Like father, like son: Will OCU turn its back on Poroshenko?
The "father" of Tomos is now at the heart of a scandal – he is accused of high treason. How will this affect OCU, Pat. Bartholomew and the religious scenario in Ukraine?
The founding father of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU) and one of the direct recipients of the long-awaited Tomos, former President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko found himself in the crosshairs. After the publication of his telephone conversation with the former US Vice President Joe Biden, the country learned that during the reign of P. Poroshenko, Ukraine was not only mired in corruption, but also was under direct external control. Will the OCU choose to dissociate itself from the tainted politician or to show solidarity with him and his affairs?
On May 19, the Verkhovna Rada opposition MP Andrei Derkach disclosed a telephone conversation between Biden and Poroshenko in 2016. The authenticity of the recording is not in dispute, the only question is where A. Derkach has got it. Moreover, Biden’s Office stated that the taped stuff had been well-known before and appears as an attempt to interfere in the US presidential election. However, we are not so much interested in Biden as in his Ukrainian vis-à-vis Petro Poroshenko.
Actually, all that we found out from the conversation is true. What exactly did we find out?
At the order of Joe Biden, Prosecutor General of Ukraine V. Shokin was illegally dismissed, and Y. Lutsenko was appointed the new Prosecutor General. By agreement with J. Biden, V. Groysman was appointed Prime Minister instead of A. Yatseniuk. At the request of Mr. Biden, Privatbank was nationalized. One of the parliamentary parties in Ukraine, Samopomosch, was directly funded and controlled by the United States, which is a gross violation of the Constitution and laws of Ukraine. The Ukrainian president is accountable before J. Biden on the dismissal of the Cabinet ministers.
In general, the taped conversations are painfully embarrassing for our country, which under the presidency of P. Poroshenko was under obvious external control. The activities of the founding father of the OCU seem to perfectly match the Ukrainian Criminal Code. This is exactly how the Prosecutor General’s Office of Ukraine evaluated the story, instituting criminal proceedings against Petro Poroshenko under the articles “high treason” and “abuse of power”. Current President V. Zelensky, commenting on this issue at a recent press conference, said, “You've heard about yesterday’s scandal. They ruled the country so much that now we are awaiting a lot of adventures and verdicts. I would not like to talk about this, for this is the competence of law enforcement agencies <...> This is not the last bell for Ukrainians. <...> They will look into the matter. They can qualify it as treason, but it’s up to law enforcement.”
True though, to open a criminal case does not mean to bring it to the end. As the line of precedents of recent years in Ukraine shows, criminal cases are opened and closed not because of the presence or absence of corpus delicti, but according to the will of political forces and current political developments. Anyway, the former president can no longer wash himself off from public shame, because the published records clearly show with what readiness and subservience he is following the will of overseas curator of Ukraine Joe Biden.
However, the name of Poroshenko is inscribed in golden letters in the history of the OCU. Let’s now recall the text of the Tomos:
“These things, then, are deemed and determined, joyfully proclaimed to you from the venerable Center of Orthodoxy, having been ratified in synod, whereas this Patriarchal and Synodal Tome is issued for permanent protection, being recorded and signed in the Code of the Great Church of Christ in Constantinople, delivered in an identical and accurate copy to His Beatitude Epifanios, the Primate of the Most Holy Church of Ukraine, and to His Excellency the President of Ukraine, Mr. Petro Poroshenko, for abiding verification and permanent confirmation.”
We all remember very well how Poroshenko chaired the “Unification Council” at which the OCU was born, how he negotiated and signed agreements with Phanar, we remember his global role in creating a new religious structure.
The foundation, the cornerstone of the Church of Christ is Christ Himself. Local Churches in different countries were founded with the participation of the great and glorious princes and rulers: St. Vladimir in Kievan Rus, Sts. Simeon and Savva of Serbia, St. Rostislav in Moravia and so on. The founder of the Church as a state one in the Roman Empire is the holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Constantine the Great. But never had the founder of the Church been a man convicted of corruption, betrayal of his state and his nation, as well as the obedient execution of the foreign will.
“Your name, Mr. President, will forever go down in the history of the Ukrainian people and the Church alongside the names of the rulers, our princes Vladimir the Great, Yaroslav the Wise, Konstantin of Ostrog and Hetman Ivan Mazepa,” Epiphany Dumenko told Petro Poroshenko after the granting of the Tomos. To compare P. Poroshenko with the canonized saints of the Church is mere blasphemy, let's be honest. While it was not correct to declare it before, now the absurdity of such comparisons is obvious to everyone.
Not less evident is the absurdity of the “patriotic” rhetoric of the former president. Petro Poroshenko throughout his presidential cadence persisted in ranting about the struggle for the independence of Ukraine, though the published records indicate the opposite – in fact, the domestic and foreign policies of Ukraine were subordinate to the will of the overseas “white master”. The fact that Joe Biden’s Office said that the taped conversations did not reveal anything new is small wonder. Indeed, it was not a top secret that the appointments and dismissals of senior government officials were agreed with or even fulfilled at orders of the American Administration, whereas utility tariffs rose exponentially at the request of the IMF and so on.
The OCU was also created in the same way – by deception, threats and physical abuse. After P. Poroshenko had completely lost in the presidential election, shameful details of the creation of the OCU went public. It turned out that P. Poroshenko and Epiphany Dumenko had cheated Filaret Denisenko by promising him the actual leadership of the OCU, but in fact dishonorably pensioning the "honorary patriarch" off. It turns out that, according to the guidelines from the top, the Ukrainian law enforcement agencies blocked airports in order not to let representatives of the Patriarchate of Constantinople out of the country when the “Unification Council” came to a standstill. It’s needless to say about the unprecedented pressure on the hierarchy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, trumped-up criminal cases against priests and hierarchs of the UOC, their interrogations at the Security Service of Ukraine and the Prosecutor's Office, violence from the national radicals controlled by the then authorities. All this was done openly and without any scruples.
Representatives of the US Administration also openly campaigned for the creation of the OCU. Samuel Brownback, the State Department’s Special Representative for Religious Affairs, and Michael Pompeo, the Secretary of State, held numerous meetings and negotiations, lobbying for the establishment and then recognition of this religious organization.
As for Joe Biden, he has played not the least part in the whole process. On September 18, 2018, three months before the “Unification Council”, Biden hosted a delegation of the UOC-KP, which included the future head of the OCU Epiphany and the spokesman of the organization Eustraty Zoria.
Actually, the OCU as such is not mentioned in the telephone conversations of Mr. Biden and Mr. Poroshenko, nor is it said that Joe Biden instructed the then President of Ukraine to create such an organization. But, firstly, there is no certainty that there will be no other Biden-Poroshenko tapes and secondly, the available information will unambiguously discredit the OCU, since it discredits its founding father.
As already mentioned above, the initiation of a criminal case against P. Poroshenko does not mean that he will be found guilty by the Ukrainian court. And the fact that the Ukrainian and world public learned how obediently the Ukrainian authorities have been fulfilling the wishes of the US Administration does not mean that now the same administration will provide less support to the OCU. But disclosure of the telephone conversations requires the leadership of the OCU to make a difficult moral choice. Epiphany Dumenko with his colleagues must now either somehow dissociate himself from Petro Poroshenko, who has stained himself with shame, or pretend that nothing has happened. But the workman is known by his work, says the folk wisdom.
So far, the track record of the OCU proves that this structure deserves its founding father. Seizures and arsons of the UOC temples, beating up of believers, falsifications and frauds during the transfer of Orthodox communities to the OCU and all the rest “noble” deeds speak louder than anything else.
There is another “affected” side of the Poroshenko-Biden scandal, though not so prominent – Patriarch Bartholomew. Rather, only his reputation can be damaged and only partially. We have already said the text of the Tomos, designed under the direct control of the Head of Phanar, mentions the name of Petro Poroshenko, albeit this was not mandatory. The fifth president of Ukraine could hardly insist on this too; most likely, it was a personal initiative of Patriarch Bartholomew. Of course, in the history of the Church of Constantinople, a special, so to say, respect for secular power is embedded at the genetic level, since even Ecumenical Councils were initiated by the emperors of Constantinople, starting with the holy emperor Constantine.
But is it possible to compare Equal-to-the-Apostles Constantine and Petro Poroshenko, even with all due respect to the latter? Hardly.
Nevertheless, it would be a mistake to assume that having learned about the scandal with Poroshenko, Patriarch Bartholomew will be very disappointed. He could probably know about certain personal qualities of the former Ukrainian president. He certainly did just like he knew about the views of the second person involved in the scandal – Joseph Biden. They have known each other for a long time.
Patriarch Bartholomew paid visits to Mr. Biden in the USA, Joe Biden met with the Patriarch of Constantinople at Phanar. For all that, the American politician would never hide his beliefs, which are in no way consistent with Christianity. In 2015, the most active LGBT lobbyist Joe Biden even reached the point when he “performed a wedding ceremony” of the same-sex couple in his house. In 2019, due to Biden's support for abortion, Catholic priest Robert E. Mori forbad the politician to partake of the Holy Communion. But the hierarchs of Constantinople do not pay attention to such “insignificant” features of their partners. On October 27, 2018, former U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden, who reiterated the importance of establishing the OCU, was among the guests at Patriarch Athenagoras Award Ceremony in the field of human rights, at which Archpriest Alexander Karloutsos of the Patriarchate of Constantinople received his award.
Petro Poroshenko and Joe Biden, Patriarch Bartholomew and the representatives of the OCU, politicians and monks – on the one hand, people involved in one of the “dirtiest” human activities in terms of morality and on the other hand, those who should pray for the salvation of the world. What can they have in common? Perhaps, religious actors raise politicians from the depths of sin with their spiritual feat? Maybe, they try to bring these lost sheep to Christ?
Jesus Christ once turned ruthless tax collectors into holy apostles. Now we can rather see the reverse process – those who claim to lead people to holiness communicate with politicians in their language; they speak like politicians and act like politicians. And this process seems irreversible…