War of Councils: Has Filaret really reinstated Kiev Patriarchate?

26 June 2019 00:24
Filaret Denisenko has split the OCU with ten decisions of his Filaret Denisenko has split the OCU with ten decisions of his "Local Council"

What the “Local Council” of the UOC KP, convened by Filaret, resolved and what will become of OCU.

On June 20, 2019, the so-called “Local Council” of the UOC KP was held at St. Vladimir Cathedral of Kiev, which had been convened by “anathematized” Filaret Denisenko, “honorary patriarch” of the OCU.

A ten-paragraph Resolution and some other decisions were made at this event. How legitimate is the “Council” itself, how feasible are its decisions, and how will this affect the religious situation in Ukraine?

Forum overriding the “Council”

The event, which was bombastically called as the “Local Council” of the UOC-KP, turned out to be rather scarce. The main actors were: Filaret Denisenko, “most holy patriarch” of the OCU himself, his long-time and loyal associate Metropolitan Joasaph of Belgorod and Oboyan (Russia), Bishop Filaret of Falesti and East Moldavian (Moldova), Bishop Peter of Valuisk (Russia).

Next come the “priests”: “archpriest” Boris Tabachek, Leonty Nikitenko, Roman Zagursky (USA), Vladimir Chaika (Germany), “archimandrites” Makary (St. Theodosius Monastery, Kiev), Andrew (from the same monastery) and Arseny (St. Nicholas Monastery, Boguslav).

A total of 200 delegates and 50 guests were announced. These numbers seem to be very high.

Simultaneously, another event took place in Kiev – the Forum of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, having been insomuch loudly announced as it was scarce. According to the organizers, about 30 "priests" of the OCU were present at this forum in the conference hall of one of the hotels in Teremki residential district of Kiev. The forum was organized by the National Pedagogical University, the Parish of the Transfiguration in Kiev and Pereyaslav-Vishnevoye Diocese of the OCU. The event was positioned as vividly opposed to Filaret's “Local Council”. And it looked like rather a clumsy attempt by the former UOC Metropolitan Alexander (Drabinko) to curry favor with the new chief of the “local Church”, Epiphany Dumenko.

Filaret was not embarrassed by the small composition of his “Local Council”. He cheerfully repeated all his theses about Patriarch Bartholomew and former President Petro Poroshenko cheating him, Filaret, the "bishops" of the UOC KP, as well as all citizens of Ukraine; he also spoke about the dependence of the OCU on Phanar, about the bad Tomos for OCU, and about the need to restore the truly independent UOC KP with him, "the most holy patriarch," at the helm.

Which of the “Councils” is true?

Let us ask ourselves the question: how legitimate is the “Local Council” itself? After all, the whole “patriotic community” ardently assures that the last Local Council in the history of the UOC KP was the Council that took place on December 15, 2018 at St. Sofia, since the Kiev Patriarchate was actually dissolved there. Head of the Department of the Ministry of Culture for Religious Affairs Andrei Yurash got a jerk to reassure the public that the UOC KP had already been ostensibly dissolved, and its charter had been removed from registration, and there was not even a legal basis for Filaret to hold the Local Council.

However, Yurash indulges in wishful thinking. The UOC KP in the state register of legal entities was and is available; the statute of the UOC KP was and is registered. Therefore, we now turn to this curious document.

Paragraph 1 of Section 2 “Local Council” states on its competence: “In the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kiev Patriarchate, the highest authority in the areas of dogma, church management and church court – legislative, executive and judicial – belongs to the Local Council (hereinafter referred to as the Council)".

Hence, it follows that he “Local Council” of the UOC KP is the only body authorized to make decisions about the organizational structure of the UOC KP, including its liquidation and entry into other religious structures.

Andrei Yurash indulges in wishful thinking. The UOC KP was and is available in the state register of legal entities; the statute of the UOC KP was and is registered.

And now, attention, the question is: was a full-fledged “Local Council” of the UOC KP held in strict accordance with its statute on the eve of the so-called “Unification Council” of December 15, 2018? No, it was not! That action, when the UOC KP and the UACP, under the watchful supervision of Petro Poroshenko, literally on their knees, made decisions about their self-dissolution, cannot be called "Local Council". The event of 15.12.2018 violated a number of conditions for holding “Local Councils”, according to the statute of the UOC KP. Here are some of them:

• The “Local Council” is convened by either the “Most Holy Patriarch” of the UOC KP or its locum tenens together with the “Synod”. The “Unification Council” on December 15, 2018 was convened by Patriarch Bartholomew and Petro Poroshenko.
• The procedure for electing delegates to the “Local Council” is approved by the “Most Holy Patriarch” and the “Synod”. The election procedure for the “Unification Council” was approved by Patriarch Bartholomew.
• There were also no full-valued elections in the dioceses of the UOC KP and other structures.
• The agenda, program and regulations of the “Council”, at which the UOC KP made a decision on its liquidation, were not approved.
• The presidium, the secretariat and the council board were not set up.
• The “Council” of December 15, 2019 was not preceded by “liturgy”, “moleben” or “prayer”.
• In fact, the “Local Council” of the UOC KP on December 15, 2018, at which the UOC KP got self-liquidated, was held behind closed doors, which should be a separate decision of the council board, which was not formed either.

Proceeding from the above, it will not be difficult for Filaret Denisenko and his supporters to prove in the Ukrainian courts the worthlessness of the “Local Council” of the UOC KP dated December 15, 2014, which resolved to liquidate this structure. In addition, according to media reports, Filaret keeps the originals of the documents on self-dismissal and is not going to transfer them to anyone.

Regarding the convening of the “Local Council” of the UOC KP, the statute goes as follows: “The Council shall be convened by the Patriarch of Kiev and All Rus-Ukraine and in the event of his death – by the Locum Tenens with the Holy Synod as necessary, but at least once every five years.”

Although Eustraty Zoria is now heralding on all media platforms that Filaret did not have the right to solely convene the Council, arguing that the decision of the Synod was also needed, the text of the UOC-KP statute indicates the opposite. It means "Holy Patriarch" Filaret Denisenko may convene a "Local Council" alone, whereas locum tenens – only with the Synod. Therefore, Filaret legally convened the “Local Council” on June 20, 2019.

However, just a few people showed up at it. Let us see what the UOC KP Statute says about the quorum: “The quorum of the Local Council is 2/3 of the lawfully elected delegates of the Council, including 2/3 of the bishops of the total number of hierarchs - members of the Council.”

The four “bishops”, including Filaret himself, are clearly not “2/3 of the total number of hierarchs”. But this is not so simple. Filaret is a surebet master and drives opponents to a dead end. In this case, the breakdown is as follows. If the “bishops” who did not come are “hierarchs” of the OCU but not the UOC KP, then those who came to Filaret’s “Local Council” are all the “bishops” of the UOC KP. Thus, there is a quorum, and the “Local Council” is legitimate. And if the “hierarchs” who did not come are “hierarchs” of the UOC KP but not the OCU, then there is no quorum, and the “Local Council” is not legitimate. But if this argument is used, then these “hierarchs” will then recognize that they are still “bishops” of the Kiev Patriarchate. Consequently, it exists, as Filaret is trying to prove.

Bravo, Mikhail Denisenko! So dexterous at the age of 90!

The structure of Epiphany Dumenko has already hurried to declare that the Filaret event on June 20, 2019, would be anything but the “Local Council” of the UOC KP. You are mistaken, gentlemen, you are mistaken ... The “Local Council” of June 20, 2019, is certainly no less legitimate than the “Local Council” of December 15, 2018! And the old “grandfather of the OCU” will prove it to you, including via the courts.

10 setbacks on the OCU

We now turn to the document adopted at Filaret-initiated “Council”.

Paragraph 1. The Local Council does not approve but annuls the decision of the Bishops’ or so-called Local Council, because it was not the Local Council but a collection of signatures of the bishops, one priest and two laymen about the conditional liquidation of the UOC of the Kiev Patriarchate at the request of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople. Without the conditional liquidation of the Kiev Patriarchate, there could not be the Unification Council of the Ukrainian Churches on December 15, 2019, and the bestowal of the Tomos of autocephaly.”

This has already been said above. The “Local Council” of December, 15 2018, at which the UOC KP “dissolved itself”, passed with such gross violations of the statute of the UOC KP that it would be easy to recognize its decisions as worthless from a legal point of view. It’s just a matter of political will. Whether there is such a will now is still unknown. Anyway, another President is seated in Bankovaya Street.

Paragraph 2. The Local Council declares and decides that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kiev Patriarchate is registered with a state body and continues its existence and activity for the benefit of the Ukrainian people and the Ukrainian state.”

The first part of the statement corresponds to the reality, i.e. to the state register of legal entities. Separate attention deserves the passage that the UOC KP acts "for the benefit of the Ukrainian people and the Ukrainian state". Not even a mention of either God or eternity, only "benefit of the people and the state". However, the UOC KP never was the Church of Christ, therefore, such an unusual understanding of the tasks of the Church is excusable for it.

Under the Statute of the UOC KP, "Holy Patriarch" Filaret Denisenko is in a position to convene a "Local Council" alone, whereas locum tenens – only with the Synod. Therefore, Filaret legally convened the “Local Council” on June 20, 2019.

"Paragraph 3. The Local Council reaffirms that His Holiness Filaret, the Patriarch of Kiev and All Rus-Ukraine, elected for life by the Local Council of the UOC of the Kiev Patriarchate on October 20-22, 1995, continues to be the head of the UOC of the Kiev Patriarchate.” 

The above one is also legally true. Filaret’s argument that “since there is a patriarch, it means there is a patriarchy,” is “iron-clad”. Now Epiphany Dumenko and his retinue are stewing in their own juice of the OCU’s administrative structure, trying to butter up all participants to the OCU project: Patriarch Bartholomew, former President Poroshenko, and Filaret Denisenko. A delayed bomb has already been planted in the two-headed section of the OCU. Now it's just the time for it to explode. "Patriarch” who is subordinate to "Metropolitan"! Was it not clear from the very beginning that this would not happen? Especially in the case of power-seeking Filaret. By the way, the UOJ warned about this.

Paragraph 4. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kiev Patriarchate continues to be the owner of all funds, all property (movable and immovable) acquired at its own expense or transferred to it by state bodies or local governments, including churches, monasteries, educational institutions, etc. according to treaties and agreements. All bank accounts are accounts of the Kiev Patriarchate as a legal entity.”

Legally, yes. All that was not re-registered in favor of the OCU – this is the absolute majority of the property – continues to be owned by the Kiev Patriarchate. However, those legal entities and individuals who directly control this property are unlikely to agree to execute this clause.

In this respect, an attempt of “Archpriest” Boris Tabachek, Denisenko’s faithful squire, to take over the Holy Protection temple in Kiev is very indicative. “Archpriest” Alexander Trofimliuk, who is also a rector of the Theological Academy of the OCU, who was banned from priesthood by Filaret, was also a rector in this church. The attempt was not crowned with success for the parish, according to one of the "hierarchs" of the OCU, chose to back Trofimliuk, and Epiphany Dumenko even issued a decree whereby the Holy Protection Church was transferred directly to his jurisdiction.

So the aforementioned paragraph looks more like a reserve for the future, when Filaret will take away temples of the OCU into his ownership.

Paragraph 5. All the monasteries of Kiev: St. Michael's Golden-Domed, St. Theodosius’s, Vydubychi St. Michael’s, as well as St. Nickolas of Boguslav, like all the parishes of Kiev belong to the Kiev Patriarchate Administration. The Kiev Patriarchate continues to own the Kiev Orthodox Theological Academy, founded by Metropolitan Filaret, Deputy Patriarch of Kiev and All Rus-Ukraine in 1992.”

The situation is the same as it was with the previous paragraph. Filaret is trying to create a legal and "canonical" ground for the possible return of these assets under his control. Whether it will work out is unknown. At least, not in the near future.

Paragraph 6. All the dioceses, monasteries, religious educational institutions, brotherhoods, missions, which are state-registered as religious organizations of the UOC-Kiev Patriarchate continue to belong to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kiev Patriarchate. Those eparchial administrations and religious communities that have re-registered their Statutes with the Orthodox Church of Ukraine but wish to be part of the Kiev Patriarchate may also belong to the Kiev Patriarchate. The UOC-Kiev Patriarchate also includes those foreign eparchies and parishes that are still affiliated with it.”

This paragraph touches upon separation of the OCU and the UOC KP. This is another trap, arranged by Filaret. By the way, head of the Department of the Ministry of Culture for Religious Affairs Andrei Yurash was the first to be entrapped. On the eve of the “Local Council” of June 20, 2019, he stated, “In fact, it will not be a split, it will be a separation of one or several hierarchs from the local UOC-OCU to establish a new religious organization for which they want to use the old name of the UOC KP. In a sense, it may even be better.”

Filaret is trying to create a legal and "canonical" basis for the possible return of these assets under his control.

Therefore, Yurash admitted the legality of the “Local Council” and the decisions taken at it, the restoration of the UOC KP, etc. He hopes that just a few will follow Filaret, and the UOC KP will be a kind of marginal structure. Next to it there will stand out multifold Filaret-free OCU.

But it's not that simple. If Filaret-led UOC KP and Epiphany-led OCU operate separately from each other, then all Filaret’s actions are legal. The only question is how many church structures will choose to enter either of the projects. And if the OCU is the UOC KP, then Filaret is right again.

Now regarding the structures and what belongs to whom.

In the 6th paragraph, which we are currently analyzing, Filaret asserts that all monasteries, dioceses, educational institutions, etc., that did not have time to re-register in favor of the OCU, belong to the UOC-KP. Legally one cannot argue with that. Nor the fact that Filaret, with the help of the few “bishops” who are faithful to him, can now change the leadership of such dioceses and monasteries. Filaret does not claim those that have been reregistered but invites them voluntarily to join the UOC-KP. It was a bad idea for Yurash to give Denisenko the opportunity to restore the Kiev Patriarchate. Now we will witness Filaret’s stiff fight for dioceses and other structures.

Separately, it is necessary to say about the decision of the “Local Council” of June 20, 2019 about the “consecration” of two new “bishops” of the UOC-KP. The replacement of those “hierarchs” who dared to disobey Filaret will begin with them. One can expect a whole wave of “consecration,” as it was back in 1992, when Filaret also created the Kiev Patriarchate out of nothing. The OCU has already stated that such ordinations will be considered anti-canonical and rejected by this structure.

The use of the word “anti-canonical” in this context looks especially comical because if you take on the point of view of understanding the canons by members of the OCU, then new “ordinations” to be performed by Filaret are far more legitimate than the ones performed by Epiphany, Zoria and the rest. At least, simply because Filaret, from their point of view, is a legitimate hierarch now.

"Paragraph 7. The Tomos of autocephaly, granted to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church on January 6, 2019, in Constantinople (Istanbul), does not comply with the statute of the autocephalous Churches, which all autocephalous Churches have, and therefore makes the Ukrainian Orthodox Church dependent on the Constantinople Patriarchate."

Again, we have a statement of fact. The dependence of the OCU on Phanar is obvious to everyone without exception. Those who deny it do this for short-term considerations. It is simply profitable for them to deny it. Filaret also used to find it profitable. And now it is unprofitable. So why can't this become unprofitable to many other hierarchs of the OCU? Everything has its time.

"Paragraph 8. The Council thanks the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople and all the hierarchs of the Mother Church for attempts to solve the Ukrainian church problem, but we are not satisfied with the content of the Tomos of autocephaly of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine."

Very many Local Orthodox Churches diplomatically say that, perhaps, Patriarch Bartholomew took to solve the Ukrainian church issue out of good intentions but they state that this attempt was unsuccessful. Denisenko fully confirms this.

"Paragraph 9. The current Statute of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kiev Patriarchate is the Statute on the Administration of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kiev Patriarchate (full edition), adopted at the Council on May 13, 2016, and registered by the Ministry of Culture of Ukraine on July 8, 2016."

Hi there, Mr. Yurash, who claims the opposite! Everything is registered and everything is valid.

Paragraph 10. The Local Council calls on all patriots of Ukraine, who hold dear our Ukrainian state, to support the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kiev Patriarchate during its trials and attempts to destroy it from the inside, which our external enemies rejoice. But the truth is with us, therefore God is with us.”

God is mentioned in the last paragraph – and this is significant.

Whatever stance one maintains

The UOJ has repeatedly written that Filaret has a “hunch” for the main point. He feels that the OCU does not have an ideological ground for existence. And therefore, the OCU will suffer fiasco in the near or distant future.

The linchpin of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, headed by His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry, is that the UOC is the Body of Christ. It connects people with Christ.

The idea underlying the UOC KP is that “every independent state must have an independent church”. The UOC-KP serves the "Ukrainian people and the Ukrainian state".

The idea which the OCU is based on is that “we are recognized by other Local Churches”. And now this idea has crumbled like a house of cards.

The OCU is recognized only by one Local Church out of 14 generally recognized, and then only for reasons of profit and conjuncture. Almost all other Churches in one form or another have declared that it is impossible to recognize the OCU. In other words, the UOC-KP was and is a breakaway structure but with a national idea, while the OCU remains the same schismatic organization but without any national idea, only with dependence on Phanar, prescribed in the Tomos. This is what Filaret wants to convey to all the "patriotic forces". Will he manage to? Time will tell.

In any case, it should be clear to every adherent of both the UOC-KP and the OCU who is looking for Christ – none of these structures is the Church of Christ. In order to understand this, it is not even necessary to delve into the canonical rules – the relations between the “hierarchs” of these structures, mutual deceit, lies and hatred prove it best of all.

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