Birth of OCU: canons, lawlessness and elections of the President
At the end of 2018, a new church structure was created in Kiev – Orthodox Church in Ukraine – the one being called by Ukrainian authorities as the Church of their God.
The former Minister of Culture and now the MP from the Petro Poroshenko Bloc faction, says so directly: “This is the Church of direct communication with God. Because if for some reason we used to have a mediator, now we have our own God, our own Church.”
Petro Poroshenko, who led the "Unification Council," said that the process of creating this church took place in accordance with the canons: "It is important that everything was absolutely canonical, in full compliance with all the rules."
But as a result, at the end of 2018, a very strange and non-canonical situation emerged in Ukrainian Orthodoxy, with the Ukrainian Orthodox Church being recognized by the world Orthodoxy, the Kiev Patriarchate and the UAOC being unrecognized by anyone, and the virtual OCU, recognized only by Phanar, which ostensibly unites ALL Ukrainian Orthodoxy, but in fact – solely the Kiev Patriarchate and the Autocephalous Church.
Upon that the UOC is still twice as large as the other structures combined.
Hence, the situation at hand raises a number of baffled questions.
Bewilderment #1. How was the “Unification Council” held?
Petro Poroshenko mentioned more than once what it took him to bring the “council” to the end and to prevent the breakdown of the unification of all those gathered there: “I will not tell you how difficult the process was and how many times it seemed that the situation had already gone to the dead end.”
The participants of the “Sobor” said that such problems were caused by the ambitions of “hierarchs” who vehemently defended their interests.
And, as it turned out, not only Ukrainians could scatter away but even Phanariots. The “hierarch” of the Kiev Patriarchate, Clement Kushch, told some shocking details: “The whole process of creating a single Orthodox Church in Ukraine was in jeopardy. Because the delegation of the Greeks, after visiting the Presidential Administration, wanted to leave the territory of Ukraine. And, according to the President, he ordered to close the airport and not to let a single aircraft depart.”
Even before the “Council”, Filaret warned that if the terms were not satisfactory to him, there would be no association: “We simply won’t vote and reject it.”
After the “Sobor”, Filaret declared that there was a fierce struggle at the “unification council” in which he and his structure eventually won. But who was to be defeated by the church hierarch at the church meeting remained unclear.
Filaret: “The fight was fierce. And as a result of a difficult struggle, though fierce, we gained victory!”
Later, the fact was revealed that at the very Council Filaret blackmailed "hierarch" of the UOC KP Mikhail Zinkevich so that he withdrew his candidacy and made it possible to elect Filaret's protégé – Epiphany.
Here's how it was reported in TSN: “He removed his candidacy under pressure but still intends to lead the Church. Metropolitan Mikhail was persuaded by President Poroshenko and Speaker Parubiy to withdraw from the campaign. He did this only after Filaret's ultimatum. The latter said that if his protégé was not chosen, he would leave the Council with a part of the bishops. Mikhail recognizes Metropolitan Epiphany but does not leave his hope to lead the Church.”
All these events suggest that the “unification council” itself did not resemble a meeting of church hierarchs, but rather a congress of politicians where everyone defended his own interests.
Bewilderment #2. Who actually leads the OCU?
Not long ago, no one had any doubt that Filaret would be at leads of the new structure: “I was the patriarch, I am and I will be ... I will be the patriarch until my death!”
But soon some strange things began to occur. Filaret was forced to write a letter to Phanar on waiver of his claims to primacy. At the same time, on the eve of the “Sobor”, Filaret asserted that everyone who says that he was not running for office is Moscow agents: “Moscow is doing this but through our Ukrainian minions. And therefore, they spread these rumors that the patriarch will not stand in election.”
Nevertheless, Filaret nominated Epiphany instead. Everyone is talking about the sacrifice of Filaret, who refused this office. In particular, Petro Poroshenko: “Where else can you find a more vivid example of sacrifice? When personal ambitions are discarded ...”
Svoboda (Liberty) Radio journalist also spoke about it in an interview with Filaret: “How difficult was it to withdraw your candidacy?” But no one ever explained what this sacrifice was about. And why Filaret was not elected himself. Indeed, in the eyes of Phanar he possesses the canonical status, at least not less than Epiphany.
Even on the eve of the “Council”, the Phanar’s resources were outraged that Filaret voluntarily calls himself a patriarch. At the Council itself, the hierarch of Phanar directly told him he was not a patriarch.
Radio Svoboda: - You are wearing today a koukoulion, but then you were wearing a skoufos. What was the reason?
Filaret: - This was the demand of Metropolitan Emmanuel.
Radio Liberty: - How did he explain it?
Filaret: - He explained in such a way that I am not a patriarch for them.
Anyway, the “Sobor” passed, the Phanariots left, and Filaret again put on his patriarchal koukoulion.
During the service in St. Vladimir Cathedral Filaret bluntly said he would lead the new church. Together with Epiphany: “The patriarch remains the patriarch for life. And together with the primate, he rules the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Together!"
It comes to the point of absurdity. Formally, the head of the new Church is so-called Metropolitan of Kiev Epiphany; however, in St. Vladimir Cathedral he is not commemorated so. At the same time they make a liturgical mention of "patriarch" Filaret. In the same way, Filaret is commemorated as a patriarch both in Ternopol and, obviously, in all other churches of the Kiev Patriarchate.
Nowhere in world Orthodoxy there are honorable patriarchs. Filaret is a de-facto head of the OCU and does not obey to Phanar. How these canonical paradoxes are reasoned by the newly-minted Mother Church is still unknown.
Bewilderment #3. Is OCU a state-run Church?
Since the foundation of the Ukrainian state, the authorities of our country have acted in accordance with the Constitution, which states that the Church is separated from the state and there can be no preferences for a particular denomination. In words, the President says the same thing: “We’ve never had and won’t have a state church.”
But here is a paradox. After the “unification council,” Filaret declares that he created a legislative basis for the Verkhovna Rada to approve only one Church in Ukraine: “We’ve created a legislative basis for the Verkhovna Rada to pass a law that there is only one Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Ukraine Church. Not three but one! ”
Literally in a few days, the MPs in the Rada vote to take away the name from the UOC and force it to re-register all its parishes.
And now the authorities claim that now there is only OCU, while the Ukrainian Orthodox Church does not exist in nature. That is, it exists for believers, but not for deputies.
The former Minister of Culture, and now the MP from the Petro Poroshenko Bloc faction, says so directly: “We are obliged to fix the fact that the so-called Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate no longer exists on the territory of Ukraine. And it does not exist in nature!”
Currently local authorities are pushing the UOC parishes to join the new structure. It is easy to guess that in the process of registration, communities will be under tremendous pressure so that they get registered in the “correct” Church – the OCU.
Bewilderment #4. Is OCU a pre-election project?
December 31 is not only the New Year's Eve – it is also the start of the pre-election campaign for the election of the President of Ukraine, in which Petro Poroshenko will participate. Back in April 2018, when Poroshenko announced the launch of the “Single Local Church” project, the President’s political consultants directly said that this was a pre-election technology.
Political strategist Taras Berezovets: “We can say that this is a common election technology. And this will be true, since 36% of the population is in favor of the Single Local Church in Ukraine.”
State budget employees from all over Ukraine are massively delivered to Kiev to the Tomos-dedicated events: to the cross procession on July 28, to the rally on October 14, and to lobbying the “unification council” on December 15.
Now it is said that Petro Poroshenko will be present at the divine services, along with the head of the OCU Epiphany, during his election tour to 17 regions of Ukraine. Is it possible to condemn the President for this? No. He is a politician and uses all available means to achieve his goals.
But the Church should hardly allow itself to be used as a tool.
If, of course, this is the Church.
The fact that Epiphany thanks Poroshenko for the creation of a new Church is a duty of courtesy. But to declare that the Church will support only Poroshenko in the elections is completely different: “Of course, we see in this post in the future only President Poroshenko who must continue the process that has been developing in Ukraine.”
Now Ukrainians are being made to believe that the UOC is a bad Church, attended solely by Muscovites, Moscals and traitors. Instead, one needs to go where the President and his team do.
But can politicians, albeit with their allies in cassocks, create the true Church, simultaneously destroying the One that has stood on our land for centuries?
The Church is the Body of Christ. And She lives not according to human laws, but according to the Divine.
The Primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, His Beatitude Metropolitan Onufriy, tells us about this:
“The Church cannot live by the standards of secular life. Secular life, especially political, is mixed with intrigue, deceit, betrayal. It is a set of all kinds of evil. The Church cannot live by such standards, by such norms. The Church rests on the commandments of Christ. We have our own methods of fighting with evil – this is prayer, repentance, patience. This is humility before each other. And before God. This is a powerful weapon that destroys evil.
I would like to appeal to all Orthodox people who believe in our Church. Do not be afraid of anything. Be firm in your love for God. Keep the purity of the holy Orthodox faith, which is a path leading a person to God. Love each other, endure each other, help each other. Evil will disappear, while good will live forever. If we endure everything, live in love for all and towards each other, then no evil can defeat us. God is the God of might. Evil has no power. As long as we are with God, we will be joyful, happy and blessed.”