Schism, dead end & a tragic mistake: a view on OCU Tomos from Cyprus Church
Met. Nikiforos of Kykkos wrote a book about the "Ukrainian issue", in which he concludes the Tomos of the OCU cannot be recognized. Is there a way out of the situation?
At the end of 2020, Metropolitan Nikiforos of Kykkos and Tillyria Tillyria of the Cypriot Orthodox Church wrote the book "The Contemporary Ukrainian Issue and Its Resolution according to the Divine and Sacred Canons", dedicated to a detailed analysis of the historical and canonical preсonditions for the granting of the Tomos of autocephaly by the Patriarchate of Constantinople to the united Ukrainian schismatics. In fact, his position on the "Ukrainian issue" is the position of those Cypriot believers who in their spiritual life are guided by the Gospel and Tradition of the Church, and not by other principles.
What is Metropolitan Nikiforos?
Met. Nikiforos was born on May 2, 1947, in the village of Kritou Marottou of the district of Paphos in Cyprus. Having completed his education in the local elementary school, Nikiforos entered the Monastery of Kykkos for six years as a novice during which he attended the Hellenic School in the monastery for three years. in 1969, he was ordained a deacon and joined the brotherhood of the Kykkos Monastery, receiving the name Nikiforos. He graduated from the Law Faculty of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and the Theological Faculty of the University of Athens.
In 1979, Archbishop Chrysostomos I of Cyprus ordained Hierodeacon Nikiforos as priest, and soon – as archimandrite.
After his elevation in 1979, Archim. Nikiforos served in several church positions over the ensuing years. He was a teacher at the Seminary of the Apostle Barnabas for six years. He served as President of the Ecclesiastical Court of the Church of Cyprus for five years, and as Secretary of the Holy Synod of the Church of Cyprus. During this time Archim. Nikiforos also as a member of the Abbot's Council of Kykkos Monastery.
In 1983 the brotherhood of the monastery elected him to the position of abbot of Kykkos Monastery. In 2002, In January 1984, abbot-elect Nikiforos was enthroned at the monastery by Abp. Chrysostomos I.
In 2007, Bp. Nikiforos was elected the metropolitan of the newly established Bishopric of Kykkos and Tillyria.
Vladyka is an Honorary Doctor of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and the Faculty of Theology of the University of Athens.
It is interesting that at the elections of the new Primate of the Church of Cyprus in 2006, Metropolitan Nikiforos of Kykkos was one of the leaders but withdrew his candidacy in favour of the current head of the Church of Cyprus, Chrysostomos II, which indicates a complete lack of power ambitions and desire to rule. In other words, he cares about the welfare of the Church of Christ rather than personal interests.
That is why, in 2020, Metropolitan Nikiforos, together with Metropolitan Isaiah of Tamassos and Metropolitan Athanasios of Limassol, openly opposed the position of Archbishop Chrysostomos of Cyprus on the recognition of the OCU and Epiphany Dumenko.
For Bp. Nikiforos, the head of the OCU is a schismatic who cannot be called the “primate” of the Church in Ukraine, and the actions of Patriarch Bartholomew to legitimize Ukrainian schismatics are not only non-canonical but also lead to a schism in world Orthodoxy. Actually, to substantiate his position, he wrote the book "The Contemporary Ukrainian Issue and Its Resolution according to the Divine and Sacred Canons". Metropolitan Nikiforos himself says that he has no other purpose in writing the work, except to “give the Orthodox believers, who live in ‘fear’ and ‘shadow’ of the schism catastrophic for Orthodoxy, the necessary information on the Ukrainian church question, without hiding anything".
The book consists (except for the introduction, preface, conclusion and scientific apparatus) of seven chapters, each of which methodically refutes all the arguments of the Phanar in favour of granting autocephaly to the OCU.
The first of these chapters is devoted to answering the question of which Patriarchate has jurisdiction over the territory of Ukraine.
Whose ecclesiastical jurisdiction does Ukraine belong to?
Vladyka recalls that in 1686 the Kiev Metropolis was reunited with the Russian Church, and since then “the ancient Alexandrian, Antioch, Jerusalem Patriarchates, and then the rest of the Autocephalous Orthodox Churches have always considered the Ukrainian Church an integral part of the Moscow Patriarchate, respecting its right for the entire territory of Ukraine to be under its ecclesiastical jurisdiction".
However, today, after more than 300 years, Phanariotes do not agree with this state of affairs. According to their statements (which are currently being actively supported by Ukrainian schismatics), the Kiev Metropolis has always been under the jurisdiction of the Phanar since the Patriarchal and Synodal Epistle of 1686 states as a condition that the Kiev Metropolis must first commemorate the name of the Patriarch of Constantinople during the Divine Liturgy, and only after that – the name of the Patriarch of Moscow. Supporters of this assertion emphasize that the Kiev Metropolis was never finally and irrevocably transferred to the Moscow Patriarchate, and the Patriarchal Letter of 1686 was only temporary.
Disputing this position, Metropolitan Nikiforos recalls that the desire expressed in the Letter to first commemorate the name of the Constantinople and then the name of the Moscow Patriarch “has nothing to do with administrative powers” since “it is not the commemoration of a certain primate, but only the right to ordain bishops and the right to judge bishops determine the submission of one Church to the jurisdiction of another one”.
It is not the commemoration of a certain primate, but only the right to ordain bishops and the right to judge bishops determine the submission of one Church to the jurisdiction of another one.
As proof of this thesis, Metropolitan Nikiforos cites a quote from “a close associate and advisor to the Ecumenical Patriarchate, Vlasios Fidas”, who wrote even before the “Ukrainian crisis” and on a completely different occasion that canonical affiliation “is inextricably linked with the canonical consolidation of the right to ordination and judgment”.
Metropolitan Nikiforos considers the so-called "Sintagmations" as the main argument to support the fact that the Phanar has always recognized the transfer of the Kiev Metropolis to the jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarch.
"Sintagmation" is a list of metropolises, archdioceses and bishops and their order of priority within the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the Local Orthodox Patriarchates and Churches. In our time, they are published under the names "Calendar", "Diptychs", "Yearbook", "Official Provisions", and "the record in them is indisputable proof of the jurisdictional affiliation of the metropolis". So, Metropolitan Nikiforos claims that “from 1686 to 2018, all the Typicons, Calendars, Diptychs and Yearbooks of all Local Orthodox Autocephalous Churches (including the Patriarchate of Constantinople) considered Ukraine a part of the Russian Church".
Moreover, Metropolitan Nikiforos recalled that Patriarch Bartholomew, in his address to the Ukrainian people on July 26, 2008, said literally the following: “The Ecumenical Patriarch Dionysius IV, after the accession of Ukraine to Russia and under pressure from Peter the Great, considered it necessary under those circumstances its (Ukraine’s – Ed.) ecclesiastical subordination to the Russian Church."
From 1686 to 2018, all the Typicons, Calendars, Diptychs and Yearbooks of all Local Orthodox Autocephalous Churches (including the Patriarchate of Constantinople) considered Ukraine a part of the Russian Church.
In addition, in his letters to the Patriarch of Moscow, Patriarch Bartholomew recognizes the Russian Church with regard to Ukraine has "two fundamental rights of church subordination: the right to ordain and the right to judge bishops".
Further, Metropolitan Nikiforos cites the testimonies of several authoritative historians and theologians of the Patriarchate of Constantinople about the affiliation of the Kiev Metropolis to the Russian Church. We encounter the names of Archimandrite Kallinikos (Delikanis), "an excellent connoisseur of patriarchal documents", professor Fr. Theodore Zisis, professor of the University of Athens, Archimandrite Vasily Stephanidi, Metropolitan Barnabas of Kythira.
But of particular interest is the reference to the work of the "honorary professor of church history and one of the key employees of the Ecumenical Patriarchate" Vlasios Fidas, "who for a long time served as the Dean at the Institute of Postgraduate Education in Orthodox Theology at the Orthodox Centre of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Geneva and was awarded the title of "archon and didascalos of the Church" by the Ecumenical Patriarch. According to him, "Patriarch Dionysius of Constantinople transferred the Kiev Metropolis to the canonical jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate (1687)" and the Kiev Metropolis (along with Moscow and St. Petersburg) “participates in the Synod of the Russian Church as one of its three permanent members".
Also, in this regard, Metropolitan Nikiforos quotes the famous Orthodox theologian, Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware), who stated: “Although I am the Metropolitan of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, I am absolutely not satisfied with the position of Patriarch Bartholomew. With all due respect to my Patriarch, I have to say that I agree with the opinion of the Moscow Patriarchate about Ukraine's belonging to the Russian Church."
At the same time, says Metropolitan Nikiforos, even if the transfer of the Kiev Metropolis was temporary, then “in the canonical tradition of the Orthodox Church there are clearly defined periods during which a protest statement about violation of jurisdictional rights is allowed”, and “after these periods have expired, the Church, whose jurisdictional rights have been violated cannot appeal to the competent church authorities to resolve the dispute and restore its rights".
We are talking about the 17th Canon of the Fourth Ecumenical Council and the 25th Canon of the Sixth Ecumenical Council. According to them, "for jurisdictional disputes, a limitation period of thirty years applies." But not 330 years!
Based on all of the above, Bp. Nikiforos comes to the conclusion that “the non-canonical appropriation by the Patriarchate of Constantinople of jurisdictional rights over the territory of Ukraine, as well as the granting of “autocephaly” to Ukraine, constitutes an act of invasion of another canonical territory and is in complete contradiction with the sacred canons of the Orthodox Church, which do not allow violations of jurisdictional boundaries and coexistence in one space of more than one jurisdiction”.
The non-canonical appropriation by the Patriarchate of Constantinople of jurisdictional rights over the territory of Ukraine, as well as the granting of “autocephaly” to Ukraine, constitutes an act of invasion of another canonical territory and is in complete contradiction with the sacred canons of the Orthodox Church.
Who has the right to grant autocephaly and under what conditions?
The next chapter is devoted to answering the question about the law and mechanism of granting autocephaly. Metropolitan Nikiforos takes the position that this right belongs exclusively to the fullness of the Orthodox Church.
Earlier, he says, Patriarch Bartholomew held the same position: in 2001 in an interview to the Greek newspaper Nea Hellas he said: “Autocephaly or autonomy is granted by the entire Church by the decision of the Ecumenical Council. In cases where, for various reasons, it is impossible to convene an Ecumenical Council, the Ecumenical Patriarchate, as the coordinator of all Orthodox Churches, grants autocephaly or autonomy, subject to their consent (of all other Orthodox Churches)."
Metropolitan Nikiforos stresses that one of the main sympathizers of the Phanar, Metropolitan John (Zizioulas) of Pergamon, who in December 2009 emphasized that “if the Ecumenical Patriarch obtains the consent of the Local Autocephalous Orthodox Churches, having received it in writing, he himself can sign the Patriarchal Tomos".
The above-mentioned "archon" and "didascalos" (teacher – Ed.) of the Church Vlasios Fidas wrote that "the Ecumenical Council or the unanimous consent of all Patriarchal Thrones is the canonical instrument of proclaiming autocephaly or autonomy of the Church", and "any other procedure is non-canonical and not only does not serve unity but, on the contrary, violating the canonical tradition, corrodes and destroys the unity of the Church in righteous faith and love".
Metropolitan Nikiforos also recalled that at the pre-council meetings on the preparation of the Council of Crete, provisions on "Autocephaly and the method of its proclamation" were documented, which were "signed by representatives of all Orthodox Churches". According to this document, the procedure for granting autocephaly should include "a request from an ecclesiastical body to grant autocephaly, the consent of the Mother Church, from which the ecclesiastical diocese that asks for autocephaly is separated, and the approval of the rest of the Autocephalous Orthodox Churches".
This means, the Vladyka asserts, that “the Ecumenical Patriarch could accept for consideration a petition for autocephaly only from the church structure of the country meeting the canonical terms”, but “the only canonical church structure of Ukraine (the Ukrainian Orthodox Church headed by Metropolitan Onuphry) did not request for autocephaly from anyone and never accepted autocephaly granted by anyone".
Metropolitan Nikiforos emphasizes that “the autocephaly of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church was sought, asked for and received by two schismatic structures”: the UOC-KP “headed by the deposed and anathematized former Metropolitan of Kiev Monk Philaret Denisenko”, and the UAOC “headed by the non-ordained Makariy Maletich, a former defrocked priest of the Russian Orthodox Church, "ordained" as a pseudo-bishop by the deacon of the Russian Church Vikentiy-Viktor Chekalin, a tragic person with a "rich history" who managed to be an "Orthodox" pseudo-bishop, Uniate, Protestant pastor, was convicted by the court for pedophilia and receives a pension as insane in Australia".
In general, according to Bp. Nikiforos, the OCU is “a gathering of ejected, anathematized, self-ordained and unrepentant schismatics” who received the status of “autocephaly”, “and all this – in the presence of the canonical Orthodox Church headed by Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and All Ukraine, which unites the overwhelming majority of Orthodox Christians in Ukraine and is now being attacked and persecuted”.
The OCU is a gathering of ejected, anathematized, self-ordained and unrepentant schismatics.
“Indeed, is it possible to remain silent in the face of all these ecclesiologically unacceptable and anti-canonical events that have recently taken place in the Ukrainian Orthodox Church?” asks the hierarch of the Church of Cyprus.
On the right of appeal to the Phanar
Defenders of the Phanar’s position argue that on the basis of Canon 28 of the Fourth Ecumenical Council, as well as Canons 3, 4 and 5 of the Council of Sardica, the Patriarchate of Constantinople has the canonical right to receive appeals from the clergy outside the boundaries of its jurisdiction, which means lifting the anathema from Denisenko and reinstating him "in existing dignity" is quite legitimate.
However, Metropolitan Nikiforos emphasizes that, in the opinion of the Church, provisions of Canons 3, 4 and 5 of the Council of Sardica relate to the privileges that were granted to the bishop of Rome (and now to the Patriarch of Constantinople) “only in relation to the bishops and other clergy subordinate to him, and not the supreme ecclesiastical jurisdiction”. In other words, the head of the Phanar "has the special privilege of accepting appeals, but only from bishops and other clerics of the Churches subordinate to him, which are the Churches of Thrace, Pontus and Asia."
In turn, the Phanariotes also refer to Canon 9 and 17 of the Fourth Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon, claiming that they allegedly delegate to the Patriarch of Constantinople the authority to receive appeals from clerics not only from the Churches subordinate to him but also from other Patriarchal Thrones and Local Autocephalous Churches that are not subject to his ecclesiastical jurisdiction. However, Metropolitan Nikiforos says, according to St. Nicodemus the Hagiorite, "the Primate of Constantinople does not have the power to act in dioceses and regions of other patriarchs", and according to the famous Orthodox canonist Zonaras, "the Patriarch of Constantinople is not appointed judge over all metropolitans in general, but only over those subordinate to him".
Thus, the Cypriot hierarch concludes that “the Patriarch of Constantinople does not have the privilege of the highest ecclesiastical jurisdiction”, and “the judicial decision of any holy patriarchal council (as in the case of the decision on Denisenko's anathema imposed by the Council of the Russian Orthodox Church – Ed.) is irreversible and can only be appealed through the Ecumenical Council”.
Bp. Nikiforos believes that to reinstate Ukrainian schismatics, as well as to receive them into church communion, repentance and “a willingness to return to communion with the Church from which they broke off because the restoration of communion with all Orthodoxy occurs through the restoration of communion with their Local Church".
In addition, Metropolitan Nikiforos is sure that “Makariy and his associates need to be ordained anew”, because communication with them “is not a question of the moral purity of some people, but the ontological absence of the very inner core of the hierarchy” since “it goes not about moral but ontological "desecration" of the episcopate at the pan-Orthodox level".
Did the ROC have the right to break off Eucharistic communion with the Phanar?
Some supporters of the actions of the Patriarch of Constantinople have repeatedly said that the Russian Church had no right to break off Eucharistic communion with the Phanar – they say, this violates the law of unity and love. But, answering these "belated accusers" of the ROC, Metropolitan Nikiforos stresses that "the first teacher in this matter is Patriarch Bartholomew himself, who stopped communion in the Sacraments with the ever-memorable Archbishop Christodoulos of Athens because His Beatitude Archbishop dared to convene the Archbishop of Greece, which elected without patriarchal consent three new metropolitans in the diocese of the so-called ‘New Lands’”. That is, communication was terminated not for dogmatic reasons, Vladyka says, but solely for administrative reasons.
On the conciliarity of the Church and the "papal" claims of the Phanar
“Against the background of all these events around the Ukrainian issue, another new non-canonical claim surfaced that for world Orthodoxy the Archbishop of Constantinople and Ecumenical Patriarch is not “a first among equals”, but “the first without equals”. By this fact, the “primacy of ministry” is replaced by “the primacy of power”, which leads to a violation of the principle of conciliarity, which has been in effect in the Orthodox Church from time immemorial,” Bp. Nikiforos writes.
According to the bishop, the text of the Ukrainian Tomos, in which the "Metropolitan of Kiev" recognizes as head of the Patriarch of Constantinople, with a postscript that other Patriarchates do the same, has no historical, dogmatic and canonical grounds.
Metropolitan Nikiforos, citing numerous quotes from the Holy Fathers and the Holy Scripture, concludes that “’primacy’ does not exist at the world level, except for the presidency at councils” and “none of the primates, patriarchs or chairmen of the Autocephalous Churches can replace the only eternal Head of the Church, our Lord Jesus Christ".
He recalls that the Patriarchate of Constantinople also agreed with this thesis. For example, the Patriarchal District Epistle of 1895, signed by Patriarch Anfim and members of the Phanar Synod, says that "the One eternal Leader and immortal Head of the Church, our Lord Jesus Christ ...".
That is why, by the unilateral decision of Patriarch Bartholomew on the recognition of the OCU, "the principle of conciliarity, which is fundamental in the government of the Orthodox Church, gave way to the principle of the unauthorized and despotic power of one – Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew".
By the unilateral decision of Patriarch Bartholomew on the recognition of the OCU, "the principle of conciliarity, which is fundamental in the government of the Orthodox Church, gave way to the principle of the unauthorized and despotic power of one – Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.
Metropolitan Nikiforos emphasizes that "in the Orthodox Church there is no papal system, according to which the Pope decides (definimus), and the rest obey". All decisions in the Orthodox Church are made exclusively in a conciliar manner, and since the issue of granting the Tomos to the OCU was decided solely by Patriarch Bartholomew, “not a single Primate of another Autocephalous Orthodox Church or his representative was present” at Dumenko's “enthronement”. Vladyka points out that it is unprecedented in church history that for a whole year not a single Orthodox Church recognized the "pseudo-autocephaly" of the OCU, "which in an anticanonical manner was given to a marginal group of schismatics".
What way out of the situation does Metropolitan Nikiforos suggest?
“The only canonical way to restore the inner unity of the now divided Church body of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church going through hard trials is to respect the principle of conciliarity and to urgently convene a Pan-Orthodox Council,” believes the Cypriot hierarch.
The second scenario is the “meeting of the primates of the Orthodox Churches”, during which, “not succumbing to the influence of foreign political forces and the interference of geostrategic and geopolitical interests”, Orthodox hierarchs must “demonstrate their hierarchical wisdom, overcome selfishness, lust for power and vanity, and in the spirit of sacrificial love, without disputes and conflicts, work on the solution of the Ukrainian church issue in accordance with the sacred canons and centuries-old church practice".
Well, “as a third option, we see an attempt to renew the discussion between representatives of the Orthodox Churches on the issue of autocephaly, that is, in relation to how autocephaly should be granted, and how the Tomos of autocephaly should be signed”. When these efforts are crowned with success, then the "Pan-Orthodox Council for the final approval of the agreed and irrevocable solution of the Ukrainian church question, based on new data and always in accordance with the sacred canons and centuries-old church practice" should be convened.
Metropolitan Nikiforos believes that the way out of the "dead end", where the Church finds itself due to the unauthorized actions of Patriarch Bartholomew can be realized only after conciliar decisions and the dialogue preceding them. “Dialogue is the only antidote to the absurd and selfish vanity that undermines the unity of Orthodoxy. Only through dialogue, selfish obsessions can be suppressed and church unity and peace can be achieved,” Vladyka believes.
In this sense, the position of Patriarch Bartholomew seems to him very strange, who, without a doubt, goes into dialogue with Catholics and representatives of other religions but categorically refuses to dialogue with Orthodox Primates. “Instead, unfortunately, on the sidelines of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, a theory is being developed that the Ecumenical Patriarchate has taken the first step, the course is clearly defined, and will ultimately lead to the recognition of the OCU,” and the current crisis is comparable to “a cloud of raised dust, and it will pass".
However, Vladyka believes that "problems cannot be resolved without dialogue; on the contrary, they grow and threaten to strangle us," and "a painful schism will forever hit the Orthodox Catholic Church".
In conclusion, Vladyka writes that the Orthodox Church is based on conciliarity, and not on a separate, absolute primacy, "revealing to our eyes the new temptation of papism".
In the face of this danger, he says, "my hierarchical conscience does not allow me to silently accept the tragic obsessions and catastrophic mistakes that will finally divide world Orthodoxy". Vladyka assures that "without being bound by the fetters of nationalism," he will "preach the truth everywhere and always, without fear of the consequences from the authorities of our time, religious and political". He recalled the words of the poet Dionysios Solomos, according to which "We must consider what is true as national."
“For me,” Vladyka writes, “the closest position is that Christians should put our Heavenly Motherland and its earthly manifestation above their earthly homeland – the Church, of which we are all members and citizens, regardless of racial and ethnic origin: Greeks, Russians, Serbs, Bulgarians, Georgians, Romanians, Arabs. We are all members of the same Body of Christ, which is the Church, and in Christ "There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Gal. 3:28).