Synod publishes a statement on situation in Ukrainian and World Orthodoxy
The statement of the UOC Holy Synod offers an assessment of the situation in the Ukrainian and world Orthodoxy after the granting of Tomos to the OCU by Constantinople.
The statement was made on April 3, 2019, at a meeting of the Holy Synod of the UOC under the chairmanship of His Beatitude Metropolitan Onufriy of Kiev and All Ukraine. Below is the full text of the statement.
Statement of the Holy Synod of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church on the situation in Ukrainian and World Orthodoxy
The Holy Synod of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church at its meeting on April 3, 2019, discussed the situation in the church life of Ukraine and in world Orthodoxy that has eventuated following the anti-canonical bestowal by the Constantinople Patriarchate of the Tomos on autocephaly to the newly established “Orthodox Church of Ukraine” ("OCU"), and hereby states the following:
1. We state that the idea of overcoming the church schism in Ukraine through the granting of the Tomos on autocephaly to non-canonical church groups (the UOC KP and the UAOC) has turned out to be a grave error. None of the Local Orthodox Churches recognized this illegal act of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, and a significant part of the Local Churches, in particular, the Antioch, Russian, Cypriot, Serbian, Polish, Albanian and Orthodox Churches in the Czech lands and Slovakia have already expressed their disagreement in various forms with the decisions of the Constantinople Patriarchate. The Local Churches also declared that they did not recognize the newly created “Orthodox Church of Ukraine”; nor did they recognize the canonicity of clerical ordinations in this structure, thus they forbid their clergy to have any prayerful communion and liturgical con-celebration with its representatives. Therefore, there was no approval, i.e., the acceptance by the World Orthodoxy of these actions of the Patriarchate of Constantinople which actually tried to legalize the schism. Accordingly, the legalization of schism is not the way to achieve church unity. We remind you that, according to the historical canonical tradition of the Church, autocephaly is granted only to a single Church within a particular state, but not to any part that broke away from the Body of the Church.
2. It should be recognized that the historical and canonical arguments given by the Patriarchate of Constantinople regarding its own rights and the possibility of interfering in the affairs of other Local Churches are groundless, artificial, contrived, and contrary to church canons. Accordingly, the Patriarch of Constantinople had no right to interfere in the church life of Ukraine. The actions and arguments of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, who illegally removed the anathema from the main culprit of the Ukrainian church schism, Filaret Denisenko, and also recognized the hierarchy of the UAOC, which has no apostolic succession at all, indicate that Phanar does not fully understand the essence of what happened and is developing in the Orthodox environment of Ukraine. In fact, Filaret Denisenko was anathematized not for seeking autocephaly, as stated in the Patriarchate of Constantinople but for immoral personal life, the unrepentant grave sin of committing a split in the Church, for creating a parallel divisive hierarchy and quasi-ecclesial structure that throughout its existence has opposed and continues its fight under a different name against the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church, and now even threatens to destroy the unity between the Local Orthodox Churches.
3. It is noteworthy that the actions of the Patriarchate of Constantinople in Ukraine have caused great damage to Ukrainian Orthodoxy and also became a threat to pan-Orthodox unity. We believe that the Patriarchate of Constantinople and personally Patriarch Bartholomew must admit his mistake and work on rectifying it. The way to remedy this misdeed could be the revocation of the Tomos, the call for schismatics to repent of the sin of schism and the convocation of the Pan-Orthodox Assembly for a conciliar resolution of the Ukrainian church issue.
4. The ecclesiastic reality in Ukraine testifies that for Orthodox Christians, the Tomos did not bring unity, peace, or calm, as the initiators of this idea from the church and state circles had promised a year ago. Instead, the fruits of the Tomos were violence, conflict, opposition, tears and suffering of the believers of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. All these facts indicate that the mere legalization of a split does not change the schismatics, who remain hostile and aggressive towards the Church. Only repentance and sincere acknowledgement by schismatics of their misdeeds in front of the Church and return to its fold can bring peace and unity to the church life of Ukraine.
5. Violence, discrimination and violations of the rights of believers of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church are already in the field of view of international human rights organizations. In particular, this is reflected in the recent report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. These offenses, which are often supported by local authorities, undermine the reputation of our state in the world. Coercion, seizures of our churches and other illegal actions will not lead to church unity in Ukraine. This is an erroneous way and one must have the courage to admit this error. With respect, we ask representatives of the current government to stop artificially initiating changes in the subordination of our parishes, since there is no internal request among our clergy and parishioners. We believe that the campaign to discredit the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, the ban on the ministry of the clergy of our Church in the army, attempts to change the name of our Church by force and other similar anti-church actions are a strategic mistake of the authorities in the sphere of domestic policy and stability in the state.
6. Of particular concern is the fact of the criminal prosecution of the cleric of Rovno diocese of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Archpriest Viktor Zemlianoy. For the first time in the years of independence of Ukraine, a priest who protects the rights of believers and freedom of religion is unreasonably prosecuted and accused of inciting religious hatred.
7. We ask the state authorities not to interfere in church affairs, by their actions not to incite religious hatred, repeal the requirements of the Law of Ukraine No. 2637-VIII dated January 17, 2019 on renaming the Ukrainian Orthodox Church as anti-constitutional and contrary to the norms of Ukrainian and international legislation and basic principles of rights and human freedoms, and also not to contribute to the raider seizure of the parishes of our Church by illegally re-registering them. The Lord empowers rulers so that that they do not cause discord in society, but preserve peace, tranquility and harmony among all citizens of the country.
8. We appeal to the representatives of the newly created structure, the “Orthodox Church of Ukraine,” to recall the words of Christ that love of neighbor is a sign of real Christians (see John 13:35). The more violence on your part today will affect our believers, the more distant will be the prospect of restoring church unity in Ukraine. The fact that you are taking over our temples with the involvement of political, state, and even sometimes paramilitary structures, throwing our communities into the streets, as a result of which they are forced to pray in the open air or in non-adapted premises, we perceive with Christian patience. “We are reviled, and yet we bless; we are persecuted, and we endure it; we are disgraced, and we pray” (1 Cor. 4: 12-13). In this patience, we humbly pray and await the time when Christian love will conquer hatred, malice and enmity, and we will be able to meet you on the threshold of the Church and embrace you as brothers and sisters who have returned home.
9. We express our gratitude to those Local Orthodox Churches that have already spoken in support of the canonical church order and did not agree to the legalization of the schism. We also thank those priests and believers who, having lost their temples that were seized, remained faithful to the Church. We call on the clergy and believers of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church to help and support those priests and communities who are deprived of their temples, remembering the words of the holy Apostle Paul: “Bear one another's burdens and thus fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal. 6: 2).
10. In these salvific days of the holy Great Lent when we have already gone half way to the great Feast of the Bright Resurrection of Christ, we ask everyone to pray that the Lord preserve the unity of Holy Orthodoxy, strengthen us in unshakable standing for God's Truth, bestow peace, tranquility and mutual understanding to our State of Ukraine and bless us all!
As the UOJ reported, on April 3, 2019, a meeting of the Holy Synod of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church was held on the territory of the Holy Dormition Kiev-Pechersk Lavra, chaired by His Beatitude Metropolitan Onufriy of Kiev and All Ukraine, during which current issues were considered regulating various aspects of church life.