Phanar does not recognize Filaret’s “sacraments”: can one hence join OCU?

Filaret again ceased to be a bishop for Phanar? Photo: UOJ

Now believers are made to believe they should join the OCU due to warfare. At the same time, Phanar denies the sacraments performed by Filaret. How to put it together?

On March 29, 2022, the Archdiocese of Phanar in Australia issued a Communiqué following the Episcopal Assembly's meeting. At first glance, this is a document of exclusively local significance, but this is not entirely true. The Phanariots of Australia touched upon the most important issue that directly concerns the UOC and Orthodoxy as a whole. Let’s analyze what it is all about in our publication.

Does the war make the Church what is not the church?

Just yesterday, the Orthodox world was engaged in heated discussions about the canonical status of the top of the OCU, discussing the Phanar’s invasion of the canonical territory of the UOC and finding out how possible it is to hold a meeting of the Primates to resolve the crisis facing Orthodoxy since 2018. Now, when only 5 weeks of the Ukrainian war have passed, it seems that all this happened in some other life. It was as if we plunged into another, terrible reality, where people die every day, where the world is horrified by the images of bombed-out cities, mutilated corpses and destroyed temples.

Because of the war, the problem with the schism of Orthodoxy, perpetrated by Phanar, seems to have faded and receded into the background, as if it had never existed. In western Ukraine, communities are “transferred” to the OCU almost at gunpoint. However, there are some sympathizers with a voluntary transition. Their reasoning is purely political: they say that Russia has attacked us, which means it is unacceptable to be in spiritual unity with the Russian Orthodox Church. And if so, we must join the OCU, which is 100% patriotic. Such mouthpieces somehow forgot that the OCU is still considered a breakaway group of graceless schismatics by all Churches, except for the Greek ones. Instead, they argue that people are dying here, there is no time to reckon with the canons, Ukrainians do not want to delve into these “games of thrones”. It is important they have nothing to do with the enemy.

Can the war turn layman Sergei Dumenko into a canonical bishop, can it make his “sacraments” grace-filled?

Anyway, is such logic acceptable for a Christian? After all, military actions did not change the essence of the Church in any way. It has not ceased to be the Body of Christ. Can the war turn layman Sergei Dumenko into a canonical bishop, can it make his “sacraments” grace-filled? Aren't these the primary questions Christians should ask themselves?

Filaret did not have grace, but Dumenko has it?

The war caused huge embarrassment to the ranks of believers and even to parts of the UOC priesthood.

Some dioceses have stopped the commemoration of Patriarch Kirill; some are now calling for a Council to be convened demanding full autocephaly; certain priests, hesitating in unison with the "party line", get to the OCU. In fact, they realized in peacetime that the OCU is a structure outside the Church of Christ, but “forgot” about it with the outbreak of war.

For example, in the sensational story in Smila, where the territorial defense group dragged the “Moscow priest” from the Intercession church of the UOC, the organizer of this action, Fr. Nikolai Seredich announced to the parishioners that in the conditions of war there is no other way out except to join the OCU.

When the stunned parishioners reminded him of his own words that there is no grace in the OCU and it is impossible to join it, Seredich stated the following: “I meant the Filaretites, but this church (OCU - Ed.) has the Tomos, everything is legal here.”

In other words, in the eyes of the priest, the Filaretites were without grace, while the Dumenkovites already have grace. However, Fr. Nikolai answered reluctantly and tried to ignore such “uncomfortable” questions from his parishioners. However, can a Christian ignore them? After all, for each of us, the issue of grace of the Church we belong to is of vital importance. Therefore, Seredich's argument must be approached in detail, because he can become a pattern for others. In this connection, it is worth returning to the statement of the Phanar Archdiocese of Australia.

Phanar: The sacraments Filaret performs are invalid

“For the canonical Orthodox Church, there is no ‘Patriarchate of Kiev’ and Philaretos, as a self-proclaimed ‘Patriarch’ is not recognised by any canonical Orthodox Church nor, of course, by the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Therefore, his administrative acts and the sacraments he performs are invalid and non-existent for the Orthodox Church everywhere,” reads the Communique on the activities of the UOC-KP vicariate in Australia and New Zealand, headed by a certain Nektarios Alexandratos.

This statement was made to justify the “annexation” of the parishes of the Kyiv Patriarchate by the Phanar: “Within the canonical boundaries of the Holy Archdiocese of Australia, there are Ukrainian communities which, until recently, belonged to the so-called and never canonically recognised ‘Patriarchate of Kiev’. After the granting of Autocephaly in Ukraine by the Mother Church of Constantinople, a special committee, appointed by Archbishop Makarios, studied the prevailing situation and the legal conditions for the inclusion of these Communities in the jurisdiction of the Holy Archdiocese of Australia.”

This is a landmark statement for several reasons. Firstly, Phanariots can easily declare other people's parishes as their own. Secondly, and most importantly, for the first time since 2018, Phanar publicly called Filaret a person whose sacraments are invalid for the Church. That is, in the eyes of the Phanariotes, three years later he returned to his former status as a schismatic. In fact, this statement has very serious implications.

Three years later, Filaret, in the eyes of the Phanariotes, returned to his former status as a schismatic.

Filaret and Bartholomew: the history of relationships

Since 1992, when Filaret was banned from the priesthood in the Russian Orthodox Church, Phanar fully supported the actions of the Russian Church. In a letter to the Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church dated August 26, 1992, Patriarch Bartholomew wrote that he recognizes the defrocking of Filaret, and hence "recognizing the plentitude of the exclusive competence of Your Most Holy Russian Church on this issue,” Phanar made a synodal decision on the above.

In 1997, when Filaret was excommunicated from the Church in the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Bartholomew wrote to the Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church in a letter dated April 7 that he had received a letter “on the canonical decision of your Holy Synod regarding the anathematization of Filaret/Mikhail Denisenko, and having received notification of the said decision, we notified the hierarchy of our Ecumenical Throne about it and requested it to no longer have any church communion with the mentioned persons."

In other words, since 1992, Phanar considered Filaret to be defrocked, and since 1997 excommunicated from the Church. Naturally, from that moment on, there could be no talk of any “consecrations”. Accordingly, none of the "episcopate" of the UOC-KP, including Sergei Dumenko, can be a canonical bishop. They might as well have been "ordained" by anyone who was not a member of the Church.

What does this mean for a Christian? That all these Filaret's "hierarchs" could neither confess, administer the Holy Communion, nor perform other sacraments of the Church. That is, in the words of the Phanar hierarchs of Australia, the “sacraments” they performed are “invalid and non-existent for the Orthodox Church.”

Then came October 2018, and everything suddenly changed. The Synod of Constantinople, without any repentance or ecclesiastical judgment, called the anathematized Filaret a canonical bishop. Moreover, it called all whom he had “ordained” under anathema as canonical bishops. Why? Because it was dictated by the political circumstances.

Phanar again does not consider Filaret a canonical bishop. The decision of the Synod of Phanar on “reinstatement” of Filaret and Makariy in 2018, already canonically insignificant, is indirectly called erroneous.

This decision caused shock among the Local Churches, who could not understand how it was basically possible to call the impostors bishops, all the more “retrospectively”.

However, a few months later, Filaret announced that Dumenko and Poroshenko had cheated on him, left the OCU and restored his Kyiv Patriarchate. After that, he began to mercilessly criticize Phanar. For three years, the Patriarchate of Constantinople was stoically silent and "turned a blind eye" to the actions of its "reinstated" protégé. Now, being unable to grin and bear it, Phanar gave an assessment of the canonical status of the "honorary patriarch of the OCU": Filaret's "sacraments" are invalid for Phanar and all other Local Churches.

Thus, Phanar again does not consider Filaret a canonical bishop. The decision of the Synod of Phanar on “reinstatement” of Filaret and Makariy in 2018, already canonically insignificant, is indirectly called erroneous.

What can all this mean? Only one thing: that all Filaret's sacraments are invalid for Constantinople and all Local Churches, not only now. They have been invalid since 1992, as confirmed earlier by Patriarch Bartholomew.

Now we need to voice the last link in this logical chain. If Filaret’s “chirotony” is false, the “hierarch” he “ordains” cannot be true. Alas, the facts indicate that the “hierarchs” of the OCU are the people who cannot be related to the Church of Christ. So is it right to “pass” to the OCU just because the Russian Federation attacked our country?

If Filaret’s “chirotony” is false, the “hierarch” he “ordains” cannot be true. Alas, the facts indicate that the “hierarchs” of the OCU are the people who cannot be related to the Church of Christ.

***

True, there is a war in Ukraine now. Today we are extremely hurt by what is happening around. It hurts, among other things, because of the position of the hierarchy of the Russian Church, from which we do not actually hear words of sympathy for the afflictions of the Ukrainian people. Nevertheless, does this mean that you need to close your eyes and throw yourself headlong into the pool of schism? Do we have the right to hope that “everything can be put down to warfare”? Can we let ourselves be guided by the logic of the protagonist of the "Gone with the Wind" novel, who would tell herself "I'll think about it tomorrow" in difficult moments? After all, tomorrow it may be too late for a Christian. Christ may not give us "tomorrow".

The war will end sooner or later. Passions will subside, life will take its course. Years will pass, and someday Ukrainians will no longer consider Russians as enemies. More years will pass, and these countries will disappear. But the Church of Christ will remain.

We are all representatives of our nation and strive to protect its interests. But each of us is also a person, a “small Christian”, who simply wants and hopes to get into the Kingdom of Heaven. Do we have the right to risk our future? Do we have the right to ignore the words of Hieromartyr Ignatius the God-bearer, who said that “who follows a schismatic does not inherit the Kingdom of God”?

What do I gain when I am in the Church of Christ? I acquire Eternity, even if I was slandered and persecuted on earth. What do I gain if I leave or betray the Church, if I lose Christ? It may be the condescending approval of the world. But is it worth it?

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The recommendations of the VR committee to hold worship services only in Ukrainian are:
legal requirement of the state
20%
unlawful interference in the affairs of the Church
80%
mere talk
0%
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