Path of Сhrysostomos: On tragedy of the Primate who has split his Church

Archbishop Chrysostomos, recognizing Dumenko, has to resort to falsehood. Photo: UOJ

By recognizing Dumenko, Archbishop Chrysostomos tries to justify himself telling a lie and often changing his position. Can we expect him to repent?

On November 25, 2020, a meeting of the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church of Cyprus was held, at which, by 10 votes to 7, it was decided "not to mind" commemoration by Archbishop Chrysostomos of Sergei (Epifanios) Dumenko during the liturgy.

This decision provoked a backslash from almost half of the hierarchs of the Church of Cyprus, and some of them voiced their public condemnation.

Canons of the Church versus the majority of the Synod

In particular, Metropolitan Isaiah of Tamassos stated that Dumenko's unilateral recognition, initiated by Archbishop Chrysostomos, initiated "the overthrow of the synodal regime of our Church with unforeseen consequences." At the same time, very importantly, Metropolitan Isaiah emphasized that the issue with the Ukrainian schismatics “is not about a disagreement on simple administrative or minor issues, but on this core of Orthodox ecclesiology and our Church's teaching on the Holy Sacraments and the Apostolic Succession, issues concerning our salvation. These issues cannot be discussed or negotiated in any hasty and synodal process, nor can they be approved by an opportunistic, marginal, in fact, majority.” In addition, the bishop noted that "preserving the unity of the Church of Cyprus in this difficult period will not lead to interruption of the commemoration of Archbishop Chrysostomos but will leave the concelebration with him to the discretion of his hierarchical conscience."

The issue with the Ukrainian schismatics is not a disagreement on simple administrative or minor issues, but on this core of Orthodox ecclesiology and our Church's teaching on the Holy Sacraments and the Apostolic Succession, issues concerning our salvation

Metropolitan Isaiah of Tamassos

A little later (November 30), Metropolitan Nikiforos of Kykkos also said he was unwilling to concelebrate with Archbishop Chrysostomos because the latter had commemorated Dumenko. He stressed that he would commemorate the head by “condescension" principle, though precisely till Archbishop Chrysostomos entered into Eucharistic communion with Dumenko. Then, according to Bishop Nikiforos, he will stop not only concelebrating with the head of the Church of Cyprus, but also commemorating him at the Liturgy.

One should agree that these statements are very serious. The bishops who voiced them made it clear to the general public that Archbishop Chrysostomos, if not a de facto schismatic, is very close to this. The situation demanded a clear-cut response from the head of the Church of Cyprus – and it followed.

On November 25, 2020 (i.e. shortly after the meeting of the Synod), Archbishop Chrysostomos gave a long interview to the Cypriot TV channel RIK, which was translated into Ukrainian by Ivan (Eustratiy) Zoria, a former press secretary of the UOC-KP and currently spokesman of the OCU.

Two standpoints: ecclesiastic and personal

It should be noted that in his criticism of the decision of both Archbishop Chrysostomus and 9 bishops of the Holy Synod, who supported the commemoration of Dumenko, Metropolitan Isaiah used exclusively church arguments. He emphasized that in his speeches he only repeats "the firm position of the Cypriot Church, according to which the only canonical Primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church is Metropolitan Onuphry of Kyiv." Therefore, on the basis of the canonical “one city – one bishop” requirement (rule 8 of the First Ecumenical Council), he refused to recognize Dumenko as another “primate” for the Ukrainian Church, given that “he actually has neither canonical nor valid ordination."

Metropolitan Isaiah also reminded Archbishop Chrysostom that, according to the Statute of the Cypriot Church, “only the Holy Synod has the exclusive right to “regulate the relations of the Cyprus Church with other Orthodox Churches ”(Article 7 § 2 of the Statute), and the Primate is called upon to express the Synodal decision (Article 7 § 2 a, in)". This means that under the Statute Archbishop Chrysostomos had neither the actual nor the canonical right to make a unilateral decision on the commemoration of Dumenko, but had to be guided by the resolution of the Holy Synod of the Cypriot Church of February 19, 2019, adopted unanimously, not even by a simple majority.

 It becomes clear from the aforesaid that the position of Metropolitan Isaiah is exclusively ecclesiastical. He points out that:

  1. According to the rules of the Church, Dumenko has neither canonical nor valid ordination, which means that his recognition as a "hierarch" contradicts ecclesiology;
  2. Recognizing Dumenko violates Rule 8 of the First Ecumenical Council;
  3. Dumenko's unilateral recognition by Archbishop Chrysostomus violates the Statute of the Cypriot Orthodox Church.

It would seem that the canonical and ecclesiastical case made by Metropolitan Isaiah requires a symmetrical answer – from the standpoint of canon law and Orthodox ecclesiology. And who, if not the Primate of the Church of Cyprus, must know this? However, during his almost hour-long speech on the RIK channel, Archbishop Chrysostomos did not bring up a single (!) similar, i.e. church-canonical argument to substantiate his position. All he could do was to threaten Metropolitan Isaiah with defrocking for non-commemoration of the primate’s name during the Divine Liturgy.

In particular, to the journalist's remark that Metropolitan Isaiah would refuse to commemorate the name of the Primate of the Church of Cyprus if he concelebrated with Dumenko, Archbishop Chrysostomos replied that “he cannot perform divine services without commemorating the Primate! When he does this, then he is outside the Church, I tell you this!"

The journalist specifies, “Do you mean excommunication? Aren’t such decisions taken by the Holy Synod?" The Archbishop replies, “He has no place in the Church! He (Metropolitan Isaiah – Ed.) does not know what he is saying. He cannot celebrate the Liturgy without commemoration, just as a priest cannot celebrate the Liturgy without a liturgical mention of his bishop. If he fails to do it, he must immediately be excommunicated from the Church ... If you ask any theologian, he will tell you that what he (Metropolitan Isaiah – Ed.) says is disrespectful and he is wrong."

Not so long ago, the Primate of the Church of Cyprus, disagreeing with the granting of the Tomos to the OCU and signing the synodal decision, resorted to the same arguments as Metropolitan Isaiah: Dumenko does not have canonical consecration, and Filaret's anathema was recognized by all Orthodox Churches.

However, from everything that was said by both sides in light of the problem that arose, we could be convinced that, firstly, the metropolitans who disagree with the commemoration of Dumenko “know what they say,” and, secondly, there is not even a shadow of disrespect in their words. And in general, if Archbishop Chrysostom believes that a person who refers to the canons of the Church to substantiate his position “shows disrespect”, then it looks strange at the very least. 

Moreover, not so long ago the Primate of the Church of Cyprus, disagreeing with the granting of Tomos to the OCU and signing the synodal decision, resorted to the same arguments as Metropolitan Isaiah: Dumenko does not have canonical consecration, and Filaret's anathema was recognized by all Orthodox Churches.

Back in 2019, it seemed that the position of Archbishop Chrysostomos would be unshakable, especially since he personally stressed he would not give up on it. But, as we know, after the visit to Phanar, everything changed dramatically – the head of the Church of Cyprus began to openly support the actions of Patriarch Bartholomew in Ukraine, which through the commemoration of Dumenko resulted in violation of the decisions of his own Synod and the rules of the Church.

Three lies from Archbishop Chrysostomos

The violation of the decision of the Synod of the Cypriot Church, held in February 2019, is so obvious that even the secular media understand it. Thus, in the same interview, a Cypriot television journalist asks Archbishop Chrysostomos, “Have you violated the decision of the Holy Synod, as Metropolitan of Tamassos claims? Since the Synod made a decision the day before yesterday, and you had commemorated Metropolitan Epiphany before this decision of the Synod was adopted. The Archbishop replies, "When the meeting at the Synod took place, I explained and clarified everything." Journalist, "Do you therefore think that at the time of commemoration, you did not violate the decisions of the Synod (on neutrality)?" Archbishop, “No, I didn’t. But I waited for everyone to arrive to explain to everyone why I did this."

According to the Primate of the Church of Cyprus, the only reason why he did not seek advice from the members of the Holy Synod about his decision to recognize Dumenko is the absence of some of them. However, literally a few days before the canonical lawlessness took place, the Cypriot Church held a regular meeting of the Holy Synod, at which Archbishop Chrysostomos pledged he would not take a unilateral decision regarding the “Ukrainian issue” and postponed its consideration to a later time. In addition, after he recognized Dumenko, the Primate of the Church of Cyprus said he did not put forward this issue before the Synod not because someone was absent, but because "the synodals would say no." These are his own words. Therefore, in this case, Archbishop Chrysostomos told a lie at least twice – first, he lied to his fellow-bishops when he promised not to commemorate Dumenko, and then he lied to the journalist when he said that he “waited for everyone to arrive to explain everything to them” ...

In addition, the Primate of the Cypriot Church also said a lie when he assured a media representative that "the Church of Cyprus is the only Church that does not act like a national church."

However, the whole "struggle" of Archbishop Chrysostomos, in his own words, is to prevent "Moscow" from taking the leading role in World Orthodoxy. For example, during a meeting of the Synod of the Church of Cyprus on November 23, 2020, Archbishop Chrysostomos stated that he "supported, supports and will continue to support the Ecumenical Patriarchate and will not tolerate any attempts to question its prestige." Consequently, the act of recognition of Dumenko by Archbishop Chrysostomos boils down to the struggle for the prestige of Phanar, rather than for the purity of church canons.

The whole "struggle" of Archbishop Chrysostomos, in his own words, is to prevent "Moscow" from taking the leading role in World Orthodoxy, so the act of recognizing Dumenko boils down to the struggle for the prestige of Phanar, rather than for the purity of church canons.

After the second meeting of the Synod, held on November 25, Archbishop Chrysostomos explained his position even more clearly: “From the moment I learned the whole truth, I decided to be honest with myself and the (Constantinople) Patriarchate. There is a mess. All of them send metropolitans, priests to the Greek communities worldwide and create metropolises there, and the Ecumenical Patriarchate has established restrictions for this ... Moscow is making attempts to penetrate Europe and the United States." Once more, we can see that the Cypriot primate is not happy with the fact that in territories where "Greek communities" already exist, other Churches dare to create their own metropolises. But what about the above statement that “only the Cypriot Church does not act like a national one”? Indeed, judging by the words of Archbishop Chrysostomos, the decision to commemorate Dumenko directly stems from the desire to defend the interests of the Greek communities in Europe and the United States, rather than the interests of the Church!

In this matter, the Primate of the Church of Cyprus was backed by some hierarchs, who voted for the recognition of the OCU. For example, Metropolitan Georgios of Paphos, at the same first meeting of the Synod on December 23, declared that “Moscow is acting out of its own interests. Therefore, violations of the eternal relations of the Church of Cyprus with the Ecumenical Patriarchate should not be allowed." So, no matter how much Archbishop Chrysostomos may say about the fact that first you have to be a Christian, and only then – a Greek, the situation looks exactly the opposite: first of all, you are Greek and secondly ... you are also Greek.

Anathemas and dissenters

In the rhetoric of Archbishop Chrysostomos of recent times, his response to the removal of his name from the diptychs of the Russian Orthodox Church is especially surprising. In this regard, he says, "This does not bother me at all, because I would not want the kind of ‘Orthodoxy’ promoted by the Russians."

Here one cannot but recall similar words and expressions that sounded from another person – the anathematized Mikhail Denisenko.

Here are his words about his anathema pronounced on him by the Russian Orthodox Church: “Anathema does not matter to me. Whether I am anathematized or not anathematized – I don’t care ... I do not recognize it."

Anathema does not matter to me. Whether I am anathematized or not anathematized – I don’t care ... I do not recognize it.

Filaret Denisenko

It doesn't bother me at all.

Archbishop Chrysostomos on the removal of his name from the diptychs of the Russian Orthodox Church

And more recently, already in 2020, Denisenko stated he did not care not only about Moscow anathemas, but also about might-be anathemas pronounced on him by Phanar.

Of course, we have no right to assert that Archbishop Chrysostomos is now in the same spiritual state as Filaret. But the fact that he is rapidly moving towards it also cannot be denied. Otherwise, how can one explain these words of the Primate of the Church of Cyprus: “I have excellent relations with the Russians. And if now we are not developing good relations with the Russian Church, then it is her fault ”? What does “relationship with the Russian Church” have to do with it? Archbishop Chrysostomos "does not develop a relationship" with the Church of Christ – that’s the point. As for the ROC, accusing this Church of being at fault for what happened is the same as if a thief began to accuse an owner of the house of the theft because the latter had left the door open...

Of course, the situation can be rectified. It can be done only through repentance. But will the Primate of the Cyprus Church have enough courage to admit that he is wrong? It’s more like wishful thinking, since recent events tell us that he will do anything to have his opinion perceived as the only correct one. It is known what this will result in – the schism of the Church of Christ and the personal tragedy of Archbishop Chrysostomos.

Probably, any canonical crime is impossible without preliminary moral degradation to one degree or another. On the other hand, if a Christian has taken the path of a lie, even a small one, then if he does not repent, he will gradually lie even more until he ultimately betrays Christ.

Judas did not betray Christ immediately – at first, he would steal money from the treasury.

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