"A kind of priest of a kind of Church": confession of UOC KP "cleric"
Igor is a former UOC KP priest. He has not ministered for a year now. He is not officially defrocked, though he promptly adds ironically that he has never been a priest.
The edition "Vesti" published an interview with the former "cleric" of the Kiev Patriarchate, which the UOJ reproduces in whole.
After the Maidan, the Kiev Patriarchate became, without exaggeration, a state Church. The idea of the Single Local Church is promoted personally by President Poroshenko, and it is the Kiev Patriarchate that is supposed to be the basis for this religious organisation. How the Ukrainian "state" Church now lives – this question is especially interesting in the context of possible autocephaly. After all, in this case, the new Local Church is likely to live a life of the Kiev Patriarchate. A "Vesti" correspondent could talk to a man who has seen from the inside the situation in the Kiev Patriarchate before the Maidan, during the events of 2013-2014 and in subsequent years.
Igor is a former priest of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kiev Patriarchate. He has not ministered for a year now. He is not officially defrocked; yet, he promptly adds ironically that he has never been a priest – although, Igor served the "liturgy" and performed "sacraments" for 8 out of 34 years.
Now he works in the sales and service company in the food industry. His colleagues do not even know that the real "father" is working next to them.
We talk for a long time on topics that are far from religion, until finally, I can’t help asking a straightforward question – why did you leave?
"Definitely not because of a scandal or conflict. My relationship with the "bishop" was excellent, and they remain so. If in a word, I left because of the meaninglessness of my stay in the Kiev Patriarchate. A kind of priest of a kind of Church ... I had to literally break out of the usual life – and neither my relatives nor close friends supported me in this. I, my wife and my child - those, in fact, are all who stayed with me after leaving the Church," says Igor.
The "Vesti" publishes extracts from the talk with the priest, whose name we do not want to disclose. Dictaphone recording of the full version of this conversation is available in the editorial office. But we decided to choose from it only the most interesting and illustrative fragments.
"I was a nationalist and remember what pressure was put on the KP ten years ago"
"I grew up in a religious family, and this is a traditional religiosity in our region [Igor is from Khmelnitsky region]. As a child, I served during the liturgy, carried a candle, gave a censer to the deacon, held the ‘Apostle’. Then I was even a reader in the church and sang in the choir.
In fact, I was a very religious child, but also cheerful at the same time. After leaving school I entered a Kiev institute to be trained as an engineer, but in parallel served in the church until the bishop paid attention to me and offered to ordain me to deacons. I was not married then and so I refused.
A year later, having married, I was ordained to the first degree of the priesthood. The fact that the Kiev Patriarchate is an unrecognized organization did not bother me at all, even on the contrary. I was a nationalist and I remember what pressure was put on the KP ten years ago."
Most people go churches of the Kiev Patriarchate out of habit
According to Igor, the "ordination" did not entail a special spiritual transformation, as well as the event that happened a year later when he was "promoted" to a priest. "But here doubts about the rightness of what was happening emerged. And it's not about the service itself – I began to wonder why the Orthodox of the Moscow Patriarchate were 'not our brothers but traitors'.
And the more I became an Orthodox Christian, the deeper was the sense of the tragedy of separation. And parishioners of our church complained that during their trips to Pochaev they were asked what church they go to. For the majority, it was not at all clear that there are parallel church structures in Ukraine, and the one to which they belong is not recognized by anyone. By the way, when asked about the 'recognition' of the Kiev Patriarchate, all of our 'priests' are taught to answer in such a way: 'Moskals' are guilty in the division, since they did not want to stay with their people.
In addition, the 'priests' quote: 'while you do not recognize yourself, no one will recognize you'. For common people, especially those who are radically nationalist, such answers are still valid. But the majority goes to KP out of habit or chooses a nearer church. I am still signed up for Facebook groups, like 'Down with Moscow priest', and I see that such an argument works."
When the KP became a "state Church", negative tendencies inside intensified
Igor does not want to give characteristics of either the KP leader "Patriarch" Filaret or the "bishops" of this Church. He does not want conflicts, although he declares that he is not afraid of anyone.
"I did not betray anyone but just left. Moreover, I left three years after the victory of Maidan. All negative tendencies, which I will speak later about, have intensified many times with the advent of the KP [verbatim] to power. If we talk about the 'leadership', I declare responsibly that the competition of groups of 'bishops' around Filaret has intensified. There are 'old' 'bishops' who went through the most difficult years, but the 'patriarch' trusts none of them. There are young guys who were quickly promoted to the rank of 'bishop', who earn Filaret’s trust. It was the innate love of power of the 'patriarch' that worked, and I understand why the parishioners and clerics of the UOC sighed with relief when Filaret did not become Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia."
How the KP became a strike force of the Maidan
Our interlocutor claims that the Kiev Patriarchate was a strike force of Maidan and explains why.
"Firstly, we supported all patriotic movements, and nationalists, which I also was and probably remain, became the 'blood and fire' of the protest.
Secondly, back in the days of Yanukovich, the Kiev Patriarchate was the assembly point for the nationalists in Kiev and in the regions, especially in Central Ukraine. Those were the old dissidents from 'Prosvita' and mustachioed men in embroidered shirts, patriotism-crazy, and young boys and girls from 'Svoboda', 'Sokol' and other organizations, doing the Nazi salute, and nominally liberal intellectuals who were in opposition to the regime of the Party of Regions," says Igor.
In the east, there are few parishioners, but temples were grabbed by "ours"
"In 2009, my friend, also a 'priest' of the KP, with the blessing of 'Vladyka', went to one of the eastern regions. His task was to help the local 'bishop' organise the work of the eparchy and register new communities. According to the law, the so-called "ten" is needed to register a community – ten people who file documents.
But this is not enough: for a full-fledged life of the community, you need a room that can be adapted for a temple. Naturally, all – the mayor, deputies, business – were against him. All of them went to the UOC, and we, in fact, invaded a foreign territory there. And he had to position himself as a true Ukrainian Church, unlike the 'Moscow' Church.
Naturally, with such a presentation, our eparchies made an impression of besieged fortresses there. Five people came to the first Easter service of the KP in his city, but eventually, the whole pro-Ukrainian community decided to help. The community had a sponsor. As soon as the matter got off the ground, the 'bishop' began to visit his church, and it came to the point that 'Vladyka' had an idea to appoint his cousin as rector. My colleague did not resist and went home. This is how the temple that he himself built from scratch in a few years, in an extremely unfriendly environment, was taken away from him. It's a shame."
"You can buy yourself a parish, which has never happened before"
"And now about the reasons for my leaving. I will start with not the most important, but the defining ones.
First, the relationship among the 'clerics' has become very competitive. Most of them are looking for good parishes, and in Western Ukraine, you can easily buy yourself a parish. This has never happened before – I'm a witness to that, but as soon as the KP became strong, trade began. I hate it!
The second reason is politics and intolerance towards dissenters. The KP has always been a politically motivated organization, and after the Maidan, the ideology of the Church became crystal clear – we are the most patriotic Church, but we can back away from church rules when we need it. For example, the 'priests' of the KP can 'crown' unbaptized people, 'commune' a parishioner who has insincerely confessed, during the 'liturgy' many of our 'priests' behave inappropriately, without understanding the sacrament."
Anti-Semitism and lack of spirituality
"Anti-Semitism is widespread in the KP, and the idea of Jews as enemies of Christ is very popular. And few of the 'clerics' condemn such manifestations. By the way, I advise you to read our 'priests' on Facebook – you will be surprised how many of them are anti-Semites and generally intolerant people, sometimes open Nazis.
And on the other hand, there are very few monastics in the Kiev Patriarchate. Look how many monks and nuns there are in the UOC, and you will understand that these people are seeking salvation in the real Church, and not in a political-religious organization. This is a matter of spirituality. I am a believing person, and for me, however strange it may seem to you, every sacrament, and especially the Eucharist, is precisely the sacrament.
When I had already left the Kiev Patriarchate, I went to the temple of the UOC. Confessed and received the Eucharist. I do not know how to explain this to a non-believer, but that day I first took communion of the Body and Blood of Christ. This is an inexpressible, deep spiritual feeling."
About the Ukrainian Orthodox Church
"I am sure that only after returning from schism – and the KP is a schism in its pure form, whoever says anything – we all can receive autocephaly, although the Tomos issue is clearly politicized. I am sure that the patriots themselves aggravated the situation in the UOC when they left for the Kiev Patriarchate. They should have stayed in the UOC and influenced its policy from the inside."