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Ukraine et autocéphalie : un Saint et Grand Concile comme solution ?

Texte de Mgr Job de Telmessos, Représentant du Patriarcat de Constantinople au Conseil œcuménique des Églises (COE).

Furthermore, the document presupposes that the “Mother Church” of the region requesting autocephaly should examine the “ecclesiological, canonical and pastoral conditions” for proclaiming it. These expressions can be quite ambiguous. Indeed, if we take the case of the autocephaly of the Church of Poland or the one of the Church of Czechoslovakia, we see that there was a dispute in history whether to consider the Ecumenical Patriarchate or the Church of Russia as the “Mother Church” of these particular regions.

Besides that, in looking at the historical reasons of the proclamation of the new autocephalies of the 20th century, one can clearly see that the reasons were rather geo-political (independence of a state, national consciousness, national language) than ecclesiological, canonical and pastoral. In that case, what would be the objective “ecclesiological, canonical and pastoral conditions” to be examined by a “Mother Church” which sees a region of her canonical territory requesting (or even auto-proclaiming) its independence? The major reason for the autocephaly of the Church of Poland was to gain an independence from the Church of Russia. The major reason behind the autocephaly of the Church of Albania was a certain independence from the Ecumenical Patriarchate. This explains why the Church of Russia had strong reservations in accepting the autocephalous status of the Church of Poland just as, in a similar way, the Ecumenical Patriarchate had reluctance to proclaim the autocephaly of the Church of Albania.

Furthermore, would such a document help the Orthodox Church today to solve the ecclesial problems of the 21st century, such as the contemporary ecclesial crisis in Ukraine, in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia or in Montenegro? For instance, although the Ecumenical Patriarchate is considered to be the “Mother Church” of the Church of Ukraine, the Church of Russia claims to have full canonical jurisdiction over Ukraine since the concession of the Metropolis of Kiev by the Ecumenical Patriarchate to the Church of Russia in 1686, and therefore, would never agree to be cut off of her historical roots by the proclamation of the autocephaly of the Church of Kiev. Thus, besides the problem of who should be considered as the “Mother Church” to initiate the process of proclaiming autocephaly, one could easily understand that to obtain a pan-orthodox consensus for the proclamation of autocephaly of the Church of Ukraine would be much more difficult than obtaining a pan-orthodox consensus over a document on autocephaly and the way of its proclamation!

Therefore, if we look at the present day situation of the Orthodox Church in an objective and critical way, one can easily come to the conclusion that another Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church is definitely needed not only to approve the document on “Autocephaly and the way of its proclamation”, but also to clarify and define the specific reasons to proclaim or restore autocephaly, as well as to confirm in a conciliar way the autocephalies proclaimed in the 20th century and to resolve the on-going ecclesiastical crisis in Ukraine, in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia or in Montenegro. Although the issue of autocephaly might seem to be an insolent question, one must remember that no solution can be found without a reference to the established canonical tradition of the Orthodox Church throughout two millennia and taking into consideration the specific role and the canonical prerogatives of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

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