The Russian Orthodox Church said Thursday it has cut ties with the leader of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria and all Africa, Patriarch Theodore II, after he recognized Ukraine's independent Church. This decision comes a few days before Orthodox Christmas, which is celebrated in January.
The Russian Church's Holy Synod ruled at a meeting that it was “impossible” to mention the name of Theodore in prayers and liturgical procedures, the Orthodox Church's website said.
In January, the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, based in Istanbul, signed a decree formally creating an independent Ukrainian Church.
This ended more than 300 years of Moscow's control over Orthodox churches in Ukraine and affected millions of believers.
The Moscow Patriarchate condemned the move and cut ties with Constantinople.
Theodore recognized the Ukrainian Church during a service in Egypt in November this year, the Moscow Church said.
The statement said the Church felt “deep grief” at Theodore's actions, saying he had allied himself with “schismatics.”
Russian Orthodox Church spokesman Vladimir Legoida wrote on Telegram messenger service on Thursday that Theodore's decision was “basically... personal.”
The Russian Church said Alexandria's Holy Synod was not involved in Theodore's decision and so Moscow would maintain relations with senior clerics.
However, it said it was closing a representative office of the Alexandria Patriarchate in Moscow and Russian Orthodox parishes in Africa would no longer be under its supervision but instead directly under Russian Patriarch Kirill.