9 examples of the Tomos enforcer’s lies
Rostislav Pavlenko, Poroshenko's former “Tomos chief”, gave an interview where he made a number of resonant statements. We analyze how they differ from reality.
More than two years have passed since the creation of the OCU and the attempt to destroy the UOC by the authorities. Much in those events is getting even clearer just because time has proved: the theses, which had been once promoted by Poroshenko's political strategists, turned out to be untenable and false.
The unification of Ukrainian Orthodoxy promised by the authorities under the wing of the OCU never occurred, but instead we’ve been witnessing mass seizures of the UOC churches under the guise of transitions, thousands of injured believers of the UOC, who were attacked, beaten and whose rights to worship were blatantly violated.
Therefore, the whole OCU story has yet to be sorted out by investigators and law enforcement officers. Indeed, lots of facts indicate that the OCU was created by the efforts of the state, with en mass violations of the Constitution and other laws. Moreover, these violations have specific names and surnames – these are officials and functionaries who did their job. They speak in flamboyant patriotic phrases, but if you unwrap them, you will find out trite lies and manipulations inside. Today we are analyzing the interview of Rostislav Pavlenko, the chief official of Poroshenko on the Tomos, and today – the MP of Poroshenko’s "European Solidarity" Party. It was he who negotiated with Phanar on the OCU and oversaw the entire process. It was he who assured Patriarch Bartholomew that the believers of the canonical Church are ready to unite with the schismatics.
Thesis 1. Poroshenko did everything so that there was no favorite Church
R. Pavlenko: “Under Poroshenko, we did everything so that there was no favorite Church ... As regards assistance to the OCU, it is the fulfillment of the appeal of the Ukrainian Orthodox about helping the state to recognize and grant the Tomos on autocephaly.”
It is very embarrassing to accuse the MP of outright lies, but there is nothing else that can be done. Poroshenko's power not only positioned the OCU as favorite, it created this religious structure with its own hands. Pavlenko himself said he had been negotiating with Phanar since 2015 and lost count of meetings with Patriarch Bartholomew: “In July 2015, there was the first meeting in Istanbul-Constantinople on Phanar. And so since then it occurred on a regular basis, I even lost count how many times."
Neither Filaret nor Makariy, but Poroshenko announced the upcoming creation of the OCU in the spring of 2018. It was Poroshenko who organized the “unification council”; it was he who controlled its course; it was he who instructed the Security Service of Ukraine to put pressure on the bishops of the UOC in order to force them to join the OCU. It was Poroshenko who had a tour with the Tomos and Epiphany across Ukraine in the spring of 2019 as part of the presidential election campaign, it was he who issued instructions to local authorities in Western Ukraine to organize meetings in order to “transfer” the UOC temples to the OCU.
All these Poroshenko’s efforts were taken not at all for the sake of a new church structure. He had his vested interest – to become president again riding the crest of the church.
Finally, the journalist asks Pavlenko making a logical inquiry – why the Ukrainian people did not thank Poroshenko and did not vote for him in the second round. The answer is ridiculous – this is not a political issue, but a matter of national security. Can you believe this? Hardly.
Thesis 2. The UOC seizes the temples of the OCU by force
R. Pavlenko: “The UOC is carrying out a forcible seizure of churches: it gets muscular people to seize some temple, start litigation, and pulls its strings with the authorities.”
There are manipulations in the words of officials, there are half-truths, and there are outright lies. The last is exactly the case. We know that since the creation of the OCU, 122 UOC churches have been seized by force, and about 220 have been illegally re-registered. Despite having the full right to their churches, believers of the UOC always voluntarily give them up to raiders, choosing to pray in garages, sheds and try to build a new temple just because it's a Christian way. There is not a single case when believers seized churches from the OCU and cannot be. Therefore, this statement by Pavlenko is a real blatant lie, not supported by any facts.
Thesis 3. When the OCU was formed, there were no disputes, only prayer
R. Pavlenko: “There were no disputes at St. Sophia Cathedral. Only prayer and voting."
The facts show that the OCU is not a united church at all, but a political project that was cobbled together by the efforts of the authorities. There was no prayer at the “unification council”, but squabbles and strife, and very serious ones. The scandals were so heated that the Greeks decided to leave the Cathedral and fly out of the country.
Filaret: “Everyone knows that if I had not insisted, Metropolitan Epiphany would not have been the primate. The bishops of Constantinople are aware of this, because they wanted to leave the Cathedral. However, the president detained them and did not let them out of the Borispol airport. But they were actually going to leave."
Yes, Pavlenko himself hints that only the intervention of the authorities kept the Council from collapsing: "Sometimes the holy fathers need to be given the opportunity to come to an agreement among themselves, but at the same time it has to be made clear to them there is no way they can disrupt the process."
Thesis 4. Poroshenko did not promise anything to Filaret
Shortly after the emergence of the OCU, it was hit by a new schism – Filaret broke away from the OCU and restored his Kyiv Patriarchate. This happened because Filaret, as he says, was cheated by Epiphany and Poroshenko.
Journalist: “One of the main points of Patriarch Filaret is that the then president made pledges to him. Was there any pledge to retain his post, his influence, any assurance?”
Pavlenko: "Poroshenko could not promise him anything, which means he did not make any pledges."
Everyone knows that Filaret's main feature is lust for power. This manifested itself in 1992, when he renounced his vow to resign from the post of primate of the UOC, and also manifested itself in 2018. Before the Council, he signed a document refusing to claim leadership in the new structure. At first, this surprised everyone, but later everything became clear.
Filaret: “Poroshenko made me sign (the document – Ed.) that I would not put forward my candidacy, although I had the right to. There was an agreement with Epiphany and the president to the effect that Epiphany would be the formal primate to represent the OCU outwardly. But within Ukraine there would remain the Kyiv Patriarchate led by Patriarch Filaret. This was the agreement I accepted in exchange of nominating my candidacy. That was the condition. However, they deceived me. They said I would lead the church."
So, we have the word of Filaret against the word of Pavlenko. But everything indicates that Filaret's version is more believable.
Thesis 5. The authorities should have protected the believers of the UOC from their choice to be in the UOC
R. Pavlenko: “It seems that Mr. Legoyda spoke about it. It turns out that the free choice of Ukrainian believers is to be in the structure of the Russian church (UOC – Ed.). This factor means the duty of the Ukrainian state to protect our society from pressure, influence and attempts to divide Ukrainian society."
Article 35 of the Constitution states: “Everyone has the right to freedom of religion. This right includes freedom to practice any religion or to practice no religion." In other words, believers of the UOC have every right to be believers of the UOC. This is guaranteed by the Constitution. What does Pavlenko tell us? That Ukrainians need to be transferred to the OCU so that they are not influenced by Russia. What's the lie?
Let's reflect on it – how can Russia influence believers somewhere in a distant village in Transcarpathia or Rivne region in western Ukraine, where neither the priest nor the parishioners have ever been to Russia and can hardly speak Russian? No way. It has been said many times that the connection between the UOC and the Russian Church is exclusively prayerful and spiritual, but not administrative. It means neither Russia nor the ROC, no matter how much they could wish to, has any leverage over the UOC. Does Pavlenko know this? Certainly.
Thesis 6. Phanar granted the Tomos, because it saw the willing of the entire Ukrainian nation
R. Pavlenko: “The Tomos emerged when both Patriarch Bartholomew and the Primates of the absolute majority of Local Churches understood that the desire for church independence is truly the desire of the Ukrainian people.”
First of all, Pavlenko is telling a bald-faced lie about the Primates of Local Churches. At the moment, besides Patriarch Bartholomew, the OCU is recognized by as few as 3 primates of the Local Churches out of 14, upon that none of them has served with Epiphany Dumenko. Can the number 3 be called an absolute majority? Hardly.
What about the will of the Ukrainian people? When Poroshenko announced about the imminent creation of the OCU in the spring of 2018, the believers of the UOC wrote more than 420 thousand petitions to Phanar asking not to interfere in the Ukrainian church issue. Just fancy that almost half a million letters from all over Ukraine were delivered to Phanar in bags. Is this not the desire of the Ukrainian people? For comparison – nobody heard about similar appeals from the schismatics.
Moreover, both Filaret and his mentees claimed for many years that they couldn’t care less about the recognition by Phanar and other Churches. They didn't need it.
Filaret in 2014: “We don't care whether it is canonical or non-canonical. The issue of recognition is secondary, because this Church (UOC-Kyiv Patriarchate – Ed.) can exist without recognition."
Of the 12.5 million communities, only 84 voluntarily transferred to the OCU. This is about half a percent of all parishes. At the same time there were hundreds of carnages around the churches of the UOC, which the schismatics took from believers by force. What desire of the Ukrainian people is Pavlenko talking about? Faithful Ukrainians did express their position to remain with the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church led by His Beatitude Onuphry.
Thesis 7. Hierarchs of the UOC requested Phanar about the Tomos
R. Pavlenko: “This idea took shape amid the hierarchs. We remember that at that time more than 10 bishops of the Moscow Patriarchate expressed their determination, intentions, and wrote letters to the ecumenical throne."
The myth of the UOC bishops who wanted to leave for the OCU was hyped by Poroshenko's propagandists many times. Someone spoke about 10, someone called the number 25, and someone even more. But no one has ever presented a single proof. In fact, only two bishops out of 100 joined the OCU in 2018 and not a single one has acceded to it over the past 2 and a half years.
Thesis 8. The words of the UOC about persecution do not find support among believers
R. Pavlenko: "The attempts of the Moscow Church to raise havoc, stir up hysteria, talk about persecution do not find a response among the Ukrainian believers."
On February 22, 2021, a Congress of representatives of the persecuted communities of the UOC was held in the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra. More than 350 people came from more than 130 parishes from all over Ukraine. They told in detail about the seizures of churches, insults, beatings, about hostility and hatred in their villages due to the actions of Poroshenko, Pavlenko and Patriarch Bartholomew. And these are not agents of the Kremlin and Putin, they are living people, Ukrainians with Ukrainian passports and the same rights as members of the OCU.
Did Rostislav Pavlenko know about this Congress? Of course he did.
He called this Congress an attempt on state security, and the persecutions the believers told about as non-existent. Moreover, Pavlenko called the fact that the Ministry of Culture allowed believers to hold a congress in the Lavra "an example of collaboration in the framework of an enemy campaign against Ukraine."
Can you find examples of more cynicism than Pavlenko's statements? Hardly.
Thesis 9. One cannot talk about canonicity and salvation. This is hate speech
R. Pavlenko: “Nobody can tell who is canonical and who is non-canonical and so on. One shouldn’t communicate hate speech by telling who is canonical and who is not, who will be saved and who won’t be. These messages shouldn't sound like that at all. It’s a shame to say that there is supposedly some kind of split."
Article 35 of the Constitution reads: "The Church and religious organizations in Ukraine are separated from the state." The state lives by its own laws. The Church lives by Her own, which are called canons and rules. States in the history of the world emerged and disappeared countless times, and so did state laws. The Church, however, has an unearthly nature, it was founded by Christ, it is His Body. The Church is the same in Russia, in Ukraine, in Africa or Australia. The Church is the same both 2000 years ago and now. Only the Church can and, moreover, is obliged to tell people about salvation. Not in a critical or hateful manner, as Pavlenko says, not at all. The Church warns and advises – if you want to have an eternal life after death, rather than eternal torment, act like that and not otherwise.
Earthly life is a continual movement. Rulers and authorities come and go, officials succeed each other. Someone is responsible for their actions against the Church here, someone will be held accountable for them before God.
The lies and lawlessness of the authorities against the Ukrainian Orthodox Church under Poroshenko’s rule are not unique. Similar methods were used to fight the Church in the era of the USSR, during the forceful introduction of the union, and further into history until the extermination of the first Christians. We must take it with calm and understanding. But at the same time we should see and analyze the methods of the enemies of God. Not to condemn, but to resist them and remember – whatever presidents and officials are, the Church on our land will stand until the end of time.