The Archbishop of Canterbury held a “cordial and informal” meeting Oct. 19 in Istanbul with the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, spiritual leader of Orthodox churches.

The meeting occurred as the International Commission for Anglican–Orthodox Theological Dialogue was concluding its annual week-long meeting in Cyprus. During their meeting, Archbishop Welby and Patriarch Bartholomew discussed the situation of the Orthodox Church in Ukraine. Those difficulties kept Valentin Vassechko, from the Patriarchate of Moscow, from attending commission’s meeting.

Earlier in October, the Ecumenical Patriarch announced that the Holy and Sacred Synod had decided to grant autocephaly to the Church of Ukraine and to restore the “hierarchical or priestly rank” to the leaders of two non-Canonical Orthodox Churches in Ukraine.

In the 1990s, as the Soviet Union broke up and Ukraine gained its independence, three competing Orthodox Churches emerged in the country: the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Kiev Patriarchate), and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church.

Patriarch Kirill announced that the Russian Orthodox Church was severing all relations with the Ecumenical Patriarchate. On Oct. 22 his spokesman said the church would restore dialogue if Constantinople “recognizes the fallaciousness of its actions and decisions and apologizes for causing significant damage to the entire Orthodox world,” The Moscow Times reported.

“The canonical issues that arise in Ukraine are matters for the Orthodox Church to address,” Archbishop Justin Welby said. “Whilst it is not for me to offer any opinion on the rightness of any side in the debate, I assure the whole of the Orthodox Church and the clergy and people of Ukraine of my prayers for peace and unity within the Church of Jesus Christ.”

Adapted from ACNS

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