The Church in the President’s Address
On September 20, the President of Ukraine addressed the VR with a message in which he mentioned Tomos and his steps toward the UOC. Let's read and comment it.
"There is another very important thing. Finally, the exarchs of the Ecumenical Patriarch arrived in Kiev. They are here to prepare a decision to grant autocephaly to the Ukrainian Local Orthodox Church. This is what we are doing with you. And we will definitely win in the cause which Metropolitan Hilarion Ogienko called a ‘complete separation of our Church from Moscow’."
The mention of the name of Metropolitan Hilarion Ogienko and his words about the separation of the Church from Moscow are quite symbolic. Ogienko is a truly outstanding figure in the Ukrainian culture, the author of many scientific works on Ukrainian literary criticism, the history of the church, culture, canon law, the author of the translation into Ukrainian of the Holy Scripture and many liturgical texts.
Public, political and church leader, Minister of Education and Minister of Religions of the Ukrainian People's Republic, prominent figure of Ukrainian emigration, Primate of the Ukrainian Greek-Orthodox Church in Canada (until 1990 it was non-canonical, then became autonomous within the Constantinople Patriarchate). His merits to the Ukrainian state and culture are beyond doubt. However, in the religious sphere, Hilarion Ogienko's activities are characterized by two very significant features.
The former is the prevalence of the national over the religious itself and, accordingly, the neglect of the religious if it was in conflict with the national one. He stood at the origins of the creation of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Church after the revolution of 1917, he was the head of a non-canonical religious organization in Canada, i.e., he was ready to be outside the Church of Christ for the sake of implementing a national-religious project.
The latter feature, as a consequence of the former, is a close relationship with the Uniates, up to joint communions. These two features indicate what stands behind "complete separation from Moscow", both in the days of I.Ogienko and today.
"The creation of the Single Local Orthodox Ukrainian Church should strengthen this unity (within the country – Ed.). The Exarchs of the Ecumenical Patriarch told me without any diplomatic conventions that the process of granting autocephaly to Ukraine heads into the homestretch. They said it publicly. I do not know exactly when the Tomos will be adopted and delivered to Kiev. But I am sure that the chariot of history was set in motion so that no one can set it back."
Once again, the President from a high rostrum confirmed that the Single Local Orthodox Ukrainian Church (SLOC) is not intended to save human souls but to solve political problems. Constant allusion to this thesis should have long ago convinced everybody what such a religious organization is about. People who are searching for Christ, who are not looking for an enduring city here, but are looking for the city that is to come (Hebrews 13, 14), for whom struggling with a sin is more important than with the "aggressor state", will not find satisfaction in the SLOC-to-be. This structure is for people whose value system starts not with God but with Ukraine (at best). The words that the exarchs of Constantinople turn out to be able to say "without any diplomatic conventions" cause a smile. Perhaps we will soon witness the virtuosity (resourcefulness) of Byzantine diplomacy. Probably, P.Poroshenko also feels something like this, since he does not mention the terms of granting the Tomos as he did before the celebration of the 1030th anniversary of the Baptism of Rus. Instead, he says cautiously, "I do not know when the Tomos will be adopted." Indeed, the finish line can be infinite.
"A hundred years ago, the issue of autocephaly was put on the agenda by the state leadership of the Ukrainian People's Republic. 27 years ago, Ukraine resumed its struggle for autocephaly. But decisive there have become the last four years of at first quiet and thorough and now public diplomacy, including with your help, respected people's deputies."
Yes, indeed the issue of Ukrainian autocephaly is a state initiative both 100 years ago today. It was so state-pinned that the then autocephalists could not even find a single bishop to ordain an autocephalous hierarchy. Vasil Lipkovsky was blasphemously "ordained" to "bishops" by laying on him the relics (hands) of the holy martyr Makary, Metropolitan of Kiev.
The statement that "27 years ago Ukraine resumed its struggle for autocephaly" is untrue. The struggle for autocephaly was resumed by just a few at that time groups of nationalists, pedophile (according to the decision of the court) "bishop" Vikenty Chekalin and devoid of the holy dignity and monasticism "bishop" Ioann Bondarchuk. After a while, the "battles for autocephaly" were relayed by excommunicated Mr. Denisenko and two disgowned vicar bishops of the UOC. In the 52 millionth (at that time) Ukraine, supporters of this autocephaly accounted for a very small percentage. To say that all Ukraine fought for autocephaly cannot be substantiated by commonly known historical facts. The decisive were not "the last four years of at first quiet and thorough ...", but the last pre-election year which is also known to everyone.
"As the Holy Scriptures dictate, we will definitely not worship alien gods. And the state, especially the foreign state, will not interfere in the internal affairs of the Church."
The President did not say it directly, but it is clear from the context that he is not going to worship those "gods" that the Russian Orthodox Church worships. The ROC worships Christ, crucified and risen. Does it mean for P.Poroshenko that Christ is an "alien God"? And what is his then? Proceeding from all the statements of the President, we can conclude that "his God" is the idea of Ukrainian statehood (at best), a kind of statehood that assumes to be part of the EU and NATO.
As for the interference of a foreign state, even the Russian Orthodox Church does not interfere in the activity of the UOC. On the contrary, our Ukrainian bishops intervene in the activities of the Russian Orthodox Church, as they are members of the Synod of Bishops and the Council of Bishops there. And there is no trace of the intervention of a foreign state in the internal affairs of the UOC. One can talk about the Russian presence in the Ukrainian economy, finance, trade, energy and so on. But there is nothing to say about the presence of the Russian state in the UOC.
"Why are they fighting so hard for this? Because the empire is losing one of the last levers of influence. The Tomos is actually another Act of Ukraine's proclamation of independence. For us, our own church is a guarantee of spiritual freedom. This is the guarantee of public consent."
The Church in today's world has long ago lost the function of leverage. In foreign policy, other levers are much more effective. And these levers are in full use to exercise pressure on Ukraine. The most effective of them is financial.
- To please the IMF, the Ukrainian government agrees to plunder its citizens with the help of inadequate tariffs for utilities, gas and electricity prices;
- The negative balance in the foreign trade of Ukraine reduces the value of the national currency.
- Gas pipelines, built around Ukraine, will deprive the budget of revenues for transit.
- The best conditions for employment abroad deprive Ukraine of skilled labor.
- The issue of political support by the United States of politicians in Ukraine is a matter of their coming into power.
Here are the real levers of pressure! What can the Church do? Call for peace in the country? Remind of love for enemies and the need to keep the commandments of God? Does this affect modern society?
The President's phrase "Tomos is actually another Act of proclaiming Ukraine's independence" is another confirmation that the whole project of the Tomos is a pure policy. But the fact that "our own church is a pledge of public consent" is very doubtful.
Public consent is when all or the overwhelming majority agree. And in conditions when the UOC (which embraces the lion's share of Orthodox believers in Ukraine) are dead set against the Tomos, to say that it leads to public consent is an outright lie.
"I guarantee that the state will respect the choice of those who decide to stay in the church structure that will preserve unity with the Russian Orthodox Church. And we will call it the same way and in order to facilitate understanding."
Therefore, the President confirmed that the authorities intend to compel the Ukrainian Orthodox Church to become the Russian Orthodox Church in Ukraine. As it has been repeatedly said, the names Russian, Ukrainian, Polish, Greek etc should be understood not in the sense that it is the Church of the State, but that it is the Church of Christ in Poland, Romania, Bulgaria and so on.
Even the Japanese Orthodox Church, which is autonomous within the ROC, is officially registered in Japan as the Japanese Orthodox Church of Christ (日本ハリストス正教会 - Nihon Harisutosu Seikyo: kai). The attempt to rename the UOC in the ROC in Ukraine does not correspond to the Orthodox understanding of what the Church is. This renaming is fraught with a double danger.
First, the distortion of the essence. The eparchies and parishes of the UOC are made up of Ukrainian bishops, Ukrainian presbyters and deacons, as well as laymen-citizens of Ukraine (perhaps, with some rare exception). Do they have to change their citizenship overnight? Why not then rename the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church to the Roman Church of the Eastern Rite in Ukraine?
Second, such renaming will be tantamount to the command "Attack!" for various nationalists and radical-minded thugs. The state, thereby, will indicate to all those who wish to scratch their fists against the "internal enemy". Also citizens of Ukraine will be tempted, in case of renaming, to reproach, ridicule, mock their neighbors, employees, acquaintances who will not go to the newly created SLC. And how about psychological pressure at work, or persecution of children in schools? After all, here is a ready reproach: "You go to the Church of the aggressor state!". The President's words lurk the intention to take away from the Church not only the Lavra, but also any state or municipal property that the communities of the UOC enjoy as long-term leases. After all, according to such an interpretation, historical monuments cannot be used by the Church of the "aggressor state"!
"But at the same time, I guarantee that the state will protect (and do not scare them) the rights of those priests and laity of the UOC of the Moscow Patriarchate who will voluntarily decide to leave Moscow to join together with other Orthodox believers the Single Local Orthodox Ukrainian Church."
How this "voluntary" transition is accomplished is already well known. Some residents of the village, who have been to the temple several times in their life, suddenly declare their desire to go to the UOC KP (after receiving the Tomos in SLOC). They are immediately supported by local authorities and young muscular guys from nationalist organizations. The opinion of the parishioners who go to the temple for all the services, maintain and decorate it, are simply ignored. It is this scheme that the President guarantees because any other scheme, in the vast majority of cases, simply does not exist.
"Here, in our expanses, the future of world Orthodoxy is being decided. We understand it with Russians in completely different ways, and this is one of the reasons why we are out of the way with Russians. They have a staple – the so-called authoritarian regime, whereas we as the largest Orthodox country in Europe will demonstrate how organically Christianity in one national organism is accompanied by the Christianity of the Eastern rite and democracy."
P. Poroshenko says that Russians understand Orthodoxy differently, that this is the state's bond. But why does he himself say all the time about such an understanding of Orthodoxy? After all, it is heard from the lips of the President that the Church is an attribute of Ukrainian independence, that it is "another act of proclaiming independence," that an independent state needs an independent Church, that it needs to fight the "aggressor state". In other words, the Church in the understanding of P. Poroshenko is an appendage of the state machine and no other way. Has anyone ever heard a different interpretation of Orthodoxy from Poroshenko?
But the fact that the fate of the whole World Orthodoxy is being forged in Ukraine is true. What will it be like after the brutal interference of politicians into church affairs? Divided, weakened, discredited by the aggressive actions of the Ecumenical Patriarchate? Will it turn from true faith into an element of statehood, or worse, into an element of the election campaign? Hardly. Presidents come and go but the Church of Christ is eternal.
"I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it..." (Matthew 16, 18).