In light of Orthodox Churches: What the UOC Primate's Patron Day features
How representatives of the Local Orthodox Churches expressed support for the UOC and His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry.
Celebrations were held in Kiev in honor of St. Onuphrius the Great, the Heavenly Patron of the Primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry.
This year, he celebrated his 75th birthday and 5th anniversary of his ministry as Primate. Representatives of 11 Local Orthodox Churches arrived to congratulate His Beatitude Onuphry.
What does such attention on their part to the UOC and His Beatitude Onuphry mean and how will this affect the development of the religious situation in Ukraine?
The arrival in Ukraine, concelebration with His Beatitude Onuphry at the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra, as well as the words spoken at a briefing for journalists, allow us to draw several conclusions.
First: unconditional support of the canonical Church in Ukraine and its Primate
The very fact of the arrival in Ukraine of official delegations of the Local Churches at the invitation of the UOC is already quite convincing. We emphasize – these are official delegations. All the bishops or priests of the Local Churches who arrived in Kiev did this either in accordance with the decisions of their Synods or with the blessing of their Primates. It was not their personal initiative or expression of a private point of view. No. This is a position of the entire Local Church, expressed in one way or another.
Most Ukrainian media have cast a veil on this fact. However, we can recall how the same media went through the roof when it concerned the arrival in Ukraine of individual clergymen from the Local Churches who had liturgical communion with the OCU.
There were only two such facts. The former is when on February 3, 2019, the heads of two Athos monasteries came to the “enthronement” of the head of OCU Epiphany Dumenko. It was praised then almost as recognition of the OCU by Athos. However, the decree of the main governing body of Athos, the Protat, unequivocally stated that the Holy Mountain does not recognize the new church structure.
All the bishops or priests of the Local Churches who arrived in Kiev did this either in accordance with the decisions of their Synods or with the blessing of their Primates. It was not their personal initiative or expression of a private point of view.
The latter case is an ordination of Epifanios (Dimitriou), a cleric of the Church of Greece, as a “bishop” of the OCU. Many so-called religious experts interpreted it as recognition by the Hellas Church. In fact, the Synod of the Church of Greece decided to postpone the announcement of its official position on the Ukrainian issue for a later date.
In these two cases, a personal position of these particular clergymen was demonstrated indedd, but not an official point of view of the Local Churches.
The arrival of delegations to support the UOC and His Beatitude Onuphry took place against the backdrop of the most severe pressure on the Local Churches, which is exerted by both the Constantinople Patriarchate and the US Department of State. It's not a secret. US officials are openly negotiating with the hierarchs of the Local Churches in order to force them to recognize the OCU. One can only guess with what arguments they are trying to do it but so far these attempts do not bring much success.
For Local Churches and their hierarchs, dogmatic and canonical considerations are more important than political and economic considerations, as well as, possibly, threats.
The Patriarchate of Constantinople does not recognize the UOC as the Ukrainian Church and His Beatitude Onuphry as the Metropolitan of Kiev. This is what Phanar demands of all the Local Churches: to turn away from Metropolitan Onuphry and recognize the OCU led by Epiphany Dumenko.
In this regard, it is impossible not to mention the Local Churches, which did not send representatives to celebrations in Kiev and did not send welcome letters or telegrams to His Beatitude Onuphry. At least, it was not possible to find references in the media. These are Greek, Georgian, Albanian and Antiochian Churches. And, actually, Constantinople.
As for the Albanian and Antiochian Churches, their non-participation in the celebrations is either a misunderstanding or a consequence of some objective reasons, since their Synod and Primates expressed a specific position on the situation in Ukraine.
Both the Antiochian and Albanian Churches quite clearly and unequivocally stated earlier about their support for His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry and the UOC, as well as the impossibility of recognizing the non-canonical decisions of Phanar in Ukraine.
The Georgian and Greek Churches, on which Phanar and the US State Department have the greatest influence, stand apart. These Local Churches did not express their position clearly, nor did they recognize the OCU either officially or unofficially. This gives grounds to assert that, to date, these Local Churches, contrary to the Phanar’s requirements, do not recognize the OCU and do not enter into communion with this structure.
The arrival of delegations to support the UOC and His Beatitude Onuphrius took place against the background of the most severe pressure on the Local Churches, which is exerted by both the Constantinople Patriarchate and the US Department of State.
Thus, in the issue of recognition of the OCU and, accordingly, non-recognition of His Beatitude Onuphry as the Metropolitan of Kiev, Phanar appears completely isolated. The Local Churches not only refused to recognize his sole decisions regarding Ukraine, but also for the most part pointed to those canonical rules rendering it impossible.
This is primarily the invalidity of the so-called "ordinations" in the OCU. Let us recall an eloquent statement on this issue of the Primate of the Albanian Church, Metropolitan Anastasios: "However, we ask ourselves the question: to what extent did the ordination, performed by Mr. Filaret, while he was deposed and anathematized, become true in the Holy Spirit and receive the true seal of the apostolic succession ex post facto, without the canonical ordination? <...> We find it difficult to understand how the void and empty becomes spirit-bearing “by oikonomia”, in what way are the actions that constituted blatant blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (like, for example, invoking the Holy Spirit by the then excommunicated and deposed Mr. Filaret) retroactively recognized ‘by oikonomia’?"
The quintessence of the position of the Local Orthodox Churches on the Ukrainian issue was voiced with the words of Bishop Anthony of Moravic (the Serbian Church): "We do not know other Local Churches in Ukraine except the Church, headed by His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and All Ukraine."
Second: establishing the supreme authority of His Beatitude Onuphry in the entire Orthodox world
Phanar attempted to challenge the primacy of Metropolitan Onuphry. But even Phanariots could think of such a high personal and moral authority of His Beatitude. Absolutely everyone, not only the hierarchs, but also clergy, monks, laity – everyone who has met Metropolitan Onuphry at least once, asserts that he is an example of morality and piety. Let us cite several quotes from the speeches of the representatives of the Local Churches.
Metropolitan Gabriel of Lovech (Bulgarian Church): “The Lord gave a great hierarch in the difficult times for the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. It happens that in the plight the Lord sends great people so that they can save the Church and follow the way of trials and persecutions.”
Bishop Paul of Hajnowka (Polish Church): “Even the martyrs didn’t deny Christ when going to death. And Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and All Ukraine defends the faith, being faithful to Christ to the end.”
Bishop Anthony of Moravia (Serbian Church): “For every Orthodox person, His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry is a model of piety, monastic feats, and as the Apostle Paul spoke about light, His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry in his face is the light between all Orthodox Churches.”
Such words are heard from the lips of the Primates of the Local Churches, hierarchs, priests and monks all over the world. And they are said quite sincerely. Such words could be flattering and sycophantic if, with their help, those who uttered them would expect to receive any pecuniary or whatever benefits from His Beatitude Onuphry.
“The Lord gave a great hierarch in the difficult times for the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.”
Metropolitan Gabriel of Lovech, Bulgarian Orthodox Church
However, one cannot expect pecuniary benefits from Metropolitan Onuphry. He cannot help with money; he cannot transfer church buildings or donate autocephaly to anyone. He can only thank and pray. All the words of the representatives of the Local Churches come from the heart. No one doubts this.
Against the background of Metropolitan Onuphry, hierarchs of the OCU look completely disgraceful with their struggle for power, reciprocal slandering, mutual accusations and insults. Why OCU! Even Patriarch Bartholomew doesn’t have such high moral authority in the Orthodox world compared with Metropolitan Onuphry!
Third: affirming persecutions of the Church in Ukraine and urging Ukrainian authorities to put a stop to them
Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople claims that he resolved the religious conflict in Ukraine very sensibly. For more than a quarter of a century, neither the Moscow Patriarchate, nor the Ukrainian Orthodox Church could solve the problem of schism. And then his All-Holiness emerged and allegedly with one stroke of the pen solved the issue.
As conceived by Phanar, all the Local Orthodox Churches were to gasp and marvel at the wisdom and foresight being inherent exclusively in the throne of Constantinople.
But it turned out the opposite. Even at the decision-making stage in Ukraine, Patriarch Bartholomew was warned that his actions could provoke persecution of the Church in Ukraine and that he would be on the side of the persecutors. But his All-Holiness assured everyone and continues to assure the opposite: not persecution but peace and tranquility did he bring along to Ukraine.
And now representatives of the Local Churches have to admit an evident fact: there are persecutions of the Church in Ukraine. And consequently, the issue of recognition or non-recognition of the OCU acquires a different slant for the Local Churches: they must decide on which side they are – persecuted or persecutors. Patriarch Bartholomew made his choice. The other Local Churches, too.
Metropolitan Isaiah of Tamassos (Cyprus Church): “Here, on the sacred and heroic Ukrainian land, there is an incomprehensible great tragedy and injustice against millions of Orthodox Ukrainians who are under the pastoral care of His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphriy, <...> to thousands of Orthodox Ukrainians who are expelled from their temples and suffer persecution and violence from their fellow countrymen.”
Many representatives of the Local Churches spoke about the persecution of the UOC in various words. Metropolitan Isaiah of Tamassos sent an appeal to the President of Ukraine, the government and parliament. GIven that it was the Church of Cyprus represented by its Primate Chrysostom II and other hierarchs who took on the mission of negotiations with the Local Churches to resolve the conflict caused by the actions of Phanar, this appeal, written after such negotiations, can be considered a consolidated position of almost all the Local Churches.
Representatives of the Local Churches have to admit an evident fact: there are persecutions of the Church in Ukraine.
This address, which starts with congratulations on the election to the presidency, says that the persecution of the Church in Ukraine does not go unnoticed in the very Europe to which both the past and the current Ukrainian leadership are striving: “The world Orthodoxy and especially the European Orthodox people are very concerned about the violations of religious human rights that occur in Ukraine against our brothers. We raise our voice and at the same time express protest together with the voice of millions of Orthodox around the world who share our grief – along with Ukrainians, Europeans, Greeks, Cypriots, Arabs, Serbs, Poles, Czechs, Slovaks, Bulgarians, Romanians, Americans, Russians, Georgians, Albanians and many others. We are all members of the one Body of Christ our Lord. And when one member of the body is painful, all the members of the body feel pain.”
But not only is the statement of grief and empathy with Ukrainian Christians present in this appeal. The Ukrainian authorities are demanded to take measures to restore law and justice in relation to the UOC believers: “Mr. President! It is impossible that such violations occur in a democratic state like Ukraine, which compromises the heroic history and dignity of the democratic people of Ukraine. We warmly ask you to hear our voice and correct this injustice. May all temples be returned back to their rightful Orthodox owners and may each serve God in the spirit of freedom and respect for human rights, without interfering with the faith of the other.”
And for the Ukrainian authorities not to view this appeal simply as a meaningless document, which will have no consequences if it is read and immediately forgotten, the following is added: “On our part we continue our struggle and start collecting signatures from all over Europe to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights for the restoration of justice."
As we can see, the support of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and its Primate, His Beatitude Onuphriy, is not limited to words. It is vibrant and we will soon see its fruits.
Despite the silence in the media of what happened during the celebration of the Name Day of Metropolitan Onuphry, the Ukrainian authorities and the public should understand one thing: support of the world Orthodoxy is on the side of the canonical Church. All attempts to create an autocephalous Church in Ukraine from the group of schismatics via deception, pressure, violence and lawlessness are doomed to failure. This means that there is no other way than repentance for everyone who, for one reason or another, appeared outside the Church. Unless, of course, they seek God.
But if they seek power, then this is a different story which has nothing to do with the Church.