On October 11, 2018, the Synod of the Phanara presented a series of scandalous decisions that practically blew up the Orthodox world. At that time, the most attention was attracted by the clauses about the restoration in Ukraine of the ancient Kiev Metropolis and the lifting of all bans imposed on Filaret and Makary.
TSN: "This formulation sounds like recognition as canonical of both Patriarch Filaret and Metropolitan ... Makary."
And behind these scandalous decisions, there was left unnoticed the last clause of the document, which reads:
“To appeal to all interested parties to prevent appropriation of churches, monasteries, and other property, and also any other violent actions and vengeance, so that the peace and love of Christ may triumph.”
Practically in all statements of Patriarch Bartholomew and other Phanar hierarchs in Ukraine, it was stated confidently that Constantinople only brings peace and unity to Ukrainian Orthodoxy.
Archbishop Daniel (Zelinsky), Exarch of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople in Ukraine:
“We did not come here to divide Ukrainian Orthodoxy, but, on the contrary, to take even more steps to bring everyone the desired unity for the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.”
Metropolitan Emmanuel of France, the head of the “Unification Council”, reads a welcome address by Patriarch Bartholomew to the “Council”: “Our goal and our criterion of the Church of Constantinople is the implementation of what can unite sacred children.”
But then why was such a strange point needed? After all, what "appropriation of churches and violent actions" could be the in the now united and happy Church under the patronage of the Phanar?
However, this clause exists, and it was not accidentally entered. And it should be remembered by those who believe that Constantinople simply did not know about the real state of things in Ukraine and sincerely believed that the bestowal of the Tomos to the schismatics would bring peace and prosperity to all Orthodox believers of Ukraine. The Phanar knew. And it was written precisely to disclaim responsibility. And this clause painfully reminds the famous episode in the Gospel story, when Pontius Pilate symbolically washed his hands.
Tomos as a signal for seizures
The schismatics and “patriotically”-minded citizens have shown hostility towards the faithful of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church for a long time. But what is happening now in the villages of Western and Central Ukraine can only be described as harassment, banditry, and raiding.
Literally every day the media, central and local authorities cheerfully report on the “voluntary transfer” to the new structure of one or another parish of the UOC.
The scenario of such “transfers” is usually the same: a church community, according to the adopted law of Ukraine 4128-d, holds its own meeting and votes for loyalty to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. However, in parallel, the activists of the Kiev Patriarchate, the local authorities and the radicals hold another meeting, which is also called an assembly of the church community. Their decision is the opposite – to transfer to the OCU. And although there are people voting there who do not go to church and often are not even Orthodox, the authorities take their side and cheerfully report on the transfer that has taken place.
However, what happens to believers who absolutely legally vote for loyalty to the UOC? And what happens to their temple?
Everything is simple – believers are expelled. Those who disagree are beaten and thrown out.
The doors of the temples are cut with a grinder or a chainsaw.
Sometimes, they are just broken with a crowbar.
And there are so many such cases that it is impossible to show everything in one programme.
As we see, the Phanar’s intervention not only failed to bring peace and unity to the Orthodox of Ukraine but, on the contrary, put the country on the verge of a religious war. Priests and bishops, reporting in social networks on the next seizure, often accompany this with a hashtag – Bartholomew, look!
However, the question arises – where are all these seized temples transferred?
The question may seem strange – of course, to the OCU.
However, even with the most superficial analysis of this structure, many questions arise inevitably. And the main ones are: why are the communities from the UOC KP and the UAOC not admitted there and does the OCU exist at all?
Why the schismatic communities do not move to the OCU
The structure of each Local Church as a whole is the same everywhere. The parish community is part of the structure of the local eparchy and is subordinate to its ruling bishop. In turn, all the eparchies of the Church are subordinate to the religious centre – the metropolis or the patriarchate governed by the Primate.
Both the Kiev Patriarchate and the UAOC fully copied such a structure.
The OCU is considered to be established on December 15, 2018, at the “Unification Council”. Then, we recall, the Phanar, which had never recognized the Kiev Patriarchate and the UAOC, insisted that these structures should be dissolved. And the schismatics stated that this requirement was met.
Epiphany: “There was a pre-condition that unless a decision on the dissolution of the Kiev Patriarchate was signed, representatives of the Ecumenical Patriarch did not begin the work of the Local Council.”
That is, on December 15, the Kiev Patriarchate and the UAOC ceased to exist. What does it mean? And it means that the structures of both schismatic Churches are completely liquidated. Their eparchies were abolished, and all the parishes previously belonging to them, about 6,000 in total, have not been subordinated to anyone since then.
The next step was to create a new eparchy, appoint eparchial bishops, and then hold meetings in each parish of the former UOC KP and UAOC to enter the new structure.
Ex-Metropolitan Alexander (Drabinko): “As the former UOC KP and the UAOC, they also should transfer to the new structure. We somehow overlook this. They have not been re-registered. They also have their own statute and they also need to hold similar meetings that are held (on the transfer from the UOC - Ed.) today. They did not automatically merge and join, no!”
Archpriest Alexander Bakhov, head of the Legal Department of the UOC: “All religious communities of the Kiev Patriarchate and the UAOC, given that their leadership decided to cease operations and join the so-called Orthodox Church of Ukraine, must take an appropriate decision in accordance with their statutes, in protocol form, about the fact that they change their subordination and transfer to the so-called Orthodox Church of Ukraine.”
The decision to establish eparchies should have been taken at a meeting of the Synod of the OCU. And this decision was made.
On March 4, 2019, the Synod of the OCU created the Eparchy of Pereyaslav-Vishnevoye. One, with the comment "as an exception". And this eparchy was created for the ex-Metropolitan Alexander Drabinko and intended exclusively for transfers from the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. That's all. No other eparchy was created in the OCU.
Ex-Metropolitan Alexander (Darabinko): "I would say that today the Orthodox Church of Ukraine consists solely of the parishes of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church."
There is a paradoxical situation: the UOC-KP and the UAOC, which were supposedly dissolved, have not been removed from the registration of the Ministry of Justice and are still functioning. Their eparchies do not merge in one structure, duplicate each other and, changing the name to the OCU, still exist separately. For example, in Ternopol, there is an eparchy of the OCU (which is the UOC KP) and another eparchy of the OCU (which is the UAOC), and each has its own bishop. The situation is the same in Volyn. In Vinnitsa, there are generally three eparchies and three bishops.
But the main thing is that the parishes of the UOC KP and the UAOC do not hold their meetings to transfer to the OCU, only the communities of the canonical Church are driven there.
Archpriest Alexander Bakhov, head of the Legal Department of the UOC: “Not a single parish of the UAOC has moved to the OCU. The same can be said about the Kiev Patriarchate, whose religious centre is registered, not liquidated, they have their own centres and eparchies in all regions. Also, not a single parish of the UOC KP has transferred to the OCU. But for some reason, everyone is trying by violent means, with the participation of representatives of local authorities and law enforcement bodies, to “help” transfer the parishes of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church to the so-called Orthodox Church of Ukraine.”
The schismatics are already fighting with each other for those temples that are taken away from the UOC.
For example, in the village of Shklin in Volyn, on March 4, the community of the Boris-Gleb Church of the UOC was transferred to the eparchy of the OCU that is the UAOC. However, later other raiders from the OCU that is the Kiev Patriarchate came and with the scandal transferred the temple to their jurisdiction.
Why UOC believers pray, and OCU raiders sing a hymn
Having received Tomos, the schismatics did not change internally. And this can be seen clearly by the way the OCU activists, who come to seize the churches of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, behave. In each case, the contrast is striking – the UOC believers are singing prayers, while the OCU activists – a hymn.
And even in cases where the “patriotic” raiders manage to seize the church building, the community of the Church does not disappear anywhere. In fact, from the hundreds of transfers to the virtual OCU voiced by the authorities, de facto as of the end of March, 43 communities have passed.
Archpriest Alexander Bakhov, head of the Legal Department of the UOC: "43 communities of the UOC have passed to the so-called religious grouping ‘The Orthodox Church of Ukraine’".
And what about the other hundreds of communities?
The rest do not go anywhere and do not unite with anyone. They serve Christ.
His Beatitude Onufry: “Christ was on earth and there was no unity. Some followed Christ, others went against Christ. And so the story has continued to this day. Some follow Christ, others go from Christ. And we follow Christ and want to be with Christ.”
Why the Church becomes stronger despite persecution
Believers of the UOC serve in houses, garages, sheds, or simply in front of their seized temples. They choose this path. And there is a paradoxical situation when, despite the massive propaganda of hatred towards the UOC, more and more people publicly declare their affiliation with the canonical Church.
On the Feast of the Triumph of Orthodoxy, tens of thousands of people took part in cross processions of the UOC throughout Ukraine. And priests say that the number of participants has increased significantly in previous years. Particularly crowded was the religious procession in Rovno, a region where, with the assistance of the authorities, dozens of seizures take place, and the SBU initiate criminal cases against the priests. People ironically say about such paradoxes – the Tomos helped.
And the Tomos really helped, the life of the Church is changing before our eyes – the priests begin to realize that they should appreciate every parishioner entrusted to them, the believers begin to appreciate their church and realize that this is not just a place where they habitually came on Sundays, that this is their family, a meeting place with God, which they might lose.
When the entire state machine and media are focused on the propaganda of the pocket political church and the destruction of the true Church, the effect is completely opposite. Persecution of the Church has always led to its strengthening and glorification. And the words of the Holy Prince Alexander Nevsky “God is not in might but in truth” find confirmation nowadays.