A Letter by Sergei Dumenko to the Patriarch of Alexandria

Сергей Думенко написал патриарху Феодору письмо поддержки. Фото: СПЖ

Sergei Dumenko has published a "letter of support" to Patriarch Theodore. It contains new views on the canons, history and inter-church relations. We analyze the text.

On January 15, 2022, Sergei (Epifaniy) Dumenko published on the OCU website his letter to Patriarch Theodore of Alexandria regarding the creation of the Patriarchal Exarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church in Africa.

The first surprising thing is the very fact of the appearance of this letter. During the three years of its existence, the OCU has not had time to be marked by anything, except for a split in its ranks, scandals and raider seizures of other people's churches. And then suddenly the head of the OCU declares himself at the international level as a defender of the "offended" Patriarchate of Alexandria. S. Dumenko's letter was published in Greek, English, Russian and Ukrainian, with the Greek text first on the website, which looks very strange to the uninitiated.

A letter by Dumenko to Patriarch Theodore. Photo: the OCU’s official website 

And, of course, we simply take a hat off to astonishing historical illiteracy and attempts to accuse others of one’s own sins. So, in due order.

Canon 6 of the First Ecumenical Council

In the first paragraph of the letter, Dumenko accuses the ROC of violating Canon 6 of the First Ecumenical Council, which reads: "Let the ancient customs in Egypt, Libya, and Pentapolis prevail: that the Bishop of Alexandria have jurisdiction in all these, since the like is customary for the Bishop of Rome also. Likewise in Antioch and the other provinces, let the Churches retain their privileges. And this is to be universally understood: that if any one be made bishop without the consent of the Metropolitan, the Great Synod has declared that such a man ought not to be a bishop.”

This Canon was a response to the Melitian Schism of 306 when Bishop Melitius of Lycopolis dissented from the Bishop Peter of Alexandria regarding the reception of the fallen into the Church and set about ordaining clerics for the Alexandrian Church. In doing so, Melitius' actions were blatantly schismatic since Bishop Peter of Alexandria was a legitimate bishop who was not excommunicated from the Church and was not in communion with schismatics.

Today, the Primate of the Church of Alexandria, Patriarch Theodore, has clearly become schismatic himself by entering into communion with the excommunicated "hierarchs" of the OCU.

If S. Dumenko had read this Canon more carefully (or read at all), he would have realized that it says that he, S. Dumenko, cannot be a bishop: "If any one be made bishop without the consent of the Metropolitan, the Great Synod has declared that such a man ought not to be a bishop.” At the time of the "ordination" of Dumenko, the Metropolitan of Kyiv was His Beatitude Vladimir (Sabodan), who was recognized by all, including the Patriarchates of Alexandria and Constantinople. Thus, without the consent of Metropolitan Vladimir, Dumenko was made "bishop", not to mention the fact that he was "ordained" by excommunicated Metropolitan Filaret Denisenko.

The words of Canon 6 "… and in the other provinces, let the Churches retain their privileges" mean that the Patriarch of Constantinople had no right in 2018 to intrude into the territory of Ukraine since the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church operates there.

Revenge on "Your Beatitude"

“We are well aware that the actions of Patriarch Kirill of All Russia to establish a so-called exarchate in Africa have no canonical, pastoral, or even Christian motive, but are based solely on revenge on Your Beatitude and the Patriarchate headed by you for canonical communion with the Orthodox Church of Ukraine. Therefore, we fully endorse all evaluations and decisions of the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Alexandria regarding this matter."

Firstly, Dumenko established the very causal relationship between the recognition of the OCU by Patriarch Theodore and the creation of the Russian Patriarchal Exarchate in Africa, which Moscow always speak about.

Secondly, the question inevitably arises – for what and who did the 102 clerics of the Patriarchate of Alexandria who wrote petitions to the Moscow Patriarch for their acceptance into the jurisdiction of the Russian Orthodox Church "take revenge" on? Moreover, many of them wrote these petitions two years ago, immediately after the recognition of the OCU by Patriarch Theodore. After all, they did not take revenge but simply did not want to enter into communion with the schismatics.

Thirdly, can we call revenge the fact that the ROC is going to build churches and monasteries in Africa, to organize educational institutions, etc.? One can take something away out of revenge but when, on the contrary, one gives it away, it is something else. Actually, the ROC is going to do in Africa what the Alexandria Patriarchate was supposed to do. However, it is too early to talk about this, let's wait until these plans begin to be implemented.

"Invasion" in the Kyiv Metropolis

Further, S. Dumenko tells about the “invasion” of the Moscow Patriarchate into the Kyiv Metropolis. In particular, he writes: “… as is well known, in the second half of the 17th century, taking advantage of difficult circumstances and relying upon the political power of the tsars, the Patriarchate of Moscow invaded the Metropolis of Kyiv.”

It goes about the events of 1686 when the Metropolis of Kyiv was given into the jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate. What were those difficult circumstances that provoked the "invasion"? It turns out that it was ... a threat of the complete destruction of Orthodoxy in the Ukrainian lands and the imposition of Catholicism in the form of a union.

Here is what Patriarch Joachim of Moscow writes to Patriarch James of Constantinople: “Let Your Holiness know the reason for this letter: the Kyiv Metropolis has been left without an archpastor for many years, the see is vacant and geographically removed from Your Holiness. Due to the distance and danger from wild peoples during the journey, the Kyiv flock was deprived of edification, and as a result was subjected to many sorrows and corruption, and especially in that part that is in the Polish state, so some of the clergy, seeing the Roman temptation, were renamed from Christians to Uniates and began to call themselves differently: some as the Metropolitan of Kyiv and All Russia, the other – the guardian of the Kyiv throne so as to try by such names to convert all the Christians of the Kyiv diocese from the Orthodox faith into their false teaching and subject the Church of Rome to the union.”

Of course, in this case, we can say that the Moscow Patriarch is a person interested. But here is the same statement, only not from an ecclesiastical, but from a political point of view, we find in the text of Philip Orlyk’s “Constitution”: “It is no secret that hetman Bogdan Khmelnitsky of glorious memory rebelled with the Zaporozhian Host and began a righteous war against the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth for the rights and military liberties, but above all for the holy Orthodox faith, which, by various hardships of the Polish authorities, was forced into union with the Roman Church. And after the eradication of heterodoxy from our Homeland with the Zaporozhian Host and the Little Russian people, he voluntarily succumbed and went under the protection of the Moscow state with the sole purpose – only for the sake of the common Orthodox faith.”

That is, if we rely on the point of view of Orlyk, then S. Dumenko expresses regret that the Kyiv Metropolis ended up as part of the Moscow Patriarchate, and not the Roman Catholic Church. Well, in the light of today's rapprochement between the OCU and the Greek Catholics, such regret is quite understandable.

"Anathematized" Methodius

S. Dumenko writes that the “invasion” of the Moscow Patriarchate began with a certain Bishop Methodius, who was illegally appointed as Locum Tenens of the Kyiv Metropolis, just as today the Russian Orthodox Church has appointed Metropolitan Leonid as Patriarchal Exarch in Africa.

“Just as Metropolitan Leonid of Russian Church was appointed exarch in Africa, at that time the Moscow Patriarchate ordained Methodius, a priest from Ukraine, as bishop and appointed him as  ‘Locum Tenens of the Kyiv Metropolis’ within the canonical territory of the living Metropolitan Joseph of Kyiv and All Rus. For such lawlessness, Methodius was anathematized by the Ecumenical Patriarch,” wrote S. Dumenko.

It is not known who advised Sergei Dumenko to "show off" his knowledge of historical facts, but this advice was very reckless.

Firstly, Archpriest Maxim Filimonov (monastic name – Methodius) was appointed not under Metropolitan Joseph (by the way, there were two Josephs: Neliubovich-Tukalsky and Shumliansky), but much earlier, in 1661, during the lifetime of Metropolitan Dionysius Balaban of Kyiv.

Secondly, Metropolitan Dionysius Balaban, despite his oath of allegiance to the Moscow tsar, defected to the Polish king and, accordingly, could not manage church affairs in Left-Bank Ukraine, including Kyiv. The Locum Tenens here was Archbishop Lazar Baranovich of Chernigov, loyal to Moscow.

Thirdly, Methodius Filimonov was appointed not to the Kyiv See but to the Mstislav one, instructing him to govern instead of Lazar Baranovich. And it was the Metropolitan Pitirim, the Locum Tenens of the Moscow Patriarchal Throne, who made this appointment. 

Fourthly, poor Methodius received his first anathema not from the Patriarch of Constantinople but from the Moscow Patriarch Nikon, who by that time had already abdicated the throne but then declared that he continued to be patriarch.

Fifthly, an anathema to Methodius from the Patriarch of Constantinople was requested by Metropolitan Dionysius Balaban and hetman Yuri Khmelnitsky, who broke their oath and defected to the Polish king, accusing Methodius of the usurpation of power. Moreover, the Patriarch imposed an anathema based on their words without any trial and even without demanding written explanations from Methodius.

Sixthly, this anathema was very quickly lifted after a letter from Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich to the Patriarch of Constantinople, which, in particular, said: “We send a word to Your Beatitude with a plea for Methodius, the bishop of your holy flock <...> the metropolitan of your flock who rejected us and betrayed us <...> Dionysius Balaban, who had gone to our enemy, the Polish king, came to them on his orders and persuaded many of them to be under his hand and unite with the papists. And as they were already ready to fall away, we feared for their souls not to perish, painfully took care of their salvation, and, seeing this man, Methodius, a native of that place, who could lead them to the truth, we made him ordained so that they would not get caught up in the devil's net and would be alive.” After that, the anathema was lifted, and Methodius for some time quite legally managed church affairs. True, then he went over to the side of the Poles, and then back to the side of Moscow, but that's another story.

This time was very tragic for Ukraine, but what S. Dumenko calls “invasion” was in fact the defence of Ukrainian Orthodoxy from absorption by Catholicism in the form of a union, and the Ukrainian people from extermination due to the constant raids of the Poles and Crimean Tatars, as well as hetman feuds.

"Invasion" or rescue?

S. Dumenko did not stop at the example of the Kyiv Metropolis and told us about the "invasion" of the ROC in other countries as well. Here is what he wrote: "We must not forget the many other cases when the Church of Russia has invaded territory and violated canons. Without any basis, this Church and the Russian state in the 18th century invaded to the Metropolis of Crimea of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, in the 19th century that of the autocephalous Church Georgia, and to Bessarabia of the Ecumenical Patriarchate."

That the annexation of Crimea and a small part of Bessarabia to the Russian Empire was not enslavement but, on the contrary, the rescue of the Christians living there from the horrors of the Turkish yoke, can be found in more detail in the article: "How OCU propagandists deceive the gullible Ukrainians". Those who are at least briefly familiar with the Christian history of Crimea will agree that this thesis by Sergei Dumenko looks particularly cynical.

The only case that does not do the ROC any credit is Georgia. The ancient autocephalous Georgian Church was indeed abolished there, and the Exarchate of the ROC arose in its place. However, even here the question was not whether or not to be the Georgian Patriarchate, but whether or not to be Orthodoxy in Georgia in general. In 1800, the Avar Khan Omar, nicknamed Mad, invaded Georgia. At that, the Avars were just the vanguard of the Persian shah Fatah Ali, who wanted to conquer Georgia. And only the inclusion of Georgia, or rather the fragmented Georgian principalities at the time, into the Russian Empire saved the country and respectively the Church from a bloody massacre and possible total destruction.

"Ecumenical" Patriarch of Moscow

S. Dumenko writes: "And records of the Moscow Patriarchate and Stalin’s government lay out clear plans for convening a so-called Ecumenical Council after World War II for the purpose of declaring the Patriarch of Moscow the ‘Ecumenical’ Patriarch.”

Indeed, there was such an idea. It belonged to …. Colonel G. G. Karpov, Chairman of the Council on the ROC under the Council of Ministers of the USSR. He developed it and even reported to Stalin. But things did not go beyond the idea. Is it worth blaming the ROC for the ideas promoted by the anti-church authorities?

We think S. Dumenko should have mentioned in his letter that long before G.G. Karpov the same idea was promoted by Athanasius III (Patellarios) of Constantinople, known in our country as St. Athanasius the Sitting, the Wonderworker of Lubny. In 1653, just a few years before the events that S. Dumenko describes as the "invasion" of the Moscow Patriarchate into the Kyiv Metropolis, St Athanasius undertook a journey to Moscow to persuade Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich to enter the war with the Ottoman Empire and, after victory, take the throne of the Byzantine Emperors. And the Moscow Patriarch, according to the saint's plan, was to receive the title "Ecumenical". This plan was set out in considerable detail in writing. On his way back, St Athanasius died in the Mhar monastery in Lubny and today his holy relics rest in the Kharkiv Cathedral.

"A guilty mind betrays itself"

Sergei Dumenko concludes his letter in a “great” way. He accuses the Moscow Patriarch of wanting to become the head of Orthodoxy, and to make Orthodoxy itself exclusively Russian: "We are, however, confident that the Holy Patriarchate of Alexandria, together with the Ecumenical Patriarchate and other wise Patriarchs and Primates  of the Holy Autocephalous Churches, will find an appropriate canonical solution to the present situation, one which will halt the Moscow Patriarchate’s efforts to create in Moscow the equivalent of a Catholic Pope, and turn Orthodoxy itself into an ethnocentric Russian sect."

Such accusations against the Patriarch of Moscow are absolutely groundless. S. Dumenko can’t cite a single fact, document or statement that would confirm these accusations. But if we turn them to the Patriarch of Constantinople, the evidence is abundant.

One can start with the "first without equals" theory formulated by the current head of the American Archdiocese, Elpidophoros (Lambriniadis). It reads, among other things: "If we talk about the source of primacy, the source of primacy is the very person, the Archbishop of Constantinople, who precisely as a bishop is a first "among equals", but as the Archbishop of Constantinople is the first hierarch without equals (primus sine paribus)”. What is this but pure papism?

And here are the words of Patriarch Bartholomew himself from an interview with “The National Herald” on the occasion of the 29th anniversary of his enthronement: "We, Orthodox, must make a self-criticism and reconsider our ecclesiology if we do not want to become a federation of Protestant Churches. Since in our ordination to a Bishop we swear to obey the decisions of the Ecumenical Councils, we must admit that in an indivisible Ecumenical Orthodoxy there is a “First” not only by honour but a “First” with special responsibilities and regular powers entrusted by the Ecumenical Councils."

And here are quotes from Patriarch Bartholomew's 2018 Synaxis speech: "Orthodoxy cannot exist without the Ecumenical Patriarchate... The Ecumenical Patriarch as head of the Orthodox Body... If the Ecumenical Patriarchate... leaves the inter-Orthodox scene, the Local Churches will become ‘like sheep without a shepherd (Matthew 9: 36)".

As for the accusation of ethnocentrism of the Russian Orthodox Church, expressed by Dumenko, we often hear such accusations from the Greek hierarchs. As recently as June 6, 2021, Patriarch Theodore of Alexandria, during a graduation ceremony of students from the African seminary, wished them to spread in Africa the light of ... Hellenism.

So, who really claims to be the "Orthodox Pope" and where do they promote their national supremacy?


By and large, all these letters, statements and declarations are worthless. What matters is the deeds, or, more precisely, the fruits of these deeds. The Lord said, “By their fruits, you will know them” (Matthew 7:16).

What are the fruits of the creation of the OCU? Seizures of temples, violence, enmity and lawlessness. What are the fruits of the recognition of the OCU by the Churches of Cyprus, Greece and Alexandria? Disagreements between the bishops, confusion among the clergy and the flock. In Africa, this recognition led to the unwillingness of some clerics to communicate with the schismatics and the creation of the Russian Patriarchal Exarchate.

Time will show what the fruits of this Exarchate will be. Let's hope that Orthodoxy in Africa will noticeably develop and strengthen, if not flourish. This will be the most convincing answer to both Patriarch Theodore, Patriarch Bartholomew, Sergei Dumenko, and all other ill-wishers. For all of them, the alternative seems to be the following: either to repent of all their iniquities and restore the lost unity to the Church or to proceed in powerless rage, trying to blame others for what they themselves are guilty of.

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Is the creation of the Exarchate of the ROC in Africa justified?
Yes, because the Patriarch of Alexandria has gone into schism
No, this is the expansion of the ROC into the territory of the Church of Alexandria
Can't make up my mind yet
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