine that has divided the Church of Cyprus’ top clergy.

The division, or schism, started after head of the Church of Cyprus Archbishop Chrysostomos commemorated the Metropolitan of Kiev and of Ukraine Epifany among the heads of the Churches, thus recognising the autocephalous of the Church of Ukraine.

The Church of Ukraine was also recognised by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople in February 2019 but was excommunicated by the Patriarchate of Moscow, which considers Ukraine part of its canonical territory, by virtue of a concession from Constantinople dating back to 1682.

In 2018, the Russian Orthodox Church severed all relations with the Ecumenical Patriarchate over its endorsement of Ukraine’s request for an autocephalous church.

Chrysostomos’ move was opposed by members of the Holy Synod who accused him of not consulting them beforehand and breaching the neutrality of the Church of Cyprus, which they had agreed to hold.

Chairman of the theologians’ association Christakis Efstathiou said the image of division conveyed to the outside world was bad.

Efstathiou suggested that the Holy Synod should convene to examine all the matters having the good of the Church in mind and nothing else.

He said the people wanted the clergy to come to their senses and deal with the divisions that have been created and the selfishness, which appears to have taken control.

Head of the Pancyprian union of Greek theologians Giorgos Kyriacou said the division was caused by the archbishop’s decision to commemorate Epifany without consulting the others.

Kyriacou said the matter cannot be resolved by the decisions of local churches and it should be decided by a Pan-Orthodox Synod.

Theologian Theodoros Kyriacou said the Ukrainian issue has been troubling the Orthodox Church for decades, perhaps, centuries.

He suggested the Ecumenical Patriarch never forgave his Russian counterpart for not attending a 2016 synod in Crete and that was why he recognised the Ukrainian Church as autocephalous. The Ecumenical Patriarch was also pressured by a third country – which he did not mention – Kyriacou said.

“The matter is also part of geopolitical plans,” he added.

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