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Ukrainian Autocephaly and the Pan-Orthodox solidarity

1st e-Lecture of the online lectures “Time for Action”
by Volos Academy for Theological Studies

The first online lecture of the series “Time for Action” was successfully held on Tuesday, January 19, 2021. The series is organized by Volos Academy for Theological Studies, via Zoom platform. The topic was “Ukrainian Autocephaly and the Pan-Orthodox solidarity”. The lecture was delivered by Rev. Dr. Cyril Hovorun in Greek and was attended by more than 90 listeners all around the world. The meeting was coordinated by the Director of the Council of Christian Churches of Bavaria and academic associate of the Volos Academy for Theological Studies,  Giorgos Vlantis. In his presentation, Rev. Dr. Hovorun provided a historical overview and systematic discussion of this crucial ecclesiological and canonical issue, which has recently caused serious tensions within the Orthodox world.

According to the speaker, to understand the so-called Ukrainian issue, we must look back a thousand years ago, when the Patriarchate of Constantinople established the Kiev Diocese. After the Mongol invasions in 1240, this Diocese split into two centers. The part residing in Moscow declared itself self-administrated in 1448. The other part of the Kiev Metropolis, which was then part of Lithuania and covered the territory of present-day Ukraine, remained faithful to the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Due to the prevailing conditions at the time and the insurmountable obstacles to communication, in 1686 Constantinople granted Moscow the right to enthrone the Metropolitans of Kiev. In the 19th century, autocephaly was associated with the anti-colonial movement. After the collapse of the Russian Empire in 1917, parts of the historic Metropolis Kiev were found to belong to independent states, such as Poland and Ukraine. Later, the government of the Soviet Republic of Ukraine supported the creation of an autonomous Church and began negotiations with the Ecumenical Patriarchate, which seemed reluctant to intervene. Things changed in 1991, when Ukraine became an independent state. It immediately began to seek the autocephaly of its Church. The Ecumenical Patriarchate initially hesitated to intervene in the resolution of the Ukrainian problem. The issue was resolved only in 2018, with the Unification Synod and the granting of the Autocephaly. The speaker highlighted the contribution of two events in this direction: the war of Russia against Ukraine after the revolution of 2014 and the absence of the Russian Orthodox Church from the Holy and Great Council of Crete in 2016. In answering key questions of the audience, Dr. Hovorun analyzed the importance of the intervention of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, which, by exercising carefully the ecclesiastical economy, healed a rift that had plagued Orthodoxy for decades, leaving millions of Ukrainian faithful people cut off from the canonical body of Orthodoxy. The speaker contributed to the deconstruction of propaganda claims; highlighted ecclesiological and canonical contradictions of the opponents of the Ukrainian autocephaly and underlined the function of the Orthodox understanding of the primacy of the Church of Constantinople. He also expressed optimism for the overcoming of the present crisis, given the rapid pace at which other Orthodox Churches are entering into communion with the newly formed Church of Ukraine, compared to the recognition of autocephalies in the past, while he also analyzed cultural and geopolitical aspects of the issue.

Among the attendees or those who intervened during the meeting were the Archdeacon of the Ecumenical Throne Rev. Dr. John Chryssavgis, the member of the Academy of Athens Prof. Paschalis Kitromilides, the professors emeriti Grigorios Larentzakis (University of Graz, Austria) and Petros Vassiliades (Aristotle University Thessaloniki), the professors of Theological Faculty of Athens University Arch. Prof. Grigorios Papathomas, Prof. Christos Karakolis, Prof. Dimitrios Moschos and Assistant Prof. Stavros Giagazoglou, the professor of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and Director of the Patriarchal Institute of Patriarchal Studies Dr. Symeon Paschalidis, the General Director of the Orthodox Academy of Crete Dr. Konstantinos Zorbas, the Director of the Institute of Orthodox Theology "St. Jean le Théologien" Rev. Dr. Christophe d’Aloisio (Brussels), the Director of the Institute of Ecumenical Studies of the Catholic University of Ukraine Dr. Pavlo Smytsnuk (Lviv), the Executive Secretary for Theological Dialogue, Ecclesiology, and Mission of The Conference of European Churches (C.E.C.) Katerina Pekridou (Brussels) as well as many members of the clergy and laity.

Archimandrite Cyril Hovorun is a Professor in Ecclesiology, International Relations and Ecumenism at Sankt Ignatios Orthodox College, Stockholm School of Theology. A graduate of the Theological Academy in Kyiv and National University in Athens, he accomplished his doctoral studies at Durham University under the supervision of Fr Andrew Louth. He was a chairman of the Department for External Church Relations of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (under Moscow Patriarchate), first deputy chairman of the Educational Committee of the Russian Orthodox Church, and later research fellow at Yale and Columbia Universities, visiting professor at the University of Münster in Germany, international fellow at Chester Ronning Centre for the Study of Religion and Public Life at the University of Alberta in Canada, director of the Huffington Ecumenical Institute at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles and Assistant Professor at the same university.

To listen to the on-line presentation click here

To see the video, click here

To read the full program of the Volos Academy e-Lectures series click here

 

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