Master class of religious illiteracy from Petro Poroshenko

President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko

On April 23, President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko spoke on the ICTV channel in the programme dedicated to the creation of the Single Local Church. We analyze the most illustrative theses of this speech.

Petro Poroshenko (P. P): "Does the state have the right to interfere in the church affairs? <...> No! <...> Especially if this state is foreign."

First, Mr. Poroshenko did not notice a purely linguistic error. After all, with his answer, he actually stated that no state can interfere in church affairs. The words "especially" followed up. Thus, Petro Poroshenko confirmed that the current situation in Ukraine is nothing more than interference of the state in church affairs, and that interference is unlawful.

Secondly, the President obviously hinted at the fact that Russia is interfering in Ukrainian church affairs and that the instrument of this interference is the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. There is no evidence of that, but it does not bother anyone, as well as the fact that the current actions of the authorities almost copy the church policy conducted by Soviet power in the 1920s. Almost every indictment of the new martyrs contained an accusation of working for foreign intelligence agencies, with the same evidence base as today. There is not a single decision of Russian state bodies, which would be adopted by the UOC. Furthermore, there is not a single decision of the Russian Orthodox Church (separated from the Russian state), which would oblige the UOC to anything.

Thirdly, the truth is that all the church affairs of the UOC are regulated exclusively by the governing bodies of the UOC in Kiev, as stated in the Statute of the UOC.

Fourthly, the only state that formally intervenes in church affairs in Ukraine is called the Vatican. It is the Holy See where the decisions binding for the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church are taken. Why does this not resent Petro Poroshenko?

P. P: "Ukraine is declared the canonical territory of the Russian Federation. What is this like if not territorial claims?"

It is probably impossible even to think up a greater nonsense – to confuse the Church with the state! It is unclear what it was: a slip of the tongue or a conscious misunderstanding of concepts "Church" and "state". In the mouth of the country's leader, it sounds threatening – not to distinguish between these two concepts?

If we follow Poroshenko’s logic, then the Russian Federation has territorial claims to several dozen countries, including Japan, the United States, Australia, the New Zealand, etc. In all these countries, there are churches belonging to the ROC. Furthermore, Bulgaria has territorial claims to Canada, Australia, Spain, Sweden and some other countries. Egypt, where the Orthodox Church is based, has territorial claims to virtually all African countries. Israel, the centre of the Jerusalem Church, – to Jordan and Egypt. Turkey, where the Patriarchate of Constantinople so beloved by Poroshenko is located, turns out to claim for the territories of the USA, Canada and France.

Such an embarrassment for a very long time will be the subject of ridicule over the level of education of the person involved in it. We can only guess what the point of that was for Petro Poroshenko.

P. P: "The Ukrainian Church, local, autocephalous, that is the independent Ukrainian Orthodox Church is a key element of our statehood and our independence."

Once again, the President of Ukraine acknowledged that the SLC created by him does not have any relation to the Christian religion. It is seen as a key element, a binding force of Ukrainian statehood. The head of the UOC KP Mr. Denisenko keeps saying the same, positioning the Church as a necessary element of statehood. The President apparently does not take into account that the Church should lead people to Christ, that it must unite the earthly and the heavenly, that it should save people from hell and death. The purpose of the SLC is to strengthen statehood and independence. In ancient times, each people had their own idol. Today every state must have its own SLC. This is the pure paganism of the Orthodox rite.

Yet again, people were said very frankly: you will not find Christ in the SLC, you will find there Ukrainian statehood!

P. P: "Rules for obtaining the Tomos (on autocephaly - Ed.) provide for an appeal from ecclesiastical and secular authorities."

The UOJ has repeatedly written that there are no clear rules for granting autocephaly in nature. There are historical precedents that show that the granting of autocephaly occurred both with the appeal of secular authorities, and without this. And this very appeal of secular authorities is more typical for the Middle Ages. In the XX century, the bestowal of autocephaly to the Polish and Czechoslovak Churches was not based on the appeal of the secular authorities of these states. And even more so, neither the President of the United States, nor the US Congress, nor the Senate appealed in 1970 to the Patriarch of Moscow on granting autocephaly to the American Orthodox Church.

But there are definitely no precedents in history of the bestowal of autocephaly to the Church which does not ask for it. The UOC officially stated that it had not appealed to the Patriarch of Constantinople with a request for autocephaly. How can one obtain the corresponding Tomos in such a situation is known only to the expert who spoke at the ICTV studio.

P. P: "I am proud that we managed to demonstrate the unity of the Ukrainian ecclesiastical authority, the unity of the Ukrainian secular authority and the wishes of the Ukrainian people."

How can we talk about unity when the Orthodox denomination that has more parishes than all the others (who call themselves Orthodox) taken together, speaks against? Against obtaining autocephaly by political methods!

Rather, we can talk about deepening religious confrontation and division. After all, all the Local Orthodox Churches unanimously say that schism is healed exclusively by repentance and nothing else. In Ukraine, they try to convince everyone that the schism is healed by the President's appeal, supported by deputies of the Verkhovna Rada. And that hope of receiving the SLC, which Petro Poroshenko gave to the schismatics, takes them away from the idea of repentance even further.

P. P: "This fully corresponds to the European tradition, and we certainly do not interfere in church affairs."

Regards to the European tradition and common sense! If the appeal of the President to the Ecumenical Patriarch is not interference in church affairs, neither is a vote on this issue in the Verkhovna Rada the case, then what should interference be?

All the European partners of Ukraine would probably be speechless if they heard that this corresponds to the European tradition.

For Petro Poroshenko: in Europe secularization has reached such heights that a simple demonstration by a politician of belonging to any religious community causes scandal and a lot of criticism. What the Ukrainian President is doing now in Europe would mean an immediate and inglorious end to his political career.

P. P: "And the new Church will not be a state church in any way. This I emphasize and affirm to you separately."

Again a Freudian slip! Speaking in the summer of 2017 before the Verkhovna Rada, Poroshenko called the SLC "autopheca ... autocephalous." Now he called it "new." Indeed, if it is created by the efforts of the President (which is very unlikely), it will be a completely new organization that has nothing to do with the Church, founded in Kiev in 988.

And again the puzzling question: how will this SLC not be state, when the same Poroshenko called it "a key element of Ukrainian statehood" just now and will call it so more than once in his speech!

P. P: "There is an Orthodox tradition – within one state there should be one Church. We have at least three today. And this is extremely harmful for the state."

Indeed, Orthodox ecclesiology suggests that in one territory (not necessarily of the state) there cannot be several parallel jurisdictions. But there is no such church tradition that there would be a separate Church on the territory of the state. There are many states whose canonical territory is covered by a large Local Orthodox Church. Even some states with an overwhelming majority of Orthodox population do not have their own separate autocephalous Churches.

And the most surprising in the President's words is then following: "This is extremely harmful for the state." And what harm to the state can the presence in its territory of several denominations do? But what about the freedom of conscience guaranteed by the Constitution of Ukraine? What about the separation of the Church from the state? And why is Ukraine not harmed by the fact that several hundred different religious organizations operate in its territory? And why is the United States not harmed by the fact that within its borders there are dioceses of half of the Local Orthodox Churches, not to mention the schismatic denominations?

P. P: "No one has the right <…> to point out with a decisive finger that this Church is canonical, but that one is not."

Hold on, but this is exactly what Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and the hierarchs of all Local Churches do when they say that in Ukraine the only canonical Church is the UOC, and all the others are non-canonical. There have already been a lot of oral and written statements about this. And now the President of Ukraine suddenly declares that they have no right to do this.

In fact, the Ecumenical Orthodox Church is not only entitled, but also obliged to bear witness to who belongs to it (is canonical), and who does not (is non-canonical). This is what it has done at the Ecumenical Councils, and this is exactly what the Local Churches do today with the decision of their hierarchs. Today the priest excommunicated from his Local Church is not accepted to any other, precisely because of his non-canonicity. Nowhere, neither at the Holy Sepulcher, nor on the Holy Mount Athos, nor in other holy places, schismatics can participate in divine services nor receive ordinances because of non-canonicity.

P. P: "How to explain to believers that the Church is praying for another state, moreover, for the aggressor state?"

Probably, he meant the prayer: "for our God-saving power, the authorities and the army of it." Well, this is about Ukraine! To whom does the aggressor state appear here? Or again a Freudian slip?

P. P: "In Ukrainian military units, there will be chaplains of one Ukrainian autocephalous Orthodox Church."

This is an obvious and gross violation of the constitutional right to freedom of conscience.

P. P: "If you are Orthodox, you will find yourself in the Ukrainian Church."

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