How close is Ukraine to creating independent church following Synaxis in Constantinople
The main process in Constantinople on the Ukraine issue has actually completed at a time when no one paid real attention.
The Ecumenical Patriarchate clearly stated that the mother-church for Ukraine is Constantinople, not Moscow. We were baptized by Byzantium, Constantinople, not by Moscow. It was Moscow who obtained baptism from us, and therefore we cannot be a daughter church for Moscow - we are a daughter church for Constantinople.
This is the most significant and historic decision because it canceled a whole series of obscene acts, for example, the one when Moscow was granted priority over Kyiv for a bunch of sable furs. In church practice, this is called simony – that is, buying holy orders for money, or "church corruption."
The Ecumenical Patriarchate clearly stated that the mother-church for Ukraine is Constantinople, not Moscow
So, the Ukraine issue was resolved when the Ecumenical Patriarch canceled the act of simony of the Moscow church.
The methods of law applied in Orthodox churches suggest that the mother-church can itself establish certain rules by which it must independently decide on certain issues in each particular case. And in the case of Ukraine, the meeting of the hierarchs of the Church of Constantinople made a decision that has already been applied – there was a precedent. For example, the youngest Autocephalous Orthodox Church is the Albanian one. It is small church, but it enjoys full rights, being absolutely free and independent. And the decision on that church was taken on the same precedent, now set to be used on Ukraine. This is the method by which the decision to grant autocephaly does not provide for convening all patriarchs, even the Synod, while the latter delegates such right to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, who is entitled to make that decision on his own.
Therefore, the possibilities of decision-making on granting a Tomos on autocephaly are now reduced to a personal decision of the Ecumenical Patriarch. And the negotiations that Poroshenko had been holding with him for about two years cannot end with nothing. There's no walking back. That is, the Ecumenical Patriarch will decide in favor of Ukraine.
The first point of the Synaxis decision is just about that. The Ecumenical Patriarch will personally make the decision without agreeing with anyone else. The only thing is that he will consult with the Ecumenical Synod in an advisory capacity. This procedure is quite formal.
The second point defines our further actions. It gives the right to the Universal Patriarch to remove any kinds of anathema, judicial internal church decisions regarding any of the churches that are daughters in relation to the Church of Constantinople.
Moscow Church, after capturing the Ukrainian Church, imposing its influence over it, also cursed and excommunicated Patriarch Filaret and all those bishops who supported him and created the UOC of the Kyiv Patriarchate, recognizing them as non-canonical. The main thing that the ROC now emphasizes is that this church is non-canonical. And this, incidentally, holds back many of the Orthodox Ukrainian believers, priests, and even bishops from joining it.
The possibilities of decision-making on granting a Tomos on autocephaly are now reduced to a personal decision of the Ecumenical Patriarch. And the negotiations that Poroshenko had been holding with him for about two years cannot end with nothing
So, the second decision of the Synoxis gave the Ecumenical Patriarch the right to personally decide, after consulting the Synod, on the removal of such anathema and restoration of bishops' status. That is, all those who were cursed and excommunicated from the church by the Moscow Patriarchate will be recovered. And Filaret, like the bishops who were with him, deprived of canonicity, will be returned their canonical status. Automatically canonical become all those whom Filaret made bishops.
This means that from the moment that this move is made by the Ecumenical Patriarch (and this, I think, will happen within a few weeks), the UOC-KP shall become completely canonical, according to the Orthodox rules, and it can become the main cornerstone of the creation of a new Orthodox Church.
The third point is what we have to do ourselves – I mean the church (I'm saying this conditionally, because I am a Greek Catholic, and it does not concern me at all. I just studied the canon law, because I have a bit of theological education). In Ukraine, a church should now be created – not renamed, not transformed in any way, but created. But everyone understands that since there is the initiating church, it is the Filaret's Kyivan Patriarchate, and it is the largest of those who seek to establish a local church, and it will be the main core of the new church. Everyone understands that Filaret himself will be the primate of the new Ukrainian local Orthodox Church, already completely independent one, simply being a daughter-church of Constantinople – but there is a very conditional dependence here. And it will be the basis. But nevertheless, the new church will not be just a mechanical extension of the UOC-KP. It will be a church, which will unite into a single entity with the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church, which has already announced its readiness to unite, and a significant part of the bishops and parishes of the UOC of the Moscow Patriarchate. After that, Ukraine will not only be the Kyiv Patriarchate, but the Orthodox Local Church.
This is for clerics to decide on its future name, whether it will be just a Ukrainian Church, or a Ukrainian Orthodox Church, or a Ukrainian Local Church.
Meanwhile, the church of the Moscow Patriarchate will be recognized as a church that is the representative of foreign hierarchs in Ukraine. For example, there is a Bulgarian Orthodox Church in Ukraine. There are just a few parishes, but they are out there, and they have no problems operating in Odesa region. Nobody argues with them, while they obey their patriarch, who presides in Sofia. Similarly, the Moscow Orthodox Church will be the first to re-register its parishes and eparchies. And this will not be the UOC anymore – it will not be able to continue to use this name. This will be eparchies and parishes of the Russian Orthodox Church in Ukraine.
A separate note is how Moscow will react to all of these processes. Obviously, Moscow will be talking about another split in Ukrainian society, that the faithful of different patriarchs are confronting each other. Moscow will give fresh tasks to all its agents in Ukraine. There will be attempts to set up mutiny, which will be not only of a religious nature. Provocateurs will try to organize brawls and fights in certain parishes.
The church of the Moscow Patriarchate will be recognized as a church that is the representative of foreign hierarchs in Ukraine
In addition, the transition of parishes will not be a fast process. It might take several years. First, separate dioceses will shift to the new church. For example, the Metropolitan of the UOC-Moscow Patriarchate, Drabynko, whom a pro-Russian MP Vadym Novynsky attacked, will turn to the new church immediately, I believe. So this transition of parishes will be gradual; it won't be massive. And Moscow, I think, will try to arrange clashes and bring in some of its "Cossacks" and other thugs of all kinds. The task of the Ukrainian police and intelligence agencies is to be on guard and monitor the external influence: any emissaries or groups that will be coming from Russia will have to be detained; those who will somehow manage to sow unrest must be convicted; while others should simply be expelled from the territory of Ukraine. And I believe, people here in Ukraine will find mutual understanding very soon, perhaps following some light squabbles.
However, avoiding any internal conflicts on these grounds is impossible. But they will be short-lived. The main thing is to intercept provocateurs coming from Russia. There is also no doubt that they will try to organized "religious processions" in Kyiv.
The main thing is not to tackle the issue too fast and rigid, because there may be a fierce spark that Russia could use for powerful military provocations and even interventions.
Taras Chornovil is a political analyst, former people's deputy of Ukraine