“Today a new page opens in the history of Ukraine”. The Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew, said this as he gave the Metropolitan of Kiev and All Ukraine Epiphanius the “Tomos of Autocephaly of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine”. According to a statement in Italian released today by the Holy Orthodox Archdiocese of Italy, the Tomos was delivered during a solemn ceremony at the Patriarchal Church at the Phanar last Sunday, on the feast of the Holy Theophany. Bartholomew urged the nascent Ukrainian Church to be an instrument of unity in the country, especially with those who are still linked to the Moscow Patriarchate.
“Today, officially and canonically, you become the 15th Church in the blessed choir of autocephalous churches”, Bartholomew said. “We pray and urge you to strive for unity and peace, mainly at the local level, not only with your brother bishops in Ukraine but also with those brother bishops who remain under the omophorion of His Beatitude and brother the Patriarch of Moscow. Help them, by your inspired presence and wise administration, to understand the need for a united ecclesial body in Ukraine. You have created the preconditions for reconciliation. May your work be guided only by ecclesiological criteria. Serve lovingly, humbly and selflessly. The future belongs to you, yes, the future is yours”. Patriarch Bartholomew went on to reiterate that Constantinople acted “without pursuing its own interest, selflessly, only for the unity of the Ukrainian people and the salvation of the faithful”. And he added: “You can always count on our support, whenever you wish”. In his address, Bartholomew again recalled that even when, in the past, the Ecumenical Patriarchate consented to Moscow ordaining the Metropolitan of Kiev, “never had canonical jurisdiction been transferred to the Moscow Patriarchate”. In his homily the Primate of the Church of Ukraine again expressed his gratitude to the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople. “Today, after a night of darkness, the sun rises again”, he said. “Thanks to the wisdom of Your Holiness, ancient injustices have disappeared and justice is restored”.
Attending the event were the President of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko, with his family as well as political leaders and governors from Ukraine. At the end of the Divine Liturgy, the two primates and the faithful made a procession to the pier of the Phanar, where His Holiness presided over the ceremony of the Blessing of the Waters and the immersion of the Venerable Cross in the Gulf of the Golden Horn. Over 30 young people – as is customary – plunged into the cold waters of the Golden Horn.