Met. Hilarion: UOC has withstood tremendous pressure and not broken
“Despite threats, promises, seizures of temples, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church has survived and preserved its unity,” said Metropolitan Hilarion.
On December 17, 2019, the chairman of the Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate, Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, delivered a lecture to students of Moscow theological schools in which he said that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church retains its canonical status through titanic efforts due to pressure from political power, reports the official website of the Moscow Patriarchate.
The archpastor recalled that in the past year the Russian Orthodox Church faced an invasion of the Patriarchate of Constantinople into its canonical territory. According to the hierarch, each Local Orthodox Church should position itself in relation to this problem, because “the recognition or non-recognition of what Patriarch Bartholomew did is now the dominant feature of inter-Orthodox relations in all their diversity”.
The hierarch noted that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church experienced tremendous pressure, including from the political authorities. “But it did not flinch and did not break. The number of traitors was insignificant – out of 90 bishops, only two went to the predatory council,” he reminded. “The episcopate showed their solidarity with His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry; and despite the threats, promises, seizures of temples, and the tremendous pressure that was applied to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, it survived and preserved its unity.”
“Some Greek brothers tell us: you shouldn’t have broken off communion with Constantinople because you closed the door for dialogue,” the metropolitan continued. “We did not do this but only followed the church canons that prohibit Eucharistic communion with those who enter into communion with schismatics. How else could we react? Could we really maintain communion with Constantinople when it invaded the canonical boundaries of our Church?”
The actions of the Moscow Patriarchate are dictated by the desire to support the brothers in Ukraine, the archpastor emphasized: “Bishops of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church voted to maintain unity, and in such a situation, it is our sacred duty to help our Ukrainian brothers not to fall under political pressure and preserve, strengthen that unity which is more than a thousand years old and which we believe should not be destroyed by any political circumstances, any pressure from outside.”
The hierarch also drew attention to the fact that the “tomos” of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine does not imply the independence of this structure: it cannot canonize saints, does not cook myrrh, does not take pastoral care of its diaspora – all its parishes outside Ukraine must submit to Constantinople. Finally, Constantinople, according to the "tomos", is the supreme judge in all disputed situations within this structure.
“From our point of view, this is not autocephaly – this is such a degree of dependence that, in fact, turns the OCU into a vassal structure of the Patriarchate of Constantinople. We see from these actions that Patriarch Bartholomew would like to rebuild the whole system of autocephalous Local Churches in such a way so that they are not completely independent, that to some extent they all depend on Constantinople, and that the Patriarch of Constantinople plays the role of a kind of "Pope" for Eastern Christianity," concluded Metropolitan Hilarion.
As reported by the UOJ, on December 21, the head of the Jerusalem Church Patriarch Theophilos III proposed convening an assembly of Primates of Local Orthodox Churches to discuss "the issue of preserving our unity in Eucharistic communion".