24 October 2018, The Tablet

The case for Constantinople

Orthodox disunity

The case for Constantinople

Patriarch Bartholomew I (right) and Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill in Istanbul in 2009


It is tempting to consign the rift between Constantinople and Moscow – this time over autocephaly in Ukraine – to competition within the Orthodox world over power and jurisdiction. The reality is more complex. Beyond the multifaceted religious intrigue lie murky geopolitical ramifications. The matter transcends any exercise of right or even the simple exhibition of might.

The issue of the autocephaly (literally, “self-headed”, or self-governing) of the Church in Ukraine, along with questions of the validity of orders and sacraments, are vital to Orthodox unity, but they pale before the isolationism and nationalism that has plagued Orthodox Christianity in recent centuries. This is the essential context to Moscow’s decision to cut communion with Constantinople. 

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