Hierarchs on September 2 held meetings (Synaxis) of the Hierarchy of the Ecumenical Throne Constantinople (Istanbul), Turkey, to consider the question whether the Church of Constantinople is authorized, without the consent of other churches, to grant autonomy, or autocephaly, to a church that has requested it.
Following the meetings, the answer was positive: "Yes, the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople is authorized to grant autocephaly without any consent [from other churches]," the Ukrainian news outlet Hromadske said.
Prior to that, the Ecumenical Patriarch recalled Moscow's arbitrariness towards the Kyiv Metropolitanate, listing such examples in detail starting from the 15th century.
"Moscow for many centuries has controlled the Kyiv Metropolitanate, the Orthodox Church in Ukraine, without the consent of Constantinople," the Archbishop of Constantinople said.
On September 1, the hierarchs who arrived in Istanbul marked the beginning of the ecclesiastical year (the Orthodox churches start a new year on September 1).
The Synaxis in Istanbul started on September 1 and will last until September 3. Providing autocephaly to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church was on its agenda on September 2.
With support from most of the hierarchs, there should be no procedural obstacles to granting Tomos to Kyiv.
It is expected that after consultations with the bishops from around the world, the Patriarchate of Constantinople can finally determine the timing for providing Tomos, a charter that will declare a local, independent Orthodox church in Ukraine.
Autocephaly is the status of a hierarchical Christian Church whose head bishop does not report to any higher-ranking bishop (used especially in Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox and Independent Catholic churches). Autocephaly opens the way for the creation of a united Orthodox church in Ukraine, which will not be subordinate to Moscow.
After the Synaxis, there will be another meeting, the Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarch, where the decision to provide Tomos and the entire procedure are to be approved.
After that, Ukraine will see a merger of Ukrainian churches into one, local church as a legal entity. Experts estimate that it is a matter of several months.
Also, the Synod should consider an appeal against the imposition of anathema by Moscow on Patriarch Filaret, head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyivan Patriarchate.
The split between the Moscow and Kyiv branches of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church happened during the collapse of the Soviet Union, when Ukraine's Primate Filaret broke with the Russian Orthodox Church. He argued that an independent Ukraine deserved a national church truly independent of Moscow. The Moscow Patriarchate whose parishes prevail in Ukraine has never recognized the Ukrainian Patriarchate.