Recognition of OCU as schism factor: what awaits those mentioning Dumenko?

The hierarchs who recognize Dumenko will receive schism in their Church. Photo: UOJ

The Synod of the Church of Cyprus was almost half divided on the issue of commemorating the OCU head. What awaits those who follow the decision to recognize Dumenko?

On November 25, 2020, the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church of Cyprus, by a majority vote, decided not to oppose the commemoration of Epiphany Dumenko by Archbishop Chrysostomos. At the same time, the "majority" was not overwhelming or even significant. Apart from the opinion of Archbishop Chrysostomos himself, the votes of the Synod were divided by almost half: 9 bishops supported the position of the Primate, 6 opposed, and one abstained. The fact itself speaks of a lack of unity on the OCU issue and indicates that by forcing other Churches to “recognize” Dumenko, Patriarch Bartholomew deliberately violates the principle of conciliarity, splitting these Churches and provoking conflict within them. This thesis finds confirmation both in those events that preceded the Synod of the Church of Cyprus and in those that followed it.

In the lead-up to schism

Members of the Synod of the Church of Cyprus

Remembering Dumenko a month ago, Archbishop Chrysostomos said that he did it in the "interests of Orthodoxy". However, by his unilateral decision, he violated the ruling of the Synod of the Cypriot Church, which in February 2019 declared a neutral position on the "Ukrainian issue". That is why several hierarchs at once spoke out against the sole decision of the head of the Church of Cyprus, declaring that Archbishop Chrysostomos went to "flagrant violation of the canons" and the destruction of the synodal principle of the Church.

In this regard, the bishops who disagreed with this state of affairs refused to concelebrate with their Primate as long as he commemorated Dumenko. A little later, a group of Cypriot theologians announced the need for a conciliar solution to the "Ukrainian question". In their opinion, everything that happens because of the OCU threatens a new schism not only for the Church of Cyprus but for the entire Orthodoxy in general.

In turn, Archbishop Chrysostomos, instead of convening the Synod, first declared that the hierarchs who opposed him had no right to do so, accused them of creating a "parasynagogue", and ultimately resorted to personal insults, calling Metropolitan Isaiah a "youth."

The scandal went beyond the limits of intra-church relations, and, eventually, the head of the Church of Cyprus was forced to convene the Synod. True, at the same time he said that the issue of commemorating Dumenko would not be put to a vote. But lately, Archbishop Chrysostomos changed his position so radically and retracted that everyone understood perfectly well that it was the “Ukrainian issue” that would become a priority at the meetings of the November Synod of the Church of Cyprus. So, in principle, it happened.

Having met on November 23, the Cypriot hierarchs did not come to any decision. Archbishop Chrysostomos's speech took about an hour. He said the Synod members that "he learned the whole truth about Ukraine in March last year when he arrived in Istanbul and held a detailed conversation with the Ecumenical Patriarch". The head of the Church of Cyprus also said that he "saw many authentic documents" on the controversial issue, "which show who is right and which members of the Synod can refer to". In addition, according to Archbishop Chrysostomos, he "was misinformed by the Moscow Patriarchate" and when he "learned the whole truth, he decided that he could not remain silent and must take a clear stance".

However, the main argument in favour of recognizing Dumenko was made by Archbishop Chrysostomos at the end of his speech: "The Church of Cyprus has supported and will continue to support the Ecumenical Patriarchate and will not tolerate any attempts to question or reduce its prestige." Moreover, the head of the Church called the decision of the Russian Church to break off Eucharistic communion with those Cypriots who commemorate the head of the OCU "anti-church and contrary to the unity of the Church of Cyprus".

The Church of Cyprus has supported and will continue to support the Ecumenical Patriarchate and will not tolerate any attempts to question or reduce its prestige.

Archbishop Chrysostomos

No less interesting was the statement made by the supporter of Dumenko's recognition, Metropolitan Georgios of Paphos. In general, agreeing with the position of Archbishop Chrysostomos, he gently rebuked him that, before commemorating Epiphany, he should have informed the members of the Holy Synod. It is interesting that Metropolitan Georgios, as well as Archbishop Chrysostom, did not give any canonical arguments in favour of recognizing Dumenko. Everything, he said, should be reduced to the need to support the Phanar, since "Moscow is guided by its own interests in its actions". He stressed that one should not allow any "disturbing" notes "in the eternal relations of the Church of Cyprus with the Ecumenical Patriarchate".

After the Synod, Metropolitan Georgios of Paphos said that "the discussions were held in a spirit of love and unity" and all misunderstandings "were eliminated". He also said that the final and "unanimous" solution to the "Ukrainian issue" will be made on Wednesday, November 25.

Division of the Cypriot Synod

However, as we know, no “unanimous” decision was made on November 25, and the atmosphere that prevailed at the Synod is evidenced by the incident that arose between Metropolitan Nikiforos of Kykkos and journalist Aristides Viketos immediately after the synodal meeting.

The journalist accused the hierarch of defending the interests of the Russian Orthodox Church. These words ticked off the Metropolitan, he strongly requested Viketos to "keep silent" and forbade him to interfere in issues in which he did not understand anything. Moreover, he compared his own position with that of Saint Mark of Ephesus during the Ferrara-Florence Union, thereby hinting not only at the historical correctness of the saint, but also accusing Dumenko's supporters of completely anti-church actions.

Metropolitan Nikiforos stressed that the synodal decision "not to oppose" to the recognition of Dumenko is not binding for execution since it is "a matter of faith".

Metropolitan Neophytos of Morphou took a tougher position even before the Synod. In his opinion, the synodal majority will not grant canonical status to Dumenko: “What will happen if His Beatitude finds the support of the majority of the synodals? What, in this case, Epiphanius will suddenly become a canonical bishop because by chance a temporary majority was found in the Church of Cyprus? .. And if our Beatitude wants to recognize Epiphany, then ... We are all mortal ... And if then the archbishop who wants to recognize Onuphry comes ..."

What will happen if His Beatitude finds the support of the majority of the synodals? What, in this case, Epiphanius will suddenly become a canonical bishop because by chance a temporary majority was found in the Church of Cyprus?

Metropolitan Neophytos of Morphou

In this remark of Metropolitan Neophytos, it is important not only the fact of disagreement with the erroneous opinion of the majority, but also a clear understanding that the sole resolution of such issues creates a precedent not only in one direction but also in the other direction. This means that if the primate receives the right to independently recognize autocephaly, then he has every right to reject it. It is not difficult to guess what this "ecclesiology" can lead to – complete canonical chaos in the Church.

That is why, after the Synod, Metropolitan Isaiah of Tamasos insisted on the need for a synodal and unanimous solution to such issues: “We are not talking about disagreements on simple administrative or secondary issues, but about the essence of Orthodox ecclesiology and our Church doctrine of the Holy Sacraments and apostolic succession, issues related to our salvation. These issues cannot be put up for discussion or agreement within the framework of any even synodal process, nor can they be approved by an opportunistic, marginal, in fact, majority."

Moreover, he left the issue of concelebrating with Archbishop Chrysostom to “the discretion of his hierarchical conscience”, which could mean a refusal from a joint liturgy with the Primate.

Metropolitan Georgios of Paphos did not agree with these objections. He believes that according to the Charter of the Church of Cyprus, the decisions of the Holy Synod are "binding to everyone, regardless of whether they are adopted by a majority or unanimously".

The fact that the hierarchs who recognized Dumenko are not going to listen to the arguments of the other side, as well as that "agreement" with the synodal decisions will be achieved not through discussion within the framework of the Church's canons but through banal pressure, is evidenced by what happened during the time of the meeting of the Synod of the Church of Cyprus on November 25. 

So, the spokesperson the UOC, Archpriest Nikolai Danilevich, referring to his own sources, reported that some metropolitans provided their research on the problem of the OCU, which said that the structure of Epiphany did not have apostolic succession: “Other arguments were also presented that led the entire Synod of the Orthodox Church of Cyprus to a stupor”, and between the sessions of the Synod on November 23 and 25, “pressure was exerted on many bishops of the Church of Cyprus by the archbishop”.

If the voting of the members of the Holy Synod by the decision of Archbishop Chrysostomos had been secret, the results could have been completely different.

Theodore Kyriakou

The information provided by Archpriest Nikolai Danilevich is confirmed by the words of the famous Cypriot theologian Theodore Kyriakou, who stated that "if the voting of the members of the Holy Synod by the decision of Archbishop Chrysostomos had been secret, the results could have been completely different." Kyriakou stressed that “fortunately” there are Churches that did not recognize Dumenko; and in those that did recognize, there are hierarchs who did not. At the same time, he noted that the "Ukrainian issue" caused a huge split in Orthodoxy and said that the whole situation "outrages the believers".

Phanar, canons and schismatics

What is the result? As a result, we can state the fact of a sсhism over the “Ukrainian question” not only within the Local Churches but also in the entire world Orthodoxy as a whole. This division was provoked by the actions of Patriarch Bartholomew, who, having granted “autocephaly” to the OCU without the consent of the primates of other Local Churches, went against the synodal/conciliar structure of the Church and its canons.

In particular, Metropolitan Neophytos of Morfou, answering the question about the canonicity of Metropolitan Onuphry and "recognition" of Dumenko, said that, according to the sacred canons, "there is one bishop for one city". “In one city there cannot be two bishops, just as there cannot be several fathers in one house. When there are two fathers in the same house, then one is a father ("pateras" in Greek – Ed.), while the other is a monster ("teras", "teras" from Greek – beast/monster – Ed.)," the bishop emphasized.

At the moment, according to Vladyka Neophytos, there is already a metropolitan in Kyiv, and this is His Beatitude Onuphry. His position is unshakable since he did not receive any church bans and there are no canonical grounds for depriving him of his see and title. Therefore, if we agree with the position of the Phanar and consider Dumenko the “Metropolitan of Kyiv”, then this will be a direct and conscious violation of the canons of the Church, according to which there can be only one bishop for one city.
 

“In one city there cannot be two bishops, just as there cannot be several fathers in one house. When there are two fathers in the same house, then one is a father ("pateras" in Greek – Ed.), while the other is a monster ("teras", "teras" from Greek – beast / monster – Ed.)”.

Metropolitan Neophytos of Morfou

The same opinion was expressed by Metropolitan Isaiah of Tamassos, stressing at the same time that Ukrainian schismatics do not have canonical consecration: “I repeat the firm position of the Church of Cyprus, according to which the only canonical Primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church is Metropolitan Onuphry of Kyiv. Therefore, following the canonical requirement "may there not be two bishops for one city" (Canon 8 of the First Ecumenical Council), I refuse to recognize another "primate", especially when he actually has neither canonical nor valid ordination."

Metropolitan Neophytos also speaks about the problem of "ordinations" of Ukrainian schismatics, who believes that "this is already a hard-to-solve task since the Ecumenical Patriarchate, solely for geostrategic, geopolitical reasons, within the framework of the new world order, has recognized as the new primate a person originating from a non-ordained schismatic group (it means without the Holy Spirit), Epiphany."

The Phanariots themselves seem not to be going to address this problem. Its only solution can be the canonical consecration of the Ukrainian schismatics, which must be preceded by their repentance for the sin of schism. However, Patriarch Bartholomew, creating a new ecclesiology, apparently believes that now the grace of the Holy Spirit is not needed for ordination, the decision of the Phanar is sufficient. In addition, based on his actions, we can conclude that the canons of the Orthodox Church are cancelled by the decisions of the Synod of the Patriarchate of Constantinople. True, at the same time Patriarch Bartholomew for some reason forgets that the head of the Church is Christ, which means that no Phanar’s “laws” are capable of uniting schismatics with the Body of Christ.

The head of the Church is Christ, which means that no Phanar’s “laws” are capable of uniting schismatics with the Body of Christ.

Well, those hierarchs who, instead of canons, support the desire of Patriarch Bartholomew to assert himself by forcing the recognition of the OCU, should clearly understand that they will not receive anything but an internal schism in their Church. There are already more than enough examples. As well as examples of what their future fate will be. Not for nothing did Metropolitan Nikiforos remember St. Mark of Ephesus.

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