Orthodox world faces split

What happened?

Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople sent two envoys to Ukraine to prepare for the granting of “autocephaly” to the country’s Orthodox Christians. This would make them independent from Moscow. Russia’s Metropolitan Hilarion said Constantinople was waging “war” against the unity of the Orthodox Church. If autocephaly went ahead, he said, Moscow would “break off communion” from Constantinople – and the ancient see would forfeit its right to claim leadership over the Orthodox world.

What commentators are saying

“For the massive Russian Orthodox Church, everything begins in Kiev,” wrote Terry Mattingly at his GetReligion blog. With the mass baptism of Kiev’s residents in AD 988, the Ukrainian capital was where the Orthodox faith “entered the world of the Slavs”.

“The presence of the great Kiev Pechersk Lavra – a monastery founded in 1051 – only raises the stakes in this struggle for control of holy ground,” he wrote.

He noted that mainstream media reports overestimated the power of Patriarch Bartholomew. “The ecumenical patriarch is not the pope of Rome,” he wrote. “In Orthodoxy, there is no one man who can push the tomos [declaration] of autocephaly button and have that decision accepted at all Orthodox altars. The Orthodox often leave things messy until the faith’s churches around the world can work out the details.”

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