"Autophecal" from President: Why is Poroshenko again prying into the Church affairs?

In the Verkhovna Rada, Petro Poroshenko has proclaimed the creation of autophecal ... autocephaly in Ukraine.

Yes, exactly so! In his annual message to the Verkhovna Rada, the President misspoke and, after all the passages about his appeal to the Patriarch of Constantinople about the Local Church in Ukraine, called it autophecal...autocephaly. That was what is called a Freudian slip. However, first things first: what the President said about the religious situation in the country and what it really means.

On September 7, 2017, at 10:06 am, Petro Poroshenko went up to the rostrum of the Parliament and read out his annual message. At the 72nd minute, he touched on the matter of church affairs and talked about it for almost three minutes. His speech was twice interrupted by applause, once the deputies applauded standing up. The President began with praise to the Verkhovna Rada itself:

"The Verkhovna Rada adopted a historic appeal to the Ecumenical Patriarch asking for the autocephaly of the Orthodox Church in Ukraine. Thank you for this decision!"


This is about the appeal of the Verkhovna Rada to Patriarch Bartholomew in June 2016 with a request to grant autocephaly to the Orthodox Church in Ukraine. The request was compiled grossly incorrect. Its satisfaction would have meant recognition by the Patriarchate of Constantinople of its own lawless and, moreover, corrupt activities. The Ukrainian Parliament asked as much as to invalidate Tomos of 1686 about the re-subordination of the Kiev Metropolis to the Moscow Patriarchate, as it was allegedly adopted in violation of the sacred canons of the Orthodox Church.

The consequence of this appeal was only that the Patriarchate of Constantinople once again officially confirmed: in Ukraine, it recognizes only one canonical Church - the UOC and its Primate – Metropolitan Onufry. And the question of autocephaly is a question primarily of the UOC itself, secondarily – of the Russian Orthodox Church and in the third place – of the remaining Local Orthodox Churches. Moreover, this position of Constantinople has caused a whole chain of similar statements of other Churches: of Jerusalem, Greece, Cyprus, Poland and others. That is, with this appeal, the Ukrainian authorities really, as they say, screwed up. That did not stop President from calling it historical, and people's deputies – from applauding unanimously.

"I want to inform you that I have written a letter to Bartholomew I. And this fragment of the message, my dear, is addressed not only to the Ukrainian Parliament ... This particular project ... And not only to the Ukrainian people. May the leadership of the Ecumenical Patriarchate also hear us. I want to once again draw the attention of His Holiness to the very seriousness of our intentions, to the Ukrainian leadership's firm political will to solve this problem, which, unfortunately, has been on the agenda since 1991. Ukraine has the right to the Local Church. We must protect this right."

Prolonged applause. Most deputies rise from their seats.

What letter Poroshenko referred to and when it was written is unknown. Perhaps, it was officially sent through diplomatic channels, but not declared. It could very well have happened. The fact is that Patriarch Bartholomew twice, in 2015 and 2016, visited former Ukrainian presidents Leonid Kravchuk and Viktor Yushchenko.


According to media reports, in these unofficial talks, Constantinople asked for some official appeals from the authorities, so that the Ecumenical Patriarchate could substantively examine the Ukrainian question. On the part of Patriarch Bartholomew, this was the usual Byzantine diplomacy, which the ex-presidents did not understand. It is extremely unfavourable for Constantinople to decide anything on the situation in Ukraine. Why – I will expand on this issue below.

In the mouth of Patriarch Bartholomew, setting deliberately unacceptable conditions was simply a form of refusal. As such appeals on church issues of the highest authorities are direct interference of the state in the religious sphere, which is prohibited both by international conventions and the Constitution of Ukraine. "The church and religious organizations in Ukraine are separated from the state" (Article 35 of the Constitution). In any state that claims to be a legal one, such appeals would compromise public bodies themselves and undermine their authority. The simple-minded Ecumenical Patriarch believed that Ukrainian statesmen honour their own Constitution and will act as it is customary in democratic states. But the Ukrainian authorities are very far from acting in the legal field. They like to proceed not out of the right, but out of expediency. There was such a communist principle of revolutionary expediency in the USSR in the 1920s. It is still in full use now, despite any decommunization.

The next moment in the speech of the President, and in all efforts to create the Local Church, is a statement that such a thing does not exist in Ukraine. That the country has the right to such a Church, which has not yet been realized. In addition to the fact that the President demonstrates an absolute misunderstanding of Orthodox ecclesiology (the doctrine of the Church), he also refutes numerous statements that the UOC-KP is a true Local Church, which has not yet been recognized. This is much talked about by "Patriarch" Filaret, and his spokesman Yevstratiy Zoria, and other figures of the schism.

For example, on July 31, 2017, deputy director of the Scientific Research Institute of Ukrainian Studies Arsen Zinchenko stated directly: "The Kyiv Patriarchate is the Local Church." It turns out that this is not so. According to the President, it is only to be created. Although in fact the Local Church in Ukraine is the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, recognized by the Universal Orthodoxy.

But the most disturbing words in Poroshenko's passage are: "I want to once again draw the attention of His Holiness to the very seriousness of our intentions, to the Ukrainian leadership's firm political will to solve this problem."

Unless, of course, this is another "puff", coming from the President's mouth, these words can mean intensifying the efforts of the authorities to create the Unified Local Church (UOC). It is a month since Poroshenko made last such statements on this issue, and during this time you can already see confirmation of the assumptions of the UOJ.

Firstly, the intensification of efforts on the conflict in the Donbass. Special representatives of the USA and Russia, K. Volker and V. Surkov have already met. The Russian project on peacekeepers has already been submitted to the UN Security Council. A draft law on the status of Donbass and the change in the status of the ATO has already appeared. If there are no extraordinary events in the world, it is possible to say with a high degree of probability that the conflict will get out of the military phase. And it will be released according to the Minsk scenario, or close to it. This may not appeal to very many politicians and radically-minded figures who have made a political career on the war. There are a lot of such people today. And their discontent can lead to an open armed confrontation between them and the current authorities under the slogan "we were betrayed." By the way, Poroshenko in his address to the Verkhovna Rada directly said that the armed radical groups present a threat to the state.

Secondly, this is the upcoming elections. Not far off are the next (possibly early) presidential and parliamentary elections. Pieces on the chessboard for the attack on Poroshenko have already been arranged. The head of the "Batkivshchyna" faction Yulia Timoshenko put forward the idea of impeachment in the summer. This was also requested by the Kiev Regional Council and a number of other councils in their appeal to the Verkhovna Rada. The influential New York Times, referring to the report of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, published simply killing compromising material on the Ukrainian authorities, in fact accusing them of the fact that the DPRK has missile technologies that threaten the US. And the State Department has promised to take the publication seriously. If the decision is made to "fail Poroshenko", this trump card will be used to the fullest.

Another significant moment is a rather noticeable increase in criticism of Poroshenko over the last month, including from those people and the media, who until recently have sung praises to him. It will not be surprising if the President is accused of being "in fact" an "agent of the Kremlin", he will be reminded of the Roshen factory in Russia and forced to resign. We can confidently assume that the people will applaud standing up.

Thirdly, for the current session it is planned to consider draft laws on unpopular reforms: educational, medical and extremely unpopular pension.

All this very much threatens the current authorities. Usually, to divert public attention from unpopular actions, some loud information distraction is used. In this case it is a notable project of the creation of the Unified Local Church, which will be trumpeted wherever possible. If movement on this issue begins at the level of the canonical UOC, as well as the Constantinople and Moscow Patriarchates, this will be the diversionary maneuver that will make it possible to implement unpopular political decisions without unnecessary noise, and in the case of even a relative success, it will increase Poroshenko ‘s chances to stay in power.

Now a few words about how this can happen. There are two options.

The first was expressed by an influential politician and deputy Viktor Baloga on the day of the Baptism of Rus: to unite all confessions around Metropolitan Onufry and continue to raise the issue of autocephaly with the Constantinople and Moscow Patriarchates. Despite the persistent reluctance of Filaret and his adherents to repent for the schism, they can be forced to do so. The same ex-president Kravchuk, thanks to whom the UOC-KP was born in 1992. The pressure may be a threat to publish documents and testimonies about how Filaret’s schism actually took place and what Denisenko really is. Fortunately, there is much dirt on him. And Filaret will have to enter the history of Ukraine not even as a pseudo-patriarch of Kiev, but as a KGB agent nicknamed Antonov, a knight of the Order of Lenin and the Red Banner, a man involved in the disappearance of the church fund of the UOC in 1992 and the mysterious death of Patriarch Vladimir Romaniuk in 1995-s. So, repentance can be demanded. And repentance does not need to be true – just to sign a piece of paper, a repentant letter, the text of which will be written somewhere in the Presidential Administration.

It will be more difficult with Metropolitan Onufry, but he can be faced with a dilemma: either autocephaly, or the complete destruction of the UOC like in the 1920s-1930s. Let’s briefly recall what this means:
  • Seizures of churches (this is happening now);
  • the outlawing of the Church (relevant bills are in the Verkhovna Rada);
  • repressions against the clergy on charges of counter-revolution (now – on charges of aiding "aggressor state");
  • the organization of the renovated schism, the "Living Church" (the Renovationists in the UOC are not numerous, but still they are present).

His Beatitude Onufry is most like to have already received proposals from the powers that be, whose essence boils down to the fact that "we force Filaret to write a repentant letter, and you convince Patriarchs Bartholomew and Kirill to grant autocephaly.

But, since Metropolitan Onufry is not only wise, but also a spiritual shepherd, he is unlikely to agree to such a reckless scheme. We already wrote that this is really a shady undertaking.

And then the second option of the ULC is possible. The idea was voiced by Metropolitan Alexander (Drabinko) of the UOC, who has a rather ambiguous reputation. This is the so-called "jurisdictional pluralism". A similar scenario was implemented in Estonia, where the Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church subordinated to the Patriarchate of Constantinople adjoins the self-governing Estonian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate. It did not bring anything good to Orthodox Estonia: conflicts over temples and church property, mutual distrust and ill will, etc.

The situation of "jurisdictional pluralism" in the Orthodox world is recognized as abnormal in terms of ecclesiology. At the same time, in countries of predominantly migratory type, it was formed naturally, and no one knows yet how to fix this situation. For example, in the United States there are also dioceses and even exarchates of different Local Churches, guiding their national diaspora. In addition to violating the ancient principle of church organization, "one city – one bishop", "jurisdictional pluralism" leads to the decline of church discipline. Any bishop or priest, who is dissatisfied with his authorities, can always change the jurisdiction.

This second option for the creation of the ULC obviously assumes that the "clergy" of the UOC-KP and the UAOC will bring repentant letters not to Metropolitan Onufry and all the more not to Patriarch Kirill, but to Patriarch Bartholomew, which, of course, is much easier to do. And then all these brethren will be repeatedly ordained in Constantinople. Apparently, some part of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church sympathetic to independence from the Russian Orthodox Church may join such a ULC. But here there are two fair questions.

First, what kind of unified Church will this be if it does not unite all the Orthodox in Ukraine?

Secondly, what kind of independent church will it be if it joins the Patriarchate of Constantinople? By the way, in this case it can be assumed that Constantinople will not dominate the Ukrainian ULC selflessly, unlike the Moscow Patriarchate. It does not have its own resource base and is forced to exist on funds coming from abroad from its exarchates and autonomies.

Now about why Poroshenko's words and possible actions of the Ukrainian authorities on the creation of the ULC will not be successful.

The most important obstacle to autocephaly is that at this historical stage the Ukrainian Orthodox Church itself does not agree with this. The Russian Orthodox Church also disagrees with this, but the Ukrainian authorities do not take its opinion into account. It is considered bad form with them.

But the Church of Constantinople also disagrees with this. Both Patriarch Bartholomew and Constantinople hierarchs have repeatedly stated that the UOC stands in a canonical unity with the ROC. The words that Constantinople is the Mother Church for the UOC only mean that Orthodoxy came to Rus from Byzantium, and not that the Ecumenical Patriarch has some canonical rights in relation to the UOC. Constantinople will support any action with regard to the UOC, only if there is agreement on this issue between the Moscow Patriarchate and the Kiev Metropolis. Patriarch Bartholomew will not do anything contrary to the ROC. It is vital for him to support both the Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian state in very difficult relations with the Turkish leadership.

As you know, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is pursuing a policy of neo-Ottomanism. Last year's failed coup attempt and the recent referendum significantly strengthened his position. In the Ottoman Empire, the Ecumenical Patriarch was the head of the Greek population of the Empire – the Millets. But in 1923, there was a Greek-Turkish exchange of population, during which about 2 million Greeks left Turkey. That is, no Millets – no Patriarch. For more than half a century, ideas have been circulating in Turkey to evict the Ecumenical Patriarchate on Athos. Until recently, Turkey's political elite has been focused on the United States, and it was America that was the main protector of the Ecumenical Patriarchate before the Turkish authorities. But the events of the last two years indicate a break in these ties and, moreover, we witness the confrontation between Turkey and the United States on the international scene.

On the other hand, there is a significant warming in Turkey's relations with Russia. Vladimir Putin for three (Russia, Turkey, Iran) resolves the conflict in Syria, Putin is building the Turkish Stream and the Akkuyu Nuclear Power Plant, Putin sells Erdogan the newest S-400 air defense complex that pulls Turkey out of a single NATO air defense system. Turkey finally lost the chance to access the European Union and stepped up integration into the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), where the tone is set by Russia and China. Therefore, now the Patriarchate of Constantinople is in the process of changing patrons: Russia is gradually taking the place of the United States.

Another reason why Patriarch Bartholomew will not be led by Poroshenko is that the entire Orthodox world is not very approving of the ecumenical activities of Constantinople and its attempts to dominate Orthodoxy by analogy with the Roman popes in Catholicism.

The position of the Ecumenical Patriarch in the Orthodox world is rather precarious. The title "Ecumenical" reflects historical realities more than 1000 years ago, when the boundaries of the Roman Empire coincided with the boundaries of the then civilized world, the Oecumene. This is not true anymore. And if Constantinople now decides on any anti-canonical actions, it will very quickly be reminded of the realities of today: the immediate flock of the Ecumenical Patriarch in Turkey is as many as 3,000 people. The Orthodoxy's stronghold, Holy Mount Athos, is subordinate to the Patriarch of Constantinople but does not approve of its ecumenism. Under these conditions, Patriarch Bartholomew has to act extremely cautiously.

And most importantly, why Constantinople will not do anything for the ULC in Ukraine. The Ecumenical Patriarchate, unlike the Ukrainian authorities, knows church canons perfectly well. And they understand that the Kiev schismatics are graceless impostors, who blaspheme against the Church with their blasphemous "services". And to do something for their recognition means pushing to schismatic activities anyone interested, including its own episcopate and the clergy. Most of the dioceses of the Church of Constantinople are abroad, among them quite often there is dissatisfaction with Fanar on various issues, mainly related to the appointment of new heads of the exarchates and autonomous Churches. And Constantinople has to make significant efforts to keep them in its submission. Thus, while pandering to Ukrainian church separatism and helping to create the ULC, Patriarch Bartholomew himself will put a trump card in the hands of those church structures that wish to separate from him.

In addition, Constantinople "has a grudge" against the UOC-KP for the opening of parallel structures in those countries where there are dioceses of the Constantinople Orthodox Church: the European exarchate of the UOC-KP, the vicariate of the UOC-KP in the USA and Canada, the vicariate in Australia. In America, the non-canonical dioceses of the UOC-KP are direct competitors for the Ukrainian diaspora of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Canada and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the United States and for the diaspora that form part of the Constantinople Patriarchate.

So, whatever one may say, Constantinople is certainly not an assistant to Poroshenko in the creation of the ULC.

But let us return to the President’s message to the Verkhovna Rada. After the passage that "Ukraine has the right to the Local Church", long and prolonged applause was heard in the session hall, and most of the people's deputies rose from their seats. The President was encouraged by such a reaction, he felt empathy and said the following:

"Many thanks! This is more than a convincing position and a vote. And our expectation of recognizing the Ukrainian autophecal ... autocephaly by the Ecumenical Patriarch ... I emphasize, in no way means either the emergence of the state Church, or the prohibition of the activities of other Orthodox confessions in Ukraine. But no one has the right to deprive Ukrainians of the right to the Church. Every citizen of Ukraine themselves and only themselves has chosen and will choose faith and the Church. The Ukrainian state is separated from the Church, but it cannot passively watch other states and other state bodies use church institutes dependent on them to achieve their geopolitical goals."


A question to the President: "If your attempts to create the ULC do not mean "the emergence of the state Church", then why all this fuss?" Here the President is not sincere. The government needs the state Church (of course, unofficially). And the main purpose of this Church is to be one of the symbols of the Ukrainian state, the state project "Ukraine". There is a reason why Poroshenko constantly repeats that Ukraine also has the right to the Local Church, as well as other states: Serbia, Bulgaria, Poland, etc.

And there is a reason why the President mentioned in his message to the Verkhovna Rada that many foreign political experts (and, most insultingly, American ones) refer Ukraine to the category of failed state, i.e. such a state that cannot independently maintain its existence as a viable political and economic unit. Of course, Poroshenko denied this statement, but the very mention of the Failed state clearly shows that the viability of Ukraine is not so obvious. You, for example, can imagine the head of Germany, France or Great Britain, who in his own country proves that his country did realize as a state?

Besides, the ULC is needed as an instrument of influence on society, especially before the elections. This role of the Church should not, of course, be exaggerated, but it should not be downplayed either.

Then there are transparent hints that the UOC is the Church of the "aggressor state", which day and night works tirelessly to achieve the "geopolitical goals" of this very aggressor. The fact that this is a lie has been written many times: there are many more patriots of Ukraine in the UOC than in all the power offices. Surprising is another fact. How are you going to persuade the UOC to meet you in the matter of the ULC creation and constantly insult and accuse it? It's like spitting a person in the face and immediately asking him for money.

Well, and the last thing.

"However, I would like to declare separately. I will not sign the bill, which proposes to agree the candidatures of bishops and priests with state bodies. This is not a matter of the state. As for other legislative initiatives, I am ready to discuss, consider ... with the understanding that it is indeed a very sensitive issue."

These words of the President clearly confirm the conclusions of the UOJ made two months ago, namely: the government changed tactics in its attempts to adopt anti-church bills. It is ready to sacrifice an explicitly anti-constitutional bill No. 4511, which refers to the appointment of bishops in coordination with government agencies, and to push through bill No. 4128, which is the legislative basis for the seizure of temples, and No. 5309, which obliges the UOC to change its name and indicate that it is not Ukrainian, but Russian.

And finally, what the Freudian slip means. The well-known psychoanalyst and neurologist Sigmund Freud considered the human psyche as consisting of a conscious and unconscious part. The phenomenon, later called the "Freudian slip", is described by him in the study "Psychopathology of everyday life" (1901). Freud argued that seemingly insignificant and meaningless mistakes are in fact manifestations of unconscious desires and evaluations. Therefore, the President can talk as much as he likes about the importance of autocephaly and the genuine historical right of the Ukrainian people to it, and describe it in a beautiful manner, but in reality, deep at heart, he considers it autophecal...
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What will happen if the Church of Greece recognizes the OCU?
it will put itself out of Orthodoxy
it will give rise to global recognition of the OCU by Local Churches
nothing will happen, the Greeks will be the first and the last to recognize the OCU
Total votes: 102


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