The Vatican missionary agency Fides first reported that the Synod of the Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church has requested that Metropolitan Vladimir, representative of the Russian Patriarchate of Kiev, write an official letter to dissuade the Pontiff from undertaking his trip. On Jan. 23, the Radonezh Orthodox news agency confirmed the Fides report.
Earlier, Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said: “During his pastoral visit, the Pope will meet with Catholics of this country and hopes to be able to contribute to relaunching the ecumenical dialogue,” an objective the Pope himself confirmed Jan. 25, at the end of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.
Over the last few years, the Orthodox Church in Ukraine has suffered the most profound schisms of its millennial history. The metropolitan bishop of Kiev rebelled against “Mother Russia.” As a result of his opposition to Moscow, Bishop Filaret was excommunicated by Patriarch Alexis II and reduced to the lay state. In response, Filaret proclaimed himself patriarch of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
However, this is not the only schism of Ukrainian Orthodoxy. A few hundred parishes met to create the Autocephalous Ukrainian Orthodox Church. This current is inspired in the “Orthodoxy of the catacombs,” which never accepted the impositions of the Soviet regime.
They accuse the present leaders of the Orthodox Church of Moscow of having been accomplices of Communism. They have their organizational centers abroad (where many faithful fled to save their lives). They recognize Metropolitan Konstantin, head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the United States, as their “spiritual guide.”
In face of this Orthodox puzzle, Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma proposed the convocation of a local Ukrainian Council, in which all the metropolitans, or those who consider themselves as such, retire, leaving the clergy and people free to elect a single spiritual leader.