Phanar legates: plans, aims, and tasks

Exarchs of the Phanar during the work of the "unification commission" of the UOC KP and UAOC in 2015

On the very first day when it became known that the Patriarchate of Constantinople had appointed its exarchs to Ukraine, the question arose where they would reside.

Archbishop Daniel and Bishop Hilarion are known to come from Ukraine. One was born in  Buchach, the other – in Ternopol. Indeed, they cannot receive visitors, study the "Ukrainian issue", and consider the possibility of granting autocephaly in their native places – Buchach or Ternopol. In addition, being church hierarchs, they must also serve somewhere, perform a liturgy. Therefore, the question "where" remains relevant to this day.

There were several variants of their temporary deployment.

First, the Presidential Administration was assumed to provide them with premises. But this option became immediately irrelevant because, according to the Constitution, in our country the Church is separated from the state, and the state cannot (indeed!) interfere in the affairs of the Church (?).

The second option was considered in the winter and was based on the fact that there was an agreement between the Patriarchate of Constantinople and the representatives of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church, according to which the UAOC gives one of its churches in Lvov to the Phanar. But this option is no longer available most likely for the reason that Lvov is not the capital, while the Phanar’s messengers must be as close as possible to the epicenter of the developments. So, volens nolens, they could and should choose only Kiev, the mother of Russian cities.

But Kiev is big. In addition, there are a number of ecclesiastic problems in Ukraine, which Constantinople still has to take into account despite its most bold statements. For example, the problem of schism and its rejection by most of the genuinely believing people of our country. Certainly, the Phanar is pretty much aware of our situation and no "sociological studies" of various Razumkov centers saying that almost all of the Ukrainians stand foursquare behind the "national local church" will not sound convincing.

Yes, among those who have nothing to do with the Church, there are indeed many who support the Ukrainian schism. Some of them, such as Presidential Adviser Yuriy Biriukov, even call themselves "atheists of the Kiev Patriarchate". But these people cannot be considered a flock of any kind of the Church (except potentially), which means it's hardly worth taking them into account. It is necessary to take into account only the position of people who are actually practicing believers but most of them do not accept schism at all. The slightest hint of any connection with schismatics will raise additional questions and may have an "effect of rejection" in the Orthodox society of Ukraine. Thus, any premises that at least remotely suggest this connection will not be used by the representatives of Constantinople, at least so far. Even if it is St. Sophia of Kiev. We remember that the so-called "warm temple" was granted by the Ministry of Culture for the use of the UOC-KP, and such neighborhood is not convenient for the exarchs.

What remains is operating temples of the UOC. However, we will not find such priests or bishops who could allow vladykas Daniel and Hilarion to perform a liturgy in their church. Because even the most ardent supporters of autocephaly understand perfectly well that communication and co-operation with bishops staying illegally in the canonical territory of the UOC can entail the most serious consequences. Therefore, the exarchs need a residence that would meet the following criteria:

1.    Not to have any liason with schismatics;
2.    Have a temple for worships;
3.    Have a good reputation among Orthodox Christians.

And such a residence, apparently, was found. Journalists of the UOJ received some information that on the evening of September 7, the head of the Kiev Patriarchate met with Acting Director of the National Kiev-Pechersk Historical and Cultural Reserve Alexander Rudnik and demanded the 19th building of the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra be transferred to the Kiev Patriarchate. Filaret insisted that this should be done soon.

However, a little later there were new details of this meeting. It turns out that Filaret asked these premises not for himself and not even for the SLC, but ... for the exarchs of the Patriarchate of Constantinople. How much this information corresponds to reality will be found out in the very near future. But, apparently, everything is moving in this direction.

And if it is really so, then what does it mean?

The Kiev-Pechersk Lavra is undoubtedly the main shrine of the Ukrainian people and one of the greatest sanctities of the entire Orthodox world. Using it as its residence, the Phanar's exarchs are penetrating, in fact, to the very heart of our Church. At the same time, they kill three birds with one stone:
- being in the epicenter of events;
- having every reason to look authoritatively in the eyes of Orthodox Christians;
- not having any external relation to the split.

At first glance, it seems problematic to serve the liturgy without agreement of His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry, since this is an unquestionable violation of the canons. But forwarding exarchs is anticanonical in itself. Therefore, one violation plus, one violation minus – what's the difference?

In addition, it must be taken into account that every divine service of the UOC in the territory of the upper Lavra, which belongs to the National Kiev-Pechersk Historical and Cultural Reserve, is coordinated with its leadership. And permission to serve can be given or not given – or given to someone else. And we all understand that if Patriarch Bartholomew turns to Petro Poroshenko with a request that his exarchs be permitted to serve in the Assumption Cathedral, then such permission will immediately follow. Thus, the Phanariots have quite real chances to place their residence in the territory of the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra and even serve in one of its main temples.

It is easy to guess – those who came up with this smart move, of course, count on the fact that eventually representatives of Constantinople will oust monks of the UOC from the Lavra altogether. In addition, the Orthodox people will get used to the fact that the leadership of the SLC is based in the ancient shrine, and in the public consciousness everything having to do with the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra is holy, right, and canonical. On top of that, it is more convenient to receive those hierarchs and clerics, who want to associate their lives with the SLC in the Lavra and to promise them chairs and parishes from there than from any parochial church.

It is clear that canonically there is no defense for all the actions of Constantinople in relation to the UOC. Nevertheless, no matter how haughty the Phanar’s attitude to the hierarchy of the UOC might be, one day it will have to explain its actions to His Beatitude Onuphry and Primates of other Local Churches.

Actually, the editorial board of the UOJ established that the rationale of the exarchs of Constantinople would draw on one of the theses of Patriarch Bartholomew, which he voiced at the recently held Synaxis, namely that the spiritual relation of the UOC with the Moscow Patriarchate is illegal, therefore, the canonical status of this Ukrainian Church is not orderly and should be revised. Naturally, in favor of re-subordiantion to the Patriarchate of Constantinople. Further on, the Phanar is free to do whatever it wants with its "own" structure. Although even now the fact that the Church of Constantinople did not consider it necessary to notify the leadership of the UOC on sending its "exarchs" to Ukraine says that it views the Ukrainian Orthodox Church as its  integral part. After all, bosses are not supposed to inform their subordinates about any of their actions, aren't they? The latter are usually presented with a fait accomli.

Will the leadership of the UOC, the Moscow Patriarchate and all other Local Churches accept such a state of affairs? Well, even if they do not, then what of it? The legates will have almost unlimited facilities the Ukrainian government is ready to supply them with: power, administrative and even legislative support. In light of this, famous words of Al Capone seem quite apt, "With a kind word and a pistol you can achieve much more than with just a kind word." It's really hard to argue with that, since on the side of the Phanar there will be everything the secular power can give. There is only a quick question: will God be on their side, too?

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