“The current persecution is needed for new saints to shine in the UOC”

20 May 12:46
Metropolitan Neophytos of Morphou. Photo: UOJ Metropolitan Neophytos of Morphou. Photo: UOJ

Met Neophytos on why churches are ruined in Ukraine, if it’s canonical to boil myrrh and not to commemorate the patriarch, on autocephaly, and the Ecumenical Council.

– On January 8, 2023, the enthronement of His Beatitude Georgios, Primate of the Church of Cyprus, took place. Many hierarchs came to this enthronement, including the primate of the Greek Church. A representative of the OCU, the former Metropolitan of the UOC Simeon (Shostatsky), also arrived. You, Vladyka, did not go to the enthronement and said that you would fervently pray for Archbishop Georgios at home. Why did you do that?

– I think my statement on this matter explains everything. I felt that at the moment of the enthronement of our Archbishop Georgios, for whom I voted in the elections, to the ancient throne of the Holy Apostle Barnabas, I, as a Cypriot bishop, should dedicate this day to prayer. Since we are experiencing fateful days in world events and the entire Orthodox Church, it would be more beneficial for our Church and for the Church of the whole world, wherever it is, to dedicate this day to prayer. Prayer for our Archbishop Georgios is especially important, since he became the primate at a time of great problems for Orthodox unity and witness, when the new world order no longer hides that its goal is to fight against Christianity, to de-Christianize. This new world order seeks to throw stones at those who are the true voice of Orthodoxy, Orthodox witness. Metropolitan Onuphry of Kyiv is such a voice, backed by the bishops of Ukraine, monasteries and the believing people. That is, the majority of Orthodox people follow Metropolitan Onuphry of Kyiv. And it didn't happen yesterday or the day before.

And I stayed at the prayer precisely because I really believe in its power. Moreover, the Archbishop of Cyprus needed our prayers, especially on the day of his enthronement. This is first.

Secondly, Metropolitan Onuphry and his Church have a great need for prayer, as it is going through great trials.

Thirdly, I am a refugee metropolitan myself. Half of my metropolis is owned by the Turks. In order to go and serve in the occupied territory, at least from time to time, one has to overcome enormous bureaucratic difficulties. Sometimes the Turks say “yes” to us, and sometimes they refuse, they say “no”. We are going to serve where churches stand without icons, without doors, without windows, like stables. The church of the village where I was born, Archangel Michael, was a mosque until recently. Why am I saying this? Because I am a bishop with a lot of pain inside. I know what injustice means: both political and ecclesiastical. They go mano a mano. So, I am a refugee metropolitan, unfairly offended by history, the interests of the powerful of this world and especially the Western ones, the British and Americans, and the Turks, where half of my homeland is occupied, destitute. But this is a small native land. Ukraine is a big land, while Cyprus is a small island in the Eastern Mediterranean. This is an area where everything has been boiling like a volcano for centuries.

So it would be a pity if a refugee bishop like me could not understand your pain, the injustice you are living through.

To some extent, this kind of enthronization often resembles a theatrical action. That is why, firstly, I wanted to dedicate this time of enthronement to prayer, and secondly, to express my protest against the injustice that Metropolitan Onuphry, as well as the bishops, clerics, monastics and the people under his leadership, are exposed to.

I want to make it clear that we care about what happens in another part of the Body of Christ. All Orthodox, wherever we might be, are cells of the one Body of Christ. “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it,” as the apostle Paul said. It is important that there be continual compassion, condolence. Therefore, I took advantage of that moment.

This position of mine was a continuation of my previous statements. Before that, I told Archbishop Chrysostomos of Cyprus that I do not agree with the way he is trying to solve the big “Ukrainian issue” that has existed for decades. I love and respect the Ecumenical Patriarch very much, I recognize his contribution to the cause of Orthodoxy, but I must say, "Plato is my friend, but the truth is dearer."

At this historical moment, Metropolitan Onuphry of Kyiv bespeaks the truth. This means that the Metropolitan of Morphou should be on the side of the truth, because the truth is Christ.

Metropolitan Neophytos

– Former Metropolitan of the UOC Simeon (Shostatsky), who came to the enthronement, now represents the OCU. He has a canonical ordination in the Russian Orthodox Church. He is banned but not defrocked. There are many believers, priests, and some metropolitans of the Cypriot Church who refuse to recognize the OCU. Other metropolitans are afraid to serve with schismatics. Was the choice of Simeon as a participant in the enthronement dictated by something else?

– One of the bishops who consistently and persistently shares my position, but at the same time has his own is Metropolitan Nikiforos of Kykkos. He also wrote a book about the Ukrainian church issue. I talked with him, asked questions and realized that he was true to his position, which he described in his book.

However, other bishops of the Cypriot Church have already concelebrated with Epifaniy’s “hierarchs” on the Phanar and elsewhere. It depends on a particular bishop. Some, perhaps, agree with the position of the Archbishop of Cyprus because of respect for the Ecumenical Patriarchate, but in no way want to concelebrate with Epifaniy’s "bishops". They consider them either not ordained or schismatics. Because

the so-called “hierarchy” of Epifaniy is an artificially created structure, which, instead of bringing a solution to the Ukrainian church issue for the Ukrainian people and for all of us, only made this problem extremely complicated. This means that this is a schism of pan-Orthodox magnitude.

It hides underground, but sprouts from Ukraine to Africa, from Ukraine to America and from Ukraine to Japan. You understand that this is a spiritual problem of world significance, which can be solved only by the Ecumenical Council and the war that preceded this Council, which is already underway, and will only get worse with time. It is precisely the war that will give a way out of the current impasse. First, there is a war, followed by famine, epidemics, and so on, and then those who survive will convene the Ecumenical Council.

What is now known to the Cypriot people? The part of Cypriotes that lives the church life has correct information about the situation in Ukraine: from their bishops, priests, from the media. Sometimes they can also receive disinformation from the mass media, unfortunately. The people understand that there is great lawlessness and injustice in Ukraine. There are also other 40 countries from the side of the Western bloc behind this ongoing war between Ukraine and Russia. China, Persia, India and, as we see, Syria, and other countries stand behind Russia. So, we have a small stadium called "Ukraine", and there is a world war in this stadium. This is the true state of affairs, and the majority of Cypriots understands this.

But what can the people say with their family and economic problems? A people for whom the biggest problem is Turkey, whose position creates problems for both Russia and America. But it will pay for its position, the Lord has his own plans. Not only Russians and Americans have a plan. Here is my answer to your question.

I want to add. Remember that not only in Cyprus but all over the world, everything was preceded by a big venture with covid and vaccination. About 70% of Cypriots, or even more, have been vaccinated. Our people live in fear that a world war is coming near. Neither politicians nor spiritual leaders have told us what this vaccine really is. And now vaccinated people have terrible side effects. There are disabilities, there are sudden deaths. And I think that one of the side effects of this genetically modified vaccine (not the same as it used to be) is a change in the human will, depriving man of the gift of freedom being the greatest God-given gift for His beloved creation – man.

And if this is true, you understand, then the power of personal freedom, the ability of free choice, will begin to weaken among a significant part of the world's population. The ability to resist evil, to distinguish good from evil. And if we realize this, then it becomes clear why people all over the world live as if in a dream, as if under the effect of drugs, as if they have lost their strength and fortitude. This means that the Ukrainian problem is only part of the intricate plan of the new world order. Therefore, Ukrainians should not view this situation only as a separate problem of their own.

– The UOC, headed by His Beatitude Onuphry, is going through very difficult times now. One gets the impression that not all hierarchs and primates of the Churches are aware of this. Or they know but are silent. What can it be connected with?

– It would be a mistake on my part to answer this question. Why? Because I will be responsible not for myself, but for others. I don't know why a particular primate or hierarch is silent. Only he himself can say this. The question is why are they silent? And are they silent only about the problem that you are talking about? We see so many other hushed problems. For example, they are silent when homosexuality is now legalized in almost all countries of the world. Mainly Western. When the basis of childbearing is destroyed – male and female, what God created us to be. We are already teaching children that there are many genders. When the European community invites people to eat unclean animals: insects, worms. All this is happening officially. People’s nourishment is changing. People's faith is changing. Anthropology is changing. Attempts are being made to change the genetic code of each person with a variety of vaccines and artificially created epidemics.

And we see that right now there is a great chance for bishops and patriarchs to declare their position on all these issues and topics. But we hear only deathly silence. And if the bishops speak, it is very indistinct, as if they are afraid to tell the whole truth. I'm talking about what's going on, but why each of them does this – only God and his own soul knows.

The prophets of the Old Testament, when they saw something among the people, kings and leaders that did not meet the law of God, they objected, called the people to repentance, called the kings to repentance. Remember what the Prophet Nathan did to King David. When David sinned, the prophet did not stop talking, he raised his voice and rebuked him. The prophets were stoned and killed for their words. Yesterday, according to the new calendar, we had the feast of the Prophet Jeremiah. Do you see what they did to him? He was stoned by his own people, the Jews. Because he didn't want to go with them.

We also have the greatest of the prophets, John the Baptist. He spoke to the people about repentance, about the coming of the Messiah. But the Jews did not want such a messiah as God had given them. They needed a liberator from the Romans. A political liberator, not a spiritual one that would deliver them from death, sin, and the devil. They wanted a messiah to fit them. Why was John the Baptist arrested? Because he told the king about his immorality, that his wife was the wife of his brother, that he violated the law of God.

And now we see many violations of the law of the Triune God, which was revealed to us in the New Testament, and around – "let all mortal flesh keep silence", to put it figuratively. Very few are speaking up, while right now we have the chance and opportunity to raise our voices, mainly the bishops. Now we have the opportunity to be saved through confession and lead the people to confession. To the confession of the truth of the Triune God. We are now losing that opportunity.

– Now churches are being massively seized in Ukraine. There are cases when they were simply destroyed. In Lviv, a temple was destroyed by an excavator; there is an incidence of arson and desecration of temples. Could you comment on it from the spiritual angle?

– Thank you for this question. No one has asked me this question so far. Regarding the physical destruction of churches in Ukraine. The devil is troubled by the Divine Liturgy, fasting and prayer. But most of all, of course, by the Divine Liturgy and precisely the Orthodox Liturgy because only it has the Holy Spirit in itself. There is no Holy Spirit at the "liturgies" of other denominations.

Certainly, you understand that other forces are hiding behind Zelensky. And behind these other forces is the devil, who dictates his will to them.

Just as some saint hears the voice of Christ, the Holy Spirit, feels grace within himself, in his heart, in the same way any magician or Satanist hears the voice of the devil within himself, the voice of temptation. This voice is his master: he himself allowed the devil to act within himself.

Metropolitan Neophytos

We saw a great tragedy everywhere, not only in Ukraine, but in northern occupied Cyprus, when we first went there in 2003-2004, when the barricades on the roads were set up. Stalls and mosques were made from churches. They were destroyed. This is the main spiritual reason. The Divine Liturgy hinders the devil. Therefore, when I saw this in 2003, I said to myself – I must do everything so that the Liturgy begins to be celebrated in these destroyed churches, even despite all the terrible reality of the occupation. And we began to gradually gather our people. Few at first, but then more and more. My main goal was to return the grace of the Triune God and the Holy Spirit to the occupied part of Cyprus. Because where the Orthodox Divine Liturgy is celebrated, there is also freedom: from death, sin and demons.

There is another reason why temples in Ukraine are being destroyed, a socio-political one. Enemies know that Orthodox people, families, communities unite around the temple. And they say: so I destroyed the temple, killed the priest, intimidated the bishop, and people will simply leave. When they don’t have a church, they don’t have the opportunity to celebrate the Divine Liturgy, they will move to other places that are safer. That is their plan.

They do not want the presence of Orthodoxy in all of Western Ukraine, they do not want the Orthodox to live there. They want only Uniates to remain. And you will see that there will be a structure that has never existed before.

They want to use Ukraine for a new experiment. They want to make the whole of Western Ukraine Uniate. And then our brothers from the Holy Mount, the bishops who will now serve with the OCU, will be surprised. They will see Epifaniy concelebrate with the Uniates.

Metropolitan Neophytos

And then they will have to think carefully – has one ever seen Onuphry concelebrate with the Uniates? Maybe Onuphry participated with them in some common event, but never in the Divine Liturgy, never shared the Holy Communion with them. Such a thing is impossible to imagine.

– On May 27, 2022, the Local Council of the UOC was held in Feofaniya, at which a number of decisions were made. One of them is a return to the ancient practice of commemorating the patriarch. Now the priest commemorates the ruling bishop and His Beatitude Onufry, while His Beatitude commemorates the patriarch along with other primates of the Churches. The second decision is about the preparation of the chrism. Finally, the third resolution is the opening of parishes abroad. What is your attitude to such decisions?

– The second decision about the myrrh-boiling is the right of each Local Church to receive chrism from some Orthodox Church – only Orthodox. The Church of Cyprus once brought the holy chrism from Constantinople, then for some period it took it from Antioch, sometimes from Jerusalem. If someday the Cypriot Church makes such a decision, it will be able to boil myrrh itself, as, for example, it itself celebrates the Divine Liturgy. It's canonical. But there are reasons for special reverence and respect when you take the chrism from some historical center, such as from Constantinople or Jerusalem – the Mother of Churches.

The decision regarding the chrism is the right one, and in my opinion, even somewhat belated. Onuphry and his Synod could have made it earlier. And they had to make this decision even before the start of the war.

Metropolitan Neophytos

My answer regarding the chrism is the answer to your other two questions about canonicity. And now I will ask you.

Why did Metropolitan Onuphry, worthy of all respect, and your Synod not take the trouble to ask the Russian Church for autocephaly, why? We, many Orthodox bishops, ask ourselves this question. Maybe by making such a decision in advance, it would be possible to avoid a lot of problems? And why didn't the Moscow Patriarch Kirill foresee this?

Metropolitan Neophytos

When it was obvious that various fascists, Khazars and Satanists in Ukraine had been training their followers against Russia for many years, telling them – you are Ukrainians, you are not Russians. It's like saying to the Cypriots – you are not Greeks. We, Cypriots, are Greeks at the same time. And you, Ukrainians, you are Russians too. Is not it? You must realize this. We have been reading Slavic history for many years and we know what Little Russia and Great Russia mean.

Can it be that small Cyprus has had an autocephalous Church for 1600 years, while the big Ukraine with millions of believers is not worthy of autocephaly? Do you understand this?

Consequently, your Orthodox Church is also responsible here. For me, there is only one Kiev Orthodox Church – the Church of Onuphry. When I say the word "Church", I mean this very Church. And, of course, the Moscow Patriarchate is also to blame, because every spiritual leader must foresee the situation. This is how you need to manage, as St. John Chrysostom said. Unfortunately, you did not foresee, did not take any steps in advance. And that's how we came to the current tragic events.

Now about the commemoration of the patriarch. In Cyprus, we have been commemorating this way for centuries.

In my metropolis, the priests commemorate only me. I am their Archbishop (meaning, primate – Ed.). Although I am only a metropolitan, but I am an Archbishop for the Metropolia of Morphou. Each eparchy is a full-fledged Church, isn’t it?

Metropolitan Neophytos

When I serve, I commemorate Georgios, the Archbishop of Cyprus. And when Georgios serves, he commemorates all the primates of the Local Churches. This is the canons and order. Right?

There were problems that your Synod should have solved decades ago.

Foreign parishes are generally a sad phenomenon. For example, if we take Australia, where there are many Christians, each national Orthodox Church has its own hierarchy there. The future Ecumenical Council must solve this problem.

For example, if Russians or Ukrainians come to Cyprus. What, will they organize their Russian or Ukrainian Church here? No. They must submit to the Orthodox Church of Cyprus. What will happen if Russians come here and want to make their Russian Church here, Americans – American, Serbs – Serbian, Bulgarians – Bulgarian? You can not do it like that. It is forbidden.

– Now the authorities are taking away the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra from the UOC. One monk, commenting on what was happening, said that no one would be able to take the Lavra without the will of God. What should believers do today to retain their shrines?

– What the Christians of Constantinople and in other places of Byzantium did during the years of iconoclasm. Read what the Orthodox Greeks did then. Then you Slavs were not even Christians. Have you ever thought that in order for you, Ukrainians, and us, Greeks, to pray today in front of icons, Orthodox Greeks shed their blood in the eighth century? Some bishops, Tarasius, whose name you bear, Saint Methodius, Saint Nicephorus and many other bishops, Michael of Synada, were imprisoned. They spent years there, in the cellars, along with the rats. And all for the sake of the holy icons.

An icon is like a window. When you make the sign of the cross and bow before it, this window opens and you see the truth of the heavenly Liturgy, eternal life.

Metropolitan Neophytos

Because our life is not only what we see around us. There are also angels, there is also our Christ, Who celebrates the Liturgy in eternal life with the saints. Do you see the great significance of an Orthodox icon? She is alive. And the relics are alive.

You know, when I was a deacon, I visited the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra. I served there together with Saint Eumenius the New. He was my confessor. We served there. And I want to tell you something else. The day we arrived in Kyiv was the day of the enthronement of Metropolitan Vladimir of Kyiv. We went as pilgrims together with Saint Eumenius. As soon as the monks of the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra saw us, they said – this is a good sign, because it was the Greeks who built the Kyiv Lavra. And then the Kyiv Church went through trials with the "Patriarch" Filaret.

That day was the day when the Moscow Patriarchate sent Metropolitan Vladimir. With great joy, they gave us the old church above the caves, and there we served the Liturgy together with Saint Eumenius. Father, don't lose your good humor, don't lose hope. Orthodoxy goes through trials from time to time. And so that we now have our faith, Orthodoxy went through persecution: through the Diocletians, the Roman emperors, through the Jews, through the heretic emperors. However, some were righteous. Ecumenical Councils were held. Seven Ecumenical Councils, two more not recognized as ecumenical, which took place under the great Photius and Gregory Palamas. For us to have this great faith, this monasticism, this Divine Liturgy. Do not lose joy and hope, do not lose courage.

What is to be will be. All this was to happen so that Ukraine would give birth to new saints. Amen.

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