The very same Letter: Did Constantinople transfer the Church of Ukraine?

Phanar has revoked the letter of 1686 on the transfer of Kiev Metropolis to Moscow

In its claims to the church territory of Ukraine, Phanar refers to historical documents of 1686. We now analyze them in detail: how much these claims are substantiated.

The Constantinople Patriarch justifies all its actions toward Ukraine by claiming it its canonical territory. And it considers so because, as it turns out, Phanar has never given it to anyone. As for the Letter of Authority (Tomos) of 1686 on the transfer of the Kiev Metropolis to the Moscow Patriarchate, first, it was misunderstood (and this misunderstanding continued for more than 300 years), and second, the terms that were laid out there were violated. Therefore, the letter of 1686 is ostensibly invalid. Well, all these documents are not a secret, let's figure it out.

However, it is necessary to make one reservation at once: in the current political and religious conflict in Ukraine, which was provoked by secular authorities, the historical aspect should not be prevailing. Neither people nor countries should become slaves to their history. God gave the commandments to people, and we must live according to these commandments, not historical precedents. Secular authorities, hierarchs of God, as well as ordinary people first of all should equally ask themselves a question: how to fulfill God's will in a particular situation: political, public or personal, and second (or even tenth), pick the legal formulations of historical documents and determine what the will of this or that Patriarch of Constantinople was, and what he meant by saying this or that.

The current Primate of the Church of Constantinople, Patriarch Bartholomew, as an archpastor of Christ's flock, had to perform all his actions regarding Ukraine being guided by the criterion of church well-being. He had to proceed from what is good for the Church in Ukraine. Not some abstract “Ukrainian church,” about which politicians have been speaking, being completely unaware of what the Church of Christ is and what laws it lives by, but about a very specific one — the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, the Primate of which is His Beatitude Metropolitan Onufriy.

Only the UOC for the entire Orthodox World (and until recently for Constantinople) is the only Church in Ukraine. Bartholomew should have expressed his care and concern namely about Her, in the first line, according to the words of the Apostle Paul, “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10). Accordingly, the most important circumstance that would determine the policy of His All-Holiness, was the conciliar opinion of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. What does she see as a blessing for herself: the current canonical status of autonomy within the Russian Orthodox Church, autocephalous existence in the form of another Local Church, or maybe the status of the Kiev Metropolis within the Constantinople Patriarchate?

However, for the Patriarch of Constantinople, the basis for his ecclesiastical, and simply, policy was by no means the opinion of the UOC. Such a basis was the allegedly incorrect interpretation of documents written more than three hundred years ago about the transfer of the Kyiv Metropolis. All these more than three hundred year old documents were understood like until recently, and now everyone has suddenly opened their eyes, and it turned out, supposedly, that they need to be understood quite differently. Constantinople turns out not to have transferred the Kiev Metropolis to anyone, and it turned out that it had been part of the Ecumenical Patriarchate for three hundred years, and all decisions of Moscow regarding it are illegal, respectively, and therefore invalid ... purportedly.

We repeat – it is not necessary to be a slave to history, it is not necessary to do evil to people living today, arguing that it is necessary, they say, to restore some kind of “historical justice”, which Phanar is doing now. But here, too, the Constantinople hierarchs are cunning. They do not restore any "historical justice". They deliberately tell lies, claiming that the Kiev Metropolis was never handed over to the Moscow Patriarchate. It’s common knowledge that nothing good can be born out of deception ... Let’s turn to the documents.

In 1872, in Kiev, a collection of documents relating to the transfer of the Kiev Metropolis to the Moscow Patriarchate was published.

Note that in 1872 there was no doubt about the legality and reality of this transfer, and the Patriarchate of Constantinople did not put forward any complaints regarding this act. That means there was no point hiding or juggling anything. The collection of documents was published for scientific purposes and displays a fairly complete picture of what happened in 1686 and who had something in mind when writing certain documents.

Moscow tsars and Moscow Patriarch Joachim addressed the Patriarch of Constantinople with a request to transfer the Kiev Metropolis to the Russian Church. What exactly did they ask for?

Omitting verbal ornateness traditional for the time, we quote the reason why the Moscow Patriarch Joachim allowed himself to act on the territory of present-day Ukraine.

“Let Your Holiness know the reason for this letter: The Kiev Metropolitanate has been left without an archpastor for many years, the Chair is vacant, and geographically removed from Your Holiness. Because of the distant journey and the danger from the wild tribes, the Kiev flock lost its edification and thus, became subject to many sorrows and depravity, especially in the part that belongs to the Polish state, so some of the clergy, seeing the temptation of Rome, were renamed from Christians to Uniates and began to call themselves in different ways: someone – the Metropolitan of Kiev and All-Rus, another – the keeper of the Kiev throne in order to try with the help of these titles to convert all Christians of the Kiev eparchy from the Orthodox faith into their false teaching and subject them to the Roman church into the union."

That is, the main reason was the threat of complete seizure of the Kiev Metropolis by the Uniates. Indicative, by the way, is the phrase that the Uniates were renamed from "Christians" to "Uniates." In the minds of an Orthodox man of the late 17th century, Catholics were not even Christians but were associated with Rome, Latin and papacy.

After describing the circumstances how and why Metropolitan Gedeon (Chetvertinsky), elected by the Kiev episcopate and clergy, was appointed in Moscow, Patriarch Joachim sets forth his request for the transfer of the Kiev Metropolis.

"Knowing that Kiev eparchy is of no use to your Beatitude, and that it is located far from you, and that the threat from wild nations makes two-way journeys difficult, we therefore ask you, not wanting to take the eparchy into our possession, but seeking a fraternal union in Christ, so that Christians who live not only in our country but also in Poland could benefit from it, to express your good will, for the sake of evangelical consent and execution of the law, so that the whole Kiev eparchy should be under the Moscow Russian patriarchal throne, and in the spiritual ruling of the Eastern Church, henceforth to give obedience to and perform ordinations of Kiev metropolitans, in the reigning city of Moscow, since the Kiev eparchy is nearby from us and was part of our All-Russian throne from the very beginning of the adoption of the Orthodox faith in Russia.”

Both Phanariots and our Ukrainian supporters of the SLC project claim that Constantinople temporarily delegated only the right of consecration. But as we see, it is not just that the Kiev Metropolitan should be appointed by Moscow to the Kiev Chair, but about full jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate over the Kiev Metropolis, as it was understood in the Orthodox world then. "... in order for the whole Kiev eparchy to be under the Moscow Russian Patriarchal Throne, and in the spiritual ruling, according to the canons of the holy Eastern Church, to give obedience ..." Moreover, it was said that this practice will continue in all subsequent times: "and henceforth to perform ordinations of Kiev metropolitans, in the reigning city of Moscow".

The Moscow rulers are asking for the same thing.

"We, the great sovereigns, our Majesty, and our great sovereign sister Princess, ask your Prelacy that Your Prelacy deign to give a blessing and approve it with a letter so that our homeland, metropolis and eparchy of God-preserved city of Kiev, with all its religious authorities, clergy, brethren, archimandrites, abbots which have long belonged to this Metropolis, be under the authority and blessing of the Holiest Moscow Patriarch and all subsequent holiest patriarchs of Moscow."

It is said absolutely clearly and unequivocally about the transfer of the full authority over the Kiev Metropolis from one Patriarchate to another for all subsequent times. In the same letter of the Moscow rulers they talk about the very sables the Patriarch was supposed to receive.

"... with our messenger, Nikita Alekseev, we, the great sovereigns, our royal majesty and our sister, our great empress, blessed princess, sent our good graces to Your Holiness — several gold pieces and sables."

The fact that this is not the annual alms that the Eastern patriarchs received from the Russian tsars, but a sign of gratitude for the transfer of the Kiev Metropolis is proven by the following words: “Write a receipt to us, the great sovereign, our royal majesty, on how many gold pieces and sables you received from our messenger, and send with the same messenger your archpastoral letter blessing to transfer the Metropolitanate of Kiev." That is, along with the letter of transfer of the Kiev Metropolis, messenger Nikita Alekseev was supposed to bring to Moscow the Patriarch’s receipt about sables and gold, which actually happened. This circumstance, of course, does no credit at all to both the Moscow tsars and the Ecumenical Patriarch, but it was so, and this way of solving issues, unfortunately, was common for the Church of Constantinople, which was under the rule of the Ottoman Empire.

In response to the request from Moscow, the Patriarch of Constantinople Dionysius writes the following. 

“The petition of the great tsars and Orthodox rulers of Moscow, our beloved sons of the Lord, blessed and exalted, was resolved by all the holy bishops' council and our beloved brothers and co-ministers in the Holy Spirit. Let the Metropolitan of Kiev henceforth be subordinate to the holy patriarchal Moscow throne and when there is a need to ordain the metropolitan in this eparchy — may he be ordained by the patriarchate in a blessed great city of Moscow.

Let the metropolitan be elected by the God-loving bishops in the Kiev eparchy, the most honest archimandrites, reverend hegumen of the honest and holy monasteries, pious and holy hieromonks, monks and other hierarchy, as it deemed customary in that country, through an order of the great hetman. I am writing this letter, since I have subordinated the Kiev Metropolis to the Moscow throne; let them be free to elect anyone they want to be metropolitans of Kiev. Let him undergo the whole ordination procedure and all the necessary actions, and let him know his elder and senior, the patriarch of Moscow, and let him observe only one thing:

when the Metropolitan of Kiev performs a divine and holy service in his eparchy, let him make a liturgical mention, first of all, of the honest name of the most holy ecumenical patriarch, since he is a ruler and bearer of all benefits to all ends of the universe, and after him the name of the patriarch of Moscow as his eldest. May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and peace, and His innumerable mercy, and prayer, and blessings, and our forgiveness be with your beatitude. 1686, the 9th of May. Your Constantinople brother in Christ."

The Ecumenical Patriarch: “I am writing this letter, since I have subordinated the Kiev Metropolis to the Moscow throne; let them be free to elect anyone they want to be metropolitans of Kiev. Let him undergo the whole ordination procedure and all the necessary actions, and let him know his elder and senior, the patriarch of Moscow.”

As we can see, Patriarch of Constantinople Dionysius fully satisfies the petition of Moscow and subordinates the Metropolitanate of Kiev to the Moscow Patriarchal Throne. The only thing that distinguishes the essence of the request of Moscow from the essence of the consent of Constantinople is the instruction addressed to the Metropolitan of Kiev to commemorate the patriarch of Constantinople prior to the patriarch of Moscow at divine services. Adepts of Ukrainian autocephaly indicate here, firstly, that the Kiev Metropolis was not withdrawn from the subordination of Constantinople, and secondly, the failure to fulfill an essential term for the transfer of the Kiev Metropolis, which allegedly entails the annulment of the whole Letter.

However, the reason which the Kiev Metropolitan had to liturgically mention the Ecumenical Patriarch was the claim of the Constantinople throne to supremacy in the entire Orthodox World: “since he is a ruler and bearer of all benefits to all ends of the universe”. But this claim was completely inconsistent with the Orthodox ecclesiology, in which there is no place for the papacy, and, accordingly, it was not fulfilled.

Patriarch Dionysius wrote the same thing in other words in his answer to the Moscow tsars.

“We have considered this case with the whole council of most eminent metropolitans and our most beloved brethren and fellow servants in the Holy Spirit. It seemed to us not only well-reasoned but also very commendable and surprising. We laid it out in our conciliar patriarchal letters and wrote in the code of the Great Church of Christ, which declare that blessed Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, Mr. Joachim, our beloved brother and co-minister in the Holy Spirit, henceforth has the right to ordain the Kiev metropolitan, who shall be elected in accordance with the ecclesiastic charter.

The future patriarchs also have the right to elect the Kiev metropolitan. In the same way, the Kiev Metropolis shall be subordinated to the Holy See of Moscow. And let all the hierarchs, both present and future, honor their elder and primate, patriarch of Moscow, since they receive ordination from him. Let them only observe the following: when the Metropolitan of Kiev performs a bloodless and divine liturgy in his eparchy, let him remember first of all the blessed name of the ecumenical patriarch, because from him all blessings are served to all ends of the universe, and he is the source of everything, and enthroned the patriarch Moscow, and then the name of the patriarch of Moscow."

The Ecumenical Patriarch: “...the Kiev Metropolis shall be subordinated to the Holy See of Moscow. And let all the hierarchs, both present and future, honor their elder and primate, patriarch of Moscow, since they receive ordination from him.”

These words clearly state that the Kiev Metropolis is transferred to the Moscow Patriarch for all subsequent times.

A few weeks later, Patriarch Dionysius wrote another letter to the Moscow tsars, in which we find some more detailed indications on what particular powers regarding the Kiev Metropolis were delegated to the Moscow Patriarch.

 “... we have transferred this metropolis to the most blessed Patriarch of Moscow, who has the right to perform an unhindered ordination of the metropolitan of this eparchy according to the custom of that place, and his election at the general council of the eparchy, pursuant to our conciliar letters. May His Beatitude have the right to ordain the Metropolitan of Kiev without any hindrance, and may the Metropolitan obey to the judgement of the Patriarch of Moscow according to the ecclesiastical ruling.”

Here we already see a clear indication that the Kiev Metropolitan should not only be ordained by the Patriarch of Moscow, and not only honor him as his senior and mentor, but also be subject to his Patriarchal court.


It is obvious that historical documents leave no doubt that the Kiev Metropolis was completely transferred to the jurisdiction of the Russian Church in 1686 and since then it has been the canonical territory of the Russian Orthodox Church. This is evidenced even more convincingly by the fact that for more than three hundred years this situation has been recognized by absolutely everyone: secular authorities of the Ottoman and Russian Empires, the Constantinople and Moscow Patriarchates, as well as all the other Local Orthodox Churches. Therefore, the cancellation by Phanar of the decision of 1686 and its attempt to appropriate someone else’s territory and property are not about the restoration of “historical justice”, but a typical raider seizure or in layman’s terms – robbery. If it hadn't been for the actions of the current Ukrainian government, then such behavior of the hierarchy of the Constantinople Patriarchate would have been absolutely impossible.

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How do you assess the Phanar's statements about possible union with Catholics?
negatively, association with heretics is impossible
why not, we used to be one Church
this is the case of Phanar and the RCC, we have nothing to do with it
Total votes: 164


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