OCU and UGCC: 7 steps towards a new union
Immediately upon the creation of the OCU, Epiphany and Sviatoslav Shevchuk only spoke about unity. Now we can see specific actions.
With the emergence of the OCU, communication of Phanariots and schismatics with the Uniates and Roman Catholics has increased dramatically.
It is generally accepted that such discourse is exaggeration, escalation and grand conspiracy. However, in this video we will provide only specific facts of this communion and concelebration only over the autumn of 2019.
Since the emergence of the OCU, its head Epiphany Dumenko has been engaged in the most vigorous negotiations with the head of the Uniates, Sviatoslav Shevchuk. Epiphany said they had developed a cooperation roadmap.
Epiphany Dumneko: We have outlined a certain path for our future cooperation. It means in the future we will look for the common ground that will unite us.
Sviatoslav Shevchuk said that it is time to seek unity. The unity of the once united Kiev Church.
Sviatoslav Shevchuk: This roadmap, which His Beatitude Epiphany is talking about, is nothing more than our determination to serve our people together. And to develop the tradition of the once united but today, unfortunately, divided Kiev Church. Because now we can already unite.
The Uniate Metropolitan Boris Guziak says that unity with the OCU is not a theory but a very real thing.
Boris Guziak: It’s bad if we get used to the fact that we are divided.
Sonia Koshkina: I mean in practice, in the context of interfaith relations.
Boris Guziak: In practice, we must go to this unity (OCU and UGCC – Ed.). This is the real thing, not just sky-high theories. His Beatitude Sviatoslav very clearly and enthusiastically came out with support, saying that we stretch out our brotherly hand in order to make for this unity together.
The hierarchs of Phanar say the same thing. One of the exarchs, who worked in the autumn of 2018 in Ukraine, Daniil Zelinsky said, “I am sure that unification is possible. Even the spiritual fathers of the UGCC, His Eminence Andrey Sheptitsky, Joseph Slepoy and other hierarchs repeatedly said that when the Orthodox Church of Ukraine has its own identity, Greek Catholics will have to find a way to unity with this Church.”
Father Igor Shaban, the head of the UGCC Commission for the Promotion of Christian Unity, spoke more specifically about unity. He clearly said that the tops – Rome and Constantinople – should agree first, with the OCU recognizing the supremacy of Rome.
Epiphany said almost the same thing on September 17, 2019 in Lvov, remarking that the key to the unification of the OCU and the UGCC is not in Ukraine but in Rome and Constantinople.
On the same day in Rome, Shevchuk met with Patriarch Bartholomew, where the parties decided to create a special commission to "give a new impetus to the ecumenical dialogue."
But this is all in theory. What do we have in practice? We will take a look at specific cases of these very unions and ecumenical dialogues.
September 22, 2019. A religious procession of the Catholic Church took place in Vinnitsa, which ended in a Mass. Three “hierarchs” of the OCU took part in this action, among them – Simeon (Shostatsky). The video of this event is very noticeable – on the part of the Catholics there is no equal and respectful attitude towards them. The OCU members were invited only for scenery to bring out the main character – Apostolic Nuncio Claudio Gugerotti who is engaged in lively interaction with Ukrainians.
October 14, 2019. In the city of Varash, Catholic priest Vasily Plakhotka prayed along with Epiphany Dumenko and other members of the Orthodox Church in the altar of an Orthodox temple.
Pay attention to Dumenko’s vestments. This silk ribbon with crosses is called a “stole” and is part of the liturgical vestments of the Catholic priest.
This event received wide international response and the OCU spokesman, Eustraty Zoria, was forced to make excuses for him. He stated that Plakhotka was “dressed in clothing that is used in the Roman Catholic Church during worship” because of “respect for the event and the OCU community”. ZorIa also denied the fact of his concelebration.
Let's see ourselves.
- Plakhotka kneels in the altar with the other hierarchs and priests of the OCU during the general prayer.
- He, among the priests of the OCU, comes out of the altar and stands along with others.
- In the altar, the Catholic priest prays and reads the names in the same way as the clergy of the OCU.
- He makes the sigh of the Cross when everyone else does it.
- He, among other members of the OCU, kisses the gate icon and enters the altar through the royal gates.
- He, among other members of the OCU, kisses the altar cross held by Epiphany Dumenko.
If everything described above, as Zoria claims, is not concelebration, what is concelebration then?
On November 4, in the village of Germakovka, Ternopol Region, the rector of the local OCU temple, Vladimir Stefanko, prayed at the festive service of the UGCC together with the Uniate bishop Dmitry Grigorak and Greek Catholic clergy.
On November 16, a memorial service was held at the St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York for the victims of the Holodomor in Ukraine, which was held by Orthodox clerics of the Phanar structure in the United States and the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.
The worship was led by the head of the Phanar structure in the United States, Metropolitan Anthony Shcherba, and personalities already familiar to us: the Uniate Metropolitan Boris Guziak, who’d said earlier that “unity with the OCU is not a theory but a very real thing,” and Phanar exarch Daniil Zelinsky, who’d expressed confidence that the unification between OCU and UGCC are possible.
We can see the bishops and priests of the two Churches dressed in liturgical vestments, i.e. this is nothing less than con-celebration. This event is particularly interesting for it re-affirms Epiphany’s words – the key to the unity of the Churches is in Rome and Constantinople. Therefore, the Ukrainian Uniates served with Phanar bishops.
On November 23, in the Glory Park, a memorial service was held for the OCU and the Uniates, dedicated to the day of memory of the Holodomor victims. Epiphany, Drabinko participated on the one hand, and Sviatoslav Shevchuk with his priests on the other. Note that the lity service for the dead was held as part of government events, which were also attended by hierarchs of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. However, they stood aside and did not take part in the service.
Again, we note that Epiphany, Shevchuk and Drabinko were clad in liturgical vestments unlike the UOC hierarchs. Therefore, this is a joint worship again.
On November 25, the “hierarch” of the OCU, Alexander (Drabinko), prayed in the Catholic Cathedral of Brussels with the same Uniates and Catholics. He was accompanied by the rector of the local Uniate community Nazariy Mikhayliuk and other Greek Catholic priests. In the photographs we can see that the Uniate bishops were not present there, because Drabinko led the service. Again, Drabinko and the Uniates were wearing liturgical vestments.
Almost all of the previous examples concerned inter-faith communication within Ukraine.
The next one is a higher level.
On November 12, at the Catholic Abbey of Belgium, Notre Dame de Saint-Remy, in Rochefort, the monastic order of the Cistercians held a joint service of the local Catholic community, Patriarch Bartholomew and representatives of Athos, Abbot of Xenophontos Monastery, Archimandrite Alexy, and Hieromonk Theophilos from Pantokrator Monastery.
Chevetogne Abbey's Catholic Resource reports that the above persons prayed at Vespers. It is also said that the patriarch after the service expressed his joy over his presence at the abbey and communication with its brothers.
Every year, on the day of the Triumph of Orthodoxy, we pray in peaceful litany that the Lord will preserve His Church unharmed and undefeated by heresies and schisms and protect Her with His peace. But nowhere in the Church are there prayers for union with those who themselves have placed themselves behind Her fence.
Orthodox teaching implies that the Church of Christ is one, and all the entities that are now tolerantly called by this word are not the genuine Church but dissenters and heretics who have broken away from it, including Catholics. We pray for the return to the Church of those who have fallen from it – but not for union with them.
We know for sure that the Orthodox Church is the Body of Christ which holds salvation for us. We do not condemn the heterodox, but the issue of salvation of the Catholics is a matter of concern for the Catholics.
St. Theophan the Recluse said, "I do not want to indulge myself in a judgment whether Catholics will be saved but I know one thing: if I abandon Orthodoxy and join Latinism, I will surely die."
However, the responsibility of a priest for co-serving with heretics, and therefore Catholics, is spelled out in several rules of the Holy Apostles at once and sounds very rigid – such a clergyman must be excommunicated and defrocked.
This rigidity is not a manifestation of hatred or anger towards those who are outside the Church. This action of the immune system of the church organism means protection against external viruses.
While we are in the true Church, we are reliably protected. But what will happen to us if we are no longer protected?