The Phanar worries about the future of the Ukrainian Church – New Eastern Europe

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The Ecumenical Patriarchate is concerned that the Orthodox world does not recognize the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, but refrains from intervening.

October 31, 2019 – Svitlana Goyko –
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Church of St. George, Istanbul. Photo: fusion-of-horizons (cc) flickr.com

Not so long ago, Metropolitan Emmanuel Adamakis of France, who was one of the main actors in the preparation and holding of the Unification Council of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (OCU) the last year, together with Archbishop Job Getcha of Telmessos, explained to the Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate details about the current situation of the newly created entity and the problems it faces. The condition and outlook for the Phanar’s favorite creation leaves much to be desired.

The Metropolitan is worried that the Orthodox world does not recognize the OCU. This process is blocked. This is clear from the celebrations for the anniversary of the enthronement of Metropolitan Onufry, Primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP), which took place with many guests from other local churches. Despite the fact that Onufry is considered the regular titular bishop of the Ecumenical Patriarchate after the Phanar denounced his law of 1686 on October 11, 2018, hierarchs from ten local Orthodox churches came to Ukraine and participated in festive events. to honor him as UOC-MP Primate.

It is also important that the events marking the Christianization of Kyivan Rus’ showed that the UOC-MP enjoys much more support than the OCU. About 300,000 people took part in the UOC-MP religious procession while the OCU only gathered between 10,000 and 20,000 people. This is even less than the 65,000 people that the unique UOC-Patriarchate of Kiev (UOC-KP) attracted the previous year.

The lack of support for the OCU could be due to the fact that the unification of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC), the UOC-KP and two bishops of the UOC-MP into a single structure no did not really lead to unity. Patriarch Emeritus Filaret Denysenko left because he was dissatisfied with the provisions of the autocephaly tomos (canonical independence decree) given to the OCU and the refusal of Metropolitan Epiphanius Dumenko to organize a local council to adjust the OCU charter and tries to prevent Filaret from ruling the church. In particular, Fileret said that his status as Patriarch Emeritus did not restrict his right to lead the OCU in tandem with Epiphanes, and that a local council should be convened to override the OCU’s ban on having parishes or dioceses abroad. This prohibition was established in the original OCU Charter designed by the Greeks, as well as in the autocephaly tomos granted to OCU by the Ecumenical Patriarchate. In Filaret’s view, such provisions limit OCU’s autocephaly and diminish its patriarchal ambitions.

Although most OCU bishops are happy to be released from the yoke of their long-standing and rather authoritarian primate, the conflict between church leaders has damaged the reputation of the OCU as a whole. Along with the obvious disunity and allegations of the church’s dependence on Constantinople, public and legal disputes over ownership, real estate and assets began. This not only undermines the reputation of the newly established entity, but it also distracts hierarchs from addressing pressing issues of church building and development.

Additionally, the Filaret split has the ability to cause a chain reaction as the OCU is still not solid. Although Macarius Maletich, the disbanded primate of the UAOC, has transferred the accounts and assets of his religious center to private entities, he is not happy with his current position. Before the emergence of the OCU, Macarius was a primate of a small but independent structure and could communicate directly with the Ecumenical Patriarchate. To establish the OCU, he had to sacrifice not only his influence, but also the cathedral church of the UAOC in Kiev – the old St. Andrew’s Church.

It is said that the Ministry of Culture is considering the possibility of transferring the historic Church of the Savior from Kiev in Berestove to Metropolitan Macarius to replace the cathedral he was deprived of, but this has not been decided. This could prove to be problematic as the temple belongs to the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra building complex which is used by the UOC-MP. In addition, the Church of the Savior in Berestove is included in the list of buildings promised by Poroshenko to the exarchate of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Kiev. If Metropolitan Epiphanes does not help the former primate of the UAOC to resolve this situation, Metropolitan Macarius, could use his supporters, his influence and the resources of the UAOC to take his place at the head of the OCU or replace it. Metropolitan Epiphanes is linked to the agreements with Ukrainian politicians and has not gained credibility after his departure from Filaret’s “nest”. Until October 2018, hardly anyone in Filaret’s shadow noticed him except his clergy and UOC-KP loyalists in the diaspora who saw fit to cooperate with the “schismatics” before their recognition by the Diaspora. Constantinople. The young primate speaks well and says refined sentences in a spirit of openness, patriotism and optimism. But is he capable of bringing reality into line with his assurances? To embody them in the life of the church? Or at least to make its followers believe that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church is developing as it should? Metropolitan Macarius is inferior to his primate in terms of education. But he makes up for this with his life and his ecclesial experience, his closeness to the faithful and his status as the former First Hierarch of the UAOC (the formal ancestor of the UOC-KP). Metropolitan Epiphanes must be well aware of Macarius’ ambitions. Perhaps it is for this reason that the 30th anniversary of the rebirth of the UAOC was celebrated in Lviv, which has recently become the most beloved city of its Bliss.

As in the cases of Epiphanius and Filaret, Metropolitan Macarius also has his own vision for the development of the OCU. He advocates a more active and open dialogue with the clergy of the UOC-MP. “The UCO shouldn’t attract (the UOC-MP faithful), but should work, meet the clergy, and everything will be fine.” To achieve this, he says, pride must be let go. At the same time, in his opinion, many bishops and clergymen of the UOC-MP are baffled by the legal possibility of Filaret Denisenko to regain control of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine since he remains honorary patriarch and permanent member. of his synod.

Indeed, only two bishops of the UOC-MP took part in the attempt to unite Ukrainian orthodoxy – Metropolitan Simeon Shostatsky of Vinnytsia and Bar and Metropolitan Olexander Drabynko of Pereyaslav-Khmelnitsky and Vyshneve. It would seem that as former members of the UOC-MP, they could be the best negotiators and describe what attracts them to the UCU. However, Metropolitan Simeon faces legal issues related to real estate and ownership, which are disputed by his former UOC-MP community, and Metropolitan Olexander is a discredited figure in the Orthodox world due to his alcoholism, his homosexuality and his scandalous criminal proceedings. This belittles the possibility of their participation in the negotiation process with local Orthodox churches. For example, on January 19, 2019, Metropolitan Olexander was to be included in Petro Poroshenko’s delegation to Patriarch Theophilus III of Jerusalem with their organized concelebration, but the Patriarchate of Jerusalem opposed it due to the aforementioned issues.

The Ecumenical Patriarchate is well aware that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church must undergo serious changes in order to survive. But, will Constantinople intervene? If so, how? Or would the Phanar prefer to leave the internal problems, with all their complex ecclesial politics, to Metropolitan Epiphanes while making a “defender” of the Athos monasteries and concelebration with the OCU clergy? So far the second option seems to be the most likely, but no one knows what will happen next.

Svitlana Goyko is a freelance journalist and blogger from Kharkiv, Ukraine. She worked for a Ukrainian bank as director of customer service. She belonged to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Kyiv Patriarchate and joined the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in January 2019.

Orthodox Church, Religion, Russian Orthodox Church, Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate


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