Imaginary patient: who and why makes Filaret senile

Yesterday’s associates are trying in every way to portray Filaret as a sick old man. Photo: UOJ

How yesterday's associates are trying to portray Filaret Denisenko as an old man who has lost his mind and why they fail to do so.

Half a year ago, supporters of autocephaly in every possible way emphasized that receiving the Tomos was the exclusive merit of the head – Filaret Denisenko.

Former President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko made the head of the UOC-KP almost the main figure of his election campaign. Filaret was awarded the title of Hero of Ukraine, an interview with him was broadcast by the central channels of the country, and the "patriarch" was called "the spiritual leader of the Ukrainian nation".

The image of the elder, the fighter for the independence of the Church and the great and tireless worker for Christ was actively supported by the closest circle of Filaret. The first among them was the spokesperson for the UOC-KP Eustratiy Zoria, who a year ago stressed that the efficiency of the “patriarch” and the clarity of his thinking at that age (almost 90 years at the time) is evidence that God's grace rests on Filaret. Denisenko declared himself the "patriarch" for life.

Then, only some six or seven months ago, his words did not cause opposition within the newly formed religious structure, on the contrary, they found support: Filaret was admired, praised for his steadfastness in his desire to build an independent Ukrainian Church and declared him the “Honorary Patriarch” of the OCU.

However, everything has suddenly changed dramatically and radically recently. The same words of Filaret about the independent Church and his “patriarchy” are perceived as evidence of a serious illness – senile dementia. Moreover, the diagnosis is made by those who yesterday called Filaret an "elder", a "patriarch" and a "spiritual leader of the Ukrainian nation".

Criticism of Tomos as a sign of illness

The eulogies to Filaret were replaced by diagnoses after Denisenko began to criticize the Tomos granted the Phanar, the content of which, as it turned out, was unknown to him at the “Unification Council”.

Although it must be admitted, his criticism of the document is quite sensible.

In general, it boils down to several theses, which Filaret has repeatedly emphasized lately:

  1. The OCU has no right to cook myrrh, which means its dependence on Istanbul.
  2. The OCU can’t have overseas parishes, which also indicates its dependence.
  3. All important issues on managing the newly formed Church should be resolved in Istanbul.
  4. And even the name of the OCU speaks of the lack of autocephaly of this Church.

All these theses are true, and Filaret’s criticism of the Tomos is fair and substantiated.

In addition, Denisenko has repeatedly stressed that the Tomos brought Ukraine more harm than good because it divided Ukrainians even more. Before the Tomos, there were three churches in the country – the UOC, the UOC-KP, and the UAOC, and after it the fourth one appeared - the OCU (the UAOC is still not legally abolished like the UOC-KP).

Is not the head of the Kiev Patriarchate right that the Tomos bestowal did not entail recognition? After all, by and large, as Filaret rightly notes, none of the representatives of the Orthodox Local Churches concelebrates with Epiphany.

Of course, Denisenko’s opponents understand that their former head and spiritual leader expresses sound thoughts in all critical remarks. That is why they are starting to come up with some completely new signs of dementia, including an interview with someone who they consider to be an enemy. Filaret gave an interview to the Russia 24 channel, didn’t he? Conclusion: “a healthy Ukrainian person will not give interviews to Russian channels” (Eustratiy Zoria).

Who benefits from Filaret's “illness”

A couple of months ago, the UOJ assumed that the Patriarchate of Constantinople might decide to ban Filaret from priesthood. However, today, apparently, the Patriarchate of Constantinople decided to go the other way – to blame it on his “illness”.

Indeed, the deposition of Filaret, and even more so his anathema from Bartholomew this time will look strange, even comical. After all, if Denisenko is anathematized by the Phanar, this can only mean one thing – he is a hardened "church criminal", and his previous excommunication from the Church, which was imposed by the Bishops' Council of the ROC, was absolutely fair. Therefore, Istanbul decided to avoid this scandal in any way and, most likely, gave the command to its division in Ukraine to blame Filaret’s critical remarks on a serious illness.

Both the Phanar and the OCU are well aware that Filaret’s words are a scandal that is no longer a skeleton in the cupboard. That is why Eustratiy Zoria, as always in such cases, is trying to shift responsibility on Moscow: “one of the tasks of Moscow in undermining the Tomos is to prove that the satisfaction of the appeal (which constitutes grounds for the Phanar to lift the anathema from Filaret – Ed.) was ‘wrong, illegal, erroneous’. And for this, it is precisely stated, pointing out the erroneous actions of the elder, heightening the impression of them many times: ‘He has always been a schismatic, he did everything in 1992 not for the sake of the Church, but for the sake of power!’ If we agree with this thesis, then Moscow will insist that the ‘condemnation’ was ‘fair’, so the satisfaction of the appeal is ‘wrong’, therefore “wrong” is everything that followed, including the Unification Council and the Tomos.”

If Denisenko is anathematized by the Phanar, this can only mean one thing – he is a hardened "church criminal" and his previous excommunication from the Church was absolutely fair.

Zoria is right. After all, if Filaret has always been like that, then the anathema to him is fair, which means that the Tomos and everything connected with receiving it is wrong from beginning to end.

“Archbishop” Eustratiy is deliberately mistaken in another thing: “In 1992, Filaret defended the Council’s decision on autocephaly, and now he opposes conciliar decisions – this is a fundamental difference that cannot be ignored by anyone. He was “tried” precisely because he went against the will of Moscow, and not for everything that was attributed to him.”

He is wrong because in 1992 and 2019 Filaret defended his desire to be a patriarch. It is enough to recall Denisenko’s behaviour and statements over the past few years.

"Evolution" of Filaret

2009: “We see no difference – to be in the Moscow Patriarchate or in the Constantinople one. That is, we went out of one yoke, fell into another. <...> I was supposed to renounce the patriarchy. Our Church would no longer be called a patriarchate but simply a metropolis of the Patriarchate of Constantinople. We must choose three candidates for the throne of Kiev, and of them, the patriarch should elect the primate ... They (the Phanar - Ed.) set these conditions for us when they arrived.”

2011: “I do not want to give the Church for defeat. And I will not leave the post until I see that there is one Orthodox Church in Ukraine recognized by all. Then my mission is accomplished.”

2012: “I firmly stand on the position of autocephaly of the Ukrainian Church and will not retreat. This is a truthful and righteous path, and I will not leave it to the end.”

2018, October: “I have been a patriarch and I will be!”

2018, November: “And now we expect the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to recognize the Ukrainian Orthodox Church as the autocephalous Church, that is, independent not only from Moscow but also from Constantinople itself. We will be independent of all the centers and get the Tomos, which makes Moscow shudder. Because if the Ukrainian Church becomes recognized, autocephalous, this means that there will be no Moscow in Ukraine, there will be no Moscow spirit, but Ukrainianness will dominate.”

2019: "I have been walking this road and I will walk it to death."

As you can see, the evolution of statements is not observed. On the contrary, the amazing firmness of the position and the confidence with which Filaret defends his convictions is striking.

Evolution of Zoria

The views and sayings of Filaret have not changed at all with years. All these words of Filaret were perceived by Eustratiy Zoria not only as thoughts of a healthy person but as theses of an exceptional person, almost a living saint.

In addition, we remember very well how he convinced the public that Filaret was the only worthy primate of the future OCU and who, if not him, to lead it. The schismatics themselves accounted for Zoria’s former behaviour more than skeptically: according to the OCU “Metropolitan” Adrian Starina, he “tricked, dodged, cheated” to become first an “archbishop” and then a member of the “Synod”. The question is different: Was Filaret “healthy” then? According to Zoria and the company – definitely yes.

But what has changed? Both a decade ago and today Filaret’s rhetoric has not changed at all – even at the lexical level! Compare:

2016: “When we united with the autocephalous Church and created the Kiev Patriarchate, it was small, meaningless. We thought that it would not last long. But today, the Keiv Patriarchate has become the largest Church of Ukraine ... a small grain gave rise to a large Church, which today dominates in Ukraine.”

2019: “In 1992, I was with one bishop, Bishop Jacob Panchuk. And in 2018 there were already 40 bishops. 40! The Kiev Patriarchate has  grown from a small grain into a big tree for 25 years. Likewise, we now have a few bishops, but they are there.”

Filaret made the last statement in June, when, according to Zoria, he was already seriously ill.

1992 and 2019 – what's the difference?

In 2019, Filaret went against the decisions of the “Unification Council”, refusing to recognize their legitimacy. Moreover, he actually reversed his signature on the statement of the UOC-KP “Council” on self-dissolution. Denisenko says that the Kiev Patriarchate continues to exist, and self-dissolution is only a situational decision that was needed to hold the “Unification Council” and receive the Tomos.

Eustratiy Zoria, religious scholar Yuri Chernomorets, OCU “Bishop” Adrian Kulik accused Filaret of lies, inconsistency and senile dementia because, as Zoria says, a healthy person cannot first say one thing and then another. Filaret’s current stance is called a “breakaway”, he is left in the clergy of the OCU, and people who are involved in the UOC-KP resuming its activity are punished indirectly.

There is a certain logic in the actions of the Synod of the OCU. If Filaret was deposed for schism, then the story of 1992 will almost completely repeat, and this is no good for the Phanar in the first place. Therefore, the representatives of the OCU have nothing else but declare Filaret a “breakaway” rather than a schismatic.

Both a decade ago and today Filaret’s rhetoric has not changed at all – even at the lexical level! 

Patriarchal ambitions through the eyes of secular media 15 years ago

Filaret’s disregard for conciliar decisions, a strong desire to preserve power, etc. have been subject to criticism not only now. For example, in 2005, secular journalists accused him of disrupting attempts to unite with the UAOC. In the eyes of the then media, the main reason for this breakdown is Denisenko’s reluctance to part with the patriarchal koukoulion.

Here is what Ekaterina Shchetkina, a big supporter of autocephaly and an admirer of the UOC-KP “patriarch”, wrote about Filaret’s stance:

“(They) did not want to unite on our terms? It means that they are against the single Local Church. What, do not agree to take for granted Filaret as primate? Want an election? So they are working for Moscow. Well, Patriarch Filaret can be understood. He has achieved everything. Almost. Only one thing is left – to go down in history. Of course, one would like to go there on a white horse. But it seems that it does not work – the patriarch cannot but understand that, in view of the old age and the stubbornness of the opponents, he is unlikely to live to the real unification of all Ukrainian Orthodoxy with him in the lead, no matter how he puts pressure and catches the situation. Well, a dapple grey horse will do – the union of the two branches of ‘Ukrainian Orthodoxy’ under the sign of the ‘United Orthodox Church’.”

Back in 2005, the media accused Filaret of disrupting attempts to unite with the UAOC because of the reluctance to part with the patriarchal koukoulion.

According to her, “the head of the UOC-KP regarded the election of the patriarch by lot as a personal insult. Those who want this, he believes, seek to remove him from power (while no one bothers him to take part in the elections), in the sense of destroying the UOC-KP. That is what the UOC-KP holds on to. In fact, this statement is not far from the truth. Therefore, when Patriarch Filaret says that “we need only autocephaly” even now, one should not be surprised at this youthful maximalism and haste. Autocephaly today is a chance for Patriarch Filaret to preserve both the patriarchal koukoulion and his favourite creation, the UOC-KP”.

When you read these passages of the famous hater of the canonical Church, written about Filaret back in 2005, you will not be surprised that nothing has changed in 15 years. Denisenko’s desire to be a patriarch remains as strong and unchanged today as 15 or 25 years ago.

On the real illness of Filaret

As for Filaret, he is really sick. True, he fell ill not now but long before 1992. And his illness is not called dementia or senility. Archimandrite Cyril (Govorun) is absolutely right when he writes:

“Interpreting his (Denisenko’s - Ed.) behaviour now as caused by senile dementia is an attempt to relieve him, and sometimes oneself, of moral responsibility for one’s actions. <...>

And then, and now he was motivated by the desire to preserve power, which he can’ but identify himself with. <...>

This does not take off the responsibility from those who in December helped him in every possible way to cause birth injuries to the structure, <...> and in January, for example, protected the need for changes in the Statute – again, to satisfy the whims of Metropolitan Philaret. Their manipulations, in part, laid mines under the new structure, which began to explode now and will continue to bang for a long time. <...>

And therefore comparing the ‘illness’ of Filaret, who knows what he is doing because he has always acted so as to preserve and enhance his authority, with the dementia of older people <...> is primarily unfair to the truly sick.”

“Interpreting his (Denisenko’s - Ed.) behaviour now as caused by senile dementia is an attempt to releave him, and sometimes oneself, of moral responsibility for one’s actions.

Archimandrite Cyril (Govorun)

So, the real illness of Filaret is called neither dementia nor senile marasmus. His illness has no physiological measurement or medical name at all because it is spiritual. Holy Fathers and Orthodox ascetics call it pride.

Each of us suffers from this illness to some extent. But for some, it takes really gigantic forms and huge sizes. The one who has pride as the main problem of spiritual life is no longer able to realistically assess the situation and soberly look at things. They are blind, although they claim to be sighted, but the worst thing is they are almost unable of repenting.

Almost unable. Because there is always hope. You just need to want and turn to God, abandoning your ambitions. Yes, it's hard. But there is no other way. Neither for Filaret, nor for Zoria, nor for those who are called the "OCU".

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