Russian Orthodox Church cuts off all ties with Patriarchate of Constantinople

Russian President Vladimir Putin

They revoked an 1686 letter which allows the Patriarch of Moscow to ordain the Metropolitan of Kiev, made the head of Ukrainian church answerable straight to Constantinople and not Russian Federation and also lifted the anathema on two church leaders from non-canonical churches, which breaks orthodox rules.

Moldovan believers are divided between the Moldovan Orthodox Church, which is a branch of the Russian Orthodox Church, and its younger rival, the Orthodox Church of Bessarabia (the historic Romanian name for Moldova), which is subordinate to the Romanian Orthodox Church.

The row is being described as the greatest Orthodox split since the schism with Catholicism in 1054.

There are about 300 million Orthodox Christians worldwide.

Last month the Russian Orthodox Church announced it would no longer participate in structures chaired by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, deepening the row over the Ukrainian Church's bid to break away from Moscow's orbit.

Breaking Eucharistic communion is almost the last resort in inter-church relations.

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.

This conflict between two orthodox Churches has been exacerbated in the past four years by the rising tensions between Ukraine and Russian Federation, whose relations have seriously deteriorated after the lifting of the Maïdan in the winter of 2013-2014 that brought to power pro-western in Kiev.

It was a "forced decision" provoked by the recent actions of the Fener Greek Patriarchate, which granted autocephaly to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, said Metropolitan Ilarion.

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"To our great grief", reads the Declaration published on the website of the Patriarchate of Moscow, the members of the Holy Synod consider it impossible to continue to be in Eucharistic communion with the Patriarchate of Constantinople.

"There are people who want to rule over all believers, who want to be first and make everyone worship them", he added, underlining that "the canonical order of church life is violated".

Both the Kremlin and the Moscow Patriarchate have promised "a harsh response" to the Kyiv Patriarchate's moves toward autocephaly lest they lose their power and influence. This was reported by press Secretary of the Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia Kirill, Alexander Volkov, reports "TASS".

The Constantinople Patriarchate, a leading Orthodox authority, also overruled its own decision from the 17th century which adjoined Kievan Orthodox churches, or the Kievan Metropolis, to Moscow.

Many Ukrainian Christians accuse the Russian Church of favouring Russian-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine.

One of the most sensitive issues is to know what Church will be attached to the lauras, the great orthodox monasteries of which the most symbolic is the lavra of Kiev-Pechersk lavra in the capital and Destinations (west), now both attached to the patriarchate of Moscow. It's an issue of Ukrainian national security.

"It's an issue of Ukrainian independence".

The Serbian Church is close to Moscow; the Greek Church less so, but many Greek clergy feel close to both Russian Federation and Serbia.

Ukraine never had and will never have an established church. The ecumenical patriarch reconstituted a church there over the wishes of the Russian Orthodox Church.

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