Why war is still no reason to unite with schismatics

Is it possible to unite with schismatics because of the warfare? Photo: UOJ

Now representatives of all Ukrainian confessions are fighting together for Ukraine. Nevertheless, is this a sufficient ground for religious association?

Today, a number of believers and priests of the UOC are experiencing certain confusion of spirit. A paradoxical situation has arisen: in the current war against Russia, believers of the UOC often fight shoulder to shoulder with those who seized our churches, called for and carried out violence against our Church, who participated in torchlight processions to honor the memory of S. Bandera, shouted to us “death to enemies”, “grab your suitcase and go to Russia" and so on. In this war, we are on the same side with the supporters of the OCU and the UGCC, who are by no means sympathetic to our Church. Now we are defending the independence of Ukraine and doing everything to protect it all together. However, every war ends, so what will happen next?

Post-war options

Option one. Supporters of the OCU and the Uniates recognize the merits of the UOC believers in the fight against the enemy, begin to view us as patriots of Ukraine, stop accusations of collaborationism and agree that we, like all citizens of Ukraine, have the right to be in a religious organization we consider necessary.

To date, there are no signals that such an option is possible. Recognition of the patriotism of the UOC comes from the lips of state leaders, including the President, but not from religious leaders of other faiths. Moreover, there are signs to the contrary. For example, the “hierarchs” of the OCU Ivan (Eustratiy) Zoria or Drabinko publicly supported the bills to ban the UOC and declared that it should be destroyed.

Option two. Forcing the UOC to unite with "patriotic" confessions.

Filaret Denisenko was the first to speak on this matter. On February 28, 2022, he urged His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry, the episcopate, clergy and laity of the UOC to "unite into a single local autocephalous Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which will serve exclusively the interests of the Ukrainian people." His argument is simple: the war has broken out, and as long as the UOC is under the jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate, it is on the side of evil. But if it unites with Filaret, it will get to the side of good.

The argument is as simple as it is ridiculous. Firstly, the line of demarcation between good and evil does not run along the front line, but lies in the heart of every person. This truth should be familiar to anyone more or less familiar with the Orthodox teaching on spiritual life. “For out of the heart come evil thoughts — murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander” (Matthew 15:19). Secondly, does the UOC approve of the war? Does the UOC pray for the victory of the Russian Federation? Does the UOC bless Russian soldiers? Of course not. And if so, then what are the grounds for asserting that the UOC is on the “side of evil”? Moreover, does it have anything to do with the jurisdiction issue? For if any primate commits a sin, then it remains his personal sin and does not concern the flock or clergy. The only exception is a public heretical teaching.

Interestingly, for all his concern for the “interests of the Ukrainian people,” Filaret Denisenko did not make such an appeal to his protege Sergei (Epifaniy) Dumenko. Apparently, personal resentment for the former apprentice seems stronger.

Later, the head of the OCU, Sergei Dumenko, made a great entrance. According to social media reports, he fled to Greece in the first week of warfare, which is not quite patriotic. But then, apparently realizing that Kyiv was safe, he returned and started a vigorous activity.

On March 5, 2022, he addressed the communities and dioceses of the UOC, stating that since “you have always declared devotion to the canons”, it is necessary to move to the OCU. In turn, those who do not want to join the OCU should at least concelebrate with the Dumenkovites. On March 21, the OCU synod issued a resolution “On the emergency procedure for admission to the OCU”, which registered its disappointment over the fact that the UOC communities were still unwilling to transfer “due to the peculiarities of human psychology”, and urged again the dioceses and communities of the UOC to “observe the Tomos”.

In addition, Dumenko gave the command to his "bishops" to make similar appeals, and a wave of clichéd "fraternal appeals" swept through the Dumenko-occupied dioceses.

They did not bring much success. The OCU reports about dozens of “transitions”, but in the western regions of the country, the temples of the UOC are seized mostly by force, in addition, there are also cases of seizures using administrative resources. The incidence of voluntary transitions is small. In other words, Dumenko's lure doesn't work. Nevertheless, there is a thesis in the rhetoric of individual clergy of the UOC that love for the Motherland allows uniting in worship by the principle of patriotism, rather than the laws of the Church. In their opinion, the canons were relevant in peacetime, but now everything is different. Is it so?

Canons are nothing, patriotism is everything?

Now believers of the UOC and the OCU often fight in the same trenches. However, does this mean that these denominations should unite? Hardly. After all, Ukrainian Catholics, Muslims, and representatives of other religions are fighting in the Armed Forces of Ukraine alongside the Orthodox. Is it really on the basis of military brotherhood that we should unite religiously? The answer is obvious.

Nevertheless, in the current situation, the argument that the war leveled the significance of church canons is gaining popularity. Like, we are Ukrainians and we oppose a common enemy, which is enough for church unity, since the main thing is love for the Motherland and for each other.

A similar thesis occurs in the rhetoric of some priests of the UOC, who, turning to supporters of the OCU, say that we are Ukrainians and we are in the same boat. In addition, the key thing is that we will “revise a lot of things together”. But what can the members of the Church revise with those who consciously put themselves outside Her bosom?

What can the members of the Church revise with those who consciously put themselves outside Her bosom?

At the end of March, the action “Common prayer of the clergy of the OCU and the UOC” was held in St. Sophia of Kyiv, in which the “priest” of the OCU Georgy Kovalenko and the deacon of the Ioninsky Monastery of the UOC Nikolai Lysenko took part.

In one litany, Kovalenko prayed for “our lord and father, His Beatitude Epifaniy,” whereas Lysenko for “our lord and father, His Beatitude Onuphry.”

Deacon Nikolai Lysenko and OCU "priest" Georgy Kovalenko at a joint service in St. Sophia Cathedral. Photo: Kovalenko's Facebook page

Kovalenko, who published this “worship” on his Facebook page, wrote, “We hope that the Orthodox throughout Ukraine, notably the faithful of the UOC, will reject the Moscow hypocrisy and will pray together to God and serve the Ukrainian people, together with the faithful of the OCU.” The UOC deacon, in his turn, commented on this event as follows: “I did this so that Ukrainians in both branches of Orthodoxy could open their arms to each other – sincerely, without settling old scores and prejudices. My attitude towards the hierarchy and its reactions is actually very critical.”

Well, one can be as critical as one likes about the hierarchy of the Church, but can there be two primates in it, one of whom, according to the majority of Churches, is not even a clergyman? Moreover, is the refusal to concelebrate with people without ordination a “prejudice”? Apparently, it is for the deacon Nikolai Lysenko, since he soon served with Kovalenko a joint "liturgy" in the Annunciation church near the Golden Gate.

About betrayal and hatred

Surely, everyone chooses their own path and bears responsibility for this choice. However, there are at least two most important reasons why it is impossible to unite with schismatics. Even on the wave of pan-patriotism, even in the face of foreign aggression.

The first reason is that loyalty to the Motherland should not lead to betrayal of Christ and His Church. The war does not eliminate the Holy Canons and does not make them less significant. Sin does not cease to be sin because of the war, and schism does not cease to be schism. The words of the saints about the schism do not lose their relevance in the context of the war either. Even more so, the grace of the priesthood does not come to those who have never had it. All this makes it impossible to unite with the dissenters, since the reasons why we refused to unite with them before the war remained the same.

Loyalty to the Motherland should not lead to betrayal of Christ and His Church. The war does not eliminate the Holy Canons and does not make them less significant.

The second reason is hatred, which is the core of the worldview of the OCU members: hatred for enemies, for believers of the UOC, and even for each other. Epifaniy and Filaret is a vivid example to this.

Hence, there is a paradox: Dumenko's satellites speak about love, but in reality it turns out quite differently. One can listen to their flattering speeches and hope that as soon as “revision is done” and we unite with the OCU, we will live together with them as one friendly family. Nevertheless, how many times have been unfortunate witnesses of the schismatics’ hate toward the believers of the UOC, the hate ardent and selfless? This hatred towards us has not gone away with the outbreak of the war, on the contrary, their enmity towards the true Church only stepped up. Therefore, you can win the favor of the OCU members only by sharing this hatred with them. Moreover, you will be obliged to constantly prove this hatred “in practice”. It is no coincidence that the most active "haters" of the UOC in recent years are "defectors" who seek to demonstrate their loyalty to their new environment. Does all this have anything to do with Christianity? Is it possible to assume that some inhabitants of Heavenly Jerusalem hate others in Eternity? Never.

On canonical autocephaly

Some clergymen of the UOC stand for the idea that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church should seek canonical autocephaly. Does the UOC have the right to do this? Undoubtedly. But here's the problem – the body of canon law of the Church simply does not contain procedures to regulate the process of granting autocephaly.

Certain agreements on this issue were reached during the preparation of the Council of Crete in 2016, but they were never clothed in the form of canons. The only thing that does not cause any objections is that the new autocephalous Church must be recognized by all the existing Local Orthodox Churches.

There is a very big problem in this respect.

The Lord Himself will dispose everything and arrange everything for the good. If it is His all-good will, the UOC will become autocephalous.

It is hard to imagine that the ROC would agree to such autocephaly, but it is even more difficult to imagine it can be recognized by Phanar given the existing OCU. All this makes the probable proclamation, and even more so the recognition of the autocephaly of the UOC, a very troublesome matter. It remains to be hoped that the Providence of God and the conciliar mind of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church will find the right way out of this situation. In order for it to be so, all the fullness of the UOC must, first of all, take care of nothing else but unity within our Church. If we stay united, if we stay loyal to our Primate, His Beatitude Onuphry, if we submit our individual opinions to the conciliar decision of the plentitude of the UOC, then we will not be afraid of any threats or any difficulties. If we follow the path of separatism, conformism and opportunism, we will be merely destroyed, one by one.

The Lord Himself will dispose everything and arrange everything for the good. If it is His all-good will, the UOC will become autocephalous. All the faithful children of the Church must respond to all calls and all tempting proposals with the following:

  • we will be faithful to the canons of the Church;
  • we will be faithful to the unity of the UOC;
  • we will resolve the issue of our canonical status conciliarly, with the plentitude of the UOC, once we defend our country against aggression.
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The recommendations of the VR committee to hold worship services only in Ukrainian are:
legal requirement of the state
unlawful interference in the affairs of the Church
mere talk
Total votes: 10


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