Triumph of UOC and disgrace of schismatics: whose prayers are heard by God
The arrival of hierarchs of 10 Local Churches to Metropolitan Onuphry and a scandalous split in OCU. The church situation in Ukraine is increasingly showing Who is Who.
On June 25, festivities were held in Kiev, dedicated to St. Patron’s Day of His Beatitude Onuphriy and the fifth anniversary of his enthronement as Primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
Hierarchs of ten Local Orthodox Churches served at the Liturgy in the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra, along with the hierarchs of the UOC. They all spoke about the support of His Beatitude Onuphry and the Church he leads.
Bishop Anthony of Moravia, Vicar of Patriarch Irinej of the Serbian Church: "For all of us, the guests who are here (in Kiev-Pechersk Lavra – Ed.) there is no other Orthodoxy in Ukraine, except the one led by His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry."
Metropolitan Gabriel of Lovech, hierarch of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church: “The only canonical Orthodox Church in Ukraine is the Church headed by Metropolitan Onuphry. This is the Church embraced by God's grace.”
Metropolitan Isaiah of Tamassos, hierarch of the Cyprus Orthodox Church: “We arrived to reaffirm our unity with the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and especially with Metropolitan Onuphry. We want to assure him of our sincere love and support and to pray that this problem will soon be resolved (the split in Ukrainian Orthodoxy – Ed.).”
Bishop Paul of Hainowka, hierarch of the Polish Orthodox Church: "We, the Orthodox of Poland, wish that the Lord give strength to Metropolitan Onuphry for him to rightfully lead the Church, the only canonical Church in Ukraine, in peace and long life."
Metropolitan Timotheos of Bostra, hierarch of the Jerusalem Orthodox Church: “I came to share rejoice with the blessed flock, with all Ukrainians who belong to precisely this (UOC – Ed.) canonical Church.”
Metropolitan Meletios of Carthage, hierarch of the Church of Alexandria: “Our stay here today (in Kiev – Ed.) is aimed at witnessing our liturgical communion with the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and also testifying to our support for the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church or, in other words, to our reaffirming the canonicity of the UOC.”
All the hierarchs speak of the canonicity of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and its head, His Beatitude Onuphry. It would seem that all these words state the obvious, and there was no need to voice them. But it’s not quite true. These things are obvious to everyone in the Orthodox world, except for Phanar. After all, half a year ago, the head of Constantinople, Patriarch Bartholomew, claiming absolute primacy in the entire Orthodox world, officially declared that His Beatitude Onuphry was no longer the Metropolitan of Kiev, while the Church he heads no longer exists.
Patriarch Bartholomew: “Returning now to the same issue through this Patriarchal Letter and addressing you as the “eminent Metropolitan of Kyiv”, in a form of oikonomia and condescension, we notify you that after the election of the Primate of the Ukrainian Church by the clergy-laity body, you will not be ecclesiologically and canonically able to bear the title of the Metropolitan of Kyiv, which, anyway, you possess today in transgression of the prescribed conditions in the official documents of 1686.” (from the letter from Patriarch Bartholomew to His Beatitude Onuphry, published in December 2018).
And who, according to Patriarch Bartholomew in Ukraine, is the true primate of the true Church? Well, this is Epiphany, who is not even a priest, let alone a bishop. And this is declared not by the Kremlin or even by the Russian Church. This is declared by Epiphany’s spiritual father, the person from whom Patriarch Bartholomew in October 2018 removed the anathema – Filaret Denisenko.
Filaret: “If I was anathematized, then it means that all these bishops (OCU – Ed.) are invalid. And Epiphany is not only not a metropolitan – he is not even a priest.”
In the structure of the OCU, which Phanar created in December 2018 and granted it the Tomos on autocephaly, there are hapeening the events one just gets to call as a scandal. Filaret Denisenko said that the OCU is a structure subordinate to Constantinople, renounced the Tomos and re-established his Kiev Patriarchate.
This could be called a split if the OCU were a canonical Church.
But since the OCU is not considered as a Church in the Orthodox world, we can say that in Ukraine there occurred a split in the split.
On June 20, 2019, Filaret chaired the Local Council of the Kiev Patriarchate, at which he announced the resumption of the work of this structure and his withdrawal from the OCU.
Filaret: “We, as the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kiev Patriarchate, continue to exist and withdraw from the OCU. We distance ourselves from this so-called OCU – this is not our Church.”
Now, according to Filaret, there are three Churches in Ukraine – UOC, OCU and UOC-KP.
Filaret: “Ukraine will have the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate; Orthodox Church in Ukraine (OCU), which has a Tomos, but the Tomos in its limited version and subordinate to the Patriarchate of Constantinople; and there will be a third independent Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kiev Patriarchate. It’s not new, but the one that has continued its existence since 1992 and even earlier, because Patriarch Mstislav was elected in 1990.”
Filaret’s “Council” was attended by only two bishops, but this did not embarrass him. He quickly performed ordinations and there are already five of them in the UOC-KP, and soon there will be more.
Filaret: "Now there are five, and there will be not only twelve, there will be more."
The UOC KP said that this structure now owns all the churches and monasteries of Kiev, which were previously within the OCU, as well as all the Diaspora parishes outside Ukraine – the ones that Phanar, according to the text of Tomos, already considered its own property.
In the decision of the “Council”, gratitude is expressed to Patriarch Bartholomew literally “for trying to solve the Ukrainian church problem”, but Tomos of the OCU, in the opinion of the UOC KP, does not comply with the “statute of an autocephalous Church typical for all autocephalous Churches and therefore, makes the OCU dependent on the Constantinople Patriarchate". Accordingly, Filaret refuses this tomos.
Filaret: “Our Tomos is not the same as other autocephalous Churches have, it’s different. This so-called Autocephalous Church (OCU – Ed.) does not actually have the rights of the Autocephalous Church.”
The OCU, in turn, held its Synod, which did not recognize the UOC-KP Local Council, deprived Filaret of Kiev eparchy, of all churches and monasteries, but did not admit that Filaret had been expelled from OCU. Epiphany still considers Filaret as his subordinate.
Eutraty Zoria: “The Honorary Patriarch Filaret remains within the episcopate of the OCU, however, he has lost the canonical rights and duties related to the administration of the Kiev (Ed.) Diocese. Thus, he is the hierarch of the OCU and is subject to the action of statutory bodies, their decisions, as well as the statute of the OCU.”
The split eventuated in the first violent confrontations for property between the OCU and the Kiev Patriarchate. And Filaret calls himself the injured party.
Filaret: “We are now appealing to state authorities to protect the rights and freedoms of the believers of the Kiev Patriarchate, to protect us from these raider seizures.”
In Odessa, there is a battle between the UOC KP and the OCU for the Nativity church of the Kiev Patriarchate. In Rovno city, while the rector of one of the UOC-KP temples was at the “Local Council” of Filaret, the OCU activists seized his temple.
Vitaly Druziuk, rector of the UOC KP temple of Venerable Theodore in the city of Rovno: “As the Council is going on, a raider capture of our temple is taking place, dear brothers and sisters.”
There is a fierce struggle for St. Theodosius monastery in Kiev. And all this seems to be just the beginning of the big commotion.
Filaret: "A seizure of St. Vladimir Cathedral is in sight."
It is difficult to assume what skirmishing between the two groups of Ukrainian schismatics will end up with. It is hardly worth doing it. All their actions, louder than any words, demonstrate who the true Church in Ukraine is and who is only disguised as the Church.
The hierarchs of the Local Churches understand this very well. Despite the pressure of the “first in honor”, they came to Kiev, came to the person whose authority in the Orthodox world is very high, the person who is called an exemplary Primate of the Church.
Metropolitan Isaiah of Tamassos, hierarch of the Cyprus Orthodox Church: “For us, Metropolitan Onuphry is a very dear person who inspires us, our archpastoral ministry. Because it is a person who, very humbly and with strong prayer, bears his archpastoral cross. And for each hierarch of the Orthodox world, he is a vivid example of a humble and kind archpastor.”
Metropolitan Gabriel of Lovech, hierarch of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church: “When the ancient hermits were asked – will there be such great hermits in the time of the end? They answered that there would be no such feats, but the hermits of this time will be higher than those who lived before. This is because there will be a lot of sorrows and difficulties. And now His Beatitude Onuphry has to endure a lot, and he does it with dignity and honor.”
Bishop Anthony of Moravia, Vicar of Patriarch Irinej of the Serbian Church: “For every Orthodox person, His Beatitude Onuphry is a model of piety, monastic feats. As the apostle Paul said, 'This is the High Priest we should have'."
And it is not just words. Even in the plight His Beatitude has never blamed anyone, never accused anyone, and never even turned to anyone for help. He prayed. And through his prayers, the Ukrainian Church survived and strengthened. And God shows us all who is who in the church situation in Ukraine.
Archpriest Nikolai Danilevich, Deputy Head of the Department for External Church Relations of the UOC:
“I am often asked to comment on the developments around the OCU. You know, one does not need to comment on them, you just don’t feel like giving comments because everything is clear. Words will not bring about changes. Prayers change the situation.
We, the whole Church, follow His Beatitude and not only hear his voice, but we even hear his silence because his silence in some issues sounds louder than any words spoken loudly by someone else. He speaks, but speaks in this silence with God. And God answers. God responds and arranges circumstances in such a way that the situation becomes obvious.
We feel that His Beatitude is praying, the whole Church is praying, the monks are praying, the clergy is praying, the laity are praying. And therefore, the Lord arranges the life of the Church in the best possible way.”
The Church of Christ in the world is one and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church is part of it. Politicians come and go. Similarly, politicians in cassocks come and go. We do not blame them – let them sort out things among themselves.
But we are members of the true Church. The Church which does not accuse, does not insult, does not betray; the Church which keeps praying. And we are with God. So if God is for us – who is against us?