5 theses of the UOC Holy Synod on the Tomos for OCU
The Ukrainian Orthodox Church assessed the lawlessness which the granting of the Tomos to schismatics has caused to the country.
On April 3, 2019, a session of the Holy Synod of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church was held, at which they adopted a Statement on the situation in the church life of Ukraine and in world Orthodoxy which had eventuated following the anti-canonical granting of the Tomos on Autocephaly to the Orthodox Church of Ukraine by the Patriarchate of Constantinople.
Let us analyze the five main points of this document.
Thesis 1: Tomos project has flopped
Petro Poroshenko and Epiphany Dumenko received the Tomos of autocephaly for the OCU on January 6, 2019, i.e. three months ago. However, the fundamental decision that Phanar would grant autocephaly to the Ukrainian schismatics was made almost a year ago. Poroshenko said this returning from Istanbul in April 2018. Elapsed time since then is enough to state the obvious: the idea with the Tomos has failed.
The initiators of this venture declared that the “sensible” decision of Patriarch Bartholomew would lead to:
• the unification of all Orthodox confessions of Ukraine under the omophorion of the “Mother Church”;
• the creation of the autocephalous Church of Ukraine;
• the recognition of this Church by all other Local Orthodox Churches.
None of these goals was achieved. The unification of Orthodox confessions did not take place for the simple reason that the return from schism, as well as from any other sin, back to the Church is not done via unification but via reunification with the Church of those who had fallen away from it earlier. Reunion, in turn, implies repentance of the sin committed. A quote from the Synod’s statement: “Only repentance and sincere acknowledgement by schismatics of their misdeeds in front of the Church and return to its fold can bring peace and unity to the church life of Ukraine”. For some reason, Phanar decided it could offer a different way than the one mentioned in the Gospel.
A quotation from the Synod’s Statement: “We state that the idea of overcoming the church schism in Ukraine by granting the Tomos on autocephaly to non-canonical church groups (UOC KP and UAOC) turned out to be a grave error.” Yes, it is sometimes difficult to repent but there is no other way in nature. Phanar decided to challenge this and instead of repentance offered to recognize lawlessness as legitimate. According to the statement, the Patriarchate of Constantinople “actually tried to legalize the schism. Accordingly, the legalization of schism is not the way to achieve church unity.”
According to the apt expression suggested by Metropolitan Luke (Kovalenko), the recognition of dissenters without repentance but simply by the decision of the Synod of Constantinople is like a certificate to the corpse that he is alive. It is quite natural that the canonical UOC did not want to unite with this “corpse with a certificate” and that's why did not participate in the so-called unification council on December 15, 2018. The Phanar-anticipated association did not come into its own.
Even if the dissenters expressed a desire to repent of their sin, Phanar is not the entity to accept such repentance. Mr. Denisenko and his companions broke off relations with the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. With this Church they must reunite. But Phanar did not even accept their repentance but some kind of appeal, which was upheld without any litigation. Thus, demonstrating not only its disregard for the sacred canons of the Church but also ignorance (and most likely, deliberate distortion) of the church situation in Ukraine.
“Only repentance and sincere acknowledgement by schismatics of their misdeeds in front of the Church and return to its fold can bring peace and unity to the church life of Ukraine.”
A quotation from the Statement: “The actions and arguments of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, which illegally removed the anathema from the main culprit of the Ukrainian church schism, Filaret Denisenko, and also recognized the hierarchy of the UAOC, which has no apostolic succession at all, indicate that Phanar does not fully understand the essence of what happened and is developing in the Orthodox environment of Ukraine. In fact, Filaret Denisenko was anathematized not for seeking autocephaly, as stated in the Patriarchate of Constantinople but for immoral personal life, the unrepentant grave sin of committing a split in the Church, for creating a parallel divisive hierarchy and quasi-ecclesial structure that throughout its existence has opposed and continues its fight under a different name against the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church, and now even threatens to destroy the unity between the Local Orthodox Churches.”
The creation of an autocephalous church in Ukraine did not take place. Phanar perpetrated lawlessness in Ukraine and thought that the clergy and believers of the UOC would obey this. But that did not happen. Even supporters of autocephaly in the UOC environment, such as, for example, Metropolitan Sophrony of Cherkassy, rejected autocephaly in this way. As a result, the Tomos on autocephaly was received by the schismatic groups, which so far have not been able to unite properly.
Bestowing the Tomos in such conditions is an unprecedented case in the Church history. And the Synod of the UOC states about it directly: “We remind you that, according to the historical canonical tradition of the Church, autocephaly is granted only to a single Church within a particular state, but not to any part that broke away from the Body of the Church.”
Phanar constantly reminds that it was solely authorized to grant autocephaly to all Eastern European Local Churches: Serbian, Romanian, Albanian, etc. However, it is silent that the church structures in the respective countries were monolith. The episcopate, the clergy, and the faithful all together stood for autocephaly.
In Ukraine, however, there is a single canonical UOC and two splitting groups, which received this pseudo-autocephaly. Nevertheless, a long time ago, the Russian Orthodox Church offered a formula: the return of schismatics to the Church through repentance – unity in the desire of all the hierarchs, the clergy, and the people to get autocephaly – the granting of autocephaly.
Well, the recognition of the newly created OCU by the Local Orthodox Churches did not take place. A quote from the Statement: “None of the Local Orthodox Churches recognized this illegal act of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, and a significant part of the Local Churches, in particular, the Antioch, Russian, Cypriot, Serbian, Polish, Albanian and Orthodox Churches in the Czech lands and Slovakia have already expressed their disagreement in various forms with the decisions of the Constantinople Patriarchate. The Local Churches also declared that they did not recognize the newly created “Orthodox Church of Ukraine”; nor did they recognize the canonicity of clerical ordinations in this structure, thus they forbid their clergy to have any prayerful communion and liturgical con-celebration with its representatives. Therefore, there was no approval, i.e., the acceptance by the World Orthodoxy of these actions of the Patriarchate of Constantinople which actually tried to legalize the schism.”
It should be noted that the OCU and Phanar’s deeds in general were never recognized also by those Local Churches, which are difficult to suspect of holding affection for the ROC, and which, on the contrary, are sustainably loyal to Phanar. These are the Cyprus, Hellas, Jerusalem and to a lesser extent Georgian Churches. Consequently, it's not just about likes and dislikes, for everything is much more serious. One cannot admit what contradicts s overtly the canonical structure of the Church.
Thesis 2: The idea with the Tomos has brought about lawlessness, violence and hostility to Ukraine
Patriarch Bartholomew and other Phanar hierarchs told in every way that they would bring to Ukraine peace, harmony and unity, which for more than a quarter of a century had suffered from church splits and other disorders.
They were objected that they could not bring peace through lawlessness and deception. The Phanariots did not listen and got their own way. It is reflected in the Synod’s statement as follows: “The ecclesiastic reality in Ukraine testifies that for Orthodox Christians the Tomos did not bring unity, peace, or calm, as the initiators of this idea from the church and state circles had promised a year ago. Instead, the fruits of the Tomos were violence, conflict, opposition, tears and suffering of the believers of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. All these facts indicate that the mere legalization of a split does not change the schismatics, who remain hostile and aggressive towards the Church.”
The OCU supporters seize temples, cut locks with grinders, beat up women, and evict priests with their families and even babies from their homes. And against those who are trying to defend the rights of believers, criminal cases are initiated.
A quotation: “Of particular concern is the fact of the criminal prosecution of the cleric of Rovno diocese of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Archpriest Viktor Zemlianoy. For the first time in the years of independence of Ukraine, a priest who protects the rights of believers and freedom of religion is unreasonably prosecuted and accused of inciting religious hatred.”
Here are the fruits the Tomos of his All Holiness has brought to Ukraine. “You shall know them by their fruits. Are grapes harvested from thorns or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, and a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them” (Matt. 7, 16-20).
“Therefore, there was no approval, i.e., the acceptance by the World Orthodoxy of these actions of the Patriarchate of Constantinople which actually tried to legalize the schism.”
The fruits are obvious, which means that the whole idea with the Tomos is not a good thing. Did the recognition of the schismatics make them peaceful? Did they begin to live by the Gospel after the granting of the Tomos? Did the schismatics begin to do good after the intervention of His All-Holiness? They do not even go to the temples they seized! They seized them but there is no one to pray in them. And there is no one to serve, since the priests of the UOC for the most part remained loyal to the Church. At the same time, from the lips of the OCU "hierarchs", there are calls for at least some men to "ordain themselves", without spiritual education, without high moral qualities, etc.
And all this violence and lawlessness are not isolated cases. This is a systematic violation of the rights of believers, which has to be recognized at the international level. A quote: “Violence, discrimination and violations of the rights of believers of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church are already in the field of view of international human rights organizations. In particular, this is reflected in the recent report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. These offenses, which are often supported by local authorities, undermine the reputation of our state in the world. Coercion, seizures of our churches and other illegal actions will not lead to church unity in Ukraine.”
Thesis 3: The idea with the Tomos has placed Orthodoxy on the verge of schism
A quote from the UOC Synod's Statement: “It should be stated that the actions of the Constantinople Patriarchate in Ukraine have caused great damage to Ukrainian Orthodoxy and also became a threat to pan-Orthodox unity.”
The Russian Orthodox Church, in response to the recognition of schismatics and other anti-canonical decisions in Ukraine, broke off Eucharistic communion with Constantinople. This is an extreme measure, which the ROC was forced to take.
On November 13, 2018, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church made a similar decision by the Council of Bishops, explaining in detail why it had to do it. It bears recalling these arguments:
“The Council of Bishops of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church believes that the decisions of the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Constantinople of October 11, 2018, regarding the Ukrainian ecclesiastic issue are invalid and those that have no canonical power. In particular, the decision to establish the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Constantinople on the territory of Ukraine emanates from the speculative interpretation of the church history. And the decision to remove the anathema and other church prohibitions from the leaders of the schism and the recognition of the canonicity of the pseudo-ordinations that they performed during their schismatic state is a result of the distorted interpretation of Orthodox canons. The history of the Orthodox Church does not know the cases of overcoming the schism through its mere legalization. Having made such anti-canonical decisions, recognizing the schismatics in their existing ranks, the Patriarchate of Constantinople, according to church rules, took the path of schism itself. In connection with this, the Eucharistic communion of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church with the Patriarchate of Constantinople is currently impossible and therefore ceases.”
The rest of the Local Churches still preserve the Eucharistic communion with the Church of Constantinople. But the whole point is that the actions of Phanar in Ukraine are only a vivid expression of unsound thinking, if not heresy, which Phanar has cultivated in its depths for about a hundred years.
Thesis 4: The idea with the Tomos has revealed the Phanar’s wrong thinking
A quotation from the Synod’s Statement: “It should be recognized that the historical and canonical arguments given by the Patriarchate of Constantinople regarding its own rights and the possibility of interfering in the affairs of other Local Churches are groundless, artificial, contrived, and contrary to church canons. Accordingly, the Patriarch of Constantinople had no right to interfere in the church life of Ukraine.”
True, in the Statement of the Synod of the UOC, there is no indication of what exactly Phanar is mistaken about, which particular Phanar-cited arguments contradict the church canons. But the words and actions of Phanar, not only regarding Ukraine, but also other countries, allow us to say that Constantinople is trying to impose on all the Local Churches a new ecclesiological doctrine, a new model of the Church, in which Phanar will take the leading position.
The disciple of St. Silouan of Athos, Archimandrite Sophrony (Sakharov), wrote back in 1950: “At present, in the depths of our Holy Church, there is a great risk of perverting the dogmatic teaching about it ... You ask: what is this distortion being evident now? The answer is: in the Constantinople neo-papism, which is rapidly moving from the theoretical phase into the practical one.”
Today, unfortunately, we can already state this obvious transition of the Constantinople neo-papism from the theoretical to the practical phase. By its actions in Ukraine, Phanar fully confirmed this assumption. If the Patriarchate of Constantinople continues to persist in its delusion about the primacy of the Church, this will inevitably lead to the fact that other Local Churches will, following the example of the ROC, cease Eucharistic communion with Constantinople. But…
Thesis 5: It’s not too late to rectify everything
The same thing is said in the Statement of the Holy Synod of the UOC. The Church appeals to Phanar, the Ukrainian authorities and the OCU schismatics.
An appeal to Phanar: “We believe that the Patriarchate of Constantinople and personally Patriarch Bartholomew must admit his mistake and work on rectifying it. The way to remedy this misdeed could be the revocation of the Tomos, the call for schismatics to repent of the sin of schism and the convocation of the Pan-Orthodox Assembly for a conciliar resolution of the Ukrainian church issue.”
Can his All-Holiness admit his mistake? The probability of this is about the same as the probability of repentance of Mr. Denisenko. But miracles happen in the world and non-believers should know about it best of all.
“Having made such anti-canonical decisions, recognizing the dissenters in their existing ranks, the Patriarchate of Constantinople, according to church rules, took the schismatic path itself.”
An appeal to the Ukrainian authorities: “We ask the state authorities not to interfere in church affairs, by their actions not to incite religious hatred, repeal the requirements of the Law of Ukraine No. 2637-VIII dated January 17, 2019 on renaming the Ukrainian Orthodox Church as anti-constitutional and contrary to the norms of Ukrainian and international legislation and basic principles of rights and human freedoms, and also not to contribute to the raider seizure of the parishes of our Church by illegally re-registering them. The Lord empowers rulers so that that they do not cause discord in society, but preserve peace, tranquility and harmony among all citizens of the country.”
An appeal to supporters of the OCU: “We appeal to the representatives of the newly created structure, the “Orthodox Church of Ukraine,” to recall the words of Christ that love of neighbor is a sign of real Christians (see John 13:35). The more violence on your part today will affect our believers, the more distant will be the prospect of restoring church unity in Ukraine. The fact that you are taking over our temples with the involvement of political, state, and even sometimes paramilitary structures, throwing our communities into the streets, as a result of which they are forced to pray in the open air or in non-adapted premises, we perceive with Christian patience. “We are reviled, and yet we bless; we are persecuted, and we endure it; we are disgraced, and we pray” (1 Cor. 4: 12-13). In this patience, we humbly pray and await the time when Christian love will conquer hatred, malice and enmity, and we will be able to meet you on the threshold of the Church and embrace you as brothers and sisters who have returned home.”
The Church contrasts the seizures of temples with patience, enmity with love, and persecution with prayer. This appeal reveals the truth of the UOC as the Church of Christ. True, now the persecutors of the Church are trying to destroy it and drive everyone into the OCU. A lot of people do this, sincerely confident in their rightness. But let us remember how the Church was persecuted by a young man named Saul. Recall how later he, the holy Apostle Paul, zealously worked on the field of Christianity. Let’s hope to God that among the current persecutors of the UOC there will be more such “Sauls”. The Holy Synod of the UOC calls to pray about it.
The Statement of the Synod is concluded with the following words: “In these salvific days of the holy Great Lent when we have already gone half way to the great Feast of the Bright Resurrection of Christ, we ask everyone to pray that the Lord preserve the unity of Holy Orthodoxy, strengthen us in unshakable standing for God's Truth, bestow peace, tranquility and mutual understanding to our State of Ukraine and bless us all!”
There is one more thing to note about the Statement – there is no hint of a call to change the power in Ukraine, vote for the right candidate, choose the supreme commander for the country, etc. There is no policy here. But this is natural. Unlike the “holy church of Ukraine”, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church is not a political organization but the Church of Christ.