The İstanbul-based Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the leading authority in Orthodox Christianity who recognized an independent Ukrainian Orthodox Church in 2018, claims to have become “a target of Moscow,” Agence France-Presse reported.
“Our patriarchate and me personally have become a target,” Bartholomew told CNN Türk late Wednesday.
For more than 300 years the Ukrainian Church was split into three, with one church overseen by the patriarch of Moscow.
The Russian-controlled branch of the Orthodox Church in Ukraine has refused to participate in establishing a unified church and has broken off ties with the Istanbul-based Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.
The Constantinople patriarch’s decision to recognize the Ukrainian Church’s independence from Russia was a huge blow to Moscow’s spiritual authority in the Orthodox world.
“Today we see how right we were to do so. … We would like, however, that the Russian state and church do not show us so much animosity, to me and to the patriarchy, and that they accept this decision,” said Bartholomew.
“But they don’t,” he said.
The patriarch visited the Kyiv’s consulate in İstanbul in a show of solidarity and spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
“He asked us to pray, and we will do it with pleasure,” Bartholomew said.
“He gives such an example to his people. They don’t want to surrender and they are right. Why give up their freedom to the occupier?”