Filaret’s press conference: My trust in President and Epiphany was deceived

Head of the UOC KP Filaret Denisenko

The UOJ presents a full transcript of the press conference of the head of the Kiev Patriarchate.

On May 15, 2019, the head of the Kiev Patriarchate and the “Honorary Patriarch” of the OCU Filaret Denisenko gave a great press conference, at which he shared his vision of the schism among the schismatics. He explained his address made yesterday and also spoke in more detail about his agreements with the head of the OCU Epiphany Dumenko, President Petro Poroshenko, and representatives of the Constantinople Patriarchate.

The UOJ presents a full transcript of Filaret's speech and his answers to questions from the press.

Filaret's opening statement

First of all, thank you for coming to this press conference in such numbers. This indicates that you are not indifferent to what is happening in Ukraine and how important it is what is going on. I expressed my view, my vision in my address, and there I wrote the truth about what is happening now in the church life in Ukraine. I think that you have familiarized yourself with my position and know what it is about.
I would like to add what is actually happening and what goal is set for those who are interested in and influence the church situation. What is their goal, who are "they"? These are anti-Ukrainian forces that have been struggling with the Ukrainian autocephalous Church for almost 30 years and cannot overcome it. The Ukrainian Church, on the contrary, has grown, strengthened, shown its strength in the war that is now going on in the east, and won authority throughout Ukraine. And therefore, they want to destroy this Church with their own hands.

External forces, i.e. the Moscow Patriarchate, the Moscow Patriarch, who has been fighting with me since 1992 and cannot defeat, has now got on their forces with which I’ve built the Kiev Patriarchate. But they do not come out openly against Patriarch Filaret but say: we respect him, he is so respected, he did so much, but we don’t need the Kiev Patriarchate. Why don't you need the Kiev Patriarchate? You’ve built it together with the patriarch? Why do you give up what you built? Do you understand what you are doing? You’re destroying what you have created, which led to the granting of the Tomos because if there were no Kiev Patriarchate, there would be no Tomos.

Now you say that we need the recognition of other Churches, and for this, we need to destroy the Kiev Patriarchate. Is it true or not? It is not true. None of the other Churches recognizes the Ukrainian Church not only as a patriarchate but also as the Ukrainian Autocephalous Church. And we see this in reality: even those Churches that, before the Tomos, were inclined to recognize the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (hereinafter this name stands for the OCU or UOC KP – Ed.) autocephalous, if the Ecumenical Patriarch gave the Tomos, now the same Churches refuse. Not openly, but under various pretexts.

But there is no prayerful communion with the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Neither the Greek Church, nor the Church of Cyprus, nor the Church of Jerusalem, nor the Church of Alexandria, I'm not talking about the Serbian, Bulgarian or other Churches – none has a prayer unity. And for now, we do not see the paths that would lead to recognition.

There are many reasons for this non-recognition, but the main reason is Moscow. There it operates, among other Orthodox Churches, and in Ukraine it acts, but now not through the Moscow Patriarchate but through us, when our bishops oppose what they have created — the Kiev Patriarchate. Therefore, our task is to preserve the unity of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, to preserve the Kiev Patriarchate, but to preserve it only in Ukraine for the time being, because we received the Tomos as the Kiev Metropolis, and we thank the Ecumenical Patriarch for granting the Tomos to us in the status of the Kiev Metropolis.

For the outside world, we are today the Kiev Metropolis, recognized by the Ecumenical Patriarch, but we are not satisfied with this. Our prospects are the formation and recognition of the Kiev Patriarchate. This is the future. And the Ecumenical Patriarch does not exclude that in the future the Ukrainian Church will be recognized in the status of the Patriarchate, and the representative of the Patriarch, Archbishop Daniel, officially stated this. That is the Ecumenical Patriarch is not against the status of the Kiev Patriarchate. But in order to raise questions about the recognition of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the status of patriarchate, we need to unite, to create in Ukraine one Orthodox Church.

“There is no prayerful communion with the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Neither the Greek Church, nor the Church of Cyprus, nor the Church of Jerusalem, nor the Church of Alexandria, I'm not talking about the Serbian, Bulgarian or other Churches – none has a prayer unity. And for now we do not see the paths that would lead to recognition.”

Therefore, our task is to unite the entire Orthodoxy into a single Church. And in order to unite with those who have not united with us, we ourselves need to be united. Therefore, the first thing we must do is to preserve the unity of our Ukrainian Orthodox Church. And I have always stood fast on this position: the Single Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Today it is the Kiev Metropolis outwardly, and inside Ukraine it is the Kiev Patriarchate.

Why do I insist that the Kiev Patriarchate should be in Ukraine? If the Ukrainian Church refuses the status of patriarchate, it means that there will be only one – Moscow – Patriarchate in Ukraine, and the name of Moscow Patriarch Kirill will sound throughout Ukraine, and the name of the Kiev Patriarch will not be heard. And we ourselves liquidate the commemoration of the Kiev Patriarch in Ukraine. And a bystander will say: you yourself do not want to have the Kiev Patriarch, you agree to the Moscow one, but refuse your own, Kiev one.

Moreover, the Greek Catholic Church is now working hard to ensure that the UGCC has been recognized by the Pope as a patriarchate. It turns out that in Ukraine, an independent state, there is the Moscow Patriarchate, the name of the Moscow Patriarch sound at all divine services throughout Ukraine, the Greek Catholic Patriarch Sviatoslav is commemorated, but there is no Kiev Patriarch. No! Is that reasonable? We have been struggling for the creation of the Kiev Patriarchate for 30 years, and now we want to give up.

So, I repeat, the future belongs to the Kiev Patriarchate in Ukraine. I am convinced of this because the existence of the independent Ukrainian state requires it. The Ukrainian state is and will be, and no forces will destroy the Ukrainian state. If they do not destroy the Ukrainian state, they will not destroy the Ukrainian Church either. Presidents are changing, but the state is preserved, and the people remain. And the Church remains.

And most importantly is that we’re pursuing God's path, a straight path. What is this straight road about? When we did not have our own state, we submitted to another religious centre, Moscow. We did not want to, but we obeyed because we did not have a state. And today we have a state, and not as a result of revolution or war, but God gave it to us like manna from heaven, in the 91st year. Since God gave us a state, the state cannot exist without an independent Church.

An example is all autocephalous Churches that came out of the Patriarchate of Constantinople. These are the Greek Church, Romanian, Bulgarian, Serbian, as well as Polish and Czechoslovakian ones — they all left the Patriarchate of Constantinople. But when did they leave? When a state was formed.

So did we: while we were part of the Russian Empire, the Soviet Union, we had to submit to the Moscow Patriarch. And when we became an independent state, we started following the same path that the Balkan autocephalous Orthodox Churches did. We do not want anything else, but we will not give up ours. And therefore, I am sure and 100% believe, as I believed in 92, that there would be the Tomos, and now, when there is the Tomos, I say the same: the Ukrainian Church will be recognized as patriarchate and will be recognized by all Orthodox Churches.

But when? First, when God blesses, everything depends on Him. We should not forget that God rules the world and the Church. Our faith should not come down to the fact that we recognize the existence of God. God not only exists, but God also rules the world and even more so governs His Church, and it depends on Him. He gave us an independent Ukrainian Church, He gave us a state, and He will save because He is almighty. He knows when it comes, and we know that it will happen.

Therefore, we are pleased that the Ecumenical Patriarch granted the Tomos of autocephaly; we will maintain the unity of Ukrainian Orthodoxy; we will not give up the Kiev Patriarchate and work to unite the entire Orthodoxy into a single Ukrainian Orthodox Church. And we will win. I have no doubt about that.

Filaret’s answers to questions from the press

– Has any of the political figures – Poroshenko, Zelensky – responded to what is happening in the Church?

– I’ve had a meeting with Zelensky, I congratulated him on his election as President of Ukraine, I was glad that 74% of the Ukrainian people voted for Zelensky. Zelensky told me that he would not interfere in church affairs, the Church is separated from the state, but he will contribute to the normal development of church life. As for Poroshenko, he, as I wrote in my address, promised one, and does another thing. And therefore, the problem arises from the fact that they do not adhere to what they agreed to before the Council on December 15, 2018.

– It was agreed that Epiphany will govern, and you will take all landmark decisions. Can this be the cause of discord?

– There was an agreement not only with Epiphany and the President but also with all the bishops at the Bishops' Council that after receiving the Tomos, I as the patriarch will lead the Church inside Ukraine, and Metropolitan Epiphany will represent this Church in the Outlands. Such was the arrangement. And to preserve unity, you need to fulfil the agreement.

– Has anybody from Constantinople contacted you, perhaps Bartholomew, about these disagreements that arose between the Kiev Patriarchate and Epiphany, and what are your further actions if there are attempts to take away the Tomos?

– My actions will be aimed at maintaining the unity of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. And whether the Tomos will be taken away or not does not depend on us. They can take it away if there are grounds or may not do it. The Tomos is not given to take it away. I do not believe that the Ecumenical Patriarch will take away the Tomos, I do not believe. Because taking away the Tomos of autocephaly of the Ukrainian Church is a blow to the Ecumenical Patriarch himself.

– Did anyone from Constantinople call you?

– No.

– Where, when and in what documents were those agreements on the distribution of power in the OCU, which you spoke of, enshrined, and are you planning to initiate the convocation of the Local Council to make amendments and additions to the statute of the OCU?

– Agreements were only in words. As for the convocation of the Council, the Council must be held because it is necessary to make amendments and additions to the statute, which is registered by state bodies. And this statute should be guided by.

The statute that was adopted at the Council in Sofia on December 15 is the charter of the Greek Church, and it expires with the receipt of the Tomos. This was said to me by Metropolitan (of Gaul – Ed.) Emmanuel when we communicated with him. He literally said the following: “You are now part of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, and when you receive the Tomos, you are the autocephalous Church and have the right to make and build your Church as you wish. And whilst you have agreed to become part of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, you must listen to us.”

Therefore, it was the Council of the Kiev Metropolis of the Patriarchate of Constantinople rather than the Council of the Ukrainian Church, so it was not the Patriarch of Kiev who presided but a representative of the Ecumenical Patriarch. And at this Council, there were representatives of Constantinople as equal members of the Council. Therefore, one must look at that Council as the Council of the Constantinople Patriarchate.

And now, when we received the Tomos of autocephaly and united with the UAOC and the two bishops of the Moscow Patriarchate, we need to include this in our statute as a continuation of the existence of our Church. We are not building a new church. We hear that we are beginning to build a new church. And the one that was before the Council, we have no relation to this Church? Do we refuse it? No, we don’t, this is the continuation.

– You recalled Exarch Daniel, his words about the future patriarchate, but in an interview with the BBC he clearly said that in order to be a patriarchy, you must adhere to the terms of the Tomos, the terms of the statute, and then after some time the Ecumenical Patriarchate will grant the status of patriarchate. Do you think that such a violation of the Tomos we are witnessing now, your proposals, which violate the Tomos, can lead to the failure in obtaining the status of patriarchate?

– I do not see it. Because the Ecumenical Patriarch for 25 years did not agree to grant the Tomos. When it was the right time, he agreed. And I see it in the future: all the arguments voiced now will be rejected, while the Kiev Patriarchate will be. Why it will be – because the Church is big. This is more than 30 million Orthodox Ukrainians – those who are on the territory of Ukraine and many Ukrainians abroad. Therefore, not to recognize such a Church is a blow to the entire world Orthodoxy. Because if we take one united Ukrainian Church, then it is bigger than all the Greek Churches, both Romanian, and Bulgarian, and Serbian. Not bigger than Russian, though. But almost the same.

Therefore, it is impossible not to recognize such a Church if to think about world Orthodoxy. Thus, we need to see development in the future – where we are going. If, as you say, the Ukrainian Church is rejected, this will deal a blow to the world Orthodoxy. Anyway, do not worry about it: we anchor our hope on God; God will lead because truth always wins. History knows no cases when evil and untruth would triumph. Evil wins temporarily. Atheism defeated the Church, dominated for 70 years, but then the Soviet Union collapsed, communism disappeared, and atheism was rejected.

– Did you have a talk with Epiphany about your disagreements, or was such a conversation planned?

– His Eminence Epiphany avoids communication with me. In fact, I gave him recommendations at the beginning what to do, but he did the opposite. Now he does not communicate with me, it was only a few times, and he does not call me. Apparently, he says that he respects the patriarch so much, that he is his father. These are words. His actions are opposite.

– The question regarding the statute: what changes precisely do you want to make and what will you do if you do not achieve it?

– Now I will not tell you. There will be a Council. There will be made all necessary changes that will be useful for the development of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

– Only four bishops arrived at the Vladimir Cathedral for yesterday’s celebration. Journalists and experts interpreted it in such a way that bishops of the former Kiev Patriarchate ostensibly do not support your ideas. How do you assess this?

– I have already said that we are destroying what we have built. This is wrong – one needs to preserve and multiply what has been built.

– In your address yesterday, you showed that the current situation is well understood by secular figures, including Zelensky and Kolomoisky. Why do you mention Kolomoisky?

– I mentioned Igor Kolomoisky because he, being abroad, reacted to the events taking place in the Ukrainian Church. And he rightly appreciated that Patriarch Filaret had created the Kiev Patriarchate. That is why I mentioned that even laymen understand the role of the patriarch in the creation of the UOC KP.

– At the Council, Epiphany became the head of the Church, by and large, because you wanted it. Well, except the will of God. Given the recent events, would you also campaign for Epiphany now?

– If I had known what would await us, then I would not have put forward his candidacy. And I trusted him that he would take the straight road, and would not go by crooked roads. I did not foresee this because I used to trust him completely. If I had not fought for him at the Council, he would not be the primate.

– Don’t you think that namely your actions are splitting the Ukrainian Church now?

– No, I do not think so. On the contrary, I want to do everything to preserve the Church that we built. I am opposed to any division, on the contrary, I have done and will do everything to ensure that the Church is one.

– What agreements did Petro Poroshenko violate exactly? And you said that the agreements were oral – why were they not documented on paper? From the side, this conflict between you and Epiphany looks like Epiphany has offended you, which you brought to the public eye because he had violated these agreements.

– The agreements were made between me and the President, with Epiphany too, and not only between three of us but also with hierarchs. And at the Council of Bishops there was an agreement that I continue to lead the Church on the territory of Ukraine together with Epiphany, while he represents the Church outside. And we did not do it in writing because I trusted both the President and Epiphany but they cheated me.

– You were the first to sign the decree adopted on December 15, 2018. The first point was to terminate the activities of the religious association of the UOC KP by merging and joining the established OCU. You signed it, why?

– I did. I was confronted with the question: should I get the Tomos on autocephaly or not? In order to get the Tomos, you need to become part of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. If we did not become part of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, it would not have the right to convene us for a Council. And we had to abandon our autocephaly, become incorporated with the Patriarchate of Constantinople, and then hold a Council and get the Tomos on autocephaly. This is an algorithm. Without this, neither the Council nor the Tomos would have been canonical.

So, one had to choose to be temporarily within the Patriarchate of Constantinople, and then to receive the Tomos and be an autocephalous Church with the Tomos. This was the reason why all the bishops and I agreed to self-dissolution as a temporary decision in order to receive the Tomos. Without this, the Ecumenical Patriarch did not have the right to grant it.

– What is the violation on the part of Epiphany of your agreements on the distribution of powers and do you need to coordinate amendments to the Statute with Constantinople?

– We do not have to coordinate the statute of the autocephalous Church with Constantinople, because we are an autocephalous Church. This was told to me by Metropolitan Emmanuel. He said: while you are a part of the Constantinople Patriarchate, you must obey the decisions of the Ecumenical Patriarch. As long as you receive the Tomos, you are an autocephalous Church and act as an autocephalous Church. Since the Council will be held by the autocephalous Church, we will not coordinate it with the Ecumenical Patriarch.

The violations are that I, as a patriarch, should lead the Ukrainian Church on the territory of Ukraine, but Epiphany disregarded it and leads the Church himself. Not only he keeps the patriarch out, but also does not consult with me. Moreover, at the first Synod they raised a question to send me to retire. I did not give my consent on being retired after the arrival of the Tomos.

– Why do you think you are debarred from leading the Church?

– You want to know the truth? Or just an answer? The truth is that Epiphany is not the one who rules but who is led. He does not lead but is lead. And he told me directly: not everything depends on me. If you are a primate, why doesn’t everything depend on you? So, there are some forces that are higher than you and they do not want what you want, therefore you say “not everything depends on me”. I’ve gone through such pressure in my life for 60 years of priesthood more than once, but I stood firmly. Give to God what is God’s, and give to Caesar what is Caesar's, as Jesus Christ said. I will not give God’s to Caesar. This is the path I walked, I walk and I will walk to death.

– Other bishops do not support your proposals for amendments to the statute, for example, Vladyka Mikhail (Zinkevich – Ed.) speaks of this referring to other brethren.

– We will not discuss issues that will be raised at the Council. When there is a Council, then we will talk about it. Now it's early.

– When can the Council take place? Is it a matter of weeks, months?

– This, as Metropolitan Epiphany rightly said, depends on the Holy Synod and on the Council of Bishops. When they determine it, then it will be.

– How many bishops support your position? Some of them, perhaps, claim the place of Epiphany?

– It does not interest me how many hierarchs support it, and how many do not support it. I am interested in the truth, a direct road for the benefit of the Ukrainian Church. I don’t care who supports me.

– Did the Mother Church know that you chose Epiphany for the external representation of the Church? Doesn’t it look like you deceived our Mother Church? And the second point. The Church is developing, everything is going very well, our people serve on Mount Athos, in the Ecumenical Patriarchate; will you again call the children, your children, into schism?

– I did not deceive the Ecumenical Patriarch. I accept the Tomos on autocephaly of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the status of the Kiev Metropolis. Therefore, accusing me of not accepting the Tomos is not true. I clearly said: we received the Tomos on autocephaly of the Church in the status of metropolis. In the future, we want the status of the Ukrainian Church to be patriarchy. In the future. But we must work for this. Work on the union, as the Ecumenical Patriarch wants us to. He put the question like this: unite – then you will be recognized as patriarchy. Therefore, we must do this. And in order to create a single Church, I propose the path I have described.

– If any changes are made in the Statute, will the Tomos be taken away?

– These are your assumptions. And may they remain yours and not come true.

– Is it true that you continue to control the accounts of the UOC KP?

– I have already answered these questions to you many times, to you personally. No need to repeat the same thing. Just read everything what is written in my address.

– Who puts pressure on Epiphany?

– I will not tell you. He said that not everything depends on him, but on whom – he did not say.

– Now Vladyka Daniel is in Ukraine, do you have a chance to talk to him?

– If he feels like, then I am glad, but I cannot force him.

– Have you spoken with the hierarchs of the Moscow Patriarchate over the past 20-30 years about uniting under the Kiev Patriarchate?

– We had such a goal, when Metropolitan Vladimir (Sabodan) was still alive, we wanted to start a dialogue on the unification and creation of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. And we began such a dialogue. However, when Moscow learned about it, it forbade the Metropolitan to continue this dialogue. Whatever the stance now, there will be one Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Ukraine. One. And we must work for this and eliminate everything that hampers this unity.

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How should the Church react to the protests in Belarus?
call for peace and condemn the provocation of conflicts
support the protests and call for a change of power
no way, the Church must be out of politics
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