Historian finds new evidence proving the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church’s initial ordination was illegitimate – OpEd – Eurasia Review
On January 5-6, 2019, the official delegation of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (OCU) to the Tomos Bestowal Ceremony at the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul included Metropolitan Andriy Abramchuk of Galicia who concelebrated with Patriarch Bartholomew and the other bishops of the Phanar. In 1990, Metropolitan was ordained by the infamous Victor (Vikenty) Chekalin, a pedophile and con artist who is now serving time in an Australian prison for document forgery and fraud.
On the anniversary of Tomos’ bestowal this year, Patriarch Bartholomew led a divine service with the now former Primate of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC, the one “restored” by Vikenty Chekalin) Makary Maletich. The latter was ordained by the hierarchs of the “succession of Chekalin” – Dimitry Yarema, Ihor Isichenko and the former bishop of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Kyiv Patriarchate (UOC-KP) Methodius Kudryakov. Some of the UAOC bishops who joined the OCU in 2018 also came to the “Chekalin succession” through priestly and episcopal consecrations of Andriy Abramchuk, Makary Maletich and others. Even within the UCU, the attitude towards this succession is ambiguous.
Taking into consideration the need to discuss the issue of the apostolic succession of this part of the UCO hierarchy, Serhii Shumylo, director of the International Institute of Athonite Heritage in Ukraine, presented his new report entitled “L Self-proclaimed “bishop” Vikenty Chekalin and his participation in the first UAOC ordinations in March 1990 ″. With the blessing of Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware) of Diocles, this work was submitted to the Ecumenical Patriarch.
Documents, evidence and facts presented in the study – including those from previously unknown archival sources – confirm that the first UAOC ordination on March 31, 1990 in the village of Mikhailevychi in Lviv oblast was carried out by only two people: Ioann Bodnarchuk, defrocked on November 13, 1989 due to his voluntary secession from the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) and fraudster Victor Tchekaline. Moreover, according to the published certificate, this “ordination” was directed by Chekalin, who was never ordained not only as a bishop but even as a monk or a priest.
In his research, Shumylo also studies the publications that appeared on the Ukrainian site Cerkvarium.org by Dmytro Horevoy and the Greek sites Phanarion.blogspot.com and Romfea.gr in August-September 2019, which claimed that the episcopal ordination of Vikenty Chekalin was authentic.
Studying various versions of Chekalin’s admission to monastic vows and ordination, and trying to understand the motivations of the main parties, the historian compares the memory of Archbishop Eulogius Smirnov, abbot of the Danilov monastery in Moscow, and the archival documents and correspondence according to which Chekalin was not even ordained a monk.
Also compared are the testimonies of Ioann Bodnarchuk and Victor Chekalin from various periods concerning the latter’s episcopal ordination. Thus, Chekaline’s own testimony before the Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) in July 1989 – January 1990 shows that Ioann Bodnarchuk did not participate in his ordination. The other two bishops who are said to have ordained Chekalin – Metropolitan Alexei Konoplev of Kalinin and Kashin and the bishop of the Catacombs Church Vladimir Abramov – had already died by that time and no confirmation of their participation in the ordination was has been found.
As for the first UAOC ordination of March 31, 1990, it should be mentioned that the signature of Archbishop Varlaam (Ilyushchenko) of Simferopol and Crimean of the ROC was added to the ordination certificate of Vasyl Bodnarchuk after the death of the archbishop. According to the written testimonies of the driver and archdeacon of Archbishop Varlaam, the hierarch did not leave his diocese and on this day celebrated divine services in the cathedral of Simferopol. Moreover, being a member of the ROC Synod, Varlaam personally signed the resolution of the Moscow Synod of November 14, 1989 on the deprivation of Ioann Bodnarchuk of his episcopal rank, and “no means could secretly ordain new bishops with him four months more late, ”writes Shumylo. This situation, along with archival documents signed by Ioann Bodnarchuk, has been covered in detail in an article by Fr. Rostislav Yarema (an English translation has been published by Orthodox Cognate PAGE).
Thus, Shumylo concludes that the initial ordinations of the UAOC hierarchy were, unfortunately, carried out by an impostor without apostolic succession. This was the violation of the First Apostolic Canon (“Let a bishop be ordained by two or three bishops”). The historian recalls that Mstyslav Skrypnyk and Filaret Denisenko did not recognize the authenticity of the ordinations of the hierarchs of the “succession of Chekaline”. However, many of those who were ordained in this way were convinced of the legitimacy of their dignity and refused to be reordered, so the “shekaline succession” still exists in part in the UAOC and UOC-KP. . And in this statute, many ecclesiastics and hierarchs have been accepted into communion by the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
Whereas copies of the ordination certificate and the evidence mentioned in the media have been provided to the Phanar and could become a basis for the Synod of Patriarchate to recognize in October 2018 the UAOC hierarchy in their “current dignity” without reordination , Serhii Shumylo expresses his concern that the Ecumenical Patriarchate is making a decision on the basis of false documents and advocates that a detailed study of this issue be made.
* Nadia Bazuk is a freelance journalist from Ukraine with an MBA, independent retailer. His writings have been published by ModernDiplomacy.eu, OCP Media Network, GolosPravdy.com, Union of Orthodox Journalists and other media.