“Repent brother” vs. “put your mouth down”: insight into UOC-Fanar dialogue

05 August 2021 21:00
Phanar's rhetoric towards the UOC is getting less and less Christian. Photo: UOJ Phanar's rhetoric towards the UOC is getting less and less Christian. Photo: UOJ

The monastics of the UOC appealed to Patriarch Bartholomew to come to his senses, whereas Phanar ordered the UOC to "put your mouth down."

At the end of July 2021, two statements were made from among the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and the Patriarchate of Constantinople, which, although not directly interrelated as "QA", appear benchmarks of the Ukrainian-Phanariote "dialogue" in terms of their meaning and significance.

Ukrainian question and Phanariotic answer

Two weeks after the All-Ukrainian Monastic Congress at the Holy Dormition Pochaiv Lavra, which took place on July 15, 2021, the text of the Appeal to Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople was published.

In fact, it was not entirely correct: to publish the document on behalf of the Congress after such a long time after the congress itself, moreover, with only two signatures: the chairman of the congress and the secretary. If the text was adopted at the Congress itself, it should have been published on the same day, and if the text was approved by someone else, then it should have been published not on behalf of the Congress, but on behalf of the person who did its final editing. Otherwise, the authority of the Congress and the subsequent documents that were adopted there are belittled. It is safe to say that this circumstance did not go unnoticed by the enemies of the UOC and did not play in its favor. Anyway, let’s return to the Appeal.

It was addressed personally to Patriarch Bartholomew, and his reaction to the Appeal speaks volumes – it is absent altogether (at the moment, at least). Instead, the head o Phanar sent a message “On the occasion of the 1033th anniversary of the Baptism of Russians (των Ρως)”. A very unfortunate oversight of the Office of the President of Ukraine (and highly ironical insight of the author): to visit Phanar so many times, to conduct negotiations and not explain to "His All-Holiness" that Prince Vladimir baptized "Kievan Rus-Ukraine", and at the same time was "the Ukrainian ruler" (as it proceeds from Zelensky’s address of 28.07.21). On top of that, to use the word "Russian" in relation to Ukraine is bad manners. According to the Ukrainian law, Russians are now not native to Ukraine at all.

The Head of Phanar completely overlooked the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which is quite natural, because he "abolished" it two and a half years ago.

Be that as it may, this Message from the head of Phanar was addressed to "Kiev Epifanios (Κιέβου Επιφάνιο)" (without titles) and it is indicated that it is a message of "love and unity to everyone, regardless of whether they know about it or ignore it, whether they want it or not." This is a clear hint that there are those in Ukraine who ignore "love and unity" from the Patriarchate of Constantinople, a hint in which it is difficult not to recognize the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. But officially, the head of Phanar overlooked the UOC completely, which is quite natural, because he “abolished” it two and a half years ago.

However, the eloquent silence of Patriarch Bartholomew was more than compensated for by Metropolitan Apostolos (Dannilidis) of Derkoi, who posted an angry publication on the Facebook page of his diocese under the headline "Enough, hierarchs of the Russian presence in Ukraine!" The quintessence of this imperative was expressed in the title of this article: "Put your mouth down."

Can the passage of Metropolitan Apostolos (Dannilidis) be considered, if not an official, but a real answer to the monasticism of the UOC? On the one hand, there is a precedent when Metropolitan Apostolos sent an official letter on behalf of Patriarch Bartholomew. It was on January 20, 2020, when Phanar threatened Metropolitan Mikhail (Dandar) of Prague with "strict intervention" for disobeying the decisions of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, in which the Phanar hirarch also felt particularly free to say whatever he wanted. On the other hand, from the known Greek Orthodox resources, the "outcry" of Metropolitan Apostolos (Dannilidis) was published only by the Orthodox Times, known for its inclination to actively dish out all kinds of scandals. Now, for example, the outlet has launched a whole campaign to discredit Metropolitan Emmanuel (Adamakis) of Chalcedon, who was recently appointed the second most honorable hierarch in Phanar after Patriarch Bartholomew.

The official website of the Patriarchate of Constantinople ec-patr.org is in the design phase. And the most read Greek sites Romfea and Vima Orthodoxia did not pay any attention to the words of Metropolitan Apostolos. Instead, both of these resources published the Appeal of the Monastic Congress of the UOC to Patriarch Bartholomew in full, with the attachment of photocopies of the original. Moreover, on the Romfea's website, this news got more than 100,000 (!) views in less than a day. However, Romfea did not publish the Epistle of the Head of Phanar to Kiev Epifanios on the occasion of the 1033th anniversary of the “Baptism of the Russians”.

Therefore, the question of how consistent Metropolitan Apostolos' statement is with the real position of Phanar can be answered as follows: they are identical in content, but different in form. While the slant of Metropolitan Apostolos is banally rude, then on the part of the official Phanar it is explicitly disregarding.

Two different ecclesiologies

Now let's move on to analyzing the content of the Appeal of the Congress of Monastics of the UOC and the passage of Metropolitan Apostolos. As already mentioned, they reflect a completely different understanding of what the Church of Christ is.

The UOC understands this as follows: “The millennial tradition of Orthodoxy was built on the unity of the Local Orthodox Churches, each of which fully possesses all the fullness of grace to form all together the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Ecumenical Church. This unity of the Local Orthodox Churches can be likened to the Holy Eucharist, where Christ is in all the Holy Lamb and in every particle as well."

Everyone can read the book of the Acts of the Apostles, and even better the whole New Testament, and make sure that this description of the Church is fully consistent with the Holy Scriptures. If you go deeper and investigate the works of the holy fathers and the decisions of the Ecumenical Councils, the result will be all the same.

But Metropolitan Apostolos speaks of the UOC as a kind of Protestantism. He exclaims pompously: “Which Church are you talking about? For a modern Protestantism that you profess? Sit seriously in positions of humiliation and apprenticeship, because even if on earth you think you have conquered the whole world, the indignation of the Ecumenical, Local, and other Synod Fathers, who established and interpreted the unique responsibilities of Constantinople, but also the Justice of God they intervene even then… ‘sinners where we go’."

Phanar sees the Church as a totality of Local Churches headed by the Patriarchate of Constantinople, which has special powers and bears special responsibilities in Orthodoxy.

Having studied the statements of other Constantinople hierarchs, as well as Patriarch Bartholomew himself, at least for the last two years, one can make sure that they are all similar. Therefore, at least in this respect, these words can be considered the actual position of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, which sees the Church as a set of Local Churches led by the Patriarchate of Constantinople, which has special powers and bears special responsibilities in Orthodoxy.

If the Ukrainian Orthodox Church views the Church in absolutely the same way as it has done throughout the two thousand-year history of Christianity, then Phanar proposes a new model of church structure. Its essence is that Orthodoxy is reduced to the Patriarchate of Constantinople, which, as the Phanariots declare, expresses "the etat of Orthodoxy." Constantinople is the Mother of all Local Churches, which exist insofar as they are in communion with Constantinople and obey its orders.

This model fundamentally contradicts the Orthodox dogma about the Church, and if we take into account the almost complete dependence of the Patriarchate of Constantinople on the US political establishment, as evidenced by the history of Phanar over the past half century, then the situation begins to look quite bleak.

What we owe to the Greeks

Whether one calls our people Ukrainians or Russians, we have always remembered and remember from whom we received Holy Baptism, the Gospel teaching, monastic tradition, and so on. The Address of the Monastic Congress mentions about this: “We, monastics of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, have always treated the spiritual tradition of the great Greek monasteries with respect and reverence. For us, both Holy Mount Athos and other monasteries in Greece have been places of receiving spiritual guidance and care. This phenomenon is traditional for the monastic tradition of our Church. Almost every monastery in Ukraine has icons painted on Mount Athos and Greece-related shrines. We treated the Greek monks, from whom we received spiritual instruction in simplicity, with love and reverence."

Let's think about the best way to show gratitude for the fact that we received an invaluable gift, the Orthodox faith, from Constantinople (historians have other opinions)? This question was answered by the holy Apostle John the Theologian, who said: “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in truth” (3 John 4). Fidelity to Orthodoxy and spiritual tradition is the best gratitude that we can express in relation to those who have enlightened us with Christ's faith. But the Phanariots for some reason believe that we should be in full and unconditional obedience to the modern Greeks for the fact that their ancestors passed on to us the holy Orthodox faith.

Fidelity to Orthodoxy is the best gratitude that we can express in relation to those who have enlightened us with Christ's faith. But the Phanariots for some reason believe that we should be in full and unconditional obedience to the Greeks because their ancestors passed on to us the holy Orthodox faith.

Here is how Metropolitan Apostolos speaks about it: “I read with disgust in the media the anti-church and anti-Greek statements of representatives of the Russian presence in Ukraine and with holy indignation, I answer: Put your hands and mouth down from the Successor of those who made you Christians! You owe everything you are to what you so disparagingly call: Constantinople! For us, it is the one City that has stood here for centuries now and only benefits all of you who celebrate the thousand, one thousand, and thirty-three years of your Christianity, without mentioning anywhere who was the one who baptized you and gave you what you boast you have. We have given you light, you are returning it to us in darkness! We gave you grace, you give us ungratefulness! We brought you culture, you insult us!"

At the same time, it would be logical to ask the question: are modern Phanariots faithful to that Orthodoxy and the spiritual tradition that their ancestors passed on to us 1033 years ago? With sorrow we can state that no, they are not. Phanar's deviation from Orthodox ecclesiology has already been mentioned above. In addition, today the Patriarchate of Constantinople is in its final lap of the third in a row union with the Latins, which is backsliding not only from the dogma of the Church, but also from many other dogmas.

In general, the issue of any claims of contemporaries based on the merits of their ancestors was resolved two thousand years ago by the Lord Jesus Christ himself. When proud Jews declared to Christ that “we are children of Abraham,” He answered them: “If you were Abraham’s children, you would do what Abraham did” (John 8:39). In these words, the Lord gave all of us a criterion for all time: we are as much the heirs of our glorious ancestors as we are committed to their faith and virtues.

In full accordance with this understanding of the matter, the Congress of Monasticism of the UOC calls out to Patriarch Bartholomew: "Remember the firm commitment to Orthodoxy of your great predecessors."

A call to repentance

The text of the Appeal of Monastics of the UOC to Patriarch Bartholomew does not contain the words in the title of the article: "Repent, brother," but the essence of the text is precisely about it. First, a short retrospective is given with reference to those times when Patriarch Bartholomew did not take liberties to grossly violate the canons of the Church: “We remember your visits to Ukraine, as well as your representatives’, when you illustrated in every possible way your support for the legitimate Metropolitan of Kyiv, first to His Beatitude Metropolitan Vladimir (Sabodan), and then to his successor, Metropolitan Onuphry of Kyiv and All Ukraine."

And then, in bright colors, without any diplomatic curtsy, a picture is drawn of everything that Patriarch Bartholomew will inflict on the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Churchin the future: “Therefore, for us the greatest pain and the greatest sorrow were those treacherous actions that you, as a first among equal bishops of the Orthodox world, made towards the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church. We are at a loss as to what motivated your decisions, but we see with our own eyes what they led to. With confusion in our hearts and sorrow, we, monastics of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, ask you, Patriarch Bartholomew, how your morality accepts the level of turmoil that your decision brought to our country: the seizure of churches, the beating of ordinary believers, discrimination of our pastors and flock at the state level, calls for the extermination of our clergy? 

Do you understand that in your declining years, you became the reason for the division of the one people of God, in which, according to the words of the Apostle Paul: “Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all” (Col. 3:11)? To please what anti-church forces, you committed an unprecedented crime against the Church? Do you realize that into the bloody confrontation that sows grief among our people, you brought new seeds of religious struggle, from which the Lord saved us earlier?”

And it all ends with a call to repentance: “In this situation, we, the monastics of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, call upon you to assess the consequences of your actions and reconsider your decision. Become the first bishop and father recognized by all Orthodox Christians again. Remember the firm commitment to Orthodoxy of your great predecessors. Think what a great responsibility will rest on you if in the history of Orthodoxy your name will forever be associated with trampled unity and will not be on a par with the names of your great predecessors and saints: John Chrysostom, Photius, Tarasius, Gennady, but among the traitors to the Church that defiled the Throne of Constantinople..

Before the common shrines of all Orthodox Christians, we, the bishops, abbots, and abbesses of all the holy monasteries of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, offer our prayers to the Merciful Lord to grant you to see what your desire to unite the legitimate Church with those who fell from it decades earlier and strengthened in their hardheartedness, sowing confusion and division among ordinary people, has led to."

Phanar’s response

Let us repeat, the passage of Metropolitan Apostolos is not a direct and immediate response to the Appeal of the Monastic Congress, but means so in the vein of the Ukraine-Phanar "dialogue". This answer consists in the following:

  • shut up;
  • put your hands down;
  • you respond with ungratefulness;
  • we gave you grace, and you offend us;
  • finally stop your malice, hatred and arrogance.

However, the Appeal of the monastics of our Church sets out the reality that exists in Ukraine today, Patriarch Bartholomew being one of its main reasons. All of the aforesaid – raider seizures of temples, the beating of ordinary believers, discrimination against our pastors and flock at the state level, calls for the extermination of our clergy – are documented facts. Nobody fables anything.

Consequently, we see, on the one hand, facts, and on the other, just rudeness without any substantiation. One cannot help but recall an old Greek proverb: "Jupiter, you are angry – it means you are wrong."

What's next?

The tone of the Appeal of monastics of the UOC to Patriarch Bartholomew is rather harsh; the text is sharply-worded:

  • how your morality accepts that level of turmoil;
  • do you understand what caused the separation;
  • you have committed an unprecedented crime;
  • and others.

The rigidity of these formulations allows us to conclude that in practical terms, the monastics of the UOC do not hope that Patriarch Bartholomew will change his position and turn again into a “good shepherd” form the person who sows enmity and discord. If there were such a hope, then the tone of the Appeal would have been so as to allow Patriarch Bartholomew to save his face, at least to the extent possible in the situation at hand. But all the attitudes of the head of Phanar tell to abandon any hope.

History knows almost no cases when a person of such a level, moreover, who has gone so far in his destructive activity, would suddenly stop to repent; although everything is possible by God's providence, of course.

From a practical point of view, the Appeal of monastics is a preparation for radical decisions of the Church regarding Patriarch Bartholomew and the errors he is associated with. Perhaps, soon we will see – this time at the level of the episcopate of not only one Local Church, but of all of those who are not swept away by Phanar's false wisdom – an unambiguous and clear assessment of the actions of Patriarch Bartholomew and the new ecclesiology being imposed by Phanar on the World Orthodoxy.

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