Failure of the experiment to “reunite” schismatics without repentance

Filaret Denisenko and Patriarch Bartholomew. Photo: UOJ

Why the recognition by the Patriarchate of Constantinople was not enough for Filaret Denisenko and his followers to cease being schismatics.

In the order of the Sacrament of Confession, there are the following words: “Reconcile and reunite him with Your Holy Church, o Christ Jesus our Lord ...” This means that the committed sin separates a person from the Church, puts him/her outside the Church. And such a person really needs to be reunited with the Church Body.

On October 11, 2018, Patriarch Bartholomew, together with the Synod of the Church of Constantinople, not only “reunited” Filaret Denisenko with the Church but, in fact, conducted an experiment: what would happen if people were “reunited” without their sincere repentance for the sin they have committed. In this case, the sin of schism. What came out of this?

Everyone might have seen in the temple people inconsolably crying about their sins in confession, looking not at the people around them but into their own soul. Precisely such cases are the most striking examples of repentance when a person suddenly sees the whole depth of his fall and realizes that on his own, he will not be able to rise from this depth, that he needs God's help. And that he can find this help only in the Sacrament of Penance.

Maybe, there are not so many such cases, but they clearly show the need for penance, that is a profound change in oneself. The Church constantly says that repentance is an indispensable condition for correction; and as sincerely a person repents, as mush forgiveness and aid from above in healing from sins he receives.

Yes, repenting is very difficult, sometimes even unbearable. It’s a shame ... Sometimes a person cannot imagine that he will dare say: "Forgive me, Lord, for I have sinned."

“Are you ashamed and blushed when you must say your sins? You should be ashamed of sinning rather than confessing. Reflect: if confession is not brought here, then everything will be confessed there before the whole universe. Where is more torment? Where is more shame? brave and shameless in our deeds, and when we must confess, then we are ashamed and slow. If you confess your sins, there is no shame in this, on the contrary, there is truth and virtue. And if there were no truth and virtue in this, then confession would not have a reward ... set forth your case, that you may be justified. (cf. Isa. 43, 26). He commands you to confess not that you should be punished but that you should be forgiven.” (St. Ephraim the Syrian)

But to confess one’s sins, to repent of them is necessary in order to be healed of sin.

The Church constantly says that repentance is an indispensable condition for correction; and as sincerely a person repents, as mush forgiveness and aid from above in healing from sins he receives.

“Open your conscience before God, show him your wounds, and beg him for medication to heal them. Do not point them out to someone who will reproach you but to one who will cure you. Even if you remain silent, God knows all things. Tell your sins to him so that you may be the one who profits. Tell them to him so that, once you have left the burden of all your sins with him, you may go forth cleansed of your faults and free from the intolerable need to make them public.” (St. John Chrysostom)

St. John Climacus gives instructions on the outward behaviour of the penitent: “During confession, be both in an outward appearance and an inward feeling and thought like a convicted criminal, bowing your face to the earth; and if possible, soak with tears the feet of the judge and your doctor, like the feet of Christ Himself.”

True, all this is called by the current "hierarch" of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine Alexander (Drabinko) "falling to one’s knees in front of the khan in a white hat". Obviously, not the teachings of the Holy Fathers about repentance but the words of Drabinko is topical now: “Where are the parents looking, where are the teachers looking, where is society looking? Children kneel in front of a man in a cassock – namely a man! Whose slaves are you growing? Whose service are you placing them in? What kind of free Ukraine are you building?”

There is certainly a difference in goal setting. The Holy Fathers say what needs to be done to save your immortal soul, while Drabinko – how to build a free Ukraine.

But the trouble is that Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople also believes that repentance is not necessary for reunification with the Church.

In 1992, the former Metropolitan of Kiev Filaret Denisenko committed the sin of schism. He broke his own promise to resign as head of the UOC and disobeyed the resolution of the Kharkov Council, which decided to remove him from the See of Kiev, and organized his own religious organization – the Kiev Patriarchate.

In spite of repeated calls to repentance, Filaret Denisenko after his deposition continued his schismatic activity. By the decision of the 1997 Bishops’ Council of the Russian Orthodox Church, he was anathematized. 

The sin of schism was recognized by all the Local Orthodox Churches including the Church of Constantinople. In particular, on August 26, 1992, His Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople in his reply to a letter from His Holiness Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and All Rus wrote about the deposition of Metropolitan Filaret of Kiev: “Our Holy Great Church of Christ, recognizing the full and exclusive competence of your Most Holy Russian Church in this matter, synodically accepts the decision on the above.”

The Church of Constantinople “synodically accepts the decision” on the deposition of Filaret for the sin of schism and the recognition of all his “sacraments” as invalid.

In His Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew’s letter of April 7, 1997, to His Holiness Patriarch Alexy II, it is stated that “having received the notice about this decision, we have informed the hierarchy of our Ecumenical See about it and asked them henceforth to have no church communion with these persons”.

In interviews and oral statements, until the autumn of 2018, Patriarch Bartholomew recognized Denisenko as a schismatic outside the Church and said that returning from schism is possible only through repentance. Everything is in full agreement with the teaching of the Church and homilies of the Holy Fathers.

There is certainly a difference in goal setting. The Holy Fathers say what needs to be done to save your immortal soul, while Drabinko – how to build a free Ukraine.

On October 11, 2018, Patriarch Bartholomew decided on an unprecedented experiment – he tried to reunite the schismatics with the Church without repentance. The relevant paragraph of the decision of the Synod of Constantinople says: “To accept and review the petitions of appeal of Filaret Denisenko, Makariy Maletych and their followers, who found themselves in schism not for dogmatic reasons, in accordance with the canonical prerogatives of the Patriarch of Constantinople to receive such petitions by hierarchs and other clergy from all of the Autocephalous Churches. Thus, the above-mentioned have been canonically reinstated to their hierarchical or priestly rank, and their faithful have been restored to communion with the Church.”

That is, they already did not seem to have committed the sin of schism but " found themselves in schism not for dogmatic reasons". The sin seemed to cease to be a sin.

But according to St. John Chrysostom, “confession of sins contributes very much to their correction, and the denial of the sin after committing it is the gravest of sins”.

But Patriarch Bartholomew decided that he, as the “most important” in the Church, might be above these rules. That he is quite entitled to cancel repentance for returning to the Church. That he can even “forget” his own words that the sin of schism is healed through repentance and nothing else. Finally, in December 2019, Patriarch Bartholomew in an interview with the online edition of came to the point that he directly accused the Russians of the schism: “The Russian side has not done anything in 30 years to heal this schism in Ukraine. And where is the love for schismatics? There isn’t any. It was the Russians who made the schism, and not the Ecumenical Patriarchate or the Ukrainians, as they now say. So, the Russians made the schism and for 30 years did not take any steps to heal it."

“Repentance” (Greek Μετάνοια) literally means a change of mind, a change of thoughts, and consciousness. A repentant must necessarily change, renouncing his previous sinful errors. But Patriarch Bartholomew decided that he could accept Filaret Denisenko and his followers into the Church unchanged, as they were. And this was his experiment about.

Well, any experiment has the right to life, but the correctness of the experimenter must be proved by the result. The tree is known by its fruits. But these fruits are as follows: the schismatic Filaret remained a schismatic in his “reunited” state. Nothing has changed.

“Confession of sins contributes very much to their correction, and the denial of the sin after committing it is the gravest of sins.”

St. John Chrysostom

As Denisenko fell into schism with the Russian Orthodox Church in 1992 due to the fact that he failed to become the Moscow Patriarch in 1990, so in 2019 he left the OCU due to the fact that he failed to become real, not "honorary patriarch". He has stated this more than once in his numerous interviews.

A similar situation is with anathemas. Regarding the anathema imposed on him by the Bishops' Council of the Russian Orthodox Church in 1997, he stated that it "did not bother him". And now Filaret spoke absolutely identically about the possible anathemas of Fanar: “If they impose anathemas or something else, it does not matter to me. <...> This does not concern me. Whatever they accept towards me, it does not concern me.”

Roughly speaking, he doesn’t care much about reprisals from both the Russian Orthodox Church and the Church of Constantinople. Here is a man who is accepted as he is. And this is despite the fact that in an interview with the same online edition Patriarch Bartholomew spoke very warmly about Denisenko: “Metropolitan Filaret, whom the Russians call the self-proclaimed metropolitan, is a man whom people respect and love very much ...”

In general, the past year since the start of the experiment on the "reunification" of people with the Church without repentance clearly showed: the experiment failed miserably, it's time to put an end to it. The example of Filaret Denisenko in this experiment is very vivid and obvious due to the fact that he speaks openly, without fear or embarrassment because of his age, his character, and his past experience.
But the same can be said of all the other schismatics: they have not changed a bit with legalization. They’ll just prove themselves a little later. And no matter how much Patriarch Bartholomew tried, no one has succeeded in “perfecting” the Gospel, and it says unequivocally: “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4, 17)

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