UOC Spokesman: Schism is not removed with a pen stroke and seal of Phanar
The Deputy Head of the UOC DECR explained: the split in Ukraine did not occur on paper but in real life and should be healed not by manipulation but by real actions.
On February 17, 2020, Archpriest Nikolai Danilevich, Deputy Head of the Department for External Church Relations of the UOC, in an interview with Snob, said that the emergence of the OCU led to the threat of a split in the entire World Orthodoxy.
According to him, Ukrainian Orthodoxy remained as divided as in previous years.
“Moreover, the emergence of the OCU led to the threat of a split in the entire Orthodox world. Therefore, I do not see any positive consequences after the emergence of the OCU – except, perhaps, for the unification of the UOC-KP and UAOC. I mean two schismatic structures merged into one. However, this also did not completely happen: after all, Filaret moved away from the OCU and again reinstated the UOC-KP. So the assessments and expectations of our Church have not changed. Rather, much of what we'd predicted came true. In particular, in an interview one year ago, I assumed that Constantinople, apparently, wants not only to grant autocephaly to Ukraine but to trespass its territory and gain influence over part of the Ukrainians. This is exactly what has happened,” noted Fr. Nikolai.
In his opinion, at present “the Patriarchate of Constantinople itself is not particularly enthusiastic about the current situation. By its actions, Phanar compromised itself in front of the entire Orthodox world. The authority of Patriarch Bartholomew fell very much. I receive such a feedback from the Greek community. It can be seen that Phanar was counting on a blitzkrieg in terms of recognizing the OCU, but this did not work. They cannot move forward and they do not want to step backward. The OCU is now like a suitcase without a handle for them: it’s difficult to carry but pitiful to drop it.
As for the OCU itself, over the past year I have not seen any ecclesiastic, theological, intellectual, or any other breakthrough it would trumpet about a year ago: say, if there is autocephaly, everything will change. On the contrary, I can see that during this time the internal and external life of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church has noticeably revived.”
He emphasized: a way out of this situation must be sought at the pan-Orthodox level.
“As a result of the unilateral actions of Phanar in Ukraine, at least three basic principles of the Church were violated: conciliarity, apostolic succession and the Eucharist. By the way, these are not my words. These are the words of Archbishop Anastasios of Albania, whom we met recently. Conciliarity was violated by Patriarch Bartholomew with his unilateral intervention. <...>
In Ukraine, instead of encouraging the schismatics to join the Church, they simply created another parallel structure. Apostolic succession is also violated, since bishop’s ordinations, which were performed in schism, were recognized as valid, in particular, in the UAOC line, which comes from Vikentiy Chekalin. As these people, who do not have apostolic succession and therefore no real dignity, are allowed to serve, it affects the Eucharist,” said the spokesman of the UOC.
He noted: the solution of the “Ukrainian issue” should be carried out in a conciliar way; therefore everyone is waiting with hope for the gathering of the Heads of Local Orthodox Churches in Amman scheduled for late February.
As the DECR Deputy Head believes, “it was very important for Phanar to maintain the privilege of granting autocephaly independently. As far as I understand, this is the principled position of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, which wants to be some kind of criterion of affiliation to the Orthodox Church. It is from here that the rhetoric of certain Phanar representatives flows that whoever is in communion with the Patriarchate of Constantinople is in unity with the Church. But this is not Orthodox ecclesiology. This is similar to Catholicism with its peculiar vision of the role of the Pope, whereby being in unity with the Pope means being a real Catholic and a member of the Church, otherwise you are not welcome. Therefore, the problem is not only participation or non-participation but it is much deeper.”
He emphasized, “The assertion that there is no longer a split is very speculative, theoretical and far from reality. All the Local Churches in the early 1990s recognized the UOC-KP and UAOC, which underlie the birth of the OCU, as schismatic. And they are still considered schismatics. Not all Local Churches recognized that schism is no longer here – only three. In other words, most of the Local Churches believe that a schism still exists. And most importantly, the UOC itself, from which the mentioned groups broke away, also believes that there is a split. This is the first point.
The second one. The split in Ukraine did not occur on paper but in real life. This means that it must be healed not by manipulating documents, including historical ones, and by creating various abstract theological schemes, but by real actions. Filaret broke away from the Church, a parallel hierarchy was created; divisions, conflicts began, etc. This must first be recognized, then repentance should be brought, and non-canonical ordinations corrected. But nothing of the kind happened. Neither repentance nor canonical ordinations. Just written pieces of paper and that’s it.
The split is not eliminated only by a stroke of the pen and the seal of the Patriarch of Constantinople. If there is no repentance, there is no awareness of committing a sin before the Church; then among the deposed and excommunicated it evokes a sense of rightness, followed by aggression. By the way, it is precisely here, in my opinion, that one of the reasons for their aggression and hatred towards our Church, the seizure of temples, etc. is rooted. Repentance is a change in a person. And in our case, it turns out that it was not the schismatics who changed, but the Church, in particular, the Church of Constantinople, which simply changed its attitude towards them.”
“It seems to me that Patriarch Bartholomew by making his decision simply took advantage of the convenient political moment – anti-Russian power and sentiments in Kiev. After all, it is clear that even today, under President Zelensky, the establishment of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Church in this way would be impossible. Just because the political ambience has changed. Moreover, the Patriarch of Constantinople created a dangerous precedent – in fact, he created a parallel hierarchy in Ukraine, which directly contradicts the decisions of the Ecumenical Councils, according to which there should be one bishop in one city. Now, based on this precedent, any dissenter in any place will be able to create his own structure parallel to the canonical Church and then, using the famous “right of appeal”, turn to the Patriarch of Constantinople and seek recognition. This opens the Pandora's box to all other Churches. If Patriarch Bartholomew really wanted to help solve the problem, he would have acted differently.”
As reported by the UOJ, earlier Deputy Head of the Department for External Church Relations of the UOC, Archpriest Nikolai Danilevich, said that the United States was going to openly sponsor the OCU.