Council of UOC and accusations of schism: "zrada" is off the table
The Council amended the UOC Statute to protect the Church from pressure from the authorities and the OCU. However, some call it "wolf’s" and sow strife. How to treat it?
On May 27, 2022, the Local Council of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church was held. In the conditions faced by the Church, it was imperative. The war is going on in the country, two bills on banning the "enemy" UOC are tabled for voting at the Rada; more than 20 cities of Ukraine have already announced a ban on the Church; the OCU, together with the authorities, daily organizes mass "transfers" of UOC communities; the dioceses in Western Ukraine are almost destroyed; the OCU has set its sights on the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church was on the verge of annihilation.
On the morning of May 27, a meeting of bishops, clergy and laity took place at the Panteleimon Monastery, at which it was decided that the Statute of the Church needed changes that could only be made at the Local Council. During the day, an emergency meeting of the Synod and the Council of Bishops were held, with a Local Council held in the evening. It was attended by bishops, clergy and laity of all dioceses of the UOC. Those who ended up in the occupied territory spoke and voted online.
The main decisions of the Council are:
- Disagreement was expressed with the position of Patriarch Kirill regarding the war in Ukraine.
- Parishes will be opened abroad in the Diaspora.
- The requisites for dialogue with the OCU are named. The main point is that the Dumenkovites must stop the raider seizure of UOC churches and re-ordain their "bishops" from the canonical bishops.
- The complete independence of the UOC from the Moscow Patriarchate was declared. The Statute will be respectively amended.
- In situations of war, some dioceses are given the right to "independently make decisions on certain issues of diocesan life that fall within the purview of the Holy Synod or the Primate of the UOC." In fact, the dioceses in the occupied territory were authorized to live according to the old Statute.
Of course, the most important issue is about the independence of the UOC. The participants in the Council voted on each of the 7 points, which spelled out dependence of the UOC on the Russian Church. Now neither the central nor the local authorities have any reason to continue pressure on the UOC. However, everyone and notably believers are interested in the question – does the new status of the Church mean an autocephaly? Indeed, in most parish churches, only the Metropolitan of Kyiv is commemorated from now on, and only His Beatitude Onuphry commemorates the Patriarch.
On May 29, at the Great Entrance during the Liturgy in the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra, Metropolitan Onuphry commemorated Patriarch Kirill, following the Patriarchs of Antioch and Jerusalem: “His Holiness Orthodox Patriarchs: John of Antioch, Theophilos of Jerusalem, Kirill of Moscow and All Rus, Elijah of Georgia, Porfirije of Serbia, Daniel of Romania, Neophytos of Bulgaria ... may the Lord remember in His Kingdom always, now and ever and forever."
What does this whole situation mean and how will it affect the life of an ordinary UOC believer? The answer is simple – it will not affect it in any way. The sacraments of the Church remain valid.
Despite the adopted changes, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church does not declare autocephaly, nor does it sever ties with the Russian Church. The same is confirmed by the hierarchy of the Russian Orthodox Church.
Metropolitan Hilarion, head of the DECR-MP: "The unity between the Russian and Ukrainian Churches is preserved, and we will continue to strengthen this unity, we will continue to pray for our one Holy Orthodox Church."
Patriarch Kirill: “We fully understand how the UOC is suffering today. We understand that His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry and the episcopate must act as wisely as possible today not to complicate the life of their faithful people.”
In the same vein, the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church spoke about the Local Council of the UOC. There is no condemnation and accusations of violating the canons there.
In other words, we maintain Eucharistic unity with the ROC, there is no schism.
True though, some bloggers began to stir up enmity within the Church, insult His Beatitude Onuphry and call on believers to revolt. Metropolitan Luke of Zaporizhia also wrote about this: “Here and there appear publications concerning the events that took place at the Council. They accuse the clergy of an alleged schism and so on. I wish to say with full responsibility that none of this is true."
It turns out that all the participants in the Council speak about its legitimacy, and the hierarchy of the Russian Church fully approved its decisions. Only individuals on the Web, most often anonymous, rant aggressively about the split. But what are they trying to do? To observe Holy Canons? But this is the task of the priesthood. Maybe they want peace and unity? No, their cries only confuse people, divide them into groups, cause enmity, and in the end can lead to that very split.
The main outcome of the Council is that the new Statute of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church has secured it from any persecution by the authorities and members of the OCU.
True though, no one says that the Church will now be left in peace – no, it will not. But now it has absolutely all the legal arguments in its defense. What we need to do is not to tear it from the inside, to leave enmity, conspiracy theories and stay united.
The UOC remains the canonical Church. And now, more than ever, we need to remember the words of the Savior's prayer "that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us … that they may be one as we are one."