Russian bishop warns recognition of Ukrainian church split threatens unity of Mount Athos

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MOSCOW, February 11. /TASS/. The recognition of the so-called Orthodox Church of Ukraine by the Patriarchate of Constantinople poses a threat to the unity of monasteries on Mount Athos, Chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations (DECR), Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, has said.

“It is apparent that the legalization of the Ukrainian schism by Patriarch Bartholomew was the reason for more divisions. One of them is taking shape in the very heart of the Constantinople Patriarchate, on Holy Mount Athos,” the Jesus Orthodox website quotes him as saying.

According to his Eminence Hilarion, Patriarch Bartholomew’s actions made Athonite monks choose between loyalty to the canonical law and the power of the Constantinople Patriarchate. “For centuries, Athos stood guard of the church truth and canonical order. Now it has been presented with a challenge – to continue to stand up for the canonical truth, the way it has been for many centuries, or obey the Constantinople patriarch’s illegitimate decision. This choice is to be made by all Athonite monks in general and each monastery in particular,” he stressed.

The metropolitan noted that believers valued Athos, first and foremost, for loyalty to Orthodox Christian canons. “We love Athos not for its antiquity, not for its architecture, not for its beautiful landscapes, but because Athos retains its significance as a stronghold of church truth for millions of Orthodox believers. I sincerely hope that under these circumstances Athos will make the only right choice in favor of the canonical order,” he said.

The Russian Orthodox Church and the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church consider the newly-established Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU), which received the Tomos of Autocephaly from Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople in January, a schismatic institution. On February 8, OCU Bishop Paul celebrated a Divine Liturgy at the Holy Monastery of Pantocrator on Mount Athos. After that, some Athonite monasteries, including the Russian Monastery of St. Panteleimon, refused to allow the OCU delegation to visit them. According to a TASS source, two monks from the Monastery of Vatopedi moved to the Monastery of St. Panteleimon as an act of protest.

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