Russian Federation hints at tough response to Ukrainian church split

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As well, the Ecumenical Patriarchate reserves the right to grant autocephaly, but Moscow is protesting that Constantinople is doing so unilaterally and infringing on Moscow's canonical territory.

French news agency reported on Monday, October 15, Metropolitan Hilarion, responsible the Russian Orthodox Church's diplomacy, stated: "A decision has been made to rupture full communion with the Constantinople Patriarchate".

Now priests from the two churches will be barred from serving together, while worshippers of one will not take communion in the other.

The Russian Orthodox Patriarchate of Moscow has cut ties with the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, claiming his recognition of an independent Orthodox Church in Ukraine departed from Orthodox Christian norms. The Orthodox Church split from the Catholic Church in 1054.

It also chose to grant independence to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in a move actively supported by the current government in Kiev.

Many Ukrainian Christians accuse the Russian Church of favouring Russian-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine. Moscow seems to implicitly recognize this reality: Last week (October 12), the Russian Security Council met to discuss how the government would respond to this crisis (, October 13;, October 12, 13).

Russia also said it had to protect ethnic Russians ahead of its military intervention in Ukraine in 2014.

The Russian Orthodox Church's head, Patriarch Kirill, is seen as a close ally of President Vladimir Putin.

"For refusing to follow such prohibitions for the clergy penalties (suspensions), and for the laity - repentance in confession of disobedience to the Church", said Yakimchuk.

This was said by the Chairman of the Division for exterior Church relations of the Moscow Patriarchate Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk.

In practical terms, the concern now is over what happens to the thousands of sites in Ukraine where services by the Moscow Patriarchate are held.

Moscow's conflict with Constantinople is thanks entirely to Ukraine.

"The Church that recognized schismatics [ie Filaret of Kiev - ed], and has restored relations with them, has excluded itself from the canonical scope of the Orthodox Church", concluded Ilarion. "It's an issue of Ukrainian statehood".

The Serbian Church is close to Moscow; the Greek Church less so, but many Greek clergy feel close to both Russian Federation and Serbia. The ecumenical patriarch reconstituted a church there over the wishes of the Russian Orthodox Church. Last week's decision marked a step toward establishing an ecclesiastically independent - or autocephalous - church in Ukraine.