Tomos on vassalage: where Orthodox Ukrainians are herded to
The President claims the Tomos is about the independence of the OCU, whereas he calls the UOC a Moscow subordinate and doubts its canonicity. But is it so in reality?
On January 5 and 6, 2019, under the cries of "Glory to Ukraine – Glory to Heroes!", the project of Petro Poroshenko and Phanar on creating a new Church in Ukraine was finalized.
On January 7, the first liturgy of the OCU took place in St. Sofia of Kiev, where the presentation of the Tomos took place. This service was conducted for a narrow elite circle of people: politicians, government officials, leaders of nationalist radicals.
For ordinary citizens, the Tomos was exhibited in the Little Sofia after the service. People stood in the cold in the queue for an hour and a half to worship the document, which, according to the President, the Ukrainians had been waiting for thousands of years.
Petro Poroshenko: We have been waiting for this event for thousands of years!
Parishioner of the OCU: A thousand years have we been waiting, very long!
And the main thesis, which is now being promoted to the people: that the Ukrainians got rid of slavery: they received spiritual independence. But not all. There are right Ukrainians who are with the OCU...
Petro Poroshenko: Now our Church is canonical!
And there are the wrong ones – who even have the wrong Tomos, signed by Stalin.
Petro Poroshenko: Where is their Tomos? Stalin signed?
World Orthodoxy believes that the schismatics from the Kiev Patriarchate, despite having changed their name for OCU, remained schismatics.
Archbishop Abel of Lublin-Chelm: The Orthodox Church cannot approve of these schismatics, who allegedly are allowed to be in canonical communion. Without repentance, a schism cannot be joined to the Local Churches of World Orthodoxy.
Therefore, the President focuses on autocephaly, i.e. the independence of the new structure.
Petro Poroshenko: Tomos as a letter of recognition of the independence of our Ukrainian Church. Independence!
Furthermore, he contrasts it in every way with the UOC, which is supposedly dependent on Moscow. But is the UOC really subordinate to Moscow, and is the OCU insomuch free from Constantinople?
Petro Poroshenko: Those, who want to make sure of this, will be able to read this.
Indeed, let's read and compare.
Is the UOC really subordinate to Moscow, and is the OCU independent of Constantinople?
The Letter on Autonomy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of 1990, which can be referred to as Tomos, says: “by virtue of this Letter and the power of All-Sacred and Life-giving Spirit, we bless the Orthodox Ukrainian Church to be henceforth independent and autonomous in its administration.”
The same thing is said in the Statute of the UOC: "The Ukrainian Orthodox Church is independent and autonomous in its administration and organization."
The Statute of the Russian Church reads: “The governing center of the UOC is located in Kiev.”
But this is all in theory. And what about in practice?
The Ukrainian Orthodox Church has existed for more than a quarter of the century. Maybe, there were some attempts from Moscow to sabotage the documents, to try to somehow influence, restrict the independence of the UOC? No, nothing like this has ever happened.
In the Tomos for the OCU, which is called fully autocephalous and independent, it is written in black and white: “We declare that the Autocephalous Church in Ukraine knows as its head the most holy Apostolic and Patriarchal Ecumenical Throne.”
In Orthodoxy, the Local Churches are absolutely equal. Can one Church recognize another Church as its head? Obviously, it can. But then it is neither autocephalous nor independent.
The text of Tomos reads: “In the case of major issues of ecclesiastical, doctrinal and canonical nature, His Beatitude the Metropolitan of Kiev and all Ukraine must, on behalf of the Holy Synod of his Church, address our most holy Patriarchal and Ecumenical Throne.”
Can one Church recognize another Church as its head? Obviously, it can. But then it is neither autocephalous nor independent.
Election of the Primate. UOC vs OCU
The Statute of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church says that the head of the UOC is elected by its episcopate and blessed by the Most Holy Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia.
But it is in theory. And what about in practice?
Protopriest Nikolai Danilevich, deputy head of the Department for External Church Relations of the UOC affirms: “Anyone to be elected will be approved by Moscow. It cannot be like we choose one primate, and Moscow disagrees: "No, we don’t like this one, choose another one." This cannot be the case. Because Moscow automatically approves our choice, whoever we choose. In this regard, we have absolute autonomy and independence.”
When in 2014 His Beatitude Onufriy was elected to the post of Primate, no one from the bishops of Moscow gave any guidelines to the UOC, nor did they even give temniki; the choice of bishops was completely independent. As for the blessing of His Beatitude Onufriy by the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church, it was no more than a fraternal message.
In the Tomos for OCU, however, the choice of the Primate is not specified in a separate clause, but it is said that in the case of important church issues, the OCU is obliged to address Constantinople. Well, it is difficult to find a more important issue than the choice of the head of the Church.
Anyway, this is only a document, a theory. What happens in practice?
The OCU’s Primate was approved by Phanar. But, perhaps, the following, if they are to be, will do without the control of Constantinople? Hardly.
Twenty years ago, in 1998, the Church of the Czech lands and Slovakia received the Tomos from Phanar.
There are no paragraphs concerning the fact that this Church recognizes Constantinople as its head and is obliged to address it to solve important church issues.
Nevertheless, when in 2014 the episcopate of the Church of the Czech lands and Slovakia elected Metropolitan Rostislav its head, Phanar did not recognize this choice and demanded to choose the one it considered appropriate.
In a letter to the Secretariat of the Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia, Patriarch Bartholomew in 2015 writes: “We urgently demand the Holy Synod to convene a meeting of clergy and laity ... that they generally overhaul the issue in the light of the cancellation of the election of the aforementioned Metropolitan Rostislav to the post of Primate of this Church and proceed to elect a new Primate.”
Protopriest Nikolai Danilevich states: “Patriarch Bartholomew even wrote letters to the Czech state so that they would not recognize Metropolitan Rostislav, since this election was allegedly non-canonical. And there was a problem.”
Nevertheless, Constantinople finally recognized Metropolitan Rostislav, but only because Patriarch Bartholomew in 2016 needed the presence of all the Local Churches to attend the Cretan Council in order for the Council to have the status and semblance of legitimacy.
Besides, it must be said that in the Tomos text for the Czech Church there are no paragraphs that would allow controlling the election of the head of this Church by Phanar, those very provisions on the subordination to Constantinople, which are spelled out in the Ukrainian Tomos for OCU.
Can one Church accept guidelines for electing its Primate from another Church? Obviously, it can. But then it is neither autocephalous nor independent.
Protopriest Nikolai Danilevich declares: “No other Orthodox Church can interfere in the affairs of the autocephalous Church unless that very first autocephalous Church asks for it. Practically, we are facing the fact of different understanding of the Church, the fact of different understanding of ecclesiology, the fact of supremacy of the Constantinople Patriarchate over other Churches.”
Relations with the external world
The Ukrainian Orthodox Church is not mentioned in the diptych, but it is recognized by all the Local Churches.
Protopriest Nikolai Danilevich: “Our external relations are absolutely independent. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church has practically become a subject in inter-church Orthodox relations. And although we are not an autocephalous church, it is almost autocephalous in all rights, a step away from it, the authority of the UOC over the years having risen and expanded.”
In 2014, representatives of twelve out of the fifteen Local Churches came to the enthronement of His Beatitude Onufriy in 2014 for congratulations and fraternal messages. Those, who could not come, sent their congratulations.
The OCU is listed by Phanar in the diptych and, according to the Tomos, “is obliged to participate in inter-Orthodox meetings”.
However, these commitments so far have not led to the recognition of the OCU from any Local Church. The Russian, Serbian and Polish Churches did not officially recognize this structure. Polish Metropolitan Sawa said that he did not even consider Epiphany to be a priest.
Archbishop Abel states: “And this position was declared by His Beatitude Primate of our Church, His Beatitude Sawa, the Metropolitan of Warsaw and All Poland in the name of the fullness of our Church.”
The head of the Church of Cyprus, Archbishop Chrysostom, said he does not make a liturgical mention of Epiphany and does not intend to do this. The Patriarch of Antioch, John X, in a letter to the head of Phanar, wrote that the creation of the OCU is a threat to the unity of the entire Orthodox world!
Patriarch Kirill: so, to pray or not to pray?
Prayer is a conversation between a Christian and God. It is a linchpin of the whole life of the Church. Christ tells us that we must love everyone, including those whom we regard as enemies. The Church prays for all – good and bad, the righteous and the criminals. To position as an achievement that your Church will not pray for someone is very, very strange and hardly has anything to do with Christianity.
One of the victories of Petro Poroshenko in the creation of the OCU is that it being the Ukrainian Church, it will not make a liturgical mention of Patriarch Kirill.
At the rally after the “unification council”, Petro Poroshenko spoke about the newly created structure: “What kind of church is this? This is a church without Kirilll!” And at the rally on October 14: "And how can the temples, in which they pray for the Patriarch, who prays for the Russian army, be called Ukrainian?"
Nevertheless, Patriarch Kirill was to be commemorated.
Epiphany at the divine service on January 7 said: “... Russian Kirill, Serbian Irinej...”
From the point of view of Christianity, to pray for each person is right. But after all, the non-commemoration of the “foe” Patriarch is one of the declared victories of the new independent Church. So, again, where is independence?
Suddenly plumped Mother Church
In 1686, when Constantinople handed over its Kiev Metropolis to the Russian Church, its area occupied no more than a third of the territory of modern Ukraine. That is, most of it had nothing to do with Constantinople at all.
Now Phanar has in fact subjugated a much larger territory than it had 330 years ago. In today's Tomos, it is written that “…while the prerogatives of the Ecumenical Throne over the Exarchate and Sacred Stavropegial institutions in Ukraine shall be preserved unmitigated.”
On November 3, 2018, the President signed a document with the head of Phanar, the contents of which are still kept secret. The media talk about dozens of temples and monasteries, which will be transferred to get directly controlled by Phanar, including those belonging to the UOC.
Obviously, Petro Poroshenko himself already understands that it is impossible to call the OCU an autocephalous Church because he speaks of it as a metropolis of Phanar. However, he immediately makes a reservation: those who disagree that the metropolis personifies autocephaly and independence are almost the agents of Moscow: “... and seek out that the metropolis is not independence. Not true. And do not listen to your instructions from Moscow."
Not so long ago, Filaret declared that he did not want to obey either Moscow or Constantinople, that his goal was absolute independence: “If we wanted to be simply recognized, we would simply remain in the Moscow Patriarchate. What difference does it make for us to be subordinate to Moscow or to be subordinate to Constantinople? For we need an independent Church, which would be free from any church centers and would be the center itself.”
According to the text of Tomos, it is quite obvious that the Church, created for Ukrainian schismatics, is autocephalous and independent only nominally. In reality, it is a structure subordinate to Phanar.
As the main achievement of the OCU, Petro Poroshenko calls the lifting of the Moscow yoke: "No one can stop Ukraine and Ukrainians who are lifting up the yoke of the Moscow Church."
But the Ukrainian Orthodox Church has never had it, not to speak of the Kiev Patriarchate. Then what kind of yoke can we talk about?
Revocation by Phanar of its Letter of 1686 year. Is there any reason to rejoice?
The very fact of the cancellation of the document being more than 300 years old and whose validity has been recognized by absolutely everyone for all these years, by Phanar in the first place, cannot but shock. Indeed, over the years, the borders of both secular states and local churches have changed beyond recognition. The world has become completely different. And such a revocation inevitably raises the question: if this document can be cancelled with respect to Ukraine, then it means that any others can be cancelled? But will this practice benefit us, Ukrainians? Take, for example, the reunification with the lands of Western Ukraine, which occurred in 1939 as a result of the collusion of Molotov-Ribentrop. Is the Pact questionable? Of course. Perhaps, even criminal. But will we want to cancel it?
Hegumeness Seraphima, abbess of the Odessa Holy Archangel Michael Monastery, said the following about Phanar’s deed: “Let us then cancel the Molotov-Ribbentrop criminal pact, since it was created by the two largest tyrants of the 20th century. Behind each of them are tens of millions of ruined lives.” And there are a lot of such historical examples in the history of each country.
As a result of the actions of Constantinople, none of the Local Churches can feel safe – after all, Phanar’s ambitions are so great that if it chose to cancel its own document on Ukraine, it could easily interfere in the affairs of any other Church.
Protopriest Nikolai Danilevich: “And now other Churches are very concerned that they can come to them at any time and also interfere in any of their affairs.”
The very fact of the abolition of the Patriarchal Letter of 1686, like the last year’s cancellation by Fanar of the exarchate of the Russian parishes in Europe, says that Constantinople cancels its letters as easily as it gives them. The text of the Tomos for OCU suggests that Phanar declares the "holy church of Ukraine" "on all the above conditions." It means, if the conditions are violated, then the Tomos might be revoked, too.
It seems that, to the cries of independence, the President, along with Phanar, put a real yoke on the neck of the Ukrainian schismatics. They were never recognized canonical but lost their independence. Besides, the Kiev Patriarchate has also lost dozens of parishes outside Ukraine: in America, Europe, Russia, and so on. Indeed, according to the Tomos, all of them are now transferred to Constantinople.
Nevertheless, the President has achieved his goal – before the elections, he received a powerful trump card for his election campaign and now exploits it 100 percent. But what have the people, who created the "holy church", achieved?
The Church is the Body of Christ. If it is built on hatred of the neighbor – this is not the Church. If it is built on tears of believers from whom their temples are taken away – this is not the Church. If it serves as a background for the election campaign of politicians – this is not the Church.
Nevertheless, the OCU creators are afraid to violate neither the laws of the state, nor the laws of morality, nor the laws of God.
Well, should we have any fear being members of the true Church? The One that is being persecuted and harassed? We should. This is a blessed time for us and we need to be on alert not to waste it. The time when we should learn not to condemn our lost brothers. The time when we can establish ourselves in the love of God and the Church. And the time when the sheep are separated from the goats. And we should not be mistaken with the choice.