Theatre of the Absurd in a letter of Pat. Bartholomew to Met. Onufriy

Patriarch Bartholomew notified His Beatitude Onufriy that after the “unification council,” he would no longer be the Metropolitan

A letter appeared on the Net from Phanar to His Beatitude Onufriy. The fact that Phanar no longer considers the UOC head as legitimate caused a wave of indignation.

In the lawless actions of the Patriarchate of Constantinople one moment is ever-striking – it looks so as if this lawlessness is deliberately reiterated. It seems that Phanar intentionally does not veil or disguise the absurdity of its own decisions and actions in a more or less decent diplomatic form. It just speaks bluntly, disregarding justice, church canons and defying common sense. Why do Phanar representatives do this? Maybe, being unable to refuse to fulfill a political order from outside, they intentionally act so roughly so that later it would be easier for them to cancel their decisions because of their obvious absurdity? Or maybe, everything is much simpler: “a cheeky person owns half the world (or even the whole world)”?

This is the impression the letter of Patriarch Bartholomew to His Beatitude Metropolitan Onufriy makes. It contains allegations so absurd one can think that Patriarch Bartholomew cites obvious absurdities on purpose and, moreover, he is engaged in actual self-disclosure. Now – first things first.

Absurdity One

At the very beginning of his letter, justifying his actions in Ukraine and, in particular, as regards convening of the “unification council,” His All-Holiness weirdly mentions one of the most shameful pages in the history of the Church of Constantinople. Moreover, it is precisely via this disgraceful fact that he claims that the Russian Orthodox Church has no rights to the eparchy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. He asserts neither more nor less: that the Russian Orthodox Church has been in schism since 1448 itself. Here is a quote from the letter of Patriarch Bartholomew: “...the Holy Metropolitanate of Kiev has always belonged to the jurisdiction of the Mother Church of Constantinople, founded by it as a separate Metropolitanate, occupying the 60th position in the list of the eparchies of the Ecumenical Throne. Later on, the local Synod in the state of Great Russia — upon an unfounded pretext — unilaterally cut itself off from its canonical authority, i.e. the Holy Great Church of Christ (1448), but in the city of Kiev other Metropolitans, authentic and canonical, were continually and unceasingly ordained by the Ecumenical Patriarchate, since the Kievan clergy and laity did not accept their subjection to the center of Moscovy.”

But after all, it is enough to open any history textbook, or at least glance at Wikipedia to find out that at this time the Church of Constantinople itself turned Christianity over to the Pope. It's about the Ferrara-Florence Union. Patriarch Bartholomew claims that the "Synod in the State of Great Russia", i.e. the Russian Orthodox Church, "cut itself off from its canonical hierarchy". But after all, the whole world knows that at this time this very “canonical hierarchy” betrayed the Orthodox faith at the Ferrara-Florence Council and, as a result, ceased to be both “canonical” and “hierarchy”. To assert that after this treachery the “hierarchy” had some kind of “canonicity” is the same as to say that Judas Iscariot, who betrayed the Savior, continued to be a canonical apostle after the betrayal.

In short, the events of the Ferrara-Florence treachery are as follows. In the middle of the 14th century, the once glorious Byzantine Empire was only Constantinople and its suburbs, and even those were threatened by the Turks. Under these conditions, the Byzantine emperor John VIII Palaeologus, together with the Patriarch of Constantinople Joseph II, forced the episcopate of the Church of Constantinople to recognize the authority of the Pope and all Catholic dogmas, hoping for military and financial assistance from the Vatican (which, however, they did not receive). The Union Act was signed on July 5, 1439. True, Patriarch Joseph II did not live to see it, but managed to approve it in writing at the meeting of the Constantinople delegation. Of the Constantinople bishops who were present at the Ferrara-Florence Council, only St. Mark of Ephesus did not sign the union.

But Metropolitan Isidore of Moscow and All Russia not only signed the union but was one of its most active supporters. Isidore was appointed to the Moscow arch-see shortly before the Ferraro-Florence Council (in 1437) in order to ensure that the resources of the richest metropolia of the Constantinople Patriarchate were in the hands of the Union supporters. Upon returning to Constantinople after the union had been signed, the Constantinople hierarchy who betrayed Orthodoxy did not even dare to declare it to the people. However, the people still found out about the betrayal and responded to the “Judes” with a real obstruction: they did not go to their services and did not make a liturgical mention of the patriarch. After Patriarch Joseph II approved the union, there were two other Uniate patriarchs at the arch-see of Constantinople: Mitrofan II and Gregory III Mama. Metropolitan Isidore, having arrived in Moscow after his treacherous action, did not fear to announce the union and read the relevant act during the divine service in the Assumption Cathedral of the Kremlin in 1441, for which he was arrested but fled from detention to Rome, where he continued his activity in the rank of cardinal.

The Council of Russian Bishops ordained Metropolitan Jonah for the Moscow arch-see in 1448 without the blessing of Constantinople, since Patriarchal traitors occupied the see in Constantinople (besides, Jonah had received a blessing  for the Kiev arch-see from the Patriarch of Constantinople before the latter accepted the union). In 1453 Constantinople was captured by the Turks, and only after that the Orthodox hierarch, Gennady II Scholary, became the Patriarch. Decades later, the union was officially condemned by Constantinople, and the Patriarchs of Constantinople tried to regain control of the Russian Church but to no avail. In 1589 the Russian Church became autocephalous, which was recognized by all the Local Churches, and in the first place – Constantinople.

How can one blame the Russian Church for being faithful to Orthodoxy, while the Church of Constantinople betrayed the faith — Patriarch Bartholomew alone may know it.

Absurdity Two

Patriarch Bartholomew writes that it was not he and his Synod that abolished the Tomos in 1686 on the transfer of the Kiev Metropolitanate to Moscow but the Kiev Metropolitans and the Moscow Patriarchs who canceled it unilaterally. Here is a quote from the letter of Patriarch Bartholomew: "... On October 11 of this year, our Holy and Sacred Synod canonically revoked the binding force of the Patriarchal Letters of the blessed Patriarch Dionysius IV of the year 1686, which had been unilaterally abolished by your side and the Russian Patriarchate a long time ago." Patriarch Bartholomew calls a "unilateral abolition" the fact that the Kiev metropolitans did not mention the patriarchs of Constantinople at the divine service, in conformity with the Tomos of 1686. However, first, this requirement itself was wrongful, because as a part of the Russian Church, the Kiev metropolitans had to commemorate the patriarch of Russia and not the primate of another Local Church. And secondly, for three hundred years Constantinople considered this “absence of commemoration” to be absolutely normal and did not voice any complaints either to Moscow or to Kiev.

Absurdity Three

Patriarch Bartholomew writes to Metropolitan Onufriy: “We also notify you that the historical Metropolitanate of Kiev and the ecclesiastical eparchies within the territory of Ukraine have already come under the canonical status that existed before the issuance of the aforementioned Letters, i.e. being fully dependent on our Holy Apostolic and Patriarchal Ecumenical Throne."

Below is a map that combines today's Ukrainian Orthodox Church and the historical Kiev Metropolitanate.
 

The projection of the Kiev Metropolia as of 1686 on a modern map of Ukraine and neighboring countries

Green color indicates the territory of the Kiev Metropolis. As we can see, besides Ukraine, it is also located on the territory of Russia, Poland, Belarus, Lithuania and Latvia. And if we agree with the unlawful abolition by Phanar of the Tomos in 1686, then all these ecclesiastic structures should be transferred to the jurisdiction of Constantinople. But for some reason Phanar does not require this. Instead, it asserts that “the ecclesiastical eparchies within the territory of Ukraine have already come under the canonical status that existed before the issuance of the aforementioned Letters, i.e. being fully dependent on our Holy Apostolic and Patriarchal Ecumenical Throne."

But we can see that two thirds of the ecclesiastic territory of Ukraine has never belonged to the Patriarchate of Constantinople. And if to return these eparchies “into the status that existed before the issuance of the aforementioned Letters”, it literally means that all Christians should be evicted from the Crimea and the Black Sea region with the Tatars settled there, while the east of Ukraine should be turned into a deserted steppe. In 1686 these territories existed in such a state. This is the same as to demand that the US population get back to Europe and Africa, and Indians populate America again. However, Patriarch Bartholomew for whatever reason interprets the situation “before the issuance of the aforementioned Letters” quite differently – as the subordination of eparchies of southern and eastern Ukraine to Phanar. What does Constantinople have to do, say, with Odessa eparchy, which arose almost a hundred years after the transfer of the Kiev Metropolitanate to the Russian Church?

It can be clearly seen that two thirds of the ecclesiastic territory of Ukraine has never belonged to the Patriarchate of Constantinople. And if to return these eparchies “into the status that existed before the issuance of the aforementioned Letters”, it literally means that all Christians should be evicted from the Crimea and the Black Sea region with the Tatars settled there, while the east of Ukraine should be turned into a deserted steppe, since these territories existed in such a state back in 1686.  

Absurdity Four

Patriarch Bartholomew declares that Metropolitan Onufriy will be the Metropolitan of Kiev only till the “unification council” and no longer afterwards: “… through this Patriarchal Letter and addressing you as the “eminent Metropolitan of Kiev,” in a form of oikonomia and condescension, we notify you that after the election of the Primate of the Ukrainian Church by the clergy-laity body, you will not be ecclesiologically and canonically able to bear the title of the Metropolitan of Kiev, which, anyway, you possess today in transgression of the prescribed conditions in the official documents of 1686.”

I would like to remind Patriarch Bartholomew his words, spoken in 2016 at the Assembly of Primates of the Local Orthodox Churches in Chambesy. Then the head of Constantinople greeted His Beatitude Onufriy as "the only canonical First Hierarch of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, who is recognized in this capacity by all Orthodox Churches." How can it be that even yesterday, His Beatitude Onufriy was perceived by Phanar as the canonical First Hierarch of the Church, while today he is not?!

Metropolitan Onufriy was ordained the Metropolitan of Kiev in 2014, in full conformity with all the ecclesiastic canonical documents in force at that time. This is recognized by all the Local Churches, including Constantinople. His ordination is legal, and in order to deprive him of his arch-see, some kind of foundation is needed. This basis can be backsliding into heresy, canonical or moral misconduct and a relevant decision of the church court. There is none of the above. Then on what basis can he be deprived of his arch-see?

I would like to remind Patriarch Bartholomew his words, spoken in 2016 at the Assembly of Primates of the Local Orthodox Churches in Chambesy. Then the head of Constantinople greeted His Beatitude Onufriy as "the only canonical First Hierarch of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, who is recognized in this capacity by all Orthodox Churches." How can it be that even yesterday, His Beatitude Onufriy was perceived by Phanar as the canonical First Hierarch of the Church, while today he is not?!

Moreover, the very personality of His Beatitude Metropolitan Onufriy is so flawless that any attacks against him discredit, first of all, the attacker himself. Metropolitan Onufriy has such high authority in the entire Orthodox World that an attempt to dismiss him in such a brazen manner exposes Patriarch Bartholomew in the person of all Orthodox community as a person who commits blatant lawlessness. Being hostile toward Metropolitan Onufriy, Phanar seems to be pushing the Local Churches to condemn its actions.

Absurdity Five

His All-Holiness demands that Metropolitan Onufriy serve with Messrs. Denisenko and Maletich. Quote: “We also exhort you and your Hierarchy to be in communion with the former Metropolitan of Kiev Filaret and the former Archbishop of Lvov Makariy and those with them, since they have been properly reinstated by us to the episcopacy …” The so-called “reinstatement” of Messrs. Denisenko and Maletich is recognized only by Phanar. The rest of the Orthodox Churches did not recognize him, while the Russian, Serbian and Polish Churches by the decisions of their Bishops' Councils or Synods rejected this “restoration” and declared that they did not consider it possible to enter into communion with the schismatics. And this is not at all because of sympathy for the ROC, but because of the blatant lawlessness due to the “reinstatement”, both in form and in content.

As for the head of the UAOC, Makariy Maletich, the situation is basically ridiculous and comic. After all, this man left the Church (and was banned) being in the rank of priest, not the bishop. He became the "Metropolitan of Lvov" already in the structure of schismatics, in 1995. If Phanar “reinstated” him as a bishop, does the Synod of Constantinople recognize the “episcopal ordinations” of schismatics, too? It is impossible to interpret this situation differently.

Patriarch Bartholomew writes that he “reinstated” Messrs. Denisenko and Maletich “through our positive judgments in relation to the petitions of appeal they had repeatedly submitted to us.” But there was no judgment upon the appeal. The consideration of the appeal implies some kind of legal proceedings at which the arguments of both parties are heard, or at least credited. But Phanar did not even bother to formally seek the arguments of the charges against Mr. Denisenko either from the Russian or from the Ukrainian Church. The petition of appeal was not considered. Therefore, it could not be satisfied. Not to mention that the accusations of Mr. Denisenko of his authoritarian methods of management, violation of monastic vows (of actual family life), breach of the bishop's oath and all the rest have such a solid evidentiary base that if they were considered even impartially, he would never have a chance of being justified. True though, there is always a chance to repent, but Mr. Denisenko has not yet taken advantage of it. And now Patriarch Bartholomew not only announced that he himself enters into communion with a person who was excommunicated from the Church, but also pushes His Beatitude Metropolitan Onufriy to act in the same way.

Absurdity Six

This letter does not say it literally, but its meaning boils down to a clear threat toward Metropolitan Onufriy personally and to the entire Ukrainian Orthodox Church: after the “unification council” the UOC will be recognized as schismatic, while Messrs. Denisenko and Maletich with their “fellow believers” –  as a canonical church. This is because the UOC is not going to participate in the "council" unlike the UOC KP and the UAOC. It turns out that all these years, Constantinople has recognized the UOC KP and the UAOC as schismatics, but all of a sudden changed its mind to the exactly opposite. And what did the dissenters themselves do for such a change? Maybe, they repented? At least, before Constantinople. Nothing! The UOC has always been recognized as the canonical Church, and now suddenly it can be called schismatic. Again, what wrong did the UOC do? Perhaps, its episcopate began to preach some kind of heresy? Perhaps, it sold the Orthodox faith to the Pope? Perhaps, it abolished some commandment of God? No? So, what's the fault of the UOC?

They say the more horrific the lie is, the more they believe in it. The same can be said about lawlessness: the bolder it is, the more likely it is that it will work. Does it ring a bell to you? “And the serpent said to the wife, 'No, you shall not die, but God knows that on the day on which you taste them your eyes will open, and you will be like gods knowing good and evil'” (Gen. 3, 4-5) . The serpent also proposed to solve the problem of deification easily and simply, without labor and toil, without obeying the Lord’s commandments. Just reach out and take it. From this very “column” comes the prescription of His All-Holiness for healing the Ukrainian schism: without repentance, without humility, without returning to the Church only come to the “unification council” with the dissenters, enter into communion with them, and elect a common primate ... But it all ended differently: “... on the day you eat from it, you die by death” (Gen. 2, 17).

His Beatitude Metropolitan Onufriy sealed the letter of Patriarch Bartholomew in an envelope and sent it back to the sender. No comments. The answer of our Primate is very eloquent: he does not want to be a clown in the theater of the absurd, arranged by His All-Holiness Patriarch of Constantinople. Let us follow his example to remain the faithful children of the Church of Christ.

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Poll

What do you think Poroshenko creates under the guise of the Single Local Church?
a new schismatic structure controlled by the state
55%
an autocephalous Church, which Phanar will take under its omophorion
16%
it does not matter – it will not work out anyway
29%
Total votes: 520

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