The United States government has come out to openly support the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople in the contentious matter of autocephaly for the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
Heather Nauart tweeted an official statement of the State Department that stated that “the U.S. respects the ability of Ukraine’s Orthodox religious leaders and followers to pursue autocephaly according to their beliefs. We respect the Ecumenical Patriarch as a voice of religious tolerance and interfaith dialogue, and support Ukraine as it charts its own path.”
The U.S. respects the ability of Ukraine’s Orthodox religious leaders and followers to pursue autocephaly according to their beliefs. We respect the Ecumenical Patriarch as a voice of religious tolerance and interfaith dialogue, and support #Ukraine as it charts its own path. pic.twitter.com/pA2fAJQPCB
— Heather Nauert (@statedeptspox) September 25, 2018
Unlike the Roman Catholic Church, which has the supreme leadership of a single Pope, the Eastern Orthodox Church is broken up into a complicated network of autocephalous Patriarchates, archdioceses and regional and national churches that all have a varying degree of independence or reporting to one entity or another.
The Istanbul, Turkey-based Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople is considered the “first amongst equals” of the Orthodox world and according to Orthodox Church tradition and laws, is the spiritual leader of the world’s Orthodox Christians, as well as the sole body allowed to grant autocephaly, or independence, to a church.
The issue has angered the Russian Orthodox Church, which considers the Ukraine its own territory, despite the wishes of many Ukrainian Orthodox to have their own, independent Church.
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