UOC hierarch: Autocephaly has never been given to dissenters in history
The split, which after the granting of the Tomos only aggravated, is not an intra-Ukrainian but a pan-Orthodox issue, said Metropolitan Nikodim of Zhitomir.
The Tomos, granted by Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, failed to bring any peace to either Ukraine or the Orthodox world. This was reported by Metropolitan Nikodim of Zhitomir and Novograd-Volynsky during the press conference in Bulgaria, where he arrived on an official visit on December 6.
“Unfortunately, since 1991 there has been a split in Ukraine,” said the hierarch. “For many years this wound has been bleeding and we cannot heal it. Recent events, associated with the foundation of the so-called OCU, have only exacerbated this dissent."
He emphasized that the past two-year trials have been most difficult for the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, but this is not only an intra-Ukrainian but a pan-Orthodox issue, and "now all Local Orthodox Churches are facing a plight."
“We know that the so-called OCU is only emerging, but in any case its vector is not for peace or unity but for separation of our people and our state,” the hierarch added. <...> The Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew issued the Tomos for the OCU, but the majority of Ukrainians did not accept it and so the split got exacerbated in Ukraine. The main thesis of Bartholomew was that he wanted to reconcile and integrate Orthodoxy in Ukraine. Yet, unfortunately, people did not get reconciled and this only worsened the confrontation between believers and non-believers.”
Having expressed gratitude to the Primate of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Neophytos, for the help, understanding and prayer support, the UOC hierarch noted that “the episcopate of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church supports us and understands what is happening in our Church; they love the Primate of our Church, His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry.”
“His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry is a truly bright, beautiful, kind man,” said Bishop Nikodim. It was he who was ordained by God today in such a crucial period in history as the Head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. His Beatitude covers with his love all that is voiced today and what goes against our Church. Millions of people support their Primate and remain faithful to the UOC. And today we feel that we are truly united in faith and with the Orthodox international community.”
The hierarch emphasized: the worst thing is that in Ukraine it’s not just a secession but a visible struggle and confrontation of people: “they try to seize the temples, throw our believers and shrines out of our Orthodox churches; the temples are desecrated, locks are cut from the doors, doors are damaged, activists break into the temples, beat up priests and monks. The people who are thrown out of temples look for where to pray.”
“We are the Ukrainian Church, we are the Church of our people, we pray for our people, for power, for the army, we pray for peace in our state,” he added. “This split is man-made, and some political forces are responsible for it. People who have nothing to do with Orthodoxy are trying to tell us how to live and how to pray. Currently, our Church has to withstand trials, and it’s time for integrity testing of the UOC believers.”
According to Bishop Nikodim, “The Bulgarian Orthodox Church is close to us like no one else and it understands us.”
“His Holiness Patriarch Neophytos probably understands most of all what a split is and how much trouble it can cause,” continued the UOC hierarch. “But the mercy of God protected the Orthodox Church in Bulgaria, the schism was healed within 6 years, and therefore there is a mechanism and there are methods by which schisms are healed.”
He expressed hope that “the Lord will help us in Ukraine to preserve the true Ukrainian Orthodox Church. I believe that the Lord will not only help us but will set an example for other Churches, will enable the whole Orthodox world to hear each other.”
“The OCU has very strong support from political forces and not only from Ukraine. It is no secret that those who do not agree to recognize the OCU are simply intimidated. <...> But autocephaly cannot be given to schismatics. There have been many schisms in the history of the Church, there have been plenty of decisions, but never ever has autocephaly been given to schismatics in the history of the Orthodox Church,” Metropolitan Nikodim stressed.
As reported by the UOJ, on December 6, 2019, with the blessing of His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and All Ukraine, Metropolitan Nikodim of Zhitomir and Archpriest Nikolai Danilevich, deputy head of the DECR, went on an official trip to Bulgaria.