Phanar’s advance, UOC-KP’s future greatness & other revelations of Filaret
The main points of the press conference of the head of the Kyiv Patriarchate.
On January 20, a press conference of the "honorary patriarch" of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and just the "patriarch" of the UOC-KP Filaret Denisenko was held in Kyiv. The declared theme was “Revival of the Kyiv Patriarchate”. Filaret himself defined the purpose of the press conference as follows: "to clarify the situation that has developed and is developing today in the Orthodox Church."
1. Tomos of division
The Tomos, which was supposed to be the Tomos of the unification of all Orthodox faiths in Ukraine, actually became the Tomos of division because it previously divided the unified Kyiv Patriarchate: “The Tomos divided the Kyiv Patriarchate into two parts: the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, which has the Tomos of autocephaly, and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate, which withdrew from the OCU."
Actually, the Primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry and other bishops of the UOC, as well as many religious scholars, spoke about this at the very beginning of the development of the Tomos project by ex-President Petro Poroshenko, which started in April 2018 when Poroshenko visited Phanar after Easter and agreed on it with Patriarch Bartholomew as part of his pre-election campaign.
Any unification in the Church can be built only on the basis of Her creed and canonical rules, and in this case, first of all, on the need to repent of the sin of schism for the reunion with the Church. The attempt to unite the Ukrainian Orthodox faiths was based on the geopolitical interests of the US State Department, Poroshenko’s political calculations, the Phanar’s papal ambitions and Denisenko’s habit of pleasing the authorities in everything.
Filaret has looked the most affected person in this story so far. He used to be a religious symbol of the struggle against Russia and the “spiritual leader” of the nation. Under his leadership, there were five thousand religious communities, hundreds of “priests” and dozens of “bishops”. Epiphany Dumenko, Eustraty Zoria and other “nestlings” of Filaret looked into his mouth, waiting for orders ...
Any unification in the Church can be built only on the basis of Her creed and canonical rules.
What about now? Now he is a schismatic abandoned twice, who has lost power, authority, associates, money and everything else. But this could be foreseen even when everything was just started, when the “Unification Council” on December 15, 2018, was only looming on the horizon. And Filaret, who had become more skilled in back alley stuff under the Soviet regime, probably guessed about the possibility of such an outcome.
Then why did he agree to hand everything over to Epiphany and keep the “honorary patriarchy” to himself? Why did he believe the words of Dumenko and Poroshenko that he would rule the OCU inside the country while Epiphany would be just a picture for external use? Didn’t Filaret know that the words of politicians cannot be trusted? Or couldn’t he imagine that his own pupil would betray him? He, a man who easily violated his bishop's oath before the cross and the Gospel.
However, Filaret agreed to the OCU, the Tomos and the "honorary patriarchy". And the reason for this was the rooted habit to please those in power. Poroshenko after the "Unification Council" admitted that it was he who pushed the decisions that were then taken. For the election campaign, the former President desperately needed the Tomos. And Filaret did not dare to refuse. And now he says that he was deceived.
2. We were deceived with autocephaly
According to Filaret, the Greeks promised autocephaly. Instead, they granted the Tomos of the dependence of the OCU on the Phanar: "Other Orthodox Churches are completely independent of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, and the OCU received the Tomos, which says that it is dependent on the Patriarchate of Constantinople."
Filaret voiced specific points of this dependence:
- The OCU receives myrrh from Constantinople;
- The OCU does not have the right to have parishes abroad under its jurisdiction;
- The OCU is obliged to apply to the Phanar for the final solution of its internal issues.
According to Filaret, “we have two such metropolises in Ukraine, one (the UOC – Ed.) depends on the Patriarch of Moscow, and the other metropolis, the OCU, depends on the Patriarch of Constantinople. <...> And where is the independent Ukrainian Church? There isn’t any!”
Moreover, the Phanar and Epiphany are doing everything possible to destroy the UOC-KP to the end.
3. Epiphany and Patriarch Bartholomew destroy the Kyiv Patriarchate
Filaret stated that during the negotiations between President Vladimir Zelensky and Patriarch Bartholomew in August 2019 in Phanar, the head of the Patriarchate of Constantinople asked to contribute to the destruction of the UOC-KP: “Did the Ecumenical Patriarch ask to destroy the Kyiv Patriarchate? Yes, he did!”
However, Patriarch Bartholomew was refused. As part of the visit, Zelensky and Patriarch Bartholomew were supposed to sign a document in which, according to media reports, in addition to supporting the environmental initiatives of the patriarch, there was a clause that Zelensky was obligated to fulfill the promises of his predecessor. But Zelensky refused to sign the document and said: "The government should not interfere in church affairs; I will protect the independence of the Church."
It sounded good! However, Zelensky’s subordinates, Ukrainian officials, are in no hurry to fulfill the words of the President but rather contribute to Epiphany and Patriarch Bartholomew in the destruction of the Kyiv Patriarchate. Filaret said at a press conference that Epiphany asked the Ministry of Culture to deregister the legal entity of the UOC-KP, and the Ministry of Culture promptly fulfilled this request. In addition, the Kyiv Metropolis of the OCU is trying to force the communities that have remained loyal to Filaret to re-register from the UOC-KP to the OCU, and the authorities are actively supporting this.
The subordinates of Vladimir Zelensky are in no hurry to fulfill the promise of the President that the authorities will not interfere in church affairs but protect the independence of the Church.
According to Filaret, Epiphany destroys the UOC-KP with the help of not only the authorities but also his own administrative resource: “He removed the watchmen, students of the Kyiv [Theological] Academy, who guarded the Patriarchate. And he, so that there were no watchmen, removed students. And if students did not obey, they were expelled from the Academy. Well, is it human? He took away hypodeacons so that the patriarch would not have hypodeacons."
And the "priests" subordinate to Epiphany, who Filaret has “ordained”, seize churches of the UOC-KP and beat the "priests" of the UOC-KP.
And personal disrespect, which Epiphany demonstrates in relation to Filaret, is absolutely unacceptable: “Yesterday we consecrated water on the Dnieper. The head of the Dnieper district did so that he gave the opportunity to consecrate the water both to me as the Patriarch and to Metropolitan Epiphany as the Primate of the OCU. And then there was dinner. And at dinner, there were both present. And Metropolitan Epiphany did not even greet the Patriarch. <...> Is this normal? Abnormal! And why is all this done? In order to destroy the Kyiv Patriarchate."
4. Kyiv Patriarchate will become great again
In this Filaret sees his main mission: "My task now is to expand, to grow this patriarchate now so that it becomes as great."
And the head of the UOC-KP takes active steps for this:
- withdrew the signature to the decision on the dissolution of the UOC-KP, which he put at the “Unification Council” on December 15, 2018;
- demands back the original of this very document on dissolution from Patriarch Bartholomew;
- "ordains" the "episcopate" and increases the number of eparchies;
- returns foreign parishes in the USA, Canada, Australia, and Europe to the jurisdiction of the UOC-KP;
- argues his case in courts.
The future head of the UOC-KP is optimistic: “We had two bishops with me, and now we have nine bishops, and, of course, eparchies because each bishop has one. And according to a sociological survey, the Kyiv Patriarchate in the current state is supported by 7% of the population of Ukraine, while the OCU is supported by 13%, the Moscow Patriarchate – 10%. 7% says that a significant part of the population in Ukraine supports the Kyiv Patriarchate. And there is someone to manage this patriarchate. There is a patriarch, the episcopate, the clergy, and believers.”
However, Filaret relies the greatness of his patriarchate, and in general its existence, not on the Gospel and the commandments of God but on the fact that Ukraine exists as an independent state: “Our truth is that we have a Ukrainian state. We have. And in every state, there should be an independent Church. <...> We are also an independent state and must have an independent Church. <...> So, we as a state and as the Church in this state should have our first (bishop – Ed.). and the first is the patriarch.”
5. We’ll unite with the UOC as soon as it becomes autocephalous
As one of the options for the greatness of the Kyiv Patriarchate, Filaret considers unification with the UOC if the latter receives autocephaly from the Moscow Patriarchate: “If the Moscow Patriarch recognizes the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate as an autocephalous Church, but in the status of patriarchate, then the next step will be the unification of the Kyiv Patriarchate and the Moscow Patriarchate (the UOC – Ed.) into a single Ukrainian Orthodox Church. But in the status of the Kyiv Patriarchate. And then this patriarchate will defeat everything. Then, as a result of this unification, the affiliation with this Kyiv Patriarchate of the communities and episcopate and eparchies of the OCU will begin. And the OCU will fall disintegrate.”
This scenario is a kind of fantasy since there is no unanimous desire in the UOC to become the next patriarchate, and therefore such autocephaly would cause only division in the UOC itself. But, thank God, the UOC has a fairly competent and responsible episcopate who is not going to embark on such adventures, which is fixed at the level of the resolution of the UOC Bishops' Council.
6. Tomos can divide world Orthodoxy
Filaret believes that the Tomos granted to the OCU can cause the division of all Local Churches into two camps: Greek and Slavic, just as in the 11th century there was a separation of Western Roman and Eastern Churches.
The thesis is correct. We are now witnessing the beginning of this division. But the division is not into Greek and Slavic camps, but into those who recognize the supremacy of the “Pope of Constantinople” and those who believe that the head of the Church is Christ, who rules it through the Holy Spirit, which manifests itself in bishops' councils. “It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us...” (Acts 15:28).
7. The OCU will not unite with the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church
Filaret believes that if the OCU unites with the UGCC, it will become Catholic under the Pope: “The OCU does not have the right to enter into the Eucharistic unity with the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. Because if it enters, it will become the Greek Catholic Church and submit to Rome. And I think that both the bishops and the clergy, and especially believers – no one wants to obey the Pope.”
Here Filaret is wrong. Firstly, negotiations on such an association are already underway. Secondly, negotiations are even going on to unite Catholics and the Patriarchate of Constantinople (and, probably, those Local Churches that recognized the supremacy of the Phanar). Thirdly, the “bishops, clergy, and even more so the believers” of the OCU easily obeyed the “Pope” from Constantinople. So, what's the problem of obeying someone else? And, fourthly, the decisive factor in the creation of the OCU was the activities of the officials of the US State Department. And if the go-ahead comes from it to unite with the UGCC – they will execute it without hesitation.