His Beatitude Vladimir and OCU: what the late Primate dreamt of
How the OCU "hierarchs" distort the position of the late Metropolitan Vladimir and what he really thought about healing the schism.
Five years ago, on July 5, 2014, His Beatitude Vladimir (Sabodan), Metropolitan of Kiev and All Ukraine, reposed. In the temples of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church throughout the country, there were memorial services at which the believers prayed for their deceased Primate.
However, some of them were amazed to see that in this regard many representatives of the OCU posted messages on social networks, in which they wrote that His Beatitude Vladimir almost dreamt of creating their structure, published in his honor praising posts and said that if the metropolitan were alive, he would certainly be with them. And the number of such publications is so great that there is no doubt – it was a planned action.
On July 5, the day of the repose of Metropolitan Vladimir, the OCU posted a message on its Facebook page containing the following words: “His Beatitude was a supporter of the unity of the Ukrainian Church and took important steps to achieve it. During his lifetime, he was not able to see the embodiment of his aspiration, but on December 15 the dream of His Beatitude became a reality – the united Orthodox Church of Ukraine, which received the Tomos of autocephaly from the Mother-Church of Constantinople, appeared.”
Many "hierarchs" and supporters of the OCU followed this example.
There are a lot of similar messages, and here the first question arises: why have the schismatics ignored the day of the repose of His Beatitude Vladimir in the past years? Why is it now such a mass of praising remarks in his address and obvious lies spread about Metropolitan Vladimir’s dreams of uniting with schismatics?
It seems that there are several reasons.
The main one is an obvious provocation towards the believers of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, to whom schismatics communicate a message – they say, look, such a respected and beloved by all hierarch dreamt of uniting with us and now – his dream has come true. What are you waiting for? Go to us! From the “Muscovite occupation” (quotation from Kulyk) to the present united Ukrainian Church!
Such a “creative” campaign in the conditions of ceased “transfers” from the UOC and the crisis of the OCU structure itself is vitally necessary.
Another reason for the emergence of such creativity is the acute shortage of moral authorities in this structure.
Until recently, such has been the "Honorary Patriarch" of the OCU Filaret Denisenko. However, after all the truth about the Tomos, the relationship between the OCU "bishops" and other unpleasant facts that Filaret revealed, he is no longer suitable for any moral authority. And it became necessary to urgently find a replacement for him. The OCU now desperately needs a moral authority, living or dead, that would be very respected in Ukrainian society and personifies the very idea laid in the foundation of the OCU, the idea of a national Ukrainian Church.
The OCU now desperately needs moral authority, living or dead, that would be very respected in Ukrainian society and personifies the very idea laid in the foundation of the OCU, the idea of a national Ukrainian Church.
Well, we should disappoint the OCU supporters. All the well-known documents and sayings of His Beatitude Vladimir prove that he did not only dream of uniting with the schismatics but said directly opposite things. That is, the fact that Metropolitan Vladimir was a supporter of the unity of all the Orthodox confessions of Ukraine is true. So is the now-living His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry and all the hierarchs of the UOC without exception. The late Primate repeatedly expressed this point of view.
For example, here is a quote from his interview with the edition “Religion in Ukraine” of April 26, 2011:
“Religion in Ukraine”: How is the dialogue going on with the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kiev Patriarchate? Is there any light at the end of the schism tunnel?
Metropolitan Vladimir: One who has fallen away from church unity can return but should not reproach or demand something from the one who has preserved this unity. We have repeatedly declared and are ready to repeat that for us the unity of Orthodoxy in Ukraine is more important than its status. We also stated that a return from the schism should not be demeaning for the returning. That dialogue should take place solely on the basis of the Gospel, traditions, and canons of the Orthodox Church. And in response, unfortunately, we again hear the political discourse.
From these words, we can conclude that Metropolitan Vladimir had a desire to the one Church, of course, was, but it was based on the canons, which the schismatics did not want to comply with. They simply sought a mechanical union with the canonical Church. Did the Primate of the UOC dream of this (as the OCU representatives say now)?
Here is his quote from an interview of 2005: “From the point of view of world Orthodoxy, the so-called UOC KP is not local and canonical, neither is it the Church in general. <...> What kind of union can we talk about? It is impossible to get a single constituent from oil and water ... The unification of the Churches can occur only through the repentance of the schismatics, the return to the bosom of the Mother Church, and later, a joint discussion of the proper canonical status of the single Ukrainian Church.”
These brief words express the position of Metropolitan Vladimir and the whole essence of the attitude of the UOC to schismatic confessions. The position has never changed since the beginning of the schism. Let us dwell on it in more detail.
Firstly, any dialogue, and especially association, should be based on the Gospel, traditions, and canons of the Orthodox Church. The “unification” that we see today in the face of the OCU is an example of the gross violation of both the Gospel, the canons, and the traditions of the Church.
Secondly, the unity of Orthodoxy is really more important than the status. For the sake of healing the schism, Metropolitan Vladimir was ready to discuss the acceptable status of the UOC for those who wish to return to the Church. It could even be complete canonical autocephaly. And it was talked about many times at various levels, including at the Bishops' Councils of the Russian Orthodox Church. Even the Most Holy Patriarchs of Moscow Alexy II and Kirill said that after the repentance and return of the schismatics to the Church, the question of the autocephaly of the UOC could be solved in the spirit of fraternal love and harmony.
Here, for example, are quotes from the message of the Bishops' Council of the Russian Orthodox Church of 31.03-05.04.1992 to the clergy and flock of Orthodox Ukraine (that very Council at which then Metropolitan Filaret (Denisenko) asked for autocephaly for the UOC and then swore to resign):
“The free and comprehensive discussion that unfolded at the Council showed that most clergy and believers in many Ukrainian eparchies do not accept the idea of autocephaly while in the western regions of Ukraine it is supported by the majority. We understand the moods of both, sincerely wishing that the church fullness should make its decision on this subject at the next Local Council of the Russian Orthodox Church. <...> We say with one mouth and one heart: let the will of the Orthodox people of Ukraine regarding full canonical independence be expressed through peaceful, balanced, competent and Christianly pious discussion of this issue, without violence, extremism, and political pressure. The legitimate canonical procedure for granting autocephaly involves the adoption of an appropriate decision at the Local Council in agreement with all the Local Orthodox Churches.”
As you can see, there is no rejection of the idea of autocephaly for the UOC. There is only a condition that the desire for autocephaly should be the unanimous desire of all Ukrainian Orthodox believers.
"Dialogue (with schismatics – Ed.) should be held solely on the basis of the Gospel, traditions and canons of the Orthodox Church."
His Beatitude Metropolitan Vladimir
Thirdly, the schismatics, the UOC KP and the UAOC, and now the OCU, are those who have fallen away from church unity, and the UOC are those who have preserved this unity. Accordingly, the fallen must reunite. To do this through repentance is the only way that the Gospel and the canons of the Church give us.
Metropolitan Vladimir did not suggest at all that the healing of the schism would consist in its simple legalization. He did not think at all that the long-standing problem of the Ukrainian schism could be solved with one simple decision of the Constantinople Patriarchate about the “reunification” of the schismatics without repentance.
In 2008, when the church-political situation was like the present one and Patriarch Bartholomew was ready to legalize the schismatics, Metropolitan Vladimir wrote in a letter to him:
“Recently, the Ukrainian mass media have been discussing the scenario for resolving the Ukrainian church question by creating several parallel Orthodox jurisdictions in Ukraine. We responsibly declare that this way of solving the problem is unacceptable because it:
- is contrary to the canonical principle of "one city – one bishop";
- strengthens ethnophyletic moods in church communities;
- strengthens negative trends leading to the polarization of Ukrainian society;
- can lead to the restoration of a tough confrontation in the struggle for temples and church property;
- weakens the missionary potential of Orthodoxy in Ukraine against the backdrop of the activity of new religious movements and uniatism;
- and, finally, will not solve the problem of overcoming the schism since the non-canonical church groups that claim the autocephalous status will remain in Ukraine.”
As you can see, absolutely all the warnings of Metropolitan Vladimir came true. It turns out that these words express the aspirations of the deceased Primate of the UOC, according to the logic of the representatives of the OCU, doesn’t it? Is that what he dreamt about?!
Later, Metropolitan Vladimir said the following about the interference of Patriarch Bartholomew in Ukrainian church affairs:
“We asked the Ecumenical Patriarch not to interfere in the problems of Ukraine because this is an internal matter of the Orthodox Ukrainians themselves. He was then offended by this letter, but it seems that he still has not lost his desire to interfere in deciding the fate of the Church in Ukraine. This would be highly undesirable as there is an example of Estonia where the intervention of the Ecumenical Patriarch caused a schism in the Church. He appointed his metropolitan on the part of the parishes without the permission of Patriarch Alexy, in whose canonical jurisdiction there is the entire territory of Estonia.”
Approaching death, His Beatitude Vladimir wrote a testament, which was published shortly after his death.
Here is his prediction about the current situation: “The creation of the Metropolis of the Constantinople Patriarchate on the basis of autocephalous structures in Ukraine and the parallel existence of two Orthodox jurisdictions will mean that the modern division of the Church and society will be fixed for many years.”
Can these words be called a dream? Hardly.
The Testament of the Metropolitan of Kiev clearly describes the church situation in Ukraine
Here is an excerpt from this document, which most fully reveals Metropolitan Vladimir’s point of view on this question:
“These two antagonistic approaches have manifested themselves in two theological concepts, in both of which one can see signs of an ecclesiological heresy. Absolutizing autocephaly, the supporters of church independence from Moscow created an ethnophyletic concept, according to which the national Church is almost the main means of forming the Ukrainian ethnos. At the same time, unity with Universal Orthodoxy faded into the background. From the point of view of the opponents of the new canonical status of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, autocephaly began to be perceived as a means to undermine church-wide unity.
So, the problem of church governance was artificially transferred to the plane of political and civilizational discussions. Of the two canonical models of the unity of the Orthodox Church in Ukraine with Universal Orthodoxy (autocephaly or being part of the Moscow Patriarchate), essentially two opposing ideological models that divided the Ukrainian people on the basis of political and cultural sympathies were made.
The position of the Primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in these discussions was that a theological or canonical discussion in the Church cannot take place under conditions of artificial politicization, and any decisions regarding the canonical status of our Church should be made conciliarly on the basis of church canons and not political interests. Fundamentally refraining from taking one or another ideologically determined position, we tried all this time to observe purely church priorities: being in Eucharistic unity with Universal Orthodoxy and preserving unity and catholicity in the inner life of the Church.”
"The emergence of the schism, as is known, was due to a number of reasons, including the politicization of church life, the penetration of the nationalist ideology of ethnophyletism into the life of the Church, the pride and impenitence of the schism leaders."
His Beatitude Metropolitan Vladimir
Needless to say, the creation of the OCU was exactly the opposite of what Metropolitan Vladimir was talking about? The then President Petro Poroshenko tried to force everyone into one organization, and Patriarch Bartholomew, violating all the canons of the Church, tried to legalize this organization.
No, the OCU was not at all the fulfillment of the dream of His Beatitude Vladimir. The deceased Primate suggested that the situation could develop according to the scenario which Poroshenko and his associates realized and expressed his negative attitude to it.
On September 13-15, 2000, in the framework of celebrations dedicated to the 2000th anniversary of the Nativity of Christ, Metropolitan Vladimir made an archpastoral visit to the Odessa Eparchy. At a press conference at the Odessa Theological Seminary, he said the following words, which turned out to be prophetic:
“We are not opposed to a single Orthodox Church. But it should be a legitimate, canonical Church, which will be recognized by all Orthodox Churches. Today there is such a desire, but there is no mechanism for this. Politicians propose something like a general Council: to gather all, to take off their white koukoulia from their leaders and unite everyone. This is a superficial solution. People who do not know either the canons of the Church, or its nature, or its possibilities can reason so.”
This is what literally happened at the so-called "Unification Council" of December 15, 2018: Poroshenko announced a general assembly, Filaret was forced to appear without a patriarchal white koukoulion and declared the creation of the OCU.
“The creation of the Metropolis of the Constantinople Patriarchate on the basis of autocephalous structures in Ukraine and the parallel existence of two Orthodox jurisdictions will mean that the modern division of the Church and society will be fixed for many years.”
From the Testament of His Beatitude Metropolitan Vladimir
Yes, Metropolitan Vladimir grieved about the church schism. Yes, he did his best to heal this schism. Yes, he constantly urged those who fell away to return to the Church. Yes, he dreamt that once in Ukraine there would be a single Orthodox Church. But to assert that his dreams were embodied in the OCU means to consciously lie and denigrate the blessed memory of the late Primate of the UOC.
The creation of the OCU, the actions of the Ukrainian authorities, as well as the Patriarchate of Constantinople, is the realization of the most terrible fears of His Beatitude Vladimir, the realization of the most negative scenario that, in his opinion, could happen and the possibility of which he foresaw.
Therefore, one mustn’t denigrate his memory with one’s fantasies, manipulations, and outright lies.