One vs all and all vs one: how Filaret’s battle with OCU leaders will end

Everyone who called Filaret the spiritual leader yesterday has turned against him

The head of the Kiev Patriarchate and the leadership of the OCU entered into an open struggle for churches and parishes.

On May 26, the head of the OCU, “Metropolitan” Epiphany Dumenko celebrated his name day. Besides the "hierarchs" of his religious structure, representatives of the Constantinople Patriarchate, Metropolitan Emmanuel of France and Metropolitan Amphilochius, participated in the “worship”.

Filaret Denisenko was also present at the altar of the cathedral as an “honored” guest (or a “patriarch”?). This allowed Epiphany to make a statement to the media, in which he emphasized that the presence of Filaret at the “service” testifies that the “Church” is one, there are no problems, and the foes are ashamed. Then everything seemed true, if not for one "but".

Already at the exit from the temple, the journalists asked Filaret a question of what would happen next. "See! You’ll see what I will do! But I will defend the Kiev Patriarchate to the end, to death,” the head of the UOC KP said.

"Patriarch" said – "patriarch" did

At that time, nobody seriously took and paid attention to the threat made by elderly Denisenko. Moreover, recently Filaret has spoken so much that he has practically no options for further plot development. However, apparently, even the inner circle of the “honorary patriarch” does not know their patron well, because he does not mouth empty words.

The very next day, Filaret banned from priesthood a man, whom he himself had picked up from rags to riches and for many years perceived as his assistant and supporter – “Archpriest” Alexander Trofimliuk. The ban wording allows us to assume that the reason was Trofimliuk’s refusal to carry out Denisenko’s orders. We do not know what those orders were, but we can make some assumptions.

Trofimliuk is the rector of the Kiev Theological Seminary and Academy of the Kiev Patriarchate, which is located within the walls of St. Michael's Golden-Domed Monastery. It was this monastery that the head of the OCU Epiphany chose as his residence.

According to the documents, the monastery is under the jurisdiction of the Kiev Patriarchate, i.e. legally belongs to the structure, which Filaret continues to lead. This means that Epiphany could reside in St. Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery only with the permission of his benefactor Denisenko. Most likely, such permission was given orally, when among the schismatics everything was relatively fine, and they were looking forward to the Tomos.

“I will defend the Kiev Patriarchate to the end, to death.”

Head of the UOC KP Filaret Denisenko

But now the situation has changed dramatically, and Filaret decided that since Epiphany did not respect the agreement on his part, he could do the same. Therefore, it can be assumed that the “honorary patriarch” demanded that Trofimliuk vacate the office of Epiphany, i.e. just throw the latter out on the street.

However, Trofimliuk, obviously, refused to comply with this order and promptly shifted to the OCU, which was the reason for the ban. In fact, Filaret would have to ban most of the clerics under him. And most likely, the parish meeting decided to go to the OCU and directly subordinate to Epiphany after Trofimliuk found out about Filaret’s order. That is to say before the conflict, he was quite comfortable in the UOC KP, and as soon as the situation got out of control, he decided to change his submission.

Well, finally, the decree’s text indirectly hints that Trofimliuk did not want to carry out the orders of the “honorary patriarch”: "For violation of the priest's oath, in particular," ... I will serve in accordance with ... the instructions of the spiritual leadership ... In the matter of my ministry, to pursue in my thoughts not personal benefit but the work of God, the good of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kiev Patriarchate”, Archpriest Alexander Trofimliuk is banned from priesthood."

Internet blogger Alexander Voznesensky rightly noted that Trofimluk’s “priesthood” ban is “a blow to the enemy’s lair”.

Indeed, in one of his interviews, Dumenko complained that Filaret controls all finances, and he has to huddle in a small room in the territory of the Golden-Domed Monastery. Therefore, eviction from this room will be a serious problem for Epiphany: he will have to not only look for a new place of residence but also agree that Denisenko is the real, not the nominal, leader of the Kiev Eparchy of the OCU, and it is he who makes orders. The eviction of Dumenko will demonstrate the real strength of the head of the UOC KP.

"The naked king" or the primate without an eparchy

The conflict around Trofimliuk actually became possible because of the very strange and completely non-canonical structure of the OCU.

The fact is that any Orthodox Church has a rigid structure and is a community of eparchies, with each headed by its own ruling bishop. The Primate of the Church, regardless of whether he is a patriarch, a metropolitan or an archbishop, is at the same time the ruling bishop of one of the key eparchies in this Church.

If Epiphany bears the title of "Metropolitan of Kiev", then he, respectively, must govern the Kiev Eparchy. It cannot be otherwise.

But since Epiphany was initially elected as a “decorative” primate and meekly yielded the leadership of Kiev to Filaret, an anecdotal situation arose when the de jure “Metropolitan of Kiev” has de facto nothing to rule. According to the “canons” of the OCU, only St. Michael’s Monastery is under him and that’s all – Epiphany has nothing more, he is a “naked king”.

Accordingly, any conflict situation that arises around any temple of Kiev inevitably reveals this absurdity. And if there had been no precedent with the Pokrovsky Church and Trofimliuk, another case would have appeared. There can be no dual power in the Church. And here, as nowhere else, it is appropriate to recall the 34th Apostolic canon, so much loved by Filaret, which reads the following: “…. each may do those things only which concern his own parish, and the country places which belong to it.”. The Kiev Eparchy is Filaret's patrimony, and Epiphany cannot interfere there.

Of course, the OCU is not a canonical Church, and neither are Filaret and Epiphany bishops. But if they took to copy its structure, they should to do it qualitatively. If Epiphany made Filaret the governor of the Kiev Eparchy, he has no right to interfere in his affairs.

Filaret outlawed

Since Filaret and Epiphany do not relate to the Church of Christ, they treat canons accordingly: remember the canons when it is beneficial and forget them when it is not beneficial.

In response to Filaret’s order, Trofimliuk wrote that the UOC KP does not exist, he himself is a cleric of the OCU and, therefore, does not intend to obey the decisions of the “honorary patriarch”. At the same time, it should be noted that “the document is written on the letterhead of the Kiev Patriarchate”.

Later, it became known that his parish as a whole, according to the decision of the parish meeting, transferred to the OCU. Where and when this meeting was held is unknown. But another thing is important – the reaction of both Filaret and Epiphany.

Most recently, both have argued that any parish, on the basis of the Law of Ukraine No. 4128, has the full right to change jurisdiction. Therefore, from the point of view of their own logic and argumentation, the meeting at the Pokrovsky Church (if it really was) is completely legitimate and not subject to appeal.

We emphasize an important detail – arguing that the parishioners can, at their discretion and in accordance with the Constitution, change the jurisdictional subordination by voting, both Filaret and Epiphany stressed that the Law of Ukraine is higher than the Law of God, and democratic norms are more significant than canonical ones. And therefore, their mutual appeal to the canons was a complete surprise.

On May 29, Filaret sent his key-keeper Tabachek to the Pokrovsky Church of Kiev, whose rector is Trofimliuk. Tabachek's task is extremely simple – to take away the keys and documents from the banned rector.

The eviction of Dumenko would show that the real, not nominal, head of the Kiev Eparchy of the OCU is Filaret.

Epiphany immediately responded to this completely expected action of Filaret, declaring that “temporarily, until the decisions of the Holy Synod of February 5, 2019 and May 24, 2019, regarding the registration of the eparchy in Kiev as part of the UOC (OCU)were fully implemented, to accept the religious community of the Intercession (Pokrov) of the Most Holy Theotokos in the Solomensky district of the city of Kiev (i.e. Trofimliuk’s parish — Ed.) under the direct supervision of the Metropolitan of Kiev and All Ukraine”, and “any documents and orders on behalf of the UOC KP religious association, which was terminated, issued after January 30, 2019 are invalid and not enforceable in the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Orthodox Church of Ukraine)."

By doing so, Dumenko clearly said that his “spiritual mentor,” “leader”, and “father” are now outlawed.

Interestingly, the text of Epiphany’s decree was published on a personal letterhead and not on the form of the OCU. Why? Because he speaks on his own behalf rather than on behalf of the entire "Church". Dumenko, unlike Filaret, does not run a single eparchy of the OCU. So, despite the formidable movements on his part, the paper he wrote has even less canonical value than Filaret’s document.

On the other hand, the position of Denisenko, which for several weeks has not fitted in the scenario of “building the Ukrainian Church”, causes numerous protests among those who yesterday vehemently proved his greatness and significance for the modern history of Ukraine.

We remember well how some schismatics assured that sooner or later Filaret would be recognized as a saint. However, today practically the same people say that Denisenko is out of his mind and the grace of God has left him. It is hard to disagree, with the only amendment – the grace of God left him much earlier when he decided to struggle against the canonical Church.

State interference in the OCU affairs

The situation in which the HCV is found now is critical. We wrote that regardless of the further development of events, the newly created religious structure has already divided. The state authorities are well aware of it.

The head of the Department for Religious Affairs of the Ministry of Culture Andrei Yurash called on the leadership of the OCU to convene an extraordinary meeting of the “Synod”:

“Anxious and very unpleasant news began to come from the parishes of the Kiev city eparchy of the local UOC: a movement allegedly started, which introduces conscious disorganization and is aimed at creating a structure uncontrolled by the legitimate church center. If this information does take place, there is no other option but to urgently convene, literally tomorrow, an emergency Synod of the Church and search for adequate responses to actions that can destroy church unity.”

This statement hurt Filaret's vanity, who, almost instantly, accused Yurash of interfering in the affairs of the “Church”:

“This call is state intervention in the internal church affair because it violates the freedom and rights of the Church. Such rhetoric is misleading for the society and destructive for the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Therefore, we call on Mr. Yurash, as well as other civil servants, to refrain from making such statements that harm the Ukrainian Church.” 

That is the creation of the OCU – with the appeals of the Verkhovna Rada to Patriarch Bartholomew, with the trips of state officials for budget money to Phanar, with constant control on behalf of Yurash of all that was related to receiving the Tomos – all this wasn’t interference in the affairs of the Church. And as soon as Yurash dared to speak about the internal crisis of the OCU and suggested ways to resolve this crisis, Filaret immediately recalled that the state of Ukraine, as it turns out, is separated from the Church. However, he forgot his own words about the need for a close alliance between the UOC KP and the Ukrainian authorities.

* * *

It is possible to predict where the story is going, but this is a thankless job as it is very difficult to predict which scenario its main characters will choose. It would seem, from the point of view of Epiphany and his circle, the best solution would be the decision to send Filaret to rest. But firstly, Filaret does not want to retire, and secondly, despite his 90 years, he has enviable health. Therefore, he will not lay down his powers voluntarily for a long time.

To do this by force will not work either. Moreover, it must somehow be explained to common believers. Filaret may initiate at least a schism, and at most – a schism with a scandal, during which he will lay out all the secrets of getting the Tomos.

To ban Filaret from "priesthood" will also entail a schism. It’s not advantageous for Phanariots. Recently, they have happily announced that they accepted him into canonical communion with the Church and removed the anathema from him. In this context, representatives of world Orthodoxy may regard Filaret’s ban after six months in the clergy of the Patriarchate of Constantinople as evidence in favour of the fairness of the anathema imposed on Filaret by the Moscow Patriarchate. And this is another argument for non-recognition of the OCU.

To ban Filaret from "priesthood" is not advantageous for Phanariots, who have happily announced recently that they accepted him into canonical communion with the Church and removed the anathema from him.

In addition, such radical measures in relation to the man who has been recently called the “spiritual leader of the Ukrainian nation” and “people's patriarch” can outrage not only representatives of right-wing organizations, who Filaret has been actively rewarding lately but also laypersons.

Therefore, the most realistic scenario will be attempted by former colleagues and students to present the “honorary patriarch” as a person who has lost his mind and is not aware of his deeds and actions.

And, finally, representatives of the OCU will in every way ignore all the decrees and orders of Denisenko, which, of course, would be a violation of the canons of the Church, if they had the Church, but not a politically-oriented religious organization.

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What will happen if the Church of Greece recognizes the OCU?
it will put itself out of Orthodoxy
it will give rise to global recognition of the OCU by Local Churches
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