Top 5 questions on prayer standing in view of Phanar head’s arrival

Believers are encouraged to communicate their position to Patriarch Bartholomew. Photo: UOJ

In light of the prayer standing at the Verkhovna Rada, announced by the "Miriane", many have perplexities and questions. We have collected the most typical ones.

On August 21, 2021, the Public Union "Miriane" announced a prayer standing at the Verkhovna Rada, where believers intend to meet with the head of Phanar and convey their demands to him. However, a lot of Orthodox Christians have doubts and bewilderments about this. The UOJ editors collected the most typical questions and contacted the head of "Miriane" Vasily Makarovsky to comment on them.

Question 1: Did His Beatitude Onuphry bless this prayer standing?

This question can be answered affirmatively, yet with some highlights. Vasily Makarovsky recalled that during its creation, the initiative group headed by him met with His Beatitude Onuphry, where the believers talked about the goals of the organization, ways and methods of achieving them and were blessed for this activity. On August 16, the “Miriane” published an official document of the Kyiv Metropolis with the following words of the Primate: “May God bless you for all good deeds. August 16, 2021, + Metropolitan Onuphry."

Blessing of Metropolitan Onuphry for the activities of the "Laity" organization. Photo: "Miriane" telegram channel

Therefore, the blessing of His Beatitude Onuphry for the activities of the "Miriane", including prayer standings at the state bodies, is definitely there. Vasily Makarovsky also recalled that there are already several regional representations in Ukraine, the activities of which were blessed by the local ruling bishop.

As for the blessing for a specific event on August 21, it is evidenced by the actions being taken, among other things, by the official structures of the Kyiv Metropolis. For example, the Synodal Information and Education Department of the UOC reported about the prayer standing, in Kyiv churches (probably, not only in Kyiv), priests urge believers ex cathedra to come to the prayer standing.

Spokesman of the UOC Fr. Nikolai Danilevich practically supported this standing, calling it useful for the Church: “Of course, believers can and should show initiative in protecting the interests of the Church, but it should benefit everyone. On August 21, a prayer standing will be held, organized by the Public Union "Miriane" and attended by the UOC religious communities, including those affected by the raiding of the OCU. Believers are going to ask Patriarch Bartholomew how the Church of Constantinople intends to remedy what it has done in Ukraine. I think this action will be useful. Let the Patriarch of Constantinople think about how to answer them."

All this illustrates that the hierarchy of the UOC blesses this action, as the ancient Roman jurists would say "actio ex consensus", which means “consent by action”. It cannot be otherwise due to the delicacy of this situation. Indeed, at the official church level, communication between the UOC and the Patriarchate of Constantinople was terminated in 2018 by virtue of the decision of the Council of Bishops of the UOC. Therefore, the direct or indirect participation of the hierarchy in contacts with representatives of the Patriarchate of Constantinople may be misinterpreted. The laity, on the other hand, may well contact Phanar in order to directly communicate the position of the UOC believers and all their demands. Therefore, the "Miriane” wrote a letter to Patriarch Bartholomew demanding a meeting on behalf of the laity.

Question 2: Why is there no unity?

At the moment, three initiatives are known regarding the arrival of Bartholomew:

  • flashmob # StopBartholomew;
  • prayer standing of the "Miriane" at the Verkhovna Rada;
  • cross procession from the Vladimir Hill to the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra with portraits of the Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church and the slogan "Our Patriarch is Kirill!"

The first two initiatives in no way violate the unity of the position of the believers of the UOC and do not contradict each other. We express our negative attitude towards the actions of Patriarch Bartholomew in general, not just towards his arrival in Ukraine. This position is manifested both by flashmobs # StopBartholomew and by a prayer standing at the Verkhovna Rada, and even by the letter sent by the laity to the Patriarchate of Constantinople demanding a meeting. After all, if we take a look at the text of this letter, we will see that the “Miriane” do not express a wish to have a sweet talk with the head of Phanar, but, on the contrary, call him to account for all the lawlessness and violence that affected Ukraine at his “mercy”.

As for the third initiative, to organize a cross procession from the Vladimir Hill to the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra, the UOC responded negatively to it and called it a provocation. The UOC spokesman Archpriest Nikolai Danilevich said: “Certain unreasonably jealous Orthodox Christians are now spreading calls on social networks to arrange some kind of ‘alternative’ action and to hold a cross procession intended for Patriarch Bartholomew, duplicating the route of the cross procession dedicated to the Day of the Baptism of Rus. I want to say that our Church has just held the Great Cross Procession, which gathered more than 350 thousand believers, and we do not need to prove anything to anyone, including the Patriarch of Constantinople. I am sure that Patriarch Bartholomew has seen photos and video materials of July 27. As for the UOC, it has no plans to hold any cross procession specifically for the head of the Church of Constantinople, and it cannot have. We normally go on a cross procession to pray, rather than prove something to someone."

To this we can add that chanting the slogans "Our Patriarch - Kirill!" at the cross procession and carrying his portraits is hardly appropriate now. No, we are not ashamed of the spiritual relation with the Russian Orthodox Church, the point is different. The main theses of the Phanar's current rhetoric regarding Ukraine boil down to the fact that the Patriarchate of Constantinople allegedly united Ukrainian Orthodoxy, and those who refused to unite are pro-Russian marginals, alien to Ukrainian society. Therefore, such a cross procession would have become a clear illustration of the words of the head of Phanar even during his stay in Ukraine.

Question 3: The "laity" were dead set against the arrival of Bartholomew, and now they are suddenly summoning Orthodox Christians to meet with him. Why is there such inconsistency?

And, in addition, why do we even have to testify our faith before Bartholomew, who is he? Isn't it better to ignore him?

The likelihood that Patriarch Bartholomew will approach the believers of the UOC is negligible. But this potential meeting is not a goal of the prayer standing in itself. Its goal is to express support for the UOC and its Primate, His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry, to testify to the authorities of Ukraine and the Phanar delegation that the UOC DOES EXIST despite its “abolition” by Patriarch Bartholomew and that it is still the BIGGEST DENOMINATION of Ukraine.

This position is consistent and unchanged. But the forms of its expression change depending on the situation. Yes, the “Miriane” and the UOC as a whole protested against the arrival of Patriarch Bartholomew to Ukraine. There were appeals in this regard to President V. Zelensky, then directly to Patriarch Bartholomew, who both turned a blind eye to them. Now, when the visit of the head of Phanar to Ukraine is almost inevitable, it was decided to get together and show that the “millions of Orthodox Ukrainians”, whom Patriarch Bartholomew regularly recalls in his statements, in fact, do not even think, following his instructions, of betraying their Church and uniting with schismatics ...

True though, the option to simply ignore the arrival of Patriarch Bartholomew also has the right to exist. But in this case, the head of Phanar will be right – after all, he “dissolved” the UOC, so there is “no UOC”, it doesn’t show itself in any way. Thus, the illusion will be created that the Ukrainian society welcomes both Patriarch Bartholomew and his entire OCU project. After all, by the time the head of Phanar appears at the festive state events, they will create a beautiful picture of "folk jubilation", where no one protests, no one objects, and everyone is happy. This is hardly what the believers of the UOC want to achieve. Therefore, the decision to call on believers to come and publicly declare that WE ARE HERE is very correct and does not in the least change the position of disagreement with the actions of Phanar in Ukraine.

Question 4: Where is the guarantee that the media will not present the UOC laity’s action as a picture “Grateful Ukraine meets Patriarch Bartholomew”?

It would really be funny if the host party pointed out to Patriarch Bartholomew that there were a lot of people near the Verkhovna Rada and said that these people had gathered to greet him and express their gratitude. After all, the OCU itself has huge difficulties gathering people under their banners – they did not even dare to hold a full-fledged cross procession this year on the day of memory of Saint Prince Vladimir.

Seriously though, the organizers of the prayer standing made sure that the believers of the UOC be identified precisely as believers of the UOC. They will have big posters in their hands with inscriptions that will leave no doubt about who these people are and what their attitude to the activities of Patriarch Bartholomew is.

Question 5: Aren’t church people playing political games too much? For their business is to pray, not to gather near the Verkhovna Rada for actions.

Politics is an activity associated with the conquest, retention and exercise of power. If believers came to a prayer service to overthrow or lobby any political parties, that would be politics. Defending your rights in the face of the threat of their violation is not politics. Moreover, when it comes to the rights to one's faith, then this is not politics at all. This is a demonstration of our loyalty to the Church. In addition, we must not forget that not just a rally, but a prayer standing will be held near the Verkhovna Rada. A moleben will be served there. We will ask God to enlighten the secular authorities and the Phanariots, who have sown discord and enmity in Ukraine, so that they change their minds, so that peace and harmony can be established in our country.

Presumably, one can sit at home and pray or one can go out into the streets and actively declare their loyalty to the Church. But it would be a big mistake to set the two actions against each other. They do not contradict, but rather complement each other. Anyone who considers it necessary to stay at home and pray for peace and harmony in our country will do very well. But whoever considers it necessary to respond to the call to come to the Verkhovna Rada on August 21 will do not less well.

In addition, we must not forget that the believers of the UOC are full-fledged citizens of Ukraine who participated in the election of MPs of Ukraine and have the right to declare their disagreement with the actions of the authorities in the religious sphere. We did not ask for either Tomos or the OCU or the arrival of Patriarch Bartholomew to Ukraine. This is our civil position, and we have the right to express it. Believers of the UOC are not second-class people; they also have their rights like all other citizens of Ukraine. And we just cannot agree that our rights are violated.

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