Hellas cleric in OCU: Will schismatics call on Greek Varangians?
What the "ordination" of a cleric of the Greek Orthodox Church as "bishop" of the OCU means and what to expect from Phanar in the near future.
On May 26, Archimandrite Epiphanius (Dimitriou), a cleric of Demetrias and Almuros Metropolis of the Hellas Orthodox Church, was consecrated the "Bishop of Olvia" of the OCU. Why is the Greek ordained to the Ukrainian “see” and what can this mean for the entire OCU project?
For a start, a little excursion into history.
After the Baptism of Rus in 988, the Russian Church was arranged as a special metropolis of the Patriarchate of Constantinople; upon that it was a very insignificant and hardly most important metropolis.
According to traditional historiography, the first Metropolitan of Kiev was St. Michael († 992), an ethnic Greek who came to Rus from Korsun together with the holy Prince Vladimir. Under him, the Kiev Metropolis took only the very first steps of its historical existence.
The proper administrative organization with division into eparchies took place under the successor of St. Michael, St. Leonty (+1008).
Later, with rare exceptions, for several centuries the Metropolitans of Kiev were elected and ordained by the Patriarch of Constantinople from the Greeks. They coordinated these elections not with the Grand Dukes of Kiev, but with the Byzantine emperor.
As the church historian Peter Znamensky wrote, “in Russia, therefore, they were strangers both by descent, by language, and by national sympathies and did not arouse particular confidence either with the princes or with the people. At the same time, it is necessary to bear in mind the bad reputation which the Greeks earned since ancient times in Rus and which was expressed in a note by the chronicler: "The essence of Greece is being smarmy up to this day". Moreover, not even the best people from the Greeks were sent to the Russian metropolis. Of the 25 Greek metropolitans in the first four and a half centuries of the existence of the Russian Church, no more than five or six hierarchs declared themselves to be educated and pious. <...>”
Despite their Greek origin, the dependence of the Kiev metropolitans on the Constantinople Patriarchy was insignificant. In the internal life of the Russian Church, all decisions were made by the Kiev Metropolitan, who, if necessary, convened the Council of Russian bishops.
Out of the 25 Greek metropolitans in the first four and a half centuries of the existence of the Russian Church, no more than five or six hierarchs declared themselves to be educated and pious.
Church historian Peter Znamensky
As for the ethnic composition of the hierarchs of the Russian Church, immediately after the Baptism of Rus they were all Greeks or Bulgarians. But then most of them were Rusich. Some Greek priests, who came with their new Metropolitan of Kiev from Byzantium as his retinue, often became Russian bishops, too.
This situation gave its advantages and had significant drawbacks. The drawbacks have already been described above; as for the advantages, the incoming Greeks were, as a rule, far from the domestic political struggle of the Russian princes for power. For this reason, they tried to be above the clash in princely strife and, if possible, to reconcile the warring princes. So, the historical experience of the stay of the Greek bishops in Kievan Rus and their management of the Russian Church is quite rich.
Now, a few words about the personnel policy of the Church of Constantinople over the past century. This refers to the ecclesiastical structures subject to Constantinople. In short, it consisted in the following: whenever the Greeks could ordain a Greek bishop to a Greek diocese, they did it.
This was the case in almost every Local Church: Albanian, Bulgarian, Serbian, Romanian and even ancient – Jerusalem and Alexandria, when the respective countries were under the authority of the Byzantine and then Ottoman empires. The church life at the same time was subjected to substantial Hellenization, up to the replacement of the language of worship in Greek. This gave rise to numerous conflicts between the episcopate and the clergy, the laity, and the local authorities.
Once the territories of these states obtained (won back) their independence, the church structures immediately declared the desire to be independent and managed by their own bishops, rather than Greek ones.
Today, Phanarians like to exemplify their bestowal of autocephaly to the Bulgarian, Serbian, Romanian and other Churches, but they are silent about what were the demands of autocephaly on the part of those Churches – up to the breaking of canonical relations – which was generated by the Phanar-pursued policy of Hellenization and the dominion of the Greek hierarchs in Slavic (and not only Slavic) Churches.
Receiving autocephaly by Churches in Eastern European countries was almost always accompanied by the ousting of Greek bishops and their replacement by local bishops. In today's precedent of the “filling” of the Ukrainian “see” of the OCU by the Greek bishop, we observe the opposite situation: in the “church” structure, where there have been no ethnic Greeks before, they begin to appear. This indicates the reverse process. The OCU does not expand its “autocephaly”, but on the contrary, loses it (unless, of course, what the OCU has can be called autocephaly).
Now, about why Phanar needed to ordain a Greek cleric to the Olvia "see". The Greeks are cunning and foresaw such a question would be asked. The formal answer to it will be: to provide spiritual guidance to the ethnic Greeks living in Mariupol and its surroundings. According to the latest census, it is 21,923 or 4.3% of the local population. Therefore, it is quite logical for them to send a Greek bishop.
But the point, of course, is not in the Greek flock. First of all, these Greeks, many centuries ago, became “Slavic”, their Greek identity is not so strong that they need a Greek bishop. Secondly, the absolute majority of Greeks living in Mariupol and the surrounding area belong to the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
The main task of “bishop” Epiphanius (Dimitriou) is to promote the recognition of the OCU by the Local Orthodox Churches.
As you know, one of the main reasons for the refusal to recognize a PCC is non-canonicity, and therefore, the invalidity of its “ordinations”. Apparently, the Phanar they decided to dilute the OCU "episcopate" with seemingly canonical bishops. After all, the representatives of Phanar, in particular, Metropolitan Emmanuel of France and Metropolitan Amphilochios of Adrionopol, took part in the “consecration” of Archimandrite Epifanios (Demetriou).
Can the schismatic “ordination” be recognized as valid if the canonical bishop takes part in it? Phanar theologians believe it can be. But can lawlessness become lawful if a legitimate bishop participates in it? The question is rhetorical.
The main task of “bishop” Epiphanius (Dimitriou) is to promote the recognition of the OCU by the Local Orthodox Churches.
Can a single Greek “bishop” in the OCU represent this religious organization in the eyes of the Local Churches as canonical? Obviously, no. This implies that the appointment of Archimandrite Epiphanius as the "Bishop" of the OCU is only a trial balloon. The curators of the OCU project will study the reaction to such an appointment from the side of the “episcopate” of the OCU, the Ukrainian society, and the new Ukrainian government. If this reaction is not too negative, the appointment of the Greeks to the OCU “sees” will continue.
When the amount of such Varangians, i.e. Greek “bishops”, reaches a certain point, the Phanar will have an additional trump card in the negotiations on the recognition of the OCU by the Local Churches. Constantinople will be able to demand recognition on the basis of the fact that there is already a sufficient number of “canonical” bishops in the OCU.
The issue of the appointment of the Greeks can be linked to the issue of those very Stavropegia, i.e. 20-30 most ancient monasteries and temples, which the outgoing authorities undertook to transfer to Phanar as a bribe for the Tomos.
The church practice of the last years testifies that large monasteries are managed by abbots in the bishop's rank, rather than in the rank of archimandrite or hegumen. Accordingly, Phanariotes may require their bishops to head the Stavropegia. By simple calculations, we arrive at a figure of 20-30 Greek "bishops" in the OCU – according to the number of supposed Stavropegia. This will be the case if Phanariotes will succeed in securing Stavropegia.
The fact that the government, which promised Stavropegia to Phanar, is leaving, plays against this option. Petro Poroshenko is no longer acting President. Andrei Paruby, speaker of the Verkhovna Rada, who, in fact, voiced an approximate number of Stavropegia, is preparing to leave his post in two months, when the early parliamentary elections are to be held.
Moreover, representatives of the outgoing government may well be behind bars. Criminal cases have already been initiated against Poroshenko, and he together with Paruby are trying to make themselves safe by threatening to organize a new Maidan.
Of course, in such conditions, Phanar cannot expect these Ukrainian politicians to fulfill their promises. Yet, there are some circumstances that allow Phanariotes to hope for receiving the promised Stavropegia in Ukraine.
Can lawlessness become lawful if a legitimate bishop participates in it? The question is rhetorical.
First, Stavropegia are mentioned in the Tomos, not just passingly but in great detail. Besides, at the meeting of the Synod of the OCU, which took place on May 24, 2019, this organization declared its commitment to the provisions of the document.
In the light of the recent criticism of the Tomos by “honorary patriarch” of the OCU Filaret Denisenko and the words that he is not going to fulfill some of its provisions, the “Synod” of the OCU resolved in a separate clause: “To testify that the Local Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Orthodox Church in Ukraine) is guided by the Holy Scripture and Tradition, the canons of the Orthodox Church, its own Statute, adopted by the Unification Council on December 15, 2018 and, respectively, registered by the state, by the Patriarchal and the Synodal Tomos on Autocephaly of January 6, 2019, as well as by decisions of its own statutory bodies."
Secondly, there is an intense struggle going on between the “honorary patriarch” and “metropolitan” Epiphany Dumenko. The “grandfather of the OCU” defends the idea of independence of the OCU from Phanar, even at the cost of not recognizing this religious organization by the Local Churches or even of the possible revocation of the Tomos.
Supporters of Epiphany are much more loyal to Phanar and are ready to follow all his instructions. In return, adherents of Filaret Denisenko called them "Young Turks", hinting at the obedient performance by these OCU "bishops" of the will of the Turkish subjects, i.e. Phanariotes.
So far, the 90-year-old “honorary patriarch” has managed to gather very few supporters under his banner. But he does not intend to give up, which has been declared by him openly: “You will see! You will see what I will do! But I will defend the Kiev Patriarchate to the end! ”
What Filaret, who had cooperated with the KGB of the USSR for many decades, conceived by his own admission – we will see in the near future. But most likely, his case is lost. "Young Turks" are strong because they are "young". No one wants to bet on a man who is 90 years old.
Therefore, most likely, the maximum that Filaret can do is to initiate the next split. Certainly, it will be an unpleasant blow to the image of the OCU, but it will have another side. “Young Turks” will be able to fully take over the power in the OCU into their own hands and steer it without regard to the opinion of the “honorary patriarch”. Consequently, it will be much easier for Phanariotes to force the OCU to cough up Stavropegia in favor of the Constantinople Patriarchate.
“You will see! You will see what I will do! But I will defend the Kiev Patriarchate to the end! ”
Head of the UOC KP Filaret Denisenko
There is one more requirement the “Young Turks” can go towards and which Phanar can demand from them. It is “re-ordination” of the OCU’s “episcopate”. This idea is completely rejected by Filaret Denisenko, who sets a high value namely on the recognition of legitimacy of all his “religious rites”.
But the "Young Turks" in this matter may be much less scrupulous. It can be assumed that at the talks between representatives of the US Department of State and Phanar, which they openly lead with the Local Orthodox Churches on the “Ukrainian issue”, this option is also secretly discussed: the hierarchs of the Constantinople Patriarchate quietly, without publicity, re-ordain the “hierarchs” of the OCU and make it out as "an open secret". Those who need to know will know about it, while for all the rest the “ordinations” of the “hierarchs” of the OCU will be initially recognized as canonical. In this case, at least some Local Churches will be able to recognize the OCU. In order to implement this scenario, the Greek “bishops”, integrated into the structure of the OCU, can be useful.
Time will tell how events will develop and which of our assumptions will be correct. But one thing can be said now for sure: the appointment of the Greek "bishop" of the OCU is nothing more than another tactical move in political games around the OCU project, dictated by the need to save this project, which risks turning into failure for all its participants.