Bartholomew's visit to Ukraine: When "mother church" is no longer a mother

The arrival of the head of Phanar provoked protests from the believers of the UOC. Photo: UOJ

From 20 to 24 August, the head of Phanar was staying in Ukraine. What did he do here? Whom did he come to? Why did this visit take place at all? Let’s take stock.

Did Patriarch Bartholomew come as a shepherd or a politician?

In 2001 Pope John Paul II visited Ukraine. He was invited by Catholic hierarchs and the Ukrainian authorities. Everything was legal, since the pope is not only a religious leader, but also a political one being the Head of State of the Vatican. It would seem, the situation is similar with Patriarch Bartholomew. He was also invited by the religious structure – the OCU, and the Ukrainian authorities in the person of President Vladimir Zelensky. But here's the problem. While Dumenko can invite Bartholomew, Zelensky cannot. According to the Constitution of Ukraine, our Church is separated from the state. Patriarch Bartholomew is not a politician; from the point of view of the Ukrainian authorities, he is just the head of one of the Turkish religious organizations, the same as, for example, the head of Turkish Muslims Ali Erbaş or the Chief Rabbi of Turkey Ishak Haleva.

Nevertheless, the authorities accepted Patriarch Bartholomew as a politician of the highest level. On August 20, at the airport, he was met by a delegation led by Prime Minister Shmygal, after arrival, almost at night, he was received by President Vladimir Zelensky, the next day official meetings were held with the Head of Parliament Razumkov and the same Prime Minister Shmygal. Finally, during the festivities in honor of the 30th anniversary of Independence Day, Patriarch Bartholomew took his place on the VIP stand next to the presidents of Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania and North Macedonia. In what capacity was he there? The question is left without an answer.

Patriarch Bartholomew attends the celebrations of the 30th anniversary of Ukraine's Independence. Photo: broadcast screenshot

Whom did Bartholomew come to?

Nominally, Patriarch Bartholomew has no flock in Ukraine. Even the OCU assures that his title "Ecumenical" is not a sign of power, but only a historical rudiment left after the times of the Byzantine Empire. Consequently, the Patriarchate of Constantinople has no supremacy over the OCU and it is nobody for the Ukrainians. Actually, this was confirmed by the visit to Ukraine – even among the supporters of the OCU, the arrival of Bartholomew did not arouse interest. Let's delve into recent history for comparison.

In 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2013, Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Church visited Ukraine. Let's see how the believing people greet him. A huge number of people attend services with the participation of the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church, and most importantly – they came there on their own initiative.

In the situation with the arrival of Patriarch Bartholomew, we can see a completely different picture. On August 21, at the St. Michael's Cathedral of the OCU, "doxology" was held – a solemn service for the meeting of the Patriarch of Constantinople. It would seem that both the cathedral and the entire square in front of it should have been crowded with people eager to greet the patriarch who granted the Tomos to the OCU. But in reality, everything was different. True, the Cathedral was filled, only with the "clergy" of the OCU wearing identical kamelaukions (Orthodox priest’s headgear – Trans.). There were only a few dozen believers, which can be clearly seen in the broadcast footage.

In the evening of the same day, Patriarch Bartholomew officiated the vespers in St. Andrew's church, which had been made the Phanar’s stauropegia by the Ukrainian authorities. The situation is identical – we can see the “hierarchs” of the OCU, journalists and “VIP parishioners”: Poroshenko, Yurash, the criminal authority Petrovsky. We don't see ordinary believers. This was supposed to be corrected by the service on the territory of St. Sophia Cathedral, which took place on August 22. The day before, messages came from all regions about the organization of buses for this service in the OCU, which helped to bring more than a thousand people there, who were mixed with the "clergy" of the OCU. As a result, the TV picture turned out to be satisfactory. But if we recall the recent statements of the OCU that 58% of all Ukrainians identify themselves with this structure, there should have been not hundreds and thousands, but millions. There were no millions, and even those enthusiastic came to greet not the Turkish guest, but a completely different person, Petro Poroshenko.

Supporters of the OCU in St. Sophia of Kyiv welcome Petro Poroshenko. Photo: screenshot of P. Poroshenko's YouTube channel

The behavior of the "hierarchs" of the OCU, when the Ecumenical was making his landmark speech, is also indicative. Standing in the altar, they laugh, talk on the phone, and loudly discuss something among themselves. They don't listen, they are not interested.

At the same time, there were tens of thousands of true believers in Ukraine, who were looking forward to meeting with Patriarch Bartholomew, albeit not in the capacity he had anticipated.

Bartholomew and the UOC

Even before the arrival of the head of Phanar, there was a wave of protests against his visit practically in all dioceses of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Parishioners wrote posters asking him to refrain from the visit. The reason is simple and obvious – the legalization of Ukrainian schismatics by Bartholomew led to huge problems for many communities: 144 temples seized by raiders of the OCU, hundreds of illegal re-registrations, which at any moment can lead to seizures. Beaten parishioners and rectors, priests and families driven out of their homes, enmity and hatred are all dire consequences of the Phanar's intervention, which Patriarch Bartholomew calls a blessing for Ukrainians. These are not all fantasies of fringe elements; there is a great deal of video materials and testimonies of the victims. Moreover, the communities in dozens of villages, from which Bartholomew’s chicks took away the temples, were able to build new ones. For these people, the head of Phanar is not a shepherd of Christ, but a person who gave the go-ahead to an attempt to destroy their Church. The Church with millions of parishioners.

When it became clear that Bartholomew was still going to Ukraine, the believers decided to meet with him to tell him about the real situation to his face. A lot of parishioners of the UOC have united to defend their Church into the public union "Miriane" (Laymen – Trans.). They sent a letter to Phanar inviting them to a meeting on August 21 in front of the Verkhovna Rada. When Patriarch Bartholomew flew to Ukraine, thousands of parishioners lined up along the highway from the airport to Kyiv. They were holding posters with an invitation to Bartholomew to a meeting and portraits of His Beatitude Onuphry, whom Phanar "stripped" of his title of Metropolitan of Kyiv in his fantasies. Huge banners were hung on the bridges with an invitation to a meeting. Thus, Bartholomew probably knew that he was expected.

Banner on the Boryspil highway inviting Patriarch Bartholomew to a meeting. Photo: UOJ

And so, the day of the meeting came, when over 10 thousand Ukrainians gathered in front of the Verkhovna Rada.

What did the man who constantly repeats about concern for the unity of Ukrainian Orthodoxy, for the well-being of the entire Ukrainian people, do?

Maybe, the head of Phanar as a true shepherd came out to the believers, listened to them and promised to fix all the problems? No. He chose to turn a blind eye to them. Bartholomew's luxurious cortege drove into the Verkhovna Rada through the courtyard. Everything happened like in Hollywood action films, in a matter of moments – on approaching of the motorcade, the gates were opened and slammed right behind the last car. In the same way, secretly, after a meeting with Speaker of the Parliament Dmitry Razumkov, Patriarch Bartholomew left the building through the back door. He did not go out either to the believers during the next two days, when they held a prayer standing under the windows of his residence.

Prayer standing of believers of the UOC in front of the residence of the head of the Phanar in Kyiv. Photo UOJ

Thus, the head of the Phanar did not find time for the believers of the multimillion Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Let's check what he was so busy with.

He had a meeting with the President, Prime Minister, Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada, he also met with ex-President Yushchenko, ex-President Poroshenko, had a festive meal at the Greek Embassy, met with the children of Crimean Tatars and the military, spoke at a veteran forum, attended a reception in Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, met with the Greek Diaspora, planted trees on the Vladimir Hill, presented the title of archon to the sponsor of the OCU, "beer king" Andrei Matsola, and attended the President's reception on the occasion of Independence Day.

As we can see, the schedule is very busy. How can one find time to meet with the believers of the largest confession of the country – the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, in which there are 12 and a half thousand parishes? These words are irony. If Patriarch Bartholomew was a pastor and not a politician, he would have come out to the believers on the way from the airport. But he prefers not to notice them, to pretend they do not exist.

However, there was a single occasion when he remembered about the canonical Church. Bartholomew said he was ready to listen to the faithful of the UOC, but on his own terms: “We invite in this sacred time and call wholeheartedly the brothers in Christ, the hierarchs in this country, their clergy and believers, who do not have church communion with us, to reconsider their position and to foster peaceful coexistence and mutual understanding between people and Orthodox Christians here, sharing love for identity, for the sake of reconciliation and the establishment of tolerance we all need. As a mother church, we are always ready to listen to problems, dispel doubts, soothe anxiety, heal injuries of all our children with the grace of God, but within the framework of a consecrated church tradition.”

What is “the framework of a consecrated church tradition” in the eyes of Phanar? It is not hard to guess – it means to bow to the layman Sergei Dumenko.

Among other things, Patriarch Bartholomew attended a meeting of the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations, where he spoke in detail with Catholics and Uniates. He announced the aspiration of the Orthodox and Catholics "to restore unity in communion" and presented the head of the Uniates Sviatoslav Shevchuk with a panagia with a commemorative inscription.

Svyatoslav Shevchuk: “For me, this is a symbolic sign that the mother church is attentive to her daughter, while we, as a daughter church, are respectful of our mother church. Panagia is a sign of episcopal dignity. To receive a panagia from the hands of the patriarch is a sign of recognition of episcopal dignity not only for me, but also for the episcopate of our church."


What's the bottom line? Patriarch Bartholomew talked with the Ukrainian authorities, politicians, state officials, but studiously avoided those with whom he was obliged to meet – those whom he constantly calls his flock and children – believers of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. As a result, the division, which Phanar aggravated with its Tomos, remained and will only continue.

While the guest from Turkey was attending receptions and having dinners, tens of thousands of UOC believers were praying at another cross procession. This time – to the Pochaiv Lavra. Take a look at this video, where 40 thousand people, having covered 250 kilometers, enter the monastery. Take a look at the metropolitans of the UOC, Theodore of Kamyanets-Podilsky or Sergiy of Ternopil, who walked in a cassock with the other cross walkers, and compare them with the pretentious politician Bartholomew and his Ukrainian retinue. And now tell us – which of them should be chosen by an ordinary believer, who is seeking the way to Christ, as a guide? I think the answer is obvious.


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