Is Belarus next after OCU’s autocephaly? Why OCU serves with schismatics
The OCU served with the schismatics of Belarus, and most recently – of Montenegro. Why is this happening and how should the Phanar and Local Churches respond to this?
On August 17-18, 2019, a conference on the autocephaly of the so-called Belarusian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (hereinafter – the BAOC) was held in Chernigov.
Several people from Belarus arrived at this event, joined by local Ukrainian supporters of the OCU. And everything would have gone quietly and imperceptibly if not for one interesting episode, which we will pay attention to in this article. We are talking about a joint "worship" that the "priests" of the OCU performed together with the Belarusian schismatics.
Conference of schismatics with the support of schismatics
Now in the Orthodox world, there is an intense internal struggle. The Phanar requires the Local Churches to recognize the Ukrainian schismatics from the OCU as the Church, the hierarchs of world Orthodoxy are unwilling to do this.
It would seem that the OCU should make every effort to help their patrons from Istanbul in this situation. But, paradoxically, Epiphany’s team does exactly the opposite. And in the newly formed structure, they not only organize a conference for Belarusian schismatics (whose recognition is not discussed anywhere) but also perform joint “services” with them.
For example, on Saturday, August 17, Belarusian and Ukrainian schismatics held a service to commemorate the dead soldiers of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
The memorial service was attended by the rector of St. Catherine’s Cathedral of the Chernigov “eparchy” of the OCU Roman Kinyk, the clergyman of the cathedral Eugeniy Orda, several laymen of the OCU and the head of the BAOC Svyatoslav Login.
In addition, on August 18, on Sunday, in the same St. Catherine’s cathedral of the Chernigov “eparchy” of the OCU, they also performed a prayer service for Belarus. By the way, it is in this temple that the spokesman for the newly created structure, "Bishop" Eustratiy Zoria of Chernigov, serves.
It is not surprising that schismatics prayed with schismatics. This is the nature of schism. However, against the backdrop of modern events, this joint service looks both strange and defiant. After all, the OCU “hierarchs” have recently strongly emphasized their canonicity and devotion to the rules of the Church. In almost every sermon, the head of this structure, Epiphany Dumenko, addresses the theme of “canonical autocephaly”, “the Tomos of independence”, and also constantly speaks of the “canonicity” of the OCU. And suddenly, such a clear violation of the canons! And not just anywhere but on the territory controlled by the spokesman of the new religious organization Eustratiy Zoria, the closest ally and employee of Epiphany. It cannot be called a coincidence. Moreover, not long ago, the same Zoria had to personally apologize for the representatives of the OCU concelebrating with Montenegrin schismatics.
Montenegrin schismatics and OCU
On May 26, 2019, an unpleasant incident occurred for the OCU: the “archimandrite” (at present – a “bishop”) from the so-called Montenegrin Church Bojan Bojović took part in the “service” of the OCU, which took place on May 26, 2019, at St. Michael’s Golden-Domed Cathedral on the occasion of the 19th anniversary of its restoration. Representatives of the Montenegrin-Littoral Metropolis of the Serbian Orthodox Church identified Bojović by the photo published on the OCU website. As a result, this blatant case became public. The presence at the "service" of Metropolitan Emmanuel (Adamakis) of France, the Phanar hierarch, spiced things up.
In response, on June 16, the Office of the Patriarchate of Constantinople stated that it was an “incident” and that Metropolitan Emmanuel could not know who was present at the liturgy attended by about 100 “clergymen”. In addition, it was emphasized that the Ecumenical Patriarchate is in canonical unity with the Serbian Orthodox Church and recognizes only the jurisdiction of the latter in Montenegro.
However, despite all attempts to justify themselves, they failed to hush up the scandal. A few days later, on June 20, Protopriest Andrei Novikov, a member of the Biblical and Theological Commission of the Moscow Patriarchate, said that the Phanariots were creating a new schismatic international:
“We see that in Kiev, a so-called cleric of the so-called Montenegrin Church, which is in schism with the canonical Serbian Church, was present at the service with Metropolitan Emmanuel. The metropolitan of Constantinople justified his service by the fact that there were a lot of people who served, he could not know everyone. This is ridiculous! The Phanariots are completely confused in the schismatics, they themselves do not know who they concelebrate with. They are in communion with the whole schismatic international.”
In turn, Metropolitan Amfilohije (Radović) of Montenegro and the Littoral of the Serbian Orthodox Church sent an appeal to the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, in which he expressed concern about the fact that the representative of the Patriarchate of Constantinople concelebrated with a schismatic from an unrecognized Montenegrin Church. In response to this appeal, Patriarch Bartholomew recommended that Epiphanius Dumenko apologize to the Serbian Church, and soon Metropolitan Emmanuel of France sent a letter of apology for his concelebration with the representative of the non-canonical Church of Montenegro, noting that he then “was unaware who concelebrated him” in Kiev.
Moreover, on June 24, Eustratiy went to Metropolitan Amfilohije personally to hand over a letter from Epiphany Dumenko, in which he apologized for the "concelebration" with the Montenegrin schismatics.
In particular, the head of the OCU assured the hierarch of the Serbian Church that “this happened unintentionally, and only because in the past, before the restoration of our communion with His Most Holy Ecumenical Patriarch and other Local Churches, we developed relations with the citizens of your country unrecognized by the fullness of Orthodoxy”. Epiphany, like Emmanuel, tried to blame that on a large number of “serving priests”: “I understand that this event saddened you, but I want to convince you that we, which are now the Autocephalous Orthodox Church of Ukraine, have only ecclesiastical and canonical dialogue only and exclusively with the Holy Great Church of Christ, our Mother, that is the Ecumenical Patriarchate and only those who it is in communion with and no one else.”
Agree that the last paragraph is very remarkable.
However, the words of Epiphany are hardly sincere. The fact is that Bojović has regularly come to Kiev and served with representatives of the UOC-KP, so Epiphany cannot but know him. Here, for example, is a photo of 2012, with Bojović and Filaret in the altar of St. Vladimir’s Cathedral.
However, perhaps these are things of bygone days? No, here is Bojović during the cross procession of the UOC-KP on the Day of the Christianization of Rus’ in 2018, next to another Montenegrin schismatic Ivan Pajović, the rector of the St. Peter of Cetinje Church in Kotor.
Thus, schismatics from the Montenegrin Church regularly appeared among the “clergy” of the UOC-KP non-recognized by anyone. Apparently, absolutely nothing has changed after the rebranding of the Kiev Patriarchate under the name of the OCU and the recognition of this structure by the Phanar. Having become "canonical", the Ukrainian schismatics continued to serve with the Montenegrin schismatics, and if they had not got busted, this relationship would continue.
The concelebration of the OCU with representatives of the Montenegrin schismatics caused a significant international scandal. This should have taught Epiphany’s associates something. But it is far from the case. They continue to openly concelebrate with other schismatics, now Belarusian. But what is going on? Was this service an initiative of the OCU or sanctioned by someone from the top?
What happened in Chernigov?
So, what really happened in Chernigov? Most likely, Protopriest Andrei Novikov, who accused the Phanar of creating a "schismatic international", is right. A lot of facts indicate that the “concelebration” with the Belarusian schismatics could have happened not without the knowledge of the Patriarchate of Constantinople.
Firstly, the very idea of holding a conference on Belarusian autocephaly in Ukraine is extremely surprising. If the issues related to Belarus were discussed, then it would be logical to hold the event in Belarus, wouldn’t it? But it was Ukraine that was chosen as a host country, where its own schismatic Church has been legalized recently. And it is hardly accidental.
Secondly, the “concelebration” is a challenge to the Russian Orthodox Church: the Phanar may have the intention to legalize all schismatics who somehow fall into the sphere of the ROC’s interests. At the same time, Constantinople officials understand that Moscow will not reciprocate (that is, legalize, for example, Greek old calendarists) because for the ROC canons are more important than the struggle for power.
Thirdly, the “concelebration” with the Belarusian schismatics is a step that should demonstrate to all opponents of the Phanar’s policy that the Patriarchate of Constantinople does not intend to stop and will go to the end.
Fourthly, there was no joint “liturgy” with the BAOC, which means that at any moment the Ukrainian schismatics can say that nothing terrible happened, that this was just a “memorial service”, etc. That is, the OCU left itself an out.
Thus, the “concelebration” with the schismatics from Belarus was not accidental. This is a pre-planned and thought-out action, the purpose of which is not only to test the ground but also to warn all the Orthodox that the opposition to the Phanar is "toxic".
In addition, in this situation, there is one more point that suggests that in the future we can become witnesses of granting the next Tomos - to the BAOC.
Tomos for Belarusians
Now the BAOC is a rather marginal and small religious group, similar to which there are a great many in the world. In total, this “church” includes several parishes in the USA, Canada, Great Britain and Australia. In Belarus, there is only one BAOC church located in Minsk.
The Belarusian schismatics believe that they are direct descendants of the Novogrudok Metropolis, which was created by the Patriarchate of Constantinople in 1330 at the request of the Grand Duke of Lithuania Gediminas (that’s why the head of the BAOC had the title of “Novogrudok”).
Back in the 20s of the last century, an insignificant part of the Belarusian clergy, led by Bishop Melchizedek (Paevsky), tried to achieve autonomy for the Belarusian Church. However, this initiative did not find support with the Soviet leadership and, therefore, was not successful.
Attempts to achieve at least some kind of autocephaly revived abroad of the USSR when Belarusian emigrants decided to use the UAOC. So, Polikarp Sikorsky “blessed” his fellow “Bishop” Sergiy Okhotenko to accept Belarusians into the UAOC. On June 5, 1948, the “Council” in Constance announced the creation of the BAOC. In 1949, the layman Vasil Tamashchuk was urgently tonsured as a monk and “ordained” as a “bishop” of the BAOC. Vasil quickly left for the United States, and in the late 1960s and early 1970s, several BAOC parishes, which had by then appeared in America, transferred to the American Archdiocese of the Patriarchate of Constantinople. Of these, the Belarusian Council of Orthodox Churches in North America was created in 1971.
In the 2000s, the St. Cyril of Turov Cathedral in Brooklyn became the centre of the BAOC. There is a parish council at the cathedral, consisting mainly of new wave nationalist emigrants. The cathedral is often used for public events; only some external attributes have been preserved from church practice.
It is interesting that in 2005 Vasily Kostyuk, the “vicar bishop” of Baranavichy and Brooklyn, who in 2004 moved to the BAOC from the ROC, anathematized the secretary of the BAOC “consistory” Boris Danilyuk and deposed a number of members of the parish council on charges of neo-fascism and turning the church community into pseudo-Christian nationalistic totalitarian sect, very far from the Church. As a result, those who disagree with the decision blocked the church in Brooklyn and forced Vasily Kostyuk to create a new “jurisdiction” for those who do not want to be in the ROC but disagree with the obvious Russophobic position of the BAOC.
As you can see, the Patriarchate of Constantinople and the Belarusian schismatics have been fruitfully cooperating for a long time, which once again tells us about the non-accidental character of the Chernigov “concelebration”.
The connections between the Phanar and the BAOC become even more obvious when we look at the formation of the current head of this structure, Vyacheslav Login.
Login and Phanar
The future head of the BAOC was born on November 26, 1964 in Chernigov into a Belarusian family. In the early 1990s, he joined the UOC-KP. In 2000, he was ordained in Canada as "deacon" and almost immediately as "priest". Already in 2008, he was "tonsured" as a monk with the name Svyatoslav. On September 24, 2007, Svyatoslav Login was elevated to the rank of “hegumen” and “archimandrite” by "Archbishop" Alexander (Bykovets) of Uman and Detroit (who first belonged to the UOC-KP, and then the UAOC) and on May 11, 2008 he was "ordained" as "Bishop of Novogrudok”.
The ordination was performed by the “hierarchs” of the UAOC and the UOC-KP: “Archbishop” Alexander (Bykovets) of Uman and Detroit (UOC-KP), “Bishop” Makary (Herring) of Houston and Texas (UAOC) and “Bishop” Paisiy (Dmokhovsky) of Borispol (UOC-KP).
That is, in 2008, representatives of schismatic groups, which today merged into one under the name of the OCU, quite calmly “prayed” with representatives of the BAOC. Apparently, the current “prayer” does not cause any objections from the Phanar.
Moreover, Svyatoslav Login has long wanted Constantinople to recognize his structure. In 2018, said:
“If the Ukrainian Church is recognized, then the next steps should be regarding the Belarusian Church. This gives us an example and shows that the situation is developing according to the canons. The canons, as you know, require a separate Church for a separate Orthodox people. This is the 34th Apostolic Rule. And the canons are not discussed but implemented. The fact that Belarus as an Orthodox state does not have its own independent hierarch is a violation of the canons and a violation of the historicity of our Belarusian Church ... Our goal is also to legalize in Belarus and officially receive the status of autocephaly.”
The fact that the same canons that forbids the Orthodox to pray with schismatics and heretics apparently doesn’t bother the head of the Belarusian autocephalists. He is more concerned about other things – under President Lukashenko, the prospects for obtaining autocephaly are very vague: “Under the current regime, the processes of legalizing the Belarusian Church in Belarus, its further growth and obtaining autocephaly are hardly possible. The current government is economically, politically, and spiritually subordinate to Moscow.”
The only hope is to join the Patriarchate of Constantinople and from there to engage in further separation of the Belarusian Exarchate from the Russian Orthodox Church. The Phanar seems to have no objections and even initiate this process.
OCU and BAOC – what is common?
We have already said that the modern “hierarchy” of the Belarusian Autocephalous Orthodox Church is directly connected with the Ukrainian self-consecrated (samosviaty) and schismatics of the beginning and the middle of the 20th century. At the same time, these groups are connected in one way or another with the American Archdiocese of the Patriarchate of Constantinople. Thus, the founder of the UAOC in the USA and Canada, John Theodorovich, received the “episcopal ordination” from the hands of the Ukrainian self-consecrated. In 1949, Metropolitan (!!!) John Theodorovich of the UAOC was re-ordained as bishop since his former “ordination” caused great doubts among believers.
On March 12, 1995, the “Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the United States and the Scattering” (so the Ukrainian self-consecrated schismatics in America called themselves) was accepted into the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Constantinople. And, what is noteworthy, here, too, the entire "episcopate" and "clergy" of the former UAOC Metropolitanate in the USA were secretly re-ordained by the Phanariots.
What does the OCU have to do with it? The main “expert” of the Phanar on the “Ukrainian issue”, Archbishop Job (Getcha), comes out precisely from this very “schismatic group of the UAOC in the USA”. In addition, it was the “Council of the Metropolis of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the USA" that was the first to contact Patriarch Bartholomew I with a request "to take decisive measures to establish the so-called "single Local Church" in Ukraine. According to the Council, “the position of Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople is perceived by the world as weakness and indecision in resolving the immoral problem of church division in Ukraine and as a lack of concern for the prosperity of more than 35 million Ukrainian Orthodox souls”.
And here we cannot help but recall the words about Belarus of Archbishop Job (Getcha) said in November 2018, on the eve of the formation of the OCU. In particular, the Phanar hierarch then stated the following:
“Do you see why coordination between the Church and the state was important in the Ukrainian question? Without the will of the state to have an autocephalous church in Ukraine, the Ecumenical Patriarchate could not act, because the 17th rule of the Fourth Ecumenical Council says that church administration should follow state administration. So far, there has been no appeal to the Ecumenical Patriarchate either from the Belarusian state or from the Belarusian Church, so this issue is not considered. But if they appeal, then, of course, there is the possibility that this issue will be considered in the same way.”
We recall that the Phanar, by the decision of its Synod of October 11, 2018, "returned" to itself the Kiev Metropolis of 1686, which also included a significant part of the modern territory of Belarus. Therefore, there is hardly any doubt that as soon as the political situation in this country changes, the Phanar will initiate the creation of Belarusian autocephaly, naturally, as "independent" from Constantinople as the Ukrainian one.
So far, only indirect facts speak of the creation of such a "schismatic international". But the facts of concelebration with the schismatics of the "canonical" protege of Patriarch Bartholomew from the OCU are most obvious. In the case of the Montenegrin schismatics, Epiphany and the Phanar (through Met. Emmanuel of France) apologized to the Serbian Church. He was sorry not because he was really worried about the observance of the canons but because he counted on the support of the Serbs in recognizing the OCU.
On the other hand, the “concelebration” of the BAOC and the OCU was to show Phanar the reaction of the Local Orthodox Churches. In fact, there was a gross violation of the canons. However, no one responded to this. And if the incident with the Montenegrins was followed up by an apology, then in the case of Belarusians no one will apologize for sure. It will be no apology simple because Belarus is the canonical territory of the Russian Orthodox Church, with which the Phanar is now waging an undeclared war. And in war, all means are good.
And this is very well known in the OCU where the “anti-Moscow” rhetoric is the main ideological policy. They talk a lot about canons, accuse their former leader Filaret Denisenko of violating them, but at the same time they themselves often and constantly breach them and will do this further, because they are not used to living in the canonical field. And here there are two options: either the Phanar will apologize for its careless children all the time, or it itself will play by their rules and disrespect the canonical law of the Church. The second option, in the light of recent events, looks more believable. Unfortunately.