About the tribunal over Patriarch Kirill
Over 400 priests of the UOC backed the Appeal demanding that Patriarch Kirill be court-martialled by the "Council of the Eastern Churches". What is it all about?
On April 10, 2022, the priest of the UOC, Archpriest Andrei Pinchuk, published on his Facebook page an Appeal to the "Ancient Eastern Churches" urging to court-martial Patriarch Kirill. It contains two accusations – of the heresy of the "Russian world" and support for the war of the Russian Federation against Ukraine.
A few days later, an open letter from Fr. Andrei Pinchuk gained support of more than 400 clergy of the UOC, i.e. almost 3% of all clerics of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
Who is the author and what is the letter about?
The author of the Appeal is a cleric of the Dnepropetrovsk Eparchy of the UOC, Archpriest Andrei Pinchuk. He is the rector of the Archangel Michael church in the village of Volosskoye, as well as the headman of the territorial community of the villages of Volosskoye, Rakshevka, Mayorka and Chervony Sadok. He has 14 children, including adopted ones. Fr. Andrei enjoys well-deserved authority among people and knows how to firmly defend his point of view. For those who want to learn more about him, we recommend watching the program “People of the Church” on the YouTube channel “Odessa Diocese” or “The Truth of Priest Andrei Pinchuk” on the Dnipro TV channel. With the outbreak of the war, he took out thousands of people, including children, from under fire.
The letter itself is very long and replete with accusations against the Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church.
In the text of the Appeal, Fr. Andrei speaks about the great tribulations our people have suffered due to the Russian aggression against Ukraine, cites the position of His Beatitude Onuphry and the Synod of the UOC against the aggression of the Russian Federation, and gives facts indicating that Patriarch Kirill, at least indirectly, supports this aggression.
The central part of the Appeal is a criticism of the ideology of the “Russian world” promoted by Patriarch Kirill. Quote: "Thinking about the origins of the position of the Russian Orthodox Church regarding the war in Ukraine, we must admit that one of the ideological foundations of this warfare was the doctrine of the ‘Russian world’, which Patriarch Kirill has been personally promoting for many years."
However, the Appeal essentially boils down to two paragraphs, which are lost in a big body of the text: “We clearly declare that it is impossible for us to continue to remain in any form of canonical subordination to the Moscow Patriarch”, and also “We declare our allegiance to Ecumenical Orthodoxy, the desire for the fullness of our communion with it and condemn any attempt to restrict our involvement in it.”
At this point it is high time to find out – whom the Appeal was addressed to; who, in the author's opinion, represents "Ecumenical Orthodoxy"; and who should be in charge of court-martial.
Who are the judges?
The Appeal itself does not say in detail about the judges of the tribunal, but Fr. Andrei elaborated on this issue in one of his interviews. “This is the Council of the Ancient Eastern Patriarchs – Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem, Cyprus, which includes five people,” the priest told the “informator” resource. According to him, technically, the court of Eastern primates can condemn the concept of the “Russian world” as a heresy, viz. something that changes the dogma of the Church and destroys it from within.
Three of the five "ancient" primates – Constantinople, Alexandria and Cyprus – took an active part in the legalization of the Ukrainian schism and tried to destroy the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
There are a few confusions in this respect:
- Three of the five "ancient" primates – Constantinople, Alexandria and Cyprus – took an active part in the legalization of the Ukrainian schism and tried to destroy the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
- Why are these primates better than the rest – Serbian, Polish, Georgian and others?
- Why declare to the “ancients” the impossibility of subordinating the clergy of the UOC to the Moscow Patriarch, if they do not recognize this subordination anyway? The aforementioned "trinity" considers Ukraine to be the territory of the OCU.
- Primates of Constantinople, Alexandria and Cyprus concelebrate with people without holy dignity (OCU) and approve of Phanar’s theory of primacy “the first without equals”, which many Churches (including the UOC) interpret as heretical. Can such people make judgments about someone else’s "heresies"?
- Due to the anti-canonical actions of Phanar, the Council of the UOC of November 13, 2018 broke off Eucharistic communion with the Patriarchate of Constantinople and later (after the recognition of the OCU) with the Primates of Alexandria and Cyprus. Therefore, Pinchuk's phrase about "the desire for the fullness of our communion with Ecumenical Orthodoxy and the condemnation of any attempts to restrict our involvement in it" is interpreted as a protest against the actions of the UOC hierarchy. Therefore, it causes bewilderment, since these decisions have nothing to do with either Patriarch Kirill or the Moscow Patriarchate.
Is “Russian World” a heresy or not?
Before the warfare, one could have discussions about what the “Russian world” is, what it implies, what positive and negative sides it can have. The war clearly demonstrated to us the fruits of this ideology and discredited it for a long time, if not forever.
However, it cannot be denied that the "Russian world" ideologeme is a derivative of the "Hellenism" ideology (as we would now say, "the Hellenic world"). Father Andrei Pinchuk writes: “The ideologists of the ‘Russian world’, in particular within the Moscow Patriarchate, have never concealed the fact that this doctrine should promote Russian irredentism, that is, the gradual establishment of the Russian political control over territories that used to be part of the Soviet Union or even the Russian Empire.”
But this is nothing more than a reprise of the Byzantine narrative that all nations that have adopted Christianity along with their rulers are subjects of the Byzantine emperor. Actually, the Byzantine elites honestly believed it.
In addition, the concept of the “Russian world” did not originate with Patriarch Kirill, but as early as the 11th century, and was initially applied to the Kievan state: “Not only in Rome, but everywhere: in Kherson and also in the Russian world” (A speech on the renewal of the church of the Tithes by the Grand Duke of Kiev Iziaslav Yaroslavich).
The concept of the “Russian world” cannot be heretical, since only religious teachings can be heresies.
As a socio-political doctrine, the concept of the “Russian world” cannot be heretical, since only religious teachings can be heresies. Realizing this, Fr. Andrei speaks of the projection of this doctrine onto Orthodox ecclesiology. Quote: “However, we, Orthodox priests, want to pay special attention to those aspects of the doctrine of the ‘Russian world’ that directly relate to the doctrine of the Church. In particular, Patriarch Kirill persistently identifies the ‘Russian world’ with the so-called ‘canonical territory’ of the Russian Orthodox Church.” However, it will suffice to turn to the Charter of the ROC to make sure that the canonical territory of the ROC is not associated with the concept of the “Russian world”. For example, Japan and Azerbaijan, which are declared to be such territories in the Charter, certainly do not belong to the “Russian world”.
Thus, it is impossible to agree with the accusation of the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church of spreading the “Russian world” heresy for the reasons described above.
What is the purpose of the Appeal?
At the end of the Appeal, Fr. Andrey comes up with the requirements:
- To condemn the aggression of the Russian Federation.
- To urge Putin to end the war.
- To evaluate the statements of the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church.
- To assess the doctrine of the "Russian world" and deprive Patriarch Kirill of the right to occupy the patriarchal throne.
Frankly, the requirements are not particularly convincing. The first two have already been voiced by His Beatitude Onuphry and the Synod of the UOC – they both condemned the aggression and called on Putin to stop the war. Well, the demand to deprive Patriarch Kirill of the throne raises eyebrows. If Fr. Andrei does not want to have anything in common with the Moscow Patriarchate, then what difference does it make who sits on the patriarchal throne – Patriarch Kirill or someone else?
There are also a number of other misunderstandings. Why do the priests, who so zealously care about the truly Orthodox teaching about the Church, address such a statement not to their ruling bishops, not to the Holy Synod of the UOC, and not even to the Council of Bishops of the UOC, but to the Primates of other Churches? To those with whom your Church broke off the Eucharistic communion, notably for doctrinal reasons? Isn’t it a gross violation of not only the dogmatic teaching about the Church, but also of a whole series of canonical rules that regulate the settlement of disputes between clerics and hierarchs?
Well, the centerpiece phrase of the Appeal is about “the impossibility for us to continue to remain in any form of canonical subordination to the Moscow Patriarch.”
Note that it does not say that the UOC should withdraw from the jurisdiction of the ROC and become autocephalous, but that the priests who support the Appeal cannot personally remain in “canonical subordination to the Moscow Patriarch.” Nothing is said that it is necessary to preserve the unity of the UOC, that it is necessary to render obedience to His Beatitude Onuphry and the hierarchy of the UOC, that the issue of “canonical subordination” must be resolved conciliarly, and so on. There is no declaration of loyalty to your Church.
Leave Kirill for whom?
One of the most effective ways to get a person to do what the manipulator wants is to exploit the person's psychological trauma. Any psychologist knows this very well. All of us in Ukraine now are affected by a huge psychological trauma from what happened in Bucha, Borodianka and other cities, from what is happening now in Mariupol, Izyum and so on. For the clergy, all this is superimposed by the trauma of the actual approval of the actions of the Russian Federation by the hierarchy of the Russian Orthodox Church.
And now, having previously opened up this heart wound, the priests of the UOC are invited to do a completely illogical act – to turn over the heads of their bishops, the Synod of the UOC, His Beatitude Onuphry and the Council of Bishops to the non-existent tribunal of the "ancients", which mostly consists of the people who violated the canons of the Church.
Half of the requirements of the tribunal have already been fulfilled by the hierarchy of the UOC, the second half is the recognition as heresy of what cannot be the heresy, and the “deposition” of Patriarch Kirill. Where does that leave us? What is all this action for? To spite and spit on the bad patriarch?
If someone “quits” the “canonical subordination to the Moscow Patriarch” before the conciliar decisions on the status of the UOC are made, then he enters someone else’s canonical jurisdiction.
The Church is constituted so that its clergy cannot be in canonical isolation. If someone “quits” the “canonical subordination to the Moscow Patriarch” before the conciliar decisions on the status of the UOC are made, then he enters someone else’s canonical jurisdiction. Whose? There are only two options: either Pat. Bartholomew or Sergei Dumenko.
In a calm state of mind, hardly anyone would agree to take such a step, but now there are special circumstances, now we are all experiencing serious psychological upheavals, which means we need to “seize the day”.
Therefore, for all due respect to Archpriest Andrei Pinchuk, for all recognition of his merits, it must be said that this Appeal is directed not so much against Patriarch Kirill as against the unity of the UOC, its hierarchy and His Beatitude Onuphry. After all, the priests who signed it have already taken a step against the official position of the UOC to the effect that the further canonical destiny of the Church should be resolved only by a council and only after the end of the war. This position is very sensible, balanced and fully in line with the teaching about the Church, which the Appeal rants so much about. The UOC is going through very difficult times. She struggles to survive in the least. On the one hand, She is being physically destroyed by Russian troops, on the other hand, by national radicals and local authorities, and now some are trying to split it from the inside. Well, it’s going around again. As the apostle Paul wrote: “I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers” (2 Corinthians 11:26).
It remains to be hoped that indignation against the actions and words of Patriarch Kirill will not lead Ukrainian priests to betray the UOC and its Primate, His Beatitude Onuphry.