A Single Local Church of Ukrainian schismatics – is it to be?

Petro Poroshenko handed over appeals from clerics of the UAOC and UOC-KP to Patriarch Bartholomew

On April 17, President Petro Poroshenko shocked his people with sensational news – during a recent meeting with the Patriarch and Synod of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, he agreed on the creation of a single autocephalous local church in Ukraine.

"As a President, I decided to address the Ecumenical Patriarch, His Holiness, with a request for Tomos to be granted to the Ukrainian Local Autocephalous Church. This is not a church event. This is an event of Ukraine's independence."

Upon his arrival in Kiev, Petro Poroshenko met with the heads of the Kyiv Patriarchate and the UAOC Filaret and Methodius, and also demonstrated conciliatory seals from the people who are called bishops of these religious organizations.

The President expects that Tomos of autocephaly will be received from Istanbul in July, on the day of the Baptism of Rus.

"I really hope that this decision can be made towards the 1030th anniversary of the Baptism of Ukraine-Rus."

Undoubtedly, this statement has caused huge vibrations, since Poroshenko and other Ukrainian state officials met regularly with Patriarch Bartholomew, and in 2016 there was even an appeal by the Verkhovna Rada with a request to legitimize the Kyiv Patriarchate. However, these actions led to nothing.

However, this time Poroshenko said that the last meeting in fact took place within the framework of the negotiations and lasted more than seven hours.

"Not only with him, but with members of the Synod. In general, it took us more than seven hours."

One can only wonder at the tight schedule of the President. Indeed, at 1 pm on April 9, Poroshenko's press service announced the talks with the leadership of Turkey had finished, at 4.30 pm – about the end of the meeting with Patriarch Bartholomew, and as early as in the evening, Petro Poroshenko arrived in Germany.

Nevertheless, Poroshenko said that he had fulfilled all the necessary conditions to initiate the process of obtaining autocephaly, namely:

1. Appeal of the secular power of the country to the Patriarchate of Constantinople.
2. Appeal of the Church of the country.

Therefore, he is optimistic about the future.

"His Holiness needs the address of both the country's leader and the church hierarchs. There are absolutely necessary key elements that must ensure this process."

However, Petro Poroshenko's statements raise a lot of questions.

Point 1. The UOC-KP and the UAOC are not the Church for the Universal Orthodoxy.

Petro Poroshenko demonstrated an appeal to Constantinople on behalf of the structures of the Kyiv Patriarchate and the UAOC. However, the insoluble problem is that nobody in the Orthodox world considers these structures as the Church, they simply do not exist for the Universal Orthodoxy. The only Church in Ukraine, all Local Churches, including Constantinople, is called the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. The same Patriarch Bartholomew at the meeting of the Primates of the Local Churches in Chambesi in 2016 called the head of the UOC, His Beatitude Onuphry, the only canonical first hierarch in Ukraine.

That is, only Metropolitan Onuphry, according to the laws of the Church, could request autocephaly for the UOC, but he did not.

It is interesting that the President in his speech did not even remember about the UOC as if it does not exist in Ukraine

Point 2. Poroshenko's Appeal is flagrant interference in the church affairs.

According to the Constitution, the Church in Ukraine is separated from the state and secular power does not have any authority to interfere with its organization.

Yevgeny Murayev: It is clearly enshrined that the Church is separated from the state, inasmuch as the state is separated from the Church!

Vadim Novinsky: I would advise President Poroshenko to read the Constitution of Ukraine again. He is the guarantor of the Constitution. There it is quite clearly stated that the Church is separated from the state. Politicians do not have any right to interfere into church affairs.

Point 3. The existence of two Churches in one territory contradicts the canons of the Church.

According to the canonical rules of the first Nicaean Council, only one Church can act in one territory.

By the way, the Archbishop of Constantinople Patriarchate Job (Gecha), staying in Ukraine in 2016 at the invitation of Poroshenko, said that Constantinople "does not plan to create another parallel jurisdiction in Ukraine, because such a non-canonical situation will only exacerbate the problem."

As a case in point, the Archbishop cited an example with the Bulgarian Church, where schism with the help of the Local Churches was healed by the repentance of the schismatics themselves.

Point 4. Why does Patriarch Bartholomew need it?

Petro Poroshenko was not the first president to try to legitimize the schismatics of Ukrainian Orthodoxy.

In 2008, President Yushchenko was trying hard to solicit the recognition for the Kyiv Patriarchate from Constantinople, but without success. In fact, at that time it was about the structure of the UOC-KP being incorporated into the Constantinople Patriarchate. And these are thousands of parishes. Nevertheless, even then Patriarch Bartholomew turned such a prospect down. Now it's no longer a matter of becoming part of Constantinople. Petro Poroshenko said that this new formation will be completely independent.

"The church is eucharistically, prayerfully connected with other Local Churches, but administratively completely independent. Either from Moscow or from anyone else."

It can be safely said that in case of recognition of Ukrainian schismatics by Constantinople without any repentance of the former, other Local Churches will subject Patriarch Bartholomew to pejorative criticism, up to the breaking of eucharistic communion. After all, Constantinople is only one of the parts of One Ecumenical Orthodox Church. And if one of its parts recognizes Ukrainian schismatics, this means that all the others will be obliged to accept it.

And if they accept a new Church into their family, they must also pray to all of its saints. For example, the UPA soldiers who killed Poles during the Volyn massacre. The Kyiv Patriarchate consecrates temples in their honor.

"Metropolitan" Mikhail Zinkevich: "And now we’ve showed this love to the UPA soldiers, having founded and called the temple in their honor, and having added them to the rank of saints! All the saints of the Ukrainian land! Whatever decisions the Sejm might take, our heroes will always remain heroes for us. Today, tomorrow, and forever and ever!"

Does the Ecumenical Patriarch have the motivation for triggering such a comprehensive conflict for the sake of the dubious pleasure of gratuitously recognizing dissenters and, moreover, giving them autocephaly? The question deserves to be asked.

Point 5. Why does Filaret need it?

In the same year of 2008, Filaret seemed to be ready to become part of the Church of Constantinople, but then decided he’d better remain an unrecognized patriarch in Kiev than comply with the decrees from Istanbul.

Since then, he has claimed that the Local Church should not obey either Moscow or Constantinople.

"What does local mean? The local is an independent autocephalous Church that does not subordinate to any center. Neither Moscow nor Constantinople!"

Now, when they are talking about the creation of a new structure, the question is raised about its new leader.

"The formation of the new Church will mean that patriarchs, bishops themselves will seek a way for them to choose a new primate of the Church."

Some time ago, Filaret would not let this post to anyone. But at the age of 90 it will be very difficult.

Does he need such a commotion at this age? The question deserves to be asked.

Point 6. Why does Poroshenko need it?

The president who created the Autocephalous Church, even with a scandal, is a huge and, perhaps, the only plus for the millionaire leader whose country has been in war for four years, with the economy collapsing, and part of the population barely surviving.

For the leader, who claims a second term of reign.

Vadim Novinsky: A year is left before the elections. The president, having apparently nothing to say about his achievements, decided to speculate on the church issue.

Poroshenko asserts that the new church will not be state-run, but immediately puts the Local Church in the same row of political state projects like the visa-free regime, or NATO.

"For me, the affirmation of the Local Church is as important as the received visa-free travel, the Association Agreement with the European Union, as our common struggle for membership in the European Union and membership in NATO, which we still have ahead."

Point 7. What will be the implications for the UOC?

The consequences will be very heavy.

The pressure on the UOC will multiply. Her faithful will be positioned as agents of the Kremlin as opposed to true Ukrainians from the Single Local Church.

Vice-Premier Pavel Rosenko has already allowed himself to call the critics of the SLOC project "pro-Kremlin canned food".

For sure, the question will be raised of re-subordination to the new structure of all three Lavras, as well as of individual parishes. Bishops and parish priests will be agitated, or simply forced to transfer to the true Ukrainian Church.

How will this affect the world in the whole of Ukrainian society, already split without adding this?

We know that the bloodiest conflicts in world history are connected with religion.

One of the most notorious is the massacre of Huguenots committed by French Catholics in 1572. This massacre occurred on the night of August 24, 1572, on the eve of St. Bartholomew's day. Accordingly, it was called "Bartholomew's Night".

Ironically, one of the main figurants of the present plot also bears the name of this saint.

At one time Petro Poroshenko wanted to finish with ATO within a few hours. The war has been going on for four years.

"The antiterrorist operation cannot and will not continue for two or three months. It must and will finish within hours!"

Now the President states that his new initiative will strengthen the inter-confessional peace in Ukraine. However, will the interference of the authorities in church affairs in reality cause a new confrontation in Ukraine? The question deserves to be asked.

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