06 December 2005, 15:11
Ukrainian state department for religious affairs refutes reports about opening Patriarchate of Constantinople representations
Moscow, December 6, Interfax - Head of the state department for religious affairs of the Ukrainian Ministry of Justice Igor Bondarchuk said that his department ‘had not been charged with fulfilling assignments of governmental agencies’. It has neither received appeals from church leaders concerning opening of representations of the Patriarchate of Constantinople nor ‘ever initiated it’.
In response to the inquiry of a Supreme Rada deputy Vasily Khara about ‘an involvement of the state department for religious affairs in attempts to set up representations of the Patriarchate of Constantinople on the territory of Ukraine’, Bondarchuk explained that ‘in compliance with church order and canon law, a representation of a certain church on the canonical territory of another church’ can be opened only through ‘mutual agreement’.
The letter of the department’s head was received by Interfax on Tuesday.
Because information circulated in the mass media about ‘opening of representations of the Ecumenical Patriarch in Kiev has not been officially confirmed by the participants in the Zurich talks’, ‘it seems to be targeted at destabilization of Orthodox community’ in Ukraine.
Representatives of the Patriarchates of Moscow and Constantinople entered into negotiations on Ukrainian church problem in Zurich in 2001, and later met in Moscow in April 2003, in Istanbul in July 2003, and in Kiev in July 2004, a source in the Department for External Church Relations (DECR) of the Moscow Patriarchate told Interfax.
A participant in the talks archpriest Nikolai Balashov appreciated Bondarchuk’s statement and noted that ‘his arguments reflect the norms of Orthodox canon law and point out to the particular importance of stability in society’.
The representative of the Moscow Patriarchate underscored that leaders of the unrecognized Ukrainian churches have repeatedly announced the opening of the Constantinople representations in Kiev and Odessa last autumn, thus indicating active participation of the Ukrainian state in the process.
‘It is not for the first time that representatives of uncanonical Ukrainian communities, none of which local Orthodox churches recognize, make attempts to use the authority of Constantinople for imparting a would-be canon legitimacy to their groups’, DECR secretary stated.
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