Tomos and Martial Law

Petro Poroshenko has signed a decree on the imposition of martial law in Ukraine

The President has signed a decree on martial law. How can this affect the situation around the Ukrainian Orthodox Church? Let's figure it out.

In response to the seizure of three Ukrainian military boats by Russian border guards, the National Security Council of Ukraine decided to impose martial law in the country. Within 48 hours it must be approved by the Verkhovna Rada. What is it: the “B” plan for Poroshenko to stay in power or an adequate response to the actions of Russia — let’s leave to political experts. But how can this affect the situation around the Ukrainian Orthodox Church? Let's figure it out.

To begin, let us answer the question, bearing in mind that the correctly posed question is already half the answer: does martial law make the bestowal of the Tomos by Patriarch Bartholomew more likely or less likely? Obviously, less likely. A country being in a state of martial law cannot hope for loans with investments let alone Tomos. This, by the way, for more than four years has been a constant argument of Petro Poroshenko on proposals to introduce martial law. “The IMF does not give money to countries at war ... <...> Martial law prohibits the supply of weapons, dual-purpose products ... <...> Calling on the authorities to make a decision on martial law, MPs should be aware of the consequences of such a decision for the country. Today, even one careless word can lead to great implications ... " (from the speech of P. Poroshenko to the leaders of parliamentary factions and groups on July 22, 2014).

Patriarch Bartholomew is hardly to give Tomos to Petro Poroshenko for a variety of reasons.

First of all, Phanar made all the promises on granting the Tomos arising from the assurances of the Ukrainian authorities that they would manage to drive a significant number of bishops from the UOC into the Single Church. However, the Council of Bishops on 13.11.2018 showed not only the unity of the episcopate in the question of SLC and not only the refusal to participate in the “unification council”, but also the categorical rejection by the canonical Church of Phanar’s reckless schemes in Ukraine. The Eucharistic communion was severed with Constantinople. Under these conditions, the granting of Tomos to the "united schismatics" (which is also questionable) exposes Patriarch Bartholomew in the eyes of the entire Orthodox World as an outspoken supporter of schism. Moreover, Archbishop Job (Getcha) stated not so long ago that the recognition of Messrs. Denisenko and Maletich together with their supporters as “reunited with the church” does not mean the recognition of the structures of the UOC KP and the UAOC themselves.

Secondly, the bestowal of the Tomos to the country in a state of martial law will clearly show that Patriarch Bartholomew is not a wise and far-sighted hierarch, as they try to portray him, but on the contrary, he is biased and not free in making his decisions.

Thirdly, in conditions when practically none of the episcopate and clergy of the UOC back an idea of the Local Church in Ukraine, the attitude of the Local Churches to this project will be overwhelmingly negative. In their reaction to the possible granting of Tomos, they will rely on the fact that this is an absolutely explicit political and, moreover, pre-election project of Petro Poroshenko. The participation of his All-Holiness in the pre-election campaign in Ukraine on the side of the President (with the meager support of the electorate) discredits Patriarch Bartholomew a lot further.

Fourthly, and most importantly, Patriarch Bartholomew himself does not really want to bestow a Tomos. He wants to grow his own canonical territory at the expense of Ukraine, and not let another Local Church to appear in Ukraine. And in order to pause the process of granting the Tomos, martial law in Ukraine is the best excuse. Both Petro Poroshenko and the American Tomos-lobbyists can point to this circumstance and say that they would be happy to do it but for the martial law.

At the same time, no martial law can prevent Patriarch Bartholomew from continuing to form his own church structures in Ukraine like Stavropegion, Exarchate, Metropolis or something else. All this, of course, will be implemented under the banner: “The Mother Church gathers all its Ukrainian children under its omophorion.”

But since martial law makes the granting of Tomos almost unreal (at least very risky for Patriarch Bartholomew), then the next question is: why does Petro Poroshenko introduce it knowing this will frustrate the project he has been promoting for the last six months?

The answer is obvious: the President has already understood there will be no Tomos in the form in which he promised it to the country. And we need to do something else to mobilize the electorate before the elections themselves. Yes, we will not argue that martial law is introduced solely in order to cancel the election. But any sane person cannot help asking an elementary question: why is martial law introduced right now due to the capture of three warships (though even defective warships), but was not introduced after the tragedies of Ilovaisk and Debaltsevo.

It turns out that all ecclesiastic affairs will be cut adrift, while the administration will be engaged in another mainstream project. And it is very beneficial for many participants of the SLC project. Patriarch Bartholomew, under the guise of martial law, delays the Tomos. But at the same time he has his hands free in the matter of acquiring church property and the Ukrainian flock. Moreover, decisions to transfer such property to him have already been taken by the President and the Verkhovna Rada. Mr. Denisenko may re-enter the game "Stay Patriarch" without regard for Phanar. So what if he wrote a letter refusing to nominate his candidacy for the post of the SLC head – well, the circumstances have changed, now is the military situation. The radicals, who love nothing better than seizing an Orthodox temple, will be able to carry out their actions on the wave of pseudo-patriotism in a state of martial law.

In this case, the Church is completely defenseless. Firstly, the enemies of the Church receive a very powerful ideological excuse in the fight against it. “Martial law”, “aggression”, “UOC are the agents of the Kremlin”, which means that the fight against them is a duty of every “patriot”. Any hostility, any violence against believers and the clergy of the UOC in the eyes of society will be justified by martial law. Even if the law enforcement agencies will try to stop the atrocities, this will be presented as violence against the “heroes”. And secondly, the legislation on martial law (the Law of Ukraine “On the legal regime of martial law”) provides the broadest possibilities of now “legal” repression against the Church.

For example, Art. 8, Para 1 of the Law suggests the following: “The military command <...> may introduce and exercise, within the framework of martial law, temporary restrictions, the constitutional rights and freedoms of a person and citizen ...”

Firstly: “to establish enhanced protection <...> of objects that ensure the vital activity of the population and to introduce a special mode of their work.” These objects include power plants, heat and water supply systems, etc. But why, knowing the attitude of our authorities, such objects cannot be, say, lavras?

Secondly: “... to introduce labor service for able-bodied persons <...> for community service.” Isn’t it a reason to involve in these works uncooperative clergy and faithful children of the UOC?

Thirdly: “... to forcibly alienate property in private or communal ownership.” Comments are redundant...

Fourthly: "... to inspect things, vehicles, baggage and cargo, office space and housing of citizens ..."

Fifthly: “to prohibit the holding of peaceful assemblies, rallies, campaigns and demonstrations”. This means that the Church will not be able to organize either religious processions, or standing prayers, or other protest actions. It will not be possible to protest against anti-church bills, against the seizure of temples, and so on.

Sixthly: “to put <...> the question of prohibiting the activities of political parties, public associations, if it is aimed at liquidating the independence of Ukraine, <...> inciting <...> religious hatred ...” That is, any human rights organization that today speaks for the defense of the UOC may be prohibited. If someone is against the SLC, which is declared the basis of state independence of Ukraine, then this can be regarded as "activity aimed at the elimination of the independence of Ukraine." And if someone says that the SLC is a non-canonical religious organization, then these theses can be fully classified as “incitement of religious hatred”.

Seventh: “to impose prohibition or restrictions on the choice of the place of stay or residence of persons in the territory where martial law is in force.” If suddenly an Orthodox priest is too zealously defending his affiliation with the Church, one can limit his right to choose his place of stay.

Eighthly, "to regulate the work of printing companies, publishing houses <...> media, <...> to prohibit <...> the transmission of information through computer networks." Any church publisher can be blocked. Printing church newspapers, magazines and brochures may be prohibited. All church groups in Viber, Facebook, and so on can be blocked. Any church media can be closed by decision of the military administration. Believers will simply be deprived of the opportunity to know the point of view of the Church; they will not be able to know what is happening in the Church. And “in the case of violation of requirements or non-fulfillment of measures of the legal regime of martial law, withdraw (expropriate – Ed.) from <...> organizations of all forms of ownership, individual citizens <...> computers, as well as, if necessary, other technical means of communication (smart phones – Ed. )."

Ninthly: “to foresee for individuals and legal entities a military duty to provide servicemen with apartment accommodation.”  Why in this case not lodge in Orthodox monasteries, say, members of the “Right Sector”?

Tenthly: “to remove from office the heads of enterprises, institutions and organizations for improper fulfillment of the duties defined by this law and appoint acting heads ...” In case the abbot of the monastery does not perform military-apartment conscription – he can be removed. Nothing personal! Everything is according to the law.

In general, the martial law opens up tremendous opportunities for pressure on the Church, unties the hands of everyone who would like to throw a stone or an incendiary bottle at Her. But the Church can oppose all this with faith, courage and unity. Now is the time when going to an Orthodox temple "just so" will not work. Now any person who goes to Christ, who crosses the threshold of His Church, realizes that by doing so he puts himself at risk of being “unreliable” in the eyes of the state and society, incur a misunderstanding of loved ones, anger of radicals and possible reprisals. What can make a person in such conditions remain faithful to the Church? Only the determination to follow Christ, having taken his cross.

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to follow me must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.” (Matt. 16, 24-27).

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What will happen if the Church of Greece recognizes the OCU?
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