OCU won’t carry double: How Filaret and Epiphany destroy their “Church”
Why did a schism arise in the schismatic OCU and what will Denosenko-Dumenko confrontation lead to?
Any schism is always based on pride, the desire for power and ambition. The way to overcome it is humility and personal struggle against these passions. In other words, any method, except for repentance, will never lead to the eradication of schism but will only multiply it. Actually, this is what we see in the case of the so-called Orthodox Church of Ukraine.
Schism in schism
The information that “Patriarch” Filaret Denisenko called all the bishops of the OCU, except for Epiphany Dumenko, to celebrate the day of the memory of St. Macarius of Kiev, produced the effect of a bombshell.
Journalist Sonya Koshkina suggested that this convention could turn into the “Bishops' Council”, which would adopt changes to the statutes of the OCU and approve the “Honorary Patriarch” as its head. These assumptions were also expressed by TSN journalists, who said that Filaret "is gathering bishops to discuss the prospects for the restoration of the Kiev Patriarchate, which he would like to lead".
Many have argued that all this is not true and this is simply impossible. After all, Filaret resigned from the position of the head of the OCU at the so-called "Unification Council". Here, they say, the man sacrificed his own ambitions for the good of the “Ukrainian Church”.
But, as it turned out, no one was going to sacrifice anything. In an interview with TSN, Denisenko said that at St. Sofia’s Cathedral the Council of Constantinople Patriarchate rather than the Council of the OCU was held “because it wasn’t me as the patriarch who presided at it but a representative of the Ecumenical Patriarch”. Moreover, Filaret did not exclude the possibility of a split of the OCU: “I find the division of the Church possible, but we are creating a unified Church – the Kiev Patriarchate. By all means."
Filaret + Epiphany = conflict
Such a situation, according to Filaret, has developed due to the complete lack of communication on the part of Dumenko: “We recognize the primate, but there is no relationship with him because what we agreed on and what the Bishops' Council accepted is broken. Follow the path of falsehood. Claims to Epiphany are as follows: he must cooperate with me as the patriarch. And in all these four or five months he has never concelebrated or communicated with me. We’ve met only a few times, is this communication? When the Church should be led every day.” Moreover, Filaret learned from the press that Epiphany felt offended by his “spiritual leader”, not receiving an invitation to the celebration!
But just recently the slightest conflict between Filaret and Epiphany has seemed simply impossible. Especially if you remember that none other than Filaret paid close attention to Dumenko almost from the very beginning of his career. Young Seryozha received monastic “ordination” first as a “hieromonk” and then as a “bishop” by Denisenko. By personal decree, Filaret appointed Dumenko to the position of patriarchal locum tenens, and the culmination of their idyllic relationship was the election of Epiphany as head of the OCU.
“I find the division of the Church possible, but we are creating a unified Church – the Kiev Patriarchate. By all means."
“Honorary Patriarch” of the OCU Filaret Denisenko
According Metropolitan Joasaph Shibaev of the UOC KP, indeed Dumenko (and not only he) owes almost everything to Filaret: “Look at their cars, mitres, panagias, vestments, at the temples in which they serve, at the staff. Everything is ironed, polished, and shines with freshness! You should have seen how they walked like peacocks at the joint bishops' meetings! Everything is received from the Patriarch. I have always been touched – what eagles His Holiness raised! And I wrote about it here. And now – take it! They cannot find ways to let the old man live out in peace!”
We should mention, he is exclusively talking about material things – cars, mitres, panagias, vestments, etc. “Metropolitan” Joasaph did not even say a word that Filaret had taught his “eagles” prayer or bestowed on them the most important joy for a priest – to stand at the throne of God. He does not speak about this because he understands that there is hardly any prayer in the Kiev Patriarchate, not to mention grace.
Source of conflict
Filaret himself says that it is Epiphany who is to blame for the current situation. People close to him say that Epiphany provoked the beginning of the present confrontation when he refused to the “honorary patriarch” of his request – not to commemorate His Holiness Patriarch Kirill during the “divine service”. Epiphany himself commented on his refusal with the fact that for him the will of the Mother-Church is more important than the “numerous requests”, and Patriarch Bartholomew is a model of a shepherd. That is Dumenko made it clear that the Phanar is more important to him than Pushkinskaya Street, where the residence of the UOC KP is located, and that Bartholomew is more important than Filaret.
The second sign of the developing conflict was the famous session of the “Holy Synod” of the OCU, at which, according to Joasaph Shibaev, “The voice of the Patriarch was almost not heard. The hierarchal youth, without embarrassment, argued with the Elder on any minor question, especially regarding the issue of the governance of Kiev parishes by the Patriarch. Then mere scoffing at the Elder-Patriarch began! Metropolitan Simeon and Bishop Herman succeeded in this, Metropolitan Makary also participated. They disrespectfully, not to say in a rude tone, demanded that the right to manage Kiev parishes should be taken away from the Patriarch.”
Even then, it was clear that the main stumbling block between the “Honorary Patriarch” and the “metropolitan” was the question of who is more important and who should submit. The sources of the UOJ claim that the “minor” questions mentioned by Joasaph concern Filaret’s categorical unwillingness to sit at a rectangular table with other bishops. It was Denisenko who demanded that the table for meetings of the Synod should be round, which would make it possible to emphasize his equality with Dumenko. Another “minor question” is control over the finances of the OCU, which was also resolved in favour of Filaret.
Two camps – one cowl
Phanariots did not take into account one moment, the main point – Filaret’s words that he is and will be the patriarch. None of them could even suppose that a 90-year-old elder can have such a great desire to remain in power. Therefore, they ignored his words, but in vain. If they had taken it seriously, at the preparation stage for the Tomos they should have clarified the question who should lead joint "worship services" and other meetings of the two heads of the OCU – Denisenko or Dumenko.
In Filaret’s camp, they say that there was such an agreement and as Epiphany does not fulfil it, his election is “questionable”. “For Vladyka Epiphany, the Patriarch is always the Patriarch and the First who stands at the Throne of Grace," writes Joasaph of Belgorod, a supporter of the “patriarch”, on Facebook. “He himself with gratitude and reverence should be second to the Throne, giving place to the elder. Here we should learn from the Olympians. And not demand championship for yourself. I remind once again that there was an agreement on that at the Bishops' Council before the election of the Primate. If this is not done, then the election is questionable.”
“Mere scoffing at the Elder-Patriarch began!”
OCU “hierarch” Joasaph Shibaev
In addition to the deisis, as the former press secretary of Filaret Yuri Doroshenko says, claims to Dumenko can be expressed in several points: “1. Epiphany stops commemorating Patriarch Kirill of Moscow. 2. Concelebrates with his spiritual father Patriarch Filaret – the Ukrainian patriarch. 3. Although this is also a matter of taste, but ... returns the portrait of Patriarch Filaret to his office, where there is a gallery, in particular, of the hierarchs, who have very questionable achievements before autocephaly and the Tomos.”
In turn, in Dumenko’s camp, they believe that the position of Filaret will lead to a new schism: “Patriarch Filaret has done a lot for the Ukrainian Church – this is a fact,” writes the proponent of the OCU head Yuri Migal. “But if you support his thoughts, which he has voiced recently, it will be a schism! Explain to me why the Council then chose the Primate, if the patriarch does not recognize him and does not treat him as the Primate?”
Epiphany, in general, believes that Filaret’s ambitions lead to the loss of the Tomos and the isolation of the new “Church”: “If we return to the past, this is the path to nowhere; this is the path to isolation; a return to what had happened until January.”
From mutual accusations – to mutual insults
In principle, the gracelessness of the OCU is not a revelation to anyone. Revelation can be called the hatred that representatives of both camps demonstrate to each other today – hatred, which so far has been expressed in mutual insults.
Yuri Doroshenko calls the followers of Epiphany “young Turks” while emphasizing their youth and commitment to the Turkish patriarchal throne. Another former press secretary of Filaret, and now the press secretary of Speaker Andrei Parubiy, Andrei Kovalev, says that the era of the “boys” in the OCU will end in July. And under the boys, he apparently means not only Dumenko but also his associates, for example, "Archbishop" Eustratiy Zoria.
Doroshenko calls this tandem – Zoria-Dumenko – “a sweet couple Twix”, which “has been destroying Filaret for half a year and wants to bury him alive”, and he accuses the head of the OCU of unnatural inclinations. For Denisenko’s followers, everyone who supports Epiphany is an “idiot”.
Supporters of Epiphany are also never at a loss with words, though they say the least, calling Filaret’s associates only separatists and schismatics. For them, Filaret is a “dragon” and a person who deceived everyone, and his “personal ambitions and power are more important than church unity”.
And that is true. We will add only that Dumenko’s supporters are the same schismatics. There is hardly a significant difference between them.
Moscow, OCU and Pope
The most absurd thing is that representatives of both camps of the Ukrainian schismatics see in the conflict the hand of Moscow and the FSB. Epiphany Dumenko in an interview with TSN said that “Moscow, unfortunately, did not stop. They are interested in a split or division at the heart of our future development.”
Dumenko’s opponents express the same view: “Today, Moscow, through its agents in the OCU and just useful idiots, has conducted a massive information attack against its main and undefeated enemy, His Holiness Patriarch Filaret,” Doroshenko wrote on his Facebook page. “The hybrid war continues ... The goal is to discredit the main spiritual authority of the Ukrainian nation. Be careful!"
True, Filaret’s proponents do not rule out the option that the papal throne can stand behind the conflict, and then Filaret acts as a fighter for the purity of the Orthodox faith, and the OCU is considered as a step towards unification with the Uniates and further with the Catholics.
Interestingly, in the current situation, we still have not heard a word from those who started all this mess – from the Phanar. Patriarch Bartholomew is supposed to respond a hundred times to what is happening to the OCU. However, the only reaction known today from the Phanariots is: “This is terrible!”
It is said that silence is sometimes more eloquent than many words. By this silence, we can assume that the conflict between Epiphany and Filaret can benefit Patriarch Bartholomew.
Indeed, so far none of the Local Orthodox Churches has expressed support for the OCU. At the same time, the primates and representatives of world Orthodoxy clearly and unambiguously point to significant obstacles, which need to be resolved. Otherwise, it will be difficult to obtain support even in the future. Among others, perhaps, the major stumbling block is the absence of the canonical ordinations of the "episcopate" of the OCU and the odious personality of Filaret.
The Phanariots themselves have repeatedly stressed that the elderly “spiritual leader” of the Ukrainian people for them is just “the former Metropolitan of Kiev”. In addition, one of the conditions for the bestowal of the Tomos was a guarantee that this “chief” would not become the head of the OCU. The only concession made by the Phanar was a blind eye to the fact that Filaret is called the “patriarch” within Ukraine.
“The hybrid war continues ... The goal is to discredit the main spiritual authority of the Ukrainian nation. Be careful!"
Former press secretary of Filaret Yuri Doroshenko
However, today it is completely obvious that he understands this “trifle”, which means nothing to the Phanar as actual, not nominal or honorary power. So it turns out that Patriarch Bartholomew faces a dilemma in the case of Filaret. You can’t just remove or dismiss the old “chief” due to authority, etc. The Ecumenical Patriarchate lifted the anathema against the leader of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Kiev Patriarchate. Therefore, the only way out of the current situation that the Phanariots found is to completely ignore Filaret, which, in fact, Dumenko does with great success.
The task seems to be the following – to provoke Filaret to some kind of action that would give the Synod of the Church of Constantinople the formal right to ban him from ministry and declare him a schismatic. Indeed, in this case, you can resolve a number of issues in one fell swoop:
- Firstly, the disputed personality of Filaret will get out of sight.
- Secondly, it is much easier to agree on repeated ordinations with Dumenko and the “young Turks”.
- Thirdly, the most odious personalities, such as Mikhail Zinkevich, Dimitriy Rudiuk and others, will back down together with Filaret.
In the extreme case, even if it cannot work, the nerves of the elder can be wracked, and this, in turn, can lead to dire health consequences: “The Patriarch is 90; any excitement even at a younger age may result in a heart attack, a stroke and other ills!” hegumen George Akilin writes on Facebook. “And then imagine ... All those who yesterday only relied on him in the autocephaly issue will attack His Holiness!!! And today they attack him with curses and accusations of "ambition". WILL IT BE GOOD TO LOSE (GOD FORBID!) Patriarch Filaret??? Can anybody be glad about THIS??? (well, except Gundyaev’s associates, of course)".
The only correction is that “Gundyaev’s associates” will not be happy. Firstly, because they hope for the repentance of the sinner, and secondly because they see that Filaret can screw up the whole thing he has been seeking for many years. As one famous character said, "I gave birth to you, I will kill you."
"I gave birth to you, I will kill you"
On May 9, Filaret said that the UOC KP still exists: “The fact is that the Kiev Patriarchate has not been liquidated. It is not liquidated. They want to make it look like it is liquidated. The Kiev Patriarchate can be liquidated by the one who created it.”
Andrei Yurash, head of the Department of the Ministry of Culture for Religious Affairs, disagreeing with this statement of the “patriarch”, said that “by the decision of the Local Council of the UOC KP, which took place on December 15, 2018, by the votes of all members of the Council, it was ruled that after the formation of the Local Ukrainian Orthodox Church, the Kiev Patriarchate and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church would cease to exist. <...> Accordingly, since January 30 de jure and since December 15 de facto, the UOC-KP has not existed. Therefore, there can be no return.”
However, in reality, according to the registry, the legal entity “The Kiev Patriarchy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kiev Patriarchate” is not in a state of liquidation. It still exists in the organizational-legal form of a religious organization, and its leader is still considered to be Mikhail Denisenko. Therefore, strictly speaking, Mikhail Antonovich is right - the UOC KP is still here.
It is wrong to raise the question of whether or not there will be a schism in the OCU just because there is already a division. Just as the further actions of Filaret are completely unimportant because he will not give up what he has been seeking all his life - the patriarchal cowl. We once again witness the righteousness of the Holy Scripture, which says: “But if it is from God, you have no power to destroy it, lest you be found opposing God.” (Act 5, 39)
For us, Orthodox Christians, it is much more important whether Patriarch Bartholomew will understand his mistake, be able to repent and admit that it is impossible to legalize the schism or not? We also pray to God that the schismatics themselves will realize at last that it is impossible to change through a document (whatever you call it) because the only way to change is to repent.