Kiev, November 14, Interfax - Ukrainian President Pyotr Poroshenko has assured a group of hierarchs of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) that the state will protect the right of clergymen and lay people to freely choose this or that ecclesiastical jurisdiction, presidential press secretary Svyatoslav Tsegolko said.
"He [Poroshenko] also said that the Ecumenical Patriarchate, on its part, guarantees the absolute canonical protection to the supporters of autocephaly in Ukraine," Tsegolko said on Facebook on Wednesday in comments on a meeting between Poroshenko and a group of top bishops of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church on Tuesday at the Ukrainian House, an international convention center in Kiev.
Representatives of a group of hierarchs of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) supporting an appeal to the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople regarding the granting of autocephaly met with the Ukrainian president at the Ukrainian House, he said.
Poroshenko informed the hierarchs of his talks with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, of an agreement between Ukraine and the Constantinople Patriarchate, and the latter's willingness to facilitate the organization of a unifying assembly, Tsegolko said.
"The bishops told the president about unprecedented pressure being put by Moscow on those bishops of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) who are willing to join the establishment of a unified church," he said.
A meeting previously planned on Tuesday between Poroshenko and Ukrainian Orthodox Church top bishops was canceled. While an absolute majority of hierarchs of the canonical Church gathered at the Kiev Monastery of the Caves, where a conversation was expected to take place, Poroshenko changed his mind and did not arrive there but insisted that the hierarchs come to meet him at the Ukrainian House, which they refused to do.
Poroshenko still met behind closed doors with some hierarchs of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) at the Ukrainian House on Tuesday evening. Present at the meeting were at least three Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) hierarchs, including Metropolitan Aleksander (Drabinko) of Pereyaslav-Khmelnitsky, who has said publicly that he might join a church independent of Moscow that is being set up by Constantinople.
On October 11, the Constantinople Patriarchate's Synod in Istanbul abolished its 1686 decree handing the Kiev Metropolitanate over to Moscow, announced the creation of a mission in Kiev, and rehabilitated the leaders of self-proclaimed Orthodox churches in Ukraine. The Moscow Patriarchate's Synod responded by severing ties with Constantinople.