The Ecumenical Patriarch emphasized this in his speech welcoming a delegation of MPs from Ukraine to the Phanar
His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew expressed his conviction that “the unity of Orthodoxy is not tested in any way due to the response of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to the request of the Ukrainian Orthodox” for the granting of Autocephaly. He said this as he welcomed a group of deputies of the Ukrainian Parliament and their associates to the Phanar, today, Saturday, March 6, 2021.
In his speech at the All-Holy Patriarchal Church, His All-Holiness, immediately after the Vespers Service, warmly welcomed the members of the Ukrainian delegation, accompanied by the Consul General of Ukraine in Istanbul, the Honorable Mr. Oleksandr Gaman, and reminded them of the ongoing concern of the Mother Church of Constantinople for the ecclesiastical life of the Ukrainian people.
“The granting of Autocephaly to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in 2019 was primarily an expression of pastoral interest in spiritual justice and freedom. For decades, if not centuries, Ukraine has not been able to enjoy full ecclesiastical independence from outside influences. Until recently, most Ukrainians were outside the Orthodox Church. This was a sad reality for the Body of Christ, because the ecclesiastical division in your country was a profound wound in the communion of the entire Orthodox Church. Remember the words of the Apostle Paul: ‘If one member suffers, all suffer together’” (1 Cor 12:26).
His All-Holiness noted that with the decision of the Holy and Sacred Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, in October 2018, to accept the appeals made by Filaret and Makariy, the way was opened for the unification Synod (Sobor), which took place in the historic Church of Saint Sophia in Kyiv on December 15, 2018.
“The Mother Church of the Ukrainian people has gladly responded to the numerous requests of the Presidents, political authorities and even the Parliament of your country to grant a Tomos of Autocephaly. And let us not forget that the Ukrainian Hierarchy addressed similar requests for ‘full canonical independence,’ that is, for Autocephaly of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, to the late Patriarch of Moscow, Alexy II, in November 1991, despite the fact that such requests were not properly submitted to the Moscow Patriarchate, as only the Ecumenical Patriarchate has the right to grant Autocephaly, according to the canonical tradition and practice of the Eastern Orthodox Church.
“The Ecumenical Patriarchate has always rushed to the aid and support of the various local Orthodox Churches, whenever they faced trials. There is no freedom in division, because true freedom can only be experienced in unity. This unity of Orthodoxy is not tested in any way due to the response of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to the request of the Ukrainian Orthodox. The Tomos of Autocephaly was an act of responsibility of the Mother Church towards millions of our Orthodox brothers and sisters who were outside the Church. And, of course, it was not an act dictated by external forces or geopolitical interests. Two years later, we are very pleased to see the new Church grow under the inspired and steadfast leadership of our brother, His Beatitude the Metropolitan of Kyiv, Epiphaniy.
“Anyone who threatens to break off Eucharistic Communion with the Ecumenical Patriarchate is in danger of cutting himself off from the body of the Orthodox Church. As far as we are concerned, we cannot allow Orthodox Ecclesiology to be altered with new theories based solely on base motives and secular ambitions. ‘“Sharper than any sword” is the word of Truth’” (“sharper than any two-edged sword” [see Hebrews 4:12]).
The Ecumenical Patriarch then emphasized that the fruit of Autocephaly in the Ukrainian Orthodox Church should be evaluated, beyond certain personalities and beyond narrow national interests, as a genuine spiritual healing.
“Today, the Orthodox people in Ukraine are in a good canonical state and are participating in the common Cup. Now, if some people cannot accept this reality, they should ask themselves who exactly is breaking the unity in the Orthodox Church.”
Concluding, His All-Holiness bestowed his paternal good wishes and Patriarchal blessing upon the members of the Ukrainian delegation, and also upon the entire pious Ukrainian people, expressing once again his joy over his forthcoming visit to Ukraine. For this reason he expressed his gratitude to the President, His Excellency Mr. Volodymyr Zelenskyy, and also to the Prime Minister, His Excellency Mr. Denys Shmyhal, for the kind invitation extended to him to visit their country on the occasion of this year’s 30th anniversary of its proclamation as an independent and sovereign state.
On behalf of the Ukrainian delegation, the Honorable MP Mr. Bohdan Yaremenko spoke, thanked His All-Holiness for his warm words, and pointed out the importance of the forthcoming Patriarchal visit to Ukraine. Mr. Yaremenko presented to the Ecumenical Patriarch letters from His Excellency President Zelenskyy, as well as from His Beatitude Metropolitan Epiphaniy of Kyiv and All Ukraine. He also offered as a gift an icon of the Virgin in Ukrainian style, while the Ecumenical Patriarch reciprocated with books and other mementos.
Then, at the urging of His All-Holiness, the Ukrainian delegation was greeted by His Eminence Metropolitan Emmanuel, Geron of Chalcedon, who referred to the many years of efforts of the Mother Church to restore the unity of the Orthodox people of Ukraine, until the historic unification Synod in Kiev in 2018, during which he presided. The Metropolitan Geron of Chalcedon pointed out, among other things, that the Ukrainian people had been waiting for many years for the decision of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and expressed his optimism for the future of the new Church, urging everyone to remain united in it, under the leadership of His Beatitude Metropolitan Epiphaniy of Kyiv.