His Holiness Aleksei Rediger (1929- ), Patriarch of Moscow and all the Russias, First Hierarch of the Moscow Patriarchate
Patriarch Aleksei of Moscow and all the Russias stated that the attempts of Ukrainian politicians to interfere in the internal affairs of the Orthodox Church were intolerable. “The schism in Ukrainian Orthodoxy has arisen precisely because of the intrusion of political elements into church life”, His Holiness said in his opening remarks to the MP Archpastoral Council in Christ the Saviour Cathedral in Moscow on Tuesday. “Understandably, when there is a confrontation in society on religious grounds, the state cannot remain indifferent, since such a conflict threatens its stability”. The patriarch informed the Council that the Ukrainian president, prime minister, and other officials expressed their uneasiness concerning the situation in the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in their talks with him. “Sharing their concern, I stated firmly on my part that it was intolerable for politicians to interfere in church affairs”.
In his opinion, the Ukrainian government could make a contribution to the settlement of the crisis by fulfilling their direct task to ensure law and order, especially by implementing court rulings concerning the recovery of churches taken away from the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the MP. “The Church lives according to her own rules and sacred canons, and it is only through their unfailing observance that turmoil in the church can be ended. Any attempt at a de jure unification of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church and schismatic groups without their repentance for the sin of schism is doomed to failure. The people of God shall not support such an artificially created Church, and there shall be a new round of conflicts between bothers of the same faith in the Ukraine”.
Patriarch Aleksei stressed that the pressure bought to bear today on the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church to force it to accept autocephaly causes concern among many bishops, priests, and lay people. In particular, this is evidenced from the great number of appeals with thousands of signatures coming to His Holiness from all over the Ukraine. In them, the faithful ask the patriarch to defend the unity of the Church, which they cherish and which they are ready to defend even in the most trying circumstances.
According to His Holiness, the conditions of “incessant and furious attacks” by schismatics and nationalists against the canonical Ukrainian church “requires [of the faithful] a special courage, in order to fearlessly defend the canonical battlements of church unity”. Patriarch Aleksei concluded by saying, “We all are called to support our brothers in their podvig (exploit is a very weak translation: editor’s note). They must manifest fearlessness, since they are on the front-lines of the fight for Orthodoxy, for Church unity”.
24 June 2008