Rhodes, Jun. 20, 2008 (CWNews.com) – The Russian Orthodox Patriarchate of Moscow has escalated a dispute with the Patriarchate of Constantinople over the recognition of an independent Estonian Orthodox Church.
A Russian delegation has walked out of a meeting of Orthodox prelates, convened by Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople. The top Russian delegate, Archbishop Nikolai Balashov, said that the Moscow patriarchate could not accept the seating of a delegation from the Estonian Orthodox Church.
The meeting of Orthodox prelates, taking place at Rhodes, had been called by the Ecumenical Patriarch as a forum for mutual discussions and prayer. All of the world’s autonomous Orthodox churches had been asked to send representativees.
Last year the Russian Orthodox Church walked out of a meeting of a joint Catholic-Orthodox theological committee in Ravenna, Italy, for the same reason: the seating of an Estonian delegation. The Moscow patriarchate does not accept the independent Estonian hierarchy, and has angrily protested the decision by the Patriarch of Constantinople in 1996 to grant canonical recognition to the independent Estonian Church.
In explaining his delegation’s protest, Archpriest Balashov said that relations among the world’s Orthodox primates should be guided by the principle that participation is limited to those Orthodox bodies recognized by all other Orthodox churches. The world’s other Orthodox churches have been content to leave the Patriarch of Constantinople with the traditional authority to grant recognition to independent Orthodox churches.