His Beatitude Metropolitan Onufriy visited Koretskiy Stavropegial Nunnery
The walls of Koretskiy Convent have not received such a huge number of the clergy and pilgrims. As early as in the morning the faithful began to gather in front of the Holy Trinity church to find a comfortable place to meet with His Beatitude. Calm and composed, with a smile on his face, he blessed everybody and sedately entered the church. When the Liturgy started, the believers whispered to one another about warm eyes and gaunt figure of the person for the sake of whom they were ready to tolerate crowd and incredible closeness inside the church. However, as soon as the Primate pronounced the first intonement, it was clear that despite his low height, he is able to lead thousands…millions…
On 23 June Koretskiy nunnery traditionally invites to commemorate in prayers the monastery’s protectrix – icon of the Virgin Mary “Warrantress of the Sinful”, which was gifted in XVII century by the last prince of Koretskiy descent. Over the period of the icon’s being in the monastery there had been lots of miraculous healings. Godmother showed her mercy not only for everybody who came to ask her for something, but became a periapt for the whole city and nearby villages. This year about 20 Metropolitans, bishops and archbishops, hegumenesses, a few score of priests, the choir from Pochaev Lavra, thousands of pilgrims from different parts of Ukraine and even the world.
Bishop of Irpen Kliment, Chairman of the Awareness-Raising Department of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church
Could you say a few words about today’s festivity and also your give your opinion about the Pan-Orthodox Council for the Volyn residents who may not have read anything about it but most probably will watch your interview?
Today is a unique day. It is a holiday not only for the monastery but for the whole Ukraine, since Koretskaya icon of Godmother is a sanctity protecting the entire Volyn and is honored far beyond the boundaries of Ukraine. One could see today pilgrims not only from our country but also from abroad. The church literally could not place all who wished to be there so we conducted some Divine Liturgies and a Cross Procession. It is highly important for our faith consolidation. When we view sanctity, when we rejoice at the triumph of Orthodoxy, when we witness awesome worship and church hymns, we make sure our Orthodox faith is true. It’s worth following the experience of saint fathers of our Church and virtuous ancestors who sacrificed their lives and denied themselves pleasures and amenities to fulfill commandments and keep loyal to their Orthodox faith.
Now what do you think about the Pan-Orthodox Council? Does the outcome of the two-day work mean the Kiev Patriarchate is being actively promoted at the moment?
Actually, the meeting held in Crete cannot be called a pan-orthodox council because it is not attended by representatives of 4 Local Orthodox Churches which are quite sizable and old. Therefore, this meeting format does not fit an idea of its being pan-orthodox. Surely, very important issues are raised at this Council. I wish these issues could be equally appropriate for the whole orthodox community, because so far there have been a lot of contradictions, particularly in terms of wordings regarding the relations of the Orthodox Church with other Christian denominations, such as Rome-Catholics, Protestants etc. Some participants proposed these organizations would be considered the same as the Orthodox Church. Of course, it aroused big anxiety with many believers from Local Orthodox Churches, especially on Holy Mount Athos. It’s crucial that the documents which will be adopted in Crete should be recognized worldwide. According to Metropolitan Onufriy, the Pan-Orthodox Council gathers in the event the documents to be considered there do not run counter to Orthodox dogmata. In this case all believers are certain to approve this initiative. Otherwise, when we see discrepancies between the Council documents and the Symbol of Faith, it’ll worry not only the faithful, but also the clergy, episcopate, and monks. Anyway, there are a lot of insinuations that the Pan-Orthodox Council in Crete is going to consider the issue of granting autocephaly to the Ukrainian Church. Based on the first-hand sources – the Council Secretariat in Crete – I can say for sure nobody is going to bring up the issue related to autocephaly. Firstly, this issue is not included in the Council agenda, and secondly, there are no canonical grounds to recognize schismatics. Neither the Ecumenical patriarch Bartholomew nor other Local Orthodox Churches are set to violate the canons and resort to actions that would place these hierarchs beyond the canonical norms if they recognize schism. That is why I’d like to relieve and assure all believers the issues regarding schism recognition and granting the Ukrainian Church a status other than we have today will not at all be considered at the Council.
Vladyka, I understand my next question looks trite but I’d like you to give advice to those believers who start to panic or get frustrated in view of the church raiding initiated by the Kiev Patriarchate. What do these communities have to do when their church in the village is split?
Actually, we are Christians who are different from other people in that their thoughts and actions are guided by the Gospel and what God said there. And when we are facing big temptations like that, we are compelled to act in a secular way, yet we must remain Christians. We must remember our primary help comes from God. And if we act according to God’s commandments, the truth will always be on our side, we’ll have God’s glory, and our Church will be exactly the Church of Christ and “the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it”. If we act like schismatics do – cursing, bashing and raiding – we will be like the people who are now fighting against the Church. Thus, it’s crucial for us not to lose our Christianity. It‘s not about losing a temple, but not losing our Soul Temple. We should receive God’s grace through fulfilling His commandments being a cornerstone of our faith and our Church.
The service which was led by His Beatitude Onufriy actually communicated a particular loftiness to the holiday. The people were trying to tiptoe to watch the Primate’s highly trained sub-deacons, seized the moment using phones and cameras, and got surprised by the intonements pronounced alternately in a low pitch voice by the protodeacons.
The choir of Koretskiy monastery sisters was singing both reverently and powerfully, making one reflect and pray under the arch of the ancient church.
His Beatitude Metropolitan of Kiev and all Ukraine Onufriy twice addressed the faithful who had come to the festivity: first time – after reading the Gospel, second – after the Cross Procession around the monastery. In both cases he called to praying, forgiveness, firmness in Orthodox faith, self-sacrifice for the sake of God.
When we are affected by sorrows, illnesses, troubles we must pray to the Virgin Mary and ask Her for Her celestial protection, Her intercession, Her help. The Blessed Virgin always hears our prayers. She bestows God’s grace to everyone who appeals to Her. May God help us, dear brothers and sisters, to bear the name of a Christian in this complicated time. Not just call ourselves Orthodox, but live like Orthodox. Then Godmother will assist us, protect from every evil and help to achieve the goal a human being is created for: salvation of our souls in our God Jesus Christ in the eternal life!
At the end of the festivity the Cross Procession was joined even by those who could not find a vacant place in the church. The primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church big-heartedly aspersed the present, the faithful stretched out their hands and heads to catch at least one drop of the metropolitan’s blessing.