ukraine church

 

On October 11th last year the Ecumenical Patriarchate overturned its decision to temporarily transfer to Moscow the right to ordain the popularly elected metropolitan of Kyiv on the basis of the unfulfilled conditions on the part of ROC, as well as due to the change in the global socio-political situation. Thus, the Ecumenical Patriarchate brought back under its omophorion the Metropolis of Kyiv. For the last 300 years Moscow had ruled the Kyiv Metropolis, eradicating all local Ukrainian traditions, gradually limiting the rights of the Metropolis. With its decision, the Ecumenical Throne declared the removal of the anathema on Metropolitan Filaret (Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Kyiv Patriarchate, UOC-KP) proclaimed by Moscow, and accordingly recognized the canonicity of his ordinances and of the ordinances of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC). At the same time, the Primate of the UOC of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC MP) Onufriy was invited to join the restored Kyiv Metropolis and nominate his candidacy for the post of Primate of the UAOC. However, he did not attend the local council.

 

On December 15, 2018, the Unification Council took place at the Cathedral of Saint Sofia, where, after sending personal invitations to each of the Ukrainian bishops, a decision was made to unite the three Orthodox jurisdictions of Ukraine. The council was chaired by an Exarch specially designated by the Ecumenical Throne; it was the Metropolitan of France Emanuel (Adamakis). Thus, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – the Kyiv Patriarchate and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (both of which decided to dissolve on the eve of the council) became part of the Kyiv Metropolis of the Patriarchate of Constantinople. At the same time, the third branch – the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) – was represented by only two bishops who did not constitute a majority. At this gathering, the charter proposed by the Constantinople canonists was adopted and the Primate of the new metropolis was elected – the Metropolitan of Kyiv Epiphanius (Dumenko), who was considered to be a protégé of the Patriarch of the UOC-KP Filaret. The latter received the title of “honorary patriarch” at the council.

 

On January 5th, 2019, Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople signed the tomos for the Autocephaly of the Metropolis of Kyiv, and on the following day handed the tomos to Metropolitan Epiphanius as Primate of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine. From that point on, the KP was included in the diptych (list of recognized local churches) of Constantinople.

 

In restoring the Metropolis of Kyiv and granting autocephaly to it, Constantinople was guided both by the unanimous desire of the Ukrainian bishopric (expressed in 1991 and 1992) and the call of the state structures – the President and parliament (2018), but also by the territorial Principle of the Orthodox Church: Independent State – Autocephalous Church.

 

Although the decision of the Ecumenical Patriarchate as the mother-church of all the Orthodox and of the Kyiv Metropolis is final and does not require any further approval or consent from other Orthodox churches, the Moscow Patriarchate strongly opposed the actions of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, calling them “an attack on its canonical territory.” It should be noted that Moscow has always had an unceremonious approach to foreign canonical territories, absorbing, for example, the Georgian Patriarchate (1810), a number of metropolis of the Patriarchate of Constantinople (e.g. Gothic (1786), Bessarabian (1813), and Estonian ( 1940), the Metropolis of Bukovina of the Romanian Orthodox Church (1944), the Eastern Dioceses of the Polish Autocephalous Orthodox Church (1939) simply by territorial principle: since these dioceses are part of a state with a capital in Moscow, they should obey the Moscow church. Now that principle was turned against it [1].


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However, in pursuing Kremlin’s imperial policy and thus enjoying its support, the Moscow Patriarchate succeeded in insinuating the need for further “approval” of the decision of the Ecumenical Throne not only by other local churches, but also by the Bishopric of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU). The latter, however, is humanly understandable: for a quarter of a century, Moscow has labelled supporters of Ukraine’s ecclesiastical independence as “graceless schismatics,” so that they now crave to be recognized as soon as possible by the entire World Orthodoxy, in a document, namely in the decisions of the Synods of all other local churches.

 

First and involuntary  step – New schism initiated by Filaret

In mid-May, the “Honorary Patriarch” Filaret declared a breach of verbal agreements guaranteeing him an active participation in the management of the OCU, and on June 20th he held a Local Council of the UOC-KP, in which, in addition to Filaret himself, two other bishops from Russia participated thus excluding themselves from the OCU. However, since Filaret was personally anathemized by Moscow in 1997, representatives of many local churches called him a “major obstacle to the recognition” of the UOC-KP and subsequently of the OCU of which he was part. In addition, his extremely authoritarian style of governance also pushed away both laymen and clergy. Now this toxic individual has withdrawn from the OCU on his own decision.

 

Second step, independent – Creating the Romanian Vicariate

As there is an Orthodox Ukrainian Vicariate in Romania that enjoys autonomy rights and is reporting directly to head of the Romanian Orthodox Church, the Synod of the OCU at its meeting on July 27, 2019 decided to create a symmetrical structure – the Orthodox Romanian Vicariate which also has autonomy and is reporting directly to the Metropolitan of Kyiv – the Primate of the OCU. In the drafting of the Vicariate Statute “brotherly cooperation with the Romanian Orthodox Church” was stated (https://www.pomisna.info/uk/vsi-novyny/zhurnaly-zasidannya-svyashhennogo-synodu-vid-27-lypnya-2019-r/).

 

This step is a response to concerns about the fate of the 127 Romanian-speaking parishes in Northern Bukovina expressed by the Synod of the Romanian Orthodox Church in a statement (https://basilica.ro/noi-hotarari-ale-sfantului-sinod-al-bisericii-ortodoxe-romane-februarie-2019/) from February 21st this year. It is possible that regulating the status of these parishes will facilitate the recognition of OCU by Bucharest.

 

Third step, joint- service with a Bishop of the Church of Greece

On the day of the Baptism of Kievan Rus – July 28, Kyiv Metropolitan Epiphanius with Metropolitan Ioannis of Langada, as a representative of the Orthodox Church of Greece, concelebrated the Anniversary with a service. Moreover, on the eve of this event in Greece, the bishop of the OCU Germanos celebrated the Divine Liturgy with Bishop Germanos of the Autocephalous Church of Ukraine.

 

It is interesting to note that the Langada Eparchy is located in the so-called “new lands” of Greece and because of their special status falls under the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, but they also comply with the decisions of the Synod of the Church of Greece (Archbishopric of Athens).

 

Previously, Moscow interpreted this double subordination in its favour – when representatives of the Moscow Patriarchate celebrated liturgies with the bishops of the “new lands” (https://cerkvarium.org/ru/novosti/pomestnye-tserkvi/vazhno-mitropolit-moskovskogo-patriarkhata-sosluzhil-s-predstavitelyami-konstantinopolya), subordination to Athens was emphasized, but now the interpretation has changed in the opposite direction – the “new lands” comply only with Constantinople (https://iz.ru/904456/andrei-serebrich/sviazannye-odnoi-tcerkoviu) – an obvious inconsistency.

 

Also, the Synod of the Orthodox Church of Greece (Archbishopric of Athens) is only convened once a year for a regular session – in October, when it will declare its official position on the OCU. However, the facts of concelebrating tell us what decision the Synod will take. In church diplomacy concelebrating is considered factual recognition. And in fact, before two weeks, at its extraordinary meeting the Athens Synod acknowledged the canonicity of the decision of the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. This is correct from a canonical point of view, since only the Ecumenical Patriarchate can grant autocephaly, the Synod of Athens cannot do it and can only ascertain the canonicity of what has been done, recommending in the next stage the Primate of the archbishopric Jeronymus to concelebrate in a Liturgy of the highest level with the Primate of the OCU and fill in his diptychs with his name.

 

So, during the two summer months, the OCU made three important steps towards its optional but desirable Orthodox recognition: it was cleared of the toxic element, fulfilled the wishes of the Synod of the Romanian Orthodox Church, and served liturgy with the representative of a particularly influential Orthodox church – the Archbishopric of Athens. In addition, the author has inside information on the willingness of bishops of some other local churches to engage with the OCU before their Synods express an official position. All of this inspires confidence that by the end of the year, Metropolitan Epiphanius of Kyiv will be cited not only in the Liturgy not only by Patriarch Bartholomew, but also by several other Primates of local Orthodox churches.

 

 

By Iliya Bey

 


[1] A similar role played the feud between Bulgarians and Greeks, instigated by Russian diplomacy after the Crimean War, and the organization of the Exarchy in 1870 as a pro-Russian structure, as Russian diplomacy thought that after a possible conflict with the Ottoman Empire, Bulgaria and its neighboring territories will also be part of the Russian Empire. The situation with the brief conflict between Romanians and the Ecumenical Patriarchate at the end of the 19th century, after the Russian-Turkish War of 1877-78 is similar.

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